2014 Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Atlanta Braves

Kevin C. Cox

The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Atlanta Braves

The prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2014. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore

Chicago

Houston

Atlanta
(Today)

Chicago
(12/23)

Arizona
(1/9)

Boston

Cleveland

Los Angeles

Miami
(12/9)

Cincinnati
(12/26)

Colorado
(1/13)

New York

Detroit

Oakland

New York
(12/12)

Milwaukee
(12/30)

Los Angeles
(1/16)

Tampa Bay

Kansas City

Seattle

Philadelphia
(12/16)

Pittsburgh
(1/2)

San Diego
(1/20)

Toronto

Minnesota

Texas

Washington
(12/19)

St. Louis
(1/6)

San Francisco
(1/23)

Organizational Overview
By Andrew Ball(@andrew_ball)

The Atlanta Braves had a very good, yet ultimately disappointing 2013 campaign. The team won 96 games and captured the NL East crown by ten games, but the first round playoff loss at the hands of the Dodgers left fans wondering what could have been.

Despite the success, many of the Braves "key" contributors slumped in 2013. Entering the season, the strength of the team was easily the outfield, a young, talented trio that included budding superstar Jason Heyward and new offseason acquisitions B.J. and Justin Upton. Heyward and the younger Upton brother were fine, combining for 41 home runs and contributing six wins above replacement, but much, much more was expected from the duo. And Bossman Junior turned in one of the worst seasons of any major league regular, hitting .184/.268/.289 in his first year in Atlanta. Plus, past the outfielders, Dan Uggla also failed to reach the Mendoza line. So, one can only imagine what kind of a season it could have been, had the contributions of those four been anywhere what we would've expected entering the season.

Of course, Atlanta had plenty of bright spots last season, mostly in the form of steps forward by young players. Freddie Freeman took another step towards becoming the top first baseman in the National League, driving in 109 runs and garnering some support for most valuable player. Joining Freeman on a few ballots was shortstop Andrelton Simmons who hit 17 home runs and is quite possibly the best defensive player in the game.

Pitching wise, Atlanta appears to have two very good pitchers atop the rotation in rookie Julio Teheran and fellow youngster Mike Minor. Overshadowed a bit by Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig's tremendous seasons, Teheran quietly won 14 games and struck nearly a batter an inning in 185 frames. The lanky Colombian ranked atop this list a year ago, and now he looks poised to join the elite crop of starters in the big leagues. Not to be outdone, Minor posted a 3.21 ERA in just over 200 innings, vaulting himself into the conversation of the best young southpaws in the game.

It's a good thing that Atlanta has so much young talent at the major league level too, because the farm system is looking a little barren these days. Top prospect Lucas Sims is a legitimate top-50 name, but after that I'd be surprised if another player in the system gets much support on the national prospect lists. As you'll see below, there are some intriguing names like J.R. Graham, Wes Parsons, and Tommy La Stella, but it's just not the deep, big upside list we've grown accustomed to when evaluating the Braves.

2013 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time prior to September 1st of this year.

Evan Gattis (at bats), Joey Terdoslavich (service time), Julio Teheran (innings), Alex Wood (innings), Luis Avilan (innings), Anthony Varvaro (innings), Cory Gearrin (service time)

Major League Opportunities in 2014
By Andrew Ball(@andrew_ball)

The Braves have already seen two key free agents leave the team this offseason. Catcher Brian McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal to play for the Yankees, and veteran starter Tim Hudson inked a two-year, $23 million contract with the Giants. McCann's spot will go to Evan Gattis and/or prospect Christian Bethancourt. If the two could somehow merge into one player Atlanta would be set, but alas they're stuck with the offensive minded Gattis who isn't very good behind the plate and the light-hitting Bethancourt who is one of the premiere defensive catching prospects. The guess is they split time rather evenly, limiting both players' value.

In the rotation, Atlanta will have Minor, Teheran, and Kris Medlen for sure, with the final two spots likely going to Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy if everyone is healthy. Still, we may see the team go get at least one more starter for depth. Outside of that, the only real opportunity may be at second base, where prospect Tommy La Stella could push Dan Uggla out of a job. Unfortunately, Uggla has two-years and $26 million left on his current contract, so without a trade it's going to be hard to get him off of the field.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
By Jason Hunt(@jasonsbaseball)

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors prior to September 1st.

#1 Lucas Sims (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

12

0

2.63

1.11

134

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

116.2

0.23

0.91

9.6%

27.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

19

R/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

A

Our consensus choice for the #1 spot in the system, Lucas Sims was the Braves' top draft pick in the 2012 amateur draft, out of their own backyard in Snellville, Georgia. The team signed him to a bonus of $1.65 million the same week as the draft, which allowed him to make 11 starts that year. He spent time with the Braves' GCL affiliate as well as their Appalachian League team, throwing a total of 34 innings while striking out 39 and walking 13.

He made his full season debut this year with the team's low-A affiliate in Rome, Georgia, but did not jump into the rotation until late May as the team looked to limit his innings total for the season. He finished his time in the rotation with 113 strikeouts in 94 innings while allowing just 71 hits across 18 starts.

Sims features a fastball which sits in the low 90s, has been dialed up as high as 97 in some reports, and is considered a plus offering now. He also throws a curveball which is above-average, and a changeup which could end up as an average offering to go along with a very smooth delivery. There is a lot to like here in terms of projectability, but while his height isn't ideal (6'1"), it's also not necessarily going to limit his potential upside severely either.

Craig Goldstein wrote back in June that he believed everything was there for Sims to become a #2 starter down the line, and I'm inclined to agree with his assessment. He has the potential to provide a ton of strikeouts, along with solid ratios. He seems likely to move to High-A for the 2014 season, with the potential ETA to the majors in 2016.

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Photo Credit: J. Meric - Getty Images

#2 J.R. Graham (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

1

0

4.09

1.39

28

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

35.2

0.00

2.00

6.7%

18.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

23

R/R

Not on 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

AA

A 4th round pick back in 2011 by the Braves, Graham was well on his way to the top spot in this system at the start of the year. A relative bargain at just under $175K, Graham quickly reached AA in his first full season in 2012, finishing the year with nine starts at the level.

He returned to AA to start the 2013 campaign, and was off to a great start in April, throwing 23 innings, striking out 19 and walking 5 while getting a ton of groundballs. He struggled in his three starts in May, and a shoulder injury kept him out of action for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Graham was not able to pitch in the instructional league nearly five months later either, so his health will likely be a question mark until at least spring training.

Graham features a three pitch repertoire, a plus fastball, a slider that is considered to be a potentially above-average out pitch, and mixes in a changeup that has the potential to be another average offering. He gets a ton of movement on his fastball, which helps him to get a lot of weak contact and ground balls. The delivery is very fluid and appears easily repeated. There have been mentions of it being a bit high-effort at times, but from what I've seen I'm not as worried about that. Craig Goldstein wrote up Graham back in April, and was able to get a much more in-depth scouting report on Graham from Ethan Purser of Capitol Avenue Club (now a part of Talking Chop).

There had previously been concerns about whether Graham would hold up as a starting pitcher given his shorter frame (5'10"), and the shoulder injury does not bode well toward that end. If he can stay in the rotation, he has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter for both the Braves and for fantasy owners, providing solid strikeout totals to go along with solid rate stats. If he ends up in the bullpen, he still has the potential to be an impact reliever with his fastball-slider combination, although for fantasy a majority of his value would be tied to whether he could take over for Craig Kimbrel at some point down the line and get saves.

Until he pitches again, it's hard to say exactly which is more likely. The fact that he hasn't been able to appear in a game in nearly seven months is concerning, especially given that there are questions about his long-term role. Despite that, his upside combined with his distance from the majors leads me to move him up these rankings, as he could be in the majors sometime during 2014.

#3 Jose Peraza (SS)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.288

72

1

47

64

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

504

0.341

0.371

6.7%

12.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

19

R/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

A

An international free agent signing from the 2010 class, Jose Peraza played in the Dominican Summer League in his first pro season and then split the 2012 season between the Braves' two short season affiliates. The numbers were interesting both years, as he stole at least 25 bases both seasons despite only playing in 66 and 53 games, respectively. He came into the 2013 season ranked near the bottom of the top 10 lists posted by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but without a full season on his stat sheet was viewed warily.

The organization sent him to full season Low-A for the 2013 season, and the first thing that jumps out was the stolen base total (64 on 79 attempts). He finished second in the Sally League this year behind Royals' prospect Terrence Gore, and from the scouting reports the speed is real. The speed plays into his power numbers, although it is not expected that he will provide more than token power production for fantasy owners down the line. More likely, it will end up being in the form of doubles and triples rather than the home runs that fantasy players yearn for. He is expected to provide a solid batting average, although it's not as likely to translate into a .300 hitter but more likely a .270-.280 type.

On the defensive side, Peraza has been playing shortstop thus far, and is expected long term to stick at the position. There is still work to be done defensively, but it sounds like that work will only come with time and repetition. The profile to me sounds like an Elvis Andrus-type performance if everything works out: a good but not great batting average, great stolen base totals (30-40 range), and the secondary numbers in terms of runs and runs batted in that could make him a top 10 shortstop in the future. He'll likely end up in High-A next year, and the Braves can take their time given the excellent performance by current major league shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

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Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

#4 Christian Bethancourt (C)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.276

42

12

45

11

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

389

0.305

0.435

4.1%

14.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

On 40 Man Roster (2 Options Remaining)

AA, MLB

We've been hearing about the elite defensive catching prospect in the Braves' system for a few years now, and we are now on the cusp of seeing him get a shot at a major league job. The Braves signed Bethancourt out of Panama back in 2008, and have been moving him along despite never posting an OPS above 788 or playing in more than 108 games in any one season. After a particularly poor season at the plate in 2012 (granted, as a 20 year old at AA), the team had to decide whether to add him to the 40 man roster, and did so despite these struggles.

Despite playing in just 90 games this year, Bethancourt posted a solid .740 OPS with 21 doubles and 12 home runs, easily his best performance in full season ball. There remain legitimate concerns about his approach at the plate, and specifically whether he can improve his walk rate. Despite the low rate, it was the highest of his career to date, and also his lowest strikeout rate over a season as well. He's not likely to be helpful with regard to batting average in the majors, but his above average raw power could lead to nice home run totals if he can even hit in the .240-.250 range.

His defense has always been his calling card, as reports of amazing pop times have been coming in consistently for years. He's been ready defensively for a while now, and there's absolutely no doubt that he will stay at the position in the major leagues. With Brian McCann leaving for the Yankees, look for Bethancourt to be given the opportunity to platoon with Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird at some point during the 2014 season. For me, he is likely to be an NL-only or two-catcher league play, as he could provide 7-10 home runs in a little more than half a season, a nice luxury for your second catcher in those formats if you can take the hit in batting average.

#5 Tommy La Stella (2B)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.356

39

5

45

8

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

353

0.444

0.492

12.7%

10.2%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

24

L/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

A+, AA

An 8th round draft pick back in 2011 out of Coastal Carolina, La Stella has gone out and hit at every stop he's made so far. After spending his draft year at Low-A Rome and hitting .328, La Stella moved up to High-A for the 2012 season and had more walks than strikeouts in just 90 games there.

La Stella's value to fantasy owners stems from his hit tool, as he has never hit below .299 as a professional. However, there are varying reports on what he can provide in the other fantasy categories. He's hit as many as 9 home runs in a season, but it doesn't sound like he would be expected to top out at much more than 10 as a major leaguer. He has also stolen 13 bases in a season, but it seems that has had less to do with above average speed and more with baseball instincts.

The biggest knock on La Stella as a prospect right now is his inability to stay healthy, as he has never appeared in more than 90 games in a season. Being a second base prospect tends to drop his value somewhat, but he is considered at least an average defender, with John Sickels noting that he believes his defense is underrated somewhat. There doesn't appear to be any concern that he would have to move from the position, which could further hurt his value for fantasy owners.

The most likely outcome in my mind is that La Stella hits around .300 with minimal power (5-10 homers) and speed (3-5 SB) totals, but should also be good for solid run totals given his ability to draw a walk and make contact. I can see the possibility of seasons where he hits double digit home runs (10-12), but I don't know how likely it is to happen consistently.

Having reached AA already, he could be in line to get a shot at the job in the big leagues this year, especially given the struggles of Dan Uggla last year. If the Braves can find a way to move his contract elsewhere, I could see La Stella stepping into the job despite not playing at AAA.

#6 Mauricio Cabrera (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

3

0

4.19

1.44

107

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

131.1

0.21

1.40

12.4%

18.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

R/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

A

Cabrera signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010 for $400K, and pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2011. He had a very good stateside debut in 2012, allowing 45 hits, striking out 48 and walking 23 with a 2.97 ERA in 57 innings pitched in the Appy League. He made his full season debut this year with Low-A Rome, but was inconsistent from start to start. Overall, the numbers don't look great, but his FIP (3.63) and strand rate (just 63%) show him to have been at least a little unlucky this year.

Cabrera features an explosive fastball, which has been pegged as high as 100 but sits in the mid 90's. The pitch has great potential, but needs work still, as Mike Newman of RotoScouting noted:

With seven walks in just 4 2/3 innings pitched, fastball command was a definite issue. Between Cabrera's sling shot arm action and a tendency to overthrow, he had little idea where each pitch was going.

He also features a curveball and a changeup, but both pitches are considered works in progress. If both develop, he could end up with three average or better offerings, as the curveball has had reports of flashing plus. His delivery appears to be a bit violent at times, and it seems like he would have trouble repeating that delivery on a consistent basis.

The biggest concern to this point is Cabrera's struggles with control and command. He hasn't posted a walk rate below 3.6 per 9 innings, and had a career worst 4.9 per 9 innings this year. Add in the undeveloped secondary offerings, and there are legitimate concerns that he'll end up in the bullpen instead of the trotation. These struggles right now make it hard to project him into the majors as a valuable fantasy contributor until we can see some improvement in these areas.

He remains a very young prospect, and for me the concern is that if he doesn't take a step forward in 2014, the Braves may start to look toward that bullpen move more rapidly given that he will need to be added to the 40 man roster after next season. It's a very interesting profile, as he could end up a mid-rotation starter if it all clicks. However, it's not clear if he will have very much value if he ends up in the bullpen, as fantasy owners will need him to provide strikeouts at a ridiculous rate if he doesn't end up closing games out. It's possible he could return to Low-A to start 2014, but it seems more likely to me that the Braves move him up to High-A Lynchburg instead to keep pushing him.

#7 Victor Caratini (3B/C)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.290

29

1

25

0

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

246

0.415

0.430

15.9%

20.3%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

B/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

Rk

A second round draft pick this year out of Miami-Dade JC, Victor Caratini represents a potentially very interesting conversion project for the Braves. He played third base primarily during his first professional season, but it sounds like the Braves are hoping for Caratini to transition behind the plate, even announcing him as a catcher during the draft and giving him time there in the Instructional league.

Caratini is considered an advanced hitter, with a discerning eye and solid approach at the plate. The 15% walk rate jumps off the page, but it's hard to put too much stock into that given that he played in the rookie league for just half a season. While he only hit one home run this year, he did have 23 doubles, and is expected to develop legitimate home run power in the future. He's not expected to provide value with his speed, which is considered below average. I can see a .280 hitter with potentially 20 home runs down the line, which has value at either position.

The biggest question about his value stems from whether he is successful in this conversion, as the bar for fantasy relevant catchers is substantially lower than third basemen. His bat is good enough even if he doesn't end up behind the plate, but could be a potentially impact bat if he can. We should have a better idea of what the Braves think of that conversion next year based on how much time he sees behind the plate and what level they move him to start his first full season.

#8 Jason Hursh (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

1

0

0.67

1.11

15

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

27

0.33

2.00

9.3%

13.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

A

Hursh was the top draft pick of the Braves this year out of Oklahoma State University, and was sent to Low-A Rome to start his professional career. The team eased him into the pro ranks, making nine starts but throwing just 27 innings this year. His repertoire features a fastball which is considered a plus offering, and gets a ton of groundballs as a result of the natural movement and sink of the pitch. He also features a changeup and curveball, both of which have the potential to develop into average offerings but are currently works in progress.

There are questions surrounding Hursh which make his floor lower than some of the other pitchers on this list. He needed Tommy John surgery in college after his freshman season, so durability concerns could persist depending on how he does this year. If his offspeed pitches do not develop to be at least average offerings, it's a possibility that he ends up pitching in the bullpen instead of the rotation, and as with some of the other pitchers on this list, becomes at least partially dependent on role to provide value.

For me, I want to see more from Hursh as a pro before moving him up this list. If everything clicks, he's a mid-rotation starter for the Braves, but if the secondary offerings don't develop he could have substantially less value to fantasy owners. He could move quickly, and it will be interesting to see where the Braves send him to start the 2014 season.

#9 Wes Parsons (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

7

0

2.64

1.03

101

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

109.2

0.41

1.39

4.7%

22.8%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

21

R/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2015 Season)

A

The Braves seem to do better than most teams with finding talent outside of the draft process, and specifically with undrafted players. They signed Brandon Beachy as an undrafted free agent a few years ago, and may have found another interesting pitcher in Wes Parsons in the same manner. After signing in June of 2012, the team sent him for his professional debut to full season Low-A Rome in late May 2013, where he helped lead the pitching staff behind Lucas Sims. Parsons had some truly dominant performances this year, including a seven strikeout, complete game shutout in early August.

Parsons features a fastball, slider and changeup, and has shown a very repeatable delivery to this point as well. The few reports on Parsons point to his fastball sitting in the low 90s, and the slider has shown the potential to be a strikeout offering as he moves up. Previous reports on his changeup haven't been particularly complimentary, and I'd be curious how the pitch has progressed this year given the excellent results. At 6'5", he has the potential to fill out and be able to better handle a starter's workload, which bodes well for his future role. The combination of high groundball totals with a low walk rate makes me take notice, as these skills could translate to continued success as he moves up the system. While he will be viewed with some skepticism given that he went undrafted, Parsons seems like he can be a pitcher who can continue to improve, and will likely move to High-A for 2014.

#10 Victor Reyes (OF)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.342

34

0

25

5

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

213

0.387

0.409

7.0%

14.1%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

19

L/R

Not on 40 Man Roster (Protect After 2015 Season)

Rk

This far down the list, I'm ready to take a shot on the dream, even at the cost of players that have higher floors. Reyes was a J2 signing by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2011, and after a season in the Dominican Summer League, debuted stateside in the GCL this year. He split the season between the GCL and the team's Appy League affiliate, playing left field primarily at both stops.

Reyes is almost entirely projection at this point, as he has only had 213 plate appearances stateside, and none in a full season league. He is anticipated to provide a solid batting average based on his advanced approach at the plate, and to provide at least some power down the line as he grows into his 6'3", 170 lb. frame. He played left field almost exclusively this season, but is reported to have enough arm to play in right field as well. As of right now, we're probably looking at a deep league flier, but if all the tools click he could jump up these rankings in a year's time. He will move to full season Low-A to start the 2014 season, and I'll be very interested to see what he does over the length of the season.

Other Interesting Prospects

By Jason Hunt (@jasonsbaseball)

Sean Gilmartin - Gilmartin fits the "better in real life than fantasy" moniker almost to a tee, as he will likely provide around 6-6.5 strikeouts per nine innings as he continues to move up. The repertoire doesn't point to that improving, and while he should be a serviceable starting pitcher in the Majors, he'll likely need to go out at the start of 2014 to show that he is ready for a major league call up. Once he is in the majors, he seems like a streaming option for most fantasy owners, and worth a look in very deep leagues.

Cody Martin - Martin reached AAA this season, and could end up debuting in the majors at some point during the 2014 season. His walk rate spiked a little bit this season, and the hard part with him is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of projection that would point to him being a relevant fantasy starting pitcher except in the deepest of leagues. He could be a nice streaming option if he ends up in a rotation spot, but with the Braves' depth that doesn't seem super likely at this point either.

Aaron Northcraft - Northcraft posted solid numbers at AA this year (121 K, 51 BB in 137 IP), but with a back-end starter ceiling and having already used up an option on the 40 man roster, Northcraft could end up working in relief for the Braves long term. It doesn't sound like he would be a likely fit for a closer's job, so his fantasy value is almost directly tied to being able to stick in the rotation. He'll likely start the 2014 season at AAA, and with the depth in line for their rotation could have a hard time breaking through.

Ian Thomas - A personal favorite of Andrew's (especially given that he pitched for him in York in 2012), the Braves started him out as a reliever in 2012 and for a substantial portion of 2013 before moving him into their AA rotation on June 21st. The team may have found a diamond in the rough here, as he went 4-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts against 24 walks in 68 innings as a starter there. He also pitched well out of the bullpen (56 K/13 BB in 37 IP), and could end up in the Braves' bullpen before too long if they need another lefty.

Edward Salcedo - Salcedo's name is brought up often in the Braves' system, as he has shown off loud tools at times during his development, specifically his power. He has hit at least 12 home runs in each of the last three seasons, but has failed to hit above .248 at any of those stops. With Salcedo, the big question for me is whether he will hit for enough average to let his power provide value to fantasy owners.

Josh Elander - Elander had a very nice season between two levels of A ball, hitting .293/.365/.463 with 15 home runs. I kind of want to see him continue the performance as he moves up in 2014 before buying in completely, but the ceiling doesn't really seem to be that high on him right now. He's most likely a left fielder as he moves up the minors, so there will be pressure on the bat to perform even more.

For more on the Braves, be sure to check out SBNation's Talking Chop. For more on the minor leagues and prospects in general, check out SBNation's Minor League Ball.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects.
Follow him on Twitter

Andrew Ball is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score and Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Matt Mattingly is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
Fangraphs
Talking Chop
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