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Atlanta Braves 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Just like last year, 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 2015. 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. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(2/11)

Houston
(1/14)

Atlanta
(Today)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(2/14)

Los Angeles
(1/17)

Miami
(12/13)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(2/18)

Oakland
(1/21)

New York
(12/17)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(2/21)

Seattle
(1/24)

Philadelphia
(12/20)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(2/25)

Texas
(1/28)

Washington
(12/24)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Jason Hunt


Coming off a division title and 96 wins in 2013, expectations were high for the Braves to compete and potentially advance even further in 2014. The team needed to replace the production from free agents Brian McCann and Tim Hudson, but otherwise the team that would return in 2014 was largely the same as that division winning squad. To replace McCann, they would go with Evan Gattis as the primary backstop, and hoped that he would be able to duplicate his 21 home run performance while playing more at the position.

In the rotation, they hoped that Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen would be able to return to help out Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, and Alex Wood. However, injuries forced the team's hand, as both Beachy and Medlen would need Tommy John surgery before Spring Training was over. To counteract that, they went out and signed Ervin Santana to a one-year deal. Since Santana had received a qualifying offer, he cost the Braves their first round pick.

The season started out well, with a 17-8 record in April, but the team was inconsistent throughout the summer. They struggled to score runs however, leading to a number of roster moves. The team called up second base prospect Tommy La Stella in late May, benching Dan Uggla in the process. A couple months later, it had become apparent that Uggla did not fit with the roster any longer, and despite having another full season on his contract, was given his unconditional release. They acquired Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell at the trade deadline for catching prospect Victor Caratini, but it did not give them the shot in the arm they were hoping for. By this point they had lost the division lead for good, and Washington ran away with the division by 17 games.

This performance, coupled with the numerous failed free agent signings, ended up costing general manager Frank Wren his job before the end of the year. To take his place, the Braves named John Hart as the interim general manager, and after a search took place, ended up giving him the job on a permanent basis.

It's not completely clear whether Hart is working on a rebuilding effort, as some of the moves have had people scratching their heads trying to figure out the long term plan. He already shipped all-star outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, but got back a young starting pitcher under team control for four seasons in Shelby Miller, and a potential high upside pitching prospect in Tyrell Jenkins. He also sent young second baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for former Brave Arodys Vizcaino and some additional international slot money. Other players have been rumored to be available, and we will see whether he decides to move either of the Upton brothers, Evan Gattis, or anyone else as they retool for another run. There has also been some question as to whether they should listen to offers on Craig Kimbrel, but it is not considered very likely as of now that he is traded.

It does appear that a retooling may be more in line, as the team is still adding pieces that will help with the 2015 season as well, having signed outfielder Nick Markakis to a 4 year, $44 million contract, and reliever Jim Johnson to a one-year deal as well. The Markakis signing in particular is a bit confusing, as it would appear that there is an even higher likelihood that the team moves Upton or Gattis.

The farm system has some interesting names right now, with Jose Peraza and Lucas Sims at the forefront of the farm. Graduations in recent years by Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, and Alex Wood have helped the team at the major league level, but the next wave of top prospects may not be ready to help for another season or two.

Long term, the team is fairly well set with Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons locked into long term deals, but the question at this point is whether their window to compete will remain open in 2015, or if they will look more to be competitive when they move into their new stadium in 2017.

2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Phil Gosselin (AB), Tommy La Stella (AB), Shae Simmons (ST), David Hale (IP)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Jason Hunt

The Braves had killed two birds with one trade, opening up an outfield spot for Evan Gattis and leaving the catching to top prospect Christian Bethancourt, while also adding a young, high-upside starting pitcher in Shelby Miller to a very young rotation. Then they went out and signed Nick Markakis to play that vacated outfield spot instead. The rumors are still running rampant that the Braves could trade Justin Upton or Evan Gattis potentially but for now it would appear that the best opportunity for a prospect to jump into the lineup will be at second base. They moved La Stella to the Cubs, and could be in the market for a second baseman on a one-year deal have signed Alberto Callaspo to a one year deal to help fill that void. Jose Peraza reached AA in 2014, and could be the starter by the end of the 2015 season, but likely will head to AAA to start the season and could be called upon if Callaspo struggles out of the gate.

The rotation is fairly well set now with Teheran, Minor, Miller, and Wood, with David Hale as the frontrunner for the fifth starter's spot right now. There is still the potential during the season that they could re-sign their two non-tendered starters (Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen), but it seems that they may have better opportunities elsewhere. In the bullpen, unless the team moves Craig Kimbrel, they are probably set with him, Johnson, and David Carpenter for the late innings.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Brian Creagh

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.

1. Lucas Sims (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
8 0 4.19 1.30 107
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
156.2 0.70 0.84 8.43% 15.83%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R A+
Roster Status: Protect After 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

Sims is the unanimous number one prospect in this system, but lacks the upside of many other system leaders. A right-handed starter, Sims was drafted out of high school in the first round of 2012 and as a result had a long development path in the minors. Sims spent all of 2014 in Hi-A Lynchburg and didn't show the dominating statistics you'd like to see from a top prospect. The most positive number is the 156.2 innings logged across 28 starts, since it is always great to see a full season out of pitching prospects in the low minors. The rest of the numbers leave a lot to be desired: an 8-11 W-L record, 4.19 ERA, 6.1 K/9, and a 3.3 BB/9.

It's always important to keep the statistics in context, and a 20 year old in Hi-A is almost 3 years younger than the average player so don't dismiss Sims due to the low strikeout rates. Scouting reports give a more optimistic view of Lucas Sims, citing a jump in stuff later in the year. The changeup took big strides and could become a third plus pitch for Sims, giving him a complete repertoire. Sims also features a plus fastball and plus curveball, each with quality movement and a large gap to close in the command department. The hardest part when considering Sims from a fantasy perspective is looking the other way on a mediocre statistical season, especially after the gaudy numbers he put up in 2013. The truth is somewhere in between, and if he continues to refine all three pitches, he should end up somewhere closer to his 2013 season.

2015 should be another big test for Sims as he should spend the majority of the season in AA. I wouldn't be shocked to see some initial struggles again, but as long as reports on the stuff don't turn negative, his fantasy potential should remain unchanged. I've seen scouting reports citing his tendency to fall out of rhythm on the mound, and that is definitely curable with time as he logs more innings and gets more comfortable. This could be a great time to buy low on Sims, but he still has some brand name value due to a weak system around him. In a stronger system, a drop in ranking could present a great market opportunity for dynasty owners.

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2. Jose Peraza (2B)

Photo Credit: Elsa - Getty Images
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.339 79 2 44 60
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
499 0.364 0.441 3.41% 9.42%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: Late 2015

A breakout season from Jose Peraza puts him at #2 on our prospect rankings. The Venezuelan second baseman had arguably the best statistical season of any Braves prospect, and the scouting reports backup everything the box score is telling us. Heading into the season, Peraza was not known more for his defensive capabilities than for his bat. However, a .339/.364/.441 line across Hi-A and AA as a 20 year old is indicative of much improvement. He demonstrated elite contact skills, speed on the basepaths, and developing gap power.

Peraza's potential should be tempered by his physical makeup, and a few additional warning signs. Only 2 HRs in 110 games does not translate well for fantasy, even though a .441 slugging percentage for a contact-oriented 2B won't kill any owner's season. The 60 SBs come with 15 caught stealing and scouting reports that don't indicate elite speed from Peraza. He'll have value in SBs, but I'd expect more in the 25-30 range. He also managed only 17 walks in 499 plate appearances. Peraza still has a hyper-aggressive approach and his contact skills are masking the deficiency in the minors, he'll likely get exposed at the major league level.

All in all, Peraza should end up as an average major league regular with a solid AVG and SB totals. If he finds his way to the top of the Atlanta lineup, there's a chance for quality counting stats as well, but it's also not difficult to see him slotting in the #7 or #8 spot in the batting order. Opposite of Lucas Sims' situation, I'd be looking to sell high anywhere I own Peraza. The ceiling is nothing truly impactful from a fantasy side, and you could flip his crazy 2014 stat line into something a little more promising.

3. Braxton Davidson (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.224 24 0 11 0
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
186 0.387 0.299 16.67% 22.58%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 L L Rk
Roster Status: Protect After 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

The biggest addition to the Atlanta Braves farm system was their first round rookie pick, high school outfielder Braxton Davidson. He has a great offensive profile, and a limited defensive one with 1B already looking like an ultimate landing spot. These guys are typically solid investments for fantasy prospects, but they can also mislead us with big minor league numbers and no output to speak of at the major league level. Davidson could go either way at this point, and the lack of elite skills in any offensive tool has me slightly concerned.

Many describe Davidson as a mature offensive profile, citing his willingness to work deep into counts, and his advanced control of the bat. This does put a limit on his fantasy ceiling, since he's already nearly filled out his 6'2" frame and I haven't seen anyone put a 70 grade on his future power potential. The key to his success could be sticking in a corner outfield spot, which he certainly has the arm for, but will need to maintain his current athleticism to make it work. He's only 18 years old, and hasn't seen a PA above rookie ball, so his iffy stat line doesn't mean much. His strikeout to walk rate of 42:31 is very encouraging, but if the power and hit tool don't fully mature it won't help him much down the line. I'm probably waiting a round or two before picking Davidson in any of my rookie dynasty drafts, but a longer look at him in 2015 could show more potential than I'm currently giving him credit for.

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4. Christian Bethancourt (C)

Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.274 40 8 57 8
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
482 0.299 0.375 3.32% 18.05%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R AAA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (1 Option Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015

For those not familiar with the idea of prospect fatigue, and writing so much about a prospect for so long without any validation of being right or wrong, Christian Bethancourt has exhausted me. For over 3 years now, we've heard about the stud, Panamanian catching prospect with elite defensive abilities and enough stick to make an impact in both fantasy and reality. After a small 31 game sample in the majors last year, Bethancourt is still a prospect-eligible player, and one that could still go either way for me.

For a long time, I've cautioned against investing in Bethancourt saying that the bat wasn't special enough, and his guaranteed playtime won't make up enough value for the poor ratios he's going to put up. I haven't completely changed my mind, but Bethancourt has been good enough at the highest levels to make me wonder if there's a chance for some fantasy gold. His major league stats are ugly, but his .283/.308/.408 triple slash line in AAA appears useful, and that's back-to-back seasons of offensive success in the upper minors. I'm still not betting on Bethancourt to be anything spectacular, but he could hold his own for a long enough time to where he actually figures it out. He suffers from an aggressive approach, but that can be fixed with enough time, and time is what his defensive chops will buy him. At the very least, I won't have to write this blurb about Bethancourt this time next year.

5. Ozhaino Albies (SS)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.364 41 1 19 22
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
239 0.446 0.444 11.72% 9.62%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
17 S R Rk
Roster Status: Protect After 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2019

A surprise prospect in Atlanta is the shortstop from Curacao, Ozhaino Albies. A premiere athlete with little professional experience there is a wide gap between the ceiling and the present for Albies. In 57 games in rookie ball, a 17 year old Albies hit .36/.446/.444 with 1 HR and 22 SBs. The line is even more impressive when considering he was stateside for the first time this year and had to acclimate to a new culture. There's a lot to like with this kid, including a quality approach (23:28 K:BB ratio).

His speed appears to be legit and he's received plus-plus grades on his wheels. It should carry through the rest of his career thanks to his diminuitive 5'9" frame, which likely won't grow to impede his speed. With that size comes legitimate concerns about his ultimate power potential, and that's where the shines on Albies starts to wear off. He's a switch hitter and shows almost no pop on either side of the plate. Combine that with the lack of a plus hit tool, and it's easy to see Albies really struggling with more advanced pitching as he moves up. The bright spot is his advanced approach at the plate and his willingness to take a walk. You only have to look a few spots up this list at Jose Peraza to see what Albies could be if it all clicks. He's incredibly young, and forever away. If we were rating solely on upside, Albies would likely find himself #3 on this list behind Peraza, but we're still a few years away from getting a clear picture of what Albies big league future might hold.

6. J.R. Graham (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
1 0 5.55 1.47 50
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
71.1 0.30 1.32 8.15% 15.67%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
24 R R AA
Roster Status: Not on 40 Man Roster (Rule 5 Eligible)
ETA to Majors: 2016

A shoulder injury in 2013, set Graham's prospect back and an inconsistent 2014 did not help him regain any lost ground. He threw 71.1 innings in AA, which is a positive sign for anyone recovering from a shoulder issue, but his 5.55 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 could mean Graham is not the same pitcher he once was. Graham lacks the ideal size for a starter, but there were never any durability concerns prior to his injury.

Graham has a plus-plus fastball and a putaway slider. The changeup is not quite there yet, but could prove sercivable in a starting role. The fastball/slider mix and the injury history make it impossible to see Graham ending up in the bullpen. The Braves continue to trot him out as a starter, and hopefully he can stick there and retain his fantasy value. I give Graham a little more value than the pitchers below him due to his proximity to the big leagues. A 2015 debut is completely reasonable, while Fulenchek and Grosser are still 3+ years away from their debuts. Graham could be a nice little buy-low target for deeper dynasty leagues. You won't have to hold him down long, and after 3 consecutive seasons in AA, current owners could be getting frustrated with the slow development. The upside is still a #3 starter if he can return to pre-injury form.

7. Kyle Kubitza (3B)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.295 76 8 55 21
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
529 0.405 0.470 14.56% 25.14%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
23 L R AA
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016

Kubitza is a guy who seemingly keeps hanging around the middle tier of these prospect lists. There's nothing special in his profile from an offensive or defensive point of view, but he's solid enough to remain interesting. It helps this statistical output has also remained effective enough to where you can squint and see a useful fantasy asset. Kubitza is a big, third base prospect who has always been older for his level. A .295/.405/.470 triple slash line while making the jump to AA certainly makes this Kubitza's most impressive professional season to date. Throw in 8 HRs and 21 SBs and you've got someone that interests me.

Chris Johnson is the only thing blocking Kubitza from a shot at Atlanta's hot corner, so I wouldn't say there is a roadblock in his way. In fact, given Atlanta's intent to trade top assets, there's a chance Kubitza gets a full time gig as soon as 2015. Until then, AAA is where Kubitza will likely start next season and if he can continue to put up impressive numbers, I'll continue to have interest in him in dynasty formats.

8. Garrett Fulenchek (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 4.78 1.49 29
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
37.2 0.50 2.12 13.02% 17.16%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect After 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

Fulenchek is a huge, right-handed SP who signed way above slot in the second round of 2014. At 6'4" 205 lbs, Fulenchek has the ideal frame for a SP workhorse and the heavy fastball to match. He's a fastball, slider, changeup guy, and like most high school pitching prospects, the changeup lags behind the other two offerings. His fastball sits in the low 90's, his slider is a plus offering already, and he shows some feel for the changeup. Fulenchek looks the part of a starter and is one of the safer fantasy plays from this draft class.

Fulenchek proves competent across the board, but command concerns and the lack of a true out-pitch limit him to more of a #3/#4 ceiling at this point. What makes the profile difficult to pin down is that he's a physical specimen at only 18 years old. It would not be uncommon for the stuff to jump a level or two once he gets professional coaching and a full season under his belt. I love the high floor on Fulenchek and the tease for me has me intrigued.

9. Alec Grosser (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
4 0 3.68 1.29 63
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
63.2 0.00 2.71 7.94% 22.74%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect After 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

Grosser is another pitching prospect on this list who doesn't appear to be a sure bet as a rotation piece. An 11th Round pick in 2013, Grosser has been handled slowly and hasn't moved outside of rookie ball. He has a fastball/slider mix, which would play up in a relief role and a fringe changeup that doesn't show a lot of promise. Grosser has shown an aptitude for striking out hitters, and if you believe he can fill out his frame and handle a full SP workload, then he probably jumps up a spot or two in these rankings.

Unfortunately, I see him destined for a late-innings relief role and given his distance from the MLB, it's difficult to see him rosterable in any dynasty format. No point in holding a player for 3-4 years only to get a relief pitcher out of it.

10. Victor Reyes (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.259 32 0 34 12
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
361 0.309 0.298 6.65% 16.07%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 S R A
Roster Status: Protect After 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

A few other guys may be more deserving of this last spot when considering present talent, and proximity to MLB, but the projection on Reyes makes him worthwhile of this spot. A left-handed outfielder, Reyes just completed his first season in full-season ball hitting .259/.309/.298 with 0 HRs and 12 SBs. Ugly? Sure. But when this 6'3" 170 lbs. 19 year old fully matures, there is a chance for a middle of the order slugger and Top 25 fantasy outfielder.

He's another guy who is forever away, so consider your league rules before investing. If you can afford to wait, and there isn't a large cost to cut him if it doesn't work out, then Reyes is a great asset. You could probably argue he has the highest ceiling of anyone in the system. His spot at #10 should serve as warning as to how far away he truly is from his ceiling and how much risk there is in the profile.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Brian Creagh

Mauricio Cabrera - The Dominican right-hander's season was cut short due to injury and hurt his fantasy stock as a result. He still has the potential for a back-end rotation piece, but given his monster fastball, his feel for the changeup, and lack of any quality secondary offerings, Cabrera will likely end up in a late innings reliever role.

Johan Camargo - A SS prospect with a promising bat, Camargo is already 21 years old and has only 17 games outside of Low-A. At 6'0" and 160 lbs, Camargo might outgrow SS and shift to 3B which would undoubtedly hurt his stock. He's a name to stash away for now and if the bat breaks out in a year or two, expect to see him jump up this list.

Jason Hursh - Not sure what to make of Hursh. His first round pedigree, and great minor league numbers should leave me more optimistic. His lackluster strikeout numbers leave me preferring to role the dice on a riskier prospect with more upside. Hursh is close to the Atlanta rotation, and could be a good short-term add if he's available in dynasty formats.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
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 

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