Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Atlanta Braves

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: The rope that’s tying B.J Upton to the Braves’ center-field gig has to be thinly frayed at this point. As well, you have to figure the club isn’t 100% sold on sophomore-to-be Tommy La Stella and his ‘meh’ defense at second base.

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Jose Peraza, 2B/SS: This young Venezuelan’s game took a big step forward in the second half of 2013 and he earned the No. 3 ranking on the Braves’ pre-2014 prospect list at FanGraphs. The middle infielder’s strong play continued into 2014 and he is now the best prospect in the system and could push incumbent second baseman Tommy LaStella (a rookie himself in ’14) to more of a part-time role. Peraza, 20, has a chance to develop into a top-of-the-order threat with a strong batting average and 30+ steals.

2. Christian Bethancourt, C: Considered one of the best defensive players in the minors, Bethancourt’s bat cannot compete — which is why he’s spent the past three seasons in Double-A and Triple-A. However, his strong work behind the plate could make him an excellent complement to the offensive-minded (but defensively modest) Evan Gattis — although neither player will ever put up much of an on-base percentage. Bethancourt, 23, will always be a more valuable “real life” baseball player than fantasy contributor due to his offensive shortcomings.

3. Kyle Kubitza, 3B: Incumbent third baseman Chris Johnson is coming off of a poor season that saw him produce a .292 on-base percentage and little power, thanks in part to BB-K ratio of 23-159. However, he’s signed to an ill-advised three-year contract (see the comment below about the firing of the general manager), and that could allow Kubitza to earn some playing time at the hot corner while his athleticism should allow him to sub at a few other positions. Although he doesn’t have prototypical “third base power,” the young infielder gets on base at a high rate, has above-average base running acumen and some defensive skills.

4. Kyle Wren, OF: The firing of former Braves GM Frank Wren must have lifted off a bit of the weight from the shoulders of son Kyle. This 2013 8th round pick can now go about his business with a little less attention. In just his first full pro season, the Florida native reached Double-A. He may open the 2015 season back at that level but he’s one of the most promising outfield prospects in the system despite his lack of power. He plays solid defense and offers stolen-base prowess, which could make him a solid fourth outfielder (and possibly more valuable than the seriously overpaid B.J. Upton).

5. Cody Martin, RHP: The fifth spot on this list came down to Martin or Jason Hursh but the former’s Triple-A experience gave him the edge — as did his potentially plus cutter. The right-hander throws a fringe fastball but the cutter — complemented by his three other offerings — gives him more than enough weapons (especially when aided by his solid command) to settle in as a No. 4 starter in the Braves’ rotation. My biggest concern with the 25-year-old Martin is his fly-ball tendency.

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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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How safe is it to assume Jose Peraza will earn an everyday job over the next few seasons? Do you think he will play a big role in 2015 and will his bat/speed translate to the big leagues in your opinion? Got a minor league dynasty draft coming up and am thinking about taking Peraza with a first round pick due to his bat/speed combo. Thanks!