Braves 2015 Top-30 Prospects

The new regime in the Atlanta Braves front office has spent the offseason building up a depleted minor league system, as well as swapping out prospects in trades. The result is that 11 of the top-20 prospects on this year’s list are new arrivals to the system. With these acquisitions the front office also struck a balance between prospects that are major-league-ready and younger prospects with several years of development time left.

It’s going to be an exciting year in the Braves minor league system, as we watch what these new guys can do. I’ve already got a few road trips planned.

I’m presenting the prospects both ranked in order from 1 to 30, and in groups based on letter grades. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what I think of a prospect even though they may be ranked higher or lower than you would expect. I also find this helpful in establishing the different levels of talent throughout the system.

(Note: Prospects acquired after the release of the initial top-30 list were added into this post. Hence, now it’s a top-34 prospect list.)

Grade A: None of the prospects in the Braves system grade as A+ for me, so we start with the three guys I rank with a grade of A. These are prospects who I believe will be first division players, and occasional All-Stars, while filling valuable roles on the team.

1. Matt Wisler, RHP (AAA, AA) — Recently acquired
mwislerWisler was the most prized player the Braves got in exchange for Kimbrel. He was the Padres top prospect. He was a seventh-round pick in 2011, whom the Fathers lured away from a college commitment with a large bonus. Baseball America, in their 2015 Prospect Handbook, projects that had Wisler gone to college, he would have been a first round pick last year. Wisler dominated competition in the lower minors in his first couple of years as a pro, but struggled last year upon his initial promotion to triple-A. While his 5.01 ERA in 22 starts at triple-A looks bad, he figured out the league as the year went on, posting a 3.60 ERA in his final six starts. Wisler is a four-pitch pitcher with a steady low-90s fastball and wipe-out slider. His change and curve are behind his other pitches, but at only 22-years of age this season, he’s still learning the finer points of pitching. With a sinking fastball Wisler pitches to contact and offers good durability in his 6-foot-3 frame. The Braves will work with him on his changeup and help him refine his command at triple-A. He enters a healthy competition with fellow Gwinnett rotation mates Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos and Williams Perez to be the first starting pitcher promoted should the Braves need help in Atlanta.

2. Lucas Sims, RHP (High-A) — Previous rank: 1
Still number-1 in my book. While Jose Peraza has eclipsed Sims on some lists, and Max Fried may find his way to the top of others, Lucas Sims is the player I still consider the best prospect in the Braves organization. What is likely turning people off from considering Sims so high is his average performance last year at Lynchburg. While his first year of full-season ball in 2013 produced a 2.62 ERA, 1.106 WHIP and 10.3 K/9, his second full year saw his numbers dip across the board to 4.19 ERA, 1.296 WHIP and 6.1 K/9, though he did pitch 40 more innings. We can’t expect dominance all the time, in fact we should want our top prospects to struggle some in the lower minors. That teaches them how to overcome those challenges that they will face as they continue to climb the ladder. And Sims will climb the ladder this year and move up to double-A, where he will turn 21-years-old a month into the season. Of the 676 times he faced a batter last year, only 11 times did he face a batter younger than he was. Add to that a strong finish to his 2014 campaign, posting a 2.88 ERA in the final month. Sims has the floor of a mid-rotation starter, and the potential to be more. MLB ETA: 2017

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3. Michael Foltynewicz, RHP (MLB, AAA) — Recently acquired
mfoltynewiczThe 19th-overall pick out of high school in the 2010 draft, he was the centerpiece of the return the Braves got in the Evan Gattis trade. The attraction here is the fastball, which grades as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and which routinely hits 100+ mph throughout the game. His control and command of that pitch is still a work in progress, as are his off-speed offerings, of which his curveball is the best. The Braves will likely start him off at triple-A this year, hoping to refine his control and develop his changeup. If all goes well, then Folty could become a top-of-the-rotation starter with a dominating fastball. If consistent control of his fastball can be gained, but his changeup cannot be developed, then he becomes a dominant two-pitch (fastball and curve) setup man or middle reliever akin to Andrew Miller or Wade Davis. MLB ETA: 2015

4. Max Fried, LHP (A-, R-) — Recently acquired
mfriedAcquired this offseason from the Padres in the Justin Upton trade, Fried will be sidelined this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery he had in August of 2014. He was the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school, and has ranked in the middle of many top-100 lists since then. While he will lose two years of development time to arm problems, he’ll still be just 22-years-old when he returns to the mound in 2016. The Braves coveted him for his top-of-the-rotation profile buttressed by three plus pitches — a mid-90s fastball, change-up and potential plus-plus curve. The physical tools and projection are there, Fried just needs time on the mound to refine his craft, which will be unfortunately set back by this injury. That could affect his prospect status down the line, but I’ll take a glass half full approach for now. He may have more raw talent than anyone in the Braves system, but because he’s injured and will be behind when he returns, he doesn’t out-rank Sims on my list. MLB ETA: 2018

5. Jose Peraza, 2B (AA, A+) — Previously ranked: 3
I definitely talked myself out of ranking Peraza as the No. 1 prospect this year. But don’t be mistaken, I still really like Peraza as a prospect, and expect him to be a big contributor in Atlanta as early as this year. He’s got game-changing speed on the bases and has an excellent ability to make consistent contact, and even a willingness to change his setup in the batter’s box at the urging of his coaches. That ability to make adjustments will serve him well and should keep his average around .300, but he’s got some work to do in a couple other areas. He’s not a power hitter, but because of his speed he’ll hit a lot of doubles and triples. But the biggest knock on him, and probably the one thing that keeps him from the top spot, is his unwillingness to walk. He’s always been below league average in the free pass department, but last year he seemed almost allergic to them. His plus hand-eye coordination allows him to expand the zone, but I fear that propensity to chase pitcher’s pitches off the plate could be exploited in the majors. He could easily fall into the trap of being a one-dimensional player too reliant on his BABIP to be consistent. MLB ETA: 2015

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6. Rio Ruiz, 3B (AFL, A+) — Recently acquired
rruizThe other big prospect acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, Ruiz will likely begin the year at double-A, where he will turn 21-years-old in May. The Astros drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, though he received an over-slot bonus of $1.85 million, equivalent to a first-round pick. While he was a raw prospect when drafted, he has improved at every level as he’s gained experience and playing time. He has good line-drive power, and a keen eye at the plate, which he uses to take lots of walks and limit his strikeouts. His major league ceiling has been compared to that of Robin Ventura and Eric Chavez. This season at Mississippi should tell the Braves if they have a future star on their hands, and if the returns are good, he could push Chris Johnson in 2016. Even if Ruiz needs more time at double-A, or a full season at triple-A, he’s young enough to be ahead of schedule if he arrives in time for the opening of the team’s new stadium in 2017. The Braves hope is that Ruiz is to third base what Freddie Freeman has become to first base — a solid defender who posts high on-base and slugging numbers hitting in the middle of the order. MLB ETA: 2016

Grade A-: The next six prospects I grade as possible first division players who will all play important starting roles in the majors. It’s a testament to the way the Braves have rebuilt their minor league system this offseason that half of these prospects were added to the system since the end of last season.

7. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP (AFL, A+) — Recently acquired
tjenkinsAcquired in the Jason Heyward trade from the Cardinals, Jenkins was listed at the back end of many top-100 prospect lists as recently as 2013. That was until shoulder problems slowed him in 2012, and finally sidelined him after surgery in 2013. With almost two lost seasons he’s a bit behind on the development spectrum, but he caught-up in a big way during the 2014 Arizona Fall League. While still a bit raw, especially with his control, he nevertheless flashed several plus pitchers: curve, slider, and a legit mid-90s fastball. It’s that consistent mid-90s heat, and a big 6-foot-4 frame that can handle that power as a starter, which is why I rank him so high–probably higher than many other evaluators. I believe the talent that made him a top-100 prospect a couple of years ago is still there, and now that he’s healthy he’s ready to establish himself as a legit prospect alongside Lucas Sims in the Mississippi rotation. MLB ETA: 2017

8. Christian Bethancourt, C (MLB, AAA) – Previously ranked: 2
cbethancourtThe 2015 Atlanta Braves starting catcher’s job is his to lose in spring training. The team may be asking a lot of Bethancourt to presume that he’s ready to handle both a major league pitching staff behind the plate and handle major league pitching in the batter’s box. His ascendancy to the full-time role in Atlanta has been a long time coming, and while scouts have drooled on his plus tools as a catcher, his painfully slow progress as a hitter has some (especially me) rethinking if he can be a starting catcher. A lot will depend on how much rope the Braves can give him this year to fail, and how fast he can make adjustments to succeed. His ceiling is really high, but so is his risk–probably more than any other prospect in the top-10. MLB ETA: Now

9. Braxton Davidson, OF (R+, R-) — Previously ranked: 5
The Braves 2014 first-round pick (No. 32 overall) had a tepid debut primarily in the Gulf Coast League last year. He didn’t hit for much power in limited at-bats, but he showed a good eye at the plate. Most scouts believe he will grow into his power from his line-drive stroke. His entire package reminds me of Freddie Freeman, who also struggled mightily in his first taste of pro ball at the same level. Look for Davidson to spend his first full season of professional baseball this year at Rome. His performance there should help us see what kind of prospect we have in Davidson, though it is by no means make-or-break. MLB ETA: 2018

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10. Manny Banuelos, LHP (AAA, AA, A+) — Recently acquired
mbanuelosAnother former top-100 prospect (from 2011-12), and another Tommy John victim (October of 2012), Atlanta acquired Banuelos in an offseason trade with the Yankees. Highly thought of before the injury, some of that could have been the sheen of being a Yankees prospect, but the short 5-foot-10 lefty is said to have plus control of a good mid-90s fastball, plus curveball and a developing changeup. Banuelos will compete for the fifth starter spot in spring training, though he may benefit from more seasoning at triple-A, with an eye towards joining the Atlanta rotation mid-season. That would also help limit his innings after just throwing 76.2 innings in 2014, his first year back from surgery. The Braves obviously hope he regains the luster of a top-50 prospect in baseball, and in his second year after TJ surgery we should see what he is really capable of. MLB ETA: 2015

11. Jason Hursh, RHP (Double-A) — Previous rank: 9
jhursh2Hursh is one of the few prospects in the system who moved up in the rankings while all the new talent was added through trades (well, he had moved up before even more new talent was added through trades). In his first full season of professional ball last year he debuted at double-A Mississippi. While it may not seem like a big jump for a college pitcher, consider that because of Tommy John surgery (2012) in college he didn’t throw as much as most guys drafted after their Junior year. He relies on a sinking fastball that he is still working to command, along with his slider and change. He’s a work in progress, but should advance to triple-A this year as a 23-year-old — young for that level. While many of the pitchers Atlanta has acquired this offseason have stolen much of the press, Hursh should nevertheless be a strong competitor to join the rotation in 2016. MLB ETA: 2016

12. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (MLB, AAA, AA, A+) — Recently acquired
avizcainoThe Braves reacquired Vizcaino this offseason from the Cubs in exchange for Tommy La Stella, after having traded him at the deadline in 2012, two months after he underwent Tommy John surgery. Atlanta basically let the Cubs borrow Vizcaino while he rehabbed from surgery. He returns this season and should finally become a big part of the Atlanta bullpen. He rises to the top of the Braves system as the best relief prospect, primarily because he still has the repertoire and four-pitch mix of a starter, but because of the injuries is limited to a relief role. He could emerge this year as the top setup option for Craig Kimbrel, assuming his mid-to-high-90s fastball is all the way back. MLB ETA: Now

Grade B+: These players grade as solid above average players with the potential to be much more.

13. Jose Briceno, C (Low-A) — Recently acquired
Acquired in an offseason trade with the Rockies, Briceno significantly enhances the Braves’ catching depth. It’s best to think of him as an opposite to current top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt. Whereas Bethancourt is a plus-plus catch-and-throw backstop who needs more work needed on the hitting site, Briceno is a plus hitter with plus power who needs work on his receiving skills (though his arm and accuracy are plus, as evidenced by his 43% caught stealing rate last year). Briceno and Bethancourt are similar in their protracted path through the minor leagues. Bethancourt signed in 2008 and spent the past seven years working his way up the ladder. He is a year older than Briceno, who signed in 2009, but is taking an equally long time to develop. The reports on Briceno have him improving greatly behind the plate last year, while maintaining a solid hitting tool with good power. Like Bethancourt, Briceno seems allergic to walks, but he doesn’t strike out nearly as much. MLB ETA: 2017

14. Dustin Peterson, 3B (Low-A) — Recently acquired
dpetersonProbably the least-discussed prospect received in the Justin Upton trade from the Padres, for me he is the most intriguing. In a Braves system devoid of power-hitting prospects, Peterson rises to the top thanks to his plus bat speed and power to all fields. His first taste of full-season pro ball last year produced mixed results and a season line of .233/.274/.361, and a pretty high 24.3 K%. He started off great at the plate, posting a .264/.319/.428 line from April through June, but tired down the stretch from July to September with a .187/.200/.258 slash line. Almost all of this was against older competition, Peterson was just 19, a trend which should continue as he will likely be assigned to high-A Carolina this year as a 20-year-old. With 38 errors at the hot corner he may eventually wind up at an outfield corner, and his power should play nicely there. MLB ETA: 2018

Note: Had RHP J.R. Graham not been selected in the Rule 5 draft he would have been ranked here as the No. 14 prospect with a grade of B+.

15. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP (High-A) — Previously ranked: 4
Cabrera has taken one of the biggest tumbles down this list, due to a 2014 season scattered with injuries and the realization that he may be more suited to the bullpen than starting. It’s hard to glean much from his stats last year because of all the breaks in his season while he was continually nursing a right forearm injury. He’ll still be just 21-years-old this year, and will likely need to repeat high-A. We’ll have to see if the Braves eventually put him back in the rotation, or if they keep him in a relief role all season. Because of a lack of innings last year I expect him to start the year in the bullpen. Wherever he is he’ll need to work on consistently controlling his mid-90s fastball. MLB ETA: 2017

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16. Jace Peterson, INF (AFL, MLB, AAA & AA) — Recently acquired
jpetersonThe most major league-ready prospect in the Upton trade, Jace Peterson could fill a number of different roles for the Braves this year and beyond. He can hold down second base or third base as well as any other defender on the team, and he’s solid at shortstop. He was called up directly from double-A last year, then made three other trips up to the majors from triple-A. All of that moving around and changing roles may have cost him at the plate statistically, but it may have also prepared him to fill multiple roles on the team in the future. As a prospect it may be easiest to think of him as a super-charged Phil Gosselin, or even as a Martin Prado-type player in waiting. Peterson doesn’t have a clear plus tool, but he does just about everything well, and still has a lot of room to improve his game. He’s a high-average, good on-base guy with surprising speed and could fill the role of a top-of-the-order hitter. MLB ETA: Now

17. Ozhaino Albies, SS (R+, R-) — Previously unranked
oalbies2With the teens of theses prospect rankings thus begins a run of three teenagers who burst on the scene this year with much fanfare. The 18-year-old Albies is a short (listed at a generous 5’9″) but speedy infield prospect who has already displayed a keen eye at the plate. With a short and quick swing he profiles as a leadoff man who relies on his on-base ability and speed to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. True power will never be part of his game, but much like Jose Peraza, Albies profiles as a prospect who could play an important role as a top of the order table-setter for a first-division team. Full season ball at Rome should be where he starts this year, and if his mid-.300s average from last year continues, he could quickly find himself moved up a level. It’s about time the Braves found another star player from the island of Curacao. MLB ETA: 2017

18. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP (R-) — Recently acquired
This 17-year-old (who will be 18 in April) was acquired in January from the Angels in exchange for prospects 3B Kyle Kubitza and RHP Nate Hyatt. Sanchez was ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 10 in the Anaheim organization, which is reportedly one of the worst in baseball. That fact aside, this young Venezuelan, signed for $580,000 in 2013, has drawn rave reviews for a potential mid-90s fastball and plus curveball. His ceiling is that of a top-of-the-rotation starter, but there is a long way to go before that potential is realized. The Braves likely hope he will team with Dilmer Mejia, as they both encourage and compete together in the same way that Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado did when they ascended through the Braves’ system. MLB ETA: 2019

19. Dilmer Mejia, LHP (R-, DSL) — Previously unranked
The youngest of this trio of teenagers, Mejia signed out of Nicaragua in 2013, and made a successful debut first for the Braves Dominican Summer League team, then stateside for the Braves Gulf Coast League team. He’s still young to know what his fastball could eventually top out at, but the potential is there for a plus pitch, and he already has good control and feel for his secondary pitches. While not known by many prospect evaluators, Mejia may sneak up on a lot of people this year as he develops and fills out, especially coming from a country not as well known for baseball. MLB ETA: 2019

Grade B: With these prospects, the potential is there for a higher grade, all they need are experience and reps, but there is less certainty that they will emerge as impact players.

20. Mallex Smith, OF (AFL, A+, A-) — Recently acquired
Do you like speed? Then Mallex Smith is your guy, acquired as part of the Justin Upton trade. He led all of baseball in stolen bases last year with 88, and was eighth in the minors the year before with 64 (tied with Jose Peraza). He is still rough around the edges, but has made strides in recent years to refine his game. He will need to continue that approach as he moves up to double-A this year in his age-22 season. He’s likely the eventual replacement for B.J. Upton in center field. Without much raw power, he profiles as more of a Juan Pierre-like leadoff hitter in the majors. MLB ETA: 2017

21. Wes Parsons, RHP (High-A) — Previously ranked: 10
wparsonsThe undrafted right-hander tumbles a half-dozen spots down the prospect list, both due to a season marred with injuries as well as the arrival of other prospects in the system from trades and international signings. I’m still bullish on Parsons as a starting pitching prospect, and hopefully he can put a disappointing 2014 behind him this year. He will likely repeat high-A due to his inconsistency and a bad finish, but a mid-year promotion to double-A is not out of the question. Even while repeating the level next year as a 22-year-old he should not be considered behind schedule. He has the big (6-foot-5) frame that scouts love to see in power starters, and a low-90s fastball that he can push up to 95 mph in shorter outings. MLB ETA: 2017

22. Cody Martin, RHP (Triple-A) — Previously ranked: 15
cmartinEven though he wasn’t protected on the 40-man roster, Martin was not selected in the Rule 5 draft, leading many to question how much of a prospect he actually is. Martin has never been a starter that blows anyone away, but he’s had success pitching to contact with the ability to reach back for the strikeout when he needs it — his 8.3 K/9 rate in one and a half seasons of triple-A is very respectable. With a four-pitch mix and good control to go with inning-eating durability, Martin should stay a starter, but to find a role in Atlanta he may have to convert to a relief role. He’s no stranger to relieving, having been an All-American closer at Gonzaga. I wonder if he could sneak into the fifth spot in the Atlanta rotation this spring if the Braves want to start Manny Banuelos off slowly in the minors. MLB ETA: 2015

23. Andrew Thurman, RHP (high-A) — Recently acquired
athurmanDrafted with the first selection of the second round in the 2013 draft (No. 40 overall) after his Junior year at UC-Irvine. He was chosen nine spots after the Braves selection of Jason Hursh. Traded to Atlanta in the Evan Gattis deal, he at first seemed like an afterthought, but that assessment may have been premature. In his first full season last year he struggled with control of his pitches, which was said to be a by-product of new-found velocity on his now mid-90s fastball. Thurman will probably have to back off his fastball to the low-90s to corral his control. With a four-pitch mix of average stuff his floor is that of a back-of-the-rotation starter, with the possibility that the extra velo could create a ceiling for him as a mid-rotation starter. He also has the kind of pitchability and baseball acumen that the Braves love. Atlanta will likely return him to high-A to start the year. MLB ETA: 2017

24. Alec Grosser, RHP (R+) — Previously unranked
Given an over-slot bonus as an 11th-round pick out of high school in 2013, Grosser was supposed to be a long-term project in the Atlanta system. With a strong showing as a 19-year-old in advanced rookie ball last year he’s already ahead of schedule. While a lot of prospect outlets rank him among the system’s top-10 prospects, I’m a bit more realistic about Grosser. We need to see him at full season ball, and he should begin at Rome this year, and it would be nice to see a bit more velocity on his low-90s fastball. Luckily he still has projection left in his 6-foot-2 frame to add more velo. This year should tell us if his reported baseball acumen lives up to the hype. MLB ETA: 2018

25. Tanner Murphy, C (R+) — Previously ranked: 25
Another standout on the Danville squad was their catcher. The Braves had been trying to pick a catcher in early rounds of the draft for several years, and may have finally found one in the 4th round of the 2013 draft. While possessing a catcher’s body, Murphy shows good power as a hitter and a strong arm behind the plate. He also has a strong baseball IQ which helps him on both sides of the ball, with a patient approach to hitting and the ability to handle a pitching staff. He’s still a long way away, but should see his first taste of full-season ball this year. MLB ETA: 2018

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26. Garrett Fulenchek, RHP (R-) — Previously ranked: 16
The Braves second-round pick last year out of high school, his ranking fell mainly because of others entering the system or leapfrogging him rather than anything he did on the field. Fulenchek is all about projection based on scouting, with many prospect outlets ranking him among the team’s top-10. He’s got a big 6-foot-4 frame from which he generates a low-to-mid-90s fastball with room to add velocity. He didn’t pitch much in high school and is considered quite raw, meaning his development will take a while, so there’s no need to get ahead of ourselves by over-ranking him. It will be interesting to see if the Braves start him at full-season ball in Rome this year, and if they do, can he rise to the challenge. MLB ETA: 2019

Grade C+: This group of prospects also has the potential to be more, but are currently just fringe guys based on experience and/or lack of refinement.

27. Juan Yepez, 3B (Has not debuted yet) — Previously unranked
The Braves biggest international signing since Edward Salcedo signed for $1.6 million before the 2010 season, Juan Yepez received a reported $1 million-plus bonus last year at the beginning of the July 2 signing period. The 16-year-old Venezuelan is said to have a quick and balanced swing that already generates plus power. While his ultimate position is still undecided, with some believing he will end up at first base or a corner outfield spot, the attraction here for the Braves was his raw power — something the organization (under the old Frank Wren regime) apparently focused on with last year’s international signings. While I, nor most scouts, have seen Yepez in action, his signing bonus plus scouting reports warrant him being listed on this prospect list. MLB ETA: 2019

28. Juan Jaime, RRP (DWL, MLB, AAA) — Previously ranked: 11
jjaimeAt 27 this year, Jaime is getting old for a prospect, but dang-it he still throws 100 mph. His two cups of coffee plus a September call-up last year bore mixed results, with the biggest point of concern being that which has plagued him his entire career — too many walks. Of course, he also registered a 13.1 K/9 rate in Atlanta, which was in line with the 13.8 K/9 rate he posted at Gwinnett. As I have said since he joined the Braves organization at the end of the 2011 season, in order for Jaime to take the next step he must work on consistently controlling his pitches. If he does, he’ll become an elite reliever, but as the years tick by there’s less and less reason to think that he will. MLB ETA: Now

29. Dian Toscano, OF (Cuban League) — Recently acquired
The Braves seemed disappointed to lose out on Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, but hell-bent on signing someone from Cuba, and settled for the virtually unknown Dian Toscano. What we do know about the 25-year-old 5-foot-10 Toscano is that he has good strike zone awareness, which has led to high on-base percentages and batting averages in the Cuban leagues. Based on his modest (for Cuban players) signing bonus there’s no guarantee that he’s a starting outfielder. He reportedly has the speed to play center field, but doesn’t have the arm to play right. MLB ETA: 2015

vreyes30. Victor Reyes, OF (Low-A) — Previously ranked: 13
The Braves top international singing in 2011 out of Venezuela, the organization pushed him to full-season ball to start 2014, after a very successful stateside debut in both rookie leagues the year before. He got off to a hot start at Rome, but wore down as the season progressed. He has an athletic 6-foot-3 frame that should develop power, but in three professional seasons he has yet to hit a home run. He needs to improve his strength and conditioning to add power at the plate and to handle the rigors of a full season. He’ll likely repeat at Rome this year as a 20-year-old, needing to have a breakout season to stay on this list. MLB ETA: 2018

31. Andry Ubiera, RHP (A-, R+) — Previously ranked 22
aubieraThe Braves pushed Ubiera to Rome to begin the year, but he got hit hard and was sent down. He regrouped once short-season ball began and he thrived in the Danville rotation. I’ve seen a lot of Ubiera (generally on his good days) and I like how he attacks hitters and fights through bad spells on the mound while keeping his head in the game. He works his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s while complementing that with a plus curve and developing changeup. He’s still inconsistent from start to start, and he may eventually end up in the bullpen, where his fastball/curve combo could make him a dominant late-innings reliever. First of all though, he needs to conquer full-season ball. MLB ETA: 2017

32. Carlos Salazar, RHP (A-, R+) — Previously unranked
Much like Ubiera, Salazar started the year at Rome and got lit up in ten starts where batters hit .320 against him. He found new life in Danville as a reliever, holding opposing batters to just a .147 average against while posting a 10.7 K/9. His future may be as a max-effort reliever, though the Braves may try him in the rotation again in order for him to get innings. His motion on the mound is like that of Jordan Walden, incorporating a little hop where he jumps at the batter. That seems to be part of how he generates his mid-90s velocity, but it’s gimmicky enough to be much more effective out of the bullpen. It also leads to some inconsistency and control problems, which he will need to work on. MLB ETA: 2017

Grade C: These prospects have a tool or two that could be useful in the majors, or they need more time in the minors to determine what kind of prospect they will be; a.k.a. the holding tank of talent. Almost any of them could be ranked among the final three of the (pre-Gattis trade) top-30, but I’ve chosen these three guys as the best of the bunch.

33. Williams Perez, RHP (Double-A) — Previously unranked
wperezIt surprised me (and others) that Perez (and Yean Carlos Gil) were protected on the 40-man roster over seemingly better prospects like J.R. Graham and Cody Martin. But in many ways Perez out-pitched every other starter at Mississippi. Prior to this year he was considered a soft-tossing command and control pitcher, but he apparently added some velocity to his sinking fastball, pushing it into the low-90s. He combines that with a good changeup in a pitch-to-contact approach that keeps batters off balance, while limiting free passes. He should join the Gwinnett rotation this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him emerge in spring training as a candidate to be the fifth starter in the same way that Gus Schlosser did last year. MLB ETA: 2015

34. Yean Carlos Gil, LHP (Low-A) — Previously unranked
ygilThe most surprising addition to the 40-man was Gil, who hasn’t pitched above low-A. When he burst on the scene in 2011 some folks took notice and expected big things, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2012. That has put him behind in his development, so at 23 he was a little old for low-A. He’s a pitch-to-contact sinkerballer like Perez, who is stingy on the free passes. He was the best starter in the Braves system last year (with more than 75 innings pitched) at preventing home runs — allowing just three longballs in 126 innings. He should at least begin this year at high-A, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s pushed to double-A. MLB ETA: 2016

35. Johan Camargo, SS (A+, A-) — Previously unranked
Camargo, Johan (15)Clearly I’m not terribly high on Camargo, who was ranked No. 8 this year by Baseball America. Scouts like his raw tools at shortstop and bat control at the plate. I’ve seen Camargo a lot at multiple levels, and while he sprays the ball to all fields well, he’s a no-power, no-speed middle infielder, and that’s hard to really get excited about. The Braves have a guy on the 40-man roster named Elmer Reyes who at 24-years-old is very similar to Camargo, and while Reyes is at triple-A, you won’t see him considered on this prospect list. The difference with Camargo, who will be 21 next season, is that he’s still young enough to believe he can develop into something more. MLB ETA: 2017

Other Grade-C prospects considered for the top-30: LHP Luis Merejo, OF Josh Elander, OF Todd Cunningham, LHP Dan Winkler, INF Daniel Castro, OF Sean Godfrey, OF Connor Oliver, RHP Aaron Kurcz, RHP Max Povse, RHP Ryne Harper, RHP Brandon Cunniff, RHP James Hoyt, RHP John Cornely, RHP Alex Wilson, RHP Tyler Brosius.

Photos by C.B. Wilkins and Martin Gandy. Please do not reprint without permission.

Other 2015 Braves prospect lists:
Baseball America top-10
Baseball Prospectus top-10+
Minor League Ball top-20 (1)
Minor League Ball top-20 (2)
MLB.com top-20

[Note: This post was originally posted on 1/11/15, but updated later on to reflect additional prospects added in subsequent trades.]

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