7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Peraza, Sims headline updated Braves' Top 20 list
Young Venezuelan third baseman tops Atlanta's midseason prospect ranking
By Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Jose Peraza, 2B
Preseason rank: 4
MLB Top 100 rank: 58 (Preseason: NA)
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2010 when he was 16 years old, Peraza has quickly risen through the ranks of Braves prospects, and he stands out for his above-average speed.
Thanks to his quickness, Peraza has excellent range. Along with his soft hands and good infield actions, he has all the tools to be an above-average defender. Peraza knows how to use his speed to his advantage on offense, as well. His speed allows him to beat out infield hits and makes him a basestealing threat. Peraza's swing is contact oriented, producing only minimal power.
After making significant improvements in 2013, Peraza has begun moving through the Minor Leagues faster, reaching Double-A Mississippi as a 20-year old. He profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter.
2. Lucas Sims, RHP
Preseason rank: 1
MLB Top 100 rank: 71 (Preseason: 60)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
Long known for their predilection for local high school talent, the Braves took Sims, an Atlanta native, with the 21st overall pick in 2012. He was one of the youngest players in his Draft class, and the Braves have tried to bring him along slowly. Still, Sims was the youngest pitcher in the Carolina League on Opening Day this season.
Sims throws his fastball in the low- to mid-90s, with some projection left. He has a good curveball, and his changeup made strides to becoming a third above-average Major League offering. Sims is still ironing out some of the kinks in his delivery, and his command should improve as he does so.
Sims earns high marks for his competitiveness on the mound and is on his way to becoming another of the Braves' homegrown stars.
3. Christian Bethancourt, C
Preseason rank: 2
MLB Top 100 rank: 84 (Preseason: 82)
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
The Braves have long considered Bethancourt their catcher of the future. The future may have finally arrived after he made his Major League debut in 2013 and returned to Atlanta in the first half of '14.
Bethancourt is a defensive-oriented catcher. He is agile behind the plate and blocks balls in the dirt well. His plus arm and good footwork allow him to release the ball quickly and control the running game with aplomb. While Bethancourt's strength is his defense, he has improved offensively. He has solid power, which has begun showing up in games as he refines his approach. He is an aggressive hitter and rarely walks, but he does a good job of putting the bat on the ball.
With his excellent defense and his offensive growth, there is little doubt Bethancourt will be an everyday catcher in the Major Leagues.
4. Braxton Davidson, OF
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 35 | Arm: 60 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50
Davidson quickly made a name for himself on the showcase circuit last summer, hitting a record three home runs at the Tournament of Stars last June. He kept hitting throughout his senior season, and the Braves made him the 32nd pick of the 2014 Draft.
Davidson has a mature approach at the plate and is willing to take walks when he doesn't get strikes. His arm, which has been clocked in the low 90s both on the mound and from the outfield, gives him a third solid-or-better tool. Davidson is a below-average runner, but he moves well enough to have a chance to play an outfield corner.
Davidson is a product of the Roberson High School program that has produced big leaguers Darren Holmes, Cameron Maybin and Chris Narveson. The Braves believe he has the offensive upside to one day join that group.
5. Jason Hursh, RHP
Preseason rank: 3
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Changeup: 50 | Slider: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
After undergoing Tommy John surgery during his sophomore year at Oklahoma State, Hursh proved he was fully recovered a year later as the Cowboys' ace. His success that spring helped convince the Braves to make him a first-round pick in 2013.
Hursh's fastball sits in the mid-90s, with heavy sinking action. He pounds the strike zone with it, helping him create plenty of ground-ball outs. Hursh's changeup and slider aren't as advanced as his fastball, but both have the potential to become Major League average offerings.
The Braves have shown a willingness to move top college starters quickly, and Hursh's pitchability and three-pitch mix could help put him on a similarly aggressive track to the Major Leagues.
6. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP
Preseason rank: 5
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Changeup: 45 | Slider: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
Like his older brother Alberto, a Cubs reliever, Cabrera is a hard-throwing right-hander. He has teamed up with Lucas Sims in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues to form a formidable duo that could continue pitching together for years to come.
Cabrera's fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he can reach back for a bit more velocity when he needs it. His secondary pitches still need more development, but they flash signs of promise.
Cabrera's biggest concern going forward is his command. If he is able to refine it, he has the stuff to become a solid starter in the Major Leagues. If not, Cabrera likely will wind as a power reliever, similar to his brother.
7. Victor Caratini, C/3B
Preseason rank: 8
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
A product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Caratini spent one year at Miami Dade College before the Braves made him a second-round pick. He is a switch-hitter and has a good approach from both sides of the plate. Because Caratini's swing doesn't create much loft, opinion varies on how much power he will ultimately have. But he makes hard contact and drives the ball well from gap to gap.
A catcher by trade, a glut of backstops at Miami Dade and his versatility pushed Caratini to third base in college. The Braves left him there during his professional debut, but he moved back behind the plate this season.
Caratini has the tools to be a capable defender at either position, but has proven to be a solid catcher this season. But it's his offensive ability that makes him stand out most.
8. Garrett Fulenchek, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Because he comes from a tiny town -- Howe, Texas, which has a population of 2,600 -- and didn't pitch on the showcase circuit last summer, Fulenchek was relatively unknown before he impressed scouts with his velocity and projectability at Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Association World Championship last October. He continued to raise his profile this spring, and the Braves grabbed him in the second round.
Fulenchek's best pitch is a hard sinker that runs from 90-94 mph, and it could get quicker as he fills out his frame. His slider improved during his senior season and could become a plus pitch in the future. Fulencheck also demonstrates some feel for his changeup, though he hasn't had to use it much.
Fulenchek is getting better at repeating his mechanics and commanding his pitches. If he continues to develop like he has in the past year, he eventually could become a front-line starter in the big leagues.
9. Wes Parsons, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 60 | Overall: 45
Parsons went undrafted coming out of high school and again after one season at Jackson State Community College. He was pitching in the Northwoods League, a summer college wood bat league, when the Braves signed him as a free agent in 2012. Parsons made his professional debut the next year at Class A Rome, impressing scouts with his stuff and projectable frame.
Parsons throws his fastball in the low-90s, and he could add even more velocity as he physically matures. He has the makings of a solid slider and his changeup is in its nascent stages. Parsons has a loose, easy delivery that helps him command all of his pitches well.
Though still somewhat raw, Parsons will pitch the whole 2014 season as a 21-year old and has plenty of upside. He could eventually be another example of the Braves' knack for finding talent off the beaten path.
10. Cody Martin, RHP
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Cutter: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Martin was primarily a reliever at Gonzaga before the Braves drafted him in the 20th round in 2010. He began his professional career as a reliever, but Atlanta moved him to the rotation in 2012 and he has responded well.
Martin's fastball sits around 90 mph, and he pairs it well with an above-average cutter. His curveball and changeup give him a chance to have four Major League-average or better offerings. Martin has solid control and mixes his pitches well.
Martin is versatile enough to be either a starter or a reliever. If he did end up in the bullpen, his fastball-cutter combination would play up nicely. Martin could soon fill either role for the Braves.
11. Kyle Kubitza, 3B
Preseason rank: 11
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Kubitza, the highest-drafted position player in Texas State history, had a rough first full professional season, but he rebounded in 2013 at Class A Advanced Lynchburg.
Kubitza has a smooth left-handed swing that produces good power to the gaps. But it has a tendency to get long, leading to a high strikeout rate and hindering his ability to tap into his raw power. Kubitza has a patient approach and understands the strike zone well. He has developed into a solid defender as a professional. Kubitza has a strong arm and soft hands.
Kubitza will need to improve his consistency at the plate to reach his potential, but his raw power and defensive skills will give him a chance to contribute in the Major Leagues.
12. J.R. Graham, RHP
Preseason rank: 6
Scouting grades: Fasball: 70 | Changeup: 50 | Slider: 55 | Control: 60 | Overall: 45
Graham had a breakout season in 2012 and was named the organization's top pitcher. But he suffered a shoulder injury in May 2013. Though Graham was able to avoid surgery, he wound up missing the rest of the year.
When he's healthy, Graham's fastball sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked up to 100 mph in short stints. He pitches down in the zone and its heavy sinking action helps him create lots of ground-ball outs. Graham's tight slider and changeup give him two more solid offerings to attack hitters with.
Some scouts already believed Graham was better suited as a reliever before his injury-marred season, and questions about his durability may ultimately push him into the bullpen. Regardless of his role, he could soon reach the Major Leagues if he can stay healthy.
13. Victor Reyes, OF
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 45 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
When Reyes signed with the Braves as a 16-year-old in 2011, scouts liked his size and power potential. But as a professional, he has stood out for his natural hitting ability.
Reyes has a mature approach at the plate and understands the strike zone well. His long levers allow him to generate good bat speed and cover the whole plate. Reyes played mostly left field in his first two professional seasons, but he runs and throws well enough to man right field.
Though Reyes hasn't displayed the kind of power that was expected of him as an amateur, he will play the whole 2014 season as a 19-year-old, giving him plenty of time to add strength to his projectable frame. If the power follows, he profiles as a prototypical corner outfielder.
14. Juan Jaime, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 80 | Curveball: 40 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 30 | Overall: 45
Jaime is old enough to have been originally signed by the Expos as a 17-year-old in 2004. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has twice been claimed on waivers, but his arm strength continues to make him an intriguing prospect.
Jaime's fastball sits in the upper 90s and was clocked up to 98 mph during a brief stint in the Major Leagues this season. He also throws a changeup and curveball, but both lag behind his fastball. As a result, Jaime relies heavily on the pitch and isn't afraid to challenge hitters with it.
Jaime has been used as a closer in the Minor Leagues and has the stuff to pitch in high-leverage situations in the big leagues, but he'll have to find a way to throw more strikes as he's averaged nearly six walks per nine innings in full-season ball.
15. Aaron Northcraft, RHP
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 40 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Northcraft has slowly climbed through the Minor Leagues since the Braves signed him away from his USC commitment in 2009. His stuff doesn't always impress, but he has found a way to be successful at every stop.
Northcraft's fastball sits around 90 mph, with good sinking action that creates plenty of ground balls. All of his secondary pitches have good movement, though none project to be better than average offerings. Northcraft earns praise for his competitiveness on the mound and isn't afraid to attack hitters.
Northcraft has the look of an innings-eating starter, though some scouts think he's best suited for the bullpen. He is nearly ready to help the Braves in either role.
16. Alec Grosser, LHP
Preseason rank: 20
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Grosser popped up on teams' radars late in the 2013 Draft process, and his stuff and projectability quickly got scouts interested. He was a two-sport athlete in high school and didn't pitch much, but his athleticism, work ethic and baseball IQ make him a quick study.
Grosser's fastball sits in the low-90s and often shows even more velocity. His whippy arm action produces good sink on his fastball, though it may need to be cleaned up a little. Grosser's offspeed pitches are inconsistent now, but scouts believe they will improve as he gets more experience.
Grosser remains a long way from the Major Leagues, but he has the raw tools to develop into a quality starting pitcher in time.
17. Johan Camargo, SS
Preseason rank: 13
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 30 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
The Braves have found plenty of success in signing players out of Panama, finding talents such as Randall Delgado and Christian Bethancourt. Camargo looks to be the latest in that line after making an impressive U.S. debut in 2013.
A switch-hitter, Camargo has a good approach from both sides of the plate and shows a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. He has minimal power and isn't a speedster.
Camargo is a solid defender at shortstop. He has a strong arm and good instincts. Scouts are mixed about Camargo's chances to stay at shortstop long term, but he has the tools to succeed even if a move is necessary.
18. Kyle Wren, OF
Preseason rank: 18
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 45 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
The son of Braves general manager Frank Wren, Kyle had an outstanding professional debut after being selected in the eighth round of the 2013 Draft. He has continued that in 2014, reaching Double-A Mississippi in his first full professional season.
Wren has a line-drive swing and uses his plus speed to get on base. He is an aggressive baserunner and has good instincts. Wren doesn't have much power, but he is strong enough to drive the ball into gaps and allow his speed to turn those into extra-base hits. He is a solid defender and can play all three outfield positions, though he needs to improve his routes.
Wren has done his best to show 2013 wasn't an aberration, and he looks like a good bet to become a fourth outfielder, if not more.
19. Todd Cunningham, OF
Preseason rank: 17
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
Cunningham earns praise for being a heady player and getting the most out of his tools. A switch-hitter, he makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate. Cunningham has minimal power, instead using his plus speed to help him get on base and make things happen. He doesn't strike out much and has gotten better at drawing walks, which helps him fit at the top of the order.
Cunningham is an excellent defender. He has a good arm and is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
While Cunningham made his Major League debut in 2013, he wasn't able to repeat his breakout '12 campaign. It won't be easy to break into the crowded outfield in Atlanta, but he could soon contribute in a reserve role.
20. Chasen Shreve, LHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
The Braves drafted Shreve in the 11th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, and he has gotten solid results at every level of the Minor League ladder.
Shreve throws from a low angle, making it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball. That deception helped him succeed with middling stuff early in his career, but in the last year, he has gotten stronger and his stuff has taken a step forward as a result. Shreve is also throwing strikes more consistently and has dramatically lowered his walk rate.
Shreve's changeup is a weapon against right-handers and enables him to be more than a situational lefty, despite his arm slot. With his improved velocity and better control, he pitched his way to Atlanta in July and could become a mainstay in the bullpen.