C, Christian Bethancourt: One of the top prospects in the entire organization, Bethancourt is already big league ready on the defensive side of the ball. A plus defender in every sense of the term, it's been his offensive game that been developing more slowly than steady since signing with the Braves out of Panama back in 2008.
He has some real power potential in his swing and yet he has just ten home runs in 1,336 career at-bats, and his hitting in general hasn't exactly been consistent. He has the kind of defensive game that a big league manager would want behind the plate as much as possible, but now the question is can he bring a serviceable bat with him too? That's a question that needs to be answered relatively quickly now that he has reached the upper minor league levels.
1B/3B, Brandon Drury: It has really been a tale of two seasons for Drury; in 2011 he finished his first full minor league season as the Appalachian League Player of the Year, hitting .347 and posting an .891 OPS for the Danville Braves, and then followed it up with a meager .229 and .603 OPS for the low-A Rome Braves in 2012.
It isn't just about offensive numbers either. The former high school shortstop began seeing more playing time at first base than at third base last season, not a great sign for somebody who just a year ago was tabbed as the third baseman of the future. He is still only 20 years old though and will be for a good portion of the 2013 season so he still has time, but more than anything he needs a breakout season just to get his confidence back up.
RHP, David Filak: Drury's teammate in Rome last season, the former fourth round pick in 2010 entered the organization with some incredible upside [and still does]; great size and above average to plus stuff. However, the knock on him was his inconsistent mechanics and wild tendencies and two and half years later not much has changed in that regard.
The now 23-year old is coming off of a sub-standard 2012 campaign that not only saw him repeat the low-A level but post a 5.67 ERA for Rome and walk another 51 batters [he walked 52 in 2012] in barely over 100 innings pitched. The stuff is there to be a very effective pitcher, but he has to start pitching ahead in counts with more regularity real soon to salvage what is some impressive upside.
OF, Matt Lipka: It's never easy for any baseball player to deal with any injury, but that's especially the case for a speedster like Lipka who had a nagging hamstring injury seemingly throughout the course of the 2012 season, one that saw him hit a respectable .271 with 12 stolen bases and 32 runs scored in just 51 games for the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The 2010 first round pick has made a successful transition from shortstop to centerfield in his short career thus far and he has shown tangible five-tool abilities in flashes, but he has yet to put it all together. He turns 21 years old, however, in the first month of the coming season and not only needs to put a full healthy season together but he needs to show the consistent bat so many scouts believe is coming.
3B, Edward Salcedo: A virtual tool shed, the 21-year old Dominican native has plus power potential and surprising speed for a corner guy with his kind of power. However, now two full seasons into his career States-side, not much has changed in his biggest areas of weakness.
He still strikes out way too much. In fact, his swing and miss rate went up [not down] in 2012, striking out 130 times in 130 games for the Lynchburg Hillcats last season, and normally players strike out more as they ascend to the higher levels -- not a very good sign. Throw in some real inconsistent play defensively, Salcedo has to find some consistency with the bat and in the field if he's to tap the immense potential he has.
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