Ranking the Braves Best Minor League Bargaining Chips
This is not a top prospect list, which is based on skills and a player’s perceived eventual ceiling. Instead, this is a list of minor leaguers (yes, they’re also prospects), ranked based on how valuable they might be as bargaining chips who could be used in a trade.
These rankings will take into account whether the prospect is peaking, in terms of stats, which would maximize his trade value. We will also take into account whether each prospect is able to be replaced by another prospect in the system, or if that prospect is blocked by another player in the system.
Consider this list from the Atlanta Braves perspective, and while the team (nor I) want to part with any or all of these prospects, these players are nonetheless the team’s best bargaining chips.
Braves Bargaining Chip No. 5: RHP Juan Jaime
Jaime has already had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Braves this season, filling in for an injured reliever. That short showcase was very successful, and may catapult his value as an impact bullpen arm.
He was able to show off his 100-mph fastball and erase any doubts that he could pitch successfully in a major league bullpen.
While the Braves may want him in their pen, his trade value right now is likely at its apex, and the Braves know Jaime well enough to know that he does have some chinks in his armor. Namely, he walks too many people.
The team may choose to use Jaime as a young bullpen bargaining chip in order to get a more experienced reliever. Atlanta has several other good young relievers coming through the system, including right-hander James Hoyt and left-hander Chasen Shreve.
Braves Bargaining Chip No. 4: 3B Kyle Kubitza
With Chris Johnson signed to a guaranteed contract through the 2017 season, Kubitza is blocked for the foreseeable future. While I believe that Kubitza is a better long-term option at third base—with better hot-corner defense and more on-base ability at the plate—that’s still based on projection.
Kubitza is having his best season in professional baseball, slashing .309/.413/.480 while offering opportunistic speed on the bases with 17 steals in 19 chances.
The Braves also have another big prospect, Edward Salcedo, at the hot corner in Triple-A, one level above Kubitza (who is in Double-A). Salcedo was a big-time million dollar-plus international signee several years ago, and while he hasn’t put up the numbers that Kubitza has put up, Salcedo is two years younger and possesses better raw tools.
Braves Bargaining Chip No. 3: C Christian Bethancourt
Bethancourt is in Atlanta right now filling in for the injured Evan Gattis, and numerous media outlets have tapped the young Panamanian Bethancourt as the eventual Braves catcher. While Gattis is adequate as a catcher, he’s not the defensive whiz that Bethancourt is.
That being said, Bethancourt is essentially blocked at catcher by Gattis, which makes one of them a good bargaining chip.
While Bethancourt has struggled offensively the past few years, he’s found a modicum of consistency this season at Triple-A and the majors. That good offensive work, combined with the solid offensive outburst from the second half of last year, should place his value at peak position.
Braves Bargaining Chip No. 2: RHP Mauricio Cabrera
The Braves system has traditionally been deep in pitching. Even in its current weakened state, the Atlanta minor league system still has plenty of pitching they can bargain with.
Mauricio Cabrera is one of the best arms in the system, and certainly the best international pitching prospect. He will try to follow in the footsteps of Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado, two other big international arms that came through Atlanta’s system (one of whom was used in a trade).
Cabrera has been slowed by injuries this season, but he’s pitching well now, and that should help push his value up.
Other top pitching prospects, such as Lucas Sims, Wes Parsons and J.R. Graham, make Cabrera an expendable trade chip. He isn’t blocked in the system, but he’s still a few years off from being major league-ready.
Braves Bargaining Chip No. 1: 2B/SS Jose Peraza
Peraza converted from shortstop to second base this season, but he can still play on the left side of the infield. So in terms of assessing him for a trade, the Braves likely consider him a shortstop, which increases his value.
Perhaps the biggest reason he’s listed as the Braves' best bargaining chip is the season he’s having. Peraza is slashing .347/.372/.458 this season while stealing 44 bases in 57 attempts. He’s doing all of this as a 20-year-old at Double-A and is the second-youngest position player in the Southern League.
While his stats alone would make him a hot trade chip, he’s also blocked at both of his positions. As a shortstop he was blocked by Platinum Glove winner Andrelton Simmons, which is why the Braves moved him to second base.
Now at second base, he’s blocked by Tommy La Stella, who has had a good rookie campaign over the past two months in Atlanta.
All stats are taken from Baseball-Reference.com and are current through the games of July 16.
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