Braves boast four on Top 100 Prospects list
Peraza, Foltynewicz, Bethancourt and Sims lead talented farm system
ATLANTA -- After spending the past few months making a concerted effort to strengthen their future, the Braves can take pride in the fact that their recently maligned Minor League system now is now regarded as one of baseball's best.
Jose Peraza, Michael Foltynewicz, Christian Bethancourt and Lucas Sims stand as the four Braves included in MLB.com's latest Top 100 Prospects list, which was announced Friday night. Atlanta had one representative (Julio Teheran) on this list entering the 2013 season and two (Bethancourt and Sims) entering the '14 season.
Peraza's meteoric rise has vaulted him from unranked status to the 38th spot on the updated list. The other three -- Foltynewicz (78th), Bethancourt (93rd) and Sims (94th) -- rank among the last quarter of prospects to make the esteemed list. The Mets are the only other National League East club to have at least four.
"I'm excited about all these prospects," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "There's upside talent everywhere in our pipeline."
While Peraza, Bethancourt and Sims are homegrown products, Foltynewicz is one of the eight players acquired this offseason who now rank among the Braves' Top 20 Prospects.
Peraza has been anointed as Atlanta's second baseman and leadoff hitter of the future. The speedy Venezuelan produced a .339/.364/.441 slash line and proved successful with 60 of his 75 stolen-base attempts in 110 games with Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi last season.
The only question surrounding Peraza is how much more seasoning he needs before being deemed Major League-ready. Given that he has played just 44 games above the Class A level, he will likely spend at least a couple of months of the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. However, the Braves have not completely ruled out the possibility that the heralded 20-year-old prospect could wow them enough during Spring Training to gain an Opening Day roster spot.
Foltynewicz, a powerful right-hander acquired from the Astros earlier this month, will come to camp with a chance to compete for the vacant fifth spot in the rotation. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound hurler features an above-average fastball that has registered triple-digit radar gun readings and a curveball that could prove to be even more effective if he improves his command.
As Foltynewicz posted a 5.08 ERA and tallied a 4.6 walks-per-nine-innings rate at the Triple-A level last year, he created further reason to wonder whether he will prove to be a starter or potential closer. Regardless, he possesses enviable tools that Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell will have a chance to refine during Spring Training.
Bethancourt is targeted to serve as the Braves' primary catcher this season. There has never been any reason to question the arm strength or athleticism possessed by the 23-year-old backstop. His offensive skills have improved as he shown a little more plate discipline over the past few seasons. But now, Bethancourt must prove he is capable of avoiding some of the lackadaisical miscues he made as Atlanta's catcher throughout most of September.
Before posting a 4.20 ERA and battling some inconsistencies with his delivery while pitching for Lynchburg last season, Sims ranked as MLB.com's 60th-best prospect. But there is plenty of upside for this 20-year-old right-hander, who produced a 2.61 ERA during the his final 10 starts of the 2014 season.
The annual ranking of baseball's Top 100 Prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2015. Team-by-team Top 30 Prospects lists for 2015 will be unveiled in March.