Down in the lower minors is where the Braves have some of their higher-ceiling prospects. That's good in a way because, hey, they have some high-ceiling prospects. But lower-level prospects are the guys you dream on anyway, and it's a long way to The Show. It also means that making trades becomes more difficult because other teams prefer lower-level guys as compliment pieces, not centerpieces, so pulling off another big trade like last off-season will be difficult this time around. More difficult, not impossible.
Kyle Wren, CF - #1 'spect Wren did about everything you could have wanted him to do out of the draft. He hit .328/.382/.452 with some gap power, decent walk rate, and a 10% K rate, but the headlining stat is the 35 SB in 41 chances in 47 games. That's just ridiculous, and the reports on his defense are positive. What's the drawback? He'll be 23 next season, which means he beat up on younger competition, so no one is going to get too excited just yet. A promotion to AA Mississippi wouldn't be absurd, but I'd expect a short period in High-A as Atlanta tends to be conservative with promotions for hitters.
Josh Elander, LF - Moved from behind the plate, Elander now needs to mash to have any prospect value. In Low-A, he was a force, hitting .318/.381/.536 with 22 2B and 11 HR in 74 games, but while he maintained his 10% BB and 19-20% K rate while jumping up to High-A, his line plummeted as BABIP did. It didn't help that his ISO dropped over 100 points, so it's hard to argue that the BABIP drop was just a fluke. Elander has a tall mountain to climb given the offensive needs from his position.
Levi Hyams, 2B - Hyams was excellent in Low-A - .317/.378/.407 - but like Elander, he fell off quite a bit in his trip to High-A. Hyams is also older than the previous two, as he'll be 24 next season. It was a rough jump for Hyams as his K rate really jumped, and he'll need to rebound in 2014.
Jose Peraza, SS - Peraza is the real prospect at Low-A. The 19-year-old hit .288/.341/.371 with an eye-popping 64 steals in 79 attempts. He doesn't walk much yet, but he's improved that at every level while his K rate has stabilized around 12-14%. The small issue was the 29 errors, but young guys make a lot of errors at Low-A because A) they're young, B) they tend to rush themselves or make plays they shouldn't, and/or C) the fields are worse there than at other levels. All of those things will be corrected with time, but there's not much physical projection with Peraza.
Edison Sanchez, LF - Sanchez was a bit under the radar, but he hit well in 70 games - .281/.387/.430. The problem is that he's fairly old and will be 23 next season. And being forced to a corner doesn't help, either.
Eric Garcia, SS - I'll mention Garcia because I was really impressed with his defense at short and second base. The .255/.338/.363 line isn't terribly impressive, but there's some possibilities there for a utility infielder. He will also be 23 next season.
Carlos Franco, 3B - Franco was one of the guys I was excited about this season, but he really disappointed.
Mauricio Cabrera, SP - It's tough to say how well or not well Cabrera did this season. The 4.18 ERA and 3.63 FIP aren't terrible, but the 19% K rate and 12% BB rate isn't a very good differential. He will be 20 next season and still has one of the best fastballs in the system, however, so it's too early to be too critical. Cabrera certainly has things to work on, but he could fly through the system if he figures some things out. Big potential here.
Lucas Sims, SP - Sims couldn't have had a much better first season. A 2.62 ERA over about 120 innings with a 28% K rate and 10% walk rate is about what you want from a young pitcher. The only thing he really could have done better is walk fewer hitters, but he was 19 for most of the season. You tend to forgive that sort of thing. Cabrera might have a higher ceiling than Sims, but Sims definitely has a better probability of being a significant contributor in the future.
Wes Parsons, SP - Parsons was the real surprise this season. Undrafted out of junior college, Parsons mowed through Low-A with a 2.63 ERA, 23% K rate, and 5% BB rate. He definitely has some projection in a lanky body, and he did plenty at the age of 20 to make him a guy to watch next season.
Patrick Scoggin, P - I expected Scoggin to pitch out of the bullpen, but the Braves haven't been shy about giving relievers a chance out of the rotation. The season went along fairly smoothly, though unspectacularly, for Scoggin as he posted 3.34 ERA, 21% K rate, and 10% BB rate as a 22-year old. With an unwieldy delivery and a repertoire more applicable to the bullpen, the late innings is probably Scoggins' future.
Williams Perez, SP - I was fairly impressed with Perez when I saw him because he had one of the better curves I saw all season, but he's not a big guy and doesn't have a huge fastball or a third pitch. Perez, however, pitched well in Low-A - 4.24 ERA, 21% K rate, 6% BB rate - and did similarly well in High-A, watching his ERA plummet though his peripherals somewhat worsened. Probably more of a reliever down the line, but the soon-to-be 23-year old still has an opportunity in the rotation.
Shae Simmons, RP - Simmons definitely missed enough bats - 38% in Low-A and 36% in AA - but he did watch his walk rate skyrocket to 16% in AA. He'll need a stronger secondary pitch to submit a mid-90s fastball, but Simmons might be the best relief prospect in the organization behind Juan Jaime. A lot to like here.
Jason Hursh, SP - Don't, in any way, judge Hursh off of those 27 innings. The first taste of pro ball is just an introduction to the majors, and it's one of the most misleading parts of a prospect's career, for good or ill. Everyone's just glad he's still healthy. I imagine he'll enter 2014 in AA.