I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
The Atlanta system is frankly a little lopsided. Despite this, it does rank slightly in the top half due to the pitching talent at the top. Atlanta, who was ranked top 5 by a lot of people last season, lost some of that ranking due to graduation, trades, and a lack of quality position prospects. Let’s take a look at what they have now….
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Julio Teheran (SP)- I actually find it kind of funny that so many people seem down on Teheran after his 2011 season. Which was excellent by the way. He still has plenty of time to sharpen his breaking ball, and his fastball and change are already special. I think he is a top of the rotation guy for years to come.
2. Arodys Vizcaino (SP)- Vizcaino has explosive stuff. In fact, it might be more explosive than Teheran’s. However, Vizcaino doesn’t have the same kind of command, and he has had injury trouble throughout his career. If he proves durable, the Braves got another guy who is a top of the rotation guy here.
3. Andrelton Simmons (SS)- I have been high on Simmons for a while. In my mid-season rankings in 2010, I had him higher than most, and Simmons helped make me look good. A potentially special defensive player, Simmons has improved at the plate, and has good speed.
4. Randall Delgado (SP)- Delgado is the third of Braves three-headed pitching monster. He has good stuff as well, but I don’t see him as a top of the rotation guy, more of a #3. That is nothing to sneeze at of course.
5. Sean Gilmartin (SP)- Nothing special here. Just a solid 3 pitch mix lefty who has a mid-rotation ceiling. His floor is high though, so he isn’t likely to flop and should move fast. I don’t think he has a real good strikeout pitch, but he is reminiscent of current Braves pitcher Mike Minor.
6. Christian Betancourt (C)- This is probably an aggressive ranking for Betancourt. His raw tools are intriguing. He has a chance to be a plus defender, with an ability to hit for power. However, his patience at the dish is pretty terrible, and some have wondered about his desire to be great. He gets a position bump for me though.
7. Edward Salcedo (3B)- Salcedo has been talked about for a couple years as the next big thing for the Braves. At 20 years old in low A ball, Salcedo held his own nicely flashing power potential and a better idea of the strike zone than he had previously. He is a defensive nightmare at this point, but does have good arm strength.
8. Tyler Pastornicky (SS)- Pastornicky isn’t a guy who is going to wow you with tools, but he gets the job done. He is a line drive hitter with good speed, and can handle the defensive duties at SS admirably. I don’t see him at the top of an order, but rather an 8th spot guy.
9. Matt Lipka (CF)- Lipka is a talented guy. A SS in high school, he has moved to CF for the Braves. He didn’t hit well in his first full season, but that isn’t the end of the world. If the offense improves, he will vault near the top half of the Braves top 10.
10. Zeke Spruill (SP)- Spruill could be a mid-rotation to back of the rotation type starter. There is a quality fastball with movement, and a pretty good change. He does have to continue to sharpen his slider to deal better with major league hitters.
Sleepers: Jean Carlos Gil (SP) and Evan Gattis (C). Gil is a young right hander out of the Gulf Coast League that flashes quality stuff and advanced command for a youngster. Gattis was way too old for his league, but that was because of injury problems. Gattis has tremendous power potential.
Rebound Candidate: Matt Lipka. He has the high ceiling that you are looking for in a rebound candidate, and 2011 was his first full season. I expect there could be some improvement in 2012.
Verdict: Pitching is widely considered the most precious commodity when considering a farm system, so in that regard, the Braves could really be quite a bit higher. Their top trio is about as good as anyone’s, but the depth and quality of the position prospects really lowers the overall quality of this system. There is 5 position prospects in their top 10, but after Simmons, there is some considerable question marks. The one thing that the Braves prospects have going on for them is that they are generally age appropriate for their level, or young for it.