This year's list for the Braves left handed pitching prospects should look a good bit different from last years after some pretty radical changes to the minor league depth chart. Mike Minor has lost his prospect status after spending enough time in Atlanta this season, Carlos Perez is still here though his star lost some of its juster,Brett Oberholtzert was traded to Houston for Michael Bourn, Scott Diamond was taken in the Rule-5 draft. Brett DeVall was also released from the organization and guys like Andy Otero and Cole Rohrbough failed to bounce back from injuries. On the positive end of the spectrum Atlanta added Sean Gilmartin, Dimaster Delgado had a successful return from injury and Oriel L Caicedo had great start to his career.
1. Sean Gilmartin - B/T: L/L, Born: 05/08/1990, Ht: 6' 2", Wt: 195
The Braves took Gilmartin with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He signed for right at the MLB slot recommendation, which was a big reason the Braves picked him. Despite the Braves shallow pocketbooks Gilmartin represents good value with an excellent chance to provide a return on their investment. He was taken out of Florida State where he spent three years serving as their Friday starter (college speak for Ace) and he showed significant improvement over his last year in college by adding velocity to his excellent command.
No scouting report on Gilmartin can go long without a comparison to current Braves lefty Mike Minor. The comparisons are apt as the pitchers share similar backgrounds, builds and repertoires. Gilmartin possess an average fastball that sits 88-91 with good movement. His change-up is his go to pitch while his slider still needs some improvement. What pushed Mike Minor from being a starter with the ceiling of three or four starter to a possible number two was a jump in his velocity shortly after the Braves drafted him. There is no telling if the Gilmartin can make the same kinds of adjustments, but he has already added velocity in just the last year and professional work routine and coaches could find ways to magic more velocity out of his arm.
Gilmartin wasn't the glamorous pick for the Braves in this draft, but he was the sensible one. He is a very good pitcher and while he may not be an ace caliber guy, he almost certainly will reach the majors and he probably won't take long to do so. He projects as a number three starter in the majors and could be there as early as 2013. His early performances in the Sally and Arizona Fall Leagues have been good and I would expect him to start 2012 in Lynchburg with a chance to move up depending on his performance.
2. Carlos Perez - B/T: L/L, Born: 11/20/1991, Ht: 6' 2", Wt: 195
On May 9, 2011 I saw Carlos Perez go seven innings against the Augusta Greenjackets allowing just two hits and one run while striking out seven. That turned out to be his best start of the season. In 2010 Baseball America ranked the lefty as the number one prospect in the Appalachian League and the Braves eleventh best prospect. A year later he didn't rate in the top 20 for the Sally League and didn't make the Braves top ten. That is a testament to how poorly his 2011 season was. He finished the year with a 4.82 ERA (his FIP was 4.19). His walk rate remained steady from 2010 though his K-rate dropped about 3%. The biggest difference statistically was his groundball rate which dropped from around 65% in 2010 to just 46% in 2011.
Perez still has time on his side as he has yet to turn 20. His fastball sits in the highs 80s and touches 92 at times though his velocity varied from start to start this year. His change-up is a true weapon when and when he is on he can deliver it with the arm angle and action as his fastball. His curveball is a different matter. Even in the start I saw he had very little control or command over it. It has 11-to-5 movement and can get men out when he keeps it low in the zone. With the Braves pitching depth at the upper levels and Perez' age there is no need to rush him. He could return to Rome in 2011 to get his feet underneath him before the Braves give him a chance to move up.
3. Dimasther Delgado, B/t: L/L, Born: 03/03/1989, Ht: 6' 2", Wt: 180
Delgado came into 2011 happy just to be playing baseball after missing all of 2010 when he suffered a broken femur during an off season car accident. He had a successful season in 2009 with Rome and the Braves felt confident enough in his recovery to jump him to High A Lynchburg. As can be expected he started a bit slowly with an ERA of 4.86 in April while striking out just under 15% of batters faced. As the months wore on both of those numbers gradually improved with him eventually posting a 3.20 ERA and 21% K rate in September.
Delgado features average stuff with a fastball that sits in the mid to high 80s, occasionally jumping into the low 90s. His change-up and curveball are both average offerings but play up due to his command. He did an impressive job of returning from injury this year and 2012 will be interesting for him as he will get his first taste of the upper minors in Mississippi. His performance there could determine if his future is in the bullpen or rotation.
4. Oriel L Caicedo - B/T: L/L, Born: 01/14/1994, Ht: 5' 11", Wt: 188
The signed Oriel L Caicedo this off season out of Panama, an area they mine better than anybody else in baseball (Randall Delgado and Christian Bethancourt say hi). Caicedo's brother - Oriel R Caicedo - is a right handed pitcher in the Braves organization as well. (I have no clue if their middle initials are real or just designations to make it easier to deciphering them online). Oriel L. made his debut in 2011 in the Dominican Summer league and was amazing for the entire summer. His ERA was under 1.00 for most of the year until he surrendered eight runs in consecutive starts in August.
Caicedo was just 17 years old this year and will most likely jump to the states next year. How he adjusts to an American lifestyle will play a big part in how successful he will be. Recent Braves teenagers have fared well in the transition to the states (Julio Teheran, Edward Salcedo and Carlos Perez come to mind). Caicedo's excellent command should help the transition go smoothly and next year should give us a good indication of what we have here.
5. Chris Masters - B/T: L/L, Born: 10/01/1987, Ht: 6' 0", Wt: 225
Chris Masters is a guy I like to call "The Hefty Lefty," Definitely not original but apt in this case. In his 2010 campaign in Rome Masters started incredibly strong, leading the league in ERA at the All Star break leading to him being named the starter for the All Star Game. He posted an ERA over 6.00 from June on. In 2011, in Lynchburg this time, he started strong yet again posting a 1.56 ERA in April but leveled out after that. He pitched solidly for most of the year, but surprisingly his control, normally a strength, gave him fits at times which lead to him getting hit hard when he couldn't locate.
Masters frame doesn't offer any room for projection, but he has decent velocity for a lefty (88-91), His curveball is very good with a nice 12-6 break and his change-up is a solid offering. Masters has started each year dominating the level he is at before the league adjusts to him. This year he showed the ability to make some adjustments as well that helped him maintain solid performance late in the season. Masters made a late season start in Mississippi and will start 2012 there. Masters future probably lies in the bullpen as a lefty specialist.