Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 6
The Atlanta Braves hitting prospects are starting to catch up to the pitchers. A couple of Atlanta's top bats made huge strides this week in the batting average and power departments.
That's not to say that the pitching prospects had a bad week. Most of the Braves pitching prospects had a good week. Though it seemed to go in reverse order of how they are ranked, with the guys at the bottom of the list outperforming the ones at the top.
To view last week's Braves prospect stock watch, click here.
With No. 5 prospect Mauricio Cabrera still on the disabled list, everyone below him moves up a spot and the next prospect in line from the Beyond The Box Score consensus Braves prospect list sticks around for another week. Begin the slideshow to see how well that new prospect is doing. (Hint: we picked a good time to add him to The Watch).
No. 11 Prospect: SP Aaron Northcraft, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: Won his only start, 5.2IP, 4H, 1R, 6K.
It was another fantastic start this week for the newest member of our Braves prospect watch list. Northcraft cruised in this start, registering nine groundouts to just one flyout. As a sinkerballer, that level of groundouts to flyouts is Northcraft's bread and butter.
Northcraft also showed another huge piece of his repertoire in this game, which is the ability to strike batters out when he needs a big strikeout. He escaped several jams by dialing up the K.
Check out that .169 batting average against. That's the lowest BAA for any starting pitcher in the entire Braves organization.
With this being his second year of Double-A, Northcraft needs to get promoted to Triple-A so we can see if his stuff works against tougher competition.
2014 Stats: 3-1 in four starts, 2.82 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.38 FIP, .169 BAA
No. 10 Prospect: SP Wes Parsons, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: No decision in one start, 7IP, 7H, 7R, 6K
Parsons had his best start of the season this week, going deep into the game while only allowing two runs. He also struck out six, marking the fourth time in five starts he's recorded six or more strikeouts. His K/9 is 9.79 this season, up from 8.29 last year.
That's a good sign that Parsons is developing into that mid-to-front of the rotation starting pitcher that the Braves want him to be.
2014 Stats: 1-1 in five starts, 3.71 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.16 FIP, .257 BAA
No. 9 Prospect: SP Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: Won his only start, 7.1IP, 6H, 0R, 5K
After a rough start two weeks ago, Martin got back on track with a terrific start this week. He used two double plays to escape jams and also leveraged the strikeout to get key outs.
His numbers this year are right where we want them to be. All of his rate stats are moving in the right direction. Compare his numbers this season (below) with his numbers last year at Triple-A: 3.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.85 FIP, .228 BAA.
His K/9 is up from 8.53 in 2013 to 10.46 this year, and his BB/9 is down from 4.00 to 2.43.
2014 Stats: 3-2 in six starts, 2.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 2.55 FIP, .203 BAA
No. 8 Prospect: C/3B Victor Caratini, Low-A Rome
Last Week’s Stats: 9-22 (.409) with two doubles
It was a super week for Caratini, as he raised his average to .300 and added a couple of doubles, which are a big part of his game.
He hasn't displayed much home run power yet, just two homers in 310 career minor league at-bats, but he's got the build and swing to hit home runs. It's a good sign that he hits a lot of doubles, some of which should eventually turn into home runs.
2014 Stats: .300/.352/.409, .348 BABIP, 15.4 K%, 6.5 BB%
No. 7 Prospect: 2B Tommy La Stella, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 4-20 (.200) with a double and six walks
Another slumpy week for La Stella at the plate, but notice that he walked six times. That's a .393 on-base percentage for the week.
Even with the rough week La Stella's season batting average and on-base percentage are pretty much in line with what we should expect from him at the major league level.
However, his power is still lagging far behind where it should be. His slugging percentage needs to be 130 to 140 points higher that it currently is. My guess is that this part of his game, which has yet to show up in his first taste of Triple-A, is why we haven't seen him in Atlanta yet. The Braves want him to show power at Triple-A before they put him into an everyday role in the majors.
2014 Stats: .297/.379/.322, .315 BABIP, 7.9 K%, 11.4 BB%
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Jose Peraza, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 8-31 (.258) with a double, a walk and four stolen bases
It was a speedy week for Peraza, as he zoomed his way to an organization tie atop the stolen base leaderboard with Kyle Wren.
Wren is a good guy to compare and contrast with Peraza. While both have 18 stolen bases, Peraza is hitting .329 to Wren's .252. Both are projected to be leadoff men, and while it may seem like Jose has the advantage there, think again.
Peraza is actually at a huge disadvantage because he refuses to take the free pass. Peraza's .347 on-base percentage is essentially the same as Wren's .340 OBP. Once Wren finds a little batted ball luck (his BABIP is just .308 this year) he'll be a much better leadoff option.
If Peraza has a few unlucky weeks at the plate (like last week), then his on-base game will suffer. I harp on his lack of walks every week, and will continue to do so until he makes this a bigger part of his game. I really like Peraza as a prospect except for that one glaring weakness.
2014 Stats: .329/.347/.399, .367 BABIP, 11.3 K%, 2.6 BB%
No 4. Prospect: SP Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: Won his only start, 5IP, 8H, 3R, 2HR, 1BB, 4K
It wasn't that pretty of a start this week, but Hursh hung in there despite the two home runs. He's now given up home runs in three straight starts after allowing none in his first four starts of the year.
That's somewhat troubling considering Hursh is a groundball pitcher. He has the fourth-best groundball percentage in the Braves organization, which is a product of his heavy sinking fastball.
The increase in his home run rate as well as his higher batting average against bears watching.
2014 Stats: 2-2 in seven starts, 3.41 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 4.26 FIP, .272 BAA
No. 3 Prospect: SP J.R. Graham, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: No decision in two starts, 3.2IP, 4H, 2R, 4BB, 0K
Before anyone panics about Graham's innings this past week, note that he left his second start early because of a one-hour rain delay. Still, he was not sharp in his first start, which lasted only three innings. He gave up two hits and four walks in that start while not striking anyone out.
After a stellar launch to the season in his first three starts, his last four starts have been fraught with wildness. Some of this is to be expected after he missed almost the entire season last year with shoulder problems.
The Braves also seem to be backing off Graham's innings as the season goes along. He started off throwing into the fifth inning his first two starts of the year, but hasn't gone past the fourth in any start since.
2014 Stats: 0-1 in seven starts, 2.35 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.65 FIP, .224 BAA
No. 2 Prospect: C Christian Bethancourt, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 8-25 (.320) with three doubles, a home run, nine RBI and a stolen base(!)
Bethancourt put the exclamation point on his week, clubbing his first home run of the season and doubling his doubles total for the year. He is starting to figure out how to hit at Triple-A. If he can continue this good work, then his prospect stock will soar even higher than it already is.
Read any scouting report on Bethancourt, and they all glow about his defense and all-around catching ability, but every scouting report seems to throw caution to the wind about his offense.
He may turn out to be a streaky hitter, but if he has enough of those hot streaks, then that combined with his Gold Glove-caliber defense is good enough for an everyday major league job.
2014 Stats: .250/.282/.344, .307 BABIP, 21.4 K%, 4.9 BB%
No 1. Prospect: SP Lucas Sims, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: No decision in one start, 5.1IP, 8H, 3R, 2ER, 1B, 0K
There continue to be growing pains with Atlanta's top prospect. But, and this is an important but, that's a good thing at this level. We (and the Braves) want Sims to face some adversity in the low minors, and then learn to overcome that adversity.
No strikeout in this game is a bit concerning, and for the season his K/9 is down sharply from 10.34 last season to 5.26 this year. His walk rate is also down, 3.55 to 2.87, which is good news, and his .215 batting average against is not that much higher than last year's .198.
Hopefully the strikeouts return in the next few weeks.
2014 Stats: 2-3 in seven starts, 4.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4.73 FIP, .215 BAA