2012 Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports





Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.

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Atlanta Braves

The Braves have promoted an impressive group of prospects to Atlanta during the past two seasons, resulting in a subtle youth movement that came together earlier than expected. Jason Heyward and Jonny Venters made significant impacts while making their big league debuts in 2010—Heyward won Baseball America's Rookie of the Year Award—before Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel were integral parts of an 89-win season in 2011.

Despite the a 9-18 freefall in September that turned what appeared to be a certain wild-card berth into a near miss, the Braves have enough young talent to remain optimistic about the future. In addition to Beachy, Freeman and Kimbrel, Atlanta also received contributions from Randall Delgado and Mike Minor. Top prospects Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino made cameos in the majors, and unheralded farmhands such as Jose Constanza, Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Varvaro also chipped in. Most of them will figure prominently in the club's plans for 2012.

Player development always has been a priority for the Braves and helped bolster the big league club at the trading deadline. GM Frank Wren acquired Michael Bourn, who filled holes in center field and atop the lineup, from the Astros in exchange for former top prospect Jordan Schafer and pitchers Juan Abreu, Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer. Wren was adamant about not trading any of his six best prospects and emerged from the process with those pieces intact.

Down on the farm, the Braves provided an example of how development and winning don't go hand in hand. Atlanta's six farm clubs combined for a .469 winning percentage—27th among 30 organizations. Rookie-level Danville was the affiliate to reach postseason play.

In the meantime, individual accomplishments were plentiful. In between making his major league debut and spending September in Atlanta, Teheran ranked second in the minors with 15 victories and was the Triple-A International League's pitcher and rookie of the year.

First baseman Joey Terdoslavich's 52 doubles broke a high Class A Carolina League record that had stood for 65 seasons. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons won the CL batting title at .311, while catcher Evan Gattis did the same in the low Class A South Atlantic League with a .322 mark. J.R. Graham, a fourth-round pick in June, led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with a 1.72 ERA.

In scouting director Tony DeMacio's two years on the job, Atlanta has shifted its draft philosophy. The Braves used to focus on younger players and mined talent-rich Georgia as well as any club protected its borders. Now they concentrate primarily on college players who might have lower ceilings but cost less and will move faster through the minors.

Atlanta has spent just $7.6 million on DeMacio's two drafts, which ranks ahead of only the White Sox in bonus spending over the last two years. Those drafts have yielded Simmons, the system's best position prospect, and 2011 first-rounder Sean Gilmartin, its best lefthander. The Braves also remain active on the international front but aren't in the market for the big-bucks prospects like they were when they signed Teheran for $850,000 in 2007.

Farm director Kurt Kemp resigned on Sept. 1, and Atlanta decided to replace him from within. Assistant GM Bruce Manno will now oversee player development and Kemp's former assistant, Ronnie Richardson, was promoted to director of minor league operations.

1. Julio Teheran, RHP Born: Jan 27, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175
Signed: Columbia, 2007. Signed by: Miguel Teheran/Carlos Garcia.
Background: No teenage pitcher over the past two decades has sped through the Braves system faster than Teheran. He signed as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2007 for $850,000, the largest bonus for an international amateur pitcher that year. The Yankees actually offered him more money, but Atlanta had an edge in that Teheran's cousin Miguel was one of the Braves scouts who signed him. Teheran battled shoulder tendinitis during his 2008 pro debut but hasn't slowed down since. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2009 and again in the high Class A Carolina League the following year. That success notwithstanding, Teheran put together his best pro season in 2011. He made a pair of emergency starts in Atlanta in mid-May before returning for three appearances in September. In between, he led the Triple-A International League with 15 wins while ranking second in ERA (2.55) and opponent average (.232) and fourth in WHIP (1.18). Ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the IL behind Rays lefthander Matt Moore, Teheran was named the loop's pitcher and rookie of the year.

Scouting Report: With an electric arm, excellent instincts and maturity beyond his years, Teheran makes pitching look easy. He mixes four pitches to keep hitters off-balance and does a good job of getting ahead in the count. A lanky hurler who throws on an impressive downward plane, Teheran works low in the zone and also is capable of getting batters to chase high fastballs. His heater sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. Teheran commands the pitch to both sides of the plate and isn't afraid to pitch inside. Teheran's changeup is nearly as good as his fastball, featuring outstanding depth and fade. He seems to know to throw his changeup when the batter least expects it. Teheran throws two breaking balls—a curveball in the low 80s with late bite, and a slider he uses less frequently—and developing a consistently reliable one is his main need at this point. Otherwise, he just needs to refine a few things, such as his fastball command and his pickoff move. He did not locate his fastball as well as usual during his time in Atlanta, giving up four homers in 20 innings after surrendering just 20 in 384 frames in the minor leagues. The Braves have ironed out his delivery and will continue to monitor his mechanics in order to minimize the violence associated with generating such tremendous power. The organization's pitching coaches rave about Teheran's work ethic, his desire to improve and willingness to accept constructive criticism.

The Future: Teheran has the ability to become a No. 1 starter. He'll need to add some strength and become a little sharper with all of his pitches in order to attain that status, but the goal is well within his reach. While Atlanta has plenty of starting pitching, General Manager Frank Wren said at the end of the 2011 regular season that it was time to give an opportunity to some of the young starters in the system. The Braves will give Teheran a long look during spring training, though he'll be just 21 years old and could get some more Triple-A experience to open the season.
Team Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
Danville Braves 2008 1 2 6.60 6 6 0 15 18 12 11 2 4 17 .286
Danville Braves 2009 2 1 2.68 7 7 0 44 36 17 13 2 7 39 .216
Rome Braves 2009 1 3 4.78 7 7 0 38 42 20 20 2 11 28 .271
Rome Braves 2010 2 2 1.14 7 7 0 39 23 8 5 1 10 45 .163
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2010 4 4 2.98 10 10 0 63 56 22 21 6 13 76 .228
Mississippi Braves 2010 3 2 3.38 7 7 0 40 29 15 15 2 17 38 .195
Gwinnett Braves 2011 15 3 2.55 25 24 0 145 123 46 41 5 48 122 .221
Atlanta Braves 2011 1 1 5.03 5 3 0 20 21 11 11 4 8 10 .263

2. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP Born: Nov 13, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007. Signed by: Alfredo Dominguez (Yankees)
Background: Acquired from the Yankees in the December 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to New York, Vizcaino partially tore an elbow ligament in his first season in the Braves system but put that behind him in 2011. He appeared in the Futures Game while rising from high Class A Lynchburg to Atlanta, moving from the rotation to the bullpen when he got to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Scouting Report: Vizcaino's fastball sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. He also has sharp-breaking curveball that's a plus pitch but he tends to fall in love with it too much. He made impressive strides with his changeup in 2011 to give him three solid offerings. He does an excellent job of challenging hitters when he's behind in the count but needs to improve his fastball command in order to stay ahead.

The Future: Given how he responded to relieving, plus the depth of starters in Atlanta, Vizcaino could remain in the bullpen. However, a potential No. 2 or 3 starter is a prized commodity. Either way, he'll take a prominent role with the Braves as he gains experience.
Team Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
GCL Yankees 2008 3 2 3.68 12 6 0 44 38 22 18 5 13 48 .224
Staten Island Yankees 2009 2 4 2.13 10 10 0 42 34 18 10 2 15 52 .211
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2010 0 0 4.61 3 3 0 14 16 9 7 1 3 11 .281
Rome Braves 2010 9 4 2.39 14 14 0 72 63 25 19 1 9 68 .227
Lynchburg Hillcats 2011 2 2 2.45 9 9 0 40 31 14 11 3 10 37 .204
Mississippi Braves 2011 2 3 3.81 11 8 0 50 44 21 21 3 18 55 .228
Gwinnett Braves 2011 1 0 1.29 6 0 0 7 7 3 1 1 0 8 .250
Atlanta Braves 2011 1 1 4.67 17 0 0 17 16 9 9 1 9 17 .235

3. Randall Delgado, RHP Born: Feb 09, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200
Signed: Panama, 2006. Signed by: Luis Ortiz.
Background: Delgado was an unsung hero in Atlanta's unsuccessful playoff drive. After making a pair of emergency starts early in the year, he allowed a total of seven earned runs in five September starts. Unheralded when he signed at age 16 out of Panama, he has progressed faster than expected because his maturity and coachability allow him to make quick adjustments.

Scouting Report: Delgado maintain a 92-94 mph fastball but struggles at times to command the pitch. His best offering is a plus curveball with sharp downward bite, and he also has a solid changeup. He has a smooth, quick delivery and does a good job of using the same arm speed with all of his pitches. Delgado tends to lose some deception when his arm action gets long. Despite his strong frame, he doesn't have an abundance of athleticism and doesn't handle the bat well, particularly in terms of bunting.

The Future: The Braves believe Delgado is ready to join the back of their rotation to open the 2012 season, though spending some more time in Triple-A to hone his fastball command could be beneficial as well. He profiles as an eventual No. 3 starter with a ceiling of a No. 2.
Team Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
DSL Braves 2007 1 2 2.00 11 10 0 45 34 12 10 2 12 50 .201
Danville Braves 2008 3 8 3.13 14 14 0 69 63 32 24 5 30 81 .233
Rome Braves 2009 5 10 4.35 25 25 0 124 123 70 60 9 49 141 .248
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2010 4 7 2.76 20 20 0 117 89 46 36 7 32 120 .202
Mississippi Braves 2010 3 5 4.74 8 8 0 44 36 26 23 2 20 42 .216
Mississippi Braves 2011 5 5 3.84 21 21 0 117 116 58 50 11 46 110 .248
Gwinnett Braves 2011 2 2 4.15 4 4 0 22 19 10 10 4 11 25 .226
Atlanta Braves 2011 1 1 2.83 7 7 0 35 29 12 11 5 14 18 .216
 
4. Andrelton Simmons, SS Born: Sep 04, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170
Drafted: Western Oklahoma State JC, 2010 (2nd round). Signed by: Gerald Turner.
Background: Western Oklahoma State JC head coach Kurt Russell discovered Simmons in Curacao, and several clubs were interested in him as a pitcher after seeing his fastball hit 98 mph in his lone juco season. Atlanta granted his wish to play shortstop, however, and he responded by winning the Carolina League batting title (.311) in 2011. Managers there rated him as the circuit's top defensive shortstop, best infield arm and most exciting player.

Scouting Report: Simmons is a premier defender with a cannon for an arm and soft, quick hands. He covers lots of real estate with his quickness, ability to charge the ball and feel for the position. He committed careless errors by trying to make every play early in 2011 but improved in that regard. An aggressive hitter, Simmons knows the strike zone but doesn't walk much. He has bat speed and can turn on fastballs, but he won't have more than gap power. An average runner, he needs to improve his reads and jumps after getting thrown out 18 times in 44 basestealing attempts.

The Future: Simmons will open 2012 in Double-A Mississippi, and more than few observers believe he already can play defense at a major league level. Tyler Pastornicky may get the first crack at the Braves' shortstop job, but Simmons is their shortstop of the future.
Team Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
Danville Braves 2010 239 36 66 11 1 2 26 16 14 18 4 .276 .340 .356
Lynchburg Hillcats 2011 517 69 161 35 6 1 52 29 43 26 18 .311 .351 .408
 
5. Sean Gilmartin, LHP Born: May 08, 1990 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195
Drafted: Florida State, 2011 (1st round). Signed by: Hugh Buchanan.
Background: The Braves took Gilmartin out of Florida State with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft, marking the second time in three years that they had taken an advanced college lefthander in the first round. He has drawn comparisons to Mike Minor, who was taken seventh overall by Atlanta in 2009. Signed for $1.134 million, Gilmartin had no problem handling low Class A hitters in his brief pro debut.

Scouting Report: Gilmartin has a clean arm action and above-average athleticism. A two-way player at Florida State, he throws an 88-91 mph fastball with good life and a solid slider. His best pitch is a plus changeup, and he knows how to set up hitters while mixing all of his offerings. While he won't get many swings and misses against advanced hitters, Gilmartin is an efficient hurler who records lots of groundouts. He fields his position well and can swing the bat.

The Future: An eventual No. 3 starter, Gilmartin has the polish to move as quickly as the Braves need. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League and will ship him to Double-A Mississippi to begin his first full pro season. He may not need much more than a year in the minors.
Team Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
GCL Braves 2011 0 1 9.00 1 1 0 2 3 2 2 0 0 1 .333
Rome Braves 2011 2 1 2.53 5 5 0 21 18 6 6 3 2 30 .220
Peoria Saguaros 2011 2 0 3.38 4 4 0 16 13 6 6 2 3 14 .213
 
6. Edward Salcedo, 3B/SS Born: Jul 30, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010. Signed by: Roberto Aquino.
Background: Salcedo was a hot prospect on the international market in 2007, but he couldn't sign for two years while Major League Baseball investigated his identity and birthdate. He finally signed for in February 2010 for $1.6 million, a franchise record for a foreign amateur. He has spent a season and a half struggling at low Class A Rome, but he has shown improvement and his natural ability has started to emerge.

Scouting Report: Salcedo has above-average power potential, thanks to his quick bat and smooth stroke. Tremendously raw when he signed, he showed a more advanced approach and greater knowledge of the strike zone in 2011. He's a below-average runner, so his move from shortstop to third base was inevitable. Salcedo has the arm strength and agility for the hot corner, but he makes too many errors (40 in 100 games at third) by trying to force plays. Scouts are mixed on whether he should remain on the dirt or move to an outfield corner.

The Future: After opening 2010 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and spending the end of '10 and all of 2011 in Rome, Salcedo could move faster now that he has started to build a solid foundation. He'll move up to high Class A in 2012, though he doesn't figure to be big league ready before 2014.
Team Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
DSL Braves 2010 74 16 22 5 1 1 11 18 19 8 1 .297 .453 .432
Rome Braves 2010 193 23 38 5 4 2 16 11 56 6 5 .197 .239 .295
Rome Braves 2011 508 83 126 27 6 12 68 41 105 23 10 .248 .315 .396
 
7. Tyler Pastornicky, SS Born: Dec 13, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170
Drafted: Pendleton School, Bradenton, Fla., 2008 (5th round). Signed by: Joel Grampietro (Blue Jays).
Background: Swapping Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez hasn't worked out as the Braves hoped, but they did get Pastornicky as part of the July 2010 trade with the Blue Jays. The son of former big leaguer Cliff Pastornicky, he never got past A-ball with the Jays but jumped right to Double-A following the trade. He blossomed in all phases of the game in 2011 and would have made his major league debut if not for a high ankle sprain in mid-August.

Scouting Report: Pastornicky competes as well as anyone in the system and has excellent instincts. He has a good feel for hitting and makes consistent line-drive contact, though he could stand to draw a few more walks. He doesn't have a lot of strength, but he has a quick bat and could develop gap power. Pastornicky has plus speed and the aptitude to steal bases. He has above-average range at shortstop, and he could get more out of his average arm with a more consistent arm slot.

The Future: Pastornicky has proven to be better than Atlanta expected and now is knocking on the door to the big leagues. With Gonzalez's contract up after his disappointing season, the Braves are considering their options, and Pastornicky is clearly the best in-house option to replace him.
Team Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
GCL Blue Jays 2008 160 32 42 6 3 1 17 21 21 27 5 .263 .349 .356
Lansing Lugnuts 2009 413 63 111 11 9 1 31 39 50 51 15 .269 .336 .346
Dunedin Blue Jays 2009 63 9 17 3 0 0 3 3 7 6 3 .270 .303 .317
Dunedin Blue Jays 2010 287 50 74 16 0 6 35 39 49 24 7 .258 .348 .376
Mississippi Braves 2010 134 22 34 5 2 2 15 16 22 11 2 .254 .333 .366
Mississippi Braves 2011 355 50 106 13 5 6 36 24 34 20 8 .299 .345 .414
Gwinnett Braves 2011 104 15 38 2 0 1 9 8 11 7 3 .365 .407 .413
 
8. Zeke Spruill, RHP Born: Sep 11, 1989 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 184
Drafted: Kell HS, Marietta, Ga., 2008 (2nd round). Signed by: Brian Bridges.
Background: After missing time because of off-field issues in 2009 and a broken right hand (the result of punching a dugout wall) in 2010, Spruill finally put together the full season the Braves hoped for in 2011 in a return to high Class A. He led the minors with six complete games and ranked third with 175 innings, and he also topped the Carolina League with a 1.01 WHIP.

Scouting Report: Spruill found success by pounding the bottom of the strike zone with his sinking 91-94 mph fastball, pitching to contact and not worrying about strikeouts. He uses his fastball command to get ahead in the count, then mixes in his secondary pitches to keep hitters off-balance. Spruill's solid changeup also has good sink and he throws it with the same arm action he employs with his fastball. His slider has been inconsistent but shows impressive tilt and movement when he's throwing it well. He gets in trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone.

The Future: In danger of becoming a forgotten prospect before his breakout season, Spruill will return to Double-A to open 2012. If he continues on this path, he can become a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues.
Team Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
GCL Braves 2008 7 0 2.93 10 3 0 40 42 16 13 1 8 32 .259
GCL Braves 2009 1 0 4.58 4 4 0 20 24 15 10 2 5 23 .289
Rome Braves 2009 8 6 3.03 20 19 1 116 120 54 39 9 24 95 .256
GCL Braves 2010 0 0 3.00 2 2 0 3 4 1 1 0 1 1 .308
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2010 3 5 5.54 14 13 0 65 83 44 40 4 13 41 .299
Lynchburg Hillcats 2011 7 9 3.19 20 20 0 130 108 56 46 7 23 92 .217
Mississippi Braves 2011 3 2 3.20 7 7 0 45 45 18 16 3 17 16 .250
 
9. Christian Bethancourt, C Born: Sep 02, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190
Signed: Panama, 2008. Signed by: Luis Ortiz.
Background: Scouts have been enthralled with Bethancourt's potential since he played in the 2004 Little League World Series for Panama. Four years later, he signed with Atlanta for $600,000. He can frustrate the organization at times with his lack of maturity and consistency, but he's a rare catching prospect with all-around potential.

Scouting Report: No one questions Bethancourt's raw tools. He has soft hands, plus arm strength and a quick release that helped him throw out 38 percent of basestealers in 2011. He also possesses good hand-eye coordination, makes consistent contact and shows solid raw power. He also runs well for a catcher. However, several scouts question Bethancourt's approach at the plate and behind it. He's a free swinger who rarely walks and wastes too many at-bats. Defensively, he often picks at pitches in the dirt instead of shifting his body. His body language and lack of fire at times also leave a lot to be desired.

The Future: Bethancourt is still just 20, so he has time to develop. The Braves challenged him to show improvement in 2011 and he responded impressively. If he continues to work hard and hone his skills, he can become a big league starter and perhaps an all-star. He should spend the majority of 2012 in Double-A.
Team Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
DSL Braves 2008 116 12 31 6 3 0 17 11 25 1 0 .267 .328 .371
GCL Braves 2009 116 22 33 9 1 2 19 11 22 7 0 .284 .344 .431
Danville Braves 2009 50 10 13 5 0 2 8 6 16 1 1 .260 .339 .480
Rome Braves 2010 399 31 100 19 2 3 34 14 62 11 3 .251 .276 .331
Rome Braves 2011 221 25 67 10 3 4 33 8 27 6 3 .303 .323 .430
Lynchburg Hillcats 2011 166 11 45 6 0 1 20 3 35 3 2 .271 .277 .325
Peoria Saguaros 2011 36 6 12 2 0 1 5 1 9 3 0 .333 .351 .472
 
10. Brandon Drury, 3B Born: Aug 21, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190
Drafted: Grants Pass (Ore.) HS, 2010 (13th round). Signed by: Brett Evert.
Background: The top high school position player out of Oregon in the 2010 draft and an Oregon State commitment, Drury signed for $85,000 as a 13th-rounder and hit just .198/.248/.292 in his pro debut. He looked like a different hitter in 2011, leading the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 92 hits and falling .0003 shy of the batting title.

Scouting Report: Drury employs a compact stroke while keeping his hands back and generating above-average bat speed. He excels at making contact—almost to a fault because he walked just six times in 63 games in 2011—and does a nice job of using the entire field. He gets good carry on his hits because of the backspin he generates, and his doubles could turn into homers as he adds strength and experience. A shortstop in high school, Drury has made a smooth adjustment to third base. He displays average range with solid arm strength and good instincts at the hot corner. The only thing he doesn't do well is run, as he possesses below-average speed. His work ethic and makeup are considered major assets.

The Future: Edward Salcedo is his competition to be Atlanta's third baseman of the future, and Drury may eventually win out because he's the better defender. He will get his first taste of full-season ball at Rome in 2012.
Team Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
GCL Braves 2010 192 20 38 7 1 3 17 9 50 2 2 .198 .248 .292
Danville Braves 2011 265 40 92 23 0 8 54 6 35 3 0 .347 .367 .525