Playing Trade or Keep with the Braves' Top Prospects in Trade Season

Martin Gandy@gondeeeFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

Playing Trade or Keep with the Braves' Top Prospects in Trade Season

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Braves minor league system is currently a weak one, with very few top-flight prospects. Much of that system depletion is because of top prospects graduating to the major leagues in recent years. Guys like Alex Wood, David Hale, Tommy La Stella, Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran have all recently gone from prospects to major league regulars.

    Many of the top 10 left are young, and their talent is raw, which makes their trade value hard to gauge. This lack of definable top-flight talent will make it hard for Atlanta to go out and get any big-name players on the trade market.

    However, the Braves do have a number of prospects who could bring back bench players or late-innings relievers at this year’s trade deadline.

    Since we’ve been tracking a few extra prospects in our weekly Top-10 Prospect Watch series, we’ll add those guys into this list. Since players drafted this year cannot be traded, we’ll leave No. 5 prospect Braxton Davidson—the Braves’ 2014 first-round pick—out of the trade conversation.

    Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs and and accurate as of July 9.

No. 12 Prospect 3B Kyle Kubitza: Trade or Keep?

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Kubitza has marched through the Braves system, with a stop at a higher level each successive year, since being drafted in the third round in 2011 out of Texas Christian University. From Low-A to his current level of Double-A, his season OPS has gone from .742 to .814 to its current .879 this season.

    When one thinks of Kubitza as a player, he or she should think of the Braves' current third baseman, Chris Johnson. Kubby is much like Johnson in the light-power, high-strikeout department, but Kubitza adds a much higher walk rate (12.7 walk percentage to Johnson’s 2.8), more speed on the bases and better defense at the hot corner.

    Of all the prospects on this list, Kubitza might be the closest to the majors, which could increase his trade value.

    Trade or Keep?

    With the similarities to Johnson and the contract extension that Johnson signed early this season—which is guaranteed through the 2017 season—it certainly seems Kubitza is blocked. That makes him an eminently tradable prospect.

    Another team with an opening at third base should consider Kubitza, and the Braves should make him available in a trade.

    I’d prefer the Braves keep Kubitza and trade Johnson, but that’s not likely to happen. So Kubitza is a trade.

No. 11 Prospect Outfielder Victor Reyes: Trade or Keep?

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    CB Wilkins

    Reyes is a young 19-year-old outfielder with five-tool potential who is extremely raw. He’s already at Low-A, which is an advanced level for his age, but the Braves quite often challenge their top prospects with tough competition.

    Most notably, Reyes has yet to hit a home run in 183 professional games, but as a 6’3” outfielder he’s expected to develop power as he fills out.

    Trade or Keep?

    The Braves likely don’t know what they have in Reyes just yet, and for that reason they may be hesitant to sell him off. Keep him, and let him develop for a bit longer.

No. 10 Prospect SP Aaron Northcraft: Trade or Keep?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Northcraft was a 10th-round pick out of high school way back in 2009. He’s slowly worked his way through the system since then, only reaching Triple-A a couple weeks ago. That’s a similar path to the one that Jonny Venters followed before he found success in the Braves bullpen.

    Northcraft has good size at 6’4,” but his fastball is more of a low-90s sinker rather than a high-octane bullpen heater. He profiles more as a Tim Hudson-esque starter rather than a reliever, but he needs to conquer Triple-A first.

    Trade or Keep?

    He should have some value as a back-of-the-rotation starter on the trade market, and the Braves have plenty of those types of pitchers in their system. Trade if the opportunity presents itself.

No. 9 Prospect SP Wes Parsons: Trade or Keep?

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    CB Wilkins

    Signed two years ago as a non-drafted free agent, Parsons projects as a mid- to back-of-the-rotation workhorse starter. He came out of nowhere last year to have a stellar season at Low-A.

    Trade or Keep?

    He looks like he could be a solid major league rotation arm in a couple of years, but that shouldn’t dissuade the Braves from packaging him in a trade.

No. 8 Prospect SP Mauricio Cabrera: Trade or Keep?

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    CB Wilkins

    The Braves' best international pitching prospect, Cabrera, spent some time on the disabled list earlier this season nursing a nagging injury. He’s got mid-90s heat, but his secondary stuff is raw and needs work.

    Cabrera is young for High-A at 20 years old, and should follow a development path somewhere between the one that Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado took.

    Trade or Keep?

    With the raw stuff Cabrera has shown, it’s worth keeping him in the system and seeing if he can develop into a starter or a high-leverage reliever. Keep.

No. 7 Prospect C/3B Victor Caratini: Trade or Keep?

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    CB Wilkins

    Drafted in the second round in 2013, Caratini was working at both third base and catcher earlier this season, but he has settled in exclusively at catcher for the past two months.

    He profiles as a high-average switch-hitting catcher with decent gap power. His defense behind the plate is still a work in progress, but he’s got a strong arm.

    Trade or Keep?

    Switch-hitting catchers who can hit for average are hard to find, but they’re also hard to develop. The Braves should keep Caratini and let him develop more before they consider trading him. He’s a project for the organization, not a prospect to be pawned off this early in his career.

No. 5 Prospect 2B Jose Peraza: Trade or Keep?

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    Martin Gandy

    Peraza has been the hottest hitter in the Braves minor league system this season. He’s also the fastest, with 42 stolen bases.

    He earned a promotion last month to Double-A and has hit .342/.375/.474 in 17 games.

    Trade or Keep?

    With the profile of a contact hitter and a leadoff man, the Braves will want Peraza to compete for a spot atop the major league lineup next spring (if not sooner). Keep.

No. 4 Prospect SP Jason Hursh: Trade or Keep?

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Braves' first-round pick in 2013, out of Oklahoma State University, Hursh is still in the early stages of developing into a starter, even though he’s already at the advanced level of Double-A.

    Hursh could benefit from another year of development at Double-A. The Braves might have pushed him too quickly this year, skipping him directly from Low-A to Double-A.

    Trade or Keep?

    His trade value seems stunted at this point, so I’m inclined to keep him in the system to see if he improves his prospect stock (and trade value) in the next year.

No. 3 Prospect SP J.R. Graham: Trade or Keep?

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    One of the hardest throwers in the system, Graham has a max-effort delivery that generates a mid-90s fastball. He missed most of last season nursing a sore shoulder.

    That absence seems to have set Graham back developmentally. He is also currently on the disabled list again with right triceps tendonitis.

    Trade or Keep?

    The injuries have diminished Graham’s trade value, so the Braves should keep him in their system and hope he returns to full strength.

No. 2 Prospect C Christian Bethancourt: Trade or Keep?

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Bethancourt is filling in admirably in Atlanta for the injured Evan Gattis. While the organization insists Bethancourt is just getting his feet wet, they want him to be their catcher of the future—and this is a not-so-subtle audition.

    Bethancourt offers much better defense than Gattis as well as one of the best throwing arms in baseball. If Bethancourt can demonstrate any sort of consistent hitting, which he’s done so far, then the Braves will want him to assume the full-time catching duties next year.

    Trade or Keep?

    Keep. Bethancourt is the guy the Braves want to be their catcher for years to come. That could actually open up a trade possibility with Evan Gattis. It could also open up a trade possibility for one of the Braves outfielders, with Gattis shifting to left field.

No 1. Prospect SP Lucas Sims: Trade or Keep?

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Sims is having a disappointing season at High-A. His ERA of 5.23 is double what it was last season at Low-A (2.62). The 2012 first-round pick is still just 20 years old, and High-A is an advanced level for his age.

    Of all the pitchers in the Braves system, Sims is the only one who profiles as a future top-of-the-rotation starter. That future in Atlanta is still two to three years away, so the Braves will stay patient with the best high school pitching prospect to come through their system since Adam Wainwright.

    Trade or Keep?

    Keep. Without a doubt, keep.