5 Atlanta Braves Prospects to Watch in 2012

Daniel Mano Herberholz@danielmanoherbCorrespondent IApril 5, 2012

5 Atlanta Braves Prospects to Watch in 2012

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    Here are five Atlanta Braves prospects, some from Baseball America's list of best prospects and others not, who you can look out for in the near future. 

    You might think of Arodys Vizcaino, but unfortunately he'll be out for the season because of an elbow surgery.

    There is plenty more talent in the Braves organization to make up for the injury.

    While though the best examples of homegrown players of late are position players—Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Martin Prado—the new wave of top prospects are pitchers.

    This includes three of MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, and half of Baseball America's list of top Braves yet to make the majors full-time.

Julio Teheran Isn't Far from a Starting Big in the Bigs

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    Any list of Braves prospects would be remiss to leave out right-hander Julio Teheran.

    On MLB's annual list of the league's top prospects, Teheran sits at fourth for the second straight year.

    The Bolivar native dominated at Triple A Gwinnett a season ago, posting a 15-3 record with 2.55 ERA and 122 K's in 24 starts.

    Don't let his major league appearances last year fool you. The fact that at 21 years old he even hurled in the bigs shows his presence on the mound.

    As Braves general manager Frank Wren said, there are growing pains for a young pitcher like Teheran.

    This spring training he battled with fellow prospect Randall Delgado for the fifth starting spot in Atlanta, but Delgado won out.

    With three pitches to go to—including a mid-90s fastball, as well as a curveball and changeup—there's good reason for Teheran to keep working toward entering the starting rotation.

    Or, as Baseball America sees it, aim to be the Braves' ace.

Joe Terdoslavich Makes a Name for Himself

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    You probably can't pronounce Joe Terdoslavich's name right on the first try, but you should try and learn. The switch hitter is moving up in the minor leagues fast.

    It's "Ter-DAH-sla-vich," but most call him Terdo. 

    And though he didn't crack Baseball America's top 10 prospects for the Braves, he's slotted as the best power hitter among the organization's minor leaguers.

    The 23-year-old slapped 20 homers a year ago at Single A Lynchburg, as well as a Carolina League-record 52 doubles.

    This season he skips Double A and advances to Triple A Gwinnett, something even Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Chipper Jones didn't earn, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer David O'Brien.

    The first baseman can also play third and outfield, a flexibility that will be necessary as the Braves have Freddie Freeman at first.

    But Chipper is retiring after this season, leaving third base open for a position battle. Look for Terdo to be in the middle of that.

Todd Cunningham Possesses at Least Two Important Tools

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    Todd Cunningham can hit for power and defend—a fantastic combination for an outfielder.

    An elbow injury last year hampered his improvement, but Cunningham should be able to get back on track this season.

    “He can handle the bat,” Braves assistant GM Bruco Manno told David O'Brien. “He’s doing more things offensively now. He swings bat from both sides of the plate and his approach is very good.”

    Cunningham tallied 20 extra-base hits at High-A Lynchburg last season before the injury.

    Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said he figures Cunningham can be counted on for 10 to 15 homers as a big leaguer.

    And the converted third baseman is ranked by Baseball America as the organization's best defensive outfielder.

    MLB.com calls Cunningham the second best outfielder prospect in the Braves organization behind superb athlete Matt Lipka.

    Cunningham starts out at Double A Mississippi this season, and with some luck will have a full season to show his stuff.

Andrelton Simmons Will Fill in Any Hole Tyler Pastornicky Leaves

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    While the Braves new starter at shortstop isn't Andrelton Simmons, the fact that both are rookies means Simmons may get a shot at the big leagues.

    The 22-year-old made a run at the opening day call, though lost to Tyler Pastornicky because of the latter's batting skills.

    But Simmons isn't far behind, mostly due to his defensive skills.

    “This guy can really, really defend…and his bat is going to come," skipper Freddi Gonzalez told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He’s one of those guys, when he gets to the major league level he’s going to be up here a long time."

    Chipper Jones agreed.

    "He’s major league-ready defensively, there’s no doubt about that," Jones told the Journal.

    Behind the plate the right-handed batter hit .304 at High-A Lynchburg last year. His strikeout rate declining and his walk rate increasing in the second half of the season, according to MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects.

    The list places Simmons at the No. 61 prospect in the nation, the best position player for the Braves. He's also the Braves' best position player according to Baseball America, which shows how serious his contention for Pastornicky's job was.

    If Pastornicky doesn't produce, Simmons will be right there to take his own shot.

Sean Gilmartin Pitches Like a Major League All-Star

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    In a system dominated by right-handed pitchers, left-handed hurler Sean Gilmartin turns heads.

    The 2011 first-round pick has a knack for reminding scouts and managers alike of great pitchers of the past.

    In November, Gilmartin's start at the Arizona Fall League inspired an American League scout of former Braves pitcher Steve Avery.

    Former skipper Bobby Cox is making a different comparison.

    "“He’s sneaky quick like Tommy (Glavine),” Cox told David O'Brien. “Sets you up, then boom, freeze ya….He’s well-advanced already."

    That's high praise for the best left-handed pitcher in the Braves system, according to Baseball America.

    Gilmartin readily uses his above-average changeup, as well as a knowledge from the other side of the plate.

    At Florida State he doubled as an outfielder, hitting .383 in 30 games as a sophomore.

    Of course, the Braves will keep the No. 28 selection in last year's amateur draft on the mound. Watch for his movement up the minors and into the Atlanta clubhouse Avery and Glavine called home.