July 16, 2012 at 8:50 am by Ethan Purser under Atlanta Braves
Here is a brief write-up for each of CAC’s top-10 midseason prospects. For context, here is our composite list. Keep an eye out for more on prospects 11-25 later this week. Please note ages are as of midnight on 6/30/2012.
1. Julio Teheran | RHP | 6’2”, 175 lb. | Age: 21
2012 has not been a kind year to Julio Teheran. After having a very successful 2011 in which he showed very real signs of becoming an ace sooner rather than later, Julio has struggled mightily in Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 4.96 ERA/5.56 FIP in 81.2 IP. His inability to miss bats this year is quite alarming, as he has struck out only 16.1% of the batters he has faced. Julio has also allowed a whopping total of 15 (!) home runs in 2012. He still has the same frontline stuff he has possessed for years. Now, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the feel for his breaking ball, the command of his fastball, and his delivery. Teheran is still very young for his level and has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments. Failure is a fairly new concept to Julio, so be on the lookout for how he responds to this in the second half. Teheran’s considerable upside keeps him at the top of this list.
1. Andrelton Simmons | RH SS | 6’2”, 170 lb. | Age: 22
Until his recent injury, 2012 has been all but unkind to Andrelton Simmons. After nearly winning the shortstop job out of Spring Training, Simmons hit .292/.372/.421 in Double-A Mississippi in 200 plate appearances before being called up to Atlanta in June to take over for Tyler Pastornicky. Simmons has exceeded expectations both offensively and defensively, hitting .296/.336/.452 in 125 plate appearances while wowing spectators with his impressive defensive skillset and cannon for an arm. Simmons has all of the tools to be an above-average shortstop and has proven he belongs at the major league level. Once he returns to action, watch for the adjustments made by opposing pitchers in response to Andrelton’s hot start. The level at which he hits long-term is still in question, but his defense is what’s going to keep him in the majors for a long period of time.
3. Arodys Vizcaino | RHP | 6’0”, 190 lb. | Age: 21
After feeling discomfort in his elbow in the March 3rd Grapefruit League opener, Arodys Vizcaino underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Vizcaino’s elbow has been a problem in the past, so hopefully the surgery will put an end to his injury troubles. Arodys will not be ready to take the mound until 2013, so look for updates on his progression as the season continues. The debate continues as to whether his long-term destination is in the bullpen or in the starting rotation.
4. Sean Gilmartin | LHP | 6’2”, 190 lb. | Age: 22
Sean Gilmartin’s performance so far in 2012 can be summed up in three words: pretty dang solid. The 28th overall selection in the 2011 Rule 4 Draft has posted a 3.47 ERA/3.44 FIP in 109 innings for Double-A Mississippi. Gilmartin has shown plus control, walking slightly over 2 batters per 9 while striking out well above 6 batters per 9, leading to an impressive 3.24 K/BB. Sean has displayed the ability to consistently get lefties out (.208 OBP against), but has not shown the same knack for getting righties out (.324 OBP against).* Gilmartin possesses ridiculously sound mechanics and a good all-around arsenal, highlighted by a changeup that flashes plus. His fastball and curveball both project to be average to slightly above-average pitches down the road, leading to a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter if you believe in the breaking ball. Look for Gilmartin to continue to do well in Double-A, progressing to Gwinnett for the 2013 season.
*This is nitpicking.
5. Lucas Sims | RHP | 6’2”, 195 lb. | Age: 18
Sims, the 21st overall pick in the 2012 Rule 4 Draft, began his professional career with a bang, striking out 10 batters in 7 innings of work while only allowing 2 hits for the GCL Braves. After being promoted to Danville, Sims made his debut Saturday and struck out 2, walked 1, and allowed 0 runs in 2.1 innings of work. Sims brings a three-pitch mix to the table, highlighted by a low-to-mid-90s fastball that he has pumped up to the upper-90s on occasion. He also features a downer curve and a very well developed changeup for a high school arm. Sims has an athletic delivery and does a good job of leading with his hips toward home plate. He will occasionally pull off with his lead shoulder, causing his head to jerk and his body to fall off toward first base, and while he does a decent job of getting extended out front, there is room for improvement in this regard. Sims’ arm action is a bit longer than one would like to see and he can sometimes over-stride, which causes problems in the amount of separation he achieves between his upper and lower halves. Lucas does not have the quickest tempo out of the gate, but explodes in the second half of his delivery into footplant. Sims is a bit undersized for a right-handed pitcher, which, along with the slight delivery issues, is more than likely the reason he fell to the latter portion of the 1st round. All in all, Sims is definitely a special talent and garners close attention over the next couple of years. His ceiling resides near the top of the rotation thanks to a projectable three-pitch mix. Sims will likely spend the rest of 2012 in Danville and could open next season with Low-A Rome. Be on the lookout for how he performs against more advanced bats in the Appalachian League.
6. Christian Bethancourt | RH Catcher | 6’2”, 220 lb. | Age: 20
I profiled Christian Bethancourt earlier in the week. Christian’s had a pretty awful year statistically, hitting .241/.268/.266 in Double-A Mississippi. He’s not showing any patience or in-game power and is hacking at a lot of baseballs early in the count, resulting in a lot of weak contact. On the flip side, Christian has been pushed aggressively by the Braves and is extremely young for his level. He still has enormous tools on defense and a cannon for an arm, as evidenced by a caught stealing rate of 42% this season. Christian also possesses light-tower raw power, and if his hit tool ever develops, we’re looking at something very special. Until then, monitor Christian’s second half closely and take note of any adjustments he makes at the plate. Barring a strange turn of events, Bethancourt will stay in Mississippi for the rest of the year and will likely begin 2013 there with an eye on a promotion to Gwinnett by the middle of the season, if he can get it together at the plate. Regardless of the terrible numbers, Christian still possesses the highest ceiling of any position player in the system.
7. Zeke Spruill | RHP | 6’5”, 190 lb. | Age: 22
Zeke Spruill is having an overall good year at Double-A Mississippi, posting a 4.21 ERA/3.21 FIP while striking out 73 batters in 107 IP. Spruill has shown a continued ability to limit walks (2.72 BB/9) and keep the ball on the ground (50% groundball rate). Spruill’s arsenal features a sinking fastball that sits in the high-80s to low-90s with an average change, which features nice arm-side run and velocity separation from the fastball. Spruill’s breaking ball is still developing, but has flashed above-average on occasion. The tempo of his delivery is still very slow and deliberate, but he has shortened his arm action a hair in recent looks, which is a great sign for the long-term health of his arm. Zeke has displayed a noticeable platoon split this season, as righties have managed a measly .602 OPS while lefties have posted a much higher .746 OPS. I’ve long advocated for Zeke to develop a cut-fastball as an extra weapon to keep lefties off of his main fastball, but this is much easier said than done. Zeke’s ceiling is a back-of-the-rotation, pitch-to-contact starter who eats a lot of innings. If that does not work out, he could become a nice piece out of the bullpen, as his ability to induce groundballs and get righties out would be an asset in middle or long relief. Look for Zeke to continue to pitch in Double-A, but don’t be surprised if he makes a few starts in Gwinnett by the end of the summer.
8. Edward Salcedo | RH 3B | 6’3”, 195 lb. | Age: 20
Salcedo has enjoyed a very productive 2012, posting a .341 wOBA with 10 HRs for High-A Lynchburg, including a .395/.477/.658 line over his past 10 games. His strikeout rate just shy of 20% paired with a walk rate just above 6% leave a bit to be desired, as Salcedo has continued to struggle with off-speed pitches out of the zone. Edward’s calling card is crazy raw power, which is achieved via his hulking frame and a touch of length in his swing. He has showcased this power well in Lynchburg, nearly tallying his home run output from 2011 in 46 fewer games. His defense at third has always been in question, and the former shortstop has done nothing to alleviate the fear that he might have to move to an outfield corner down the road, tallying 27 errors at the hot corner thus far in 2012. Salcedo’s ceiling is still considerably high and his raw power is undeniable, but major concerns about his future defensive home have kept him lower on most prospect lists, including this one. Monitor Edward’s defensive and offensive progress as the summer rolls on, and look for him to possibly sniff Double-A if he continues to look this good.
9. J.R. Graham | RHP | 6’0”, 185 lb. | Age: 22
After being drafted in the 4th round out of Santa Clara University in 2011, J.R. Graham rolled over opposing hitters in the Appalachian League and showcased his stuff in a very impressive manner, leading to some extra buzz heading into this season. Graham has not disappointed in 2012 at High-A Lynchburg, posting a 2.63 ERA/3.19 FIP with 68 strikeouts and 17 walks in 102.2 innings pitched. Graham’s sinking fastball, which sits in the low-90s and has topped out in the mid-to-upper 90s, has helped him to keep the ball on the ground, as evidenced by a groundball rate of 55.6%. A hard-biting breaking ball and developing changeup round out Graham’s repertoire. There are some questions as to his ultimate role down the road, as a small frame coupled with a bit of effort in his delivery cause many people to wonder if he will be able to stay in the rotation long-term. As for now, all signs point to the Braves keeping J.R. as a starter. Look for Graham to stay in Lynchburg’s rotation and continue to learn the finer points of pitching. Graham could move very quickly to the majors if he is placed in the bullpen thanks to his impressive fastball-breaking ball combination.
10. Alex Wood | LHP | 6’4”, 215 lb. | Age: 21
Wood fell to the Braves in the 2nd round of this year’s draft due in part to concerns about his unorthodox delivery and lack of a reliable breaking ball. Considered a fairly polished arm out of the SEC, Alex was placed in Low-A Rome and his numbers have looked solid. In 12 innings pitched, Wood has fanned 13 and walked 4 while allowing only 4 earned runs. Wood has kept the ball on the ground in his 4 starts, producing a 4.25 ground out per fly out ratio. Alex features a fastball that he can occasionally run up to the upper-90s and a very well developed changeup. As previously mentioned, Wood has struggled to find consistency with his breaking ball due in part to his unorthodox delivery, and the development of this pitch will undoubtedly determine his ultimate role as a starter or reliever. Alex will spend the rest of the season in Rome and will likely begin the 2013 season with Double-A Mississippi. Lefties who can run their fastballs into the upper-90s are a huge commodity. Look for more on Alex Wood in the coming weeks here at CAC.