SAN FRANCISCO -- Now that the Braves have grown confident that Jace Peterson has the potential to serve as their starting second baseman for many years to come, they are following through with their plan to have top prospect Jose Peraza spend some time playing center field for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Peraza served as Gwinnett's starting center fielder for the second time this week during Friday night's game against Lehigh Valley. The Braves said they are attempting to add to the versatility of the 21-year-old top prospect, who has previously served as a shortstop and second baseman during his professional career.
Like Peterson has spent the past month providing indication that he might prove effective as an everyday second baseman, Cameron Maybin has recently proven valuable as Atlanta's starting center fielder. But as the Braves spend the next few weeks and months getting a better feel for the long-term value these two players might have, they want Peraza to at least get a feel for playing the outfield.
If Maybin extends his recent success, the $8 million salary he is set to receive in 2016 might be regarded as a bargain. But the Braves are not going to allow one month of success to allow them to ignore that the former highly regarded prospect has battled injuries and inconsistencies throughout much of his Major League career.
The Braves are also not making any assumptions regarding Peterson, who is a better defensive option than Peraza at second base. Neither of these infielders possesses the arm strength necessary to be considered viable long-term options at third base.
Though the Braves are giving Peraza some time in center field, they have not ruled out the possibility that Mallex Smith might be ready to fill that position at some point next year. Smith entered Friday hitting .347 with a .405 on-base percentage and 16 stolen bases for Double-A Mississippi. Still, there are some talent evaluators who are not confident he would be Major League-ready at the start of next season.
So, instead of simply assuming who will be their second-base and center-field options next year, the Braves want to expand the options they will have with Peraza.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.