Prospect Breakouts or Break Ups: Position Players

USA TODAY Sports

Taking a mid-season look at Braves prospects to find evidence of who might be breaking out.

We've basically reached the mid-point of the season, and we'll be rolling out our Midseason Top 25 prospects in a few weeks. By this point in the season, we've gotten enough of a sample size to begin really looking at how prospects have performed this season, but we're also not far enough to be really conclusive about their stats. After all, major-leaguers have good and bad halves to only collapse or recover the following half. Add in that minor-leaguers produce most of their current stats against players that will never sniff a major-league roster, and you can see that MiLB stats are fraught with peril. But because we can't simply watch and scout every game, stats are mostly what we have to work with. So let's take a look at some prospects thriving and not-so-much thriving.

Joey Terdoslavich, OF - The prospect darling from a few years ago, Terdoslavich no longer seems in the picture to be the third baseman of the future, but this season has put him back into the picture for a significant role somewhere. During his second go-round in AAA Gwinnett, Terdoslavich is now hitting .324/.361/.587. It's an impressive statline, and his wRC+ (essentially his offensive performance against the league-average, where 100 would be average) is 151. As we talked about on the podcast, his walk rate is down to 6% after being around 8% or so previously. It's a little concerning, but it's hard to argue with his results so far. If he's seeing the ball well - his K rate is down - and mashing, there's really no reason to take a walk. Terdo's main chance at significant playing time is if the Braves trade him to someone who needs a 1B/OF, but if he remains with the Braves, he can be valuable bench piece, though there's usually not a lot of playing time available at those positions.

Todd Cunningham, OF - I was a big fan of Cunningham's progress last year as he improved across the board while making the jump to AA, a notoriously difficult jump. He's continued the progress this season by hitting .294/.379/.385 and his walk rate is up while maintaining K and ISO (Isolated power: BA - SLG) rates, though the K rate is up a bit. The rubs on Cunningham are if he can maintain such a walk in the majors when pitchers may challenge him given his lack of power and if he has enough speed to take bases and be a baserunning threat. Cunningham faces a similar issue to Terdoslavich as there's no real room for him other than as a solid bench option.

Joe Leonard, 3B - Leonard made similar strides to Cunningham in AA Mississippi last season, but unlike Cunningham, Leonard hasn't maintained the improvements, worsening in K, BB, and ISO rates across the board while hitting .235/.281/.325. He might be one of the better defensive third basemen in the minors, but he doesn't look like he can survive in the majors with the stick.

Edward Salcedo, 3B - Mississippi coaches seem to be helping a lot of hitters lately. Salcedo has seen an increased walk rate and a lowered strikeout rate while maintaining power production - neither the Carolina nor Southern Leagues are fun places to hit - in his jump to AA. At age 21, Salcedo is still on pace to play in the majors at 22/23 years old, and that's when most regulars will make their debuts. The other issue with Salcedo is his defense at the hot corner. If you want to be optimistic, his .909 fielding percentage is a third straight improvement. If you want to be pessimistic, he's still making a ton of errors.

Christian Bethancourt, C - Bethancourt has never been an offensive juggernaut, but with the bar so low for catchers, there has always been a hope he can do the bare minimum and let the elite defense play. The chances for that continue to decline. Repeating AA Mississippi, Bethancourt's walk rate has dropped to a horrifying 2%, and his strikeout rate has climbed to 20%. That's not good. There are some positive signs, however, as he has increased his power and overall line while already having stolen as many bases as he did in 30 more games last season. He's still 21 all season, but we would expect more improvement than this in a return trip to a level.

Elmer Reyes, SS/INF - Reyes was awful last season in Rome, but he's somewhat recovered to post a .296/.321/.421. There are warning signs, unfortunately. His walk rate has dropped to 3% at High-A Lynchburg, and his BABiP is the highest it's ever been. Without seeing a corresponding increase in power, I'm not confident there's been substantial improvement.

Kyle Kubitza, 3B - Kubitza suffers from being behind Salcedo on the development ladder. Hitting .277/.400/.486 in High-A, Kubitza is doing a fine job of dominating the Carolina League, but unless Salcedo receives a promotion at the expense of Leonard, Kubitza is stuck in the lower minors. Kubitza, however, shows a monster walk rate of 17%, and he's also increased his power production. The only warning sign is that his strikeout rate nears 25% in the low minors. Really would like to see him move up a level, but I'm not sure how that happens at the moment.

Matt Lipka, OF - Like Bethancourt, Lipka is currently repeating a level while not impressing. His walk rate has basically been cut in half, down now to 5%, and his strikeout rate is up. The flip side is a substantial increase in power - ISO from .065 to .126 - and stolen bases - 12 to 17. He turned 21 at the beginning of the season, but I'll be monitoring his second half closely.

Robby Hefflinger, OF - A 23-year old mashing in High-A isn't terribly impressive, but Hefflinger is destroying the level, hitting .290/.344/.584. His power production has gone way up, and while his walk rate is significantly down, the strikeout rate is way, way down. What I'm hoping is that he's being a little more aggressive and learning which balls he can hit, and as he settles in, the walk rate will slowly move back up. Either way, it'll be difficult to see what the organization really has until he moves up. 20 home runs is fun, though.

Josh Elander, OF - Moving to the outfield somewhat hurt Elander's prospect status, but considering no one really expected him to stay there, it didn't hurt all that much. Elander is hitting .320/.383/.546 in Low-A Rome, but one would expect a good college bat to destroy Low-A. He's got some pop, though - 22 doubles and 11 home runs.

Levi Hyams, 2B - Hyams really hit at Rome, torching the league for a .317/.378/.407 line. The walk and strikeout rates were solid, but the power isn't substantial - .090 ISO (looking more in the .140 range), 1 HR, 9 2B, 3 3B. He's had a rough start in High-A, but it's only 17 PA. His second half will be one to watch.

Jose Peraza, SS - One of the exciting position player prospects in the organization because of his speed and ability to play shortstop, Peraza has had an okay introduction to Low-A by hitting .263/.313/.343. It's not great, but he's 19 and a shortstop. The nice thing is that his rates have remained stable after moving to full-season ball, and there's more power and stolen bases. It will be interesting to see the adjustments he makes in the second half.


Carlos Franco, 3B - Franco probably would like a re-do. Hitting .229/.308/.292 isn't good for anyone, and it's not good for a 21-year old in Low-A who is a corner infielder. His K rate has increased to 27%, and that's not going to cut it. Franco does walk a bit, but that's currently his only usable offensive skill. We'll definitely hope for some second-half adjustments.

(stats via FanGraphs.com)

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