ATLANTA -- While the Braves are confident that they can remain competitive with their significantly-restructured roster during the 2015 season, they are every bit as interested to follow the impressive prospect crop they created via this winter's trade flurry that enriched the club's future.
Jose Peraza and Mike Foltynewicz, who rank as the club's top two prospects according to MLB.com, will both come to Spring Training with a chance to be on Atlanta's Opening Day roster. MLB.com breaks down the key prospects to watch when Spring Training starts on Feb. 20.
2B Peraza: Though there is a strong chance Peraza will become Atlanta's leadoff hitter and starting second baseman at some point this season, there is reason to believe he will likely spend at least the first couple of months with Triple-A Gwinnett. The 20-year-old infielder compiled a .364 on-base percentage and proved successful in 60 of the 75 stolen base attempts he totaled with Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi last year.
RHP Foltynewicz: This 6-foot-4, 220-pound flamethrower became the Braves' top pitching prospect when he was acquired in a trade with the Astros in January. Foltynewicz and Eric Stults stand as the top two candidates to fill what currently stands as the only available spot in the starting rotation. Command has been an issue for the 22-year-old Foltynewicz. Time will tell whether he can develop his changeup and curveball to the point where critics will no longer wonder whether he might be best utilized as a late-inning reliever.
C Christian Bethancourt: There has never been reason to doubt the athleticism and tools possessed by this strong-armed catcher, who ranks as the Braves' No. 5 prospect. But as he prepares to experience his first season as Atlanta's primary catcher, there are still some doubts about his offensive ability and the effort level he shows behind the plate.
RHP Arodys Vizcaino: This 24-year-old right-hander joined Atlanta's bullpen during the latter part of the 2011 season and then had Tommy John surgery the following spring. He was traded to the Cubs in July 2012 and was reacquired by the Braves this past winter. He finally proved healthy again while pitching at four levels for the Cubs last year. But to earn a spot in Atlanta's 'pen, he will have to display better command than he did while issuing 14 walks in the 23 1/3 innings combined at the Triple-A and Major League levels last year.
RHP Jason Hursh: There are mixed reviews about Hursh, who was Atlanta's first-round selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The 23-year-old hurler possesses heavy sinking action on his fastball, but he produced a 1.65 groundball/flyball ratio and notched just 83 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi last year. The Braves will be looking for some improvement during his second full professional season.
RHP Tyrell Jenkins: While this 22-year-old right-hander possesses tremendous upside, there are lingering concerns that stem from his inability to remain healthy during the early portion of his pro career. But he recovered from shoulder surgery in time to enjoy a strong second half while pitching for the Cardinals' Class A Advanced affiliate last year.
LHP Manny Banuelos: This 23-year-old southpaw impressed Mariano Rivera and many other Yankees veterans when he nearly made New York's roster out of Spring Training in 2011. But his stock has fallen as he has since battled multiple injuries. Now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, he will likely begin the season with Gwinnett. But he has the stuff to potentially reach Atlanta at some point this season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.