The Danville Braves begin their 2013 season on Thursday, and this year’s club is packed with players to watch. Danville is considered an advanced rookie league, and the Braves like to assign a lot of recent draftees and up-and-coming international players here. Below are five position players and five pitchers that I will be keeping an eye on.
Connor Lien, OF — A potential five-tool player drafted out of high school last year in the 12th round, and the youngest player on the D-Braves roster. He was given an over-slot bonus and is potentially the best of the young high school outfielders the Braves drafted last year.
Victor Caratini, 3B — This year’s second-round pick, he was drafted as a catcher, but it looks like the Braves will move him to third base. His bat is the real prize, and it is supposed to be quite polished.
Alejandro Piloto, OF — The Braves signed this Cuban defector last year, and he had a good debut in the Dominican, showing decent speed and some gap power. We’ll see what the Braves have bought themselves, but they must feel confident enough in his abilities to let him skip the GCL. Anytime there’s a Cuban player on the team the unknowns of their abilities bear watching.
Justin Black, OF — A fourth-round high school player drafted out of Montana last year. He is raw, but has all the tools to be an exciting player. He’s one of those roll-of-the-dice picks the Braves have been making the past two drafts.
Bryan De La Rosa, C — A third-round pick out of high school last year, and the second-youngest player on the team (11 days older than Lien). He is supposed to be a great receiver behind the plate, but the bat is apparently a project.
Matt Kimbrel, RHP — Simply because of his last name he bears watching. The younger brother of Craig is less fastball more cutter in his approach to pitching.
Andry Ubiera, RHP — He made his state-side debut last week with Rome, but that was apparently just a fill-in start, and he’ll start the year with Danville. He has the potential to be the next big international pitching prospect for the Braves. He’ll be the youngest pitcher on the D-Braves staff.
Michael Flores, LHP — He’s pitched the last two seasons in the Dominican, last year earning Player of the Year honors for that team. He jumps to Danville this year as one of the more promising young international pitching prospects for the Braves.
Richie Tate, RHP — It’s weird putting a 14th-round pick from 2010 who is still in Rookie ball on this list, but Tate was injured all of 2011, and came back strong in the GCL last year. Drafted out of high school, he’s only 21 this year and has the velocity to succeed at higher levels if his control holds up.
Matt Marksberry, Michael Swanner, Jared Dettmann — Swanner is the righty, the other two are lefties. They’re all college relievers with some interesting upside. The Braves had a trio of low-pick relievers at Danville last year (Shae Simmons, Nate Hyatt, and Alex Wilson) who are currently having good-to-great years in full-season ball. This year’s crop offers a similar array of under-the-radar relief arms.
I’ll be heading out on a road trip this Friday, and will be catching a few D-Braves games in Johnson City next week. I’ll have some game reports when I get back that include my thoughts on these and other players.