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The Angels took Newcomb with the 15th overall selection in the 2014 draft and signed him for $2,158,400 after the southpaw blossomed while pitching in the Northeast. He attended high school in Middleboro, Mass., before moving on to Hartford. A former high school tight end who had several opportunities to play college football, Newcomb struggled to throw strikes as a college freshman before ranking second in NCAA Division I with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings as a sophomore in 2013. Newcomb shined as a junior, ranking seventh in the nation in ERA at 1.25. After a brief pro debut in the Angels system in 2014, Newcomb climbed from low Class A Burlington to Double-A Arkansas in 2015, his first full season, and was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the offensive-oriented high Class A California League. The Braves made Newcomb the centerpiece of their November 2015 deal with the Angels that sent Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to Anaheim and also netted Double-A righthander Chris Ellis and veteran big league shortstop Erick Aybar. Newcomb is a potential workhorse, featuring a big, durable frame and a three-pitch repertoire from the left side. He does a good job of working off his lively fastball that sat at 91-94 mph and was clocked as high as 99 mph in 2015. His fastball command can be inconsistent, as evidenced by his walk rate of 5.0 per nine innings, but he throws easy gas with above-average movement and struck out 11.1 batters per nine in his full-season debut. That rate ranked third among qualified minor league starters in 2015. Newcomb has the makings of a plus curveball with its upper-70s velocity, tight spin and swing-and-miss potential. He became infatuated with his breaking ball at times early in 2015 before learning how to set up hitters with his fastball and changeup, while the Angels forced him to throw his solid-average changeup more often. The offering has good armside action, and he made excellent strides with the depth of the changeup while working with high Class A Inland Empire pitching coach Matt Wise. Newcomb displays confidence and possesses excellent mound presence, is not afraid to challenge hitters, and can be intimidating with his high three-quarters arm slot and tall, physical frame. He repeats his clean delivery with consistency due to his solid athleticism. Newcomb does a good job fielding his position, though he had trouble holding runners. The Braves were attracted to his aptitude as well as the low mileage on his arm, and they believe he has a much higher ceiling than the most college pitchers. Atlanta has added impressive pitching depth to the organization over the past 18 months--acquiring first-round talents such as Touki Toussaint and Max Fried via trades and selecting Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka in the first round of the 2015 draft, among other moves--but Newcomb should prove to be the best of the bunch as long as his control progresses. Scouts are mixed on his long-term potential, projecting him to be anywhere from a No. 1 to a No. 3 starter. He could begin 2016 at Double-A Mississippi or Triple-A Gwinnett and make his major league debut during the season.
Dodgers international scouting department. The Braves were among the five primary suitors for Olivera before the Dodgers outbid the field and finalized a six-year, $62.5 million deal with the Cuban defector in May 2015 that included a $28 million signing bonus. Los Angeles received 69 at-bats at three minor league stops in 2015 while Olivera battled a hamstring injury before trading him to the Braves for lefthander Alex Wood, prospect Jose Peraza and three veteran pitchers. (Atlanta also acquired prospect righthander Zack Bird and a 2016 supplemental first-round pick from the Marlins in the three-team transaction.) A 10-year veteran of Cuba's Serie Nacional, Olivera was one of his country's premier players during his early and mid-20s and a veteran of Cuba's national team. A blood clot in his left biceps sidelined Olivera for the entire 2012-13 campaign. He served primarily as a DH in 2013-14 before he defected in September 2014. An MRI conducted by the Dodgers revealed a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Olivera has a smooth, quick, righthanded stroke with strong hands that tend to barrel pitches more often than not. He continues to show above-average bat speed and an advanced approach at the plate that generates an excellent walk-to-strikeout ratio. Olivera uses the entire field and drives the ball the opposite way with authority. Most scouts envision him hitting 15-20 home runs annually in the big leagues. A plus runner in his prime, he has lost a step since then but shows solid instincts on the basepaths. He possesses soft hands, good range and a solid arm at third base, with aboveaverage accuracy on his throws. The Braves, however, tried him in left field in the Puerto Rican League as they anticipate a possible position switch. The future is now for Olivera, who will be 31 in 2016. 2013 Santiago de Cuba CNS .316 73 228 44 72 11 2 7 38 38 25 0 0 .412 .474
A stress reaction in his back caused Allard to miss most of his senior year at San Clemente (Calif.) High and fall to the Braves with the 14th overall pick in 2015. The youngest player on the gold medal-winning USA Baseball 18U national team in 2014, the UCLA recruit appeared on scouts' radars early in his prep career and dominated on a variety of stages. After signing Allard for $3,042,400, Atlanta limited him to three brief starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League while easing him back onto the mound before he participated in instructional league without any complications. Allard repeats his smooth and easy mechanics with consistency and generates a hard, sinking fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 96 mph. He mixes his fastball well with a tight curveball that features a sharp downward break just prior to reaching the plate. Allard showed a feel for the changeup during instructional league, but the pitch needs work after he rarely threw it as an amateur. The Braves love his makeup and competitiveness. He should be ready to go in spring training. While Allard has the overall package to move rapidly through the organization, the Braves will be patient and methodical as he develops into a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.
Albies' development led the Braves to trade second baseman Jose Peraza to the Dodgers in the July 30 deal that netted Hector Olivera. The Rookie-level Appalachian League's top prospect in 2014, Albies enjoyed a strong first full season at low Class A Rome in 2015 before a fractured right thumb cost him the final month of the season. He ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League with a .310 batting average. Albies combines quick-twitch athleticism, plus speed and an unbridled exuberance that makes him an ideal table-setter at the top of the lineup. His superior hand-eye coordination and quick swing generate solid bat speed and consistent contact from both sides of the plate. He sprays hits to all fields and does a good job of keeping the ball out of the air. His strike-zone judgment is advanced, but his aggressiveness cuts into his on-base percentage. Defensively, Albies has soft, steady hands with quick feet and above-average arm strength with a quick release and good accuracy. At 19, Albies will again be one of the youngest players in his league in 2016 when he opens the season at high Class A Carolina. He could be in the major league discussion by the end of 2017.
The Braves had Toussaint ranked in the top 10 on their 2014 draft board. The Diamondbacks drafted the Florida native, who spent time growing up in Haiti, at No. 16 overall. The Braves acquired Toussaint from Arizona on June 20, the oneyear anniversary of his signing date, by agreeing to take on injured veteran Bronson Arroyo. Thus, the Braves essentially purchased Toussaint for $10 million. Toussaint combines superior athleticism and a three-pitch repertoire with a frame that has excellent projectability. His lightning-quick arm generates a live fastball that tops out at 98 mph. His plus curveball resides in the mid-70s with a hard, late break. Much like his breaking ball, his changeup needs work but has the depth and fade to be a plus pitch. Toussaint has struggled with his control, which led to elevated pitch counts and a walk rate of 4.9 per nine innings at two low Class A stops in 2015. The Braves believe his athleticism will allow him to repeat his delivery more consistently with some fine-tuning. Scouts love Toussaint's potential but realize the raw righthander has work to do. If everything comes together, Toussaint could be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Barring a setback in spring training, he should move up to high Class A Carolina in 2016.
One of the top two-way players available in the 2015 draft, Riley was deemed more of a pitching prospect throughout most of his high school career. The Braves, however, liked his raw power and took him 41st overall as a position player. Riley proceeded to blitz two Rookie-level leagues and tie for second in the organization with 12 homers despite not playing until late June. Riley possesses above-average bat speed with the ability to lift the ball. He generates impressive raw power to all fields that led to 27 extra-base hits in 60 games. Despite striking out 26 percent of the time in his pro debut, Riley displays a good feel for the strike zone and barrels the ball with consistency. He has good athleticism for a jumbo frame and shows a solid feel for running the bases despite below-average speed. Riley moves well at third base, with good first-step quickness and average range, though he committed 16 errors in 53 games. He has plus arm strength with good accuracy on his throws after sitting around 90 mph on the mound. No player generated more enthusiasm from the Braves' 2015 draft class than Riley. Though his future may be at first base, he could be an impact bat at one of the four corner positions. He should begin the 2016 campaign at low Class A Rome.
The Braves went with a high-risk, high-reward approach when they acquired Fried, the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, from the Padres as part of the Justin Upton trade prior to the 2015 season. Only Fried's high school teammate Lucas Giolito, now the Nationals' top prospect, offered more promise among the prep arms available in the 2012 draft. He logged just 11 innings in 2014 and then missed all of 2015 after having Tommy John surgery in August 2014. Possessing the potential for at least two plus pitches, Fried has a lean frame that could generate additional velocity as his body matures. When healthy, he does a good job of working off a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph. His best pitch is an overhand hammer curveball with a 12-to-6 break that generates strikeouts. His changeup needs work, but he has shown a decent feel for it in limited use. Fried struggled with control at low Class A Fort Wayne in 2013, though elbow soreness may have been to blame. Fried has lost nearly two years of development. The signs regarding his rehab are positive, and the Braves are confident he can re-emerge as a potential frontline starter. Fried's return in 2016 is expected to be methodical as he rebuilds his arm strength over the course of the campaign.
Smith was one of four prospects the Braves acquired from the Padres for Justin Upton in December 2014. He led the minors with 88 steals in 2014, then overcame slow starts at both Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett in 2015 to earn organizational minor league player of the year honors, hitting a cumulative .306/.373/.386 with 57 steals in 126 games. Considered to be primarily a speedoriented player upon joining the Braves, Smith made progress in all aspects of his game in 2015. Seen by the Braves as a young version of Michael Bourn, Smith has excellent plate discipline and works counts in order to get a pitch he can handle or get on base via a walk. While he lacks home run power, he makes consistent contact and is adept at playing small ball, including bunting for base hits. A premier basestealer, Smith has excellent range in center field and has improved his routes to balls in the gap. His arm strength is below-average, but he has good accuracy on his throws. The Braves consider Smith to be the team's long-term answer in center field and at the top of the batting order. He will work with Bourn during spring training and should make his big league debut at some point during the 2016 campaign.
The Braves nabbed Soroka with the 28th overall selection in 2015 as compensation for the Twins signing Ervin Santana. Soroka helped the Canadian Junior National team finish third in the 2014 COPABE 18U Pan American Games. He also tossed 13 scoreless innings during the team's trip through the Dominican Summer League in May prior to becoming the highest-drafted player ever out of Alberta. Soroka pounds the strike zone aggressively with three pitches and works off his consistent low-90s fastball with solid movement. The solidly built hurler has excellent athleticism, commands his stuff to both sides of the plate and does an excellent job of living in the lower part of the strike zone. Soroka's above-average curveball shows tight spin and a late, sharp downward break. He has shown a good feel for an early-stages changeup. Soroka's cross-body finish created some concerns among scouts, even though he has not had any injury problems. Soroka was limited to 34 innings in his first taste of pro ball. The Braves will be patient with the Canadian's development--he's one of the youngest players in his draft class--though he could open the 2016 season at low Class A Rome.
The 32nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Davidson had several strong performances on the showcase circuit prior to his senior year of high school, including a three-home run performance in the 2013 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. He was a first-team prep All-American prior to signing for $1,705,000. Davidson is a disciplined hitter with impressive strike-zone judgment and above-average raw power that has yet to emerge with consistency during games. He led the South Atlantic League and the Braves organization with 84 walks in 2015, but he also struck out 27 percent of the time while getting beat at times on inside pitches. The lefthanded hitter can drive the ball to all fields and possesses the rare combination of true power and patience. Davidson has transformed his still-maturing body as well as his defense since signing. A prep first baseman and occasional center fielder, he has made strong progress while making the move to right field as a pro. His routes to flyballs still need honing, but his arm strength is above-average with solid accuracy. The Braves challenged Davidson last season by having him open the campaign at low Class A as an 18-year-old. He proved strong enough to handle the ups and downs and should be ready to move up a level to high Class A Carolina in 2016.
Drafted 21st overall in 2012 out of a metro Atlanta high school, Sims returned to the high Class A Carolina League to open the 2015 season after being the youngest player on the circuit on Opening Day 2014. Injured in a team bus wreck in early May, the righthander did not return until July and was promoted to Double-A Mississippi shortly thereafter. Sims is one of the most competitive and aggressive pitchers in the organization. An outstanding all-around athlete, the former shortstop repeats his smooth delivery with consistency and generates a plus fastball with armside run that sits in the low 90s and touches 96 mph. He also commands his curveball that resides in the upper 70s and flashes plus with late break. The feel for his changeup has been inconsistent and the main culprit in his high walk rate, but Sims has shown promising fade and depth when he throws the pitch correctly. He has learned to mix his pitches, works both sides of the plate and can overpower hitters at times with his fastball. Sims continues to make steady improvement toward a potential mid-rotation ceiling. If his changeup continues to develop, he could be even better. A 2016 season split between Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett is likely.
Banuelos made his major league debut in 2015, his eighth pro season, but his progress halted after seven outings when the lefthander had bone chips removed from his left elbow. That procedure came on the heels of Banuelos missing nearly two full seasons, in 2012 and 2013, that included Tommy John surgery in August 2012. He made strides in his comeback at three levels of the Yankees system in 2014 and was Triple-A Gwinnett's best pitcher during the first half of 2015 after the Braves acquired him from New York in an offseason trade. Banuelos' fastball sat in the low 90s in 2015, and the Braves believe his velocity could return close to its previous mid-90s level once he fully recovers from his most recent procedure. The sharpness of his solid curveball and changeup should also improve, giving him three above-average pitches as well as a possible fourth if he continues to throw his recently added cutter. Despite his success in Triple-A, Banuelos needs to improve his control and command after averaging 4.3 walks per nine innings at Gwinnett. Banuelos will be 25 in 2016 and still offers hope that he can be a solid contributor to the big league rotation, possibly as a No. 4 starter. He needs to put all the injuries behind him, though.
Ellis transformed from reliever to Southeastern Conference ace as a junior at Mississippi in 2014, finishing third in the country in starts as the workhorse for the Rebels' first College World Series team in 42 years. After signing Ellis for $575,000, the Angels eased him into pro ball before pushing him hard in 2015, when they started him at high Class A Inland Empire and promoted him to Double-A Arkansas for the second half. Los Angeles traded him and lefthander Sean Newcomb to the Braves in the November 2015 Andrelton Simmons deal. Ellis had a solid if unspectacular three-pitch mix as a starter. His fastball has touched 95 mph and sits in the 90-94 range, usually in the lower end of that register, but has solid sink and some angle as well. His slider is more notable for its 82-84 mph power than its consistency, but it has flashed plus at its best, helping his lead the high Class A California League in strikeouts at the time of his promotion. He improved the fade and life on his changeup in the first half, helping the pitch grade solid-average as well. While he's not a pure strike-thrower, he also isn't afraid to challenge hitters with his best stuff. He has a clean arm and held up well over a challenging first-year workload. Ellis has polish to add, such as learning to hold runners, to reach his No. 3 starter's ceiling. With the Braves' newfound depth, he could consolidate last season's gains by opening 2016 near his old college stomping grounds at Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves added one short-term and one possibly long-term piece to their big league rotation when they acquired Shelby Miller and Jenkins from the Cardinals for Jason Heyward shortly after the 2014 season. While Miller had established himself at the game's top level, Jenkins struggled with injuries throughout much of his time with St. Louis, which included shoulder surgery in August 2013. A tremendous athlete who had committed to play quarterback at Baylor, Jenkins blossomed with the Braves in 2015, proving he was healthy and earning the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award. He went 8-9, 3.19 in 25 starts and finished the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. In addition to establishing a career high with 138 innings, Jenkins made impressive strides in learning how to command his two- and four-seam fastballs and the importance of using his secondary offerings. He pitches on a steep downhill plane that produces a low to mid-90s heater with good movement down in the zone. He also throws a hard curveball and a solid changeup and has a workhorse mentality that had not manifested previously due to his injuries. Jenkins has No. 4 starter potential and is on the cusp of pitching in Atlanta, which should happen at some point in 2016.
The Braves obtained Sanchez from the Angels in January 2015 when they sent third baseman Kyle Kubitza and righthander Nate Hyatt to Los Angeles. Sanchez signed with the Angels for $580,000 in July 2013, which came a year after he was the winning pitcher for Venezuela against Cuba in the 15U World Championship. He made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2014 prior to spending the first half of 2015 at low Class A Rome. The athletic Sanchez has a clean-and-easy delivery and the ball tends to jump out of his hand. All of his pitches have excellent movement, including a fastball that sits at 90-91 mph and touches 95. His curveball has a sharp 1-to-7 break, and he has shown a good feel for his changeup. He is willing to work inside but struggled with his control and command throughout his 10 starts in the South Atlantic League, after which the Braves shut him down to monitor his workload. Raw in many respects, Sanchez has significant upside and is working to keep up with his maturing body. Once he gains more consistency with his mechanics, he could develop quickly. He will return to Rome in 2016.
Acquired with fellow righthander Rob Whalen from the Mets for veteran infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson at the 2015 trade deadline, Gant is a late bloomer from the Tampa area who has developed in recent seasons as his body has matured. The righthander made significant strides in 2014, when he ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.56), third in opponent average (.231) and fifth in strikeout rate (8.3 per nine innings) at low Class A Savannah. Gant, who draws comparisons with veteran reliever Tyler Clippard from scouts, has a killer changeup with plus sinking action and a solid-average fastball with an advanced knowledge of how to set up hitters. His developing curveball with a tight spin has shown signs of becoming his best offering if he can gain more consistency with the pitch. An above-average athlete who uses his 6-foot-5 height to throw on a downhill plane, Gant has solid overall command while using the lower half of the strike zone as well as both sides of the plate. A potential No. 4 starter in the big leagues, he went 4-0, 1.99 with 43 strikeouts in 41 innings at Double-A Mississippi after joining the Braves. He is a candidate to begin 2016 at Triple-A Gwinnett after joining the 40-man roster in the offseason.
Ruiz was part of the haul the Braves received from the Astros when they traded Evan Gattis to Houston in January 2015. A two-sport athlete in high school who played quarterback, Ruiz was headed to Southern California before turning pro for $1.85 million in 2012 as the Astros' fourth-round pick. He developed steadily with Houston after making a mechanical adjustment to his collapsing front side at the plate, and he led the high Class A California League with 37 doubles in 2014. The Braves say Ruiz tried too hard to impress his new organization in 2015, when he hit just .211 with no home runs in the first half at Double-A Mississippi. He rebounded slightly in the second half, hitting .252/.337/.378 in 230 at-bats. Ruiz has a balanced lefthanded swing with good strike-zone judgment and solid-average raw power that has yet to translate into home-run production. He struggled against the best Double-A arms but showed signs of understanding how hurlers were setting him up in the second half. Ruiz has decent hands and an average arm at third base but needs to hone his footwork as well as his throwing accuracy. Ruiz seems destined to open 2016 back at Mississippi.
The Braves addressed a system-wide dearth of catching depth by selecting plus catch-and-throw receiver Herbert with the 54th overall pick in 2015. His impressive amateur resume includes winning a gold medal at the Pan American Championship and leading San Clemente (Calif.) High to the 2015 National High School Invitational title. Herbert has extensive experience in calling games and shows impressive leadership skills behind the plate with his off-the-charts makeup. He possesses plus arm strength with pop times on throws to second base that consistently reside in the range of 1.9 seconds. He moves well behind the plate and does an excellent job of blocking balls while displaying a gritty approach to the game. The righthanded hitter has a simple swing and can drive the ball consistently. He possesses above-average power to his pull side, thanks to his superior physical strength in his hands and wrists. Herbert has the tools to be a starting catcher at the major league level as well as the experience to open 2016 at low Class A Rome.
The Braves acquired Bird from the Dodgers in the 2015 deadline deal that also brought Hector Olivera to Atlanta in exchange for prospect Jose Peraza, lefthander Alex Wood and a host of veteran hurlers. The righthander made progress in his fourth pro season and finished the campaign with three starts at Double-A Mississippi in his hometown of Jackson. Bird works off a low- to mid-90s fastball with good movement that has been clocked as high as 96 mph. His secondary offerings are inconsistent. Bird's slider shows promise with its occasional sharp break, and his overhand curveball and changeup are solid pitches when he executes them correctly. He is a flyball pitcher who has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro, but he struggles with his command and control, leading to high walk rates and a career 1.46 WHIP. Bird possesses a 6-foot-4, projectable frame and has had difficulty repeating his mechanics, particularly in the lower half of his body. Scouts also have expressed concern about his stiff-shoulder arm action and the overall effort in his delivery, even though he has above-average athleticism. If Bird's control problems continue, he will move to the bullpen, but for 2016 he will return to Mississippi.
Change has been the lone constant for Peterson since the Padres made him a second-round pick in 2013. A shortstop in high school, he shifted to third base in pro ball and played the position at low Class A Fort Wayne in 2014 before being traded to the Braves as part of the Justin Upton deal prior to the 2015 season. Moved to left field by the Braves, Peterson opened 2015 by hitting .314/.392/.448 at high Class A Carolina before being injured in the team's bus wreck in May and missing three weeks. Still just 21, Peterson has quick hands and a whip-like swing that produces outstanding backspin when he barrels the ball. He has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and works the count well, but he tends to swing and miss too often. After struggling defensively at the hot corner, Peterson made a solid transition to left field. He has an average arm and his fringe-average speed is not a liability. The Braves not only believe he will develop impact power at higher levels but that he will prove to be a better player than older brother D.J., a Mariners first-rounder in 2013. Though a return to the Carolina League to in 2016 would not be surprising, Peterson should reach Double-A Mississippi at some point during the campaign.
Several scouts believed Hursh's future resided in the bullpen when the Braves drafted him 31st overall out of Oklahoma State in 2013. The righthander missed his sophomore season after having Tommy John surgery, but he rebounding in his final campaign with the Cowboys. After going 2-6, 5.63 and allowing opponents to hit .338 through 15 starts, Hursh moved to the bullpen and recorded a 2.25 ERA and .257 average, including his time at Triple-A Gwinnett. Since moving to the bullpen, his fastball has improved to 94-98 mph with heavy sinking action and some armside run. His hard changeup arrives with split action, and his overhand curveball continues to improve but is not consistent enough to go through a lineup multiple times. Hursh's plus makeup, aggressiveness and ability to work down in the zone to generate groundballs make him a possible candidate to work as a set-up reliever. Refinement of his secondary pitches and command would make Hursh a strong candidate to contribute in the Atlanta bullpen in 2016.
Simmons' 2015 season ended before it began when he had Tommy John surgery in mid-February. Before that he had charted a meteoric rise through the Atlanta system, beginning in 2013 when he saved 24 games in 25 opportunities. He continued to dominate at Double-A Mississippi in 2014 and wound up pitching in the majors before shoulder discomfort shelved him in late July. Simmons' bread and butter is a heavy, sinking fastball that sits at 95-97 mph and reached triple digits prior to his surgery. His slider has the potential to become a plus pitch with excellent tilt, though he has been inconsistent with the offering's command. He also shows an overhand curveball that he uses like a changeup, but he needs to add more depth to the pitch. Simmons has the overall stuff to work as a closer in the big leagues, but the Braves won't know what they have for sure until late 2016 or possibly 2017.
Feigl was not drafted after spending four years at Mount St. Mary's, in part because he lost his junior year due to surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He proceeded to work as a high school baseball coach in Maryland and gave private pitching lessons before signing with the Braves after throwing on a scout day in the fall of 2013 at his alma mater. Feigl displayed an increase in arm strength, resulting in a low-90s fastball that touched 94 mph along with a decent feel for a changeup and breaking ball. He pitched well enough the following spring to open 2014 at low Class A Rome and receive a promotion to the high Class A Carolina League during the season. That showing earned him an invitation to big league camp in 2015, when he nearly made the major league roster prior to making one relief appearance at Triple-A Gwinnett and having Tommy John surgery in late April. In addition to his solid-average, threepitch arsenal, Feigl pounds the lower third of the zone and does a good job of working both sides of the plate. He is tough on lefthanded batters and could become a situational reliever in the big leagues. The Braves believe he should return by the second half of 2016.
Atlanta selected Winkler from the Rockies during the major league phase of the 2014 Rule 5 draft. Winkler led the minors with 175 strikeouts in 2013, which he finished at Double-A Tulsa. He breezed through the Texas League in 2014, recording a 1.41 ERA in 12 starts, before having Tommy John surgery on July 1. Winkler's strengths are his deception, ability to exploit a hitter's weakness and above-average control of three pitches. He hides the ball well using his low three-quarters arm slot and creates different angles with his unorthodox delivery and inverted elbow that draws comparisons with veteran reliever Pat Neshek. Winkler mixes an 88-90 mph fastball that touches 92 with a cutter and slider with solid movement. While he does a good job of working inside to jam lefthanded batters, he is difficult for righthanders to pick up, which contributed to a .103 opponent average in 2014. Winkler returned from rehab to make two brief relief appearances with Atlanta in September 2015. Despite working as a starter in the minors, he profiles as a reliever in the majors. Winkler must spend 90 days on the Braves' active big league roster (to satisfy the Rule 5 restriction) before he can be optioned to the minors. He accrued about 25 days in 2015, so he will have about two months to prove himself to the big league staff in 2016.
Camargo ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2013, then finished the 2014 season at high Class A Carolina. He returned to Carolina in 2015 and continued to make steady improvement. A solid all-around player with easy, fluid actions and plus hand-eye coordination, Camargo has a line-drive approach with his smooth swing from both sides of the plate. He demonstrates an excellent feel for the strike zone by working the count, using the entire field and making consistent contact. Camargo continues to add strength and is capable driving the ball in the gaps but has belowaverage power. His knowledge of the game and ability to anticipate plays make him a good baserunner and give him better range than his average speed and quickness would suggest. He also has soft hands, above-average arm strength and solid accuracy on his throws that should allow him to remain at shortstop. Camargo has the intangibles to be a strong utility infielder in the big leagues, with the ability to start if he continues to add strength. He's in line for a promotion to Double-A Mississippi in 2016.
Signed out of Venezuela on July 2, 2014, for $100,000, Acuna opened eyes in his first taste of pro ball. The 17-year-old skipped the Dominican Summer League in 2015 and never looked overmatched in either the Rookie-level Gulf Coast or Appalachian leagues, where he ranked as the Nos. 11 and 14 prospect, respectively. Acuna impressed the Braves in minor league camp with his outstanding feel for the game, which convinced the organization to challenge him against older competition. He showed plus speed in center field and on the bases and should be a stolen-base threat at higher levels. He takes good routes to balls in the gaps and flashed well above-average arm strength with solid accuracy and carry on his throws. Acuna has quick hands and an aggressive swing but has advanced plate discipline. He barrels pitches consistently and showed excellent raw power that should generate solid extra-base production as his body matures. Acuna projects as more of a gap-to-gap hitter and profiles as a table-setter. He could push his way to low Class A Rome in 2016.
Cabrera's development has been slowed by inconsistency, which has been caused in part by forearm discomfort in 2014 that kept him out of action for two months. Despite advancing to Double-A Mississippi toward the end of 2015, he walked a career-worst 6.5 batters per nine innings. Cabrera's strength is an overpowering fastball that sat at 100 mph and topped out at 104 during instructional league. His slider has decent movement when he throws it with conviction, and his changeup needs considerable work. Cabrera returned to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight season in 2015 in hopes of honing his control but he walked seven in 12 innings. How well he progresses in that area will determine how much of a contributor he will be as a reliever with Atlanta. A return to Mississippi appears likely in 2016.
Thurman joined the Braves as part of the Evan Gattis trade with the Astros in January 2015. Since turning pro, he has battled his command and struggled to gain a consistent feel for the most effective velocity on his fastball, which sits in the low 90s but tends to flatten when touching the mid-90s. Thurman was among those injured in high Class A Carolina bus wreck in May 2015 and missed nearly two months. He was promoted to Double-A Mississippi shortly after his return in July and pitched well in instructional league before heading to the Arizona Fall League. Thurman mixes a solid-average changeup with his fastball, and he needs improvement with his curveball and slider. His overall command has been lacking as well, with scouts noting the inconsistencies in his mechanics and hard landing on his front foot. Thurman projects as a reliever in the major leagues unless his secondary pitches make significant strides. Expect him to open 2016 back at Mississippi.
Whalen and John Gant joined the Braves at the 2015 trade deadline, when the Braves sent Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets. After joining the Braves in 2015, Whalen made three starts in late July before having knee surgery. The righthander succeeds with plus deception and excellent command of all his pitches. Hitters have difficulty picking up the ball out of his hand, which makes his average fastball with solid sink more effective. He generates a lot of swings and misses with his curveball, which has a tight three-quarters tilt and was considered to be the best bender in the Mets system in 2014. Whalen also shows a good feel for his changeup and slider, with both potential solid-average pitches with improvement. He is expected to open the season at Double-A Mississippi.
Janas has become more effective as his arm strength has gradually returned following Tommy John surgery at Kennesaw State in 2012. He returned from the surgery in 10 months to post an all-Atlantic Sun Conference performance in 2013 and sign with the Braves as a sixth-round pick. Inconsistent at low Class A Rome in 2014, Janas dominated at high Class A Carolina in 2015. Among those injured in the team bus wreck in May, he missed seven weeks on the disabled list but returned to pitch most of the second half at Double-A Mississippi with mixed results. Janas delivers on a steep downhill plane. He generates lots of groundballs with his sinking fastball that sits at 89-91 mph. His slider has a solid, late bite and his changeup has a chance to be an average pitch. Janas has some of the best command in the organization and limits potential damage by walking just 2.1 batters per nine innings in 2015. He should begin 2016 at Double-A Mississippi.
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