March 5, 2012; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt (68) in the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports releases top-20 prospect rankings for Atlanta Braves

Prospect rankings are always huge during Spring Training, and a high-profile list of the top-20 prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization has been released, this time by

There isn’t a ton in the way of outright surprises, but the order in which the more recognizable prospects fall is pretty interesting. Earlier in the year, ESPN’s Keith Law (who is the most “famous” prospects writer in the country) ranked the top-10 in the Braves system and landed with pitcher Lucas Sims at #1, followed by catcher Christian Bethancourt and shortstop Jose Peraza. has the same top-two with Sims and Bethancourt in that order, but a mild shake-up has them ranking right-hander Jason Hursh in the 3rd spot.

Sims is easily the best prospect in the organization in my view, as he justified his 2012 1st-round draft pick with a lights-out showing last season, posting a 2.62 ERA with 134 strikeouts in just 116.2 innings. Bethancourt has been around long enough where virtually everyone knows his name, and the defense alone (some reports are legendary about his receiving and throwing abilities) makes him a near can’t-miss as far as being an MLB contributor in some form. Hursh, however, has been seen as a lower “upside” play (as college pitchers often are), but his latest ranking is encouraging.

Behind the top-3, goes with the aforementioned Peraza (who is blocked by Andrelton Simmons) at #4, followed by pitchers Mauricio Cabrera and J.R. Graham, and possible big-league 2B Tommy La Stella. Many thought that Graham was at the top of Atlanta’s rankings before a shoulder injury sidetracked him, but with shoulders (remember Tommy Hanson?), nothing is a given. La Stella lands in a relatively “safe” spot at #7, and his reputation as an MLB-ready hitter proceeds him with some questions about his defense and overall upside.

Obviously, this type of look at the minor league system is quite fluid, but with some of the bigger names approaching the big leagues in a hurry (Bethancourt and La Stella, in particular), it is good to begin familiarizing the fan base with what to expect when they arrive.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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