After 2 seasons on the shelf, Juan Jaime had a great year as Lynchburg's closer. - CB Wilkins
We break down the Atlanta Braves top 25 Minor League prospects for the 2013 season.
Prospects 21 through 25 include a pair of pitchers recently added to the Braves 40 man roster, a former supplemental 1st round draft pick, and a pair of talented international teenage pitchers.
21. Juan Jaime, RHP
The Skinny: Former Nationals prospect who missed all of 2010 and 2011 recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Signed by the Braves as a Minor League free agent and had a great comeback season as Lynchburg's closer. Recently added to the Braves 40 man roster.
The Good: Top notch fastball that can hit 103. Solid slider. Big, strong body. Closer mentality.
The Bad: Poor control. Curveball is an ineffective pitch and he throws it far too often, seemingly forgetting about his fastball at times. Durability may be a concern. Conditioning may be a concern.
...in a perfect world...Jaime dramatically improves his control, avoids any more injuries, and becomes a solid to dominant late inning Major League reliever.
ETA: Mid to late 2014. He'll start 2013 with AA Mississppi.
22. Matt Lipka, CF
The Skinny: Braves top draft pick in 2010 excelled in his pro debut, struggled mightily for Rome in 2010, then put up so-so numbers with Lynchburg in 2012 before a severe hamstring injury ended his season in July, all while converting from shortstop to second base to center field.
The Good: Top notch athlete with great speed. Outstanding natural instincts and baseball acumen. Easily took to center field and projects to be an above average defender. Still only 20 years old.
The Bad: Has shown trouble making contact and making solid contact. Tendency to hit off his front foot makes it difficult for him to hit the ball with authority. Hasn't been able to translate natural ability to production.
...in a perfect world...Lipka harnesses his athletic ability and develops into a solid centerfieder and adequate bottom of the order hitter.
ETA: 2016. He'll head back to Lynchburg in 2013.
23. Luis Merejo, LHP
The Skinny: At just 17 years old, the Dominican lefty was the youngest player in US professional baseball in 2012, turning in a solid debut in the GCL.
The Good: Advanced feel for pitching despite his age. All pitches, fastball, curveball, and changeup, show signs of becoming above average offerings. Showed excellent strikeout stuff and command against older, more advanced competition. Will only be 18 when next season begins.
The Bad: Very, very raw. Will undoubtedly run into a few bumps and hiccups along the way. Slight of frame. Will have to add muscle and mass to survive as a full-time starting pitcher.
...in a perfect world...Merejo develops into a top prospect in a few seasons, and eventually into a top of the rotation Major League starter.
ETA: 2017. He may start 2013 with Low A Rome, but he's just as likely to spend time in Extended Spring Training until Danville's season begins in June.
24. Abraham Espinosa, RHP
The Skinny: After dominating in the DSL in 2010 and 2011, the Panamanian turned in a solid US debut in the GCL this season.
The Good: Advanced feel for pitching. All pitches are solid offerings. Has shown above average command throughout his career. Has 3 seasons of professional experience despite being only 19 years old.
The Bad: Doesn't have overpowering stuff so he has to live on smarts and guile. Still raw despite his experience. Will experience ups and downs as he moves up the ladder.
...in a perfect world... Espinosa develops into a solid middle of the rotation starter.
ETA: 2017. He'll head to Rome for 2013.
25. Aaron Northcraft, RHP
The Skinny: After being drafted in the 10th round out of high school in 2009, he broke out with Rome in 2011 and led the Carolina League in strikeouts with Lynchburg in 2012. Was recently added to the Braves 40 man roster.
The Good: Low 3/4 delivery gives him great movement on his pitches, particularly his sinker. Great at inducing ground balls. Low stress delivery makes him an innings eater. Big, strong, athletic frame. Has strong will and desire to improve. Has gotten markedly better each season of his career.
The Bad: Stuff is only ordinary, so he has to be on top of his game to succeed. Even in his successful 2012, his ERA and walk total were still higher than you'd like for a A ball pitcher.
...in a perfect world...Northcraft develops into a solid back of the rotation innings eater or a dependable and durable ground ball reliever.
ETA: Late 2014. He'll head to Mississippi in 2013.