2014 Atlanta Braves

C – Tanner Murphy – Rookie League Danville –  19 yo;  –  (2013 – 4th round) –
  • .242 – 5 HR – 19 RBi – 21 R –  .361/.389/.750 slash  –  PAG: 2.66
  • Baseball America-NR   –  MLB Pipeline-NR   –  Baseball Prospectus-NR
  • Choosing Atlanta’s Organizational All-Star’s was a big challenge.  With catching, it’s no doubt the Braves view 23 year old Panamanian Christian Bethancourt their top level prospect.  Yet it’s UTRMinors goal to bring awareness to the next tier, expand attention to those second level kids; not concretely claim that our choices are better than prospects you see on the countless number of off-season lists or rankings. In determining a Braves UTR catching leader, my list was several players deep and when checking off my catching tools, each catcher in the system had only one, maybe two tools that were more superior than that of their organizational mates. When all was said and done, 2013 Missouri prep draftee Tanner Murphy came out on top. The Malden HS (MO) alum began his professional career in rough fashion batting .227 with only three extra base hits; and a 32 game PAG of 1.78 in the Gulf Coast League.  However his defense was stellar going errorless in 200 chances.  This season with Danville, the 6’1 – 215 lb. righty saw solid bat progression batting .243 with eight doubles, five homers, yet saw a minuscule dip in defense with a .993 fielding percentage. He posted nearly a full point PAG increase with a 2.66 and had a 24% caught-stealing rate. I think Murphy has the chance to keep pace with fellow catcher (and third baseman) Victor Caratini.  
1B – Joey Meneses – GCL/LoA Rome – 22 yo;  – (2011 – International FA signee-MX)
  • .288 – 8 HR –  33 RBi – 33 R –   .355/.496/.850 slash  –  csPAG: 3.26
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • Atlanta’s first base UTR O.A.S. offered yet another challenge.  This time it was a smidge easier than catcher as it came down to only two candidates.  My choice of the 6’3 – 190 lb. Meneses was real close to system mate Jake Schrader. Both sluggers posted an identical 2014 PAG, however I gave the nod to the Mexico native as is his age/level, his edge in extra-base percentage and overall game seems to have more time on its side as well as more service time in the Braves system. Granted, Meneses hasn’t yet displayed the same power as O.A.S. runner-up Jake Schrader, but he’s shown steady growth since his debut in 2011 where he posted a 1.53 PAG in the DSL. The next two seasons, the righty posted PAG scores of 2.53 (2012) and slipped to a 2.20 in 2013. It looks like Meneses put things together in 2014, but I want to see more power, a full season of at-bats and health before I ride off into the UTR sunset with Meneses. I’m not busting on Jake Schrader. In fact I like him. However his age/level was a bit of a deterrent. 
2B – Jose Peraza  – HiA Lynchburg/AA Mississippi – 20 yo;  – (2010 – International FA-VE) 
  • .339 – 2 HR – 11 3B  –  44 RBi –  79 R –  60 SB –  .364/.441/.806  slash  –    csPAG: 3.70
  • BA/#14  –  MLB Pipeline (mid-season)/#20   –  BP-Prospect “On the Rise” 
  • Peraza is another in the long line of prospects that I don’t feel the need to sit here and drone over how incredible he is. He is by leaps and bounds THE top prospect in a mediocre Braves system.  Atlanta’s trade of rookie on-base machine Tommy La Stella to the Cubs (which still doesn’t make sense to me from the Cubs end) and the free agent signing of 31 year old journeyman Alberto Callaspo signifies that the young Venezuelan should be manning 2B in very short order; maybe 2015.  

 

3B – Jordan Edgerton – Rookie Danville  – 20 yo;  –  (2014 – 9th round) 
  • .275 – 3 HR – 43 RBi – 31 R –   .347/.385/.733 slash  –   PAG: 3.22
  • BA-NR  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • The 6’1 – 190 lb. righty was drafted out of Division II UNC-Pembroke for his power bat, but his profile marks him to hit for high average, which might pull him off of third base eventually. The Mt. Holly, NC native debuted with Rookie Danville and led the club in hits, runs, doubles and Rbi’s. The righty also ranked third in the Appy League in RBI’s (43) and fifth in walks (29).  A week ago the Braves still viewed Kyle Kubitza their top 3B prospect, but with the combination of his trade to the LA Angels and Edward Salcedo’s painful defense (which is most certainly pushing him off the position [and] into a corner outfield spot) Edgerton could be interesting to follow. The organization hopes that his superior BB:K ratio translates to higher levels and current doubles power will begin producing more home runs. We might very well see Edgerton receive an assignment to LoA Rome this coming season and hopefully grab the Braves minor league 3B crown by the horns. 

 

SS – Ozhaino Albies  – GCL Braves/Rookie Danville –  17 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA signee-CW)
  • .364 – 1 HR –  19 RBi – 41 R – 22 SB –  .446/.444/.891 slash  –   csPAG: 3.47
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • When Jim and I prepare our UTR material, we generally look at the entire landscape of an organization to see where our UTR kids might fit in.  Jim looks at current major league and minor league rotations to see where his SP/RP might wedge themselves into future rotations or the back end of a bullpen.  Same goes for hitters. Does each kid have stiff competition or a clear path up through the organizational ladder? As for Albies, he’s just the right prospect at just the right time. His pro debut produced quite the attention. He posted identical PAG scores for both the GCL (19 gm – 3.47) and Rookie Danville (38 gm – 3.47) and led the entire Braves minor league organization in on-base percentage (.446). With 24 yr old Elmer Reyes carrying a 6 year PAG of 2.46 coupled with All-Star SS Andrelton Simmons entrenched at the major league level, Albies has all the tools to become one of the Braves top position prospects in the system. 
LF – Connor Lien  – LoA Rome –  20 yo;  –  (2012 – 12th round)  –
  •  .275 – 5 HR – 36 RBi – 41 R – 16 SB –  .337/.398/.735  –   PAG: 2.79
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • Every organization loves to look at each position in hopes to see an eventual superstar. The same goes for fantasy baseball. It’s every owners dream to employ a stud at every spot because the consensus is they give you the best chance to win. However, the studs and scrubs philosophy is too risky for my taste. Connor Lien reminds me of one of those players that even though he isn’t a stud, he’s that late-round depth play that would help carry you when injuries hit. Is this a far fetched explanation? Sure it is, but I really like the strides Lein has made each step of his way. His debut in 2012 for the Gulf Coast League was a struggle. He posted a 2.44 PAG batting .228 with only six extra base hits in 48 games, but committed only 2 errors while playing mostly fight field and center. 2013 saw nice growth with the bat as the 6’3 – 205 lb. Lien posted an even 3.00 PAG for the Rookie Danville squad. Even though he saw a batting average “push” if you will (.226) he became more aggressive collecting 21 extra-base hits. This season, the Olympia HS (FL) draftee took a considerable leap in production even though his PAG score decreased due to his increased game load. I like Lien. He was once considered a raw prospect and has made methodical strides at every level. Which outfield spot he’ll end up playing remains question, but I believe he’ll be opening the season for HiA Lynchburg in 2015.  

 

CF – Sean Godfrey – Rookie Danville/LoA Rome/HiA Lynchburg –  22 yo;  –  (2014 – 22nd round) 
  • .321 – 3 HR – 39 RBi – 43 R – 18 SB –  .358/.464/.822  –   csPAG: 3.66
  • BA-NR  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –   BP-NR
  • Even though Jim and I use the “age vs. level” aspect to our advantage sometimes when warranted, we both agree that the opposite is used as a hinderance by many, clouding what can be viewed as legit, robust production.  In the case of the 6’2 – 180 lb. Godfrey, I’m not sure there was a position prospect in the Braves system that had as productive a debut this season.  As a 22nd rounder, you wouldn’t expect to see a player possess skills much above average.  He debuted for Appy League Danville and tore up the league batting .412 with 9 doubles and 17 runs scored in 16 games; which translated to a 4.38 PAG score. He saw a much deserved promotion to LoA Rome in mid-July and even though he slowed down a bit, he still batted .275, stole 11 bases and posted a 3.51 PAG score. The Braves rode the Godfrey bandwagon and the Ball State alum reached HiA by late August. In 11 games, he posted a 3.09 PAG batting .333 with 4 doubles and 4 stolen bases.  Have I mentioned Godfrey didn’t commit an error all season long? I suspect Godfrey will begin 2015 in HiA, however Godfrey’s assignment will be interesting to see now that the Braves have newly acquired centerfield speedster Mallex Smith in the prospect fold. 
RF – Victor Reyes – LoA Rome –  20 yo;  –  (2011 – International free agent/VE)
  • .259 – 0 HR – 34 RBi – 32 R – 12 SB –   .309/.298/.607  –   PAG: 2.26
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • I use the word ‘quandary” a lot in my analysis, especially when it comes to the future projection of a prospect vs. actual production a prospect has placed on his resume. Maybe the term ‘benefit of the doubt” derived from prospect tracking, who knows. In this instance, I wasn’t necessarily trapped into choosing Victor Reyes as my Braves O.A.S. right fielder. He’s a great prospect. He’s young, left handed, great body (6’3 – 180) has good bat speed and budding power. His first two seasons produced nearly identical PAG scores: 2012 (debut) – 3.21 for DSL; 2013 – (cs)3.22 for GCL (31 gms), Danville (18 gms). In 2014 though, Reyes was challenged in LoA posting a 2.59 PAG in 89 games. Had HiA Lynchburg’s Will Skinner age-qualified, I would have chosen him as my right field All-Star  – big power, average bat and solid defense –  even though I know I would have faced harsh criticism from several internet skeptics.  (This is Under The Radar remember?)  After all, this is a seasonal All-Star list, not a top prospect list.  Yet even so, Reyes still out performed the rest of his right field mates; all while being one of the most promising young outfielders in the system. 

 

Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
1. RHP Yean Carlos Gil – (11) cSR/TPS .119
  • 23 years old – (LoA Rome)
  • Undrafted – 2010
  • 3-Time UTR Mentions (May 1stMay 7thJuly 9th)
  • Not many bright spots in the Braves system. In fact, with its rich history of having outstanding staffs, the Braves are very thin throughout their lower levels. One glimmer of hope is Yean Carlos Gil, who’s been on my radar since coming state-side in 2011 when the spelling of his name was Jean Carlos Gil. I mentioned him several times when I was posting content at MLBDepthCharts.com (now RosterResource.com). His development took a hit in 2012 when he under went Tommy John surgery and spent all of 2013 recovering in the Appy League. He handled a full work-load (126.1 IP) in 2014 where he went 7-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 27 appearances (22 starts). Carlos Gil has a three pitch mix, but doesn’t display a plus offering. His stuff projects and I’ve always believed in the 6’2″ right-hander’s upside. Since tracking Braves pitchers since 2009, the Venezuelan native has always posted strong TPS marks.  The Braves did place Carlos Gil on their 40-man roster last month. I’m hoping to see him expedited in 2015 to start at HiA Lynchburg and finish in Double-A. 
 
2. LHP Dilmer Mejia – (9) SP/TPS .101
  • 17 years old – (DSL Braves / GCL Braves)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • 3-Time UTR Mentions (June 7thJune 25thJuly 15th)
  • Just how Yean Carlos Gil hit my radar 4 years ago in the DSL, Mejia has done the same this season as a 16 year old. Mejia is just one of the many reasons that Marc and I bring our content to you. Unless you’re an avid Braves fan, chances are you’ve never heard of Mejia. And before he hit the UTR Mentions for the third time in late July, it could have been several years away before hearing his name. After 11 strong outings in the DSL against hitters three years older than the lefty, Mejia went 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA and struck out 52 and 11 walks over 59 innings. He was named as the DSL Pitcher of Year for Braves. He was brought to the U.S. and started three games in the Gulf Coast League and again faced much older hitters; with success. Scouting information is currently not available, but I’m hoping to research more about this youngster once the league previews begin posting.
 
3. RHP Lucas Sims – (8) SP/TPS .133
  • 20 years old – (Hi Lynchburg)
  • 1st round – 2012
  • Ranked #1 by Baseball America / #1 Baseball Prospectus / #2 MLBPipeline
  • Once the top prospect in the Braves system, Lucas Sims has fallen somewhat, but there is no reason to panic. He didn’t post the stats this season that one would want from a 1st rounder, but most of the season was spent having Sims focusing on the command of his fastball. He will be 21 years old for the entire 2015 season and it will be interesting to see where his assignment will be come April. At HiA Lynchburg, Sims pitched 156.2 innings and posted a 4.19 ERA and only struck out 107 hitters. Still considered raw, the right-hander  can run his fastball up to 95 mph. His secondary pitches are regarded as above-average. The Braves MLB rotation is in transition and Sims will be a nice #3 piece behind Teheran and new acquired Shelby Miller in a couple years.
 
4. RHP Wes Parsons – (7) SP/TPS .113
  • 21 years old – (Hi Lynchburg)
  • Undrafted – 2012
  • UTR Mention (June 6th)
  • Ranked #20 by Baseball America / #7 Baseball Prospectus / #10 MLBPipeline
  • I mentioned that the system is bare, but there are some stable arms to hold things things down until they can re-load. The pitcher that I most like in the Braves system is Wes Parsons. This isn’t a new revelation based on my June 7th post . Nothing flashy with Parsons, just a  pitcher with above-average control (I love those guys), which can miss bats, but when contact is made…its a groundball. He has three pitches that rate average or just above, with his fastball in the low 90’s. Hype for Parsons should hit a crescendo if he pieces together another decent season, given that he was undrafted. He could follow the path set by another Braves pitcher which was a stable keeper on my fantasy roster until an injury spiraled his career…..that being Brandon Beachy. 
 
5. RHP Alec Grosser – (6) cSR/TPS .092
  • 19 years old – (Appy League Danville)
  • 11th round – 2013
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (July 16thJuly 21stJuly 27th)
  • Ranked #16 by MLBPipeline / “On the Rise” By Baseball Prospectus
  • Researching within a weak system means that choosing a Breakout Candidate can be rather easy. Alec Grosser is my first definite selection as a UTR BO pick for 2015. Taken out of high school in the 2013 draft, Grosser made a strong statement pitching with the Appy League Danville Braves. He struck out nearly a batter per inning, posted a 57% GB rate, and didn’t give up a home run in 63.2 innings. He throws a 90 to 93 mph fastball, a low 80’s slider and a work-in-progress change-up. The biggest thing to take away from his scouting report from the draft was that his fastball only gets better the deeper he gets into the game. We should get to see this in 2015 when he’s assigned to LoA Rome.
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
1. RHP Pete Perez –  (7) RP/TPS .089
  • 23 years old – (LoA Rome)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • Perez, who was pitching in the Independent Frontier Leagues in 2013, found himself on the mound for the LoA Rome Braves in 2014. The Braves signed two pitchers that made the Frontier League’s 2013 Top 10 prospect list. Race Parmenter was the other and was released in April, but Perez survived by making 44 appearances (7 saves). The stout righthander pounds a mid 90’s fastball, an above-average changeup and serviceable curveball. With some off-season conditioning to prepare Perez for another full season, he could be a fun story to watch in 2015.
2. LHP Brady Feigl – (6) RP/TPS .097
  • 23 years old – (LoA Rome / HiA Lynchburg)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • UTR Mention (May 11th)
  • This promising arm out of the pen made 17 appearances over two levels in his debut year. Coming from the same high school (Old Mill, MD) as Astros hot UTR prospect Josh Hader, Feigl impressed Braves scouts during his time at Mount St. Mary’s, but went undrafted. The red mark on Feigl’s scouting report was issues with his command. It didn’t show itself in 2014 as the 6′ 3″-175 lb left-hander had a 4:1  K:BB ratio. If he continues to command his low 90’s FB and especially his 12-6 curve, he could reach the ceiling as a middle reliever.
3. RHP Bradley Roney – (5) RP/TPS .059
  • 21 years old – (Appy League Danville)
  • 8th round – 2014
  • Roney was drafted by Baltimore back in 2011 (18th rd) as a third baseman. He didn’t sign and went on to college (Southern Mississippi) where he manned the corner there, but broke records on the  mound as their closer. With a fastball touching 95 mph, we don’t have to worry about seeing Roney in the 3B depth chart, though that’s another thin area for the Braves. Roney needs to refine his delivery as he gave up 20 walks in 22.1 innings in 2014.
 
 
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
 
1. RHP Chris Diaz – cSR/TPS .079
  • 21 years old – (LoA Rome)
  • 5th round – 2014
  • Diaz is what I call a “cusp UTR” because he falls right at the threshold of one of our criteria …a 5th round draft pick. The right-hander could really get lost in the system shuffle due to the Braves taking all pitchers in the previous four rounds. Diaz was taken from the U. of Miami where he went 9-1 and 2.41 ERA and taking ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year honors. More impressive is that he didn’t allow more than 2 earned runs in most of his starts. He throws a low-90’s fastball that has some sink and his secondary pitches rate as average. 
2. RHP Alec Grosser– cSR/TPS .092
  • 19 years old – (Appy League Danville)
  • 11th round – 2013
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (July 16thJuly 21stJuly 27th)
  • Ranked #16 by MLBPipeline / “On the Rise” by Baseball Prospectus
  • Researching within a weak system means that choosing a Breakout Candidate can be rather easy. Alec Grosser is my first definite selection a UTR BO pick for 2015. Taken out of High school in the 2013 draft, Grosser made a strong statement pitching with the Appy League Danville Braves. He struck out nearly a batter per inning, posted a 57% GB rate, and didn’t give up a home run in 63.2 innings. He throws a 90 to 93 mph fastball, and low 80’s slider, and a work-in-progress change-up. The biggest thing to take away from his scouting report out of the draft was that his fastball only gets better the deeper he gets into the game. We should get to see this in 2015 when he’s assigned to LoA Rome.
3. RHP Jacob Webb – cSR/TPS .092
  • 21 years old – (GCL Braves)
  • 18th round – 2014
  • UTR Mention  (July 30th)
  • The last three years, I touted Gus Schlosser (17th rd in 2011) for the Braves as a top UTR pitcher. Schlosser made a September call-up last season for the Braves, but was surprised that he was not tendered a contract for 2015, thus becoming a free agent. Webb could take that similar path. If he does, the right-hander could stick with the Braves with his 4-pitch mix that includes a low 90’s fastball, slider, change-up and curve. Debuting with the GCL Braves, Webb went 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 appearances (6 starts) and 31 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.
4.LHP Dilmer Mejia – SP/TPS .101

  • 17 years old – (DSL Braves / GCL Braves)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • 3-Time UTR Mentions (June 7thJune 25thJuly 15th)
  • Just how Yean Carlos Gil hit my radar 4 years ago, Mejia did the same this season as a 16 year old. Mejia is just one of the many reasons that Marc and I bring our content to you. Unless you’re an avid Braves fan, chances are that you never heard of Mejia. And before he hit the UTR Mentions for the third time in late July, it could have been several years away before hearing his name. After 11 strong outings in the DSL against hitters three years older than the lefty, Mejia went 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA and striking out 52 and 11 walks over 59 innings. He was named as the DSL Pitcher of Year for Braves. Again, only 16 years old, he was brought to the U.S. and started three games in the Gulf Coast League and facing much older hitters, with success. Scouting information is currently not available, but Im hoping to research more about this youngster once the league previews begin posting.
3. RHP Angel Gavidia – cSR/TPS .105
  • 19 years old – (DSL Braves)
  • Undrafted- 2013
  • Repeated the DSL in 2014 where he pitched 20 more innings than the 2013 season and held most of his stats in check, except he cut down on free passes.
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
 1. RHP Bradley Roney – RP/TPS .059

  • 21 years old – (Appy League Danville)
  • 8th round – 2014
  • Roney was drafted by Baltimore back in 2011 (18th rd) as a third baseman. He didn’t sign and went on to college (Southern Mississippi) where he manned the corner there, but broke records on the  mound as their closer. With a fastball touching 95 mph, we don’t have to worry about seeing Roney in the 3B depth chart, though that another thin area for the Braves. Roney needs to refine his delivery as he gave up 20 walks in 22.1 innings in 2014. Of  the 2014 draft picks, Roney’s fastball was rated the best.
 2. RHP Jorge Zavala – RP/TPS .063
  • 20 years old – (GCL Braves / Appy League Danville)
  • Undrafted – 2012
  • UTR Mention (July 1st)
  • Zavala was the Braves Gulf Coast Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 0.38 ERA in 18 appearances ( 7 saves) and only allowed one earned run over 24 GCL innings. He started the season at Appy League Danville, but was promoted to the GCL after 2 appearances. The righty  doesn’t strikeout a lot, but does misses bats with his fastball that has very good late life.
 3. LHP Kyle Kinman – RP/TPS .063
  •  23 years old – (Appy League Danville)
  • 25th round – 2014
  • Kinman could be the first of the 2014 draft picks to reach the majors. He flashes two plus pitches in a fastball that can reach 95 mph and hard, powerful curveball with late action. He struckout 43 hitters in 29.2 innings with Appy League Danville and only gave up 6 walks. Already 24 years old, Kinman should start 2015 with LoA Rome and move up rapidly from there.

 

2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
 SP Michael Flores – Flores was moved into the bullpen to begin the season with LoA Rome. This didn’t go well with him posting a 6.87 ERA in only 7 appearances. Being used for the first time in relief as a pro, Flores was sent to Appy League Danville to readapt. It went much better in 16 appearances (2-1, 2.83 ERA, 36 K, 9 BB in 28.2 IP). Flores had strong K9 rates as a starter, so we will have to wait to see where he lands at Rome in 2015. Grade C-
 
RP Wilson Rivera – Rivera struggled with his command over 3 season with the Braves. I took a chance in 2014 that it could come together after he struck out 86 over 62.1 innings with HiA Lynchburg. Also, though he had a low GB rate (40%), he did keep the ball in the park in 2013 (4 HR). Keep in mind that all this occurred after he was converted over to the mound  as an outfielder. In fact, he actually drew comps to David Carpenter if and when he could cut down on free passes. Well, apparently the experiment ended, as Rivera didn’t play in the Braves system in 2014. He was released before the start of the season and was signed to an Independent League contract. Grade F

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s