In the previous entry I evaluated the Astros top five prospects heading into the 2012 season. In this entry, I'm going to be doing the same thing but with one of the better farm systems right now, the Braves. As evidenced by the following list, the Braves have a lot of elite pitching in their system (or a lot when compared to other systems), and a couple of top prospects who play important positions (catcher and shortstop). So, without further ado:
Honorable Mention: Tyler Pastornicky: A shortstop who just failed to make the list. He doesn't walk a lot, but he also doesn't strikeout a lot, as evidenced by his 45/32 K/BB ratio. Pastornicky is around average defensively. He has a lot of speed, which shows in his stolen base numbers. Overall I'd say the worst case scenario is a utility player and best case scenario is a solid starting shortstop.
5: Edward Salcedo: His tools are very raw, which is one of the reasons I didn't rate him higher. Pitchers throwing fastballs up, followed by breaking balls low left him swinging like a kid with a butterfly net. He hasn't found a permanent position (he's moved from third base to first base to the outfield) but the Braves could find that the corner outfield will be the best place to put him. He has a ton of power, but his problem is making contact. If he can make more contact and get over the strikeouts, he may reach his high ceiling. But his strikeout problem goes deeper than just his K% being 18.6%, it also has to do with his swing mechanics. It tends to be an easy fix if he listens to the coaches but how are we to know if he will. I think that the worst case scenario is a 2011 Mark Reynolds type with a little less power, and best case is a .285/.350/.410 left fielder. We must also keep in mind that the best case scenario is if everything goes well for his development and his plate discipline improves. I rate him above of Pastornicky because he has the higher ceiling, not because he's had better results thus far.
4: Arodys Vizcaino: While still very young, he has a tremendous fastball that can only get better due to growth and tweeks to his windup. His fastball ranges from 92-94 and it has gotten up to 96. He has an easy windup, although he doesn't use his legs that much which could limit his fastball growth. A three pitch arsenal isn't very impressive, especially with only one plus-pitch (his fastball). The changeup in his arsenal has the potential to become an out pitch, but it will never be a great pitch. His curve is very inconsistent, he can throw a perfect curve and than the next time he throws it, it could hang right over the middle of the plate. I think the worst case scenario is a spot starter but that isn't very likely. The best case scenario is probably a number two starter, but I expect him to become a solid number three or four due to his lack of a good out pitch.
3: Christian Bethancourt: It's always nice to have a catcher who plays well in your system, but Braves fans should be ecstatic to have Christian Bethancourt in their system. He possesses great defense at catcher specifically his arm. He was clocked at 1.83 throwing to first from home plate. While we must keep in mind that this was his best time, it's still pretty unheard of. That may be one of the more impressive tools in the minor leagues. Now enough about his defense, it's time to talk offense. He has great tools, but his performance doesn't show it which is why he's ranked third. He has excellent bat speed, and it shows in batting practice with his impressive power. Unfortunately, his mediocre plate discipline makes it difficult for him to show his power in game, but you shouldn't be surprised if there was an increase in power soon. Worst case scenario is probably a low-end starting catcher with great defense and best case is probably Brian McCann with better defense.
2: Randall Delgado: Often overshadowed by Julio Teheran, he deserves nearly as much praise his control took a step backwards last year, but he had a nearly identical K/9(A really impressive 10.38). He has two fastballs, a two-seam and a four-seam but he tends to use his two-seamer more. His two seam fastball sits at 88-91 MPH with a ton of movement and bat breaking control. I think his two-seam is a plus-pitch. His changeup is really impressive, especially when considering how late the movement is and how similar his arm slot and release point is to his fastball. His changeup will most likely be his out pitch and it is a plus-pitch with the potential to be even better. He also has an average 12-6 curveball right now. It's only average because his arm action is completely different than with his fastballs and changeup. The worst case scenario for him is a solid number three and best case is probably an ace on most teams.
1: Julio Teheran: What to say about Teheran that hasn't already been said? The ace of not only the Braves system but possibly the entire MiLB. He had a, shall we say, less than memorable call-up last year with the Braves. His control is better than Delgado's, and it, understandably got worse when he went up to the majors this season. But his BB/9 is pretty good at 2.99 at AAA. His K% is lower than you might think given all of the hype that he's gotten but he often gives up weak contact. Now onto his arsenal. His fastball is above-average but it isn't great. He often isn't sharp with it and throws it up in the zone, which is where he would get hurt in the big leagues. His curveball is a plus-pitch, but he often doesn't command it well. When he does command it, however, is when he is most likely to have a good outing. His mechanics look very similar when throwing his curve and fastball, but that is one of the problems with his changeup. His changeup fades away from lefties, but his body slows down a lot when he throws it. It tends to be more of a show pitch than anything. Now you may be asking why, after everything negative I said about him, why I rated him number one. Well, I rated him number one because he has more upside than pretty much anybody in the minors. He has the potential to be a top five pitcher in baseball. Of course, he also a pretty low ceiling, which is the back end of the bullpen.
Overall I'd say the Braves have a top three farm system in baseball and perhaps even number one. While the 2012 draft may not have an immediate impact on the Braves farm system, it is still important to evaluate. I think the Braves draft third baseman Joey Gallo due to the impressive power he displays. His power to all fields and above average plate discipline are extremely impressive tools when combined with his above average arm at third base and good range make him a good idea for the Braves to draft. He may not have a huge impact on the Braves farm system right away, they will be thankful that they drafted him after a couple of years and a couple of different third baseman.