The Gulf Coast League gets underway today, and that means a return to action for the GCL Braves. The team is in action as of noon today, but who is on the team this year?
I’ll start by saying this team is not as talented as the team we saw last year. That’s not a shot at the talent on this team as much as that is me saying the talent here last year was just a special one in a generation type of team at this level of the minors.
The other question you may have is which of the players the Braves lost would have likely been on the GCL team in 2018? The answer is probably just DSL All Star outfielder Juan Carlos Negret, fellow DSL prospects shortstop Yenci Pena and outfielder Antonio Sucre, and potentially Korean shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae. All of the other impact guys lost would have likely been assigned to Danville. So there is impact to the GCL team, but not quite as much as what Danville will feel.
So now that I’ve talked about who won’t be here, it’s time to focus on the guys who actually will be here.
As a reminder, the GCL is a bare bones operation. There is no television or radio coverage. Games are typically played in the afternoons and in front of mostly friends and family as well as scouts, rather than fans. The games are worth checking out in the area, as there is talent- and outside of following along with MILB.com’s gamecast it is the only other way to follow the team.
If we look at just the guys projected as starters, JUCO draft pick William Woods is one of the more intriguing arms here. Albinson Volquez was one of the team’s best starters last year, and hes’s back for more in the GCL. Gabriel Noguera is a little older, but had success here after he was moved up and young Alger Hodgson also showed a little bit of promise here last year after coming up from the DSL. Note that Hodgson is starting the season hurt and Noguera on the restricted list.
Senior sign draftee Victor Cavalieri is another experienced starter coming from a small school, while Luis De Jesus comes from the DSL.
In relief lights out reliever Miguel Jerez is back after posting a 1.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 39 innings last year. Jackson Lourie is also back, and after a poor start to his career he ended up finishing strong to post very respectable numbers. Deyvis Julian is a third reliever with considerable time here already, and may be able to start as well once he returns from the disabled list.
Filyer Sanchez got into two games and pitched well last year, while infielder turned reliever Alex Aquino is another returning member of the bullpen.
Draftee Alex Camacho is one of the more interesting new additions to the relief corps. The only other newcomers are DSL imports Miguel Pena and Walner Polanco.
The final pitcher is Puerto Rican lefty Gabriel Rodriguez. Rodriguez was the 31st round pick out of a Florida JUCO, where he had a disappointing year as an outfielder. Rodriguez was a very promising bat last year, known for his power and was taken with the top pick in the 11th round by the Twins in 2017. That’s a very valuable pick as it’s the pick where teams try to use the $125k free of the bonus pools to chase overslot players. Rodriguez is coming as a pitcher that can go up to 93 MPH from the left side with a potentially above average curve. He’s very raw as a pitcher, but there is real upside here- he just may take some time.
Note that first round pick Carter Stewart is not yet signed, but when he does sign he is expected to be assigned to the GCL club. Stewart’s not yet signing isn’t an issue- Kyle Wright didn’t appear in a game until July 17th last year, and still had enough time to make nine starts.
The most interesting guy is Logan Brown, the son of former big league catcher Kevin Brown. Brown was a late draft choice this year and does have some promise. Both Wiston Cerrato and Victor De Hoyos come up from the DSL with limited playing experience. Brandon Chapman is an undrafted free agent out of George Washington that is more of a light hitter known for his glove.
The big guy is JUCO third baseman CJ Alexander, a powerful prospect that was a huge signing for the Braves in the 20th round. I won’t talk much more because there is a full writeup on him coming. Alabama State senior sign Ray Hernandez is another third baseman draftee with real power, and he could share some time with Alexander as well as DH’ing.
UNC Wilmington senior first baseman Mason Berne, who hit 12 homers this year will start at the other corner.
Expect to see a lot of Atlanta native and Missouri senior draftee Trey Harris at second. Harris is a fun player to watch who plays with great emotion and adds some power and speed.
After hitting .270/.371/.329 with 12 steals in the GCL last year, Braulio Vasquez is a somewhat surprise inclusion on the roster, rather than making it to Danville. He could share time with Juan Morales, the third signing in the 2015 class that brought in Cristian Pache and Derian Cruz after missing most of last year in the DSL injured.
Luis Ovando, Luidemid Rojas, and the recently turned 17 third baseman Darling Florentino add additional depth.
The most interesting outfielder is probably Joel Reyes, a powerful young Dominican outfielder who saw a little time in the DSL last year.
Charlie Reyes is another outfielder from the DSL team, but he played a considerable amount of time and does have more talent than his 2017 numbers indicate.
Jeremy Fernandez is a veteran who saw time in Danville last year, but did hit .305 in his 24 GCL games.
A name to watch is 16 year old Cuban centerfielder Christian Zamora, who doesn’t turn 17 until the Fourth of July.
Adam Groesbeck is also on the roster, but is on military leave.
If you asked me for my five top prospects on this team today, CJ Alexander would easily be my top choice- again more to come later.
The raw but very talented Gabriel Rodriguez is next, followed by the very young Cuban outfielder Christian Zamora, projectable JUCO freshman starter William Woods, and powerful Joel Reyes would round out my personal Top 5. Trey Harris is the sixth guy for me. Braulio Vasquez, Ray Hernandez, and Charlie Reyes would be very close to the list as well.