I’m mainly going to be talking about players that will be ready pretty soon, most people know about these guys, and all of that, but to me this seems like something fun to write about.
Sean Gilmartin – LHP
A former 1st round pick, he had a good season in AA last season. He will be in AAA this season, and if he can pitch well, he has a shot to be in the Braves 2014 rotation. He also could see time in ATL rotation this year if he pitches well and if there are injuries to the starting staff. His stuff isn’t great, but he is a very intelligent pitcher on the mound, that I believe will be a good number 3 or 4 starting pitcher in the majors. He won’t be an elite starting pitcher in the majors, but should be a good cheap young lefty starting pitcher in the majors by 2014.
J.R. Graham – RHP
He had a great season last year; he made a few starts for the AA squad as well as mostly in high A last season. Depends on how good of a ST he has, if he pitches pretty good he could move up to AAA, otherwise they may pitch him maybe a month or two in AA, then call him up to AAA. Either way, he should get plenty of starts in AAA this season. He and Gilmartin are likely to be two of the first guys pitching in ATL this year in case of injuries to the rotation. One of Gilmartin or Graham has a good shot to be the number 5 SP for the Braves in 2014, that is if the Braves don’t resign Tim Hudson. Some think Graham is destined to be a reliever; some believe he could be a good 2 or 3 SP in the majors. Graham could be a dominant reliever if he doesn’t make it as a SP. Graham has very good stuff, keep an eye on Graham and Gilmartin in the minors this year.
Joe Leonard – 3B
He finally had a good year with the bat in the minors since being drafted in the 3rd round. He has great defense and this past season in AA was named the Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove third baseman. He will start in AAA this year. He’s a big 6 foot 5 third baseman, and has everything that you want from a third baseman defensively. He still has room to add more power, which he hasn’t done much in the minors, despite his size. If Leonard can have a strong season offensively in AAA this year, and Fat Juan and CJ doesn’t impress and Wren doesn’t go out and find a better 3B in a trade, then Leonard could be the 2014 starting 3B, a lot would have to go right for Leonard though. Also, he could get a look at in July if he is hitting really well, and Fat Juan and CJ aren’t impressing and Wren can’t find a better 3B on the trade market.
Leonard is going to be a player to really keep your eye on, he could possibly be the Braves 2014 Opening Day starting third baseman if all goes right for Leonard. Even if he only hits say 10-15 homers a year, with a .325-.335 OBP, he’d likely be a 2.5-3 WAR player in the majors, especially with that defense that he has. He’s shown the ability to take walks in the minors, could be a pretty solid number 8 hitter in the majors, and he would be cheap as well. The Braves left side of the infield would be outstanding defensively, and unless a player hits a rope in the left side of the infield, the player might as well just head back to the dugout if he hits it on the ground.
Evan Gattis – LF/C
Gattis has great power, the best power of all of our prospects. Interesting that he is a power guy, but also doesn’t strikeout a ton. With the trade of Justin Upton, he has no place to start for the Braves in 2013, so he will likely start everyday in AAA. Will he be a LF or a Catcher? I have no idea. Some people think that it would take too long for him to be a MLB starting catcher, because his defense just isn’t there yet behind the plate. I’m not sure what will happen, but it will be interesting to see what the Braves do with this guy. He could possibly make the Braves bench, but I still think he has value in his bat and Braves need to give this guy AB’s in AAA. He could be a trade chip as well; he will be someone to look at closely in AAA this year. If he isn’t traded and doesn’t work out at catcher, I could see the Braves using him on their bench in 2014 as a player that can play corner OF, 1B, and emergency catcher while being a cheap big bopper off the bench.
Joey Terdoslavich – 1B
He will be starting in AAA this year, likely playing first base. I believe the bat is for real; the only problem is there is no place for him to play with the Braves, unless an injury to Freeman happens. I believe the Braves will let him just hit like he is capable of and try to trade him. I don’t think he will hit a lot of homers in the majors, but I believe that he will get on base a good amount of time and could make a good number 1, 2 or even 3 hitter in the future. I love his bat; I actually like it more than Gattis. If he isn’t traded, then in 2014, he could be our switch hitting guy off the bench, I think that would be wasting his talents. I think if Braves can’t deal him for a MLB upgrade, then they will likely try to deal him for a prospect that is a few years away from the majors. A scenario that likely won’t happen, with a strong showing in AAA, the Braves could deal Freeman in the off-season for a big player at 3B that is also young and controllable, and view Terdo as the 1B of the future. I think that’s a risk that Wren wouldn’t make, but it’s a chance, I’m not advocating for this to happen or not happen, just throwing it out there. I just don’t think it will happen though.
Todd Cunningham – CF
I don’t think he is a great hitter or anything like that, what I see him as is a cheap 4th OF for the Braves possibly in 2014. If he has a good year in AAA with the bat, I think the Braves will likely give him every opportunity to be their 4th OF(or even 5th OF if they decide to exercise Johnson’s 2014 option) in 2014.
Ryan Buchter – LHP
He had a very impressive AA season and will start the year in AAA. Buchter is a hard throwing lefty, that if all goes right for him, he could be the replacement for EOF in the 2014 Braves bullpen. If he can pitch well in 2013, he could be one of the first relievers called up in case of an injury to one of the Braves relievers. Buchter is a power lefty reliever that people should definitely keep their eyes on.
Daniel Rodriguez – LHP
He’ll be 28 years old pitching as a starting pitcher in AAA this year. Braves signed Rodriguez in August out of the Mexican League. He is a strikeout pitcher with command issues. Not sure if he will flame out and never do much in the majors or if he could become a solid 5th SP in the majors or a solid lefty power reliever in the majors. This will be a big year for Rodriguez, if he has a strong season and Buchter struggles, then he could get a look at to replace EOF in 2014 in the bullpen.
Andrew Russell – RHP
He was signed as a Minor League Free Agent in 2011 and is from Australia, like Peter Moylan. He pitched in AA and AAA this past season and was good at both levels. If he continues to pitch well in 2013 in AAA, then he could be the first reliever to get the call up to the big leagues in case of an injury to one of the Braves relievers. Keep an eye on Buchter, Rodriguez and Russell in AAA.
Tommy La Stella – 2B
He will be heading up to AA this year. He has a great eye, he can hit homers, his bat is as legit as it gets, but like Terdo, there isn’t a place to play him right now. He isn’t a very good fielder, and he is blocked by Uggla. Not sure if La Stella is as bad a second baseman as Uggla is defensively, but if not it’s probably pretty close, neither one are good defenders. It’s possible the Braves could trade Uggla after this season and make room for La Stella, but probably won’t happen. If La Stella can improve some on defense and tears the ball up in AA, and gets a promotion to AAA and tears the ball up there as well, and Uggla isn’t the Uggla of old, then Braves might try their hardest to attempt to deal Uggla after this season, a lot will have to go right for La Stella for this to happen, but keep an eye on La Stella going forward.
Alex Wood – LHP
He was drafted in the 2nd round this past season and already could be heading to AA to start the year. He has a great fastball, but he has an unusual delivery. It’s debatable if he will remain a SP or RP when he comes to the majors. He could be a good 2 or 3 SP or possibly even a good to great power lefty reliever.
Gus Schlosser – RHP
With Lynchburg, he was named Carolina League Pitcher Of The Year, he is also a sidearmer, he’ll likely be a reliever in the majors, rather than a starting pitcher. He’ll likely move up to AA to start the year, he is a player to keep your eye on as well, he could move up pretty fast. I think he could be an option out of the Atlanta bullpen in 2014 or 2015.
Christian Bethancourt – Catcher
As we all know defense is all there. Great arm, great defender, his game calling is getting better as well. His bat is a big concern, he will return to AA and hopefully he can improve on his offense. If he improves a good bit with his offense this year, the Braves may opt to offer McCann a qualifying offer and sign a stop gap until Bethancourt is ready. Bethancourt still likely needs 1 or even 2 full years in AAA, before his bat is ready for the majors. If Bethancourt looks lost again at the plate, then it opens up an opportunity to resign McCann. Although, I wouldn’t offer him many years, too risky with catchers in their 30’s. This will be a big season for Bethancourt.
Edward Salcedo – 3B
This guy has a ton of potential with the bat, but just hasn’t put it all together yet. He’ll likely play at AA this year. If he can put it all together, he could be a big time middle of the order hitter with above average defense at the hot corner. His bat just hasn’t come around like the Braves have expected. He still has a ton of potential though, he is a player that I think might break out this year, he’s still young though. If he breaks out with the bat this year, he could be a guy that the Braves may try to rush to the majors and start at 3B in 2014; we’ll have to see how well Salcedo plays though. More than likely, if he hits good and has a good season in AA, then he’ll be moved to AAA in 2014, he’s still pretty raw.
My Sleeper pick: Aaron Northcraft – RHP
He’ll move up to AA to start the year. I’m not sure if he will be a MLB starting pitcher, but I think he could in the future be a back of the rotation starting pitcher or a good reliever. He had a good year last year, but I think he will keep improving and move up the Braves prospect boards. I don’t think he will ever be a great pitcher, but looks like he should be pretty solid, a guy to keep your eye on.
The Braves also have other good relievers that I didn’t even name that aren’t quite ready yet. The Braves shouldn’t have to go out and sign a reliever for at least another 3 or 4 years, with the players we have in the majors and the in house options in our minors.
There were others that I could have posted here, but didn’t want to go in detail about the guys far away, they will get plenty of notice in the coming years if all goes well for them. The ones that I named are the main ones that are a year to two years away from being big leaguers in ATL or another team(although Bethancourt and Salcedo could take more time, we’ll have to wait and see).
Hopefully everyone that reads this will enjoy it, I also looked back at some of CB’s info on these guys as well, since he did a great job with it earlier in the off-season.
Sad to also say that this could very well be the last year Hudson is with us. I think if Medlen, Minor and Teheran pitch solid and stay healthy, and Beachy is improving and not having any setbacks from TJ surgery, and Gilmartin and Graham pitch good in AAA and stays healthy, then one of them could be our 5th SP in 2014. It’s still possible that Hudson could come back in 2014, but he would have to pitch good in 2013 and Braves would need to have some more questions about their rotation.