A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Braves and Phillies

Welcome to the annual series: ‘A Minor (League) Review of 20__.” This series is a great way to receive a quick recap of the 2014 minor league season for your favorite club(s), while also receiving a brief look toward the 2015 season and beyond. It can also be a handy feature for fantasy baseball players in keeper and Dynasty leagues.

Previous Pieces:
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Yankees and Orioles
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Indians and Tigers
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: White Sox, Royals, Twins
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Angels and A’s
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Astros, Angels, Mariners

A Minor Review of 2014: Braves

The Graduate: Tommy La Stella, 2B: Known more for his stick than his glove, La Stella — who I ranked as the Braves’ eighth-best prospect entering 2014 — took over for the disappointing Dan Uggla in late May. Unfortunately, he hit very poorly in the months of August and September, so he may not have done enough to guarantee a starting gig next season.

The Riser: Jose Peraza, 2B: I ranked Peraza rather aggressively on the Braves’ 2014 pre-season ranking by placing him third overall and he rose to the occasion. The middle infielder split the year between High-A and Double-A while hitting .339 with an .806 OPS. He also stole 60+ bases for the second straight season.

The Tumbler: Mauricio Cabrera, RHP: Cabrera ranked right behind Peraza on the pre-season prospects list but his development went in the opposite direction to that of his org mate. The right-handed hurler battled a forearm injury early in the year and made just three starts before June. When he returned, he was moved to the bullpen where he looked fairly good before allowing 10 runs in his final four appearances (2.2 innings).

The ’14 Draft Pick: Braxton Davidson, OF: Just 18, this North Carolina native flashed some intriguing power potential as an amateur. Davidson’s power didn’t show up in pro ball (0 homers in 147 ABs) and the left-handed hitter struggled with consistency (including a .163 BA vs southpaws). On the positive side, he showed patience with 31 free passes in 50 games.

The Lottery Ticket: Ozhaino Albies, SS: One of the biggest breakout players in short-season ball in 2014, Albies, just 17, showed an advanced approach in Rookie ball, which led to a .381 average and .090 OPS, and saw him receive a promotion to Advanced Rookie ball after just 19 games. He kept hitting there (.881 OPS) and finished the year with almost as many stolen bases as strikeouts (22 to 23) and even more walks (28) in 57 combined games.

A Minor Review of 2014: Phillies

The Graduate: Ken Giles, RHP: What a difference a slider can make. I ranked Giles as the 12th best prospect in a weak Phillies system prior to the 2013 season (based on the strength of his upper-90s heat) but he had a poor year and fell off the radar. He was omitted from my 2014 pre-season ranking but an improved breaking ball helped him become one of the most dominant relievers in the National League.

The Riser: J.P. Crawford, SS: Crawford entered the year as the third-best prospect in the system and could have ended up No. 1 even if he hadn’t shown improvement (based on how poorly the top two prospects performed). Luckily for the Phillies, the young shortstop continued to establish himself as one of the top middle infield prospects in the game. He showed solid defensive skills while also producing a strong BB-K rate at the plate (65-74) in 123 combined games between two A-ball levels.

The Tumbler: Maikel Franco, 3B/1B: Really, you could take your pick from the Phillies’ top two prospects entering 2014: Franco or LHP Jesse Biddle. Both players had disappointing years and took steps backward in their respective developments. The corner infielder was brutal in April and June but rebounded in the second half of the year to earn a promotion to the Majors. The late-season surge gives hope that the young hitter has turned things around.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Aaron Nola, RHP: One of the most advanced arms in the 2014 draft, Toronto made a strong push to sign Nola back in of high school in 2011 but came away empty handed — much to Philly’s benefit. The right-hander doesn’t have the most electric stuff you’ll find but it’s solid while his command and control are both above-average for his level of experience. Look for him to reach Philadelphia late in 2015.

The Lottery Ticket: Deivi Grullon, C: Just 18 and a significant international signee from 2012, Grullon spent his second pro season playing at three levels. He reached High-A ball despite a poor offensive performance (.564 OPS), which speaks to how highly the organization views his maturity and defensive skills.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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