It's that time of the year when we take stock of the Atlanta Braves organization and analyze the top…
GCL Braves Season In Review
They finished 11th in the 14-team league in batting average [.237], total bases , and OPS [.637], tenth in home runs , and tied for fourth most in strikeouts . They did not fair much better on the pitching side either, finishing dead last in team ERA [4.32] and 12th in the league in WHIP ratio [1.38].
The Greatest Depth
Ironically, while the team statistics prove otherwise, the GCL Braves' best depth of future impact players is on the mound, boasting a trio of International hurlers that could blossom into potential studs down the road.
Top Prospects On The Mound
If you discount 2012 first round pick Lucas Sims from the discussion [he pitched mostly for Danville], 19-year old Andry Ubiera has the highest ceiling from the staff. The Dominican right-hander already sits 92-93 mph and tops out at 95 mph with his fastball and boasts an above average curveball with long-term plus potential. He also shows good control for a pitcher with his lack of experience. The changeup, however, does need some more work to tap his frontline starting potential.
Jorge Montenegro, a Panamanian right-hander, has an equally high ceiling as well but he's already going to be 22-years old by the start of the season so he has start moving a bit quicker. He sits in the 92-94 mph range, also shows a great curveball, and like Ubiera, the changeup needs more work going forward.
One of the more intriguing pitching prospects is left-hander Luis Merejo. The Dominican native just turned 18 years old and he already shows a high level of pitch-ability. The fastball is more average velocity-wise, sitting mostly 88-90 mph, but it has a lot of deception to it with his quick release and natural tailing action. The curveball is already big league quality with room to grow, and the changeup, while still needing work from a depth and fade standpoint, is a pitch he can throw for strikes.
The Biggest 'Sleeper'
While towering right-hander Richie Tate could certainly fit into this category, standing 6-foot-6 with good stuff, he is about to turn 21 years old and the command still needs a lot of work. Throw in the fact he took a year off from baseball there's an equal amount of long-term intrigue and current question marks.
The biggest 'sleeper' could be right-hander Jaden Dillon, last year's 29th round pick out of Texs A&M-Kingsville. At 23 years old he certainly falls into the 'sleeper' category since most pundits will quickly dismiss him because of his advanced age, but he has a nice combination of arm strength [90-95 mph] and innate strike-throwing ability with his secondary pitches. He needs to start moving quicker real soon but he's worth tracking.
Despite having significant long-term potential position prospects, the GCL Braves did not have too many standout performers last season. In fact, if you throw out shortstop Jose Peraza [who qualifies for the Danville analysis] the only real performer last year was catcher Tyler Tewell [.312, team-leading 24 RBIs].
Top Position Prospects
While their performances did not exactly prove it, the GCL Braves still boasted some quality position prospects, highlighted by the likes of third baseman Mike Dodig, outfielders Justin Black and Connor Lien, and catcher Bryan De La Rosa, all of whom are going to be short-term projects who could pay long-term dividends. Only Lien [.224] hit above the dreaded Mendoza line in their debut seasons last year.
De La Rosa is a very good catch and throw guy but the offense could take some time to develop, and while Black, Lien, and Dodig all offer better long-term power potential and the requisite athleticism to be good defenders at their positions, the quartet all need work refining their approaches at the plate and more experience before becoming more solid factors as legitimate prospects.
Third baseman Robinson Arno also falls into the 'highest ceiling' category, but like the others he has a lot of work to do refining his approach to become more of a factor. He has great size, standing 6-foot-4 and a rock-solid 220 pounds, and plenty of power to spare, but the soon to be 20-year old needs to learn to use the whole field more to become a better hitter.
The Biggest 'Sleeper'
Arguably the most intriguing prospect is the aforementioned Tyler Tewell, a 14th round pick ou of Appalachian State University last year. He shows a very good swing from the right side, average big league power potential, and the former college outfielder has just begun moving to the catcher's position and already shows some real signs of potentially sticking at the position. He may take some time defensively but he could be a solid offensive-minded catcher if he sticks.
Not Just Yet
Outfielder Cody Livesay, a 42nd round pick in 2011 out of high school, has spent the first year plus at the professional level getting stronger. He has put on nearly 20 pounds since his selection and has very good speed, but for now how his power progresses to adequate levels is a wait and see proposition. There's some long-term potential here but it could take some time.
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