Reviewing My 2015 Top 30 Prospects (Part 2 of 3)

Reviewing My 2015 Top 30 Prospects (Part 2 of 3)

Prospect lists are a snapshot in time. My biggest reason for reviewing how my Top 30 looked two years ago is in order to show that prospect lists, while fun (and certainly I love doing mine) are not meant to be the final say in who makes it or who doesn’t. They are based on perceived potential and expected results at the time.

A couple of weeks ago, I began this review by touching on prospects #21-#30 of the 2015 preseason list. Today, I’m going to look at #11-#20 to see how I did.

By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

20. Jace Peterson, IF, Grade: C+….I’m rather happy with my grade and ranking for Peterson here. I struggled when I graded him because he was having a tremendous spring at the time and was getting a lot of hype. His resume also included a pair of 40-steal seasons, though before Double-A ball. The previous season, he had slashed .307/.402/.447 and made his major league debut with the Padres. Many people felt like he was underrated based on the stats, though others – like me – felt he was overrated based on projections and scouting reports. I mentioned a future as “an utility player / second division starter.” That remains likely in my opinion.

19. Dian Toscano, OF, Grade: C+….Oh, God. So, that one sucked. Even in an average farm system at the time (though deeper than when the 2014-15 offseason began), ranking Toscano this high was a mistake. First off, I broke my own rule by ranking a player who was over 25. Second, there wasn’t much reason to be this excited about Toscano. I’ll chalk this one up to Frank Wren overtaking my mind and soul for a few minutes.
18. Dustin Peterson, 3B, Grade: C+….It’s easy to forget now, but when Peterson was acquired, there was hope the Braves finally found a third baseman of the future. That title was quickly transferred to Rio Ruiz and then Austin Riley and most recently Kevin Maitan, but when the Braves acquired Peterson in the Justin Upton trade, the hope was that he could bring stability to the position. He was pushed to left field, instead, and after a lot of struggles in the Carolina League in 2015, Peterson had a bit of a breakout summer with the Mississippi Braves. He’ll be in my Top 20 this year (with a higher grade) so the future is still bright for Peterson.
17. Garrett Fulenchek, P, Grade: C+….I became a big fan of the 2014 draft – Wren’s last draft. It was a slight departure from his usual drafting philosophy of smart college players with a reachable floor and low ceiling as he took two prep players in the Top 100. Fulenchek was the #66th overall pick and fit the mold the Braves coaching staff at the time loved from their pitchers – hard sinkers to set up a swing-and-miss breaking pitch. After a promising first half-season in the GCL, Fulenchek has struggled tremendously with his control over the last two seasons. He was also dealt to the Rays in July of 2015 for international slot money.

16. Mauricio Cabrera, P, Grade: C+….At the time, we didn’t know if the Braves had finally decided to move Cabrera to the pen. After impressing fans and Braves coaches alike with his triple-digit heat that spring, it was clear that Cabrera was destined for a relief assignment. He would look pretty bad in 2015, but rebounded last year before a callup to the majors, where he shined. There remain questions about his control, but the stuff and velocity are both off the charts. If he can refine his skills and stay healthy, Cabrera could be a high-leverage arm for years to come.

15. Ricardo Sanchez, P, Grade: C+….When I wrote this, I had very high expectations for Sanchez which was a bit unfair to the lefty. Sanchez was a good international prospect, but he wasn’t a “can’t miss” guy. When the Braves acquired him, he had only been successful – impressively so – at Rookie ball. Never fall in love with a rookie league superstars, kids. Two years later, he has been hurt a good deal of the time, which has limited Sanchez to just 159 innings with Rome. Furthermore, the results just aren’t where we hoped they would be. I dropped him to 17th last year and 33rd this year. There’s still hope here and despite two years at A-ball, he’s only turning 20 this year. That said, I probably ranked him a bit high here.
14. Jason Hursh, P, Grade: C+….Speaking of guys I ranked too high. This is a case of listening too much to the experts over following my gut. At the time, Hursh did rank highly in an improving, but still pretty bare farm system. He had the first-round pedigree and expected quick rise to the majors to go with impressive control. With a year, however, the Braves had already figured out that Hursh wasn’t going to help their rotation and moved him to the pen during the second half of 2015. He did make it to the majors for two games last summer and will be in the mix for a bullpen spot this spring, but I’ve let my gut take over as far as his prospect status goes and Hursh didn’t make my Top 50. Further, he wasn’t really a bubble guy.
13. Alec Grosser, P, Grade: C+….I was aggressive with my Grosser love. He was coming off an impressive run with Danville where he struck out nearly a batter an inning with a 2.9 K/BB rate. I felt he wasn’t just a sleeper, but a legit prospect. And then…he lost the strikezone. As in, he completely lost where the strikezone was. In 85.1 innings in 2015, mostly spent with Rome, he walked 65, hit 16 batters, and uncorked 26 wild pitches. He only appeared in three games with Danville the next season before being selected as the player to be named later in the Bud Norris/Toscano for Caleb Dirks/Phil Pfeifer trade and wouldn’t pitch again in 2016. 
12. Jose Briceno, C, Grade: C+….Yet another example of me getting far too attached to a new addition to the system who had some brief success at the lower rungs of the minor leagues. Briceno was coming off an 84-game season in the South Atlantic League in which he hit .283/.336/.476. He was already 21, but the catcher-hungry Braves needed a prospect to believe in behind the dish and Briceno looked like he could be that guy. He spent one year in the system looking completely lost in the Carolina League before being shipped off with Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. He played in High-A, Double-A, and even briefly in Triple-A last year with a .602 overall OPS.
11. Mallex Smith, OF, Grade: B-….Despite the high rating, I was a bit less in love with Smith than others. He had posted absurd stolen base totals in the Padres’ system and looked like a perfect leadoff hitter. As I wrote then, ” My question and the reason why I’m not sold on Smith…will he hit enough?” I believe that question remains unanswered and further, I contend a second part of that question should be included – will he do enough to have enough value as an offensive player. I believe he’ll walk a good deal, but will he have an empty batting average that will mute some of his value? I believe that’s a bit reason some experts tabbed him as a reserve rather than a starter. That said, I grew more convinced that Smith had a good chance of being a solid player after a strong 2015 season. He’ll get a chance to prove his worth in 2017 with the Rays.


Looking back at this list doesn't make me think of the misses so much as it forces me to remember how bad the farm system was. Perhaps Frank Wren was given such a low budget that he felt he had to take third-round prospects (Mike Minor) or marginal starter prospects (Jason Hursh, Sean Gilmartin) in the first round, but in our hearts we knew these were mediocre picks at best, never likely to help the Braves much. Once in a while he did snag a player later in the draft who would prove useful, but throwing away so many first round picks on non-impact players contributed to a farm system that was virtually bare. You were still dealing with the remains of Wren's hopeless high picks [and horrendous international signings] in 2015, so a few missed predictions really don't detract from your overall ratings.

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