We continue our rollout of Talking Chop's midseason top 25 prospects list today, with a look at prospects 6 through 10. If you missed any of our first three installments of the list, you can find them via the links below.
10. Victor Reyes, Right Fielder, Rome Braves
Preseason ranking - #13
Before looking at Victor Reyes’ stat line, it’s important to understand just how young he is compared to his competition. According to Baseball Reference, Reyes is almost two and a half years younger than the average player in the Sally (South Atlantic) League, so we should not be incredibly surprised that Reyes has not produced a ton statistically yet.
In seeing Reyes in person, the one thing I came away with was how thin he was. You can tell he has a solid hit tool and that he’s very athletic and long, but it will be tough for him to play a corner outfield spot with little to no power. Thankfully, he has a lot of time to beef up and put some weight on his body. On the field I would like to see Reyes control the strike zone a bit more, which should allow him to utilize his hit tool even better once he builds his plate discipline. I like his tools a lot, but he is a long way from even being in the upper minors.
- Ben Duronio
9. Kyle Kubitza, Third Baseman, Mississippi Braves
Preseason ranking - #11
Prior to the season, I wrote in the top-25 prospect list that Double-A would be a good sink-or-swim test for Kubitza, who was coming off of a season in which he posted a 130 wRC+ — and a 25 percent strikeout rate — in the Carolina League. Thus far in the Southern League, Kubitza has performed swimmingly, slashing .310/.408/.480 with 24 doubles, seven triples, four home runs, and a 47:86 walk-to-strikeout ratio through 87 games. The native Texan and former third-rounder has always been an intriguing prospect in my eyes due to his borderline five-tool potential. On defense, Kubitza has always racked up a high amount of errors, but in scouting the player throughout his professional career, he has always shown plus range at third with good hands and a near double-plus arm despite some natural awkwardness to his actions. While not a plus runner, his speed is still an asset, good for 17 steals in 19 attempts this season. His raw power is above average and has manifested itself mostly in the form of doubles and triples up to this point. The hit tool has always been the question, and in recent looks, the concerns about the natural length in his swing and the balance issues are still present. While the strikeout rate has decreased, it is still a red flag at 24.7 percent. Swing-and-miss issues aside, Ian Morris noted on twitter that while Kubitza’s batted-ball data has changed slightly, his abnormally high average on balls in play may be driving his inflated line this season.
So, what do we make of all of this? As someone who has been driving the Kubitza train since his Rome days, he has always been more of a second-division starter for me due to the projected fringe-average hit tool, an evaluation that I stand beside, high averages this season notwithstanding. Despite this, I see Kubitza as a major-league contributor in the not-so-distant future, one who can pair solid-average power, mostly in the form of doubles and triples, with a good approach at the plate, all while providing above-average defense at the hot corner.
- Ethan Purser
8. Victor Caratini, Catcher, Rome Braves
Preseason ranking - #9
Playing primarily catcher, Victor Caratini has the opportunity to be one of the next of a long line of internally developed catchers in Atlanta. Of all the non-pitcher positions the Braves have done well with, catcher has looked like Atlanta's most successful spot over the past 20 or so years. Caratini’s got great skills with his bat from both sides and is still just 20-years-old.
In terms of authentic major league type bats, I think I like Caratini’s more than anyone else’s in the system. His power is not there yet but it will come, and he certainly impressed me in batting practice when I saw him earlier this season. Look for Caratini to continue to succeed in Rome and be on a slow and steady march towards the majors. Whether he stays at catcher or moves to third base permanently is still yet to be determined, but I’m thinking the Braves did well with their second round draft pick last year.
- Ben Duronio
7. Jason Hursh, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher, Mississippi Braves
Preseason ranking - #7
Hursh was selected in the first round with pick #31 in last year’s amateur draft, and has risen through the Braves’ Minor League ranks at an accelerated pace. The big righty broke camp with Mississippi after spending last season with Rome, and was immediately slotted in as a member of the double-A club’s starting rotation. Thus far, Hursh has been fairly effective, posting a 3.88 ERA with a 3.64 FIP in 18 starts. Hursh has found success despite striking virtually no one out, as his 12.3% strikeout rate is extremely pedestrian. He’s been effective due to the ridiculous rate of groundballs (58.9%) that he induces due to his heavy, sinking fastball and a below-average walk rate. Hursh keeps the ball on the ground most of the time and doesn’t allow many long balls, so it’s worked for him thus far despite not missing many bats.
Hursh has a strong, athletic frame at around 6’2"-6’3", especially in his lower half. His body looks the part as a pitcher who should be able to capably eat innings in a starting rotation. Hursh’s bread and butter pitch is his heavy, sinking two-seam fastball that bores down and in on hitters’ hands, consistently in the 92-94 mph range. When Hursh is working in the lower quadrants of the strike zone with the pitch, he consistently generates ground ball outs as a result of the arm-side run and sink on the pitch. However, Hursh does occasionally let his fastball flatten and elevate, and hitters are easily able to time the pitch and put the bat to the ball. He must become more consistent with the command of this pitch in order for it to be consistently effective, but it does profile as a future plus pitch. The better of Hursh’s two off-speed pitches is his changeup, a pitch in the low-80’s that has inconsistency issues, but occasionally flashes good shape and arm-side fade. It could be an average pitch at the highest level. Unforuntately, Hursh’s breaking pitch is slurvy and wildly inconsistent offering that hasn’t offered any deception or swing-and-miss potential in my viewings. It sits in the mid-to-upper 70’s and doesn’t project as anything more than a get-me-over pitch at the big league level. At this point in time, it seems that Hursh could be destined for a bullpen role, as he lacks a playable third pitch. With some improvement and refinement, especially of his curveball, he could become a viable fringe mid-rotation or back-end starter in the Majors if he begins to miss more bats.
- Ian Morris
6. Braxton Davidson, Right Fielder, Gulf Coast League Braves
Preseason ranking - not ranked
The Braves popped Davidson with the 32nd overall pick this June out of a high school in Asheville, North Carolina. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-handed hitter was highly touted on the showcase circuit last summer, showing off an intoxicating blend of hitting ability with intriguing raw power to boot. The Braves selected Davidson with the hope that he can stick in the outfield, but early reports out of the Gulf Coast League have been largely negative on this front, with scouts dinging him for his lack of natural instincts in the outfield and an overall lack of athleticism that will diminish as the body continues to mature. Most are in agreement that Davidson is a first-baseman long-term, and while this is bad for his overall value, the bat has the chance to make up for the lack of positional flexibility. Some see him as a plus hitter with plus power down the road, though there are a few rough kinks to smooth out with his swing currently, including a tendency for his stroke to get slightly long with a fairly deep loading mechanism. In a system bereft of high-impact positional talent, Davidson offers the highest upside with the stick, a realization that drives this fairly lofty ranking.
- Ethan Purser