#20 | Mauricio Cabrera | Right-Handed Starting Pitcher | 21 years old
Mauricio Cabrera was the third member of the Lynchburg staff whose season didn’t go according to plan. The fireballer is known for his mid-to-upper 90’s fastball as a starter, with the ability to hit triple digits in his short time out of the bullpen at the end of 2014. Unfortunately, injuries only allowed Cabrera to make five starts, throwing a total 33 innings this past season. The Braves look to keep Cabrera as a starter in hope he can reign in the command along with throwing his breaking ball for strikes more consistently. The right-hander is gifted with with a solid lower half and thick backside, which should help take some stress off his arm. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the organization try’s to leverage Cabrera from the bullpen if injuries continue to nag.
- Andrew Sisson
#19 | Dustin Peterson | Third Baseman | 20 years old
The Braves acquired Dustin Peterson (whose brother DJ is one of the Mariners’ top farmhands) from the San Diego Padres as part of the Justin Upton deal last December, which netted Atlanta four of TC’s top nineteen pre-season prospects. Peterson, who’ll play the 2015 campaign at the ripe age of twenty, was popped as the 50th pick in the 2013 draft out of an Arizona high school. Peterson spent the entire 2014 season in the Midwest League with Fort Wayne, producing an uninspiring .233/.274/.361 line, fading noticeably in the second half of the season. Even worse, Peterson committed a whopping 38 errors at the hot corner, which just added fuel to the fire that he may not be able the position in the long term.
Despite the negatives from Peterson’s 2014, he remains an intriguing prospect with one of the highest offensive ceilings in Atlanta’s system. He doesn’t have any standout tools, but if you squint, you could see him becoming an above-average hitter for both average and power. He has a short, simple swing with very good bat speed, and has the strength and plane to hit balls to the gap and over the fence on occasion. Peterson has major approach issues, however, as he is overly aggressive and prone to chasing bad balls, especially off-speed pitches. He strikes out too much and doesn’t walk much at this point, so he’ll need to refine this part of his game. Peterson’s defensive game is also a question mark at this point, as he struggled handling third base last year. His arm should be good enough to stick at the hot corner, but if the glove can’t handle an infield role, he might have to give the outfield a shot. On the basepaths, Peterson is an average runner at present and doesn’t figure to be much of an asset with his wheels.
Peterson is a bit of a wild card in the system. He doesn’t excel at anything in particular, but in a system that doesn’t have many standout pure hitters, he could develop into one of the better offensive prospects that the team has. He’ll likely break camp with Carolina this season. It will be interesting to see how Peterson improves his approach this season and whether or not he’s able to find more success in the second half of the season in his second shot at full season baseball.
- Ian Morris
#18 | Jose Briceno | Catcher | 22 years old
Jose Briceno is the most recent addition (as of publication) to Atlanta's rebuilt farm system, coming over from the Colorado Rockies organization with fellow catcher Chris O'Dowd for pitchers David Hale and Gus Schlosser. The move to add Briceno is made ostensibly in light of Christian Bethancourt's failure as-of-yet to break out offensively. Bethancourt is still a top tier defensive catching prospect, but his offensive game has ranged from average to unfortunate during his time with Atlanta. Enter Briceno.
Briceno doesn't project as a stud offensively, but his minor league numbers have been much more encouraging than Bethancourt's, as he has shown the ability to hit for power and draw walks. Fangraph's Kiley McDaniel had this to say about Briceno, who he ranked as the Rockies' eleventh-best prospect:
Briceno is a young catcher still working on the finer points defensively, but the athleticism and tools are there to stick behind the plate and the arm is plus. The raw power is average and there’s just enough feel to hit that he could get to it in games. It’s a longshot but potential everyday catchers don’t grow on trees, so scouts are more than willing to give Briceno a chance.
- Daniel Simpson
#17 | Wes Parsons | Right-Handed Starting Pitcher | 22 years old
Like many other homegrown names on the list, Parsons drop in ranking in more due to the influx of talent into the system than souring on the 22-year-old’s 2014 season. While the 5.00 ERA/4.19 FIP doesn’t jump off the page, it doesn’t mean all was lost. As the righty expressed to me this off-season, he has felt a lot more comfortable with his changeup. His sinking fastball and plus slider have been his bread and butter in the lower levels. The addition of a third pitch would pay dividends as he reaches the upper minors. Keep and eye on Parsons and the rest of the Mississippi rotation in 2015.
- Andrew Sisson
#16 | Ricardo Sanchez | Left-Handed Starting Pitcher | 17 years old
Ricardo Sanchez was the return that Atlanta received for perennial Talking Chop favorite Kyle Kubitza (we miss you) from the LA Angels during the offseason. Of all the prospects Atlanta has added this offseason, Sanchez is very likely the most mysterious. The Angels signed Sanchez out of Venezuela for over half a million dollars, a pretty substantial bonus. Sanchez was also named MVP of the U15 World Championships before LA signed him, an impressive feat given the amount of talent those tournaments showcase.
Sanchez started 9 games in the Arizona league, and reports put a very high ceiling on his talent. The kid can already throw in the upper 80s to low 90s as a 17 year old, which is nothing short of mind-boggling. He also showcases a predictably raw breaking ball that could end up being a very good pitch in time.
As with most players his age, there's a world of development to go between him and the big leagues. But his incredibly young age ensures that Atlanta will control almost all of his formative years, and there are few - if any - teams I would rather trust to develop a young prospect such as Sanchez. As always with youth, the risk associated here is incredibly high, but so is the ceiling. Two years from now, Sanchez could be an afterthough, or he could be one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta's system.
- Daniel Simpson