The Top-Five Atlanta Prospects by Projected WAR by Carson Cistulli January 29, 2015 Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Atlanta Baseball Club. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Atlanta’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Atlanta system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value. Below are the top-five prospects in the Atlanta system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time. Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par. 5. Jace Peterson, 2B (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 550 .230 .297 .314 74 0.1 Two other players besides Peterson — both outfielder Zoilo Almonte and right-handed reliever Juan Jaime — are projected by Steamer to produce about 0.1 wins for Atlanta, as well. Composing whole paragraph for all three of that group, however, would seem to constitute an example of Overenthusiasm in Action. In any case, among the triumvirate, Peterson appears to have the greatest likelihood of finding a half-regular role with the parent club. Despite last season’s vigorously unsuccessful cameo with the Padres (58 PA, -27 wRC+, -0.6 WAR), Peterson nonetheless continued to exhibit above-average contact skills in the high minors — in addition, that, to occupying a place along the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum. t3. Jose Peraza, 2B (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 550 .251 .281 .330 70 0.2 If the question is, “Who’s probably the second baseman of Atlanta’s future?” the answer is “Jose Peraza.” Consider, by way of example: in almost precisely 500 plate appearances last year between High- and Double-A, he recorded a strikeout rate below 10% while also stealing 60 bases with remarkable efficiency. A promising result, that, for a 20-year-old. As his rather unenthusiastic Steamer projection suggests, however, Peraza probably isn’t the second baseman of Atlanta’s present, either. t3. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (Profile) IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR 50 8.8 3.5 0.9 3.68 0.2 The concern with Vizcaino at the moment isn’t really his performance. In 20-plus innings of major-league pitching, he’s recorded a strikeout rate above 20% and average fastball velocity of about 96 mph. Those are workable numbers, especially for a younger player with limited experience. No, the problem for Vizcaino has been his inability to accrue that experience in the first place. Consider: Vizcaino’s projected line here is prorated, as it is for all relievers, to 50 innings. Vizcaino, meanwhile, hasn’t compiled 50 innings in any season since 2011. His season would have to be regarded as a success were he merely to end that ignominious streak. 2. Shae Simmons, RHP (Profile) IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR 50 10.0 3.7 0.7 3.20 0.3 It’s not that Atlanta lacks potentially significant talent in its system. Indeed, according to Kiley McDaniel, there are about eight guys in the organization currently who profile as average or better future major leaguers. The majority of the players who possess that talent, however, are likely to be rostered by some manner of minor-league club for the next couple years. Simmons is the rare case of an Atlanta prospect who’s likely to produce wins at better than a replacement-level rate and is also major-league ready. 1. Christian Bethancourt, C (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 415 .238 .266 .346 70 0.7 With regard to prospects who lack significant/any major-league playing time, Steamer’s defensive projections typically account merely for the relevant player’s generic positional adjustment, excluding any information about runs saved or not. For a player like Bethancourt, then — whose reputation is founded almost exclusively on his defensive capacities — it’s probably fair to say that Steamer’s projection represents something less than the “actual” 50th-percentile forecast. Whether that renders Bethancourt an average player is still doubtful, however, as the offensive skills — in particular, his proclivity for avoiding walks — are still decidedly below average.