Atlanta Braves 2012 Top Five Corner Infield Prospects

Edward Salcedo

In 2010 TalkingChop ranked each infield position separately with lists consisting of mostly three players per list. This year we have segregated the players into corner and middle infield prospects respectively. Graduating Freddie Freeman to Atlanta took away the only real top end talent that this group had, but the while there isn't any superstar talent here, there is good depth with several players very likely to have some sort of impact in Atlanta.

1. Edward Salcedo - B/T: R/R, Born: 07/30/1991, Ht: 6' 3", Wt: 195

Nearly two years removed from their signing of Edward Salcedo we still aren't sure what we have with him. The Braves aggressively pushed him to Rome in 2010, skipping two levels from the Dominican Summer League, and he couldn't match the competition level there as a 19 year old. He returned to Rome in 2011 and showed steady improvement through the first three months of the season culminating with .364 wOBA in June. The second half of the season wasn't as kind as he posted a .656 OPS after his walk rate and power completely deteriorated. He spent most of the season at third base after starting the year splitting time at shortstop with Matt Lipka (who ironically is also no longer a shortstop).

Salcedo is a physically impressive baseball specimen. At 6' 3" he is just the right size for the 'hot corner'. At 195 he looks a little thin but he has put on weight since arriving in the US and I would suspect he is still growing into his body. He may need to add some extra bulk to give him the durability he needs for a full professional season after two straight second half collapses. At the plate he has excellent bat speed that allows him to make hard contact. His set up and load leave him off balance at times but he doesn't strike out a ton because his good hand eye coordination allows him to make contact even when he is fooled. Defensively Salcedo still has some work to do. With his shift to third he made 40 errors in 100 games there. He is still young and many good defenders made tons of errors in the minors (Chipper Jones for one - ok serviceable defenders), though some scouts still think he will be better suited in an outfield corner. 

Edward Salcedo remains maybe the most physically gifted player in the Braves system, but his physical abilities haven't converted to skills as fast as maybe the hype led us to think they would. Still, for a young toolsy guy, he has shown solid plate discipline and power in his first two seasons without being a strike-out machine. If his defense can get to serviceable and his swing calms down he could be a special player. The Braves have been aggressive with him so far and I wouldn't expect that to change now, look for him in Lynchburg in 2012. 

2. Brandon Drury - B/T: R/R, Born: 08/21/1992, Ht: 6' 2", Wt: 190

The Braves have had good luck scouting cold weather areas where baseball is second tier sport and Drury is a great example of that. He was voted the top position prospect out of Oregon before the 2010 draft and the Braves grabbed in the 13th round. We ranked him in a tie for third on our third base list last season, noting his athleticism and young age. His professional debut wasn't much to write home about (he was 17 for most of the season) but he must have impressed this spring because the Braves jumped him to the Appy League at the tender age of 18. Drury rewarded the Braves confidence by nearly winning the Appy League batting title hitting .347 with a .178 isolated power. Drury possesses excellent bat speed and makes consistent hard contact while rarely striking out (just 12.5% this year). He is so good at making contact that he rarely takes a walk (just six in 270 plate appearances). A walk rate that low is frightening but contact ability coupled with good power is exciting as well and I expect the Braves won't tamper with his approach until it doesn't work for him anymore. 

Baseball America voted him the second best prospect in the Appy League behind Miguel Sano. Drury's excellent athleticism is what has allowed him to to excel so far. He combines that with a strong work ethic that has led him to be labeled a 'baseball rat'. His defense at third base is solid and he possesses a strong arm that should keep him at the hot corner long term. After his spectacular season Drury will start 2012 in Rome and will still be just 19 years old for most of the season. 

3. Joseph Terdoslavich - B/T: S/R, Born: 09/09/1988, Ht: 6' 1", Wt: 200

Drafted out of Long Beach State in 2010 Terdoslavich was meant to deliver something the Braves were in short supply of: Power. His first taste of professional baseball was a bit spotty but 2011 saw him find his stroke in a big way. He finished the year with 20 homers and a Carolina League record 52 doubles finishing the year with 74 total extra base hits. He has continued his hot hitting by putting together a solid showing in Arizona Falling League and even hitting a homer and a double in the Rising Stars All Star Game. Terdoslavich played primarily third base in college, has been a first baseman for the Braves but could end up in left field with first base pretty well locked down in Atlanta. 

The Braves got what they wanted out of Terdoslavich in 2011 with a .240 isolated power in Lynchburg wcoupled with a strikeout rate right at 20% which is pretty solid for a power hitter. His walk rate is a little low, but with his power and contact I am not too worried about it long term. He will start 2012 in Mississippi and could have a shot at Gwinnett if his hitting continues to impress. 

4. William Beckwith - B/T: R/L, Born: 08/19/1990, Ht: 6' 2", Wt: 220

I've been on the Beckwith bandwagon for a while now even though he didn't show a whole lot in his first season aside from the ability to take a walk. In 2011 he continued to take walks (11.4% rate) and added power to his game to boot (a massive .243 isolated power). He finished the season 6th in OPS, 5th in HR, 6th in SLG and in the top ten in several other offensive categories. Defensively he is limited to first base (he isn't what we would call a small fellow) and don't expect much from him on the basepaths (though he did swipe eight bases in ten attempts this season). 

At 20 years old for most of the season Beckwith was not especially old or young for the Appy League. He doesn't have age or projection on his side so Beckwith must continue to hit and hit well to stay relevant in the Braves system. He proved himself well in rookie ball and he will jump to Rome next season though I wouldn't be surprised if he got a an early season shot at Lynchburg. 

5. Kyle Kubitza - B/T: L/R, Born: 07/15/1990, Ht: 6' 3", Wt: 190

The Braves drafted Kyle Kubitza in the third round out of Texas State in 2011. Scouts love his current tools and the projection his body offers. They have repeatedly noted his power potential even though he hit just one homer in the Appy League this year though his 16 doubles in 162 at bats could be a sign of good things to come. On top of his budding power potential he walked in nearly 13% of his plate appearances this season. His athleticism and strong arm will play well at third though he will need more reps after making eight errors in 71 chances in the Appy League. 

Kubitza is another guy whose age isn't one of his strengths but he has more projection than your typical college player. Pre-draft reports knocked him for tinkering with his swing too much, but it appears the Braves coaches  have helped him find a consistent setup. With his patience at the plate and the power potential in his bat he could be a guy that bursts onto the prospect scene next year. Look for him in Rome in 2012. 

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