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Who Do the Atlanta Braves Have Left as Prospects?

The Recent Trade for Justin Upton Thinned the List of Prospects in Braves Organization

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COMMENTARY | The recent trade bringing Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves, creating one of the best outfields in all of baseball, also sent out some of the best prospects in the organization.

Now that the dust has settled from the trade -- and with MLB.com releasing their top 100 prospects list -- let's take a look at what is left for the future of the Braves.

Don't forget that prospects are just that, prospects. No one will ever know how well these guys will perform until given a chance at the major league level. Some of the best prospects in baseball have turned out to be complete busts, while some not so highly regarded prospects have gone on to have great careers.

Julio Teheran

Any prospect list for the Braves over the past three years has always started with Teheran. Last year he was ranked as the fourth best prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com, but this year he dropped all the way down to 31.

Not only did he drop 27 spots, but he was also the lone Brave on the list after having five on the 2012 list.

Baseball America lists Teheran as the Braves' top prospect entering the 2013 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander had a horrible season for the Braves Triple-A affiliate, posting an ERA of 5.08 in 26 starts. This just one year after putting up an ERA of 2.55 in 24 starts for the same team.

He has pitched in seven games for the Atlanta Braves -- four starts -- and has complied an ERA of 5.19 in 26 innings. He is the front runner to win the fifth spot in the rotation, but he'll have to earn it during spring training.

Braves general manager Frank Wren and others in the organization were impressed with his progress during winter league baseball where he had a 3.23 ERA in seven starts. In his last three starts he tossed 16 and 2/3 innings of shutout baseball with 15 strikeouts, while only allowing two hits.

If he can carry that kind of success into spring training, and further into the regular season, he could prove why he's been a highly regarded prospect for several years.

Christian Bethancourt

Last year Bethancourt made the top 100 list at 91, but was left off this year.

He had a difficult year in the Southern League, battling injuries all season. He wound up with 288 at-bats and a .243 average.

His progress, along with Brian McCann's performance this season, will go a long way in determining whom will be the future catcher of the Braves.

Like Teheran, Bethancourt spent time playing winter baseball. He was able to get 58 at-bats and had 13 hits.

Bethancourt isn't seen as a highly touted offensive prospect, but his glove and defensive skills are what make him so special. If he's able to figure it out at the plate in 2013, I believe the 21-year-old will be the Braves starting catcher in 2014.

Sean Gilmartin

The Braves' first-round draft pick in the 2011 draft is on the same course as Mike Minor. The Braves have taken these college pitchers early in the draft and expect them to be ready for the majors sooner rather than later.

Gilmartin is proving that strategy works by finishing the 2012 season in Gwinnett. While his minor league numbers aren't impressive -- 3.84 ERA in 2012 -- he projects as a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, much like Minor.

He will start the season at age 22 and may push Teheran for the fifth spot in the rotation. More than likely he'll begin the season in Triple-A, but if an early injury happens I expect he'll be the first one called up.

Evan Gattis

It's hard to consider someone a prospect at age 26, but if you know Gattis' story his baseball career was put on hold until he was 23.

He can play catcher, first base or in the outfield. His versatility -- and the fact that McCann might start the season hurt -- has increased his chances of making the major league roster this year even though he has yet to play above Double-A.

In 2012, he split time at three different levels hitting 18 home runs in 314 at bats. In 182 at-bats in the Southern League, he hit .258 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs.

Yet another Brave that spent time perfecting his craft during winter league baseball, Gattis gained a ton of popularity in the Venezuelan league, earning the nickname "White Bear" because of his raw power. He hit 16 home runs in 195 at-bats and drove in 44 runs, while maintaining a .303 average.

There was some speculation that Gattis may battle for the left field job in spring training before the Upton trade. Now it looks like he could earn a bench role or possibly start the season in Triple-A to continue his development.

J.R. Graham

Another player that has shot up the ranks among Braves prospects is Graham. The 23-year-old righ- hander was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Santa Clara University.

He was able to join the Braves' rookie league affiliate after the 2011 draft and started eight games for the Danville Braves, posting an ERA of 1.72 in 57 and 2/3 innings.

Graham followed that up with another great season pitching between High-A and Double-A where he went 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA. He struck out 110 batters in 148 innings pitched while walking 34 for a WHIP of 1.06.

The knock on Graham is that he is small -- listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds. He throws hard consistently hitting above 95 mph, which is why many view him as a potential bullpen arm.

He will more than likely start the season at Triple-A, and it would take some disastrous situations for him to make his first major league start in 2013. But at 23, I wouldn't be surprised if the Braves give him a shot soon.

So despite sending four prospects to the Diamondbacks along with Martin Prado, the Braves were able to hold on to a lot their top prospects.

Of course, there are others like 2012 first round pick Lucas Sims that aren't listed above, but these guys are players that could help this team out soon and have established themselves as legitimate prospects in the minors.

The Braves have done a great job of churning out young talent over the years, especially the past three or four seasons with players like Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons.

It will be interesting to see which prospect keeps that trend going.

Jake Mastroianni has written for several websites pertaining to the Braves and baseball in general. He also has experience working in media relations for minor league baseball, as well as at the collegiate level.

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