Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Prospects for Week 3
Welcome back to the Atlanta Braves weekly top 10 prospect stock watch, where every week, we'll check in on the organization's next generation of players. You can find last week's Braves prospect watch here.
All of the starting pitchers on this list had just one start each, and all of them continue to improve and post good numbers. Starting pitchers are by far the strength of the Braves system.
Meanwhile, the batters on this list all have some big holes in their games, and each of them need more time in the minor leagues. Luckily, none of these hitting prospects should be needed by the major league club any time soon.
With the starting pitching in Atlanta leading all of baseball, and Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd nearing their returns, there is no need for any of the starting pitchers on this list to be rushed. That will help the Braves develop these pitchers properly and get them ready for when they might be needed next season in Atlanta.
No. 10 Prospect: SP Wes Parsons, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in one start, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
Parsons’ start last week looks bad, but all of the damage happened in his last inning of work, and his bullpen didn’t help him out at all.
Parsons continues to put up numbers that rival those of his rotation mates, Lucas Sims and Mauricio Cabrera—both discussed later on this list. He just needs to keep up the good work, and he’ll find himself moving up this list.
2014 Stats: 1-1 in three starts, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.99 FIP, .233 BAA
No. 9 Prospect: SP Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0 in one fantastic start, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K.
Cody must have read my lukewarm review of his early-season results last week because he delivered a terrific start this week. This is the Cody Martin who’s a top-10 prospect—the pitcher who can strike hitters out and keep runners off base.
2014 Stats: 1-1 in two starts, 3.55 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 1.54 FIP, .220 BAA
No. 8 Prospect: C/3B Victor Caratini, Low-A Rome
Last Week’s Stats: 4-for-17 (.235) with two doubles.
Caratini’s slow start to his 2014 campaign continues, but there are a lot of moving parts. He’s a switch-hitter, so he’s got to work on two swings instead of one. The Braves are also moving him between two of the most demanding defensive positions on the diamond—third base and catcher.
He’s played eight games at catcher this season and six games at third base. At some point, the organization should probably decide what his permanent position will be, but for now, stringing him between two spots on the field shouldn’t be overloading him too much. When looking at his stats, just remember he’s juggling a lot on the field and at the plate.
2014 Stats: .224/.273/.367, .238 BABIP, 14.3 K%, 7.1 BB%
No. 7 Prospect: 2B Tommy La Stella, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 7-for-23 (.304) with three walks.
La Stella is starting to push his average to the .300 level. He’s also maintained his on-base ability while moving up to Triple-A, but his power has not yet arrived.
La Stella has slugged above .460 at every stop in the minor leagues, so the hope is that his power will show up eventually. But as he is a smaller player, it’s worth keeping an eye on, as he needs to at least produce doubles power to have above-average value in the major leagues.
2014 Stats: .295/.370/.318, .295 BABIP, 5.6 K%, 13 BB%
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Jose Peraza, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: 9-for-31 (.290) with five stolen bases in seven attempts.
All of Peraza’s hits this week were singles, but he made it beyond first on his own five times, thanks to his stolen base speed. He now has nine steals in 12 attempts this season.
Peraza ranks second in the organization in stolen bases to his teammate, OF Kyle Wren, who has 12 steals in 13 attempts. Wren and Peraza are the dynamic duo at the top of the Lynchburg Hillcats batting order.
2014 Stats: .309/.333/.353, .350 BABIP, 12.5 K%, 4.2 BB%
No. 5 Prospect: SP Mauricio Cabrera, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: No record in one start, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
According to Damien Sordelett of The News & Advance of Lynchburg, Va., Cabrera labored through his only start this week after having been pushed back. The Braves continue to protect their top international pitching prospect by limiting his innings.
A tweeted report from his previous start had Cabrera’s fastball at 96-99 mph, his changeup at 86-88 mph and his slider at 80-83 mph. You can see from that fastball velocity why the Braves want to protect Cabrera’s arm.
As he climbs the minor league ladder, that fastball velocity mixed with the separation in speeds to his offspeed pitches will be in incredibly effective arsenal to deploy against hitters. The opposing pitcher the Atlanta Braves faced on Sunday, Zack Wheeler of the Mets, is a good example of this separation.
2014 Stats: 0-0 in three starts, 2.61 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 4.36 FIP, .189 BAA
No. 4 Prospect: SP Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in one start, 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
Hursh is cruising so far this season, and his numbers are pretty much where we want them to be.
In an article by Guy Curtright of MiLB.com, Hursh discusses his sinking fastball and his approach to pitching:
"I just try to be the pitcher I was in college," the Atlanta Braves' first-round pick in the 2013 draft said. "It's the same game. If you keep the ball down and hit your spots, you'll have a chance to be successful."
2014 Stats: 1-1 in three starts, 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.27 FIP, .235 BAA
No. 3 Prospect: SP J.R. Graham, Double-A Mississippi
Last Week’s Stats: 0-1 in one start, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.
Graham took a tough-luck loss in his only start last week and has yet to allow an earned run this season. All of his stats are right where we want them to be, as Graham looks to make a successful comeback from last year’s injury.
M-Braves broadcaster Kyle Tait spoke with Graham before his start this week. You can listen to the interview here and learn all about his rehab from a shoulder injury last season, including the "table of terror."
2014 Stats: 0-1 in three starts, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 3.28 FIP, .178 BAA
Stock: Up, as he continues his successful injury-free season.
No. 2 Prospect: C Christian Bethancourt, Triple-A Gwinnett
Last Week’s Stats: 4-for-14 (.286) with his first two walks of the season.
One of the big things to watch with Bethancourt is his walk total. Throughout his minor league career, he’s had a very impatient approach at the plate, with his highest walk percentage in any full-season league coming last year (4.1 percent).
He added his first free passes of the year last week, as his entire approach at the plate continues to be a work in progress.
2014 Stats: .211/.250/.237, .296 BABIP, 27.5 K%, 5 BB%
No. 1 Prospect: SP Lucas Sims, High-A Lynchburg
Last Week’s Stats: No decision in one start, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K (two home runs allowed)
Sims has been bitten by the home run ball this season, which is why his ERA and FIP are elevated. He gave up three homers all of last season in 116.2 innings, and this year, he’s already surrendered three in just 15 innings.
We’ll have to keep an eye on those home runs allowed and hope that this is just an aberration and not a trend. All of his other season stats are right where we want them to be for the organization’s top prospect. He’s making batters miss with a .182 batting average against, and his WHIP is below one. If those good numbers continue, then his ERA will start to come down.
2014 Stats: 1-1 in three starts, 4.20 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 5.13 FIP, .182 BAA