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.