Today, and every day throughout the All-Star break, we release Talking Chop's midseason top prospects list. This list is a collaborative ranking of each Talking Chop minor league writer: myself, Ethan Purser, Andrew Sisson, and Ian Morris. Blog manager Ben Duronio also weighed in as well. Between the five of us, we have seen each of these players during the year so far, and that knowledge is what informs these rankings and makes them different from our pre-season list. So, without further ado, let's jump right in.
25. Edward Salcedo, Right Fielder, Gwinnett Braves
The organization has continued their consistent, yet aggressive, advancement with Salcedo as they have moved him up a level every year since 2011. Now still only in his age 22 season, the former third baseman has undergone a position change, now calling right field home in triple-A. So far, it’s been pretty shaky, as he’s committed four errors in only 27 chances. On the bright side, he has thrown out three runners, showing off his above average arm. Considering he’s not a very good base runner, his offensive performance will determine his future. Unfortunately a .203/.290/.368 slash doesn’t have him knocking down any doors. A 10% walk rate is nice to see, but his noisy hands and long swing will prevent him from realizing his ceiling.
- Andrew Sisson
24. Williams Perez, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher, Mississippi Braves
Williams Perez is not a flashy pitcher. He doesn't throw hard, nor does he have any killer secondary offerings. But Perez has done yeoman's work for the last two years, posting sub-three ERAs in High-A Lynchburg as well as AA Mississippi. Given the disappointing seasons that many of Atlanta's top pitching prospects have had so far, Perez's 2014 should not be understated. Perez pounds the strike zone with several average offering that generate a ton of groundballs. He throws a sinker as his primary pitch, and combines it with a changeup to keep lefties honest. He's never gonna be overly-impressive, but his ability to throw strikes and generate groundballs should give him a chance to have a few solid years as a number five starter or groundball specialist reliever in the bigs.
- Daniel Simpson
23. Josh Elander, Left Fielder, Lynchburg Hillcats
Josh Elander's 2014 season has been a lost one so far, and that makes him somewhat of an enigma in our rankings. Elander played in only 37 games with Lynchburg this year, before hitting the disabled list at the start of June. A hazy timetable has put the rest of his 2014 in doubt as well. The converted catcher did not hit well in those 37 games, but we shouldn't rush to judgement based on 137 at-bats, especially since the chance exists that he was playing hurt. Elander's bat has always been his calling card, and it will have to carry him in order for him to see success at higher levels. His placement on the midseason list is a nod to his bat's upside, but next year will be crucial for him. Ethan wrote a detailed scouting report of Elander at the end of last year, and if you are curious, I highly suggest you check it out; what he wrote then is still true today.
- Daniel Simpson
22. Elmer Reyes, Shortstop, Gwinnett Braves
Elmer Reyes sneaks onto the list as a new arrival after a strong 2014 vaulted him into consideration. Reyes is no stranger to Atlanta’s system, as the 23-year-old native of Nicaragua signed with the Braves back in 2009 and has steadily progressed through the system. Reyes began the 2014 season as Mississippi’s everyday shortstop after a decent 2013 with Lynchburg. After slashing .303/.339/.417 through 58 games in double-A, he was promoted to AAA Gwinnett. He’s posted similar numbers in Gwinnett since his promotion, and has opened some eyes with some modest offensive improvements and his ability to play the middle infield defensively.
Reyes is not a big guy, as he’s generously listed at 5’11" and 175 lbs., although I’d say he’s probably closer to 5’10", 160 lbs. Despite his solid offensive numbers in the Minors this year, he’s been the beneficiary of some BABIP fortune and doesn’t profile as much more than a light-hitting utility infielder at the Major League level. Reyes has a simple, short swing and loves to work to the opposite field, spraying line drives. Reyes has virtually no over-the-fence power, but he does have a somewhat surprising amount of pop for someone with such a small frame, as he racks up a decent number of doubles. Despite this, he’s probably just going to be an empty-average type in the bigs, as he’ll see better, harder stuff and he’s seemingly allergic to walks. Although he’s been almost exclusively a shortstop the past two seasons in the Minors, his arm is below-average for the position, despite having decent range. He’s probably a better fit at second base, but could handle shortstop or third in a pinch without being too detrimental. Reyes won’t contribute much on the basepaths, as his speed is around average. His future is probably going to be as kind of a quad-A player, who sees sporadic stints in the Majors as a bench infielder with positional versatility. It isn’t a sexy profile, but he does offer some value as a utility player who would be a decent guy on the end of the bench.
- Ian Morris
21. Juan Jaime, Right-Handed Relief Pitcher, Gwinnett Braves
Jaime isn’t necessarily the most conventional prospect, but his lively arm offers the potential to be a quality bullpen piece. Jaime is a 26-year-old Dominican import who began his career in Washington’s organization, and was let go after missing the 2010 and 2011 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Despite the long layoff, Jaime latched on with the Braves and has progressed to being a fixture in Gwinnett’s bullpen this year, even getting a quick cup of coffee in the Majors earlier this year after injuries necessitated his presence. Jaime’s big league cameo was impressive, as he posted a 7:1 K:BB ratio in four appearances. However, it’s been a struggle at times for Jaime in triple-A, as he’s the classic relief prospect that strikes out tons of hitters (32.9% K-rate in Gwinnett), but also issues way too many walks (19% walk rate).
Jaime is a reliever all the way with a thick frame that allows him to generate plus-plus velocity. His fastball sits in the upper-90’s, touching triple digits on occasion. Jaime relies heavily on his fastball, as it’s his best pitch by far, with the ability to miss bats and blow hitters away. Jaime doesn’t have a consistent secondary pitch, which hurts his overall effectiveness. He uses a curveball and a changeup sporadically, but he doesn’t have much command or control of either pitch. Jaime’s changeup sits in the upper-80’s to around 90 mph, and could be a weapon if he could control it. His curveball usually clocks in around 80 mph, and is wildly inconsistent in its shape, movement, and location. If Jaime is ever able to refine a secondary offering and cut his walk rate, he could be a back-end weapon in a Major League bullpen. The clock is ticking for him, however, as he isn’t getting any younger. More injuries could allow him to spend more time with Atlanta this season, and with a strong Spring Training and some refinement, he could break camp in Atlanta’s bullpen next season. I just wouldn’t hold my breath on it.
- Ian Morris