Braves' farm reaches beyond top pitchers
Simmons, Bethancourt aim to prove their talent at Double-A
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves have long been recognized as an organization that prides itself on its young pitching talent. But as scouts and talent evaluators have examined the club's current prospects, they have seen that this crop also includes some pretty impressive position players.
MLB.com's list of the Braves' top prospects is highlighted by a trio of Major League-tested pitchers who all rank among MLB.com's top 60 prospects. Julio Teheran, who ranks fourth on the overall list, and Randall Delgado were competing to begin the year as Atlanta's fifth starter. Delgado claimed the rotation spot of veteran right-hander Tim Hudson, who is on the disabled list until late April, while Teheran is beginning the year at Triple-A Gwinnett.
From a position-player standpoint, the Braves also spent the past month evaluating whether they should have either Tyler Pastornicky or Andrelton Simmons make the jump to the Majors to serve as their starting shortstop. Simmons, rated the club's third-best prospect, has the higher ceiling, and some believe he is already the best option. But because he has not played above the Class A-Advanced level, Simmons starts the season in the Minors to get a little more seasoning.
With Pastornicky beginning the year in Atlanta, Simmons is starting off with a talent-filled Double-A Mississippi team that also includes Christian Bethancourt, a talented young catcher who ranks as the club's fourth-best prospect. Bethancourt could serve as Brian McCann's successor in Atlanta if the six-time All-Star catcher is unable to strike a new deal before his contract expires following the 2013 season.
With Teheran, Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino, who will miss this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, three of the organization's top four prospects have already played at the Major League level. Simmons, Bethancourt and Joey Terdoslavich, a switch-hitting third baseman who could serve as Chipper Jones' successor, could all reach Atlanta by the start of the 2013 season.
where to watch
|4||Arodys Vizcaino||DL (Tommy John sugery)|
With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Braves' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. You can also get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Braves' Minor League teams on the club's affiliates page.
Members of the Braves' front office will intently monitor the wealth of talent on Mississippi's roster this year. With Simmons, the team includes five of the organization's top 10 prospects. Bethancourt is a strong-armed 20-year-old who will attempt to prove himself against Double-A pitching, and Terdoslavich hopes to show that he can be reliable with the glove at third.
Mississippi's pitching staff also includes Sean Gilmartin, the club's first-round pick in last June's Draft, and Zeke Spruill, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who re-established himself as an interesting prospect after pitching well for Class A-Advanced Lynchburg and Mississippi last year.
Debuts and Draftees
Gilmartin, selected out of Florida State University, impressed teammates with the way he handled himself in his first stint at big league camp this year. He will now have an opportunity to experience his first full professional season and provide better indication about when he might be ready for the Majors.
Edward Salcedo, a 20-year-old third baseman who received a $1.6 million bonus when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, will get plenty of attention while playing in Lynchburg this year. But Lynchburg's most talented player might be Nick Ahmed, a 22-year-old slick-fielding shortstop who was taken out of the University of Connecticut in the second round last year. Those who have seen Ahmed play believe he could make a rapid rise through the Minor League system.
Teams on TV
The Gwinnett Braves are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.