2013 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.

    
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Braves Chat
Bill Ballew
Pre-Order the 2013 Prospect Handbook
    30 scouting reports on every team

BRAVES
LINKS
Braves Team Page
Braves Top 10 Prospects
Last Year's Braves Top 10 Prospects
2012 Draft: Braves
2012 Draft Report Cards: Atlanta Braves
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2013 Prospect Handbook
Atlanta Braves

In many ways, the 2012 season was one of redemption for the Braves, who were able to erase the memory of 2011's collapse by rebounding with a 94-68 record—their best mark since winning 96 games in 2004—and earning a spot in the first-ever National League wild-card playoff. They dropped that contest 6-3 to the Cardinals in an action-packed affair that featured a controversial infield-fly call.

Atlanta's front office didn't make any major changes after the disappointment of 2011, and that proved to be the right move. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, whom many fans blamed for the team's slide the year before, did a masterful job of handling an injury-ravaged rotation and got more mileage out of his bullpen. He deployed Chipper Jones effectively as the Braves icon rode off into the sunset of his Hall of Fame career, and enjoyed a bounce-back year from Jason Heyward.

Jones' retirement severs the last tie to the team's run of 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. Frank Wren took over as GM after the 2007 season, replacing current team president John Schuerholz. Atlanta also has changed managers (Gonzalez replaced Bobby Cox, who retired after 2010), scouting directors (Tony DeMacio for Roy Clark, who joined the Nationals after the 2009 season) and farm directors (Ronnie Richardson for Kurt Kemp, who resigned in September 2011).

The roster continues to evolve, with Heyward and Freddie Freeman now relied upon as cornerstones and Andrelton Simmons stepping in as the next potential homegrown star. He nearly made the jump from high Class A to win the Braves' shortstop job in spring training, then claimed it in June. He batted .289 and played strong defense as a rookie.

Freeman, Heyward and Simmons are all 23, and there's plenty of youth on the pitching staff as well. Closer Craig Kimbrel, who set a major league record for relievers by averaging 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012, is 24. Atlanta's best starter last season was Kris Medlen (27), and Brandon Beachy (26), Mike Minor (25) and Randall Delgado (22) could join him in the 2013 rotation—though Beachy is returning from Tommy John surgery.

All of those players are products of the Braves farm system, and only Heyward and Minor were first-round draft picks. Building from within has become crucial as the big league payroll has moved to the middle of baseball's pack under Liberty Media, which has owned the team since a stock swap with Time Warner in May 2007.
Wren has operated under more financial constraints than Schuerholz ever did, both in acquiring major league talent and in bringing in players through the draft and international markets. And when Wren has made big investments, in players such as Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Dan Uggla, they haven't worked out that well.

While the Braves continue to do a fine job of developing their own talent, they've now gone seven straight seasons without finishing in first place. They haven't won a postseason series since sweeping the Astros in a NL Division Series in 2001.
Perhaps in reaction to those droughts, Atlanta made a big splash on the free agent market in November, signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75 million deal that represents the largest contract in franchise history. The Braves also picked up a $12 million option on Brian McCann for 2013, even though he had labrum surgery in the fall.

1. Julio Teheran, rhp Born: Jan 27, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175
Signed: Columbia '07. Signed by: Miguel Teheran/Carlos Garcia
Julio TeheranBackground: Expectations never have been a problem for Teheran. Signed as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2007 for $850,000, the largest bonus given to any international pitcher that year, he overcame a bout of shoulder tendinitis in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2008 to rank as that circuit's top prospect a year later. He then garnered the same recognition in the high Class A Carolina League in 2010 before earning pitcher and rookie of the year honors in the Triple-A International League in 2011. He also made his major league debut that year and entered last spring as a leading candidate to break camp in the Atlanta rotation. Instead, Teheran struggled with leaving pitches up in the strike zone and allowed nine homers while in big league camp. He performed well in the first two months at Triple-A Gwinnett and tossed the first nine-inning complete game of his career on June 3 before making an emergency start for the Braves. After returning to the IL, he wasn't the same pitcher, going 2-7, 6.46 in his final 15 starts. Though Teheran was just 21 and was trying to incorporate some mechanical adjustments, his downturn still was stunning.

Scouting Report: Teheran has an electric arm, but his delivery had some violence that the Braves wanted to iron out in order to reduce his risk of injury. In 2012, they decided to reduce the bend on his back leg during his windup. He had been turning and coiling his body to generate more momentum toward the plate, placing additional strain on his right knee and elbow. Atlanta worked with Teheran on keeping his back leg straighter in order to create a better center of balance, particularly in his core. The alterations not only led to less initial success, but also to a reduction in fastball velocity. After sitting at 93-95 mph and reaching 97 in 2011, Teheran operated mostly at 90-93 last season. To his credit, he stuck with the changes and showed signs of regaining his previous velocity during the latter weeks of the campaign. He still has above-average fastball command and the ability to work both sides of the plate. His changeup remains the best in the system, a 79-81 mph offering with outstanding depth and fade. Teheran continues to search for a consistently reliable breaking ball. His curveball has good rotation but he hangs it too often, and he trusts his slider even less than his curve. After struggling with his confidence for most of 2012, he regained his swagger as he became more comfortable with the way he was throwing the ball. He has an impressive knowledge of how to set up hitters, along with impeccable work ethic and determination.

The Future: Though Teheran couldn't crack the Braves rotation in 2012, he remains firmly in their long-term plans and has as much upside as any starter in the organization—including the big league club. He won't be a No. 1 starter without a better breaking ball, but he definitely has the package to become a No. 2 or 3. He'll compete for a starting job again this spring, and Atlanta won't be concerned if he winds up back at Gwinnett to open the season. Either way, he should see a decent amount of time in the big leagues in 2013.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Danville (R) 1 2 6.60 6 6 0 15 18 12 11 2 4 17 .286
'09 Danville (R) 2 1 2.68 7 7 0 44 36 17 13 2 7 39 .216
'09 Rome (LoA) 1 3 4.78 7 7 0 38 42 20 20 2 11 28 .271
'10 Rome (LoA) 2 2 1.14 7 7 0 39 23 8 5 1 10 45 .163
'10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 4 4 2.98 10 10 0 63 56 22 21 6 13 76 .228
'10 Mississippi (AA) 3 2 3.38 7 7 0 40 29 15 15 2 17 38 .195
'11 Gwinnett (AAA) 15 3 2.55 25 24 0 145 123 46 41 5 48 122 .221
'11 Atlanta (MAJ) 1 1 5.03 5 3 0 20 21 11 11 4 8 10 .263
'12 Gwinnett (AAA) 7 9 5.08 26 26 0 131 146 81 74 18 43 97 .271
'12 Atlanta (MAJ) 0 0 5.68 2 1 0 6 5 4 4 0 1 5 .208
Major League Totals 1 1 5.19 7 4 0 26 26 26 15 4 9 15 .250
Minor League Totals 35 26 3.50 95 94 0 515 473 473 200 38 153 462 .234

2. J.R. Graham, rhp Born: Jan 14, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185
Drafted: Santa Clara, 2011 (4th round).  Signed by: Tim Moore
J.R. GrahamBackground: A two-way player early in his career at Santa Clara, Graham didn't make his first college start until his draft year in 2011. He has thrived as a full-time starter in pro ball, leading the Appalachian League with a 1.72 ERA in his debut, then going 12-2, 2.80 while reaching Double-A Mississippi in his first full season.

Scouting Report: A fierce competitor who attacks hitters, Graham succeeds by generating a plethora of groundouts. His four-seam fastball has good movement while residing at 93-97 mph, but his best offering is a low-90s two-seamer with heavy sink. He does an impressive job of keeping hitters off balance with his sharp 82-85 mph slider and a changeup that has made steady progress. Graham is a quick-twitch athlete who repeats his delivery well, giving him the best command in the system. He's not big for a starter, yet he made 26 starts and worked 148 innings without missing a turn in 2012.

The Future: The Braves believe Graham could fill one of several roles in the major leagues, depending on the team's needs. He'll continue to start in 2013 and has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter. He could open the year in Triple-A, and making his major league debut later in the season isn't out of the question.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Danville (R) 5 2 1.72 13 8 0 58 52 15 11 0 13 52 .231
'12 Lynchburg (HiA) 9 1 2.63 17 17 0 103 88 34 30 6 17 68 .222
'12 Mississippi (AA) 3 1 3.18 9 9 0 45 35 17 16 2 17 42 .205
Minor League Totals 17 4 2.49 39 34 0 206 175 175 57 8 47 162 .221

3. Christian Bethancourt, c Born: Sep 2, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 219
Signed: Panama '08. Signed by: Luis Ortiz
Christian BethancourtBackground: Highly touted since starring for Panama in the 2004 Little League World Series, Bethancourt signed for $600,000 four years later. He rode his defense to a berth in the Futures Game in 2012, but he had his worst offensive performance as a pro and played in just 71 games because of a strained hamstring and broken hand.

Scouting Report: Bethancourt is a premier athlete behind the plate, with soft hands and one of the strongest arms among minor league catchers. He threw out 39 percent of basestealers last season. He moves well and does a good job of blocking pitches in the dirt, though he tends to get lazy and backhand balls on occasion. He has improved his game-calling ability and the way he works with pitchers. Bethancourt's bat lags considerably behind his defense, and he has hit just .253/.276/.304 above low Class A. His approach needs a lot of work, as he chases too many pitches far outside the strike zone and can't handle sharp breaking balls. He has raw power but doesn't tap into it because he has a flat swing. He runs well for a catcher.

The Future: With Brian McCann recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Bethancourt could make his major league debut in April. He'll likely spent most of 2013 in Triple-A after joining the 40-man roster in November.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'08 Braves (R) 116 12 31 6 3 0 17 11 25 1 0 .267 .328 .371
'09 Braves (R) 116 22 33 9 1 2 19 11 22 7 0 .284 .344 .431
'09 Danville (R) 50 10 13 5 0 2 8 6 16 1 1 .260 .339 .480
'10 Rome (LoA) 399 31 100 19 2 3 34 14 62 11 3 .251 .276 .331
'11 Rome (LoA) 221 25 67 10 3 4 33 8 27 6 3 .303 .323 .430
'11 Lynchburg (HiA) 166 11 45 6 0 1 20 3 35 3 2 .271 .277 .325
'12 Mississippi (AA) 268 30 65 5 1 2 26 11 45 8 6 .243 .275 .291
Minor League Totals 1336 141 354 60 10 14 157 64 232 37 15 .265 .297 .356

4. Sean Gilmartin, lhp Born: May 8, 1990 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Florida State, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Hugh Buchanan
Sean GilmartinBackground: The No. 1 starter for three years at Florida State, Gilmartin went 28th overall in the 2011 draft and signed for $1,134,000. He lived up to his billing as an advanced college pitcher in his first full pro season, leading the Double-A Southern League in WHIP (1.15) and earning all-star honors there before a July promotion to Triple-A.

Scouting Report: Considered by some scouts to be a poor man's Mike Minor, Gilmartin is a finesse lefthander who knows how to set up hitters and pitch to his strengths. His best pitch is a plus changeup with depth and fade. His 89-91 mph fastball has good movement, and he creates deception with a low-80s slider that has late break. He throws all three pitches for strikes and with the same arm speed. Gilmartin will need to get stronger after his fastball dipped to 86-88 mph late in the season. He remained effective even with diminished velocity because he continued to work the corners and pitch down in the strike zone. He's a good athlete who repeats his smooth delivery and fields his position well.

The Future: Gilmartin is moving just as fast as the Braves expected, and he could see his first big league action in 2013. He'll open the season back in Gwinnett, however. His ultimate ceiling is as a No. 3 or 4 starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Braves (R) 0 1 9.00 1 1 0 2 3 2 2 0 0 1 .333
'11 Rome (LoA) 2 1 2.53 5 5 0 21 18 6 6 3 2 30 .220
'12 Mississippi (AA) 5 8 3.54 20 20 0 119 111 49 47 9 26 86 .237
'12 Gwinnett (AAA) 1 2 4.78 7 7 0 38 41 22 20 6 13 25 .266
Minor League Totals 8 12 3.75 33 33 0 180 173 173 75 18 41 142 .243

5. Lucas Sims, rhp Born: May 10, 1994 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga., 2012 (1st round).  Signed by: Brian Bridges
Lucas SimsBackground: The 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, Sims represents a return to the Braves' tradition of selecting local high school products and high-ceiling pitchers. Atlanta kept him on a tight pitch count after he turned down a Clemson commitment to sign for $1.65 million, but he struck out 39 in 34 pro innings.

Scouting Report: Though Sims struggled at times with his mechanics and release point during his pro debut, his arm works well and generates above-average velocity. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph with good running action. His velocity could continue to increase as he gains strength and becomes more efficient in his delivery. His 73-78 mph curveball has tight spin and is a plus pitch. Sims' changeup wasn't effective last summer, but he has shown solid feel for it in the past. He'll need to learn to do a better job of repeating his delivery so he can throw more strikes. He's an excellent athlete for a pitcher—he also played shortstop in high school—which should help him accomplish that goal.

The Future: A potential contributor in the front half of a major league rotation, Sims should spend his first full pro season at low Class A Rome. The Braves' pitching depth in the upper levels means they can give him as much time as he needs to develop.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'12 Braves (R) 0 0 1.29 3 3 0 7 2 2 1 1 1 10 .087
'12 Danville (R) 2 4 4.33 8 8 0 27 26 14 13 2 12 29 .243
Minor League Totals 2 4 3.71 11 11 0 34 28 28 14 3 13 39 .215

6. Mauricio Cabrera, rhp Born: Sep 22, 1993 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180
Signed: Dominican Republic '10. Signed by: Roberto Aquino
Mauricio CabreraBackground: After a lull, the Braves have pursued Latin American talent more aggressively in the last few years. Their latest top prospect from the region is Cabrera, who signed for $400,000 in 2010. He bypassed the Gulf Coast League and went to the system's more advance Rookie affiliate in Danville for his U.S. debut in 2012, leading the Appalachian League in opponent average (.213). His older brother Alberto reached the majors with the Cubs last season.

Scouting Report: Cabrera has above-average arm strength and a strong frame for a 19-year-old. His 94-96 mph fastball has impressive cutting action and shows good sink when he stays on top of the pitch. He has the makings of a second plus offering in a low-80s slider that breaks down and in on lefthanders. He also has advanced feel for a changeup that could give him a third plus pitch. Cabrera is still learning to command all of his pitches, his slider in particular. He has a wrist wrap that makes that task more difficult. He has a solid mound presence and isn't afraid to challenge hitters.

The Future: How well Cabrera can refine his secondary pitches and command will determine if he winds up in the rotation or bullpen. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter and will pitch alongside Lucas Sims in the Rome rotation in 2013.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Braves (R) 1 5 4.30 19 9 0 52 51 38 25 3 24 36 .245
'12 Danville (R) 2 2 2.97 12 12 0 58 45 23 19 2 23 48 .206
Minor League Totals 3 7 3.60 31 21 0 110 96 96 44 5 47 84 .225

7. Alex Wood, lhp Born: Jan 12, 1991 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Georgia, 2012 (2nd round).  Signed by: Brian Bridges
Alex WoodBackground: The Braves liked Wood so much that they were leaning toward drafting him in the first round last June if Lucas Sims hadn't been on the board. A Georgia redshirt sophomore who has Tommy John surgery before his college career started, Wood went 88th overall and signed for $700,000. He made a seamless transition to low Class A, helping guide Rome to the playoffs before a pulled back muscle sidelined him.

Scouting Report: Wood pounds the strike zone on both sides of the plate with a low-90s fastball that touches 96 mph. He does a good job of working off his heater, then destroys hitters' timing with his above-average changeup. He can fall in love too much with his changeup at times. Scouts have two concerns with Wood: his breaking ball and mechanics. He struggles to throw his below-average slider for strikes and may need a better third pitch in order to remain a starter. He also employs a funky delivery in which he hops backward on his right leg after landing on it, though he does throw strikes.

The Future:
Wood's strong debut showed why Atlanta was so high on him. He should move quickly through the system and likely will finish his first full pro season in Double-A. With a better breaking ball, he could become a solid No. 3 starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'12 Rome (LoA) 4 3 2.22 13 13 0 53 39 18 13 1 14 52 .198
Minor League Totals 4 3 2.21 13 13 0 53 39 39 13 1 14 52 .197

8. Evan Gattis, of/c Born: Aug 18, 1986 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 230
Drafted: Texas-Permian Basin, 2010 (23rd round).  Signed by: Gerald Turner
Evan GattisBackground: Gattis took a four-year hiatus from baseball before surfacing at NCAA Division II Texas-Permian Basin in 2010 and signing for $1,000 as a 23rd-rounder that June. He won the low Class A South Atlantic League batting title (.322) in his first full pro season, then slugged 18 homers in 74 games while battling tendinitis in his right wrist in 2012.

Scouting Report: Gattis possesses more raw power than any hitter in the system. He generates impressive bat speed with lightning-quick wrists and tremendous strength, producing power from foul pole to foul pole. He controls the strike zone and barrels the ball with consistency. Gattis' layoff shows with how raw he is as a catcher. He has solid arm strength and threw out 39 percent of basestealers in 2012, but he's rough as a receiver and awkward behind the plate. He has enough athleticism to become adequate in left field, where he saw most of his action in Double-A. He has below-average speed but moves well for his size and runs the bases aggressively.

The Future: Gattis could follow the path of Josh Willingham, who tried to make it as a catcher and didn't establish himself in the big leagues until age 27. A strong winter in Venezuela should prepare Gattis to advance to Triple-A in 2013, and he could make his major league debut later in the year.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'10 Danville (R) 222 33 64 10 0 4 29 6 44 0 0 .288 .339 .387
'11 Rome (LoA) 338 58 109 24 2 22 71 25 53 2 4 .322 .386 .601
'12 Lynchburg (HiA) 78 14 30 7 0 9 29 10 12 1 1 .385 .468 .821
'12 Braves (R) 12 2 6 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 .500 .538 .500
'12 Mississippi (AA) 182 24 47 13 4 9 37 20 29 1 1 .258 .343 .522
Minor League Totals 832 131 256 54 6 44 167 62 140 4 6 .308 .374 .546

9. Zeke Spruill, rhp Born: Sep 11, 1989 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Kell HS, Marietta, Ga., 2008 (2nd round).  Signed by: Brian Bridges
Zeke SpruillBackground: Spruill has overcome off-field issues and a broken right hand (from punching a dugout wall) early in his career to become a reliable, durable starter the last two seasons. He led the Southern League in starts (27) and innings (162) in 2012. He cemented a spot on the Atlanta's 40-man roster by performing well in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: Spruill uses his tall frame to pitch on a downhill plane, pounding the lower half of the strike zone while pitching to contact. His 91-94 mph fastball has good sink, and he uses it to get ahead in the count. His changeup also features nice sink and fades away from righthanders. He sells it well by throwing it with the same arm speed he uses with his fastball. The key to Spruill's future is the consistency of his slider, which isn't particularly tight. He can get strikeouts with his slider when it's working, but it also flattens out and hangs up in the strike zone at times. He doesn't miss a lot of bats, but he also doesn't beat himself by giving up walks or home runs.

The Future: Counting the AFL, Spruill has made 61 starts and worked 359 innings in the last two years. He profiles as an innings-eater who can fill the No. 4 or 5 spot in a contender's rotation. He'll get his first Triple-A opportunity in 2013.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Braves (R) 7 0 2.93 10 3 0 40 42 16 13 1 8 32 .259
'09 Braves (R) 1 0 4.58 4 4 0 20 24 15 10 2 5 23 .289
'09 Rome (LoA) 8 6 3.03 20 19 1 116 120 54 39 9 24 95 .256
'10 Braves (R) 0 0 3.00 2 2 0 3 4 1 1 0 1 1 .308
'10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 3 5 5.54 14 13 0 65 83 44 40 4 13 41 .299
'11 Lynchburg (HiA) 7 9 3.19 20 20 0 130 108 56 46 7 23 92 .217
'11 Mississippi (AA) 3 2 3.20 7 7 0 45 45 18 16 3 17 16 .250
'12 Mississippi (AA) 9 11 3.67 27 27 0 162 158 81 66 8 46 106 .246
Minor League Totals 38 33 3.58 104 95 1 581 584 584 231 34 137 406 .251

10. Jose Peraza, ss Born: Apr 30, 1994 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 167
Signed: Venezuela '10. Signed by: Rolando Petit
Jose PerazaBackground: The Braves signed both Peraza (for $350,000) and Mauricio Cabrera at the start of the international signing period in 2010. The organization's Rookie-level Dominican Summer League player of the year in his 2011 pro debut, Peraza played well at two more Rookie stops in the United States last summer.

Scouting Report: Peraza's strengths are his plus-plus speed and outstanding hand-eye coordination. He relishes the role of leadoff hitter, looking to get on base by any means necessary. He can beat out bunts and barrels the ball consistently when he swings away. He could use more patience to draw more walks, however. Peraza has surprising pop and may reach double digits in home runs, but he stands out most with his quickness and basestealing instincts, which could result in 50 steals on an annual basis. He also has excellent first-step quickness at shortstop, where he has plus range and soft, sure hands. He has solid arm strength, but his throwing mechanics need work in order to improve his accuracy.

The Future: Though he's nestled in an organization with plenty of depth at shortstop, Peraza has a higher ceiling than anyone the Braves have at the position—including Andrelton Simmons. Atlanta believes Peraza has the makeup to handle a jump to low Class A at age 19.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Braves (R) 235 29 66 5 3 1 22 15 27 28 7 .281 .346 .340
'12 Braves (R) 85 17 27 3 3 0 10 4 6 10 3 .318 .348 .424
'12 Danville (R) 121 21 34 4 0 1 18 9 18 15 2 .281 .351 .339
Minor League Totals 441 67 127 12 6 2 50 28 51 53 12 .288 .348 .356