This is the first in a three-part series that will be published today looking at the performances of Braves minor leagues. We’ll address guys who were known as prospects before the season who are doing well in this post, known guys who are doing poorly in the second post, and some guys unknown before the season doing well in the last post today. Look for each post throughout the day, and enjoy! We’ll start with the “studs” so far this season:
Jose Peraza, SS, A+/AA .345/.367/.459, 9 3B, 37/7 SB/CS, 7/22 BB/K
Peraza started getting some love in preseason, and his undercurrent has gotten louder and louder throughout the season leading to his promotion recently to AA. As excellent as his numbers look on paper, his eye test has been even better, playing excellent defense and seemingly coming up with “clutch” hits at the plate in most situations he’s placed in. The biggest knock on his game so far is his low walk rate, but like current Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, he doesn’t strikeout much either. He’s very much a contact guy, probably best suited as an 8th hole hitter that could get on base and create havoc for opposing pitchers with his speed on the base paths. One very unexpected thing this year that’s come through is his power. He’s not shown over-the-wall power exactly, but if I were to tell you that a minor league infielder was going to post a .110+ ISO this year, I would wager you’d go a number of guesses before Peraza would be guessed, but he’s legged out a lot of doubles and triples. In my own viewing of Peraza on a few triples this season, he does tremendously in his paths on the bases, making a triple seem effortless on a shot to the corner that would typically be a double, even for a fast hitter. The next step is the decision as to whether Tommy La Stella is the future at 2B, or if Peraza will be at 2B in the big leagues while La Stella moves to 3B.
Kyle Wren, OF, A+ .301/.366/.361, 33/9 SB/CS, 29/37 BB/K
Wren and Peraza in the Lynchburg lineup was simply unfair for opposing pitchers, as both are simply demons on the basepaths. Wren has displayed very solid speed on the bases and in center field, though in my time viewing, he gets only average jumps on balls, but right now he uses his speed well to make up for his jumps on balls. At the plate, he has good patience and contact, but he hasn’t exhibited much power at all. That said, if you would have told me when he was drafted that Wren was much more than a nepotistic pick, I would have laughed, so I’m glad to be proven wrong in this case. Wren’s still quite young, so a promotion to AA this season would be excellent progress, and he’s probably still at best in Atlanta in 2016.
Kyle Kubitza, 3B, AA .299/.403/.443, 23 XBH, 12/1 SB/CS, 38/60 BB/K
One of the big questions in the Braves system for nearly a decade was where the 3B prospects were. As Chipper Jones‘ career wound down, the Braves were forced to go outside of the organization to fill the position because of a lack of quality at the position within the system. Kubitza was drafted in 2011′s 3rd round, one of the few hitters the Braves nabbed in the early rounds of that draft. He’s moved one level at a time, making the AA Mississippi squad this season. He’s always shown excellent walk rates and high strikeout numbers, but his other performance has been very inconsistent, ranging from a .321 batting average in rookie league Danville at the high to a .239 batting average in A-ball Rome. This year’s performance is showing off his walks and extremely high strikeout rates. He does have 23 extra base hits this season and has shown much better discipline on the basepaths, going 12/13 this year after stealing at under a 50% success rate the last two seasons. Kubitza is 23 and technically “old” for prospect lists, but he’s the kind of bat that could work his way up to the majors in 2016 to push Chris Johnson and have a very productive, albeit not a star, career.
Cody Martin, SP, AAA 3.17 ERA, 82.1 IP, 27/76 BB/K, 1.32 WHIP
Martin is really the embodiment of a AAAA pitcher. He’s simply too good for minor league hitters, but his stuff is quite average and just doesn’t get him a look at the major league level. Martin was drafted by the Braves after a career as a college closer, and many have suggested that a move to put Martin into the bullpen could make him into an instant late-inning guy for a bullpen in the majors. The Braves seem to be keeping him as a starter to keep his value for possible trades for one more season. I would wager that if they don’t move him before 2015, he will open the 2015 season in the bullpen as a full-time reliever.
Aaron Northcraft, SP, AA 2.88 ERA, 65.2 IP, 24/62 BB/K, 1.23 WHIP
Northcraft was the guy many Braves fans wanted off the 40-man roster when there was a squeeze during spring training that led to some players being exposed to waivers. He’s never been dominant before this season, and his main selling point is consistently throwing innings. Northcraft was a Braves 10th round draft pick in 2009, and he’s never really had a spectacular season since. This year, however, he’s doing more than just inducing a ton of ground balls with his heavy sinker, he’s keeping the extra base hits down. His bugaboo in his minor league career has been that while his sinker doesn’t leave the park, it seems to find the meat of the bat, and Northcraft would have a very high SLG against for a guy who keeps the ball in the park. He’s also a very solid strikeout guy, right around a K/9. He may be underrated, but seeing as he’s already on the 40-man, the Braves know what they have here. He could be a dominant reliever if the decision was made to move him there, but he’s one to keep an eye on this year.
Wes Parsons, SP, A+ 3.75 ERA, 72 IP, 17/69 BB/K, 1.15 WHIP
Parsons was an undrafted signee that debuted last year for the Braves with a very good season for Rome. Moved up to Lynchburg this season, he’s continued pitching well, though much like many in the Braves system this year, he’s not putting up an ERA that back up his numbers. Parsons has continued to have great K rates and bb/k rates in 2014 after surprising many with both in those ratios last season. Jason Parks was very intrigued by Parsons preseason, encouraging Braves fans to keep an eye on Parsons, and he’s done nothing to disappoint. Parsons has been very comfortable at home this season, with a .142 OPS allowed difference between his home and road performances. Watch for a possible late season AA promotion, likely to take the spot of Northcraft as he’s bumped up to either AAA or the majors.