MLB & Atlanta Braves

Braves’ top 15 prospects in 2015

1. Christian Bethancourt (C, 23 years old): He’s the new starting catcher. Bethancourt has an electric arm and has improved calling games behind the plate. His bat, once a question, also has gotten much better. The comparisons to Benito Sanitago have the Braves excited about Bethancourt’s potential.

2. Jose Peraza (2B, turns 21 later this month): After a tough spring, the Braves sent Peraza back to the minors. But how long will it take him to get to the majors? Peraza hit .339 and stole 60 bases last season. If Jace Peterson does well at second base, the Braves might consider moving Peraza to the outfield. He’s close.

3. Mike Foltynewicz (RHP, 23 years old): Acquired from Houston in the Evan Gattis trade, Foltynewicz struggled a bit this spring. He’ll go to Triple-A Gwinnett to get more innings. The Braves believe he has ace potential, with a dazzling fastball. Once “Folty” improves his breaking ball, look out.

4. Rio Ruiz (3B, turns 21 in May): Another player from the Gattis deal, Ruiz hit .293 with 11 home runs last year in High Single-A. The lefty hitter will head to Double-A Mississippi this season. The Braves think he could be the new third baseman once Sun Trust Park opens in 2017.

5. Max Fried (LHP, 21 years old): The Braves got Fried (pronounced “Freed”) in the Justin Upton deal from San Diego. Before Fried had Tommy John surgery last summer, he was considered one of the best prospects in baseball. The Braves believe he can regain that title once he’s healthy next season.

6. Ozhaino Albies (SS, 18 years old): The player of the year in the Appalachian League last year at 17, Albies will head to Rome. He’s just 5-foot-9), but someone who hits .364 at his age in his first pro season will be taken seriously. Albies is another young player from Curacao. He may come quickly.

7. Lucas Sims (RHP, turns 21 in May): A former first-round pick out of Brookwood in Snellville, Sims struggled a bit last season with a 4.28 ERA. But Sims was working on his mechanics and believes he is becoming more of a pitcher. He’ll be watched carefully in Double-A Mississippi.

8. Jace Peterson (2B, turns 25 in May): Still a rookie, Peterson played in 27 games for San Diego before the Padres traded him in the Upton deal. Peterson won the second base job in Atlanta even before the games started this spring with his grit and hustle, but his .324 spring batting average clinched it.

9. Tyrell Jenkins (RHP, turns 23 in July): Acquired from St. Louis in the Jason Heyward deal, Jenkins is a former Texas high school quarterback who almost replaced Robert Griffin III at Baylor. Jenkins picked the right sport, as he has become a solid starting pitching prospect who will start the season in Double-A.

10. Ricardo Sanchez (LHP, turns 18 next week): The Braves got Sanchez in a minor league deal from the Los Angeles Angels. Analysts rated him their second-best prospect. He has a high upside as a young lefty who likely will head to Low Single-A Rome. He has a mid-90s fastball and a developing curveball.

11. Braxton Davidson (RF, turns 19 in June): Last year’s first-round pick was one of the best high school hitters in the draft. The Braves believe he has left-handed power potential. He played mainly first base in high school, but with Freddie Freeman around, the Braves have moved Davidson to the outfield.

12. Williams Perez (RHP, turns 24 in May): Unheralded and often forgotten, but Perez made a great impression in big league camp. Some coaches believe he could be a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. He has a great sinker and will start the season in Gwinnett. Perez could be a sleeper prospect.

13. Johan Camargo (SS, 21 years old): Another player who opened eyes in big league camp. Camargo is just a solid player. With all the shortstops (Simmons and Albies), you wonder if Camargo could be moved to the outfield. He’ll head to High Single-A Carolina and could see Double-A later this summer.

14. Manny Banuelos (LHP, 24 years old): A former top prospect for the New York Yankees, Banuelos was acquired for David Carpenter in January. He is finally recovered from Tommy John surgery, and the Braves just want Banuelos to have a full season with uninterrupted innings in Triple-A. Then they’ll know what they have.

15. Jason Hursh (RHP, 23 years old): The first-round pick from 2013 had a solid season in Double-A last year. Hursh throws hard, but it hasn’t produced strikeouts yet. There is debate if Hursh can stick as a starter, since many believe he’d be a dominant hard-throwing reliever. He’s back to Double-A.

-- Bill Shanks

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