The Braves will keep a close watch on some of their highly coveted young arms in major league camp this spring training. Jason Hursh, last year’s first-round pick, as well as prospects like Shae Simmons and J.R. Graham were among the 22 non-roster invitees the Braves announced on Monday.
The club will also get a closer look at prospect Tommy La Stella, who could be the Braves’ second baseman of the future, or the very near future if the team trades Dan Uggla. La Stella headlines a group of infielders that includes Mat Gamel, the former Milwaukee Brewers prospect, and Edward Salcedo, one of the Braves top international signings in recent years.
Gamel, 28, will compete for a bench spot as a power-hitting left-handed corner infielder. He has missed most of the past two seasons after twice tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. In his last full season in 2011, he hit .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs for Triple-A Nashville.
Hursh was selected 31st overall by the Braves in June from Oklahoma State and proceeded to go 1-1 with a 0.67 ERA in Single-A Rome in his first nine professional starts.
Graham, a hard-throwing right-hander, returns to the major league camp for the second consecutive spring, eager to get back on the mound again. He missed much of the 2012 season with shoulder soreness, making only eight starts for Double-A Mississippi.
Simmons, a right-handed reliever, made the jump from low-A Rome to Double-A Mississippi, bypassing Lynchburg last year on the strength of 24 saves and a 1.46 ERA in Rome. He responded to the promotion by posting a 2.45 ERA in 11 outings for Mississippi.
La Stella is a hard-nosed, line-drive hitting second baseman some have compared to former Brave Mark Lemke. He hit .290 in the Arizona Fall League, building on the promise he showed in Double-A. La Stella hit .343 in 81 games for Mississippi with a .422 on-base percentage.
Salcedo is the former shortstop the Braves signed for $1.6 million out of the Dominican four years ago. He struggled defensively upon his arrival and eventually made the move to third base. He has hit around .240 each of his past two minor league seasons but with some power, hitting 17 home runs for Lynchburg in 2012 and 12 home runs for Mississippi last summer.
The invitees list:
Pitchers (11): Right-handers Lay Batista, J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh, Mark Lamm, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya, Gus Schlosser and Shae Simmons; left-handers Daniel Rodriguez, Atahualpa Severino and Ian Thomas.
Catchers (4): Matt Kennelly, Steven Lerud, Braeden Schlehuber and Jose Yepez.
Infielders (6): Mat Gamel, Phil Gosselin, Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton, Tommy La Stella and Edward Salcedo.
Outfielder (1): Matt Lipka.
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