Graham, Wood, Bethancourt among those to watch closely in Atlanta farm system
By Mark Bowman
ATLANTA -- With four members of their starting lineup and two members of their starting rotation younger than 26 years old, the Braves have already introduced much of their young talent to the Major League level. But there are still some intriguing prospects in their tradition-rich farm system.
"You hear a lot about these guys," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, "and then when you get a chance to see them in Spring Training, you understand why.
"There are a lot of interesting players in our system right now."
With Julio Teheran set to serve as Atlanta's fifth starter, two of the most intriguing pitching prospects still at the Minor League level are J.R. Graham and Alex Wood, who will both begin this season with top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt at Double-A Mississippi.
There will also be some interest surrounding last year's first-round Draft selection Lucas Sims, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who will begin his first full professional season at Class A Rome. Sean Gilmartin, the club's first-round pick in 2011, will anchor Triple-A Gwinnett's starting rotation.
where to watch
Here's where the Braves' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2013 season:
Tommy La Stella
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
A few other players to watch at Gwinnett this year include outfielders Joey Terdoslavich and Todd Cunningham. While their paths to Atlanta are blocked by the presence of Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers, Terdoslavich and Cunningham have started to show they have the offensive potential to find a role at the big league level at some point in their respective careers.
It will be very interesting to see how the Mississippi club fares with Graham and Wood in its rotation. Both have power arms that could allow them to serve as either starters or late-inning relievers once they reach the big league level. There will also be interest surrounding the defensively-talented Bethancourt, who needs to improve his offensive game before bidding to serve as Atlanta's starting catcher next year.
Another Mississippi player sure to draw attention is Edward Salcedo, who received the highest signing bonus the Braves have given an International signee. Salcedo's first few years at the professional ranks have been a disappointment, and he will likely have to make a move from third base to the outfield. But at 21 years-old, he still has time to mature and develop as a player.
Debuts and Draftees
With their first two selections in last summer's Draft, the Braves took a couple of pitchers with ties to Georgia. Sims grew up approximately 30 minutes north of Turner Field and will spend this year pitching in Rome, which is located within an hour of Atlanta.
Wood, who was selected out of the University of Georgia, will go to Mississippi to start the season. But if the Braves need a left-hander in their bullpen at some point this year, he could get a call to Atlanta.
Outfielder Blake Brown, who was taken last year in the fifth round, will begin this season in Rome's outfield.
Teams on TV
The Rome Braves, Mississippi Braves and Gwinnett Braves are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.