Sunday, July 17, 2011

Midseason Top 30 Prospect Grades

I'm not one to do midseason Braves prospect lists. I feel like I would put too much into a half season of work for it to affect my rankings. That's not meant to put down others who do the lists; I enjoy reading them, and revisiting the prospects and their work at the halfway point is important. But it's just a personal preference.

Therefore, I give you my offseason list with a midseason grade. (Please note that some of these were written at various times. Stats may not be up-to-the-second accurate.)

1. Julio Teheran (A-)
It's tough to give arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball a grade lower than an A. Teheran's 1.79 ERA and 2.69 FIP in Triple-A tells you all you need to know about his success, but if you want more, there's a 6.6 BB%. While 81 strikeouts in 95.2 innings is a bit low for his standards, I would expect it to increase some in the second half.
2. Freddie Freeman (N/A)
Freeman struggled out of the gate in his MLB debut, but he turned it on late in the first half and has carried the offense at times. He's in Atlanta to stay.
3. Randall Delgado (A-)
Delgado has played as the lesser half of the Teheran-Delgado combo for a while, but 2011 marks a change as he has become more of the "two" in a one-two punch with Teheran. Delgado made the jump to Double-A with success, posting a 3.50 ERA and 3.72 FIP in 97.2 innings.
4. Mike Minor (B+)
Minor has solidified his control with a 2.62 BB/9 in 75.2 Triple-A innings. His strikeouts are down some and home runs are up for his minor league totals, which should happen the more innings he logs. His MLB totals are nothing to write home about, but the fact that he hasn't allowed a home run in 33 MLB innings shows sample size. He hasn't moved up, nor has he fallen.
5. Edward Salcedo (B+)
After a rough stateside debut in 2010, Salcedo has fared much better in his second stint with Class-A Rome. While it's tough not to best a .197 average and .240 wOBA from last year, he is actually hitting quite well, posting a .277/.349/.466 with 24 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs. He has a 8.3 BB% and .183 ISO, both of which are great to see. The only problem is defense, but it was never a strong part of his game, anyway. He should start in Lynchburg next season if he stays on pace.
6. Arodys Vizcaino (B+)
Despite having Teheran and Delgado ahead of him, Vizcaino might be the most talked about of the three so far this season. There has been some debate as to whether he will remain a starter or if his future is in the bullpen. If he is destined to be a reliever, his value takes a bit of a hit, and he probably wouldn't rank much higher than where I have him now because of it. That's nothing against him - I'm sure he would be a very valuable reliever - but starters are simply worth more. I give him a good grade because his peripherals are very solid and he seems to be healthy. The fact that he has almost re-joined Teheran and Delgado on the ladder is pretty big.
7. Craig Kimbrel (N/A)
Kimbrel has been as advertised as the Braves closer. When he's on, he's among the best relievers in baseball.
8. Christian Bethancourt (B)
If you had asked me before the season where Bethancourt would end 2011, I would have said where he started - Rome. He made the jump to Class-A Advanced Lynchburg sooner than I expected due to a .303/.323/.430 line. The problem is much of it is due to hits falling in and finding holes. He had a 3.4 BB% at Rome, meaning that line likely won't be repeated over a period of time. Bethancourt has displayed solid defense, but there is little plate discipline.
9. Matt Lipka (C-)
It took Lipka a solid chunk of the season before he managed his first extra base hit. He now has 11 doubles, one triple and one home run to go with a .284 SLG and .047 ISO. When I saw him, Lipka showed zero pop in his swing, and it seemed like any extra base hits would be the result of poor defense or luck. Lipka isn't walking enough to make up for it, either. He has a ways to go to turn this around.
10. Carlos Perez (B)
Perez has pitched much better than the ERA indicates. His 40 walks to 87 strikeouts in 94.2 innings is a big jump from last season, and he's finally showing his strikeout ability while limiting the long balls. I was very impressed with Perez when I saw him. He has the potential for three above average pitches. Don't let the ERA affect your opinion of him.
11. Brandon Beachy (N/A)
Beachy has been as advertised for the Braves: great command, high strikeout totals, tons of fly balls. He's better than most realize. If I had to guess, he is one that sticks in the rotation long-term.
12. J.J. Hoover (B+)
Hoover has had a solid season so far, recording a 2.69 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 77 Double-A innings. His control remains solid with a BB/9 below three, and his strikeout rate is actually up from last season at Class-A Advanced, which is great to see. Hoover's two starts in Triple-A didn't go well, but it doesn't take away from what he's done in Mississippi.
13. David Filak (D)
I have been high on Filak, but I must say, he may be the most disappointing prospect on my list through a half season. He gave up 46 runs in 45 innings at Class-A Rome, including 33 walks to 32 strikeouts. That led to a demotion to Danville, where he has been even worse, allowing 20 runs in 16 innings. The one time I saw Filak this year, he couldn't get on top of the ball and had zero control. He'll take a big hit on my offseason list unless he completely turns it around.
14. Mycal Jones (C+)
I haven't been as high on Jones as others despite the athleticism. I questioned his ability to get on base in the upper levels, but he has proven me wrong by posting a 15 BB% along with a dip in strikeouts. He is struggling to get on base by base hits and has shown very little pop, but if he can find some holes and turn that around for the rest of the season, he can at least maintain his spot on the list. The walks are a great sign.
15. Brett Oberholtzer (B-)
Oberholtzer's first full season at Class-A Advanced Lynchburg last year put him on the map due to his good rates. However, he has seen a rise in walks to 2.9 BB/9, and a drop in strikeouts to 6.87 K/9. He maintains a solid 3.38 FIP due to low home run totals, but the K/BB raises some questions about his upper level ability. Of course, it's only a half season, so you can't put a ton of weight into it.
16. Tyler Pastornicky (B+)
If Pastornicky makes it, I will forever say, "I told you so." Ever since the Braves acquired him in the Yunel Escobar deal, I've held the belief he could be the eventual starting shortstop. I said this offseason that 2011 would be the deciding factor for Pastornicky's hopes of taking the job in 2012. His line of .300/.344/.417 is a sign he might be ready. The only issue I have is 22 walks in 376 plate appearances. He is showing a better ability to hit and make contact, but the walks are almost cut in half. He needs to bring some of that back and put it all together.
17. Stephen Marek (N/A)
Marek had a solid start to his season before getting pounded in his last couple innings, which was the result of an injury that led to Tommy John surgery. It's unfortunate timing for him and the Braves, who could be using his right arm in the Atlanta pen right now.
18. Andrelton Simmons (B-)
Simmons is making his way through the system based on his defense and arm. He has a .302/.333/.373 line with 15 walks in 350 plate appearances for Class-A Advanced Lynchburg, so the average is based on luck. His speed is almost worthless due to 11 stolen bases and 12 caught stealing, and the defense hasn't been spotless at shortstop. He's athletic and has a tremendous arm, but it's hard for me to get excited.
19. Cory Harrilchak (C+)
There's little reason to believe Harrilchak will be anything more than a fourth outfielder, which is fine; you don't see many starters this low on prospect lists. He has a 8.5 BB% with a .312 OBP, and his low average has a lot to do with a .266 BABIP. Even so, I wouldn't expect a huge increase in the second half.
20. Benino Pruneda (C+)
Pruneda is what he is: flamethrower, high strikeouts, high walks. His second stint with Double-A Mississippi is not going as well, seeing a dip in strikeouts to 43 in 41.1 innings, and the walks remain high. He'll have to limit the walks at least a little to make it. What he's doing now won't get him to Atlanta.
21. Todd Cunningham (B+)
In a similar fashion as Harrilchak, Cunningham will likely never be more than a fourth outfielder, but he's proving his case for possibly being one sooner than expected. Cunningham has a .365 OBP with a 8.2 BB% at Lynchburg, which is a big improvement over last season's 5.3% at Rome. Along with the improved plate discipline is an increase in pop, though the numbers are still quite low. He could see some plate appearances in Mississippi before the season ends, and if he continues to get on base, he could see Atlanta sooner than later.
22. Adam Milligan (B)
Milligan has major league strength and pop, and after injuries derailed his 2010 season, his slugging is back with a .536 mark and .253 ISO for Lynchburg. He will have to maintain these types of numbers to continue the climb, because he doesn't walk at all. Milligan will always be a homer/strikeout guy, but he can make it if he survives the AA test, which should be coming soon.
23. Cory Gearrin (B+)
Gearrin is as ready for a major league relief spot as he'll ever be. The problem is he gets called up and hides in the back of Atlanta's bullpen for weeks with spotty appearances. He is what he is: good against righties, bad against lefties. If used correctly (Sergio Romo), he could be a successful reliever for the Braves. They haven't caught on yet.
24. Juan Abreu (B+)
Abreu will likely be in Atlanta by the end of the season. He continues to strike out a lot of hitters and walk a lot of hitters with low ERA's. He'll never rank higher than 20th. Not much else to say.
25. Erik Cordier (C+)
Cordier is lucky to have his ERA as low as 4.03 at Gwinnett. No strikeouts and a ton of walks. If I made a new list today, he's not on it.
26. David Hale (C+)
Hale is stuck in the mud at Lynchburg. He has a 4.71 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, mostly in relief. Unless he hits a new gear, he has a long way to go.
27. Joe Leonard (C)
The only thing going for Leonard is an increased walk rate at 9.2%. But a .248/.319/.390 line at Lynchburg won't get you far. For a guy with solid size, the power hasn't been there, and he's starting to fall.
28. Jesus Saldeno (N/A)
Hasn't pitched.
29. Chris Masters (B)
Masters is holding his own at Lynchburg with a 3.48 ERA and 3.79 FIP, including a 21.7 K%. The increase in walks over his three seasons is a bit alarming, but it's not a huge factor if he levels off soon and maintains the strikeouts. His stuff still doesn't seem to play well for the upper levels, but we'll soon find out if that's the truth.
30. Cory Rasmus (N/A)
A lack of health is ruining him.

Those to watch for on the next list:
Sean Gilmartin
Zeke Spruill
Kyle Kubitza
Nick Ahmed
Paul Clemens
Joseph Terdoslavich
Philip Gosselin
Jean Carlos Gil

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