Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects
Now that the 2011 season has come to and end it's time to focus on the hot stove as well as prospects, the guys that can help a team as early as 2012, be stars a few years down the road, or be used as trade bait to obtain that final piece of the puzzle.
This article takes a look at the 30 best prospects in the Atlanta Braves system and tells you a little about them as well as what you can expect and when you can expect it.
Just Missed the Cut
These guys aren't quite in the top 30, but are worth some notice.
Todd Redmond-Acquired from the Pirates before the 2008 season, Redmond has spent the last three years in Triple-A and has improved each year.
This year he went 10-8 with a 2.92 ERA and struck out 142 batters in 169.2 innings. Redmond could be a fifth starter for a bunch of teams, but his role with the Braves appears to be an emergency starter just down the road in Gwinnett.
Rafael Briceno-The 20 year old made his United States debut this year, going 2-4 with a 4.01 ERA between the Gulf Coast League team and Danville of the Appalachian League. It's early to really project him, but he pitched well as he also adjusted to life in America.
David Filak-The Braves fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, Filak really struggled with his control this year walking 52 hitters in 104 innings.
If he fixes his issues and resembles the 2010 Filak, he could still profile as a No. 2 starter. He's got good enough stuff that if he can't figure it out as a starter he will get a chance as a late inning reliever.
Cory Rasmus-Injuries ruined his 2011, and they have been the story of his career to this point. Still he's shown his talent when healthy and comes from a great baseball family.
Rasmus may be best in the bullpen at this point considering he will be 24 years old next season and is yet to reach Double-A.
Billy Bullock-Bullock is a power armed reliever that will get a chance to take a late inning relief role. This year for Double-A Mississippi he racked up 65 strikeouts in 49.2 innings, but he also walked 34 batters. He obviously needs to work on his control, but his stuff is good.
Jairo Asencio-According to a Baseball America poll, Asencio was voted the best relief prospect in the International League this year after posting a 1.81 ERA and 26 saves. Asencio has a real shot at winning a bullpen job out of spring training.
Joe Leonard-The Braves third round pick in the 2010 draft struggled a bit in his first full season as a professional. Playing in High-A Lynchburg Leonard hit .247/.311/.378 with eight homers and 63 runs batted in.
Leonard was drafted with the hope he can eventually replace Chipper Jones because of his bat and defense, but the bat hasn't lived up to expectations.
Evan Gattis-Although he was old for the level at 24 years old, Gattis hit .322 with 22 homers in just 88 games for Low-A Rome.
Gattis isn't much of a prospect, but the way he ht makes him worth at least following next year. One has to wonder why the Braves didn't find room for him in Lynchburg this year due to his dominance at Rome.
David Rohm-The Braves ninth round pick in the 2010 draft, Rohm possesses a solid hit tool. His Low-A numbers were fairly solid: .289/.330/.432 with seven homers and 53 runs batted in, but his 32 doubles and eight triples show that more power is possible.
Rohm is a potential breakout candidate for 2012, something that could raise his profile from currently being projected as a bench bat.
Jacob Dalfonso-An intriguing bat at third base that hasn't shown much power until this year, Dalfonso is a solid contact hitter and now that he has started to develop some power, he is more intriguing.
His Low-A numbers of .277/.327/.421 with nine homers and 32 runs batted in over 72 games make him another guy to track next year.
30. Navery Moore
Navery Moore was the Braves 14th round pick in this draft, but that doesn't tell the entire story.
Moore was a consensus Top 200 draft prospect who only fell until the 14th round because of signability questions due to the fact that he had another year of eligibility to boost his stock.
Moore struggled to carve out a role with Vanderbilt in his first year, pitching in only three games. As a sophomore he only appeared in 10 games for a loaded Vanderbilt pitching staff.
It wasn't until this year that Moore really emerged, pitching in 28 games and picking up 11 saves while going 4-2 with a 1.21 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.
The former Vanderbilt closer signed too late to make his professional debut this year, but his debut will be highly anticipated in 2012.
The Braves may allow him to begin his minor league role as a starter, similar to other draftees such as JR Graham, but if Moore opens in a relief role he could move quickly. Moore projects as a potential closer or late inning reliever.
29. Mark Lamm
The theme continues as just like Navery Moore, Mark Lamm is a relief pitcher from Vanderbilt taken in the 2011 Draft. Also like Moore, Lamm is a Tommy John Surgery survivor who didn't make much of an impact at Vanderbilt until this year.
Pitching for the Commodores this year Lamm went 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 26 relief appearances, striking out 21 batters in 27 innings.
He signed with the Braves quickly and debuted with two scoreless innings for Danville before being promoted to High-A Lynchburg. Lamm appeared in 15 games for Lynchburg going 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA and striking out 19 batters in 25.2 innings.
Although Lamm was the higher pick, a sixth round selection, his upside isn't the same as the of Moore.
Lamm is strictly a reliever who could move through the minor leagues fairly quick, but looks like more of a middle reliever than anything. If things go his way he could potentially be pitching for the Braves at some point in 2013.
28. Cory Gearrin
Cory Gearrin was the Braves fourth round selection in the 2007 Draft, and although he has pitched in the bullpen his whole professional career and has not been stopped by a major injury he has moved slowly for a college reliever.
Gearrin debuted with Danville after signing in 2007, having a solid year. He started 2008 in Low-A and was eventually promoted to High-A, the same place he began 2009.
After finishing 2009 in Double-A Gearrin was moved to Triple-A for the 2010 season, but never got a chance in the Major Leagues until this year despite having success at virtually every stop in the minors.
Gearrin's career minor league numbers are a 15-14 record with a 3.08 ERA in 257.1 minor league innings with 287 strikeouts.
On the surface he struggled in his chance in the Majors, pitching in 18 games with a 7.85 ERA, but did strikeout 25 batters over 18.1 innings. Those numbers don't tell the whole story, because if you take out his two worst games, where he gave up 10 runs in 1.1 innings, his ERA would have been a solid 3.18.
Gearrin may have struggled at times in his limited opportunity, but he had enough success in the minors and showed some flashes with the big club, so he is likely to get another chance in 2012.
His future role is a question with some believing he could be a setup man and others thinking he profiles best as a middle reliever.
27. Mycal Jones
Mycal Jones was the Braves fourth round pick in the 2009 Draft and selected because of his athleticism and raw ability. It's safe to say that after three seasons in the Braves system, we are still waiting on Jones to turn that potential into production.
Jones spent the year in Double-A hitting .252/.359/.381 with seven homers, 36 runs batted in, and 17 steals in 23 attempts.
While those are solid numbers they don't tell the whole story, like the fact that he spent the year trying to play center field after spending the first part of his career at shortstop.
One positive sign for Jones is that he has increased his walks and decreased his strikeouts as he's faced tougher competition. Another is that he is no longer an error machine after the position switch, something that should help him get to the Major Leagues.
Jones projects as an offensive minded utility player, but still has the pure raw talent to potentially break out- something less likely to happen as he continues to get older.
However in his defense he did get a late start to playing the game, so the fact that he spent the bulk of the year at age 24 doesn't make him old for his level.
26. Kyle Kubitza
The Braves selected Kyle Kubitza in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft in part because he would be an easy sign, but also because of the need within the organization for third basemen.
Kubitza signed early enough to be able to play 44 games for Danville, and he posted numbers showing he may have been worth the high selection.
Kubitza's triple slash line was .321/.407/.475, although he only hit one homer to go with his 34 runs batted in and nine steals. The one homer is a surprise as he was considered a solid power guy after hitting 21 homers over the past two seasons for Texas State University.
Although Kubitza's 38 strikeouts in 190 plate appearances were high, he did walk 24 times, showing a good eye at the plate.
The power issue isn't a huge issue as he did hit 16 doubles and three triples, numbers that project out to around 60 doubles and 10 triples over the course of a full season. The other issue is whether he can stick at third defensively, and his small sample size at Danville isn't promising.
It's tough to predict Kubitza's future role because he's yet to reach full season ball and has real questions about his defensive home. If Kubitza was able to stick at third he'd rank higher on this list, so his 2012 season for Rome will be very important to his career.
25. Jean Carlos Gil
Jean Carlos Gil made his American debut this year for the Braves' Gulf Coast League affiliate. He didn't come in to the year with much hype in spite of his 1.89 ERA in the Dominican Summer League last year. He also didn't get a mention by Baseball America for the their GCL Top 20 prospect list following the season, but he is promising.
Gil pitched in 13 games, with 10 starts, going 2-3 with a 2.91 ERA and striking out 63 batters in 65 innings. Gil also showed promising control, walking only 12 batters on the year.
Gil, who will be 21 for next season, may get a chance to skip the Appalachian League and head to Rome out of spring training. While his ultimate ceiling is a question, he has proven himself to be a guy worth paying close attention to in 2012.
24. Adam Milligan
It's safe to make the assumption that the Braves love Adam Milligan. After drafting him in 2006 and 2007 and being unable to sign him either year, the Braves used used a sixth round selection on him in 2008.
Milligan's professional career has been defined by his health. When healthy Milligan has produced, like this year for Lynchburg when he hit .291 with 12 homers in only 64 games.
The other side of the coin is that he can't seem to stay on the field after playing 64 games this year and only 21 last year. Aside from injuries Milligan's major issue on the field is the fact that he's very prone to strikeouts.
In his 64 games this year, he struck out 76 times. Last year it was 35 times in 21 games.
Milligan's ceiling isn't as high as it once was, as he will be 24 years old next year and is yet to reach Double-A because of his injuries. He now looks to be a fourth outfielder type with some power, but he needs to stay healthy in 2012.
He still has a chance at becoming an everyday player, but it's just not very likely at this point.
23. David Hale
The Braves selected David Hale in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Princeton hoping that the raw flame thrower could put his skills together and make a major impact.
Three years later Hale is moving slowly through the system, but has had success at each level.
Hale struggled as a starter for Rome in 2010, but after a midseason switch to the bullpen he was lights-out. Promoted to High-A Lynchburg to start the year. Hale struggled in a relief role before a move back into the starting rotation, where he found success again.
Hale was 4-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 2011 with 15 relief appearances and 13 starts. In those relief appearances his ERA was 5.64, but once he moved to the rotation he cut his ERA to 3.66.
Hale turned 24 years old following the season and is on track to start 2012 in Mississippi, which isn't a huge concern because he was considered raw when he was drafted.
He's likely going to project in a relief role because he can throw his fastball 96 MPH, has only two Major League average grade pitches, and has some command issues, but the Braves are going to give him every chance to stick in a starting role.
Because of that he's likely two years away from making any sort of impact in the Major Leagues. With his potential he could be worth the wait, but is not a sure thing to pass the Double-A test.
22. Dimaster Delgado
Dimaster Delgado was at one time in the same tier of prospects as the likes of Randall Delgado.
Then he suffered severe injuries from an offseason car accident that kept him out for all of 2010. The left handed pitcher's return to actual games was much anticipated this season to see if he was still the same guy.
In spite of the full season layoff and the promotion to High-A Lynchburg, Delgado barely missed a beat. In 23 games, including 17 starts, Delgado went 9-6 with a 3.94 ERA, although he only struck out 77 hitters in 96 innings.
The good news is that Delgado improved as the season wore on and he shook more of the rust off. In the first half of the year his ERA was 4.80 as compared to 2.98 in the second half, and he also cut his walk rate significantly.
Delgado was projected as a No. 3 starter before the injury, and even though his time line was slowed down by a season he could still end up as a number three starter. Delgado's likely ETA is sometime in 2014, and with the Braves pitching depth he will not need to be rushed.
21. Philip Gosselin
A fifth round draft choice in the 2010 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia. Gosselin debuted with Rome after signing with the Braves last year, and he performed well enough to earn a short trial with then High-A affiliate Myrtle Beach.
Gosselin's first full pro season came entirely at new High-A affiliate Lynchburg, and he suffered the typical ups and downs of a player adjusting to the grind of a long season.
Gosselin hit .264/.324/.392 with six homers and 63 runs batted in but struggled in the field, making 17 errors in 102 games at second base.
Gosselin isn't a big tools guy, but more of a hard worker who should fix his defensive issues and out-work the competition to reach the Major Leagues.
He will start 2012 in Double-A and has a chance to reach the Majors at some point in 2013. His ceiling is a league-average starter at second base, but he's more likely going to end up as a utility guy.
20. Aaron Northcraft
Aaron Northcraft is an intriguing player in the Braves system even though he doesn't get much notice from the major scouting websites. A 10th round draft choice out of high school in 2009, Northcraft has moved slowly through the minors but has been successful at every level.
Northcraft finally got to spend a full season in the minors after spending the previous two years in short season ball. After making four appearances for Rome last year and getting hit very hard, Northcraft put together a strong season.
In 23 games he went 7-8 with a 3.34 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 113.1 innings. The only real negative was that he walked 41, hit 12 batters, and threw nine wild pitches.
Northcraft should be ready to move up to High-A ball as a 22 year-old in 2012, but his role and arrival time are up in the air at this point. Northcraft must work on his control if he wants to stay in the starting rotation, but if he can do that he has the potential to be a solid fourth starter.
If he can't fix his control issues, he won't have a future in the bullpen.
19. Cody Martin
The Braves drafted Cody Martin in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB Draft because they thought he would be an easy target to sign and a fairly safe bet to at least add depth to the minor leagues.
What the Braves got when they drafted Martin exceeded all expectations.
Martin pitched in seven games in relief for Danville and pitched well enough to earn a promotion to Rome. Martin pitched in 14 games for Rome and picked up six saves while dominating hitters.
Overall he pitched in 22 games and went 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA and nine saves with 49 strikeouts in 33.1 innings.
Martin has a chance to close in the Major Leagues, but the presence of Craig Kimbrel means that he will either end up as a setup man or being trade bait. Martin could potentially begin the year in Double-A and end up in the Majors late in the year or early in 2013.
18. Todd Cunningham
When the Braves selected Todd Cunningham in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft they expected him to move quickly through the minors as an advanced college hitter.
Cunningham's bat hasn't hit as much as expected in part to injuries, but he has developed into a strong defender capable of playing all three outfield positions.
Due to injury Cunningham played only 87 games for High-A Lynchburg this year. The former Cape Cod League batting champion only hit .257/.348/.353 with four homers, 20 runs batted in, and 14 steals. The average was no where near what was expected, but he did show excellent plate discipline with his 33 walks against 47 strikeouts in 386 plate appearances.
After the season ended Cunningham headed to the Arizona Fall League, a prospect league where he has looked very good with the bat thus far. If he continues to look good in the offseason he may start the year in Double-A and could breakout in 2012 if he remains healthy.
Cunningham's ceiling seems like a solid No. 2 hitter with limited power and strong defense, but even if he can't reach that he profiles as a solid fourth outfielder.
17. Carlos Perez
One year ago at this time Carlos Perez was a top 10 prospect in the Braves system after dominating older competition in the Appalachian League as an 18 year-old. He finished off his great season after earned a promotion to Low-A Rome for a short trial and looked solid in two starts.
When Perez was sent back to Rome to start the year, he was expected to fly through to High-A as other young Braves top pitching prospects have.
Perez not only failed to reach those lofty expectations, but he struggled in Low-A ball going 4-10 with a 4.82 ERA and splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen.
Perez not only struggled this year, but scouts have claimed his stuff didn't look like what they saw out of him in 2010.
If there's one organization that does a great job of developing talented young arms, it is the Braves. Perez still has the elite stuff somewhere in him, but will need to spend the offseason working to get it back.
Perez's future is in question right now and it will come down to which Perez shows up to spring training as to where he will begin 2012. He was projected as a No. 2 or three starter a year ago, but between the bad performance and especially scouts saying he regressed it's tough to project him right now. He only stayed this high on my list because he could bring back the 2010 version.
16. Nick Ahmed
The Braves second round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of the University of Connecticut, Nick Ahmed had a successful debut in Danville of the Appalachian League. That's especially impressive when you consider the kid missed most of his college season after suffering a collapsed lung.
Ahmed hit .262/.346/.379 with four homers, 24 runs batted in, and 18 steals in 24 attempts. Solid all around numbers for a shortstop drafted not for his tools, but because he's a grinder who will work his way to the Major Leagues.
Ahmed is likely to start the season in Rome but a strong spring training could get him pushed to High-A. Some question if Ahmed will hit enough to be an everyday player, but with his defense and speed he could still end up having a long career in a utility role if his bat isn't strong enough.
15. Tommy LaStella
When the Braves selected Tommy LaStella in the 8th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, they expected to get an offensive oriented second baseman. The two sides agreed to a contract fairly quick and LaStella was sent to Rome and exceeded any expectations,
LaStella hit .328/.401/.543 with nine homers and 40 runs batted in while playing 63 games for Rome. Although the numbers were very strong while he was adjusting to professional ball, it does need to be noted that he was a bit old for the league at age 22.
LaStella may have had a very strong year, but he profiles best as an offensive minded utility player in the long term. LaStella is likely to start the year in High-A but due to his age could get a Double-A look and will get moved fairly quickly through the minors if he continues to hit like he did this year,
14. Matt Lipka
When the Braves drafted Matt Lipka in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, they expected him to be raw after he split his time between baseball and being an all-state wide receiver in football.
Lipka's performance in 52 games after signing made people think the Braves got a major steal in the draft.
Lipka began 2011 in Low-A but wasn't the same player in 2010 as the tougher competition made him struggle. Lipka only managed to hit .247/.305/.304 with a homer, 37 runs batted in, and 28 steals in 42 attempts.
Lipka struggled in all facets of his game, leading to the team to move him from shortstop to center field during the fall instructional league in hopes that playing a less demanding position could help kick-start his offense.
Lipka still has a very high offensive ceiling because of his ability to make contact and use his plus speed, but he has to figure some things out at the plate. Even though he has limited in-game power he could be a strong leadoff hitter down the line. He may start next season in High-A or even return to Rome to re-gain some confidence.
13. JJ Hoover
If he pitched in any other organization he would be a top 10 prospect as a starter, but due to the Braves depth JJ Hoover is a relief prospect. Hoover worked in the rotation until this year when he got moved to the bullpen in Double-A because of the team's amazing depth in the rotation.
Splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A Hoover pitched in 43 games, including 14 starts, going 3-6 with a 2.64 ERA and two saves. As good as Hoover was in the rotation, he took it up another level in the bullpen and at times looked like he was ready to make his Major League debut.
Hoover still has the potential to be an inning eater as a fourth starter, or a very good setup man. He could begin 2012 in the Major Leagues, but the Braves depth chart may have him stuck in Triple-A to gain more experience working out of the pen. He is also a candidate to be traded due to his value to other teams as a starter close to reaching the Majors.
12. JR Graham
The Braves selected JR Graham in the 4th round of the 2011 MLB Draft from Gonzaga expecting a hard throwing reliever capable of reaching the Majors quickly. Graham's performance after signing quickly changed any plans the Braves had for him.
The reason the plans were changed is because Graham exceeded any reasonable expectations. Given the opportunity to start after pitching in relief in college, Graham pitched in 13 games, including eight starts, going 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA and striking out 52 hitters in 57.2 innings for Danville of the Appalachian League.
Graham projects best as a closer or setup man, but after his performance this year the Braves are expected to give him every chance to stick in the starting rotation. Graham is likely to head to Rome to start 2012, but a strong performance could get him moved up quickly.
11. Joey Terdoslavich
The Braves sixth round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Terdoslavich had a solid debut last year split between Danville and Rome but didn't show much power. The slugger who began his college career at the University of Miami was drafted to be a potential power bat, so his stats caused some to wonder if the power would translate to the wooden bats.
Terdoslavich broke out in a big way this year for Lynchburg, hitting .286/.341/.526 with 20 homers and 82 runs batted in. Those numbers don't even begin to tell you how good his season was though, as he set a Carolina League record with 52 doubles in 131 games.
Terdoslavich's true ceiling is a bit of an unknown at the moment as scouts are split on whether he will be an everyday player or a powerful bat off the bench like an Eric Hinske-type of player.
Terdoslavich will likely begin 2012 in Double-A, a test that will really show if the first baseman can hit in the upper levels the same way he crushed High-A ball pitching.
10. Tyler Pastornicky
The Braves acquired Tyler Pastornicky in the 2010 trade that sent Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays in exchange for Alex Gonzalez. The hope at the time was for the young shortstop, and son of a former big leaguer, to be a solid bench player in a couple of years.
Pastornicky began the year in Double-A and had a break out year at the plate, hitting .314/.359/.414 with seven homers, 45 runs batted in, and 27 steals over 117 games split between Double and Triple-A. He also cut his walk total to just 45.
The only thing that stopped him ending the year making his Major League debut was an injury that sidelined him.
Pastornicky is the Braves internal candidate to start at the hole that is the shortstop position in 2012. Scouts question if he will ever have enough bat to be an everyday player, but even if he can't he is still a pretty safe bet to have a solid career at a utility man.
9. Zeke Spruill
Former second round draft choice Zeke Spruill finally put injuries and off-field issues behind him and broke out in 2011. The talented but troubled pitcher was close to being written off by some as the Braves had already released their 1st round pick from that 2008 draft this spring when they cut Brett DeVall.
Spruill made it hard for the Braves to write him off as he split time between High-A and Double-A this year and performed well in both stops. He made 20 starts in Lynchburg going 7-9 with a 3.19 ERA and striking out 92 in 129.2 innings.
In Mississippi he made seven starts going 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 45 innings.
Spruill's strikeout rate is the only thing that kept him from being ranked higher on this list. Some are worried that he doesn't miss enough bats after only striking out 16 in 45 Double-A innings.
The fact he is a ground ball pitcher would help those concerns, but his ground ball rate in Mississippi wasn't that great suggesting there may have been some luck involved.
Spruill projects as a middle of the order type of starter capable of eating innings, as his 174.2 innings and six complete games this year suggest. Spruill may get left in Double-A to start the year as the Braves won't rush him due to their depth in the rotation.
8. Brandon Drury
When the Braves selected a high school shortstop from Oregon in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, they hoped to be getting a potential every day player. When that player, Brandon Drury, hit only .198 in his debut last year they were just hoping for him to rebound this year.
Drury did more than just rebound in Danville as he nearly won the Appalachian League batting title, as he hit .347/.367/.525 with eight homers, 54 runs batted in, and 23 doubles.
Drury exceeded all expectations and became one of the top prospects in the short-season leagues.
Drury has a real chance to become a strong everyday third baseman for a long time with his plus hitting ability and solid defense. The only knock on him is that he likely needs a few more years before he is ready to contribute.
He will likely start 2012 in Rome, but could finish the year in Lynchburg if he continues to hit well in full season ball.
7. Christian Bethancourt
Christian Bethancourt has been the Braves top catching prospect for what seems like years, but hasn't lived up to his potential with his bat. Bethancourt has also drawn some criticism from scouts for not always seeming to give full effort on the field.
Bethancourt had a strong year with the bat in 2011, hitting .303/.323/.430 with four homers and 23 runs batted in during 54 games with Rome before being promoted.
He went up to Lynchburg and hit .271/.277/.325 with a homer and 20 runs batted in during 45 games, although he started slow and did improve as he adjusted to the step up in competition.
Bethancourt is a great athlete who has the ability to play good defense if he works at it and already possesses a cannon for an arm with a quick release to second base. His athleticism also translates onto the bases where he runs better than the typical catcher.
Bethancourt is still only going to be 20 years-old next season, so starting back in Lynchburg is very likely unless he impresses in spring training and the Braves feel comfortable enough to challenge him with Double-A.
Bethancourt has the ceiling of an all-star catcher, but could end up as a back up if he doesn't put in the effort and work needed to become great.
6. Sean Gilmartin
When the Braves selected Sean Gilmartin with the 28th pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, fans criticized the pick the same way they did when the team selected Mike Minor in the first round in 2009.
Just like Minor, Gilmartin was a strong college pitcher from a major program that projected as a good number four starter before adding some velocity as a pro.
Gilmartin's added velocity served him well in his five starts in Rome after signing, as he went 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. He was then sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season and has continued to pitch extremely well against some top prospect competition.
Gilmartin now projects as a potential number three starter in the Major Leagues after adding some velocity. He is expected to start 2012 off in Double-A and could move quickly as a polished college pitcher, although the Braves could make sure he moves slowly due to their ridiculous pitching depth above him.
5. Edward Salcedo
After signing a Braves record contract for a foreign amateur just prior to spring training of 2010, Edward Salcedo struggled. Those struggles weren't totally unexpected though as he had to adjust to not only pro ball and the long layoff from an MLB investigation about his age, but also life in America.
Salcedo rebounded this year in Rome, the same place he struggled last year, but he really cooled off in the second half- possibly because he tired after the grind of his first full season in the minors.
Still his .248/.315/.396 line with 12 homers, 68 runs batted in, and 23 steals were an encouraging sign.
Salcedo still struggled mightily on the defensive end, even though he was moved from shortstop to third base because of his poor defense at short. In fact, because he made 40 errors in 100 games at third base some scouts question if he can even stick at third defensively or if he will be forced to move to the outfield.
Salcedo still possesses the potential to become an All-Star, but needs to turn his raw talent into production. He is expected to begin 2012 in Lynchburg, a good test for a player that will only be 20 years-old next year.
4. Andrelton Simmons
The Braves selected Andrelton Simmons in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft from his Oklahoma junior college unsure of his future role.
Simmons was considered to be the best defensive shortstop in the entire draft class, but he could also hit 98 MPH with his fastball.
Simmons proved his doubters wrong in 2011, showing he could hit as well as field in Lynchburg. Simmons hit .311/.351/.408 with a homer, 52 runs batted in, 26 steals, and 35 doubles. A Baseball America survey of Carolina League managers said he was the most exciting player in the league in addition to the league's best defensive player.
Simmons true calling card is his defense, a tool that already grades as plus with the potential to end up as plus-plus. He has great range and one of the best arms at short in all of the minors. Although he made 28 errors this year, it's because he was able to get to balls that other players couldn't.
Simmons is likely to begin 2012 in Double-A, although there's an outside chance he wins the Major League starting position considering his defense and the Braves giant hole at the position. His ceiling is that of a Gold Glove winning shortstop, although his bat is a bit of an unknown.
If the Braves give him enough time in the minors to progress as a hitter, he could be a star.
3. Randall Delgado
Randall Delgado was the No. 35 prospect in the game heading into the year according to Baseball America, but he didn't get the credit he deserved from fans as he was overshadowed by teammate Julio Teheran.
Having a higher ceiling pitcher pitching along side him and putting up great numbers sometimes made people forget about Delgado being a great prospect as well.
Delgado had the kind of year that will make everyone remember him next year, going 7-7 with a 3.88 ERA in 25 starts between Mississippi and Gwinnett. I actually attended one of his Triple-A starts where he totally shut down a strong Yankee lineup led by Jesus Montero and Jorge Vazquez. Those were good, solid numbers for a 21 year-old pitcher but they didn't predict what came next.
With the Braves in a pennant race and with Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens injured, Delgado was called upon to be a starter down the stretch.
In seven starts with the Braves he went 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA, looking great for a young kid thrown into such a high pressure situation. Sure his sabermetric numbers suggest he wasn't as good as the stats show, but he was clutch.
Delgado will compete for a Major League rotation spot out of spring training in 2012, but is more likely to start the year in Triple-A due to the Braves crazy pitching depth. The fact he has only made four Triple-A starts means that he could still use a little bit more developmental time than Teheran, who spent a full year in Triple-A.
Delgado is still a potential No. 2 or three starter in the Braves rotation for a long time.
2. Arodys Vizcaino
The key piece to the deal that sent Javier Vazquez prior to the 2010 season, Vizcaino was highly regarded heading into the season despite only being ranked by Baseball America as the No. 93 prospect in the game.
The reason that Vizcaino wasn't ranked higher was that he has battled injuries, including an arm ligament issue in 2010, and was yet to pitch a full season.
Vizcaino came into the year and dominated in Lynchburg, going 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts before a quick promotion to Double-A. His Double-A numbers were also strong at 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in eight starts and three relief appearances, something the Braves decided to do to both protect his arm and potentially use him out of the bullpen in the Majors down the stretch.
He was then promoted to Triple-A where he pitched exclusively in relief, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in six appearances. Overall in the minors he went 5-5 with a 3.06 ERA, starting 17 games and pitching out of the bullpen in nine more. He struck out 100 batters in 97 innings.
The Braves promoted him as a power armed reliever and he made his Major League debut August 10th against Florida. He pitched in 17 games for the Braves, going 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
Solid numbers considering he was only 20 years-old, but they are more impressive if you take out his awful September second performance against the Dodgers when he gave only recorded one out. Taking that game out drops his ERA to a very impressive 2.12.
Vizcaino projects as either a No. 2 starter or a closer in the long run. That means the Braves will likely send him to Triple-A to begin 2012 and allow him to work as a starter unless they need him in the bullpen now. Vizcaino has an electric arm, so watching his development should be fun.
1. Julio Teheran
Julio Teheran ended 2011 the same way he started the year, as the best pitching prospect in baseball other than a Tampa Bay prospect.
The only thing that changed was that the Tampa Bay prospect was Jeremy Hellickson at the beginning of the year and Matt Moore at the end of the year, leading some to draw the conclusion that Teheran's stock fell a bit because Moore passed him on prospect lists.
To suggest Teheran disappointed anyone this year is completely foolish. The prospect who only turned 20 years-old in late-January made his Triple-A debut and went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. He won the International League's Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year Awards and also made his Major League debut.
Teheran's major league debut wasn't very strong as he struggled in a pair of emergency starts in the middle of the year before coming back up in September and pitching well. His Major League line was 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.
Teheran has drawn some criticism because his strikeouts totals are a bit low for a pitcher with his plus pitches and he also needs to improve his breaking ball. Otherwise Teheran's Triple-A performance at his young age puts him in the company of some of the game's best pitchers.
Teheran is a potential ace if he makes a few small improvements, and if not is likely to be a good number two starter. Even if he can't match the hype, he has a pretty high floor at this point.
Teheran will compete for a spot in the Braves 2012 rotation, but could also start the year back in Triple-A for a short time to work on his few minor blemishes.