The thought of Atlanta Braves third base prospect Edward Salcedo forces me to think of a popular Dave Matthews Band song titled, “The Best of What’s Around“. Maybe the lyrics don’t fit exactly, but the title is perfect when discussing the bats, or lack thereof, in the Braves minor league system. On a humid evening in July, I wound up sitting next to a scout I had met two seasons earlier in Savannah and spent much of the game discussing the Braves system. After talking through the top-flight pitching prospects in the organization, the conversation turned to potential big league hitters to which the scout commented, “Salcedo is the only bat in the entire system.” Having scouted Braves affiliates including Rome, Mississippi and Gwinnett in person, I don’t completely agree, but do concede the fact Salcedo is the only prospect system-wide with a middle-of-the-order ceiling.
Video after the Jump
During the first half of the 2011 season, Salcedo posted a line of .268/.346/.420 including a .536 slugging percentage in June leading me to believe he would be promoted to Lynchburg along with catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, his teammate at the time. That promotion never came for Salcedo, and as the season wore on, Salcedo wore out with a sub-.500 OPS in August-September. In scouting the young third baseman, reports matched the statistics as whatever gains were made in the areas of plate discipline and defense dissipated as the days of mid-90′s heat wore on.
However, to simply say Salcedo did not improve in 2011 based on his late-season swoon would be remiss as he did make strides both offensively and in the field. Additionally, his improved conditioning was easily identifiable as his physique, especially through the hips and mid-section, had leaned up considerably.
Offensively, Salcedo began the season with significantly more patience than he had shown late in the 2010 season when he consistently flailed at breaking balls out of the strike zone. Additionally, his breaking ball recognition was still below average, but greatly improved over last year when he washed out in full season baseball to the tune of .197/.239/.295 in just over 200 plate appearances.
Salcedo still has a tendency to attack pitches in front of the plate. This allows him to cheat some on fastballs in, but continues to leave him susceptible to anything middle-out. As he continues to shorten what most would consider a long swing path, the need to be over-aggressive should diminish allowing him to square up on pitches more consistently. Once this happens, his power totals may spike, as his sub-.400 slugging percentage does not reflect his present size or strength. The only hitch to this theory is that I still struggle to see enough explosion in Salcedo’s wrist to project “easy” power. Additionally, I just can’t shake my concern that his signing a couple of years after most big name international prospects caused him to lose nearly two years of development time at the critical early stages.
On defense, Salcedo actually found himself playing a bit of shortstop again which is more of an indictment of Matt Lipka as a middle infielder (now playing centerfield) than endorsement of Salcedo’s defensive prowess. At third base, Salcedo showed improved range and softer hands, which along with his strong arm allow him to project well at third. At present, his error totals are high, but he’s much better reacting to hard hit balls than he is sitting back, or charging balls for that matter. Continued reps on the infield should help iron out the kinks and allow him to improve.
In terms of foot speed, Salcedo runs quite well for a prospect his size. I pulled a 4.15 home-to-first time off of video, but the batted ball included his lunging badly at a pitch in front of home plate leading to a weak ground ball and his being able to cheat out of the batter’s box a bit. In actuality, he’s more of a 4.25-4.3 runner, which definitely isn’t considered “burner” territory.
In a number of other organizations, Edward Salcedo probably would not rank in the top 10, as there’s simply too much distance between where he is and the solid big leaguer Salcedo may eventually be. This does not mean Salcedo does not draw intense interest from scouts, as I consistently witnessed talent evaluators viewing him from a number of angles. In his prime, the projection is there for him to be an Edwin Encarnacion-type from a triple slash standpoint with much better defense. However, he’s just not a good enough prospect at this point to be the centerpiece of a deal to fill a major hole at the big league level.
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