Minor League Hitter of the Week:
José Peraza, 2B, Lynchburg: 12/29, 2 2B, 2 3B, HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 1 K, 3/3 SB, .414/.452/.724
José Peraza hit himself to the top of the Braves' position player ranks this past week, garnering honors as our Minor League Hitter of the Week. It's even more incredible to consider how well he's done when you consider that Peraza is the fifth-youngest player in the Carolina League, and is younger than all but one opposing pitcher in the league. Peraza was scorching hot last week at the dish, hitting .414 with a pair of doubles and triples as well as his first home run of the season, which he smacked off of Luis Diaz on Friday night. Not only did Peraza contribute strongly at the plate, he also provided value on the base paths, swiping three stolen bases without being caught. Peraza is not only excelling as a hitter this season, but is also leading the Carolina League (and is second (!) in all of Minor League Baseball) with 30 stolen bases on the season. He's been caught stealing six times, but an 83.3% stolen base success rate is certainly more than acceptable. It's tough to come by highlights for the Hillcats, as only one team in their league features televised games, but the Hillcats did play that team (Winston-Salem) last week. Here's a video of Peraza turning on an inside fastball and lacing a triple down the left-field line. He uses his excellent speed to make it to third and clears the bases with a 3-run triple.
As you can see in the above video, Peraza is not a big guy, but he uses simple, compact mechanics at the plate to his advantage. Peraza utilizes a an extremely quiet, almost minute, hand load and a stride that simply consists of him picking all but the toes of his feet off of the ground, to stay quiet and uncomplicated, mechanically. This helps Peraza generate tons of contact, something he's demonstrated an ability to do throughout his time in the minors. Peraza doesn't strike out much, and this plays to his advantage considering his speed and the havoc that he is able to wreak on the base paths. Peraza's bat speed isn't going to wow anyone, although it certainly isn't a hindrance for him at the dish. Despite the home run that Peraza hit last week, his first of the season, his profile at the plate is that of a line-drive hitter who uses the entire field to his advantage. He'll go gap-to-gap and pick up some doubles and triples, but he won't be a power threat at any point in his career. The only glaring weakness in Peraza's approach at this point is his allergy to taking a free pass. While Peraza's excellent K% of 10.1% at the high-A level is a positive sign, he's only walking in 3.6% of his plate appearances. For someone who many believe to have a future as a top-of-the-order hitter, you'd definitely like to see Peraza improve his approach at the plate and draw more walks to set the table. His speed and aptitude to steal bases would work brilliantly in tandem with an improved on-base ability, so this is something to watch going forward with him. In addition, Peraza is still continuing to adapt to playing on the right side of the second base bag, as he's been converted from a shortstop to a second baseman this season due to concerns about his arm and the simple reality that Peraza's future in Atlanta is almost certainly as a second baseman due to the presence of Andrelton Simmons. Peraza's glove at second should be an asset, considering the fact that he certainly possesses the ability to handle short in terms of his range and hands. It's easy to be nitpicky about things when looking at prospects, but a .331/.358/.451 line (126 wRC+) is quite promising, especially given Peraza's age relative to his level of competition. When you combine that with plus defense and the ability to create value on the base paths, Peraza's potential future as a valuable Major Leaguer continues to seem more and more likely. Nonetheless, I think we'll continue to see Peraza ride out most of the rest of the season in Lynchburg, with a late-season cup of coffee in AA possible, as his defensive transition and work on approach at the plate give him some valid points to iron out in high-A before making the jump.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Mississippi; Philip Gosselin, IF, Gwinnett; Victor Caratini, C/3B, Rome; Christian Bethancourt, C, Gwinnett
Minor League Pitcher of the Week:
Wes Parsons, RHP, Lynchburg: 1 GP, 7 IP, 3 H, R (0 ER), BB, 8 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 76 game score
Parsons brings home the honor of being TC's MiLB Pitcher of the Week after an excellent start made last Friday against the Salem Red Sox, in which he pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, allowing only one unearned run and striking out eight hitters. Parsons, a 21-year-old 6'5" sinkerballer who was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of a Tennessee junior college back in 2012, encapsulated his strengths as a pitcher in his start last Friday. He kept the ball on the ground, generating a ratio of eight groundouts as opposed to just three flyouts, Parsons has demonstrated an ability to post excellent K:BB ratios in both of his Minor League seasons up to this point, and did more of the same on Friday night, walking only one Salem hitter while striking out eight (six of the strikeouts were swinging). All in all, Parsons' start last Friday was Parsons at his best--he kept the ball on the ground while producing a healthy number of strikeouts, all without allowing hitters to reach on free passes. You can see in the video below how Parsons typically generates his strikeouts, as he possesses a sharp slider with both horizontal and vertical tilt that hitters do plenty of swinging and missing at.
The Braves certainly love their sinker/slider guys (Parsons, Aaron Northcraft, Jason Hursh, heck, even recent draftee Garrett Fulenchek come to mind), and Parsons is one of the strongest in the system. Despite not being drafted (and kudos to the Braves' scouting department for discovering and signing Parsons), he has elevated himself into a very legitimate prospect, popping up on lots of top-10 organizational lists, including Baseball Prospectus' and Keith Law's, in the offseason. It's not hard to see why prospect evaluators are so bullish on Parsons, as he's a big righty with some projectability left in his frame who certainly has the size and repeatable delivery to stick as a starter at the highest level. Parsons has shown an excellent command/control profile, posting walk rates of 4.7% and 5.2% in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Although the term "pitchability" is something that you'll often hear attached to soft-tossing lefties, it certainly applies to Parsons, as he's an intelligent pitcher who does an excellent job of sequencing and commanding his pitches. Parsons' heavy sinker is his bread-and-butter pitch, and it typically sits in the low-90's and is aided by Parsons' downhill plane, something that's heavily attributable to his height. Parsons will occasionally mix in a straighter four-seam fastball with a touch more velocity, but he's typically going to be utilizing his sinker in fastball situations. In my opinion, Parsons' best pitch is probably his aforementioned slider, sitting in the low-to-mid 80's with quality late movement. As is the case with many pitchers in the Minor League ranks, Parsons' least-developed pitch and the offering that will probably determine his fate as a prospect is a still-developing and inconsistent changeup. Parsons will need to improve his feel for the pitch and its consistency as he advances up the organizational ladder, as two-pitch starters are essentially non-existent in the bigs. Although Parsons' ERA of 3.56 this season doesn't look particularly outstanding, his 2.97 FIP (a mark that is actually lower than his 3.05 FIP at Rome last season) suggests that Parsons has handled the jump to high-A quite admirably. If things break right for Parsons, it's easy to see him at the middle or back of a big league rotation in the future, probably 2016 or 2017.
Honorable Mentions: Mitch Atkins, RHP, Mississippi; Jason Hursh, RHP, Mississippi; Tyler Brosius, RHP, Rome