This is the second piece of a weekly look, by position, at how the Atlanta Braves prospects fared during the 2016 minor league season. After starting out with catcher last week, we will be moving to first base this week.
Please note that this isn't so much a scouting report on these prospects as much as it is a recap of their season that will point out some areas where they excelled and others where they struggled. All prospects will be covered, but this is only a review of guys who are prospects rather than organizational depth. There will be more detailed scouting reports on certain players during the offseason.
The first guy we will look at is 24 year old Joey Meneses. He began the year in Carolina and tore up the Carolina League in 66 games, hitting .342/.401/.490 with 5 homers and 31 RBI. He was promoted to Mississippi, and ended up with a near equal time split between High-A and AA. Unfortunately he wasn't quite the same hitter in AA, posting a .234/.289/.329 line with 2 homers and 15 RBI in 63 games. That led to an overall line of .290/.348/.413 with 7 homers and 46 RBI over 129 games.
Meneses played exclusively at first in the field in Carolina, but was playing more in the outfield for Mississippi when they had him playing in the field. His splits show that he was much better against lefties, hitting .318/.416/.514 as compared to .282/.326/.383 against right handers.
While he's not a big prospect, Meneses does have a shot to be a platoon bat off the bench with some positional versatility.
The most interesting prospect of the first basemen in the system is probably Dylan Moore, the main piece of the three team deal which sent Jeff Francoeur to Miami. I chose to list Moore at first, despite the fact that he played every position on the field other than catcher this year- including one very forgettable inning on the mound with Hickory.
Moore began the year in Hickory, the Low-A affiliate of Texas and in 101 games he hit .244/.372/.394 with 9 homers, 45 RBI, and 37 of 46 in stolen base attempts. That earned him a promotion to High-A, and he put up video game numbers in 17 games- though it's important to remember that he was playing in the extreme hitter environment that is the California League. During his time there he hit .351/.400/.649 with 5 homers, 14 RBI, and 3 steals. He was then sent to the Braves and assigned to Carolina, finishing the season off by playing 10 games and hitting .345/.415/.457 with no homers, 4 RBI, and 2 steals. While he didn't homer in his time in Carolina, he did have 4 doubles in those 10 games, showing some pop in his bat. Overall between the three stops he hit .269/.379/.441 with 14 homers, 63 RBI, and 42 steals in 53 attempts in 128 games.
Another interesting note is the fact he was hitting .234/.385/.329 with 2 homers and 23 RBI through the end of May, while from the start of June on he hit .289/.376/.502 with 12 homers and 40 RBI. He was also pretty even against pitchers from both sides.
The positional versatility and ability to steal 40+ bases at a high rate while having some power in his bat make him a very interesting prospect- the type of guy who could be a real asset to a big league bench if he's able to build upon his hot streak to end the year. That's definitely a possibility considering this was his first real taste of full season ball, as he played in just four games for Hickory last year after being a 7th round pick. Moore is one of the guys I will be taking a closer look at later this offseason.
Powerful first baseman Carlos Castro had a bit of a breakout season, hitting 17 homers in just 84 games for Rome, while posting a triple slash line of .266/.301/.508 and adding 15 doubles with 4 triples- that gave him 36 extra base hits, or nearly half of his 81 total hits on the year. Considering his previous high slugging percentage was .450 and he never hit more than 3 homers in a season(note that his career high in at bats prior to the year was just 204), this is a large step forward for the former catcher.
It wasn't all perfect for Castro, as he drew just 13 walks all year while striking out 76 times and he did have some splits which really stick out. For example his numbers against right handers were strong at .275/.309/.528 with 15 of the 17 homers, but he hit just .200/.250/.375 against lefties. He was also much better at home, hitting .295/.320/.534 versus just .239/.284/.484 on the road- however he did actually hit more homers on the road(10 to 7). He also seemed to do the bulk of his damage in June and August/September, while struggling in May and July.
Next year will be an important year for Castro, as he needs to keep hitting for power and do a better job of getting on base while he’ll likely be assigned to the Braves new High-A affiliate in the Florida State League- a league known for suppressing power.
The top prospect at first base is Juan Yepez, who had a bit of a lost season. Yepez began the season in extended spring training as he recovered from a minor offseason injury. Then just as he started to get hot, an injury took him out from mid-May until mid-August.
He got just 23 games in Rome, hitting .261/.320/.348 with a homer and 7 RBI- however he wasn't nearly as effective in the 12 games after returning in August as he was in the 11 games before he got hurt.
Defensively he mostly played at first this year, with just two starts and parts of two other games at third base. It should be interesting to see if he gets more of a chance at third next year when he's likely to start the season back in Rome.
He did just turn 18 during spring training, so the lost year of development time shouldn't hurt him too much, but the Braves know he’s got significant potential with the bat and need him to stay healthy next year.
The Braves 14th round pick out of Walters State was assigned to Danville upon signing, and he posted a .276/.342/.423 line with 4 homers and 28 RBI over 47 games. Osuna also collected 12 doubles and stole 3 bases.
While it's tough to read much into a guy’s debut after the draft, his platoon splits are worth noting since he hit .311/.381/.492 with all 4 homers against right handers while struggling against lefties with a .171/.222/.220 line. Osuna is a kid that did have some big numbers in JUCO, so the hope is that he can improve upon those numbers next year.