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Talking Chop's Top 25 Braves Prospects, No. 11-15

Another pitching heavy installment for a pitching heavy system including a couple of former college standouts and a pitcher who may not be considered a prospect for much longer.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Just to recap who we have shown thus far...

16.) Max Povse

17.) Steve Janas

18.) Sean Godfrey

19.) Johan Camargo

20.) Daniel Castro

21.) Mike Soroka

22.) Wes Parsons

23.) Tanner Murphy

24.) Connor Lien

25.) Kyle Kinman

Starting with #15....

No. 15 - Andrew Thurman

At No. 15 on our list we have RHP Andrew Thurman who was acquired by the Braves from the Astros in the Evan Gattis trade. Yet again we have a player was having an excellent season before being injured in the Mudcats' bus crash, but he has been out even longer than most and just recently began his rehab assignment. The 23 year old out of UC-Irvine was drafted in the 2nd round in 2013 by the Astros and was enjoying his best season in 2015 before being injured. He features a fastball that can hit the mid 90s, but he typically takes a tick or two off of it so that he has better control of it. He also features a good changeup as well as an average slider and curveball for a good mix of pitches. It remains to be seen if he will perform as well as he did before his injury, but if he can regain his form before the wreck he could progress through the minors quickly given his age and strong mix of pitches.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Thurman if you are a Braves fan. He was sporting a healthy 2.51 ERA despite batters having a decent BABIP against him and his strikeout rate being down overall (6.40 K/9 in 2015, compared to 8+ in every year prior). The biggest improvement has been in his control as his walks are down significantly this year (under 2 walks per 9 for the first time in his career) and he is also getting a significantly higher percentage of ground balls (47.6% in 2015, almost 10 points better than his previous high last year). We are certainly dealing with some small sample size issues given how long Thurman has been out this year, so hopefully once he returns to Carolina we will be able to get a better sense of how he has recovered and whether or not he can progress quickly through the minors and possibly be available in 2017.

No. 14 - Jason Hursh

Coming in at No. 14 is the Braves' 2013 first round pick, RHP Jason Hursh. Drafted out of Oklahoma State, Hursh was supposed to progress quickly through the minors given his level of polish and despite the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery as a sophomore. However, after a quick start to his career, he repeated at AA this year with worse results, although some of that can be realistically chalked up to some bad luck. Hursh's best pitch is his fastball which hits the mid 90's that he generally keeps low in the strike zone and gets the vast majority of his ground ball outs with. He also has a curve and changeup, although the curve has had a tendency of hang a little too much thus far in his career. While he started off as a starter, more recently he has seen some time in the bullpen where he may end up being better suited.

Hursh's place on this list is a bit tenuous. Granted, some of his struggles this year (5.57 ERA, .333 avg against) is the symptom of some pretty poor luck. Most of his peripheral stats from last year remain just about the same, but opposing batters have an obscene, 2013 Chris Johnson-esque .395 BABIP against him. That being said, he hasn't helped his own cause as he has BB/9 of almost 4 this year and has had trouble in the latter parts of his starts. As a result, many have wondered if Hursh's transition to the bullpen was inevitable given his history of arm trouble and struggles this year as a starter. Its still too early to draw many conclusions about his recent stints in the bullpen, but if the transition is a permanent one, he could progress to the majors quickly, possibly seeing some time in late 2016 with the club. That being said, that would also hurt his value as a prospect (especially given that he probably wouldn't end up as a shutdown closer) and this ranking would probably be his ceiling.

No. 13 - Dustin Peterson

At No. 13 is Dustin Peterson who seems to have found his way at the plate, although he may end up not working out at his chosen position. Drafted by the Padres in the 2nd round in 2013, Peterson played shortstop in high school but was quickly moved over to third base as a professional. While he hasn't always lit up the minors statistically, Dustin, like his older brother D.J. Peterson, was believed to have the ability to be a very productive major league hitter with an above average power stroke and constantly working deep counts. However, his defense at third was just not acceptable, so he has been playing exclusively in the outfield in 2015 where he has performed well and been able to show his athleticism from time to time. When the Braves acquired him in the Justin Upton deal, one would think that they were hoping that he could stick at third, but given how quickly they abandoned that idea one would guess that they were just happy to have a prospect in the system who could feasibly project to have above average power.

2015 has been, on the whole, a very good year for Dustin developmentally. After a relatively poor showing in Single A for the Padres, high-A Carolina has been a far better experience as he had batted close to .300 up until the last month or so and was selected as a league All-Star based on his performance. He was one of the players injured in the Carolina Mudcats bus crash and missed a significant amount of time as a result, but came back in time to play in the All-Star game. However, in the past month, his average has dropped off a good bit although he is not striking out nearly as much as he was in Single-A. Some of it can be chalked up to bad luck as his season BABIP has dropped about 20 points in the past month or so (his batting average as a result has dropped 50 points since June 15), but it could also just be fatigue for a player in a new, very hot and humid league who isn't used to standing all game in the outfield. The remainder of the season will certainly be interesting to see, but ultimately unless he has an injury or his performance severely lags he will be in AA by the beginning of next season. His value as a prospect, though, is going to be dependent largely on whether he develops significantly more power than he has shown in the minors as of yet, especially since third base does not seem like a viable option anymore and he will be limited to a corner outfield position. If he shows more power and cuts down on the swings and misses, he could be a lineup regular for the Braves in two years. If he doesn't develop it, his best chance would be as a 4th outfielder for most teams.

No. 12 - Ricardo Sanchez

No. 12 on our list is young lefty Ricardo Sanchez was acquired from the Angels this past offseason in exchange for Kyle Kubitza. While his 5'10" stature doesn't jump of the page, he has good stuff and a competitive nature that should allow him to overcome his physical limitations. His fastball sits in the low 90's and can top out at 95, and has good arm side action. It has likely topped out right now, though it may add a tick or 2 on the top end if he bulks up any. He has a nice curve that projects to be his best pitch, with a solid downward trajectory after a sharp break. His changeup lags well behind his fastball and curve, though at maturity it should project as an average to above average pitch. His command is actually pretty advanced for his young age, and he can spot his fastball on both corners of the plate. Repeatability is his issue right now, as it's unsure what his command will look like game to game. He struggles to hold on runners at this point and has a poor pick off move, though he should improve on this as he matures. Even when he doesn't have his best stuff he battles on the mound, though at times he gets frustrated with his own lack of consistency.

He has had a down year in 2015 so far, posting a 5.45 ERA, but he is the youngest player in the league so some struggles were to be expected. His strikeout rate has taken a turn for the worst, dropping from 10 per 9 innings in 2014 to 7 per 9 in 2015. He has seen a slight drop in walk rate from 5.2/9 to 4.7/9. There was a scare earlier in the year when his fastball velocity dropped all the way down to the mid 80's, and he was placed on the 7 day DL with a calf strain in late April. After a nearly month long absence he has made six starts posting improved numbers-25.1IP 19H 11R 10ER 16BB 17K. He has an effortless delivery that should allow him to remain as a starter throughout his career. While his realistic ceiling is that of a number 4 starter, he could be as good as a number 2 or 3 starter if he can reign in his command. He has a competitive spirit on the mound and will learn to handle his emotions as he matures, and should have a good major league future. His earliest arrival time would be 2018, though our estimate for his arrival time is closer to mid 2019 or opening day 2020..

To look at Talking Chop's scouting report on Ricardo, please click here

No. 11 - Manny Banuelos

Coming in at No. 11 is a player that will PROBABLY be removed soon from the list due to his promotion to the majors in LHP Manny Banuelos. He remains on the list because due to pitching with an innings limit, its somewhat unclear as to whether Banuelos will remain with the big club in the bullpen or he will be sent back down to the minors (possibly due to service time considerations as well). Regardless, Banuelos has become exactly what the Braves had hoped when they acquired the former top prospect from the Yankees this past offseason in exchange for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. He has a four pitch mix that includes a fastball that he can get up approaching the mid 90s (but more often than not he takes a little bit off of it), a curveball that can be good but he is a bit inconsistent with, a good changeup, and recently added cutter. As a prospect for the Yankees, he was ranked in the top 50 prospects in all of baseball before he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2013 season.

In short, 2015 has been a very good year for Banuelos. While there were certainly some questions as to his viability as a prospect coming in (which is certainly why the Yankees were willing to part with him), he has been outstanding with a 6-2 record backed by a 2.29 ERA with 69 strikeouts, 38 walks, and a 1.22 WHIP in 82.2 IP before getting called up to the majors. In the majors, he has continued his good work giving up just one earned run in 3 games (2 starts) With an innings cap this season that is expected to be around 120-130, he will probably make one more start (that much has been announced) before being put in the big league bullpen or sent back down to the minors to start throwing in the bullpen to manage those innings. After this season though, there are no indications that he will face any sort of innings limit and has shown thus far in the big leagues that he is ready to join the major league rotation as a significant contributor. Unless there is a setback, expect Banuelos to be in the Braves rotation in 2016.

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