Call this a “catching up” report of most of the promising prospects on the Braves charts drafted or otherwise in the system before this year. The list of names included here were gleaned from a number of sources, and then scrambled (so that no one can claim that any of this from ‘their list’!). I will take requests to add players of significant interest, for I do not pretend to be a scout by any stretch of imagination. In fact, the purpose is primarily to report stats – comparing a prospect to himself in an effort to suggest that he’s making progress through the system… or not.
First off, for your reference, here’s a list of the Braves farm system teams and season performances to date, beginning with the summer leagues typically reserved for new draftees.
(DSL) Dominican Summer League Braves (San Pedro de Macoris). 5-9, 7 games behind
(R) Rookie League: Braves, Gulf Coast League, NE Division. League play has not started.
(R) Applachian League: Danville Braves. League play has not started.
(A) Rome (GA) Braves: South Atlantic (Sally) League, Southern Div. 36-33, 5th place, 7 GB. (1st half done)
(A+, or “High-A”) Lynchburg Hillcats: Carolina League, Northern Div. 36-33, 2nd place, 6 GB. (1st half done)
(AA) Mississippi Braves: Southern League, South Division. 38-32, 2nd place, 1.5 GB. (1st half done)
(AAA) Gwinnett Braves: International League, South Div. 28-44, 4th (last) place, 17.5 GB.
And now… let’s see how those summer crops are doing.
Name, position (age, bats, throws). Current League. Slash line: AVG/On-base/Slugging/OPS
William Beckwith, 1B/DH (23, RHB, TL). High-A – Lynchburg. .229/.341/.420/.761, 9 HR, 30 RBI. Has not duplicated his offensive success at Rome in 2012, with batting average and RBI (62 points down; on pace for 18 fewer RBI) the biggest changes. Was the subject of a DUI arrest at Lynchburg, and was recently been demoted back to the Danville Rookie team.
UPDATE: (from this source and this one) Beckwith has been placed on the suspended list by the Braves. Before this news, I had almost written – regarding the DUI – that the Braves organization has traditionally taken a dim view of players – even prospects – getting into early trouble… but I didn’t have enough information about the arrest to feel comfortable about that kind of blanket statement. That arrest occurred May 16th, and the demotion was May 21st. He has not seen any action since, and by this point you have to believe that there are more things that William has to work through. Forgetting about baseball for a minute, I would certainly hope that he can get himself to the point of understanding that he’s at a crossroad and can get good advice on how to move forward in the right direction from here.
Christian Bethancourt, C (22 in Sept, RHB, TR). AA – Mississippi. .244/.259/.333/.592, 2 HR, 15 RBI. Bethancourt started hot this year, with the hope that his bat would finally come around. No. He’s now regressed to his 2012 number with the same club. That .259 OBP is not a typo (1.8% walk rate and his K rate is up). Yes, he’s the best defender in the minors, but his offensive output is unacceptable. I personally had thoughts that he and Gattis could share catching duties in 2014. It is appearing that this may never happen unless there’s suddenly an NL DH rule and we DH for the catcher. But alas our search for the perfect catcher (Yadi Molina) continues. But you do have to wonder if the organization is souring on Bethancourt as several catchers were drafted in upper rounds this month.
Todd Cunningham, CF (24, SWH, TR). AAA – Gwinnett. .283/.364/.403/.737. 67 games, 2 HR, 35 runs, 25 RBI, and 10 SB – primarily hitting high in the order. First year in AAA, and Cunningham is more than holding his own, particularly with the OBP and a 10% walk rate. At this time, I would have to look at him as either a potential Jordan Schafer replacement down the road, or a trade candidate; for even as well as he’s doing, he’s going to have a hard time cracking the Atlanta lineup.
Evan Gattis, LF/C/Large Wild Animal Wrestler. I think he’s doing okay. Will never again appear on a prospect list.
Tommy LaStella, 2B (24, LHB, TR). AA – Mississippi. .330/.382/.468/.850. Those stats are strictly based on 26 games at Pearl after being promoted about 5 weeks ago. He had 7 games before that at Lynchburg with video game numbers (.550/.690/.750/1.440). Not only this, but he has identical BB and K rates – 7.8%. 1 HR, 11 Runs, 13 RBI, and 2 SB in AA. La Stella has been consistently hitting for average since joining the Braves in 2011, with an over-.300 average at every stop so far. If he keeps this up, he could skip into Gwinnett before the year is done. He has to be considered as a possible Dan Uggla replacement in a couple of years. Oh, and did I neglect to mention that he’s only had 3 errors so far?
Joe Leonard, 3B (25 in Aug; RHB, TR). AAA – Gwinnett. .236/.282/.327/.609. 0 HR, 22 Runs, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 6% BB, 20% K. Probably have to wonder if Joe has hit his ceiling as a hitter. He’s never hit better than .280 at any level, and the trend has been generally downward as he’s moved up one level per year. I will say this – he’s got a glove: 1 error this year. Contrast that with Salcedo’s 14.
Matt Lipka, CF (21, RHB, TR). A+ – Lynchburg. .284/.328/.418/.746. Lipka has been coming along slowly and steadily. So far, 2013 represents his best offensive year since 2010 rookie ball, with 4 HR, 40 Runs, 30 RBI, and 17 SB. His walk rate is down to 5% and K rate is up slightly (16.5%). Still just 21 years old. Could be in for a move to AA before the year is out.
Jose Peraza, SS (19, RHB, TR). A – Rome. .262/.316/.340/.656. No power to speak of (1 HR, .079 ISO), but 30 Runs scored with 20 Steals. 3rd year in the organization – numbers somewhat down, so might need some more time here. Of course, he’s only 19.
Edward Salcedo, 3B (22, RHB, TR). AA – Mississippi. .274/.338/.439/.877. I feel like Salcedo should be about 28 years old by now, but in this – his 4th year as a Brave – his offense is showing signs of genuine life. He has 8 HR, 29 Runs, 32 RBI, and 10 steals so far in his first AA season. The numbers are markedly up from last year’s Carolina League season, with improvements across the board…except for one key thing: errors. Salcedo has always had trouble with his glove, and that’s continued – 14 errors so far… almost double of anyone else on that team.
Joe Terdoslavich, ??? (25 in Sept, SWH, TR). AAA – Gwinnett. .315/.348/.558/.906. 14 HR, 21 2B, 48 RBI, 35 Runs. This is Joe’s second attempt at AAA, and a dramatically better one at that. He has returned to being the hitting machine he was in 2011 in the Carolina League. Now the question: where should he play (gee, I think I’ve heard of this problem happening with another prospect this year)? The Braves have tried him at third, first, the outfield, and … DH. He has 10 errors, but that’s hard to hold against him, given the position changes. His bat probably earns him a Sept. call up…. and then we’ll have to figure out what to do with him from there.
Mauricio Cabrera (20-, RHP). A – Rome. 1-4, 7 K/9, 5 BB/9, 5.04 ERA, 12 starts, 64 IP. This is his third year in the organization (1st year at Rome), and the most innings pitched (already) in a single year. From the stats, control is an issue, and he’s being hit fairly well (62 hits, 37 BB in those 64 innings, 5 HBP, 6 WP, 4 balks). He’s still 19 years old and can light up the radar gun… upper 90s fastball. Scratch that... he has just been sent back to join Rookie Ball at Danville (GCL). Curious.
Sean Gilmartin (23, LHP). AAA – Gwinnett. This is his second year at Gwinnett, though only saw 1/4 of his 2012 season there. 3-7, 6 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 5.83 ERA/5.02 FIP (71 IP, 13 starts). Gilmartin ended 2012 as perhaps the ‘next callup’ guy, but that’s changed: partly because the Atlanta staff has been so durable that even Beachy was is having trouble finding a slot, and partly because Gilmartin has not been any better this year… and it seems to be worse lately. The differences are not huge, but his arsenal of pitches leaves little room for error. A significant bounceback – soon – is going to necessary for him, though, as other pitchers are definitely passing him in the pecking order.
UPDATE: See today’s Morning Chop - Gilmartin to the Gwinnett DL.
J.R. Graham (23, RHP). AA – Mississippi. 1-3, 7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.04 ERA, 2.47 FIP. 35.2 IP/8 starts. Was pitching okay to start the year, but ran into a shoulder strain (‘normal wear and tear’). Has not pitched in the month since that occurred. Power arm – though personally saw him struggle a bit in an outing shortly before that shoulder diagnosis. This shoulder thing is concerning, given the relatively few innings so far this year. Threw 148 innings in 2012 (not counting Spring work). He now has 81 AA innings – fared a full run better in ERA during 2012.
Juan Jaime (almost 26, RHP). AA – Mississippi. Probably the best pitching performance on this entire report. Unbelievable velocity… over 100. Was a Nat through 2009; out 2010-11 (TJ surgery). 51+ innings with Lynchburg in 2012; 18.2 so far at Pearl. 15.4 K/9 (yes, that’s right); 4.3 BB/9 (that’s an improvement). Strands 93% of runners. 1.45 ERA, 2.40 FIP. Given his improvement over last year, I would not be terribly surprised if he isn’t promoted soon… maybe even all the way to Atlanta by September. We’ll see how he holds up during the Summer heat. If so, he is a closer in the making, though age and size [6'1"/232 officially] could work against him.
Lucas Sims (19, RHP). A – Rome. First Round pick in 2012. 2-2, 10 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.87 ERA/3.03 FIP. 15 games, 5 starts, 47 IP. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do to progress. Could be the prototype of what the Braves seem to be drafting now: power pitchers (mid-90’s) that are being taught to pitch. With Julio Teheran no longer a ‘prospect’, some boards have Sims ranked #1 on the Braves’ list. Hard to disagree.
Abraham Espinosa (20, RHP). Rookie GCL in 2012. I see no evidence that he is been pitching anywhere so far this year, nor do I see any information about an injury or release. Really weird given that he was definitely on several prospect lists. Was expected to pitch for Rome this year.
Julio Teheran (22, RHP). I think taking a no-hitter into the 8th innings says a lot. Will never again appear on a prospect list. Teheran is definitely earning his major league stripes this year.
Alex Wood (22, LHB). Atlanta Braves. A surprise call-up a month ago, had been throwing lights-out in AA (1.26 ERA), having learned how to throw a breaking ball ball this Spring from Venters and Kimbrel. He was pressed into service as the Game 1 starter for the Mets double-header today, and had difficulty with a callous that had softened while he has been in the bullpen. The notwithstanding, he has still performed very well on the big stage, with a 3.38 overall ERA and 2.40 FIP while striking out a ton of hitters. He now has 67 innings of work this year, ~11 with Atlanta. Could end up hitting the 50 inning limit that would remove him from the prospect lists by the end of this year, though can’t rule out a return to the minors to get him more work. We’ll see how things go with the trade market.
Cody Martin (24 in Sept; RHP). Just promoted to Gwinnett (no game time there as yet). 3-3, 67 IP at AA with 2.82 ERA, 2.87 FIP. 9.5 K/9, 3.63 BB/9 over 19 starts, 22 games overall. Sounds like a well-earned prmotion to me. Cody’s numbers have actually been declining slightly as he’s moved up the ladder, but (a) this is just his 3rd year of pro ball; (b) He’s been converted from a reliever to a starter; (c) the differences are hardly concerning. Might turn into one of those guys who I suggested could pass up Gilmartin.
UPDATE: Martin started last night (June 18) vs. Buffalo for his first AAA action. 7 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 7 K’s, no runs allowed in Gwinnett’s 2-0 victory. Congratulations to Cody!
Luis Merejo, (18, LHP). Very early yet, though the concern here is that I do not see that he has pitched this year in an organized league – looks to be in extended spring training. 4.61 ERA in Rookie ball last year. Braves see ‘no need to rush him.’
Navery Moore (almost 23, RHP). Yet another 90-95 mph power guy. Carolina League, 7-5 in 14 starts, ~75 innings. 6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 5.06 ERA, 4.46 FIP. These numbers are significantly worse (3.86 ERA) than in 2012 while at Rome. Still a bit early, though Moore was a college selection (Vandy), so time is not on his side.
Aaron Northcraft (23, RHP). AA – Mississippi. 13 starts, 2-5, 8 K/9, 3.53 BB/9, 4.07 ERA, 3.67 FIP. Honestly, these are the kind of numbers thatseem to be cropping up a lot for a lot of these pitching prospects, so while Northcraft doesn’t stand out in that regard, he has been pitching a lot of innings (152 in 2012) and he’s been consistent overall… slightly worse in AA than High-A, but hanging in there.
Cory Rasmus (26, RHP). Atlanta Braves. Cory was impressing at AAA and earned his call-up with a 1.44 ERA over 25 innings (2-1 record, 11 K/9, though 6 BB/9). His first Atlanta action has been a bit rough in spots, good in others. The rough bits earned him an 8 ERA. Walks continue to be a concern (3 in 6.2 innings), though he has been good at stranding runners, and walked none in today’s 3 inning outing.
Follow-up: the ‘other’ guys in the Upton/Prado trade:
Randall Delgado, RHP/AAA: Randall is seriously scuffling. In 12 AAA starts, he’s 1-5 with a 6.44 ERA (5.42 FIP) over 57 innings. His control is leaving him, with 5 walks per 9ip, and cannot seem to control the damage: he has a 64% LOB rate. The DBacks gave him one major league stint: 2 innings for 1 game, in which he gave up a 2 earned runs, and 4 hits including a homer while striking out 3).
Nick Ahmed, SS/AA: Nick is also having difficulty with his new organization, batting .174 in his first AA experience over 63 games and 221 plate appearances. His OBP is just .245, with an OPS of a scary .471 as the power he showed at lower levels has left him: 1 HR vs. 6 in High-A ball (doubling the ABs) last year.
Brandon Drury 3B/A: Here’s a bright spot for Arizona. Drury was assigned to repeat A-ball this year after a poor showing with Rome in 2012, and his batting average has jumped from .229 to .315, with a surprising power burst as well: 10 homers in a half season vs. a full-season career high of 8 previously. That gives him a robust .909 OPS, and makes him the best performer of the batch thus far.
Zeke Spruill RHP/AA: Zeke started 2013 in AA for the DBacks, and has been promoted to AAA. In AA, he was throwing well, with a 1.42 ERA in almost 32 innings (5 starts) with 5+ K’s and 3+ walks per nine. In eight AAA starts, he is more-or-less holding his own, though more runners are scoring, leading to a 4.71 ERA over almost 50 innings. The biggest difference is that his strikeouts are down to 3.6 per nine… yes, it’s harder to get PCL guys out, and that league is known to be a boon for hitters. But if Spruill continues like this, he could overtake Delgado in the pecking order and could see a major league call-up late in the year.