Today we wrap up our midseason list with the moment you've all been waiting for: Talking Chop's top five prospects. If you missed any of our other installments of the list, you can find them via the links below.
5. Mauricio Cabrera, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher, Lynchburg Hillcats
Preseason ranking - #6
There's not much new to be said about Mauricio Cabrera, as Atlanta's young righty has missed almost the entire season with a forearm injury. Cabrera made 3 starts in Lynchburg before his injury sidelined him for two and a half months. He just recently returned, but has been throwing out of the bullpen over the last two weeks. This is ostensibly just to ease the strain on his arm; we still believe his long term potential is starting.
Although it's a terribly small sample size, Cabrera has looked good since his return, striking out six men in 6.1 innings, while only allowing one walk and five hits. Cabrera's profile remains largely unchanged. He still offers a blistering fastball, but his offspeed stuff and control are works in progress. Think of him as sort of a starting pitcher version of Juan Jaime. Given the lost year he's had up to this point, the second half will be crucial for Cabrera, but so far he's off to a good start.
- Daniel Simpson
4. Wes Parsons, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher, Lynchburg Hillcats
Preseason ranking - #16
It’s wasn’t the greatest first half for the organizations top starting pitching prospects. Parsons initially fit in this category because of his 4.70 ERA, but peeling back the layers, he probably had the best first half of all the upper-level starters. To begin with, a 3.89 FIP makes the 21-year-old’s season at high-A look a lot more respectable. Young for the level, Parsons continues to have his strikeout and walk rate on the positive side of their respective spectrums. Listed at 6-foot-5, he pounds the zone with a fastball that sits around 92-94, paired with a sinker and slider combo that induces a plethora of groundballs. His changeup continues to be a work in progress, a pitch that would allow him to be more effective against left-handed batters. It wouldn’t surprise me if he turns into the best starter in the current group or prospects. Overall, there is a lot to love with the former undrafted free-agent.
- Andrew Sisson
3. Christian Bethancourt, Catcher, Gwinnett Braves
Preseason ranking - #4
After hearing about Bethancourt for six-plus years, Braves fans have been able to take an extended look at the young catcherthis season due to Evan Gattis’s injury. In 11 games thus far, the Panamanian backstop has slashed .256/.304/.279 with a double and a 2:10 walk-to-strikeout ratio. While an eleven-game sample is hardly enough of a sample from which to draw conclusions, Bethancourt has shown a lot of what we would expect given his minor-league track record: good, if often frustrating, defense behind the plate, a cannon for an arm, and a questionable, fastball-hungry approach that has resulted in a lot of non-optimal contact at the plate. Depending on how the roster shakes out, it seems likely that Bethancourt will be sent back down to Gwinnett once Gattis returns from injury in order to accumulate regular playing time and continue fine-tuning the intricacies of his overall game.
- Ethan Purser
2. Jose Peraza, Second Baseman, Mississippi Braves
Preseason ranking - #5
After coming in at #5 on Talking Chop’s offseason prospect rankings, José Peraza’s torrid 2014 campaign has vaulted him up three spots on the list, and for good reason. The 20-year-old Venezuelan import has had an eventful season, transitioning from playing shortstop to playing second base, due to Andrelton Simmons’ indefinite hold on the position in Atlanta and Peraza’s arm being a better fit on the right side of the infield. Peraza began the 2014 season with high-A Lynchburg and slashed .342/.365/.454 along with 35 stolen bases on 42 tries. In mid-June, he was sent to AA Mississippi and has hit even better than he did in Lynchburg in an admittedly small sample size, despite being the youngest position player in baseball at the double-A level.
Peraza’s offensive strides have catapulted him in the rankings this season, despite more pressure being on his bat due to his position change. Peraza’s improvements came after he altered his setup and swing, allowing his hands to be quicker to the ball. He’s been able to take advantage of his propensity to hit line drives to all fields, as well as his speed, which plays exactly to Peraza’s strengths as a player. Peraza has borderline plus-plus speed that leads to plenty of stolen bases and extra bases taken, and a short, quick stroke that doesn’t produce much power. He’s aggressive early in the count and presently doesn’t have the patience to draw many walks. Defensively, Peraza profiles as a plus defender with great range at second. Atlanta’s brass has stated that they hope that Peraza will become a bonafide leadoff hitter for the team in the near future, and this doesn’t seem outlandish. He may well end up as an average to slightly above-average hitter in the Majors, but with the ability to rack up steals on the basepaths and provide value defensively. He could see time in Atlanta as soon as next season after presumably debuting with Gwinnett, but it’s possible that early 2016 could end up as a more realistic timeline for Peraza. Now, it’s time to see how real the offensive improvements that Peraza has demonstrated this season are as he continues to move up the ladder.
- Ian Morris
1. Lucas Sims, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher, Lynchburg Hillcats
Preseason ranking - #1
Before the season Sims was a consensus top-60 prospect in the majors according to the big prospect publications. The hope was that with prospect graduation and a steady improvement from Sims that he would push himself into midseason top-50 lists, but unfortunately that has not happened this season.
I would not go as far to say I am worried about Sims, after all I along with the rest of the writers at TC have him as the team’s top prospect, but this season has certainly not been as inspiring as I had hoped.
His strikeouts have been cut basically in half in the move from Rome to Lynchburg, and he hasn’t exactly impressed with his 8.7% walk rate either. I am less concerned about his ERA than I am of the fact that he isn’t punching batters out at a high rate and he isn’t keeping them off the bases at a rate you would like to see either. He is already 15 innings away from matching his total from last season, so we may not see Sims a ton more the rest of the year, but hopefully he is able to put together a more successful second half and gives us all a bit more confidence that he is going to be a successful mid-rotation type starter as many prospect gurus expected before the season.
- Ben Duronio