This week Minor League Report on BravesFTW will be taking at look at the Braves A-level affiliate, the Rome Braves.
Rome currently sits in last place with a record of 25-41 (tied for worst in the the SAL) but has a few big time prospects.
On offense, Rome is second to last in the league in OPS (interestingly enough, the last place team is leading Rome’s division).
The top offensive prospect on the team, who was just profiled by Will Brown, is Edward Salcedo. After struggling last year, Salcedo is having a solid year at the plate and has shown flashes of power that should make Braves fans grin. He is, however, still extremely raw (especially in the field) and will take a couple more years before getting a chance in the majors.
The other top offensive prospects on the team, Matt Lipka and Christian Bethancourt, have traveled down different paths this season.
Lipka, who was picked in the first supplemental round a year ago, is struggling mightily after having success in rookie league. He is hitting just .247 with a terrible .573 OPS. While he has swiped 13 bases, he has also been caught nine times so he will need to improve his technique to be a threat at higher levels. Lipka is only 19 years old, so there’s plenty of time for him to turn things around.
Bethancourt has flourished this season after struggling through 2010. He is hitting .303 with a solid .757 OPS and has re-established himself as one of the organization’s top prospects. If Brian McCann leaves the Braves when his current contract expires, Bethancourt will likely be asked to step in.
21 year old Jakob Dalfonso has gotten some attention this year for his strong play. While he is older than the other prospects on the team, Dalfonso has come out of nowhere to hit .291 with a team leading 9 homeruns.
Rome’s pitching staff doesn’t contain the high profile arms the other farm teams do, but there are some interesting prospects that could join their ranks in the next year or so.
Carlos Perez was the highest ranked prospect of the Rome pitchers and many expected him to have a breakout season. However, Perez has been far to hittable, leading to a 5.40 ERA despite solid strikeout numbers (72 whiffs in 75 innings).
Caleb Brewer is having somewhat of a breakout season for Rome. This is his fourth year in the Braves system but he has never made more than 10 starts due to injury in the past. This year he is carrying a 3.23 ERA through 13 starts and has been a pleasant surprise for the team.
Aaron Northcraft has been another surprising pitcher who could eventually pitch his way into the organization’s future plans. He has a 2.36 ERA in four starts (eight appearances) after pitching well the majority of last year (in Rookie League). Northcraft has good peripheral numbers and could move up the prospect list if he can continue his strong year in the second half of the season.
One other little known pitcher to watch is Ryan Weber. A 17th round pick in 2009, Weber had impressive numbers in Rookie League last year (although he struggled in a few A-ball starts) but has been much better for Rome in 2011. He has spent the majority of the season as a reliever but has posted an impressive 2.86 ERA and 27:6 K:BB ratio in 34.2 innings.
Rome is the opposite of most farm teams in the Braves organization. They lack any highly ranked pitching prospects but have a number of solid hitting prospects. Guys like Salcedo and Bethancourt are still a few years away from the majors, but represent the next wave of promising hitters that could make it to Atlanta.