Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 8
It was another good week for Atlanta Braves prospects. The two hitters at Triple-A, Tommy La Stella and Christian Bethancourt, are really starting to swing the bat.
Meanwhile on the mound, the organization’s top prospect seems to have righted the ship, and several other pitchers on this list are doing better than the basic stats seem to indicate. We’ll use advanced stats to find the truth behind the numbers.
No. 5 prospect Mauricio Cabrera is still on the disabled list, so everyone below him moves up a spot and the next prospect in line from the Beyond The Box Score consensus Braves prospect list will stick around for a little while longer.
No. 11 Prospect: SP Aaron Northcraft, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0 in one start, 5.2IP, 6H, 2R, 3BB, 6K
Right now Aaron Northcraft has the best ERA on this list. He’s pitching exceptionally well, having probably his best season as a professional and he’s doing it at the right time.
Yes, he is repeating Double-A, the same place he pitched last season, but he’s lowered his ERA by almost a run (3.42 to 2.77) and he’s dominating hitters with a .204 batting average against.
Northcraft pitched in the Arizona Fall League last year and had a rude awakening to that level of elevated talent. He was 1-5 in seven starts with an 8.00 ERA in just 18 innings with 15 walks.
His work this year shows that he’s taken that experience and is determined to not let it happen again.
2014 Stats: 5-2 in seven starts, 2.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.99 FIP, .204 BAA
No. 10 Prospect: SP Wes Parsons, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in one start, 5IP, 7H, 3R, 1BB, 4K
Parsons hasn’t separated himself with a string of consecutive good-to-great starts yet this year, but he’s posted decent starts here and there. Some of his supposedly spotty work could be due to some bad luck.
While his ERA is up over a run from last year, 2.63 to 3.92, his FIP is actually down from 3.05 to 2.81. This is largely a product of a high BABIP of .347 against him this season (as opposed to a .280 number last year).
Surely some of this batted-ball luck will turn his way. Whether it does or it doesn’t, the advanced stats indicate that Parsons has been just as good of a pitcher as he was last year.
2014 Stats: 3-2 in eight starts, 3.92 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.81 FIP, .258 BAA
No. 9 Prospect: SP Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in two starts, 10IP, 12H, 7R, 4ER, 4BB, 4K
The defense behind Cody Martin let him down this week, as he gave up three unearned runs in his second start. Of course, three walks didn’t help. His first start this week was solid though.
Martin has a bad start like the one this week every four or five starts. The two starts this week are somewhat troubling because of the lack of strikeouts. Coming into the week Martin had struck out just over six batters per start, but failed to come close to that in either of his appearances.
2014 Stats: 3-3 in nine starts, 2.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.95 FIP, .213 BAA
No. 8 Prospect: C/3B Victor Caratini, Low-A Rome
Last Week’s Stats: 3-for-14 (.214) with a double, a walk and 5K
Caratini had a rough week in limited play.
He continues to struggle in the power department, though most of his other numbers look good. He’s a line-drive hitter, so it’s no surprise that his power can slump from time to time.
2014 Stats: .283/.342/.379, .342 BABIP, 17.9 K%, 7.4 BB%
No. 7 Prospect: 2B Tommy La Stella, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 8-for-20 (.400) with 4BB and no strikeouts
Another week of good hitting from Tommy La Stella, and yet he’s still in the minors; even as everyone the Braves start at second in Atlanta struggles to hit.
Yes, La Stella needs to hit for more power. But no second baseman in Atlanta is hitting for power either, so why not call up La Stella and see if he can hit and get on base via the walk (like he’s doing in the minors).
Sadly, the Braves seem fine just benching Dan Uggla, but are gun-shy to release him.
2014 Stats: .296/.386/.340, .313 BABIP, 6.9 K%, 12.7 BB%
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Jose Peraza, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 7-for-22 (.318) with a double, triple, BB, 3K and two stolen bases
Peraza had a good week at the plate and added a couple of steals on the base paths, but lost the organizational stolen base lead to his lineup mate Kyle Wren, who swiped five bags this week.
Peraza’s game continues to be defined by his ability to hit the ball, as his walk rate is one of the lowest in the organization. Just a few more free passes and he could be an elite lead-off prospect.
2014 Stats: .322/.351/.412, .362 BABIP, 11.3 K%, 4.2 BB%
No 4. Prospect: SP Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: 0-2 in two starts, 11.2IP, 16H, 9R, 0BB, 6K
A good start, and then a pretty bad start for Hursh this week. One observation is that in each start he allowed more fly balls than he normally does. His game works best when he’s getting many more ground balls than fly balls.
Like Wes Parsons earlier on this list, some of the poor-looking stats for Hursh may be because of some bad luck. Hursh has a .320 BABIP-against this season, which is almost 100 points higher than last year’s .235 number.
His FIP though is better this year (3.83) than last (4.07), and he’s walking fewer batters. All of this while skipping a level from Low-A to Double-A. His numbers should turn around for the better.
2014 Stats: 3-4 in 10 starts, 4.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3.83 FIP, .282 BAA
No. 3 Prospect: SP J.R. Graham, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: No record in one start, 4.2IP, 7H, 4R, 0BB, 4K
It’s been a bad May for JR. While he had a 1.86 ERA in five April starts, he has a 9.00 ERA in five May starts.
In previous prospect reports I’ve indicated that Graham has lost composure on the mound. This is perhaps a result of frustration stemming for a harder road back than he may have expected after missing much of last season with shoulder problems.
Let’s hope June treats him better.
2014 Stats: 0-2 in 10 starts, 4.86 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3.26 FIP, .271 BAA
No. 2 Prospect: C Christian Bethancourt, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 7-for-19 (.368) with a double, 2BB and 0K
Another good week at the plate for Bethancourt, who is now matching most of his numbers from last year except for his slugging percentage—but that too continues to climb.
I’m most excited about his increase in walks. His 5.0 walk percentage is the highest he’s posted in any full season league. He’s also striking out less.
Check out his slash line in May (.318/.347/.500), compared to his slash line from April (.203/.250/.250). His stock is certainly on the rise. We’ll call his April numbers a necessary adjustment period to the minor league’s highest level.
2014 Stats: .262/.300/.377, .308 BABIP, 18.6 K%, 5.0 BB%
No 1. Prospect: SP Lucas Sims, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0 in one start, 7IP, 5H, 3R, 0BB, 2K
Sims has now put together two terrific starts in a row. He certainly seems to be adjusting to the advanced level he is at.
This week’s start was promising on multiple levels. He was facing the same team for the fourth time this season; a team he had previously had a tough time with. It was also the first time this season he had gone longer than six innings. He also didn’t walk anyone.
Hopefully there are more good things to come.
2014 Stats: 5-3 in 10 starts, 4.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 4.82 FIP, .224 BAA