Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
The Braves returned to their roots in 2012 when they drafted Sims, a local high school product with the 21st overall pick. After seeing the Clemson recruit endure a relatively heavy workload during the latter part of his high school career, the Braves were cautious with the righthander after signing him for $1.65 million by limiting him to 34 innings between two Rookie leagues in 2012. The organization continued to err on the side of caution by controlling Sims' innings and relegating him to 10 relief outings for the first six weeks of 2013 at low Class A Rome. He joined the rotation in May and got stronger as he added experience and honed his mechanics. In his last eight starts, beginning on July 23, Sims went 8-0, 1.60, allowing 34 hits and striking out 57 batters in 45 innings. Ranked as the South Atlantic League's No. 9 prospect, he led the loop in opponent average (.203), placed second in wins (12) and ERA (2.62) and finished fourth in strikeouts (134). A shortstop as well as pitcher at Brookwood High, Sims has plus athleticism that allows him to repeat his delivery with relative ease. He struggled shortly after signing with his mechanics and finding a consistent release point, but he has fine-tuned those after working with the organization's pitching coaches. Sims challenges hitters and works off his fastball, which he spots on both sides of the plate. The pitch resides at 93-95 mph with good run, leading to many swings and misses in the SAL. The consistency of his slurvy, mid-70s curveball tends to come and go, but it has a tight spin and sharp break and was deemed the best breaking ball in the SAL by league managers. The biggest step Sims took in 2013 centered on the development of his changeup, which has the makings of a plus pitch. He learned early in the season about the importance of maintaining control of all his pitches and did an excellent job of improving as the season progressed. He has a great presence on the mound and follows in the footsteps of longtime Braves star (and 1990 first-rounder) Chipper Jones with his "necessary arrogance" and confidence on the field. Rumors have persisted that the Braves would move Sims to the bullpen, rumors that spread like a crush in a middle school lunchroom when he opened the 2013 season in the Rome bullpen. His successful second-half shift to the rotation should put those whipsers to rest, as he finished strong and accomplished the organization's goals. The Braves would prefer him to put in full seasons at high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi over the next two years as he continues his development as a potential No. 2 starter in an Atlanta rotation that already features many homegrown arms.
Bethancourt starred for Panama in the 2004 Little League World Series as a 12-year-old, and the Braves signed him for $600,000 four years later. He had his best all-around season in 2013, hitting a career-best 12 home runs and making his major league debut. Bethancourt has everything scouts want in a defensive-oriented receiver. His plus arm strength stands out most, paired with a quick release and excellent accuracy and carry on his throws. He has impressive quickness behind the plate with nimble feet. His rapport with pitchers has improved considerably as he has become more fluent in English. He can get lackadaisical at times, particularly in his willingness to block balls in the dirt, leading to 12 passed balls and 13 errors last season. While he rarely walks, Bethancourt has good hand-eye coordination, solid-average power and puts the ball in play despite his tendency to swing at breaking balls outside the zone. The Braves envisioned Bethancourt as their long-term answer behind the plate almost as soon as they signed him, and now they appear to be on the verge of turning over the keys following Brian McCann's departure in free agency. Even with Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis expected back, he should have the opportunity to work his way into the starting lineup and could be the full-time receiver by the second half.
A two-way player in college, Graham had emerged as a fast-track pitcher as a pro before a strained shoulder suffered in May limited him to eight games with Double-A Mississippi in 2013. Since focusing on pitching full-time, he has led the Appalachian League with a 1.72 ERA in 2011 and posted a combined 12-2, 2.80 season in 2012 between high Class A Lynchburg and Mississippi. Graham's success stems from his ability to work down in the zone and force batters to hit groundballs. His four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as high as 97 mph, while his two-seamer is a heavy pitch with great sinking action. He employs the same motion to throw his 82-85 mph slider, thereby keeping hitters off-balance. His changeup is also an effective offering, giving him four above-average pitches. Graham repeats his clean delivery well and has the best command in the organization. Graham's shoulder injury, which kept him from throwing during instructional league, and his smaller frame raise questions about his durability. Had he not been sidetracked in 2013, then he probably would have ranked as the system's top prospect. If healthy, Graham should return to Mississippi to open the 2014 season to see if he can get back on track as a future rotation piece.
The Braves scouted Hursh heavily as a Dallas-area prep but correctly gauged that he was not signable. The Pirates took him in the sixth round in 2010 but didn't sign him. After pitching 30 innings as a freshman at Oklahoma State, Hursh missed 2012 after having Tommy John surgery, returning to the mound as a redshirt sophomore and going 6-5, 2.79 for the Cowboys. The Braves picked him 31st overall in 2013 and signed him for just more than $1.7 million. Hursh's best offering is a mid-90s fastball with heavy life and a late tail that made it one of the most intriguing pitches in the 2013 draft. He has touched 98 mph and generates easy heat after improving his delivery and arm action in college and fine-tuning his mechanics with Braves coaches. His secondary pitches need work, though he shows a decent feel for both his slider and changeup. He commands the strike zone well, works fast, and coaxes plenty of groundball outs, as evidenced by his near 2-to-1 groundout-airout ratio in nine starts at low Class A Rome. The Braves believe Hursh has a low-mileage arm with tremendous upside once he improves his secondary pitches. Some scouts consider him a potential high-leverage reliever, but Atlanta's plans center on keeping him in the rotation. He will likely start 2014 at high Class A Lynchburg but could make the jump to Double-A Mississippi early in the season.
The younger brother of Cubs righthander Alberto Cabrera, Mauricio signed with Atlanta for $400,000 in 2010. He made his U.S. debut two years later in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and led the circuit with a .213 opponent average. A jump to low Class A Rome followed in 2013, and he ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the South Atlantic League. Cabrera has a live arm that generates pure heat. His fastball sits at 93-97 mph, touches 100, and has good movement given its speed. He throws it with an easy delivery but an unusual path in which he swings his arm wide before throwing across his body. Control is the biggest hurdle Cabrera faces. He worked around a lot of traffic at Rome, walking 4.9 batters per nine innings while giving up 118 hits in 131 innings. He has a decent changeup and is working on a curveball that flashed plus potential during the second half of last season. He pitched under control more consistently after getting rattled on the mound during the first three months of the season. Some scouts project Cabrera as a reliever, but the Braves believe his secondary offerings hold promise and his delivery can handle the workload. He has the fastball to be a frontline starter in the major leagues. Spring training will determine whether he returns to Rome or joins high Class A Lynchburg.
Signed out of Venezuela for $350,000 in 2010, Peraza made his U.S. debut two years later as the No. 10 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He impressed with his all-around improvements at low Class A Rome in 2013, when he was tabbed as the South Atlantic League's No. 16 prospect after hitting .288 and ranking second in the SAL with 64 steals. Peraza's game is centered on tremendous body control. He gets great jumps on the bases as well as in the field and has the ability to go from full speed to immediate standstill. His plus baseball instincts make his above-average range and plus speed even better. His hands are soft and consistent, and he has a quick release that makes up for average arm strength. At the plate, he has quick hands and outstanding hand-eye coordination that allows him to hit virtually any pitch, though he has little in the way of home-run power. He succeeded in 2013 as both a leadoff and No. 2 hitter with his ability to hit behind the runner and bunt. Peraza has exceeded the expectations of many scouts. While he needs to play a little more under control, his aggressiveness is an asset and makes him a pesky, dangerous player for opponents. He should be able to remain up the middle at either shortstop or second base. His next stop will be high Class A Lynchburg.
Hale fits the Braves' new profile for the draft as a power arm with low mileage. He was a two-way player at Princeton who threw fewer than 130 innings in college and did not become a full-time pitcher until he signed with Atlanta in 2009. He moved into the rotation full-time at Double-A Mississippi in 2012. The Marietta, Ga., resident established a Braves debut record with nine strikeouts over five scoreless innings versus the Padres on Sept. 13. The Braves drafted Hale for his lightning-quick arm that generates heavy action on most of his pitches. He works off a 92-94 mph fastball with good sinking action. The righthander also has improved his sharp slider and his solid changeup with above-average depth and fade. He was more effective against lefthanders (.701 OPS) than righthanders (.799) at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2013. Hale struggled with his control in 2012 but made significant strides in that area by improving his mechanics. He is a very good athlete who fields his position well and has a good pickoff move for a righthander. With four pitches he can throw for strikes, Hale prefers starting and profiles as a rotation piece in the near future. However, Atlanta's short-term need could land him in a relief role, where his velocity will tick up. His versatility should allow him to help the big league club in 2014.
Caratini attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy before going to Southern, where he was ineligible as a freshman. He transferred to Miami Dade JC, played third base with some catcher mixed in, and helped guide the team to the Florida state junior-college tournament before becoming the 65th overall pick in the 2013 draft. After signing for $800,000, he continued to impress in pro ball and was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Caratini is an advanced hitter with a line-drive swing, a gap-to-gap approach from both sides of the plate and an excellent feel for the strike zone. He stroked 25 extra-base hits at Rookie-level Danville and can drive the ball to the opposite field, but scouts are mixed regarding his power potential at higher levels. He's a below-average runner who lacks quickness and agility at third base, which could lead to a full-time shift to catcher, a position he played at times at Miami Dade. Caratini has plus arm strength and enough quickness to handle the job behind the plate. Realizing his plus arm strength as well as his limitations as an infielder, the Braves worked Caratini at catcher during instructional league and would love to see him develop there. Should he make the transition, he could open 2014 in extended spring training with a return trip to Danville.
La Stella transferred from St. John's to Coastal Carolina and emerged as a second-team All-American and the Big South Conference player of the year in 2011. Injuries slowed him in 2012 before La Stella put together an impressive season in the Double-A Southern League, where he was ranked as the circuit's No. 16 prospect. La Stella has hit at every level thanks to great hand-eye coordination and above-average bat speed. He has an excellent approach and exceptional feel for the strike zone, which helps him rack up more walks than strikeouts. La Stella also shines as a situational hitter with his ability to advance runners via the hit-and-run or by bunting. He runs the bases well and with intelligence despite not being blessed with great quick-twitch athleticism. Defensively, he makes all of the routine plays at the keystone and has an average arm. Nagging injuries, including an elbow issue this season, have kept him from playing even 100 games in a season. Braves fans are begging for La Stella to get an opportunity to unseat Dan Uggla at second base. Finances could play a role, but his bat appears to be near big league ready if needed.
Gilmartin reached Triple-A in his first full season, 2012, but struggled in his follow-up while battling a shoulder injury that cost him two months at midseason. Florida State's Friday night starter throughout his three years in Tallahassee, he went 28th overall in the 2011 draft. Gilmartin is a finesse pitcher who knows how to set up hitters and pitch to his strengths. His fastball has good movement while sitting in the 89-91 mph range, and he mixes it well with a plus changeup and a low-80s slider with a sharp, late break. He uses the same arm slot with all of his offerings, creating deception. Gilmartin does a good job of pounding the lower half of the strike zone, and his excellent command allows him to paint the black. He doesn't have the velocity to get away with mistakes, though. A former two-way player, Gilmartin repeats his delivery well and is a good fielder who controls the running game. The Braves are confident Gilmartin will bounce back from his injury-plagued 2013 season, projecting him as a No. 4 starter. The lefthander should to return to Triple-A Gwinnett but could be among the first promoted should Atlanta need assistance.
Martin's father Chuck pitched in the Braves system in 1984-85 after being a 24th-round pick in 1984. The son already has exceeded the father's career, splitting the 2013 campaign between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves believe Martin, a former All-America closer at Gonzaga, could help in Atlanta as either a starter or reliever in the near future. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts in the Southern League and had a strong start to his Triple-A debut before the league caught up to him. Martin led the organization in strikeouts (137) for the second straight season by throwing four pitches for strikes, though none grades as plus. He pounds the zone with a low-90s fastball that has good late movement and mixes it well with a mid-80s slider, which serves as his strikeout pitch. His curveball and changeup are both solid-average, and he mixed in a two-seam fastball in 2013 for the first time since college. Having led NCAA Division I with a 0.86 ERA as a senior reliever, Martin has proven effective in any role and draws comparisons with Kris Medlen from the Braves for his versatility. While his long-term future could be determined by the needs of the big club, Martin should reach Atlanta during the 2014 season.
The Braves have been aggressive in promoting Salcedo since signing him for $1.6 million in 2010 after he missed nearly two years due to an age discrepancy. His performance has yet to match his prodigious tools, however. Still raw in many aspects of the game, Salcedo showed signs of settling in at third base last year after moving from shortstop at the beginning of the 2011 campaign. He has fringe-average hands but a strong, accurate arm and good range. He also moves his feet well and can make the spectacular play when he does not rush, but his lack of consistency contributed to an SL-high 29 errors. Salcedo's aggressiveness also is evident at the plate, where he has made improvements with his pitch selection, even though he continues to fall victim to breaking balls. He has plus power potential and the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He's an average runner and aggressive basestealer. The Braves point out Salcedo's tools, work ethic and relative youth and believe he is on the verge of a breakout season in 2014. Spring training will determine whether he starts back in Mississippi or graduates to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Drafted as a catcher out of Texas Christian, Elander made his professional debut behind the plate at Rookie-level Danville in 2012. The Braves shifted him to left field during spring training 2013 and were pleased with the rapid adjustments he made to his new position. Elander moved well in the garden, showed acceptable range and displayed a strong arm for left field. His routes improved as the season progressed, and he demonstrated the potential to develop into an average defender. Elander's ceiling will be determined by his bat, which earned him a midseason promotion to the high Class A Carolina League. He has a quick hands and a compact righthanded swing with good bat speed. He had a consistent season as a run-producer, showing solid pull power, and he could add more pop to all fields as he gains experience. Elander controls the strike zone and runs the bases well, with an overall intelligence that enhances his feel for the game. Elander ought to make the jump to Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
The Braves' top international signing in 2011, Reyes agreed to a $365,000 bonus. Since then he has made quick adjustments and emerged as a sleeper who could blossom into one of the system's top outfield prospects. After toiling in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, Reyes made his U.S. debut the following year and wound up splitting time between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues, hitting a combined .342/.387/.409 in 49 games and ranking as the No. 14 prospect in the GCL. Reyes has an ideal athletic frame that could easily add another 20 pounds of muscle as he matures. While his power has yet to emerge, Reyes generates above-average bat speed from the left side and can drive the ball when he keeps his hands and weight back. He has an advanced approach for a young player, displaying good patience while covering the plate well and rarely expanding the strike zone. He runs well for his size and has enough carry on his throws to play right field, though he has been limited to left thus far in pro ball. The Braves want to see what Reyes can achieve in a full-season league and will assign him to low Class A Rome to open 2014.
Rushed to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the 2012 season, Terdoslavich rebounded at Double-A Mississippi following a demotion. He continued to move in the right direction in 2013 and wound up spending the last three months of the slate in the big leagues. In his return to Gwinnett, the switch-hitting Terdoslavich resembled the player who established the high Class A Carolina League record with 52 doubles and garnered organization player of the year honors in 2011. Most of Terdoslavich's above-average raw power comes from the left side, and he dominated Triple-A righthanders by hitting .340/.375/.617 with 17 of his 18 home runs. Though he has an uppercut swing from both sides of the plate, which can be exploited by pitchers with above-average offspeed pitches, he gets good backspin on the ball and excellent carry. He also makes consistent contact and does not strike out much despite his aggressive approach. Terdoslavich bounced between first and third base during his first two pro seasons and wound up in right field much of the time at Gwinnett. An average defender on both outfield corners, he could provide serviceable glove work at the infielder corners as well, though he lacks ideal agility to play third on an everyday basis. His versatility and switch-hit stick make Terdoslavich an attractive option on a big league bench, and he could return to Atlanta in 2014 and contribute as a part-timer.
A reliever his first two years at Southeast Missouri State, Simmons became a starter during his final year at Southeast Missouri State with ex-big leaguer Steve Bieser as his pitching coach. Simmons returned to the bullpen to open the 2013 campaign at low Class A Rome and proceeded to dominate the South Atlantic League by saving 24 games in 25 opportunities and averaging 14 strikeouts per nine innings. He continued to perform in a set-up role at Double-A Mississippi following a two-step promotion in early August. An undersized righthander, Simmons is a power pitcher whose heavy fastball hit 100 mph on several occasions last season and sat in the 95-97 mph range. He also throws an above-average slider that can be unhittable when he generates proper tilt, and he keeps hitters honest with a 12-to-6 curveball that works as his change of pace. Simmons' mechanics require some effort, and his frame does not resemble the fire-breathing reliever prototype. Most scouts believe he can be an effective situational option late in games against righthanders, who batted just .148 against him in 2013. Simmons could be pitching in Atlanta at some point in 2014 provided he picks up where he left off.
The Braves lured 2013 third-rounder Salazar away from a Fresno State commitment with a $625,000 bonus. The organization knew that the stocky righthander would require work and patience, but given Atlanta's track record in developing young pitchers, they felt he was worth the risk. The Braves spoon-fed Salazar during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he showed better-than-advertised control but was hittable due to a tendency to be too fine with his pitches. Salazar's busy, unconventional mechanics have drawn comparisons with Braves reliever Jordan Walden, and he generated one of the best fastballs among prep pitchers in the 2013 draft. His heater features good, late life, sits at 92-94 mph and has touched 97. His changeup has potential, and the Braves are working on adding to his repertoire a curveball that is in early development. Salazar has strong, thick legs and a barrel chest, and from a physical standpoint, he does not have much projection remaining. He's is a prime candidate to spend 2014 at Rookie-level Danville.
The son of Braves general manager Frank Wren, Kyle may prove to be a steal as an eighth-round pick. A first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as a Georgia Tech freshman in 2011, Wren struggled as a draft-eligible sophomore the following year, yet the Reds took a 30th-round flier on him. He returned to school for his junior year and thrived, pacing the ACC in hits while scoring 50 runs in 64 games. A prototype leadoff hitter who can play left and center field, Wren continued to wreak havoc in his first taste of pro ball by stealing 35 bases in 53 games across three levels, ranking third in the organization. Wren's speed has been graded as high as 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has explosive first-step quickness on the bases and in the field, and he has learned to steal third base with relative ease. His routes have improved in the outfield, and while his arm strength is below-average, his throws are accurate. An intelligent player, Wren has a good eye at the plate and drives the ball from gap to gap after adding 15 pounds of muscle prior to his junior year. He also is a proficient drag bunter. Wren may open 2014 at Double-A Mississippi and could be fast-tracked to Atlanta if he continues to reach base and steal efficiently.
The Braves' latest find from Panama, Camargo built on an impressive showing in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 with a solid U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2013, ranking as the circuit's No. 11 prospect. He made positive impressions with his steady defense and plus hand-eye coordination, allowing him to both make plays at shortstop and consistent contact at the plate. Camargo is a disciplined hitter who rarely strikes out. He has a mature approach at the plate and an outstanding feel for the strike zone for a young hitter. The switch-hitter must add strength and size in order to drive the ball more consistently. Defensively, Camargo has above-average arm strength, soft hands and smooth actions. He does not have exceptional speed or quickness, but because he does an excellent job of anticipating plays, he may be rangy enough to stick at shortstop. Camargo showed leadership skills on the infield at Danville and has solid baseball instincts. A promotion to low Class A Rome awaits in 2014.?
Parsons made impressive progress in 2013, his first season in the organization. After giving up baseball early in his high school career to concentrate on golf, the tall righthander returned to the mound as a junior and later pitched at Jackson State (Tenn.) CC. He then joined Thunder Bay in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League, earning a place in the circuit's all-star game. Parsons posted a 2.61 ERA in 55 innings over 12 games, including six starts, and tossed a scoreless inning in the all-star game, where he hit 95 mph with his fastball. Signed by the Braves for $200,000 in late-July 2012, he pitched in instructional league and joined the low Class A Rome rotation in May 2013. Parsons has a free-and-easy delivery with a projectable frame. His fastball has good movement and he pitches downhill well by using his height to his advantage. He mixes the fastball well with his low-80s slider, which has a chance to be a plus offering, and an improving changeup. Parsons also has excellent command that allows him to pitch ahead in the count. While his future may be in the bullpen, Parsons will continue to start at high Class A Lynchburg in 2014.
Murphy signed with the Braves for $250,000 to bypass a Southern Illinois commitment. Some scouts questioned the talent level faced by Murphy as an amateur but liked the raw skills he displayed behind the plate and on the mound. Clocked in the low 90s as a pitcher, he attracted some teams as a potential hurler, but the Braves were intrigued with his physical tools. In addition to his plus arm strength, Murphy has a strong, solid frame with impressive power in his forearms and hands. While his footwork behind the plate needs work, he moves well for his size and shows the ability to take charge of a pitching staff. Murphy's frame suggests he should hit for above-average power as he gains experience, but he needs to cut down his long swing and level out his tendency to uppercut pitches. That will help him make more consistent contact. A high-risk/high-reward type of player, Murphy likely will open 2014 in extended spring training before reporting to Rookie-level Danville in mid-June.
Kubitza improved his consistency at high Class A Lynchburg in 2013, just as the Braves envisioned he would in his second full season, and he wound up earning a trip to the Arizona Fall League. His batting average climbed by more than 20 points over his 2012 showing at low Class Rome, and Kubitza continued to display one of the best batting eyes in the organization. At times he can be too patient, causing him to fall behind in the count and be subject to the varying strike zones of minor league umpires. He struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances in 2013, yet also walked 80 times, leading to a system-best .380 on-base percentage. Kubitza has a sweet swing from the left side, though it tends to get long. His hands work well, he sprays line drives to the gaps, and his power is continuing to increase as he gains experience, resulting in 46 extra-base hits in 2013. At third base, he has soft hands, adequate range and plus-plus arm strength, which runs in the family--his brother Austin pitched at Rice and now is in the Tigers system. While he made numerous spectacular plays in 2013, many of his 25 errors came on routine plays, so he needs to improve the consistency of his footwork. A fiery player who is driven to succeed, Kubitza is making steady progress and will advance to Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
Cunningham made his major league debut in 2013 with two short stints near the end of his fourth season in the organization. He stroked a single in his first at-bat during a pinch-hit appearance. Cunningham made the jump to Triple-A Gwinnett and got off to a decent start but hit just .198/.274/.250 after the International League all-star break in July. He has a smooth, compact swing from both sides of the plate and makes consistent contact, which helps him limit strikeouts. He is also an effective bunter and can execute the hit-and-run as the No. 2 hitter. His on-base percentage lags due to relatively low walk totals, though he showed more patience during the first half of 2013. Cunningham has strong hands and quick wrists, and he hits hard line drives from gap to gap despite possessing limited power. An above-average runner with good first-step quickness, he is nevertheless only an average basestealer. He's a plus defender in center field who could easily handle left but lacks the arm strength to play right. Cunningham's tools do not lend themselves to an everyday role in the big leagues, but he could be a solid fourth outfielder once he gains more consistency at the plate. A return to Gwinnett appears most likely in 2014.
Having missed more than half of the 2012 season after having surgery that essentially reattached his hamstring, Lipka returned to high Class A Lynchburg in 2013 and showed he had not lost a step of his plus-plus speed. A two-sport standout in high school who attracted collegiate attention as a football wide receiver, the former shortstop continued to go all-out on every play while taking his performance to another level during his second season in center field. One of the most aggressive outfielders in the minors, Lipka gets great reads on balls off the bat and has improved his routes to flyballs. His arm strength is below-average, and despite a funky throwing motion he makes accurate throws. Offensively, Lipka has struggled to find an approach. He does not walk enough to utilize his speed on the basepaths, and he strikes out too often for a player with such limited power potential. He must increase his paltry .305 on-base percentage in order to take advantage of his skill set. The 2010 supplemental first-rounder pick should make the move to Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
Northcraft struggled in the first half of 2013 while making the jump to Double-A Mississippi before putting together an outstanding final two months that included a 2.31 ERA and 2.3 SO/BB ratio over 11 starts. With good size and excellent mound presence, Northcraft has steadily climbed the organizational ladder since signing out of Mater Dei High and opting to bypass Southern California. He works quickly using a low three-quarters arm slot that generates a sinking fastball in the 88-90 mph range as well as a solid changeup and inconsistent curveball. His fastball and changeup have good movement and depth, and he challenges hitters with his aggressive approach in hopes of coaxing groundball outs. Northcraft has the makings of a workhorse but continues to draw some concerns from scouts regarding his long arm action and stiff front leg in his delivery. He has shown an uncanny ability to make adjustments to his delivery. Northcraft fared poorly in the Arizona Fall League, more evidence he's not quite ready for prime time. He projects as a back-end starter in the big leagues, and he will move to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.
Having put together a solid debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2012, Merejo appeared poised to break through in 2013. After tossing 10 shutout innings at Rookie-level Danville, however, the undersized lefty's campaign was over before it began. Placed on the 60-day disabled list following his July 20 appearance, he had Tommy John surgery in August. The Braves were cautious with Merejo prior to his injury and will continue to be conservative with his rehab. Signed for a modest $65,000, he has shown advanced feel, three potentially plus pitches and an ability to throw strikes on a consistent basis. The athletic Merejo works fast, mixes his pitches and stays ahead in the count. His 89-91 mph fastball has good movement and touches 94. He also has a quality curveball with tight spin and a changeup that continues to improve in its fade and depth. While the first concern centers on getting Merejo healthy, he is expected to bounce back and possibly open the 2015 season as a 20-year-old at low Class A Rome.
While staying healthy has been an issue for Jaime since he signed with the Expos as a 17-year-old, his power arm earned him a spot on the Braves' 40-man roster and a potential role in the big league bullpen. The righthander missed nearly two years after having Tommy John surgery, passing through the Diamondbacks organization on his way to signing with the Braves in August 2011. He blossomed at high Class A Lynchburg in 2012, ranking second in the Carolina League with 18 saves. He made the jump to Double-A Mississippi in 2013 after spending the first six weeks on the disabled list with right forearm tightness. Jaime has a classic power arm and challenges hitters with his upper-90s fastball that touches triple digits. While his average changeup has potential, his slurvy curveball is little more than a show-me pitch. Overall, Jaime's control is below-average, and he struggled to close games in Double-A. He has the potential to be an overpowering set-up man if everything falls into place, but with a career walk rate of 5.8 per nine innings, he has always struggled to throw strikes consistently. Jaime should move to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.
After turning pro as a 21st-rounder out of junior college, Brosius worked his way through three levels of the system as a reliever. He spent two years as a backup quarterback at North Carolina State before deciding to transfer to Walters State (Tenn.) CC in 2013 and return to the diamond. In a private workout with the Braves, he hit four of 10 pitches over the fence and sat in the low 90s with his fastball. After one juco season, Brosius turned down offers to play baseball and football at Appalachian State to sign with Atlanta. A big-bodied righthander with above-average strength and athleticism, Brosius throws a heavy fastball in the 90-93 mph range. He mixes it with a hard curveball and a power slider/cutter that touches 87 mph. He does a good job of working down in the zone, which results in numerous groundouts. Brosius could move quickly once he gains a firmer foundation after being away from the game for two years. He will open 2014 at either low Class A Rome or high Class A Lynchburg, based on the progress he shows in spring training.
Hefflinger finally cleared the Carolina League hurdle on his third try at high Class A Lynchburg, ranking second in the league with 21 homers in just 74 games. He made a midseason jump to Double-A Mississippi and discovered more adjustments need to be made. Across both stops, he hit a career-high 27 home runs, one shy of the organization lead. Hefflinger has as much raw power as anyone in the Braves system and has learned how to use it over the past two years by working extensively with hitting coordinator Don Long. He now goes to right-center field more often and has become more aggressive early in the count. While his overall approach continues to improve, Hefflinger remains susceptible to chasing breaking balls and tends to swing and miss frequently due to a hole in his swing. He struck out in 17 of the 20 games he played in the Arizona Fall League. A good athlete for his large frame, he runs well but is continuing to work on improving his routes in the outfield. He has above-average arm strength with consistent accuracy that is more of an advantage in right field than left. He will likely return to Mississippi to open the 2014 slate.
Hoyt has overcome long odds to become a potential bullpen contributor in the big leagues. The Boise, Idaho, native attended Palomar (Calif.) JC and Centenary College in Louisiana before he started working on sailboats, returning to baseball only after attending a tryout to play for Yuma in the independent North American League in 2011. After that team folded, Hoyt spent 2012 with Edinburg in the same circuit prior to being traded to Wichita in the American Association and then signing with Tabasco in the Mexican League. After averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings in his two seasons of indy ball and posting a 1.76 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 41 innings in 2012, he signed his first contract in affiliated ball with the Braves in November 2012. He pitched in long relief with three spot starts at high Class A Lynchburg in 2013 before putting together an impressive second half at Double-A Mississippi. Hoyt has tremendous size and presence on the mound. He has an above-average fastball that sits in the 94-96 mph range and a slider that has a chance to develop into a plus offering. Deemed raw in spring training, Hoyt went from trying to blow the ball past hitters early in the season to learning how to get outs. He needs more consistency with his mechanics out of the stretch. He is also working on controlling the running game by improving his pickoff move and ability to hold runners. Having made great progress in a short period, Hoyt should see time at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.