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2012 Fish Watch: Atlanta Braves Final Update

The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.

Obviously since the season is over and some teams have had two updates, some have only had one and the NL West teams have had zero coverage thus far, this project did not work out as I had planned on many levels. Undeterred I’m going to sally forth and finish off this round of updates and call it good. Next season if I attempt this again I’m going to have to make some major changes to the structure, plan and concept of this series.

Feel free to check out the category archive to read previous installments of the series.

Atlanta Braves (S2S 2012 Braves Team Prospect List)

C/LF – Evan Gattis (26) – Braves 2010 23rd Round Pick

2011 – Rome (A): 0.322/.386/.601, 24 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 2 SB, 25 BB and 53 SO in 377 PA
2012 – GCL Braves (Rk): 0.500/.538/.500, 1 BB and 2 SO in 13 PA
2012 – Lynchburg (A+): 0.385/.468/.821, 7 2B, 9 HR, 1 SB, 10 BB and 12 SO in 94 PA
2012 – Mississippi (AA): 0.258/.343/.522, 13 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 1 SB, 20 BB and 29 SO in 207 PA

Gattis had a busy year in 2012. First he dismantled Carolina League pitching and was promoted to Double-A after just 21 games. He proceeded to hit a solid 0.274/.348/.581 in 16 May contests with Mississippi but then strained tendons in his wrist trying to put a bag into an overhead compartment on the team bus. That mishap sidelined him for just over two months (May 20th-July 24th). Gattis returned to action and sailed through his four game tuneup in the GCL turning in multi-hit games in three of those contests. He continued his hot hitting when he returned to Southern League with a 6-13 stretch that included a 2B, 3B and HR in his first three games back.

He cooled considerably in August putting together a 0.211/.318/.358 line in 26 games for the month but despite the lack of results, he still turned in an excellent 11.2 BB% and 14.0 K%. Gattis then he finished the year off with a flourish hitting three home runs in the last three games of the regular season.

The wrist injury surely played a role in his reduced production during August and in the grand scheme of things it probably cost him a late-season stint with Triple-A Gwinnett. When healthy, he’s performed at a high level at every stop and despite being a bit long in the tooth as a prospect – thanks in part to a fascinating back story – it’s looking more and more like he will be an asset at the major league level sooner rather than later.

3B – Kyle Kubitza (22) – Braves 2011 3rd Round Pick

2011 – Danville (Rk): 0.321/.407/.475, 16 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 9 SB, 24 BB and 38 SO in 190 PA
2012 – Rome: 0.239/.349/.393, 24 2B, 9 3B, 9 HR, 18 SB, 73 BB and 127 SO in 531 PA

After signing, Kubitza was fantastic with Danville in 44 games last season but he didn’t come close to achieving that level of performance against SAL pitching this season. That’s not to say that this season was a loss for the young 3B prospect as there were some positive signs. The first is the 1.1 increase – up from 12.6 to 13.7% – in his already solid BB%. Kubitza’s K% predictably went up from 20.0 to 23.9% but given the increase in level he kept that aspect of his game fairly well on par. Of course patience at the plate and general strike zone awareness were two of his biggest assets coming out of the draft so the fact that he’s performed well in these areas shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In terms of his slash stats, 2012 was a roller coaster as he alternated between good and bad months. If you group the stats together you get the following:

April/June/August: 0.279/.380/.461 in 258 AB
May/July/September: 0.184/.304/.300 in 190 AB

Obviously his season is the sum of its parts, but the above at least shows that he can be successful if he can avoid going into long extended slumps. He has a reputation for tinkering with his stance and his swing mechanics and these traits may be a factor in his inconsistency from month to month. What he did at the plate aside, Kubitza also showed improvement in the field increasing both his fielding percentage and his range factor. Which are both positive signs as he has all the tools and instincts to be an asset defensively at 3B.

A return to Rome or a promotion to Lynchburg to open the 2013 season would both be logical assignments. I’d start him in the Carolina League right off the bat, but keeping him in Rome until he shows some consistency at the plate makes a lot of sense as well.

RHP – J.R. Graham (22) – Braves 2011 4th Round Pick

2011 – Danville: 1.72 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 52 H, 13 BB and 52 SO in 57.2 IP
2012 – Lynchburg: 2.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 88 H, 17 BB and 68 SO in 102.2 IP
2012 – Mississippi: 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 35 H, 17 BB and 42 SO in 45.1 IP

Like Kubitza, Graham was impressive in his time with Danville in 2011. The Braves elected to have him skip Rome all together and instead dropped him into the Hillcats rotation to kick off 2012. Based on the way he performed, it’s hard to argue with the results. He dropped his hit and walk rates from the previous year and while his strikeout rate dropped, he maintained a 4.0 SO/BB.

On July 20th he made the first of his nine starts for Double-A Mississippi and continued his successful run. His BB/9 jumped up to an uncharacteristic 3.4, but he offset that but further cutting his hit rate – from 7.7 at Lynchburg to 6.9 – and pushed his strike out rate up to a career best 8.3 per nine innings.

He’s a bit undersized – 6’0″ 185 lbs – but he throws comfortably in the mid-90s and has a slider that is at least average. That has led many to project a long term future as a late inning reliever, but he’s now carried his success as a starter into Double-A and he’s certainly earned the chance to keep going in that role. How his changeup continues to develop is a critical piece in the long term picture, but there’s little doubt that his 2012 season was a rousing success.

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For more on the Atlanta Braves, check out Tomahawk Take!

Tags: Atlanta Braves Evan Gattis J.R. Graham Kyle Kubitza Lynchburg Hillcats Mississippi Braves Rome Braves

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