October 21, 2010 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Zeke Spruill was taken in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft out of Kell High School in Marietta, GA. After a successful professional debut in the Gulf Coast League the year he was drafted, make-up issues started to get in the way of his development. In 2009 he was demoted to back to the GCL for four starts–he had been pitching in the South Atlantic League–as a result of his repeated tardy arrival to team functions. In 2010, Spruill was limited to 16 appearances due to a hand injury. The organization won’t say exactly what happened, but I have it on good authority that he broke it punching something. The 16 appearances weren’t particularly reassuring, either–he posted a 5.43 ERA, a 1.485 WHIP, and a 42-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 68 innings, allowing 4 home runs. Spruill’s repertoire features a plus sinker and two currently below-average secondary pitches that show some promise, a curveball and change-up. If he refines his secondary pitches and makes a few mechanical adjustments, he could be a very effective mid-rotation starter with a solid 3-pitch mix and excellent command, but he’ll have to get his attitude straightened out first.
Scott Diamond went undrafted in 2008, but the Braves signed him shortly thereafter and he’s been a durable, mostly effective starter in their system ever since. Employing an unspectacular, kitchen-sink repertoire–a 86-90 MPH fastball, cutter, change-up, and curveball–with solid command and pitchability, Diamond has produced a 7.3 K/9, a 3.0 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 442 and 1/3 minor-league innings. He’ll return to Class AAA Gwinnett at the onset of the 2011 season, but if the Braves need another lefty-specialist or their rotation plans fall apart, Diamond could get a look.
Number 38: Abraham Espinosa – RHP (18) 6’2″ 170 LB. Last Year’s Rank: Unranked.
Espinosa was a November, 2009 sign out of Panama who made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 where he was met with success. He finished the year with a 1.41 ERA, a 1.014 WHIP, and a 54-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 innings while allowing 3 home runs. Espinosa’s repertoire features a 86-89 MPH fastball, a plus changeup, and a curveball that comes and goes. He’s an excellent athlete with a clean delivery and room to fill out. Though he’s a long way away, Espinosa isn’t a a guy you want to ignore, because like many other Latin American arms the Braves have excelled at finding as of late, he has ace potential.
The Braves made Joseph Terdoslavich their 6th round pick in this year’s draft. He signed right away and got his feet wet in Danville before spending his final 21 games of the year at Class-A Rome. He finished the year with an encouraging .302/.355/.410 line, spending time at 1B, 3B, and RF. Terdoslavich is a switch-hitter who throws right-handed and profiles as a classic 4-corners bench bat in the pros, though if he develops more than anticipated on either side of the ball he could be able to settle into a regular role for a few years.
Number 36: Steven Kent – LHP (22) ’6″0 170 LB. Last Year’s Rank: Unranked.
Steven Kent was a 2005 sign out of Australia who made a dominant return to professional baseball in 2010 after missing all of 2009. He finished the year with a 0.69 ERA, a 0.890 WHIP, and a 54-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 and 1/3 innings for the Class A Rome Braves while allowing only 1 home run. With a solid-average fastball/change-up combo and a plus curve, Kent has potential to make for a monster reliever or a mid-rotation starter if he proves to be durable enough.
Number 35: Erik Cordier – RHP (25) 6’4″ 230 LB. Last Year’s Rank: Unranked.
While he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Erik Cordier was acquired from Kansas City in a trade for Tony Pena Jr. Armed with a mid-90′s fastball and a plus change-up, Cordier has legitimate back-end-of-the-bullpen stuff. His curveball is still a work in progress and health is always a concern for a guy who has missed two complete years due to injuries, but the thought of Cordier making it as a starting pitcher isn’t out of the question. Despite his impressive stuff, Cordier’s strikeout rate is something of a red flag. He’s struck out only 7.0 batters per nine innings over the past two years. His walk rate hasn’t been good, either, though they both improved in 2010. Still, the stuff is too much to ignore and he’s never been far away from putting it all together. Worst-case scenario he turns into Kyle Farnsworth (that is, if he stays healthy).
Number 34: Yoshinori Yamarin – RHP (21) 6’2″ 190 LB. Last Year’s Rank: Unranked.
Yoshinori Yamarin was a January, 2009 sign out of Hyogo, Japan. Yamarin had previously gone undrafted in the Nippon Professional Baseball–his native country’s major league–draft for reasons not entirely clear to most Western talent evaluators. With a 90-92 MPH fastball and a slider with plus potential, Yamarin has a legitimate shot at making it to the major leagues as more than just a piece of organizational filler. 2010 was his first taste of stateside ball, and it was fairly successful. He posted a 27-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio and didn’t allow a home run in 28 and 2/3 innings for the GCL Braves.
Number 33: Amilcar Gaxiola – (20) 6’2″ 170 LB. Last Year’s Rank: Unranked.
Gaxiola was an October, 2008 sign out of Culiacan, Mexico. After spending the 2009 season in the DSL he made his stateside debut in 2010, pitching 27 and 1/3 innings for the Gulf Coast League Braves. He posted a 3.95 ERA, a 1.134 WHIP, and a 26-to-6 strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio while allowing 3 home runs. Gaxiola throws a 87-91 MPH fastball and a tight downer curve. His delivery is a bit herky-jerky, but his arm action is loose and his separation is superb. He may have add more velocity as he continues to mature, which would give him impact potential out of the bullpen. If not he’ll have to settle for a middle relief role, but he has the stuff and approach to make it to the majors.
The Braves made Leonard their third round pick in the 2010 draft and his professional debut was solid. He hit .270/.310/.439 in 159 PA’s, primarily for the Class A Rome Braves. Leonard is a polished defender at 3B with smooth, quick motions and a plus arm who could probably make for a passable all-glove reserve third baseman right now, but the bat has a long way to come. He was a good hitter at the University of Pittsburgh, but his power was non-existent. He has a chance to develop into an above-average third baseman on both sides of the ball, but I’m skeptical of his ability to produce offensively at the upper levels, being a guy that will have to hit for average and walk a lot to be an asset if the power doesn’t develop.
Masters was taken by the Braves in the 11th round of the 2009 draft out of Western Carolina University and on account of signing quickly has already logged over 200 professional innings. This year he pitched 136 innings for the Class A Rome Braves, posting a 4.30 ERA, a 1.368 WHIP, and a 123-to-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing 14 homers. His delivery is downright ugly, but it allows his already solid fastball at 89-93 MPH to play up. He also throws a fringe-average slider and a plus changeup (palmball, actually), though the Braves have nearly eliminated his in-game use of the latter for the time being. Once they allow him to throw the palmball in games, he’s a candidate to take off and shoot through the upper minors, but given his stocky frame he’s probably better suited for relief long-term. Still, you never know.