February 4, 2013 at 10:24 am by Ethan Purser under Prospects
As Spring Training approaches, we will be releasing ten write-ups per week from our Top 40 prospects. Today, we begin with a pitcher who popped onto our radar late last season.
40. Patrick Scoggin: RHP | R/R | 6’4”, 230 lbs. | Age: 21 | Signed, 2012
Performance: After a mediocre junior season at Virginia Tech, Scoggin went undrafted in June’s Rule 4 draft. He began his summer pitching in the Coastal Plain League, a prestigious collegiate summer league, and was signed by the Braves in July. The big righty made the most of his professional debut out of the bullpen, surrendering zero earned runs on seven hits while posting a 16:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14.1 innings across the Gulf Coast League, the Appalachian League, and the South Atlantic League.
Tools: Scoggin brings a blistering mid-90s fastball and developing power slider to the table. Primarily a starter at Virginia Tech, his fastball sat a bit lower and he incorporated more secondaries, but the potential of the fastball-slider combination in the bullpen may entice the decision-makers to scrap the other stuff in order to expedite his development. He’s a big dude, which, along with quirky mechanics, leads to repeatability issues. The delivery in itself is not terrible—he gets his hips moving quickly toward the plate and achieves some separation between his halves thanks to an upper-body dip over the rubber—but his high arm slot causes some head jerk, which can negatively affect command/control. He also tends to fly open with his front shoulder and exhibits some recoil upon delivering a pitch. All in all, mechanics for a reliever are usually not a big deal, and some (read: I) would argue that violence for a power reliever is somewhat necessary (see: Kimbrel, Craig). If a kid is definitely not a starter long-term and can a) throw a baseball 95+ MPH, b) somewhat reasonably control said fastball, and c) flash a plus slider, it’s probably best to leave the mechanics alone and just let him loose in the bullpen to figure everything out.
Future: Scoggin only pitched one inning above rookie-ball in his debut, so one can assume, barring an impressive showing in the spring, that he will start the year in Rome’s bullpen and look to move up the ladder from there. Keep a close eye on this kid in 2013, as he could be a fast-riser in the reliever ranks within the system.
39. David Peterson: RHP | R/R | 6’5”, 205 lbs. | Age: 23 | 8th round, 2012
Performance: Peterson, a 2012 senior sign out of College of Charleston, performed nicely in his debut in Low-A Rome, posting a 1.93/2.84 FIP with a 23:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 innings pitched. Like fellow 2012 draftee Nathan Hyatt, Peterson stepped in at the back-end of Rome’s bullpen down the stretch, finishing 15 of the 20 games in which he appeared.
Tools: The tall, lanky Peterson throws two pitches with good current utility and future potential: a low- to mid-90s fastball with an abundance of sink and run along with a low-80s curveball that features plenty of depth. The fastball does a great job of inducing ground balls, and the curveball’s late break within the zone can elicit swings and misses from both left-handed and right-handed hitters. His mechanics are fairly straightforward, if unimpressive; his arm action is fairly short with no glaring inefficiencies, but after he releases the ball from a three-quarters arm slot, he does not get extended well out front. His front leg is very stiff upon landing, which limits his ability to finish pitches and cuts off valuable length over his front side. As a starter in college prior to his senior season, the need for durability in the rotation as opposed to short bursts out of the bullpen more than likely necessitated the mechanical profile that deemphasizes intent in favor of a calm, easy motion. Due to this, if he can incorporate a little more intent in his delivery, one could hope for a little more hop on his fastball in terms of perceived and actual velocity.
Future: Peterson will play next season as a 23-year-old, so he will not be young for his level at High-A Lynchburg. One can easily see him as a good middle reliever down the road, but he could find himself in a higher-leverage role in the bullpen depending upon how his repertoire develops.
38. Chasen Shreve: LHP | L/L | 6’3”, 180 lbs. | Age: 22 | 11th round, 2010
Performance: Shreve saw across-the-board success in 2012 between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi, posting a 2.66 ERA/3.48 FIP with a 57:33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings pitched. Upon being promoted to Mississippi in July, his performance suffered, most notably in the walks department. Of note, his aggregate walk rate increased fairly substantially over his walk rate from 2011, although much of the bump in free passes occurred after being promoted to Double-A. He had just turned 22 years old upon his promotion to the Southern League, however, so he shouldn’t be dinged too much for his lack of dominance at the end of the season. He was sent back to Lynchburg at the end of August.
Tools: The lean, lanky lefty (five times fast, and go!) possesses a few weapons that make him a potential asset out of the bullpen. His tailing fastball sits in the high-80s, touching the low-90s, with excellent arm-side run. His changeup is an effective offering versus right-handed hitters, eliciting weak contact when located low in the zone. The slider keeps left-handed hitters honest and profiles as more of a true slider in terms of the lack of depth present, which is consistent with Shreve’s low arm slot. The aforementioned arm slot helps to keep him deceptive versus left-handed hitters, hiding the ball well throughout his motion and releasing at a point that is almost behind the back of a lefty.
Future: After his success in High-A in 2012, Shreve should begin the year in middle relief for Mississippi. His floor is a LOOGY (lefty-handed specialist); his ceiling is a solid middle reliever who can get both righties and lefties out due to the utilization of his changeup and slider, respectively.
37. Ernesto Mejia: 1B | R/R | 6’5”, 245 lbs. | Age: 27 | UDFA, 2005
Performance: Mejia crushed International League pitching in 2012, posting averages of .296/.347/.502 with 57 extra-base hits, including 24 home runs, in 559 plate appearances. While his .849 OPS was 18 percent higher than the International League average, Mejia’s walk and strikeout numbers were much less palatable, posting rates that were both below league average. He was up to his same old tricks in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, posting averages of .298/.340/.551 while co-leading the circuit in home runs (16) and leading the league in strikeouts (64) in 245 at-bats.
Tools: Mejia is a one-trick pony, but it’s one heck of a trick. He has massive pull power that could produce awe-inspiring shots at the highest level. One problem: he swings and misses fairly frequently. His swing is highly leveraged and features a fast leg-kick trigger and an explosive firing of the hips upon footplant. He has active hands (good), but the amount of length in his swing coupled with the natural uppercut in his swing plane leads to plenty of whiffs on velocity on/above the hands and on soft stuff darting low and away. He’s a mistake hitter who will hopefully crush enough extra-base hits to make up for the amount of outs he makes via the strikeout. Mejia is a first base-only type and his large frame does not lend itself to deftness around the bases.
Future: Mejia was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, though the recent acquisition of Chris Johnson likely keeps him off of the 25-man roster to begin the season. If he’s relegated to Triple-A, look for more of the same—strikeouts and homers—from the slugger.
36. Blake Brown: OF | R/R | 6’0”, 185 lbs. | Age: 21 | 5th round, 2012
Performance: After hitting .271/.383/.453 with six home runs and a 30:64 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 192 at-bats as a junior at the University of Missouri (.260/.374/.438 park/schedule adjusted), Brown hit .201/.313/.313 with four home runs and posted a 25:72 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 210 plate appearances for Danville. He added 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
Tools: On a pure tools level, Brown is legitimately exciting, flashing four potentially average to plus tools. He’s a plus runner (I’ve had him at 3.8 seconds to first on a jailbreak) with good instincts in the outfield and a solid-average arm. His carrying tool is his potential to hit for plus power. Brown possesses a very quick bat and a strong, capable lower half, creating impressive leverage and torque in his swing. Brown has tinkered with his lower-half actions in the past. At times, he has utilized a narrow base with a high leg-kick trigger; other times, his setup has been much wider, employing a small stride with a toe-tap trigger. The latter limits Brown’s head movement and theoretically allows a hitter to recognize spin much earlier out of the hand of a pitcher. This also allows a hitter—again, theoretically—to create better leverage by allowing their front leg to become planted much earlier in the sequence, an axis upon which the hips may fire open and create torque between the halves. When this is achieved correctly, this leads to—you guessed it—lightning-fast bat speed and monster raw power. Brown’s swing is quite long—his loading phase is deep and his barrel becomes wrapped behind his helmet in a way in which exploitation against major league caliber fastballs on the hands is probable. He is going to strike out in bunches, as evidenced by a strikeout rate that was 61 percent worse than the Appalachian League average. The trade-off to the huge swing-and-miss problem, however, is legitimate power potential to all fields.
Future: Brown will likely move up to Low-A Rome in 2013. He has the classic toolsy RF profile and has already displayed some of the necessary skills to go along with the tools (his walk rate was much higher than league average, for example). If he can learn to make contact at a higher rate and be more aggressive within the strike zone, look out. As for now, he projects to be a toolsy three-true-outcomes player.
35. Chris Jones: LHP | L/L | 6’2”, 200 lbs. | Age: 24 | 15th round, 2007; Acquired in exchange for Derek Lowe
Performance: Jones performed well in his first full season in the organization, posting a 3.90 ERA/2.38 FIP with a 61:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 innings pitched for Double-A Mississippi. He does most of his damage against lefties, as they mustered a measly .532 OPS against the former Indians farmhand. Jones was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. You can read about his performance here.
Tools: For Jones, it’s all about deception. He throws across his body from a three-quarters arm slot, making his release point extremely hard for left-handed hitters to pick up. His fastball is nothing special in terms of velocity, sitting in the upper-80s and occasionally touching the low-90s, but it plays up against lefties due to the aforementioned deception in his delivery along with his ability to locate the pitch on either side of the plate with ease. His upper-70s curveball is slurvy, but can be effective when located low and to the glove side against lefties. He runs into trouble when the breaking ball stays in the middle of the plate, as the pitch does not have the amount of sharp break to accommodate mistakes. He will also occasionally flash a changeup, but it profiles as merely a show-me pitch at this point.
Future: Jones will likely move to Triple-A Gwinnett this season and continue to wreak havoc against left-handed hitters. One does not have to look hard to see that Jones could slot into a bullpen role at the highest level someday in the near future, profiling as a situational lefty.
34. Johan Camargo: IF | R/R | 6’0”, 160 lbs. | Age: 19 | IFA, 2010
Performance: Camargo smoked the competition in the Dominican Summer League, posting averages of .343/.433/.455 with two home runs, 14 doubles, and a 25:27 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 241 plate appearances. His .888 OPS was good enough for 14th in the league, firmly placing him 33 percent above league average in this category. He spent time at both third base and shortstop, committing 21 errors in 226 chances between the positions (Note: I wouldn’t read too much into this, as there are a multitude of conditions that lead to high error totals in the DSL.) He also added six stolen bases in nine attempts.
Tools: A speedy middle infielder, Camargo can, to put it bluntly, hit. He is a smaller-framed kid who could permanently move to a corner or stick up the middle, depending upon how his body develops. Though his stolen base totals were not extremely high, he has some wheels and will look to add more stolen bases as he makes his stateside debut. He possesses good present gap power and should develop more legitimate pop as his body matures.
Future: Camargo will make his debut in the states in 2013, more than likely beginning the season in the GCL. While it’s hard not to be excited about his production, Camargo was at the lowest level of professional baseball in 2012. This obviously should not be taken as a slight against him, but he is incredibly far away. With that said, he could be a riser in 2013.
33. Nathan Hyatt: RHP | R/R | 5’10”, 195 lbs. | Age: 22 | 13th round, 2012
Performance: After being drafted out of Appalachian State last June, Hyatt was dominant between Danville and Rome, posting a 1.46 ERA with a 37:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.2 innings pitched. During this span, he allowed only two extra-base hits. Hyatt immediately stepped into the back-end of the bullpen for both teams, finishing 16 of the 18 games in which he pitched between the two clubs.
Tools: Hyatt features two pitches that profile as plus to plus-plus down the road: a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with excellent arm-side run and a tight slider with nasty two-plane break. The fastball is a legitimate bat-breaker when located on the hands of righties and gets plenty of swing-throughs in the upper and lower quadrants of the zone. His slider is almost unhittable for righties and lefties alike, as the tight spin and late break cause many uncomfortable swings. His command in the zone can get a bit loose at times, but this is something that should get ironed out as he climbs the ladder, as there are no major mechanical red flags present within his delivery. He’s a small dude (Kris Medlen’s the natural body comp), but he gets to the plate quickly and possesses a lightning quick arm, two factors that allow him to pump his fastball in short stints. He drives hard off of his back leg, but thanks to a high three-quarters arm slot, he maintains plenty of plane on his pitches.
Future: Hyatt could be a quick mover in the system. There’s a chance that he could handle Double-A hitters right now without significant problems due to the efficacy of his offerings, but he more than likely needs to start the season in Lynchburg in order to iron out a few minor command issues. Either way, Hyatt has a bright future within the organization and could find himself in the back-end of the bullpen fairly soon.
32. Joe Leonard: 3B | R/R | 6’5”, 215 lbs. | Age: 24 | 3rd round, 2010
Performance: Leonard turned in another good-not-great campaign in 2012, posting averages of .263/.341/.392 with nine home runs and a 48:88 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 487 plate appearances for Double-A Mississippi. The big-bodied third baseman committed only 10 errors in 280 chances and added six stolen bases in eight attempts.
Tools: Leonard is a natural fielder, displaying solid athleticism, great hands, and major league quality instincts at third base. His arm is a true plus weapon and rates as his best tool. Already 24-years-old, Leonard is still looking for his power stroke, as his fairly level swing has not produced the amount of power that was once projected. His load is fairly deep, ending with his hands “hidden” behind his rear shoulder, a consequence of his rear elbow drawing back toward the third base dugout as his upper-body counter rotates. This type of loading action helps a hitter stay up the middle and to the opposite field, but a well-placed inside pitch can lead to lots of jam-shots due to the amount of loop maintained on the back side of the swing. One can easily see the potential for power in the swing and in his frame, however, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to why he has not fulfilled his initial pre-draft projections for more over-the-fence pop. Despite all of this, he does have an adept feel for contact for such a large human, striking out in only 18.1 percent of plate appearances in 2012, which was better than the Southern League average.
Future: Leonard will move up to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2013. He fits an interesting mold in the prospect world, in that he is a defensive asset at the hot corner but does not profile to have the bat to play the position on an everyday basis. Teams generally do not carry all-glove, no-bat corner guys, so Leonard will need to prove that he can hit for power in order to be taken into consideration at the highest level.
31. Connor Lien: OF | R/R | 6’3”, 205 lbs. | Age: 18 | 12th round, 2012
Performance: Of the raw high school hitters taken by the Braves in the 2012 draft, Lien put together the best performance upon signing, posting averages of .228/.352/.282 with six extra-base hits (four doubles, two triples) and a 19:49 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 180 plate appearances for the GCL Braves. The teammate of first-round picks Jesse Winker and Walker Weickel led the team with 15 stolen bases and was successful at an 83 percent clip. He spent time at all three outfield positions, committing only two errors in 88 chances.
Tools: Lien is an athletic outfielder who was given a bonus above the recommended amount in the 12th round to keep him away from the University of Central Florida. He’s a physical specimen with a body that resembles a Division-I wide receiver. He plays a little center field currently thanks to his plus speed, though he will likely be forced to a corner permanently as he climbs the ladder and adds bulk to his lean frame. He has plenty of arm strength from the outfield. An upright hitter with strong hands and wrists, Lien projects to add power as his massive frame continues to fill out, though his current swing mechanics are more conducive to middle-of-the-field line drives than over-the-fence power. There are lower-half inefficiencies present within his swing and he tends to muscle up in his upper body in an attempt to compensate for a lack of lower-body involvement. Once he learns to efficiently achieve separation, Lien should see an increase in the amount of authority with which he hits the ball with the added benefit of being able to adjust to offspeed pitches better. These issues are quite common in high school hitters, however, so there is no need for concern currently; the raw bat speed and solid knowledge of the strike zone are present and portend great things for both his future power output and future hitting ability.
Future: While right-right corner profiles are a tough category in which to be placed, Lien’s future remains very bright within the organization. The 18-year-old has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments to the professional game. This is the type of kid one likes to see sign out high school, as his five-tool potential can be cultivated by professional coaching at an early age. Predicting where players below Low-A will be placed to begin the season is tough, as a multitude of factors behind the scenes play a role in their assignments. Due to this, Lien could begin the year back in the GCL or could impress enough in the spring to be placed in Danville out of the gate. I would place my money on the former, however, as there is certainly no need to rush the development of a kid who will play next season as a 19-year-old.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, The Baseball Cube, Minor League Central, and College Splits.
November 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm by Ethan Purser under Prospects
After a month of games that brought joy to the prospect guru inside us all, the AFL’s schedule came to a close this weekend, as the Peoria Javelinas, whose team was composed of prospects from the Reds, Phillies, Twins, Padres, and Mariners, were crowned champions of the league. The Phoenix Desert Dogs finished last in the AFL West division, compiling a 13-15-4 record.
Prospects from the Braves organization turned in some impressive—and some not-so-impressive—performances. For your viewing and reading pleasure, I’ve compiled how each prospect from the Braves system performed during their time in Arizona. As always, keep in mind the context of the statistics presented, as the AFL is normally viewed as an offensive league.
Zeke Spruill, RHP: Spruill pitched 22.1 innings for the Desert Dogs, allowing nine earned runs and posting a 13/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While the K/BB isn’t eye-popping, Spruill did a great job of inducing weak contact and keeping the ball on the ground, producing a 2.38 GO/AO. Spruill isn’t extremely fancy and doesn’t light up radar guns with regularity, but he litters the strike zone with a very effective sinker and two average to above-average secondaries. Spruill is a good prospect and almost assuredly has a major league career ahead of him; hopefully more people realize this after his impressive stint in the AFL. He was recently added to the 40-man roster.
Nick Ahmed, SS: In 83 plate appearances, Ahmed hit .288/.361/.452 with a home run and a 9/11 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Ahmed put his above-average speed to work in the AFL, stealing five bases in eight attempts and leading the Desert Dogs in triples with three. The 6’3”, 205-pound shortstop generated rave reviews over the course of the fall league, impressing scouts and prospect writers alike. He was Atlanta’s lone representative in the AFL Rising Stars game. Ahmed continues to grow as a prospect, and his performance in the AFL and the regular season cements him as an easy top-10 prospect in the system, in my opinion.
Ryan Buchter, LHP: Buchter, who was used solely out of the bullpen for Phoenix, pitched 14.1 innings, allowing three earned runs, 10 hits, and posting a 14/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The big lefty limited left-handed hitters to a .045 batting average and produced a 1.80 GO/AO versus same-handed batters. I’m not ready to say Buchter’s control issues are behind him, but his fine showing in the AFL was a step in the right direction.
Chris Jones, LHP: Jones, also used as a bullpen piece for the Desert Dogs, pitched 15.2 innings for the Desert Dogs, allowing eight earned runs and 14 hits along with an 11/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Surprisingly enough, Jones was tougher on right-handed hitters than he was on left-handed hitters, which is very odd due to the massive platoon splits he has posted over the past couple of seasons (yay for small samples!). Personally, I was expecting a bit more dominance from Jones—especially against lefties—but his performance in the AFL was far from terrible.
Cory Brownsten, C: A surprise inclusion on Phoenix’s roster, Brownsten replaced the injured Matt Kennelly on Phoenix’s roster and performed well in his limited playing time. In 26 plate appearances, Brownsten hit .400/.423/.440 with a 1/4 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Don’t read too much into Brownsten’s success in Arizona, as 26 plate appearances is a ridiculously small sample upon which to judge a player. He owns a career line of .227/.315/.311 in three seasons in the system, and given his prowess behind the plate, Brownsten profiles as an organizational piece with good catch-and-throw skills and nothing more.
Edward Salcedo, 3B: After another fairly disappointing season from a statistical standpoint at High-A Lynchburg, Salcedo performed miserably in Arizona, compiling a .140/.187/.267 line with a 5/22 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 91 plate appearances. When he made contact, Salcedo flashed some pop, as eight of his 12 hits went for extra bases. In the field, Salcedo committed six errors, although David O’Brien of the AJC reported that his lofty error total did not paint the full picture. While it would be easy to lambast Salcedo’s efforts in the AFL, one has to take into account his age, as he was one of the youngest hitters in the league facing much older pitching and much more advanced pitch sequencing than he has likely ever seen. Salcedo is an extremely frustrating prospect—and there are holes in his game that were exploited in Arizona—but he remains one of the highest-ceiling bats in the system; we’re just waiting on some sort of consistency from him.
Cory Rasmus, RHP: Rasmus pitched 14.1 innings out of the bullpen for the Desert Dogs, allowing 12 earned runs and posting a 13/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents hit .295 against Rasmus, and as noted in the AFL primer, Rasmus’s tendency toward fly balls not only led to a 0.67 GO/AO, but also to the team-leading four home runs he allowed while in Arizona. Peter Wardell, an intern at Baseball America and writer for Bullpen Banter, had this to say about Rasmus. The former supplemental round pick was recently added to the 40-man roster.
Other prospects from the Braves system are playing this winter in various Caribbean Winter Leagues. A few of the notable prospects and their performances thus far are listed below.
Todd Cunningham, OF: Playing for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico, Cunningham has performed well, hitting .274/.367/.421 with three home runs and an 8/21 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 95 at-bats. He has also added three stolen bases in five attempts. Somewhere, Ben Duronio is smiling.
Daniel Rodriguez, LHP: Signed out of the Mexican League in August, Rodriguez finished the regular season by pitching six innings for Gwinnett and has spent his offseason playing for the Tomateros de Culiacan in the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico. In 9.1 innings, Rodriguez has allowed four earned runs on 11 hits, compiling a 13/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio along the way. He’s getting hit around a bit, but his repertoire, which includes a sinking fastball, changeup, and hard-biting curveball, has allowed him to keep the ball on the ground, as evidenced by his 1.50 GO/AO ratio. Here is a video of him pitching from 2011.
Christian Bethancourt, C: Bethancourt is recovering from an August hand injury in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. In 35 at-bats, Bethancourt is hitting .257/.270/.343 with three doubles and one walk for the Tigres del Licey. Bethancourt was recently added to the 40-man roster.
Julio Teheran, RHP: Teheran joined the Tigres del Licey earlier this month and has struggled in his three appearances with the club. In 8.2 innings, Teheran has allowed 8 earned runs on 16 hits with a 5/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents are hitting .432 against him. That’s a small sample and all, but yikes.
Evan Gattis, C/OF: Gattis has continued to hit and to hit with authority in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional, posting a .270/.333/.478 line with six home runs and an 9/17 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 115 at-bats for the Aguilas del Zulia. He’s cooled off a bit in his past 10 games, posting a .592 OPS in 38 at-bats.
Ernesto Mejia, 1B: Gattis and Mejia have combined to form a force with which to be reckoned in the middle of Zulia’s lineup. In 132 at-bats, Mejia—who was recently added to the 40-man roster—has posted a .326/.355/.583 line with nine home runs and a 4/40 walk-to-strikeout ratio. While he has not shown any patience and has fanned far too many times, Mejia has provided Zulia with extra-base pop, a trait that could come in handy off of Atlanta’s bench down the road. In 132 at-bats, Mejia’s secondary average is .288. He has only walked four times. Do the math.
Luis Avilan, LHP: Avilan was extremely effective in his appearances with Atlanta in 2012, so his success in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional should come as no surprise. In 10 innings thus far for the Cardenales de Lara, Avilan has allowed two earned runs on four hits—good for a 1.80 ERA and a .125 opponent average—while compiling a 10/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Avilan has done a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, posting a 3.00 GO/AO.
October 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm by Ethan Purser under Prospects
Much to the joy of prospect lovers everywhere, the Arizona Fall League (AFL) kicks off its month-long schedule today. The Braves are represented by seven prospects on the Phoenix Desert Dogs, a team that also includes prospects from the Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Double-A Mississippi head coach Aaron Holbert will manage the Desert Dogs. I’ve compiled some quick primers on the prospects representing the Braves in Arizona. Note that Gus Schlosser was originally announced as a participant in the AFL, but he is not currently on Phoenix’s roster.
Ryan Buchter | Age: 25 | LHP: Buchter was acquired in the deal that sent Rodrigo Lopez to the Cubs in May of 2011. He put together a very impressive campaign for Mississippi, but fell flat on his face upon being promoted to Gwinnett. In 41.1 innings pitched at Mississippi, Buchter posted a 1.31 ERA/2.62 FIP with a 50/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio while only allowing 24 hits during this span. After being promoted to Gwinnett in early August, Buchter posted a 5/17 strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed 10 hits in eight innings pitched. Although he has always been old for his league, Buchter showed real promise in 2012 despite the late-season downturn, and with a good showing at the AFL and in the spring, he could pitch his way into the bullpen picture very soon.
Cory Rasmus | Age: 24 | RHP: I sometimes have to remind myself that Cory Rasmus, younger brother of Colby, was a first-round pick in 2006. Rasmus has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his minor league career, but has set himself up for some modest success after a fair season out of the bullpen for Mississippi. In 58.2 innings pitched, Rasmus posted a 3.68 ERA/3.49 FIP with a 62/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Rasmus is an extreme fly-ball pitcher, as evidenced by a 0.80 GO/AO this season. The AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, so Rasmus’s extreme fly-ball rate could rear its ugly head in the form of home runs while in Arizona.
Chris Jones | Age: 23 | LHP: Acquired in the “good trade—who’d we get?” deal that sent Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians, Jones performed well in his first season with the organization. In 60 innings at Double-A Mississippi, Jones posted a 3.90 ERA/2.38 FIP with a 61/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Jones further solidified his reputation as a future LOOGY, posting massive L/R splits over the course of the season. He will head to Arizona in hopes of impressing club officials and could be a cheap bullpen option as early as next season.
Zeke Spruill | Age: 23 | RHP: Spruill enjoyed a successful 2012 campaign, posting a 3.63 ERA/3.51 FIP with a 106/46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 161.2 innings pitched at Double-A Mississippi. Spruill did a fine job of keeping the ball on the ground, evidenced by a 1.44 GO/AO. Of the pitchers going to the AFL from the Braves, Spruill has the highest ceiling—a solid, back-of-the-rotation workhorse who can keep the ball on the ground and induce weak contact. Although his path to Atlanta is unclear, Spruill is a great prospect and garners lots of attention in trade talks.
Matt Kennelly | Age: 23 | C: Of the position players representing the Braves in the AFL, Kennelly is likely the least known of the group. He was signed out of Australia in 2005 and has made slow progress as a prospect. In Double-A Mississippi, Kennelly hit .254/.339/.345 with one home run and a 21/26 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 224 plate appearances while serving as Christian Bethancourt’s primary backup. Kennelly is not much of a prospect and more than likely occupies the spot that Bethancourt would have filled had it not been for his wrist injury late in the season. We will keep an eye on him as the AFL season progresses, but expectations are not high. He is undoubtedly behind both Max Stassi (OAK) and Jacob Realmuto (MIA) on Phoenix’s depth chart.
Edward Salcedo | Age: 21 | 3B: Salcedo, the Braves’ top international signing in 2010, hit .240/.295/.412 with 14 home runs and a 33/130 walk-to-strikeout ratio at High-A Lynchburg. He committed 42 errors in 386 chances at third base. Salcedo continues to be a frustrating prospect on both sides of the ball, but he remains one of the highest-ceiling bats in the system. By sending Salcedo to the AFL, the Braves show their continued faith in the prospect. He seems to have wore down significantly as the second half progressed, so his performance against some of the top pitching prospects in the game will be interesting to monitor.
Nick Ahmed | Age: 22 | SS: Ahmed, drafted out of the University of Connecticut in the second round of the 2011 draft, fared well in his first full season, hitting .269/.337/.391 with six home runs and a 49/102 walk-to-strikeout ratio at High-A Lynchburg. He also stole 40 bases while only being caught 10 times. Ahmed will split playing time at shortstop with Tim Beckham (Rays), Hak-Ju Lee (Rays), and presumably Grant Green (OAK). Ahmed has garnered quite a bit of hype from club officials and the media this season. A good showing in Arizona could shoot him up prospect lists later this winter.
Five other prospects to watch on the Desert Dogs: Christian Yelich, OF, MIA (Yelich possesses one of the most drool-inducing swings in the minor leagues); Richie Shaffer, IF, TB; Miles Head, IF, OAK; Johnny Hellweg, RHP, MIL; Jimmy Nelson, RHP, MIL.
*Oh, I almost forgot—infield fly rule, you guys.
September 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm by Ethan Purser under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Prospects
With the end of the 2012 minor league season officially upon us, let’s take a look at how the Braves’ 2012 draftees fared in their first taste of professional baseball in a John Sickels-style draft update. This post will be focused on the picks from the first two days of the draft, encompassing rounds 1 through 15. Please keep in mind that the numbers presented here are from an extremely small sample.
1. Lucas Sims, RHP: 3.71 ERA with 39/13 K/BB in 34 innings pitched between the GCL and the Appalachian League. Mixed in some good and bad starts while at Danville, compiling a 4.33 ERA with 29/12 K/BB in 27 innings pitched. The prep pitcher from Snellville, GA, showed legitimate swing-and-miss stuff as a young 18-year-old who spent a majority of his time facing much older competition in the Appalachian League. This kid is going to be fun to watch. Sims was ranked 5th on our midseason prospect list.
2. Alex Wood, LHP: Went straight to Rome from UGA and impressed. 2.22 ERA with 52/14 K/BB in 52.2 innings pitched. Kept the ball on the ground, compiling a 2.09 GO/AO. David and I have talked about this kid at length; needless to say, we really like him. Hard-throwing college lefties with two legitimate secondaries at their disposal are fun. Depending on instructs/spring training, the Braves may be tempted to skip him a level and send him to Mississippi to start next season a la Mike Minor, Sean Gilmartin, etc. Wood was ranked 10th on our midseason prospect list.
3. Bryan De La Rosa, C: .162/.194/.221 with 2/30 BB/K in 73 plate appearances in the GCL. Threw out 30 percent of runners, but passed ball and error rates look atrocious. Not an impressive debut for the undersized Florida high school product, but he’ll take plenty of time to develop and will need patience. It may take a while, but this kid is going to hit. He was ranked 25th on our midseason prospect list.
4. Justin Black, OF: .182/.292/.258 with a couple of home runs and a 19/54 BB/K in 157 plate appearances in his debut in the GCL. Showed a good eye at the plate but also showed a propensity to swing and miss quite frequently. Stole 3 bags in 7 attempts. This Montana prepster is very unrefined in every aspect of his game, but has serious five-tool potential and will require extreme patience. He’s a bit older than your normal first-year player out of high school. Black was ranked 24th on our midseason prospect list.
5. Blake Brown, OF: .201/.313/.313 with four home runs and 25/72 BB/K in 210 plate appearances for Danville. He’s played both center field and right field but profiles better at the latter position as he moves up. Stole 10 bags in 14 attempts. This super-toolsy college draftee—somewhat of a rare breed this day and age—has some of the most serious physical tools in the system, but will he ever hit enough to showcase his massive raw power? This guy is my favorite of the lot, for some reason. Previously drafted by the Pirates in 2009.
6. Josh Elander, C: .260/.366/.439 with four homers and a stellar 16/19 BB/K in 145 plate appearances at Danville. Polish at the plate wasn’t the problem coming into the draft; defense was the biggest knock on him, considering his limited appearances at catcher as an amateur. Threw out 29 percent of opposing base stealers and committed four errors and allowed four passed balls in 181 chances. Raw power translated into some power production this season at TCU and at Danville. This college draftee showed some nice tools/skills at the plate, but questions linger about his ultimate defensive home. Elander was the starting catcher for USA Baseball’s college national team in 2011. Previously drafted by the Nationals in 2009.
7. David Starn, LHP: 5.50 ERA with 28/20 K/BB in 34.1 innings pitched in Rome; senior sign out of Kent State. Missed a couple of starts after signing due to shoulder fatigue. Labeled as a command/control guy out of college, Starn did not live up to this reputation in his debut, although the aforementioned injury may have affected his performance. Fastball ranged from 84-87 when I saw him, so he will need to cut down on the walks in order to survive as he climbs the ladder.
8. David Peterson, RHP: 1.93 ERA with 23/11 K/BB in 28 innings pitched in Rome; senior sign from College of Charleston. Kept the ball on the ground in his debut, posting a 2.88 GO/AO. Big kid—6’5”, 205 pounds, and looks every bit of it. Moved to the bullpen in his senior season and continued to pitch well in this role upon joining the Braves. Looked good in person—sat low-90s, touched 95 with a nice downhill plane and flashed a solid-average breaking ball, although control of both pitches was inconsistent. The college righty had a solid debut and is a back-end-of-the-bullpen sleeper. Previously drafted by the Reds in 2008 and the Astros in 2011.
9. Steven Schils, RHP: If you’re looking for that guy who came in and totally sucked in pro ball . . . look no further! In three appearances for Danville, Schils amassed one inning pitched, allowing seven earned runs (!) on one hit and nine walks. NINE WALKS. Schils did not pitch after July 19th and according to his twitter, he underwent some type of surgery in mid-August (unless he’s speaking of the extreme citrus soda manufactured by the Coca-Cola Company from 1997 to 2003, in which case he needs to know that the drink has been discontinued for nearly ten years and can’t be genuinely defined as a “success”). Needless to say, pro ball hasn’t welcomed Schils with open arms. A quick scan of his college statistics at High Point University and Florida Tech yields more troubling results: 34.1 innings pitched, 20/32 K/BB, and 51 hits allowed in three seasons. The Braves did their homework on this kid, going so far as to invite him to a pre-draft workout. Scouting is obviously more than looking at a player’s amateur numbers, and they must believe there’s something in his arm. Whatever that is, it hasn’t shown up in any results as of yet.
10. Mike Dodig, 3B: .174/.224/.273 with 8/37 BB/K in 143 plate appearances in the GCL. Became the highest drafted player out of Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, New York, and became the first player to be drafted from Columbia-Greene since 1997. Big kid—listed at 6’4”, 210 lbs. Showed some power, as eight of his 23 hits went for extra bases. Played exclusively at third base, committing 14 errors in 86 chances. Fairly young—he was drafted as a freshman—so patience is needed.
11. Levi Borders, C: Did not sign. Levi, son of Pat, will be taking his talents to . . . err . . . South Florida.
12. Connor Lien, OF: .228/.352/.282 with 19/49 BB/K in 180 plate appearances in the GCL. Spent time at all three OF spots this season, but probably profiles best in RF long-term. Showed polish at the plate and on the basepaths, collecting 19 walks and 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. This 18-year-old received third-round money out of Olympia High School in Windermere, Florida. Big kid—6’3”, 205 lbs.—with big tools. Can run presently and has a cannon for an arm. One can easily project him to develop power down the road due to his large frame and present bat speed. Tough profile, as he will more than likely evolve into a right/right corner guy. Regardless, Lien has a high ceiling and bears close attention in the coming seasons.
13. Nathan Hyatt, RHP: 1.46 ERA with 37/8 K/BB in 24.2 innings pitched between Danville and Rome. The six-foot, 185-pound college draftee was the closer at Appalachian State this past season and was used primarily in this role during his pro debut with great results. Showed great control in his debut, walking only eight batters in 24.2 innings. These results are interesting, as he walked 24 batters in 27.1 innings this season at Appalachian State before being drafted. Hyatt can throw hard and has developing secondaries. Say it with me . . . yet another bullpen option!
14. Tyler Tewell, C: .308/.319/.495 with three home runs and 3/16 BB/K in 113 plate appearances between the GCL and Danville. Not a huge physical specimen—5’11”, 185 lbs. Caught and played outfield at Appalachian State, but was primarily stationed at catcher upon turning pro. Threw out 38 percent of runners with decent passed ball/error rates. Two carrying tools seem to be his raw arm strength and raw power from the left side. Played in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2011, hitting very well and garnering a fair amount of attention from scouts. This college bat didn’t show a ton of patience at the plate in his debut, but showed he can hit and play behind the plate. One to watch in full-season ball in 2013.
15. Alex Wilson, RHP: 2.73 ERA with 28/5 K/BB in 26.1 innings pitched for Danville. Used exclusively in relief and even closed a few games. Signed as a junior out of Wofford College where he blossomed after two atrocious seasons in 2010 and 2011. After the draft, Wilson said that he received below-slot offers from the Rays and Phillies a few rounds before the Braves nabbed him. Wilson’s a 6’5”, 220-pound beast of a man with a 60-grade full name (Alexander Tate Wilson). This grade has nothing to do with my strange fascination with Tate Donovan and/or Donavan Tate. Good debut, another potential bullpen option.
July 10, 2012 at 9:06 am by Ethan Purser under Atlanta Braves, Prospects
The past two Futures Games have featured several of the Braves’ top pitching prospects, including Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and Mike Minor. The Braves’ 2012 representative, Christian Bethancourt, gave the team its first position-player prospect in the Futures Game since 2009, when Jason Heyward and current Mexican League juggernaut Barbaro Canizares took part in the exhibition.
Bethancourt has had a very strange year statistically in Double-A Mississippi, hitting .254/.278/.280 with 4 extra-base hits (3 doubles, 1 triple), 35 strikeouts, and 7 walks in 201 plate appearances. He is currently sporting a 50 wRC+ and a paltry .079 secondary average.
You are now excused for a moment in order to vomit copiously into your container of choice.
You back? Okay, continuing…
Without context, these numbers look pretty dreadful. He’s not hitting for power and he’s not getting on base in a consistent manner, two outcomes from which position players draw a large portion of their overall value. One could argue that Bethancourt has not lived up to expectations since joining the full-season ranks, having never posted an OPS above .689 in any single season. With this information as the fuel, many Braves fans and prospect prognosticators have soured on Bethancourt and have thrown him into the seemingly endless conflagration of toolsy prospects of whom much is expected, but little is received in terms of statistical achievements.
However, there is still hope for Christian, and this hope is based on two distinct factors. The first factor in Christian’s favor is his tools profile. Many fans have voiced their opinions and are sick of hearing about his present defensive prowess and potential offensive tools without seeing the actualization thereof by way of gaudy–or even passable–statistics. The tools remain potent, however, as does the hope of him realizing these tools. Bethancourt’s 6’2”, 220-pound frame oozes athleticism and leaves plenty of room for further physical development without hindering his status as a defensive stalwart behind the dish. His aforementioned defensive aptitude is highlighted by an outrageously strong throwing arm, which is accented by a lightning-quick transfer and release. Strong forearms and wrists allow him to frame pitches with ease, keeping the movement to a minimum once the ball is caught. Bethancourt’s targets are not always the lowest and he often relies on his superb hand-eye coordination a bit too much, as he sometimes picks at balls in the dirt rather than shifting his feet to block them. Due to his athleticism and already-present skills behind the plate, one may easily project him to be a plus to plus-plus all-around defender behind the dish, a rare breed even at the major league level.
The bat, on the other hand, requires a bit of extra envisaging. During batting practice displays, Bethancourt exhibits crazy bat speed and raw power. He achieves this power by horizontally extending his lead arm, resulting in a bit of length on the backside of his swing, and by powerfully rotating his hips ahead of his hands, which is in theory the correct sequence. Bethancourt, however, rotates his hips a fraction of a second too early, causing his body to “bail out” as the barrel enters the hitting zone (he is not quite on Gerardo Parra’s level, but it is still there). The batting practice displays make it easy for one to put high grades on his raw power, but this power has yet to manifest itself during in-game situations. In terms of actual hitting ability, Bethancourt has shown good hand-eye coordination and has been able to put the bat on the baseball in a fairly consistent manner, striking out in only 16.5% of his plate appearances during his minor league career. Herein lies a bit of the problem; Christian likes to swing the bat early in the count, usually resulting in weak contact. To his credit, Bethancourt has occasionally shown the willingness to widen his base and shorten both his swing and stride in pitcher-friendly counts. Christian has some serious issues to work on at the plate, including pitch recognition and plate discipline, but all of the raw physical tools are present in order for him to make the necessary adjustments. There is no evidence to suggest he will ever rack up massive walk totals–he likely never will–but further exposure against advanced pitching sequences should improve his pitch recognition and thereby his plate discipline, assuming he is willing to learn and make the needed alterations.
The second factor in Bethancourt’s favor is a simple fact: he is the youngest position player in the Southern League (minimum of 86 at-bats). The Braves have aggressively pushed Christian and have enlisted him in a situation in which most 20-year-olds are not placed. The Double-A level is riddled with major-league caliber pitching, and while he has not responded with resounding success, he has not completely flopped in terms of the primary skills necessary to succeed at the major league level. A .254 average paired with a 17.4 K%/3.5 BB% isn’t exactly sexy, but it is at least some evidence that he is putting the bat on the ball. A .558 OPS is putrid, but the individual factors within OPS represent secondary skills, which usually manifest later in a prospect’s developmental path.
This brings us to Sunday’s Futures Game. Bethancourt’s performance was, in a nutshell, a microcosm of his prospect profile. In three plate appearances, he saw a total of eight pitches, resulting in a three-pitch strikeout, a one-pitch fly out, and a four-pitch (!) pop-up. Bethancourt showed little willingness to adjust during and between at-bats, all the while lacking an apparent plan at the plate. Granted, he faced three of the top pitching prospects in baseball in Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, and Jameson Taillon, a dizzying threesome of awesomeness™ to whom many hitters have fallen victim. Defensively, Bethancourt wowed spectators by registering a pop time of 1.78 seconds on an attempted steal by Jonathan Singleton. He flashed impressive lateral movement behind the dish, but still showed a propensity to pick at pitches in the dirt rather than shifting his feet to block them. If you’ve never been blessed with the opportunity to watch Christian play baseball, I fully recommend viewing this game in order to comprehend, at the most basic level, why he receives such high volumes of praise and criticism.
So what is the takeaway here? I am in no way making the case that Christian has been “good” in 2012. Rather, I am trying to provide a bit of context upon which one can frame Christian’s season. The raw tools on both sides of the ball are still there – they haven’t magically disappeared. He is getting his feet wet against much older competition. He is certainly not thriving, but there is some reason to be optimistic, as a defensively advanced catcher making consistent contact against older competition at this stage in his development deserves at least a bit of recognition. Fans sometimes view a prospect’s statistics through major-league-tinted goggles; low accumulations in certain areas automatically doom certain players and cause some fans to discard them as over-hyped prospects. To do so in Christian’s case would be foolish, as he is nowhere near his peak on the developmental arc and has a long way to go before his raw tools fully permeate his everyday game, and that is perfectly okay. Christian has every opportunity to improve the holes within his game in order to set him up as a viable option at the major league level in 2-3 years. “Viable” is used very loosely in this context, as my money is on Bethancourt becoming a solid backup/second-division catcher who provides exceptional defense, below-average batting average/on-base percentage, and 10-12 home runs annually. He will more than likely provide a team with exceptional value during his cost-controlled years and be able to help out various major league benches thereafter. In a world where Nick Hundley has received a majority of his team’s plate appearances at the catching position, Christian Bethancourt might just make it after all. *
*Hundley is just an example. No need to get worked up.
Ethan Purser has been a baseball fan his entire life, taking a particular interest in the Atlanta Braves at a young age due to the geographical proximity. Inspired by Jason Parks, Kiley McDaniel, and Kevin Goldstein, Ethan began writing about prospects and scouting in 2012 and plans to keep fans informed on Braves prospects by way of scouting reports and general rambling. You can follow him on Twitter @EthanPurser.
April 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm by Ben Duronio under Prospects
The prospects against MLB’ers was a fun watch, despite running into some issues with the stream at times. Even so, I saw a good deal of prospects I had yet to see live and was impressed by a good amount of them.
Lipka started the game off with an impressive plate appearance against Mike Minor. Minor did not look too crisp to start the game, but Lipka worked the count well and eventually took a walk. He ended up taking another later on in the game. His speed is real, and I think he could eventually be a plus defender in center due to his athleticism, once he gets a hang of reading balls well.
Gilmartin honestly is not far away from being MLB ready. He pitched very well to every left-handed batter he faced, utilizing his breaking ball better than I anticipated. He was slowing his motion for his changeup, which is something he’ll need to work on throughout the year. Still, he impressed me and there is an outside shot we see him in Atlanta toward the tail end of this year, much like we saw the oft-compared Mike Minor at the end of 2010.
Cunningham is not the best prospect in the world, but he is really fast and controls the strike zone well. He does not walk a ton, but he does also not strike out a ton. He reminded me a bit of Brett Gardner in watching him tonight, though obviously if he became that good it would be a surprise to everyone. His defensive skill was evident on a Bourn double, as he raced to the ball and got it in very quickly. He did not record an out on the play, but his speed is a real big asset in the outfield. Hopefully he has a better stolen base rate and can up his walk rate this year, because that could turn him into a very nice prospect if he does.
Graham’s line looks bad, as he allowed four hits and three runs in an innings work. Even so, I was not impressed by any prospect as much as I was of Graham. His stuff was absolutely electric as he recorded two strikeouts in the inning. He got hit pretty hard, but he still has time to work on his overall repertoire. His fastball was just phenomenal though, and I could certainly see him as a very good backend bullpen option eventually.
March 2, 2012 at 11:29 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Prospects
Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation, just posted a breakdown of Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons over at FanGraphs.
Pastornicky will play in the big leagues and he could have a regular role at shortstop as soon as this season. That said, few scouts I’ve spoken with think he’ll be a consistent first-division regular. Instead, the consensus I’ve gotten is that he’ll be more of a second-division shortstop or top-notch utility player. One scout I spoke with compared Pastornicky to Willie Bloomquist. It’s a comparison that grows on me every time I see Pastornicky in person, but it’s hardly one that elicits visions of stardom and championships.
Simmons’ glove alone will get him to the big leagues, and he has a chance to be a defensive star. How his bat develops is the big question. If he continues to hit for average — even without significant secondary skills — he’ll be a first-division regular who can provide considerable value to a championship-level club. That potential gives Simmons the edge in my prospect evaluations.
He makes a good point. The floor for Pastornicky is higher but the ceiling for Simmons is significantly greater. It’s a really good breakdown featuring information he has picked up from scouts and his own opinion. Check it out.
I have been saying for a few months on twitter that I see a lot of David Eckstein in Pastornicky. Mark’s report furthers those feelings. Normally a saber site comparing anything to Eckstein is a negative, but he was an effective shortstop for a while, just not to the level that announcers and writers claimed. He’s a hard worker, with good contact, speed, and decent defense aside from a weak throwing arm. If he can be average everywhere, he will be an asset to the team this season.