09/06/12 10:00 AM ET
Teheran remains atop Braves' prospects list
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- As Julio Teheran endured some growing pains while pitching with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, some wondered if he is indeed the sure-fire prospect he was projected to be over the past few years. But it did not lead MLB.com to remove his status as the Braves' top prospect.
Teheran, catcher Christian Bethancourt and shortstop Andrelton Simmons serve as the Braves' three representatives on MLB.com's latest Top 100 Prospects list. Bethancourt is the only member of this group that has not yet reached the Major League level.
When MLB.com revealed its preseason Top 100 prospects list in January, Teheran was considered the game's fourth-best overall prospect. After going 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts for Gwinnett, the 21-year-old right-hander fell to the 26th spot on this elite list.
Still, the Braves are very optimistic about Teheran's future. They were encouraged to see the young hurler remain composed and willing to make some mechanical changes that made his delivery less robotic. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of his final four starts and completed at least eight innings in two of those outings.
"We were really encouraged with what we saw the last month," general manager Frank Wren said. "He started pitching very much like he did last year. We're still extremely high on him."
While Teheran slipped in the rankings, Simmons and Bethancourt both made significant leaps.
Simmons, a slick-fielding shortstop who made his Major League debut on June 2, rose from 65th to 33rd on the Top 100 list. Bethancourt, who is viewed as one of the game's top catching prospects, saw his rank improve from 91 to 61.
While Simmons has already earned a starting role in Atlanta, Bethancourt appears primed to serve as Brian McCann's successor when the All-Star catcher's days with the Braves are complete. The strong-armed catching prospect struggled at the plate during the early part of the season and ended up hitting .243 in 71 games with Double-A Mississippi.
Before the season began, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino also represented the Braves on the Top 100 list. Delgado has since compiled too much service time and Vizcaino was traded to the Cubs on July 30 in exchange for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.
Along with providing a new Top 100 list, MLB.com also updated the list of Top 20 prospects in each organization. Teheran, Simmons and Bethancourt obviously occupy the top three spots for the Braves, who seemingly still have a wealth of young pitching talent.
braves' top prospects
Lucas Sims, the hard-throwing 18-year-old right-hander taken in the first round of June's First-Year Player Draft, already stands as the club's fourth-best prospect.
After breezing through three Gulf League starts, Sims went 2-4 with a 4.33 ERA in eight starts with Rookie Level Danville. He has recorded 39 strikeouts and issued 13 walks in the first 11 games of his professional career.
Sean Gilmartin, a 22-year-old left-hander taken in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, ranks as the club's fifth-best prospect. He posted a 3.84 ERA and allowed opponents to compile a .254 batting average against him while combining for 27 starts with Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.
One of the most talented young arms in the organization is J.R. Graham, and he ranks as the club's sixth-best prospect. Scouts have been impressed by the arm strength shown by Graham, whose fastball was clocked at 97 mph in the seventh inning and later this year.
Graham combined to go 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 26 combined starts with Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Mississippi this year. The 22-year-old right-hander recorded 110 strikeouts and issued 34 walks in 148 innings. He also had an impressive 2.24 ground ball-to-flyball ratio.
Rounding out the club's 10 highest-ranked prospects are right-handed pitcher Zeke Spruill, left-handed pitcher Alex Wood and a pair of third baseman in Joey Terdoslavich and Edward Salcedo.
Some notable names among the club's 20-higest ranked prospects are shortstop Nick Ahmed, outfielder Matt Lipka, the club's top selection in the 2010 Draft, and outfielder Todd Cunningham, who is coming off a successful season with Mississippi.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.