The Braves continued to accumulate pitching prospects Thursday with a three-player trade with the Los Angeles Angels.
In a rare straight minor league trade, Atlanta gets 17-year-old pitching prospect Ricardo Sanchez for third baseman Kyle Kubitza and reliever Nate Hyatt.
Sanchez was signed for the Angels by Lebi Ochoa, an international scout who joined Atlanta’s front office a few months ago. Sanchez got $580,000 on July 2, 2013 as a 16-year-old. He’s 5-11, 195 pounds and will turn 18 this April 11.
Last season the Angels sent Sanchez to the Arizona Summer League, where at 17 years old he pitched 12 games (nine starts) and had a 3.49 ERA. He allowed 40 hits in 39 innings, with 22 walks and 43 strikeouts.
Baseball America ranked Sanchez as the Angels’ second-best prospect for 2015. The report from BA has Sanchez hitting 95 mph on his fastball, with a curve ball that is expected to be a plus pitch. The changeup is a pitch Sanchez needs to work on, according to the report.
The Braves have placed premium pitching prospects as a priority for this offseason. Last week the Braves got former top prospect Manny Banuelos from the Yankees for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. Banuelos’ status dipped after he had Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but the Braves had great reports on him from the Instructional League and believe he can help out sometime this season.
In the Justin Upton trade in December, Atlanta got left-hander Max Fried, a former first round draft pick. He will take this year recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the Braves still believe he has a tremendous upside.
In the Jason Heyward trade in November, the Braves got right-handed prospect Tyrell Jenkins. The Braves believe the additions of Sanchez, Banuelos, Fried and Jenkins have drastically improved the strength of the farm system.
Earlier this offseason Atlanta also traded second baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for Arodys Vizcaino, who is no longer a rookie but still a young pitcher at 24. Vizcaino is expected to battle for a job in the Atlanta bullpen this spring.
Kubitza was considered one of the better position player prospects in the Atlanta farm system. He was drafted out of Texas State in the third round of the 2011 draft. In four years, Kubitza has a .271 batting average and a .381 on base percentage.
Last season in Double-A Mississippi, Kubitza hit .295 with eight home runs, 55 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .405 on base percentage. His biggest power output was 12 in Lynchburg in 2013. Kubitza has drawn comparisons to Chris Johnson, the incumbent third baseman in Atlanta, as a decent third baseman with limited power.
Hyatt was Atlanta’s 13th round pick in the 2012 draft out of Appalachian State. The six-foot right-handed reliever pitched in 37 games last season for Lynchburg and had a 2.71 ERA. He had 73 strikeouts in 63 innings of work.
The new front office for the Braves have now made seven trades this offseason.
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