It seems almost incomprehensible but we’re sitting on the eve of September as this is being published. Two and a half weeks have passed since my kids started back to school and the 2012 college football season is officially underway. These things mean that the minor and major league seasons are in the final stretch, but it also means that the start of the Arizona Fall League is just around the corner.
This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up.
Up first I’m taking a look at the six members of the Atlanta Braves that will be playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in October and November.
RHP – Gus Schlosser (23) – Braves 2011 17th Round Pick
2012 – Lynchburg: 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 156 H, 33 BB and 139 SO in 165.1 IP
Schlosser turned in fantastic results as a reliever for Rome after signing last year and he’s continued to get results for the Hillcats this season as a part of their rotation. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of him given that he was so unheralded, but he’s cobbling together quite a strong resume. His control has been fantastic as a professional regardless of his role and he currently has a 1.7 BB/9 in 200.0 minor league innings. The Carolina League favors pitchers but a 4.21 SO/BB is more about the pitcher than the environment. He was completely off the radar heading into 2012 but after the season he’s had it’s impossible to ignore him any longer. Of the six Braves prospects heading to Arizona this fall, Schlosser is the one I am most intrigued by and I can’t wait to see how he handles himself in an offensive environment pitching against more advanced competition than he’s faces thus far as a pro.
RHP – Cory Rasmus (24) – Braves 2006 1st Round Pick (38th Overall)
2012 – Mississippi: 3.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 44 H, 31 BB and 60 SO in 56.2 IP
The younger brother of Toronto Blue Jays CF, Colby Rasmus, Cory was drafted as a promising starter but shoulder problems derailed his career before it ever really got underway. He pitched just 7.1 innings with the GCL Braves after signing in 2006 and then missed all of 2007 before returning in 2008 to throw 5.2 more innings in the GCL. Last season he was again limited by injuries but did strike out an impressive 40 batters in 26.2 innings with Lynchburg when he wasn’t on the disabled list. Of course his ERA was a whopping 7.09 during that stretch but obviously that was as much a case of health than anything else. This year he’s been pitching out of the bullpen full time and has made 48 appearances. That in itself is a bit of a victory given the checkered past of his shoulder. At this point he just needs to stay healthy, log some innings and see what remains of his once impressive stuff.
RHP – Zeke Spruill (22) – Braves 2008 2nd Round Pick
2012 – Mississippi: 3.69 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 153 H, 46 BB and 104 SO in 158.2 IP
Spruill had a forgettable 2010 in the Carolina League but he’s bounced back to turn in two solid, albeit unspectacular, seasons. He reached Double in 2011 and had a respectable 3.20 ERA in 7 starts but his peripherals were all out of whack and his 4.82 FIP and 6.05 SIERA were far more telling about how he pitched after his promotion. The good news is that he’s been able to adjust to the level this season and get his peripherals back in line. Because he relies on a low-90s sinking fastball and pitches to contact, he will never turn in big strikeout numbers and his 5.6, 5.6 and 5.9 K/9 over the last three seasons backs that up. Spruill has excellent control of the fastball and backs it up with a quality changeup and slider that flashes plus from time to time and that mix gives the enough of an arsenal to reach and find some success at the major league level as an innings eater. He’s one of the better pitching prospects assigned to the AFL and is capable of making a big statement this fall.
C – Mathew Kennelly (23) – Signed out of Australia by the Braves on August 18th, 2005
2012 – Mississippi: 0.262/.349/.356, 13 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 SB, 21 BB and 26 SO in 218 PA
This season has been more of the same for Kennelly. He’s spent the year repeating the level and aside from a 0.028 jump in his slugging percentage has eerily similar slash stats to 2011. While the slash stats are similar, he’s drastically cut down on his strikeout rate going from a 21.7% in 2011 to 11.9% this year. He’s behind Christian Bethancourt on the depth chart both in the Braves organization and on Mississippi’s roster and he’s also had to content with the presence of Evan Gattis who has also caught 12 games for the G-Braves since he was promoted to AA earlier in the season. Gattis, of course is spending more of his time roaming the OF these days and Kennelly has performed better than the more-talented and more hyped Bethancourt, but he remains more of an organizational guy than a true prospect.
SS – Nick Ahmed (22) – Braves 2011 2nd Round Pick
2012 – Lynchburg: 0.262/.330/.384, 34 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 38 SB, 48 BB and 98 SO in 553 PA
Ahmed has effectively matched the slash stats he put up in 59 games with Danville (Rk) after signing last season. Given that the Braves had him skipped over their South Atlantic affiliate to play with the Hillcats in the Carolina League, just holding serve statistically is an impressive achievement. Especially for a player who spent his amateur career in the Northeast (High School in Massachusetts and College in Connecticut). Ahmed has two plus tools at his disposal in his speed and his arm and he augments those with solid athleticism and excellent instincts. He was recently named the “Fastest Baserunner” as well as the “Best Defensive SS” in the Carolina League. His stock is rising and he is a player to keep an eye on in the AFL.
3B – Edward Salcedo (21) – Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Braves on April 14th, 2010
2012 – Lynchburg: 0.237/.294/.407, 25 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 22 SB, 33 BB and 126 SO in 495 PA
Salcedo’s numbers are down from what he did with Rome (A) last season, but for the second year in a row he is more than two full years younger that the median age in his league. He was considered raw when he signed and seemed to make some progress last season, but it appears that those gains – at least statistically – have vanished. He remains very rough defensively and has made more than 40 errors at the hot corner for the second straight season. Salcedo gets a bit of a break given his age relative to his competition, but at some point he needs to start generating results and needs to improve upon his 25.5 K%. Given that he’s hitting 0.168 (16/95) with 42 SO and just 7 BB in 26 games during August, he’s not closing out the season on a high note. Heading into the season, Salcedo was one of the Braves Top-10 prospects (#6 according to Baseball America)
For more on the Atlanta Braves, check out Tomahawk Take