Atlanta Braves Midseason Top 25 Prospects: 11-15

Christian Bethancourt highlights the second installment of Talking Chop's Midseason Top 25 Prospects List - Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

A continued midseason retrospective look at the Braves' top prospects.

After bringing you prospects #16-25 yesterday, our Midseason Top 25 Prospects List rolls right along with prospects #11-15 today. Tomorrow we'll bring you #6-10, and we'll wrap up on Thursday with #1-5.

The list so far:

25. David Hale
24. Bryan De La Rosa
23. Juan Jaime
22. Robby Hefflinger
21. Ian Thomas
20. Matt Lipka
19. Aaron Northcraft
18. Victor Caratini
17. Josh Elander
16. Kyle Kubitza

Note: All statistics in bold represent the player's season-long stats to that point, and may have been accumulated across multiple levels. For pitchers, BB is a measure of unintentional walks, not total walks.

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#15 | Carlos Salazar | Right-Handed Pitcher | Age: 18 | Gulf Coast League

1.0 IP, 3 BB, 2 K, 7.000 WHIP, 18.00 ERA

The Braves selected Carlos Salazar in the 3rd round (102 overall) of the 2013 MLB draft. As a high school arm out of Kerman, CA, he choose to sign with the Braves for slot value, $505K, instead of attending Fresno State in the fall. He is currently playing for the Braves in the Gulf Coast League where he has appeared in two games in which he has thrown one inning. On the mound, he has a bit of a hitch in his motion (a toned down version of Jordan Walden’s jump), coming through with a ¾ arm slot from the right side. Salazar has a big arm to go along with his solid, filled out, 6’2" frame. His fastball can get up to 97, a fairly straight four-seamer, but it is a pitch he has improved on keeping it around the zone. His sharp breaking ball projects to be a plus pitch and his top secondary offering. He also throws a "work-in-progress" changeup, a pitch that could become deceptive if he can keep his arm speed up because of his jump towards the hitter. As a young high school arm, don’t expect to see him knocking down the door in Atlanta for another four to five years – he will need to improve his fastball command and work on the feel for his changeup. The Braves believe they can keep him as a starter as yet another young system-developed arm.

- Andrew Sisson

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#14 | Todd Cunningham | Center Fielder | Age: 24 | Gwinnett

379 PA, 2 HR, 16 SB, 33 BB, 47 K, .284/.362/.356

Todd Cunningham, who many felt might get a call up before the All-Star Break after the entire Braves' outfield went down with injuries, did not get such call and is currently still in Triple-A with Gwinnett. The team decided to call on Jose Constanza instead of adding Cunningham to the 40-man roster. Cunningham has been a consistent climber through the system since he was drafted by the Braves in the 2nd round in 2010. At 24, there is not much development remaining; he is who he is – a speedy center fielder with one of the better hit tools in the system. He lacks power as his .284/.362/.356 triple-slash this season shows, but he can make solid contact from both sides of the plate. In his minor league career, he has put up 7.5% walk and 11.5% strikeout rates, a good sign that he has leveraged his speed by putting the ball in play. On the field, Cunningham’s speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in center field; however, he does lack arm strength. Cunningham projects to be a solid 4th outfielder, but could be blocked in the coming years because of current outfield situation in Atlanta.

- Andrew Sisson

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#13 | Luis Merejo | Left-Handed Pitcher | Age: 18 | Danville

13.2 IP, 7 BB, 8 K, 1.244 WHIP, 0.00 ERA

Luis Merejo is an exciting 18-year-old left-handed arm out of the Dominican Republic. One of the first things that stands out about Merejo is his advanced feel for pitching at a young age. His fastball currently sits low 90’s, which projects to be an above average pitch because of its command. As for his secondaries, his curveball is solid while his changeup is still developing, like most pitchers with his age and experience. As a flyball-heavy pitcher, Merejo will need to work on keeping the ball in the yard, using his secondaries to keep hitters off balance and induce weak contact. He was recently promoted to Danville after putting up solid numbers in the Gulf Coast League last season. He’s only thrown 50 professional innings, so it would be foolish to put too much stock into any of his numbers, but a 61:16 strikeout-to-walk is a promising start. Look out for Merejo in the second half, as he will likely start games for Danville in rookie ball.

- Andrew Sisson

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#12 | Tommy La Stella | Second Baseman | Age: 24 | Mississippi

176 PA, 2 HR, 4 SB, 22 BB, 12 K, .346/.432/.464

Tommy La Stella might have been a bit higher on this list if he could just stay healthy. In limited playing time, 176 PA, La Stella has posted an impressive .346/.432/.464 triple-slash. At 24 years old, he’s a bit advanced in terms of age for the Southern League, but could earn a promotion during the second half if he can stay on the field. La Stella will always be a personal favorite, simply because of his ability to walk more than he strikes out. His awareness of the zone combined with the fact he can flat out hit the baseball (with gap power) will be a big plus as he advances. On defense, he lacks range and doesn’t have the softest hands, but that won’t exactly keep him out of a big league spot if he continues to hit. Some suggest this area of his game is improving, others believe a move to third could be in his future. If La Stella can stay on the field going forward, he should continue to gradually work his way up through the system.

- Andrew Sisson

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#11 | Christian Bethancourt | Catcher | Age: 21 | Mississippi

230 PA, 5 HR, 7 SB, 10 BB, 42 K, .262/.292/.400

Christian Bethancourt has found himself outside the top 10 of a Braves prospect list for the first time in what feels like forever. He is currently playing Double-A in his age 21 season where he is posting a .262/.292/.400 triple-slash. This still makes him quite young for the Southern League, but he is repeating the level. As of late he has hit a hot stretch and bolstered his overall offensive performance into a 98 wRC+ in 2013 (2% below league average, above average for catching position). He has continued to show a poor eye and approach at the plate, sporting a 4.5% walk rate (actually his best in the past four seasons). By no means is it time to give up on Bethancourt as a major-league regular because he is still "only 21," but it makes sense to at least throttle back expectations for the near future. Bethancourt is still an all-world defender at a premium defensive position, something that carries a ton of value in itself even if he doesn’t hit much (see: Simmons, Andrelton). He will still be a very useful as league minimum backup, even though it doesn’t look like he will blossom into his All-Star ceiling.

- Andrew Sisson

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