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Blog Entry

Top 15 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Posted on: October 16, 2008 5:38 pm
 

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[Ok, so I have no idea what these "<o:p></o:p>" are, but they aren't too distracting, so please just ignore them]

I’ve created this segment because I love watching young players grow through the system, and contribute at the big league level. Baseball’s minor leagues are the #1 source for most team’s additions. I get the impression that most baseball fans do not have a great understanding of you their team’s next great star is, so, I’m here to clue in.

The impact a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the cusp of the World Series. How did they do it? The catalysts name is Evan Longoria. The top prospect in Tampa Bay’s farm to start 2008, became the leader of this Rays team, and has come up with big hits all year. Behind Longoria are players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and of course Scott Kazmir, all guys among the Rays best prospects few years ago.

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Over the next couple of months I’m going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once Baseball America starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.

**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.


Minor League notations in descending order

*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball

*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season

*a signifies short-season A ball

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*R signifies rookie league

Atlanta Braves Top 15 Prospects

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1. Jason Heyward OF-RF Age: 19 Minor League Level last year (MLL): A <o:p></o:p>

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Heyward is the letterhead of the Braves farm system. He is only 19, but has already developed excellent plate patience, striking our only 78 times last year, and walking 51 times. Once Heyward arrives at the big leagues he’ll consistently hit .300+, with 30 HRs, and 20 SBs. He plays good defense, but due to the logjam of Braves OFs, many of whom are excellent defenders, he’s likely to settle in at LF.

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2. Jordan Schafer CF Age: 22 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

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Schafer is probably the most well known Braves prospect. Schafer doesn’t hit for a great average, .261 BA in 2008, but also does not massacre his swing by striking out. He has plus power potential, but hit only 10 in 2008. Schafer does have gold-glove defense, and will be the Braves CF as early as Opening Day. However, he is terribly inconsistent on offense, and should spend the entirety of 2009 in AAA.

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3. Tommy Hanson RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A<o:p></o:p>

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I become visibly angry when people rank Hanson lower than third. In AA, and A ball this past season he threw in 138 innings, while posting a 2.41 ERA, and striking out 163 batters, 163! That is a K/9 of 10.6. Hanson throws his fastball in the 92-95 range, and complements it with what I believe to be a plus-plus curveball. He is not going to be an elite ace, but he could be one of the better number twos.

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4. Josh Anderson CF Age: 26 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Anderson is one of my favorite prospects in all of baseball. You can tell he used to be part of the Astros’ system because he is probably a little high on my list, but I do feel he deserves it. Anderson has hit .300 at every level since being drafted by Houston, including hitter .300 in September for the Astros, and again this season when he was with the Braves. He also plays good defense, having great range in center thanks to his elite speed. Anderson has also been one of the minors’ top base stealers his entire professional career. He strikes out too much for a guy with limited power, and does not draw as many walks as you would like from a prospective lead off hitter, but, other than those flaws he is a great player. Last offseason he was shipped to Atlanta after the Astros traded for Michael Bourn. If a major league club ever gave him the opportunity to start, and have consistent playing time, I think he would be a solid center fielder, or right fielder, or left fielder, for that matter.

5. Frederick Freeman 1B Age: 19 MLL: A-

Freeman hit for an average of .316, a slugging % of .521, and an OPS of .899 in low A Rome, and he did it at the age of 18. Freeman also knocked 18 HRs, while only striking out 84 times. Freeman was a second round pick in 2007, and should be Atlanta’s everyday first baseman by 2012, at the age of 22.

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6. Brandon Jones OF Age: 25 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Brandon Jones spent time with the major league club in 2008; he just didn’t get 130 at-bats in. I am not high on Jones; his ranking is propelled by his ML readiness. I think Jones will be a good fourth outfielder, but he is simply not effective enough to be an everyday starter, particularly over Anderson. Others will say Jones is a better player than Anderson, he has a wider range of tools, but Anderson is better at the ones he possesses – speed, defense, making contact with the ball.

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7. Gorkys Hernandez CF Age: 21 MLL: A+ <o:p></o:p>

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Yes, another outfielder. Hernandez has some good tools. He has more power than Anderson, and will probably end up hitting for a better average than Jones one day, Hernandez also has good speed – again less than Anderson, but more than Jones. Hernandez’ greatest tool is his defense, as he may be the best defensive outfielder not at the major league level. I like Hernandez, but it is tough to tell what the future holds for him in Atlanta. He would be graduating to the majors certainly after Schafer, and around the same time as Heyward.

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8. Brent Lillibridge SS Age: 25 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Lillibridge has become a complete bust, or at least with his bat. He remains a great fielder, but had an On-Base-Percentage under .300 in 2008 at AAA, that is not going to cut it in Atlanta. Still, he stays in the top 10 because of his defense, and he’s the best non 1B infield prospect has.

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9. Charlie Morton RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Morton is a guy I am really high on. He pitched well at AAA, before pitching some in the majors, accumulating a 2.05 ERA and 72 Ks over 79 innings pitched. Even more impressive to me is that he allowed ZERO, (0), home runs in that span of 79 innings.

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10. Jose Teheran RHSP Age: 17 MLL: N/A<o:p></o:p>

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If I was ranking based upon potential alone Teheran would slide in right behind Schafer, and Heyward. But, he slides all the way back to no. 10 because he has very limited playing experience, and it is so tough to look 5-7 years the road when it comes to pitchers. Teheran does possess ace-like stuff, his fastball hits the mid-90s, and he’s only 17, so as he develops that velocity will probably rise.

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11. Cole Rohrbough LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A<o:p></o:p>

Cole’s is a strikeout artist lefty. In 2008 he K’d 104 batters in 90 innings. He throws two quality pitches a moving fastball, and a hammer curve.

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12. Jeff Locke LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

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Another left-handed pitcher, who happens to be the same age, and around the same level as far as development is concerned. Locke throws a plus fastball in the low to mid 90s, with late movement. He also throws a developing curveball that projects as a plus pitch.

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13. Kala Ka’aihue 1B Age: 23 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

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Not to be confused with Kila, his not twin brother with the Royals – although I do believe they were born on the same day, just different years, or so the legend goes. Kala has a very advanced approach to the plate; he walked 88 times in 2008 posting a .417 OBP, despite only hitting a .274 BA. Kala also has some power hitting 14 HRs, along with the resulting 119 strikeouts. Kala will be ready for the major league team some time in 2009 pushing him one spot ahead of another first basemen…

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14. Cody Johnson 1B/LF Age: 20 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

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Johnson is one of the most intriguing prospects in Atlanta’s system. Atlanta has considered putting him in the outfield, but due to quantity of future major leaguers there in the organization, Johnson will most likely stay at first base. The thing to like about Johnson is his unmatched power numbers. He hit 29 HRs in low A in 2008, unfortunately accompanying that power are the predictable strikeouts, 177, and low average, .307 OBP. If Johnson learns some patience at the plates, and learns to hit for contact as well as power, he could shoot up this list, much like Lars Anderson of the Red Sox – that is a pretty big if though.

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15. Brett DeVall LHSP Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

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DeVall is Atlanta’s 2008 top draft pick. He throws three pitches, and can command all three, as a player out of high school. His fastball only clocks at about 91 mph, but could increase as he matures, and fills out. His curveball, and change up could both develop into above-average to plus pitches.

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Strengths: Depth. The Braves have five or six guys who could become more than reliable starters at the major league level. They also have three great first base prospects, a position of weakness in Atlanta. Biggest of all is their outfielders, who possess a diverse collection of tools. The Braves are also not lacking in talent with two of the best prospects in baseball in Heyward, and Schafer.

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Weaknesses: The infield. There are not many capable infielders in this organization other than first basemen; there is the aforementioned Lillibridge, and the not mentioned Van Pope, who is a great fielding third basemen. This is especially troubling seeing how Chipper is soon to retire – 2-3 years maybe, but soon as far as raising capable replacements is concerned. There also will not be much depth behind Kelly Johnson, and Yunel Escobar, neither of whom inspire visions of a World Series anyway – or at least in my opinion.

Next up: Florida Marlins

Category: MLB
Comments

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: October 19, 2008 11:28 am
 

Top 15 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

This is by far the most knowledgeable blog I've read in a while. Great job.

I hope you continue this series with the rest of baseball teams - because I personally can't wait to hear what you have to say with teams in the AL Central...

As far as the Braves go, good for them. It's a shame what has happened to the Braves over the past few seasons, and by the looks of things they should be getting back to competing at a high level very soon.



Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: October 16, 2008 9:27 pm
 

Top 15 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

I would not say I disagree with any of the points you bring up.  I am well aware of the suspension, it was one of the first things I had in my notes, but didn't feel it was necessary to bring it up.  Why? Because I have not heard a peep about HGH, steroids, or any kind of performance enhancing drugs in baseball for a few months now, and I really did not want to jinx it.  It does however, make his 10 HRs, and 12 SBs last season much more impressive.  I love Schafer, I considered putting him number one.

I know Anderson sticks out like a sore thumb at #4, especially in such a talented system.  But, that placement is based on my belief that he has proven over the last couple of years that he can be a major league average center fielder, and lead off hitter.   Will that happen with Braves? Not with Schafer, and Heyward breathing down his neck, and he has never actually been given a starting job.



Since: Jan 29, 2008
Posted on: October 16, 2008 7:52 pm
 

Top 15 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

First off, great job. I'm going to harp on the things I dissagree with, but overall, this list is almost exactly as I would have laid it out. Now, onto the fun part...

Schafer doesn’t hit for a great average, .261 BA in 2008, but also does not massacre his swing by striking out. He has plus power potential, but hit only 10 in 2008. Schafer does have gold-glove defense, and will be the Braves CF as early as Opening Day. However, he is terribly inconsistent on offense, and should spend the entirety of 2009 in AAA.

Not sure if you're aware of this, but Jordan was popped for a 50 game HGH suspension right after the start of the season. That raises the obvious ethical questions, but in regards to the above quote, it actually makes his performance look better. He had a bad slump directly after coming back, which is to be expected. That explains some of the inconsistency. He was inconsistent, I just wouldn't have said "terribly". The slump also explains the low-ish batting average to a degree, and the low HR total to a very large degree.

I don't like the Anderson selection at #4 at all. One, I don't think you can call him a prospect anymore. He's 26 (or possibly 27, I"m not entirely sure). If he doesn't get a lot of playing time next year, he's not going to while he has a tomahawk across his chest.

I would also swap Brandon Jones and Gorkys Hernanez.

Well, I thought I'd have a few more gripes, but that's it. Very nice list.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com