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April 4, 2012

Future Shock

NL East Prospect Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Atlanta Braves

Affiliate To Watch: While top prospect Julio Teheran will be at Triple-A Gwinnett–likely joined by Randall Delgado once Tim Hudson returns from the disabled list–the position players at Double-A Mississippi bear watching as well, with catcher Christian Bethancourt and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Trade Bait: If the Braves can lock up Brian McCann, Bethancourt could have huge value in the trade market. At some point, they're either going to have to trade veterans to make room in the rotation, or trade the pitching prospects themselves.

Breakout Candidate: The season hasn't even started yet, and I'm already not happy with the fact that Bethancourt was one of the final cuts from this year's Top 101. The bat is making progress, and the defense ranks with any catching prospect in the game. The Braves hope that a move to center field will unlock the bat of top 2010 pick Matt Lipka; early returns have been promising.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: 2011 first-round pick Sean Gilmartin doesn't have a high ceiling, but he could be a quick mover, and he'll begin the year at Double-A. A September look isn't out of the question.

Fans Are Too Excited About: Simmons was the talk of camp, but for now, he still projects as a potential Gold Glove winner who is forced to bat at the bottom of a lineup.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Andrelton Simmons: 5-2
Christian Bethancourt: 3-1
Julio Teheran: 15-1
Edward Salcedo: 20-1
Matt Lipka: 30-1
Randall Delgado: 50-1

Miami Marlins

Affiliate To Watch: The impressive lineup from last year's Low-A Greensboro roster moves up en masse to the Florida State League for a High-A Jupiter roster that should include outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, second baseman Noah Perio and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Trade Bait: If the Marlins end up contending in 2012, they don't have the kind of upper-level prospects needed to make big deals. With Hanley Ramirez now at third base, Matt Dominguez is obviously on the market.

Breakout Candidate: Realmuto is one of the best little-known prospects around, as he's a highly athletic backstop with plenty of arm strength and at least average power.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Coming off a big showing in the Arizona Fall League, outfielder Kevin Mattison's speed and defense could lead to a bench outfield role quickly.

Fans Are Too Excited About: At this point, the Marlins have made it clear how they feel about Dominguez. The 2007 first-round pick has just never shown enough with the bat to profile as anything more than the next Pedro Feliz.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Christian Yelich: 3-1
No. 9 pick in 2012 draft: 4-1
Jose Fernandez: 5-1
Marcell Ozuna: 6-1
J.T. Realmuto: 30-1

New York Mets

Affiliate To Watch: Much of the Mets future is close, as pitchers Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will be at Triple-A Buffalo, and joined by Jenrry Mejia in the second half when he returns from Tommy John surgery. They'll get run support from second baseman Reese Havens and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, as well as Jordany Valdespin, if he doesn't break camp in the big leagues.

Trade Bait: While unlikely, a David Wright trade could do wonders for the system.

Breakout Candidate: Valdespin has great tools, is coming off a breakout season and was a revelation in camp. That's pretty much the perfect combination.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Many scouts project Familia as a future late-inning reliever, and he could get to New York quickly should the Mets chose to make the conversion.

Fans Are Too Excited About: 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo provides plenty of upside with his athleticism, but he's very raw as a hitter, and will likely struggle in his first full season.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Matt Harvey: 5-2
Zack Wheeler: 5-2
No. 12 overall pick in 2012 draft: 12-1
Brandon Nimmo: 12-1
Jordany Valdespin: 40-1

Philadelphia Phillies

Affiliate To Watch: The impressive Florida State League rotation moves to Double-A, headed by top prospect Trevor May, and followed by Jonathan Pettibone and Julio Rodriguez. They'll be throwing to catcher Sebastian Valle, who begins the year as the organization's top position prospect in the minors.

Trade Bait: While he's not technically still a prospect, it's time to either make Domonic Brown part of the future, or deal him away while he still has value.

Breakout Candidate: 2011 seventh-round pick Kenny Giles has one of the best arms in the system and earned a full-season assignment to Low-A Lakewood this spring.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Reliever Phillippe Aumont will begin the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and has the stuff to pitch in the big leagues if his control comes around.

Fans Are Too Excited About: As good as Valle is, his approach–or lack thereof–will face a severe test at the upper levels, and he needs to find some secondary skills to go with his ability to hit for average.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Trevor May: 2-1
Jesse Biddle: 5-2
Phillippe Aumount: 25-1

Washington Nationals

Affiliate To Watch: The obvious answer is wherever Bryce Harper is, and that will be Triple-A Syracuse to begin the year. You'll find more depth at the lower levels, especially High-A Potomac, which will have a rotation that includes lefties Matt Purke and Robbie Ray, and a lineup with top 2011 pick Anthony Rendon and toolsy center fielder Michael Taylor.

Trade Bait: The Nationals already put many of their prospect eggs in the Gio Gonzalez basket, and even if they end up competing for a playoff spot, they'll likely stand pat for the most part and stick to the long-term plan.

Breakout Candidate: Supplemental first-round pick Brian Goodwin is loaded with all sorts of tools and beginning his pro career at Low-A Hagerstown. He's raw, but has as much all-around ceiling as any positional player in the system.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: The question is not if Harper reaches the big leagues, but when. The Triple-A assignment will provide him with a steady diet of off-speed stuff, and his ability to adjust, which has proven to be phenomenal so far, could have him in the nation's capital by June.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While he's a versatile player with a line drive bat that will break camp in the big leagues, Steve Lombardozzi's ceiling is that of a bench player, as he doesn't have any real secondary skills to wrap around his ability to hit for average.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Anthony Rendon: 3-2
Brian Goodwin: 5-1
Michael Taylor: 20-1
Matt Purke: 30-1
Alex Meyer: 40-1

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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