Pretty soon there could be a new face at the top of the Atlanta Braves prospect list.
We pick up where we left off yesterday (link) with the Atlanta Braves 2012 mid-season top-10 prospects. This is probably the weakest group of top-10 prospects the Braves have had in quite a few years, but that's mainly because so many guys from previous years' top-10s have graduated to the Majors and become major contributors to the big league club. While it's a relatively weak group, there is still a lot of potential for many of these players to be major contributors in the years to come.
We did not consider Andrelton Simmons for this top prospect list, even though technically he is still 15 at-bats under the threshold for being considered a rookie and therefore a prospect. We assembled this list before we knew of his injury, and we assumed he would surpass prospect status. Hopefully he'll return this season to collect many more than those 15 at-bats.
Here are your mid-season top-10:
1. Julio Teheran, RHP ... @Julio_Teheran
In many ways Teheran's prospect status has fallen significantly, but his struggles this year could be the best thing for his long-term development. If the book on how to hit Teheran got around to every team, then it gives him time to fix those problems and adjust while still in the minors. If this is just a slump, then again, he has time to work through it in the minors. The worst case scenario would be if there were something wrong with his arm; he has been coddled this year due to concerns about fatigue. Hopefully on the other side of whatever is ailing him he'll be that top prospect we all remember. He's only 21, so there's still plenty of time for him to solve his problems and return to form.
2. Christian Bethancourt, C ... @ChristianBeth27
The toolsy Bethancourt moves into the number-2 slot on our list, due in large part to his performance this spring and in last year's AFL, and his continued development as a player. He's been slowed some this season by injuries, but he's still just 20 years old in double-A, and there's no reason for the organization to rush his development. He might be the best catch-and-throw backstop in the minors right now, and that fact won't be lost on other teams at the trade deadline.
3. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Vizzy is out this entire year and likely some of next year with Tommy John surgery. The Braves bullpen is already missing his power arm. When he comes back it will be interesting to see if the Braves keep him in a relief role or move him back to a starting role. There were always concerns about his arm, which is one reason the Braves moved him to the pen. But with a rebuilt arm, and the need to rehab in the minors for several months, the Braves may decide to put him in the rotation in the minors next year and stretch him out as an option in the Atlanta rotation in 2014.
4. Lucas Sims, RHP ... @LSims_
This year's first round pick by Atlanta, and the 21st player taken overall in the draft, Sims is here because of his tools and projection. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he had a good debut in the GCL, and just got promoted to Danville. He looks to be a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher, and top of the rotation starter. Obviously it's very early in his pro career, so that expectation may be revised from year to year, but there is a lot of promise in his arm.
5. Sean Gilmartin, LHP
Last year's first round pick (28th overall) is already at double-A, and doing quite well there. He's putting all of his tools to work, and refining his game while getting used to the rigors of the long pro season. I expect he'll headline Gwinnett's rotation next year, with an eye towards breaking into the Atlanta rotation in 2014. He could be ready sooner, but he's just 22 and there's no reason to rush him. He's looking like a middle of the rotation starter, with some ability to rise above that. He needs to work on getting right-handers out.
The next five after the jump...
6. Edward Salcedo, 3B ... @EdwardSalcedo1
Quietly having a good season, not great, but solid. He's improving in every aspect of his game, yes, even his defense, all while taking a more aggressive approach at the plate. He'll turn 21 later this month, and could see a call up to Mississippi for the final weeks of the season. He is probably the best legit power bat in the system, and with a good second half he should put up some impressive numbers this year. Patience is needed with him.
7. Alex Wood, LHP ... @Awood45
A power left-hander, and gift second round pick for Atlanta. The Braves considered him first-round talent, and were elated that he fell to them on the second day of the draft. There were concerns about his delivery, and for an idea of what it's like imagine, looking at Ben Sheets in a mirror this Sunday -- they both come over the top with their arm slot. Wood can run it up there in the low to mid-90s as a starter, and occasionally reach back for 97 when he needs to. There was some talk when he was drafted about moving him to the bullpen, but the Braves will keep him in the rotation for now and see how he develops. As a polished college pitcher, he could move quickly. He'll probably get ticketed for the AFL this year, then Mississippi next year, following the same path that fellow college lefties Minor and Gilmartin followed the previous two years.
8. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP
The headliner of the next round of international pitching talent for the Braves, Cabrera is only 18 and already having success in his debut in the States in advanced rookie ball. He can throw his fastball in the mid-90s, has an advanced feel for pitching, and that "pitchability" that the Braves love. He may get a few weeks in Rome later this year, and if he continues his success I could see the organization skipping him all the way to Lynchburg to start 2013. I will try to contain my excitement with this kid, but he has top of the rotation talent written all over him.
9. J.R. Graham, RHP ... @JRGraham013
The Braves put him in the rotation to learn to be more of a pitcher than a thrower, and it seems to be working. He's having a very impressive full-season debut, and while his strikeout rate has come down, his walk rate remains low, and he's still missing bats. Because of his smaller size, reports say that he will eventually end up in the bullpen, but the Braves will keep him in the rotation for as long as they can, and if he continues to have this kind of success, he could follow a path similar to the one Kris Medlen has taken to the Majors.
10. Evan Gattis, C/OF
Hard to believe that a 23rd round pick who is 25 years old would be on this list, but he's here! Gattis has to be thought of differently as a prospect. He lost several years of development to an early life crisis and subsequent soul searching, but as a ballplayer his current potential is too much to ignore, regardless of his age. He's been shutdown for the past two months with a wrist injury, but was crushing all sorts of pitching before he got hurt. The Braves aren't taking any chances, and are giving the injury time to heal and giving him time to regain strength in his wrist. If he can make a good transition to left field, and all indications are that he can, then he could be an option in left next year for Atlanta. He has unbelievable power.
For the rest of the top-25, click here.