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.