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Last year's Braves list

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Lucas Sims
  2. 2B Jose Peraza
  3. C Christian Bethancourt
  4. OF/1B Braxton Davidson
  5. RHP Garrett Fulenchek
  6. SS Ozhaino Albies
  7. RHP Alec Grosser
  8. 3B Kyle Kubitza
  9. RHP J.R. Graham
  10. RHP Mauricio Cabrera

1. Lucas Sims
Position: RHP
DOB: 05/10/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Brookwood HS (Snellville, GA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #40 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 4.19 ERA (156.2 IP, 146 H, 107 K, 57 BB) at High-A Lynchburg
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 CB; 6 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: Sims didn’t have the most impressive overall line in High-A, but the 20-year-old logged 156 2/3 innings over 28 starts and showed he can hold up deep into a season.

Strengths: Easy delivery; smooth and fluid throughout motion; good balance; athletic; ability to repeat arm slot; fastball operates 91-94 with ease; can reach back for more when needs to; displays late life; excellent crispness to curveball; throws with loose wrist; creates hard snap; deep shape, with downward bend in high 70s; can change shape; legit bat-missing offering; flashes feel for change; bottom-dropping action in low 80s; projection for command growth; competes on mound.

Weaknesses: Can lose finish with delivery; will drift with landing; leaves him prone to working too elevated with heater; command on the loose side; needs improvement spotting into all four quadrants of strike zone; decent-sized fastball command gap to close; curve gets slurvy when wrist wraps upon release; loses good bite and rolls; change tends to float when thrown in mid-80s; more like a fastball pitcher is taking something off of; can get too amped up—loses rhythm and pace.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter.

Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; yet to pitch in Double-A; command progression.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Just because Sims’ statistical trajectory isn’t where it was last year doesn’t make him less of a fantasy prospect this year. With two pitches that project as plus, he has the potential to be a 180-strikeout pitcher at the major league level, and while that isn’t quite what it used to be in this high-K environment, it’s fantasy worthy in all leagues.

The Year Ahead: Sims is all but set to get his first test in the upper minors. While on the surface 2014 looks like a mixed bag, the reports indicated that the arm took some nice strides. Sims found more consistency with his delivery later in the season and gained confidence using his changeup more in sequences, two big keys for the 20-year-old to make a smooth transition to Double-A. Sims’ lively fastball and hard-breaking curveball give him two plus pitches, while the change has the potential to get to that level over the long run. The package here can develop into a pretty legit arm. To pass the near-term test this season and reach his full potential down the line he’ll need to show progress throwing better strikes with his fastball. Sims has to learn to spot the pitch better in the lower tier and grab less white with the offering. His athleticism and ability to repeat point toward more command growth coming as he continues to mature, but if it only ends up the area variety, the profile plays down some despite the raw stuff.

Major league ETA: 2016

2. Jose Peraza
Position: 2B
DOB: 04/30/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 165 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2010, Venezuela
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2014 Stats: .335/.363/.422 at Double-A Mississippi (44 games), .342/.365/.454 at High-A Lynchburg (66 games)
The Tools: 7 run; 6 glove; 6 arm; 5+ potential hit

What Happened in 2014: The Venezuelan infielder flashed impressive contact skills across two levels, including 44 games at Double-A, hitting .339 overall on the year while fanning only 47 times in 499 plate appearances.

Strengths: Extremely fluid in the field; highly athletic; excels at controlling body; light on feet; quick first step; excellent instincts; above-average range; soft hands; enough arm to make throw from deep in the hole; speed is an asset; double-plus runner; ability to impact the game on the bases; feel for getting barrel on the ball; short stroke; approaches the game with even-keeled mindset.

Weaknesses: Aggressive approach; pitch selection needs tightening; expands zone often; will chase bad balls; tends to punch at offerings; hit tool can play down due to lack of consistent hard contact; well below-average power; at times will needlessly rush throws; needs more strength to prevent body from wearing down.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular

Realistic Role: High 4; utility player; second-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; 44 games at Double-A; development of strike zone management skills.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The stats that Peraza has put up set an unrealistic expectation for his fantasy value, but the skill set provides enough value without getting carried away. He’s run wild with 124 steals in 224 games over the past two years, but that is against minor-league catchers. The realistic best-case scenario here is a pre-breakout Jose Altuve: a .280-ish average with 30-35 steals.

The Year Ahead: Peraza’s rapid ascent into the upper minors has been carried by his innate ability to make contact and outstanding defensive chops. The 20-year-old is one of those natural players in the field, with a strong feel for controlling his actions and instincts to seemingly be moving into the correct position before the crack of the bat. A move over to second base this past season speaks more to Atlanta’s infield landscape at the major-league level than any statement about Peraza’s ability at shortstop; in a different organization the prospect more than likely continues to track all the way up on the left side of the infield. While the infielder’s ability to make contact is a strength, there are concerns about how the approach will shake out and whether the bat plays light when also factoring in the lack of power. Progression with toning things down at the plate and fine tuning his pitch selection are big keys towards reaching his potential as a long-term regular in The Show. Even if the bat ends up playing down, this player brings plenty of value to a roster in a utility role. The developmental path has been aggressive for Peraza, but he’s very advanced for his age and a debut sometime toward the end of 2015 is well within reach.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

3. Christian Bethancourt
Position: C
DOB: 09/02/1991
Height/Weight: 6’2” 205 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2008, Panama
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #87 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .248/.274/.274 at major league level (31 games), .283/.308/.408 at Triple-A Gwinnett (91 games)
The Tools: 8 arm; 6+ glove; 5 run; 5+ power potential

What Happened in 2014: The strong-armed catcher took the next step up to Triple-A, where his bat continued to hold its own and his defensive prowess was on display,. He then got a taste of The Show over 31 games.

Strengths: Fluid and athletic; body to withstand rigors of the position; good present strength; elite arm strength; quick release; ability to throw accurately at full power; catch-and-throw skills to control running game; improving footwork; firm glove; body to smother balls; solid-average bat speed; can control head of bat; raw power to tap into.

Weaknesses: Gets loose with defensive game; glove hand will drift; footwork can be choppy; at times comes up early; can be too casual getting body in front of ball; wild at times with approach; likes to swing early; prone to being pitched to—lacks a plan at the plate; strong chance hit tool plays below-to-fringe average; power might end up as limited factor; concentration and focus tend to drift.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular

Realistic Role: High 4; backup catcher/below-average regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level; limitations with bat.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Despite the flashes of power over the past two seasons in the upper minors, Bethancourt is still not a worthy stash in fantasy leagues, unless you’re in a league where more than 20 catchers are owned. If he’s a .240 hitter with 12 homers, that’s great for the Braves, but not for fantasy owners.

The Year Ahead: Bethancourt’s defensive ability gives him a strong chance at carving out a long major-league career, but there is still plenty of uncertainty as to what the overall body of work will look like. There are no questions that the 23-year-old’s ability to control the run game and his well above-average potential glove bring plenty of value to a club. The defense alone can keep Bethancourt in the lineup on a daily basis well into his peak years. Despite more consistency with his contact in the upper minors the past couple of seasons, the bat has the chance to fall into the more limited category against high-caliber arms. The lack of a plan at the plate is glaring, along with how susceptible he is to being fed breaking balls away. If the backstop can adjust more to sequencing and show growth with his strike zone knowledge, there is some offensive consistency that can be squeezed out. It’s most likely a bottom-of-the-order hitter, with .235-.250 averages and 10-plus home runs. 2015 should see Bethancourt get a chance to establish himself at the highest level, and bring into focus whether he can sustain status as a regular or slides into more of a backup role over the long run.

Major league ETA: Achieved major leagues in 2014

4. Braxton Davidson
Position: OF/1B
DOB: 06/18/1996
Height/Weight: 6’2” 210 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, T.C. Roberson HS (Asheville, NC)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: .167/.348/.222 at short-season Danville (13 games), .243/.400/.324 at complex level GCL (37 games)
The Tools: 6+ potential power; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential glove; 5+ arm

What Happened in 2014: The Braves selected the potential power-hitting left-handed hitter 32nd overall in this year’s Rule 4 draft, and then Davidson played 50 games after signing to start his development journey.

Strengths: Well filled out body for age; excellent present strength; strong lower half; fluid swing from left side; quiet hitting mechanics; strong wrists and forearms; generates easy, above-average bat speed; controls head of the bat; swing already shows lift and post contact extension; drives the ball with carry; taps into lower half; mature approach for age; good fastball hitter; willing to go deep into counts; arm to play a corner outfield spot.

Weaknesses: Below-average foot speed; actions in outfield aren’t the most fluid; on the clumsy side; limited to first base if can’t stick in a corner (left field); can drop back shoulder and sell out too much for power; hit tool could play down; front leg doesn’t always get set on time; needs work against secondary stuff; backside tends to cave against arm-side pitching; defense not going to be focal point of profile.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; bat-first profile.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: As the scouting report suggests, Davidson is all about the bat—and it has the potential to be fantasy relevant across all leagues, regardless of whether he sticks in the outfield or not. It’s a deep year in dynasty drafts, but Davidson is a worthy second rounder in most formats, as a guy who could potentially hit 30 homers without killing you in batting average down the road.

The Year Ahead: Much of the talk leading up to the draft regarding the 18-year-old centered on his in-game power, mature approach, and questionable defense. Davidson is already big and strong, with the type of bat speed and swing composition to hit the long ball to all fields. Toss in an early feel for hitting, and there’s a lot to work with offensively. The reports since turning pro on the defense haven’t been glowing, though. They’ve highlighted a lack of fluidity going after fly balls and slow reads off the bat. A couple of sources expressed thoughts that Davidson has a chance to get better in the outfield, but it would be left field all the way if he can stick. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly things can start moving forward for the player in 2015 given the feel on having an advanced mindset at the plate upon entering the pro ranks. If it does show early, this is a power bat that can start to gain considerable traction.

Major league ETA: 2019

5. Garrett Fulenchek
Position: RHP
DOB: 06/07/1996
Height/Weight: 6’4” 205 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft, Howe HS (Howe, TX)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 4.78 ERA (37.2 IP, 34 H, 29 K, 22 BB) at complex level GCL
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6 potential SL; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The Texan signed for a seven-figure, above-slot bonus after being drafted in the second round, then threw 37 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League with mixed results.

Strengths: Ideal frame; uses size to create leverage; fastball already works low 90s with sink; downward action makes it tough to square up in the lower tier; potential to add more velocity as physically matures; snaps slider with good spin; throws from same angle as heater; late cutting action to offering; potential to miss barrels; flashes feel for change; turns over with a loose wrist; strong projection for growth to overall arsenal.

Weaknesses: Can lose release point; command needs a grade improvement; leaves fastball in dangerous areas; tends to telegraph changeup; slider could use more depth to get chases; struggles throwing secondary stuff for strikes; needs emergence of true out-pitch in repertoire.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; secondary stuff growth.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: This is another long play, and with only moderate upside, he’s not someone who is going to be a focus in dynasty leagues. However, Fulenchek makes for an interesting last-round flier in deeper dynasty leagues this off-season—beyond that, he’s more just someone to monitor.

The Year Ahead: Fulenchek is the type of arm that can really grow over the course of the next three to four years as he continues to physically mature. The 18-year-old’s fastball already works in the low 90s and displays solid sinking action in the lower tier of the strike zone. There’s reason to believe the 6-foot-4 right-hander can add some more velocity, as the frame has plenty of room for size and strength. It could very well be a power arm sitting in the mid-90s when Fulenchek reaches his early-to-mid-20s. The development of the secondary arsenal will be a big key to giving the righty multiple options for putting hitters away. He shows feel for both a slider and changeup, but presently struggles throwing each for strikes, hardly uncommon for a pitcher of his age and experience level. There’s a chance here for the perfect developmental storm, if the potential physical gains coincide with the command taking a step forward. It’s more likely things move more slowly early on, with this coming season marking the ramping up of his arm strength and stamina.

Major league ETA: 2019

6. Ozhaino Albies
Position: SS
DOB: 01/07/1997
Height/Weight: 5’9” 150 lbs
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2013, Curacao
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: .356/.429/.452 at short-season Danville (38 games), .381/.481/.429 at complex level GCL (19 games)
The Tools: 7 run; 5+ potential hit; 5+ potential arm; 5+ potential glove

What Happened in 2014: The shortstop out of Curacao made his stateside debut, more than holding his own, hitting .364 and swiping 22 bags in 57 games.

Strengths: Very good athlete; fast-twitch muscles; well above-average runner; likely to keep most, if not all, of speed; short, smooth stroke from left side; a bit longer with swing as a right-hander; controls head of bat through hitting zone well; generates good bat speed; can add more with physical maturity; shows ability to barrel ball with backspin; quick first step in the field; moves well to both left and right; mature approach to game for age.

Weaknesses: Slight build; frame is on the limited size; might be shorter than listed; needs more strength to enhance overall game; minimal present power; low power ceiling; tendency to cut swing off and punch; aggressive approach; can fish for stuff away; arm is presently on the fringe-average side; will need added strength to stick on the left side of the diamond; raw and unrefined overall game.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; utility player/below-average regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme risk; 17 years old; physical projection of body.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re going to take a chance on either Albies or Fulenchek as a long-term hold, Albies is the guy you want. He could move himself on a Jose Peraza-type path, but with the potential for slightly more usable power. It’s just a long, long way away.

The Year Ahead: It was impressive the way Albies handled himself as one of the youngest players in the Appalachian League. Not only did he have a mature aura on the field, but he went out and performed in a manner that suggested he was way out ahead of the curve. The reports have all been pretty favorable as well, with strong backing for the way the 17-year-old goes about his business, for his athleticism, and for his early feel for hitting. The switch-hitter has the loose hands to stay inside of the baseball, especially left-handed, while also being able to guide the head of the bat to go the other way. He has the defensive tools to potentially handle shortstop, and plenty of athleticism to move to the other side of the bag or potentially out to center. This is obviously a risky profile due to the age, and also because of the strength gains needed and questions about whether the frame can pack that much size. Moderate developmental progression likely points to a utility type, with the big payout, if everything clicks, being a first-division regular providing high contact, speed, and solid defense.

Major league ETA: 2019

7. Alec Grosser
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/12/1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 11th round, 2013 draft, T.C. Williams HS (Alexandria, VA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 3.68 ERA (63.2 IP, 60 H, 63 K, 22 BB) at short-season Danville
The Tools: 6 potential FB; 6+ potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The right-hander pitched in 13 games at short-season, fanning a batter per inning for the year and flashing intriguing stuff in the process.

Strengths: Frame to continue adding size; clean arm action; creates angle on right-handed hitters due to low three-quarters arm slot; fastball operates 91-93; displays arm-side run with some sink; bears in on right-handed hitters; can occasionally cut to glove side; snaps slider off well; breaks hard across hitter’s line of sight with late downward darting action; will change shape; potential bat-missing pitch; carries himself well on the mound; even-keeled approach

Weaknesses: Light on the strength side; stuff presently drops off deeper into outings; fastball flattens out above middle of the thighs; command is loose; needs about a grade jump; slider can sweep and spin; inconsistent at throwing offering for a strike; changeup presently below average; tends to float; doesn’t display a lot of trust in offering; needs to work into sequences more; learning how to pitch

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-inning reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; short-season resume; command growth

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re taking a chance on Grosser, who is still most likely a reliever in the end, then your league must be extremely deep, both in teams and roster size. Otherwise, just another arm to monitor for now.

The Year Ahead: Grosser is an intriguing arm, with both a fastball and slider that can play as plus-to-better at peak. Despite a lower arm slot, the 19-year-old does a fairly good job keeping his arm consistently in slot and repeating his mechanics. The command presently needs work, but the hope is that as the right-hander adds more strength and gets further repetition with his arsenal it can take a step forward. The X factor is the changeup, the development of which will have a strong influence on whether he sticks in the rotation. He shows some feel for creating arm-side fading action, but is presently very unrefined with the pitch. The progression of the pitch will be a matter of interest in his likely full-season assignment. I don’t expect it to grow leaps and bounds overnight, but if he shows trust in it it will be a positive sign .

Major league ETA: 2018

8. Kyle Kubitza
Position: 3B
DOB: 07/15/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3” 215 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2011 draft, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: .295/.405/.470 at Double-A Mississippi (132 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 5+ potential power; 5 potential glove; 6 arm;

What Happened in 2014: The third baseman spent the season in the Southern League, where he hit .295 with 50 extra-base hits, and now likely sits one step from The Show.

Strengths: Strong body; good size; quick stroke; strong wrists and forearms; can barrel up offerings with backspin; power to tap into; drives ball into both gaps well; willing to use the whole field; patience at the plate; not afraid to hit with a strike or two; will methodically look for pitch; plus arm; plenty of arm for hot corner; quick feet; soft hands

Weaknesses: Can be awkward with footwork in field; will needlessly rush plays; average reactions; can miss in the zone; clear spots to work to—chases up and away in the dirt; hit tool will likely play fringe average; swing more geared toward line drives; over-the-fence power a question; no real lead offensive tool; not much growth left .

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular

Realistic Role: High 4; bench player/below-average regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; 132 games at Double-A; defensive profile

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With the defensive disaster that is Chris Johnson ahead of Kubitza on the depth chart, there’s certainly opportunity in the near term for the 24-year-old. And while a player who can hit .260 with 15 homers isn’t someone you want to build your team around, it’s not dissimilar to Luis Valbuena, who was owned in more than 50 percent of leagues this year.

The Year Ahead: Kubitza took his biggest step forward as a pro this past season in Double-A, where he proved he could handle the competition and also that he’s trending toward a shot in the big leagues. That chance can very well come at some point this coming season if he has a similar showing in Triple-A. There isn’t anything that really pops off the page for Kubitza outside of the arm, but the bat, power, and glove can all play right around average. The infielder isn’t the prettiest of players out on the field, but he seems to make things work. The profile here most likely fits as a bench or utility type, where he can move around the diamond defensively, spell when needed, or fill in for an extended stretch due to injury. The perfect-world scenario is that Kubitza continues to bloom and things squeeze out as an above-average regular. That’s probably more of a longshot, but it will be interesting to see if the trends show otherwise in the International League.

Major league ETA: 2015

9. J.R. Graham
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/14/1990
Height/Weight: 6’0” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2011 draft, Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org)
2014 Stats: 5.55 ERA (71.1 IP, 79 H, 50 K, 26 BB) at Double-A Mississippi
The Tools: 7 FB; 6 SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: Graham’s return from shoulder injury was marred by inconsistency and loud questions about the overall profile.

Strengths: Good strength despite average size; balanced delivery; fluid arm action; heavy fastball at 92-94; sinking action with arm-side life; tough to barrel cleanly in lower tier; able to reach for more and selectively elevate past hitters; feels slider well; cutter action to the pitch; sharp, late break across zone; can miss bats; flashes feel for changeup; shows quality action despite harder velocity (85-87); command of all three pitches; comes right after hitters .

Weaknesses: Not the best of downhill throwers; fastball loses movement in upper tier; can struggle to finish delivery; will leave heater up in the zone where it is more hittable; must work down to get most out of movement; slider lacks off-the-table break; needs more depth to be true chase pitch; change blurs with fastball in upper band (87-89); loses action and floats; questions on return from shoulder injury still linger; seemed to lack trust in 2014.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; 152 1/3 Double-A innings; shoulder injury in 2013

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With an imminent ETA, Graham is still a top-5 fantasy prospect in this system, even with the belief that he’s likely a reliever at the major-league level. If he can make the rotation work, there would be strikeout potential, and he could be a high-end reliever, if healthy.

The Year Ahead: The right-hander seemed to still be feeling the fallout of his 2013 shoulder injury. When on, Graham comes right after hitters with two plus-to-better pitches, in the form of a heavy fastball and darting slider. The heater is an outstanding offering in the lower tier of the zone, with strong downward action and good velocity that makes it a tough pitch to fully square up. Graham can then change the angle and eye level on batters by frequently working the slider into sequences. The late break also makes it tougher to fully barrel. Things can go awry for the 24-year-old when the fastball is creeping too far above the middle of the thighs, where the good movement diminishes and it’s on the flat side. This was more of a trend this past season for the righty. Most sources spoken to for this list thought that Graham most likely slots in a relief role at the ultimate level. I’m not ready to fully rule out a chance he’ll stick in a starting role, but a big rebound is needed to prove it.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

10. Mauricio Cabrera
Position: RHP
DOB: 09/22/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org)
2014 Stats: 5.59 ERA (29 IP, 24 H, 28 K, 19 BB) at High-A Lynchburg
The Tools: 8 potential FB; 6 potential CH; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2014: A forearm injury left a cloud on the Dominican right-hander’s season, who missed two months of action, and then returned in a limited-inning role out of the bullpen.

Strengths: Good size; outstanding arm strength; electric fastball; works 95-98 with life; capable of touching triple digits; explosive offering; pitch-hitters must gear up for it; flashes feel for turning over change; throws with loose wrist; fading action; pairs well with heater; can spin curve when staying on top; potential power break;

Weaknesses: Inconsistent delivery; struggles holding release point; can be late getting arm into slot; some crossfire in mechanics; concerns about ability to hold multiple trips through a lineup; well below-average command; sizable gap to get to playable level; presently a thrower; will telegraph change—slows body and arm down; curveball gets very loose and messy; questions on whether there’s enough feel to round into viable offering.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-inning reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to reach upper minors; forearm injury on resume; command profile.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With the combination of poor performance, big fastball and injury question marks, Cabrera essentially needs to be treated as a complex-league arm in fantasy leagues. This makes him an interesting flier, but nothing more.

The Year Ahead: There’s a case Cabrera could be ranked higher on this list based on the upside and potential of the stuff, especially the fastball, but when factoring everything into the equation this placement feels right considering the current launching point. The right-hander is fairly crude with his mechanics, often struggling to keep his arm in slot. Combined with the crossfire nature of his arm action, continued cleanup work is necessary for the prospect to repeat his delivery and push the command to a playable level as a starter. There are also questions as to whether the 21-year-old’s feel for his curveball is up to the standards we typically associate with those that develop to at least average. It’s possible the breaking ball evolves into a slider down the line, but that’s more speculative right now; there is still time for the curve to take steps. The fastball absolutely shines here, and when looking at all of the early clues, including feel for and good action to the change, a major-league arm starts to come into focus. Whether it’s in the rotation or bullpen remains to be seen, but if he proves the injury is behind him and shows a bit of development, he’ll be higher on this list next year. .

Major league ETA: 2017

Prospects on the Rise:

1. OF Victor Reyes: The 20-year-old outfielder is the ultimate projection player, with impressive tool ceilings on paper and a body to dream on when it comes to filling out. The present is a much different picture. Reyes flashes a pretty left-handed stroke, with good bat speed and the ability to drive the ball the other way. There’s raw power to tap into, too, and more strength to come. The overall game is fairly raw, especially the approach and outfield defense, but he has the type of raw talent to project as a first-division regular if everything clicks, and really emerge onto the scene in the process.

2. SS Johan Camargo: The soon-to-be 21-year-old flashes some promise with the bat, including loose hands that enable him to control the barrel and the type of power to plug both gaps, with occasional over-the-fence pop. It’s an immature offensive profile right now, mainly because of the lack of present strength, which hinges on a lot of projected growth to achieve the utility that the offensive tools suggest. While Camargo presently patrols shortstop and possesses the arm to stick on the left side of the infield, his lack of foot speed and range point toward second base as things continue to progress. It’s a player who can take a step forward in 2015, especially if the strength starts to come, and be in the discussion this time next year for a firm spot in the top 10.

3. RHP Wes Parsons: The big right-hander hit resistance after popping onto the radar, but the ingredients are still here to round into a big-league arm and push back up in this system. Parsons’ fastball is in the low 90s, with the chance to tick up a bit with some strength gains. He also mixes in a slider that can play above average and an average changeup. The long pole is the overall refinement still needed with the secondary stuff, along with whether any piece of the arsenal will play as legit weapons against advanced hitters.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)

1. OF Kyle Wren: The speed and defense stand out for the outfielder. Wren has the wheels to impact a game on the bases in the later innings, along with the ability to handle both center and left. The big question is whether the hit tool can play enough given the minimal power in the stick and the aggressive nature to the approach. This is a likely fourth outfielder who could help Atlanta off the bench.

2. RHP Jason Hursh: The former first round pick jumped right into Double-A in his first full professional season, and was able to transition to the level relative smoothly. Hursh rides the strength of a heavy fastball that can get up into the mid-90s, along with working a slider and changeup into sequences. Both of the 23-year-old’s secondary offerings lag behind his heater, and might not be viable in a major-league rotation. This is an arm that can provide starting depth now if needed, or bolster a rotation..

3. RHP Aaron Northcraft: It wasn’t pretty for the right-hander upon reaching Triple-A in the second half, where his 89-92 mph fastball was put into play hard and the lack of a third viable pitch caught up to him. It’s long been thought that Northcraft’s sinking fastball and breaking ball are better suited for the bullpen, which brings us to the reason for his inclusion in this section. An arm coming out of the pen capable of getting groundballs and missing some bats is a nice asset to have. There’s a chance the 24-year-old can be just that at some point in 2015.

Special thanks to Ethan Purser for his input and influence in creating this list. The man knows his Braves prospects.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)

  1. Jason Heyward
  2. Freddie Freeman
  3. Julio Teheran
  4. Alex Wood
  5. Andrelton Simmons
  6. Lucas Sims
  7. Jose Peraza
  8. Christian Bethancourt
  9. Shae Simmons
  10. Braxton Davidson

After a disappointing season in which the Braves finished below .500 for the first time since 2008, General Manager Frank Wren was relieved of his duties and replaced by John Hart, who inherits a rather weak farm system bolstered by a strong young core at the major-league level.

As was the case with last year’s Under 25 list, the top tier is quite discernible, if tough to rank. Despite being a different player than what he was projected to be as a prospect, Jason Heyward brings incredible value to the team with elite defense in right field, solid baserunning skills, and an ever-changing offensive profile that seems to bring plenty of production year in and year out. His all-around skill set pushes him to the top of this list, and assuming he is not extended beyond this season, the Georgia native should be primed for a big payday next offseason when he hits the free-agent market as a 26-year-old. Freddie Freeman assumes the second spot after playing in all 162 games in 2014, continuing to put up consistent middle-of-the-order offensive production after receiving an eight-year contract extension last spring.

Julio Teheran made his first All-Star Game in 2014, building upon his stellar rookie campaign and further solidifying himself as a top young hurler in the game. The 23-year-old showed an impressive combination of command, pitchability, and bat-missing stuff en route to a 2.89 ERA, and perhaps more importantly he threw more than 200 innings for the first time in his young career. Despite being yo-yoed between starting and relieving throughout the season (by no fault of his own), Wood put up huge numbers on the back of a much-improved curveball, generating whiffs, limiting free passes, and eliciting weak contact with a three-pitch repertoire that registers as above average to plus across the board. Teheran and Wood should form a dynamic front to the Braves rotation for the next few seasons.

After ranking first on this list a year ago, Andrelton Simmons falls to the fifth spot after a woeful year at the plate. Last year there was plenty of optimism surrounding his bat, and in combination with his top-shelf defense he was a worthy candidate to headline the list. After this season, however, there are enough concerns surrounding both his willingness to chase pitches out of the zone and his propensity to make weak contact to warrant a more conservative ranking, especially considering the relative gains that were made by the two pitchers who precede him on this list. He’s still an incredibly valuable player, surely coveted by other organizations due to his otherworldly defensive prowess at the six spot.

Undersized righty Shae Simmons climbed the ladder in 2014 and showed dominant stuff in big spots for the major-league club. Several scouts put legitimate back-end-of-the-bullpen grades on Simmons during his time in the minors last year, and while the closer role is currently occupied in Atlanta, Simmons seems to have pitched his way into a high-leverage relief role for the 2015 season. –Ethan Purser

A Parting Thought: With some talent at the front and some promising, long-lead players, but without much in the middle, this thin system comes up short as a diversified portfolio.

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mblthd
11/07
Funny, he doesn't look like a "Fulenchek".
fawcettb
11/07
Peraza and Fulenchek are identical twins, right?
fletchgriz
11/07
They do look eerily similar. Possibly half-brothers?..
paulcl
11/07
Lucas Sims: relegating "can change shape" to the twelfth thing mentioned about him is really burying the lede.
edragovic
11/07
I've heard more glowing reports for Albies than the one given here - being compared to Jurickson Profar and Francisco Lindor. Understand he's a ways off though. Fulenchek is ranked very high, imo. Good list overall, though. You can see why Wren was fired for doing a poor job with the farm though. The upper levels are non-existent and the lower levels should have a lot more talent than they currently have. Probably a system in the 22-25 range.
cmellen
11/07
There was some thought and strong consideration for pushing Albies a bit higher in the list, but given the developmental spectrum and gaps to close the placement felt right at this point in time. I wanted to convey the distance to the potential given the age and relative rawness of the player. The big point, which I aimed to stress in the write-up, was the need for strength gains. In talking to various people on Albies that was a consistent theme, not so much in whether strength will come as he's all but likely to make gains given natural progression through maturity, but whether it will be enough to fully enhance the raw tools to their fullest. Fulencheck is interesting as there was some variation in the feedback and view on him. Some were pretty far forward on him and others a bit more reserved. In assessing the player and adding up the clues, it's an arm that can look a lot different from now at 18 to his mid-20s. Pretty projectable, with high growth potential. Agree with you on the overall present state of the system. Pretty thin, with large gaps in being able to consistently supply the big club with a pipeline of talent or having a good supply of chips to move in multiple deals to bolster the roster.
ColeWhittier
11/07
So, is La Stella not a major league 2B? I thought he had a pretty decent bat? Does Peraza send La Stella to the bench when he makes it up or make him trade bait?
alskor
11/15
I haven't seen Peraza, but La Stella is a major league 2B. I'm just not sure La Stella will hit enough to cement himself in a team's long term plans.
melotticus
11/07
Really surprised Hursh didn't crack the top 10 and was only mentioned in the Factors on the Farm section.
cmellen
11/07
Hursh was in consideration for the back of the list, but ultimately just missed the cut. If you believe it can work as a starter long-term, mainly driven by the secondary stuff taking a good step forward to miss enough barrels multiple times through big-league lineups, then the profile gets a boost. I personally don't see that and feel the role is more in line with a swingman/6th-7th inning reliever. That put the others ahead of him for this one.
danugglasforearm
11/25
Where would Tyrell Jenkins fit in with this group? This was posted before the trade, and I didn't see any mention of Jenkins in the Cardinals post. I saw Keith Law mention that Jenkins would become Atlanta's best prospect, but I'm interested in you guys' take.
mdthomp
12/02
Also, where would Miller fit in the top 25 and under? I'd probably slot him 6.
BBlackwell
1/20
Any chance of these lists being updated after a very eventul offseason?