Atlanta Braves: Tyler Pastornicky and the 5 Best Hitters in the Farm System
With the 2011 regular season being a little more than two months in, the Braves' minor league players have had some time to adjust to life in Gwinnett, Mississippi, Rome or elsewhere and are beginning to make names for themselves alongside the other dominant minor league players for other organizations.
This slide show will examine some of the Braves' top hitting minor league players to-date.
Tyler Pastornicky, currently serving as Double-A Mississippi's shortstop, came to Atlanta midway through last season in the Braves' trade with the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire Alex Gonzalez and has made an impact ever since arriving.
Through 61 games with Mississippi this season, Pastornicky is batting .303 with five home runs and 33 RBI. In addition to his high batting average and RBI count, Pastornicky's on-base percentage currently sits at .351 and he is slugging .429.
The biggest downside to Pastornicky's play thus far has been his defensive blunders, as he has already committed 16 errors through those 61 games.
Now in his eighth year of minor league baseball, Triple-A Gwinnett's first baseman Mauro Gomez is off to a hot start so far this season.
Through 58 games, Gomez is batting .303 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI. His on-base percentage currently sits at .340 and he is slugging .539.
Gomez had a strong season last year for Mississippi as well, as he finished with a .281 batting average, 16 home runs and 80 RBI. His career high for home runs, 28, came in 2009 while playing outside of the Braves organization, so look for his home run total and RBI count to continue to climb throughout the season.
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Highly-touted catching prospect Christian Bethancourt got off to a rough start in the Braves' minor league system, especially in each of the past two seasons with Danville and Rome, but the Braves continued to show confidence in Bethancourt's bat. This season, the Braves are being rewarded for their loyalty.
Currently, while catching for Rome, Bethancourt is batting .291 with four home runs and 32 RBI through 49 games. He has also shown a great amount of speed once he puts the ball into play, as he has already hit three triples and stolen five bases, something that Atlanta is truly struggling with.
Although Bethancourt is still a long way from the major leagues, the fact that he is improving is a very positive sign for the Braves.
Immediately after the Braves signed then-18-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo in February of last year, Braves beat reporters and bloggers began calling him the future replacement for either Chipper Jones or Yunel Escobar (or now, Alex Gonzalez), so Salcedo had big shoes to fill upon arriving.
However, after finishing last season with a .225 batting average, three home runs and only 27 RBI, Salcedo showed he was still young and had a long way to go before being major-league-ready. That being said, 2011 has a different feel to it, at least so far.
Currently, Salcedo is batting .278 with seven home runs and 30 RBI. Like Bethancourt, he too has shown a great amount of speed, as he has stolen 12 bases, hit three triples and also recorded 10 doubles on the young season. A big downside to Salcedo's season has been his inconsistencies with the glove, as he has committed 22 errors in 59 starts in the field.
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Jose Constanza has never hit more than two home runs in a season throughout his seven year minor league career, but instead has been one of the most consistent hitters out of everyone, posting a .319 batting average last year while playing for Triple-A Columbus.
This season with Gwinnett, his first season outside of the Cleveland organization, Constanza is posting scorching hot numbers at the Triple-A level. He is currently batting .356 with just one home run 17 RBI, but has 72 hits in just over 200 at-bats.
This week, Constanza, an outfielder, had a slash line of .613/ .647/ .774/ 1.421, had three games with four hits and was named the International League Player of the Week.