October 15, 2010 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Final installment of the year in review series WRT last year’s top-40. I’ll pick up tomorrow with the 2010 draftees.
Number 10: Cole Rohrbough – LHP (23) 6’3″ 205 LB. 2009 Rank: 8.
Injuries limited Rohrbough to 22 and 2/3 innings and he wasn’t effective when he pitched. There’s not a whole lot to say about Rohrbough, he desperately needed to have a healthy and effective 2010, and he didn’t at all.
Number 9: Adam Milligan – OF (22) 6’3″ 210 LB. 2009 Rank: Unranked.
Milligan was limited by injuries to 21 games, and his performance in those 21 games was terrible, including 35 strikeouts in 85 AB’s (41.2% K/AB), a .176 ISO, and a .277 on-base average. The physical tools remain impressive, but he’ll have to stay healthy and make some mental and mechanical adjustments in order to make it out of the lower minors.
Number 8: J. J. Hoover – RHP (22) 6’3″ 215 LB. 2009 Rank: 40.
Hoover had a pretty incredible year. He made 24 starts for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans where he posted a 8.0 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 over 132 and 2/3 innings, then was promoted to AA for 4 starts, where he posted a 14.8 K/9, a 6.5 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 over 20 and 2/3 innings. He exhibited an uptick in velocity, making him a legitimate mid-rotation starter prospect. He’s stayed healthy and durable for two straight seasons and is a great bet to make it to the big leagues.
Number 7: Zeke Spruill – RHP (20) 6’4″ 184 LB. 2009 Rank: 11.
Spruill is a prime example of why make-up is important when evaluating players. In 2009 he was sent to the GCL (from Rome) for a month because of repeated team infractions. In 2010 he did something stupid–it’s not entirely clear what, presumably he punched a wall–and broke his hand, which limited him to 68 innings on the year. 65 of those happened at Myrtle Beach–where he should have been for a full season–and in those 65 innings he posted a 5.43 ERA, a 1.477 WHIP, and a 41-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 4 HR. The performance was better than the results, for sure, but losing half a year of development hurts his prospect status.
Number 6: Randall Delgado – RHP (20) 6’3″ 165 LB. 2009 Rank: 6.
Delgado is progressing exactly as the Braves would have hoped. In his second full season he made it to AA after dominating the Carolina League over 20 starts to the tune of a 2.76 ERA, a 1.031 WHIP, and a 120-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing 7 homers in 117 and 1/3 innings. He slowed a bit in AA, walking 20 batters in 43 and 2/3 innings, but he struck out 42 and only allowed 2 homers. What Delgado has done is pretty incredible, especially for a 20-year-old.
Number 5: Craig Kimbrel – RHP (22) 5’11″ 205 LB. 2009 Rank: 19.
In 2010 he pulled the same trick he always does. He was basically too good for the minor leagues, striking out 83 batters in 55 and 2/3 innings at Class AAA Gwinnett while allowing only 28 hits (three of them home runs), but he walked 35 batters. He also pitched 20 and 2/3 innings with the A-Braves, striking out 40 batters and allowing only 9 hits (no homers), but walked 16 batters. It grows tiresome, the utter dominance with poor control, but that’s what he is and we might as well get used to it. He’ll reportedly be the A-Braves’ closer in 2011.
Number 4: Christian Bethancourt – C (18) 6’2″ 175 LB. 2009 Rank: Unrakned.
Bethancourt didn’t hit in his first taste of full-season ball, finishing the year with a .251/.276/.331 line in 420 PA’s. He drew only 13 unintentional walks all year which is completely unacceptable. Defensively he made great strides–not that he really needed to, his defensive game is incredible–throwing out 39% of attempted base-stealers and generally displaying impressive agility. He’s Jeff Francoeur at this point–really impressive tools but he has no idea how to use them. He was only 18 years old, so he gets a pass, but you’d like to see him get his mechanical issues worked out (his swing is ugly).
Number 3: Freddie Freeman – 1B (20) 6’5″ 220 LB. 2009 Rank: 3.
Freddie Freeman was aggressively assigned to AAA, where he was one of the youngest players in the league, but he didn’t disappoint. He hit .319/.378/.521 in 519 PA’s before earning a September call-up. He continues to be an outstanding defensive first baseman. He’s slated to begin 2011 as the team’s every-day first baseman. The only knock on him is his approach. It did improve a lot this year, but he still only drew 40 unintentional walks in 519 PA’s, which, for a first baseman, borders on intolerable.
Number 2: Julio Teheran – RHP (19) 6’2″ 150 LB. 2009 Rank: 5.
Teheran blew through the lower minors in his first full season, making it all the way to AA. He finished the year with a 2.59 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, and a 159-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio, allowing 9 home runs, over 142 and 2/3 innings across three levels. He got better as the year progressed before tiring towards the end of the year as most prospects do in their first full season. His great performance won’t go unnoticed, and he’s liable to be ranked the best pitching prospect in the minors when those things come out. Went 2-for-6 with a walk and a sacrifice at the plate in AA.
Number 1: Jason Heyward – RF (20) 6’4″ 200 LB. 2009 Rank: 1.
I linked to his minor-league B-R page for the sake of consistency, but he didn’t see a single pitch in the minors, spending all of 2010 on the MLB roster or disabled list. When he was healthy he played like an MVP, when he foolishly tried to play through injuries he played like Gregor Blanco. Overall he finished 2010 with a .277/.393/.456 line. It would have been a lot better had he not hurt his thumb. Finished 4th in the NL in walks and on-base average. Here’s a list of most similar batters through age 20:
1. Sam Crawford (968) *
2. Ken Griffey (930)
3. Cesar Cedeno (930)
4. Andruw Jones (919)
5. Claudell Washington (915)
6. Eddie Mathews (915) *
7. Vada Pinson (914)
8. Sherry Magee (914)
9. Mickey Mantle (913) *
10. Tony Conigliaro (911)
* – Signifies Hall of Famer
He’s going to be really good for a long time if he stays healthy. As impressive as his 2010 was, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.