April 22, 2009 at 8:39 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Prospects, Scouting
Number 40: J. J. Hoover- RHP (21) 6′3″ 215 LB
After dominating for the entirety of his Junior College career (striking out 176 in 100 and 2/3 innings during his most recent season), Hoover was selected by the Braves in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB first-year player draft. Hoover has only pitched 7 and 1/3 professional innings thus far and is a candidate to shoot up this list next year. Hoover is a 21 year old 6’3″ 215 LB right-hander with good fastball velocity (some reports have him clocked at 97 MPH), a slider, and a curveball. Hoover will start the year at Class A Rome in 2009 and we’ll know more about what we can expect from him going forward after we get a full season from him.
Number 39: Michael Mehlich – RHP (21) 6′2″ 180 LB
One of the rawest pitchers in the system. Mehlich wasn’t even a pitcher until he made it to Danville (Rookie Advanced), but he’s a very gifted athlete and was a star quarterback in high school. Due to lack of experience, all of his pitches are works in progress. However, his fastball is routinely clocked at 90-94, he has a fairly good curveball, and is starting to show feel for a change-up. The change-up will be key for him to have a successful major league career, and even if that develops well, he’s a few years away, having not played above Class A. Myrtle Beach is his 2009 destination and that’s a very pitcher-friendly environment for him to develop. Like most of the raw, athletic types in the lower levels of our farm system, he has a ton of upside, but there’s far from any guarantees that he’ll make it to the majors. Hopefully he won’t let the football mentality take over ala Jeff Francoeur 2008.
Number 38: Thomas Palica – LHP (21) 6′3″ 215 LB
Taken by the Braves in the 10th round of the 2007 MLB first year player draft, Palica had a pretty crappy rookie season but came back to post fairly impressive numbers at Class A Rome the following year. He worked primarily in relief (35 relief appearances, 1 start) serving as one of the clubs’ closers. He posted a 3.68 ERA, 83 K’s, 24 BB’s, and a 1.14 WHIP in 66 innings. He’s got awhile to go, but left-handed pitchers make it to the big show faster than any other position. Just based on his swing and miss stuff, I’d say he has a future with a big league club, even if it’s just as a LOOGY.
Number 37: Brett Oberholtzer – LHP (19) 6′2″ 190 LB
Another Junior College product. Oberholzer already has three pitches, a low-90′s fastball with good tailing action, a good change-up, and a plus slider that scouts believe will be a true out pitch. He’s only played 1 season of professional baseball and that was for the Danville Braves (Rookie Advanced). He posted a 2.89 ERA, 32 K’s, 10 BB’s, and a WHIP of 1.18 in 37 and 1/3 innings. Like every left-handed pitcher, he has a better chance of making it to the major leagues than most players at his developmental stage. And like everyone at his developmental stage, he’s still a few years away.
Number 36: Van Pope -3B (25) 6’0″ 200 LB
Yes, Van Pope is still in the Braves’ organization. And he’s still good enough to crack the top 40 prospects list. Pope is a very slick-fielding third-baseman that could play above-average defense in MLB right now (though if everyone who couldn’t hit were allowed to play MLB he’d probably be below-average), but his bat hasn’t developed nearly enough to warrant a spot on a major league roster. He’s one year away from officially being a bust and as a 25 year old who will sniff AAA for the first time in 2009, there’s not a lot of people who see more than a utility guy when they look at him. It’s safe to say he won’t be replacing Chipper Jones any time soon.
Number 35: Diory Hernandez – 2B (25) 5’11″ 175 LB
He’s had a long minor league career with the Braves. The scouts must see something more than the numbers can show. He’s versatile, having played 2B, SS, and 3B in the minors, but the good pretty much stops there. He isn’t good defensively and routinely makes errors on easy plays while flashing below-average range. He only has 31 career homers, has a career average of .274, a career OBP of .326, and a career SLG % of .381. He’s stolen 57 bases in his career, but he’s been caught 47 times which means he’s hurt his teams with his base running more than he’s helped it. Like Pope, his future is that of a utility infielder at best. Don’t be excited it you see him with the big club.
Number 34: Jacob Thompson – RHP (22) 6′6″ 215 LB
He’s kind of in the Kris Medlen mold without as much control and about 8 inches taller. Despite Thompson’s huge frame, his fastball rarely tops 91 MPH. Scouts say when he’s on he’s able to command 4 pitches (fastball, changeup, slurve, and power curve) but when he’s not he doesn’t trust his changeup and gets hammered. If he continues to work on his pitches and mix them appropriately, he could become a starter in the Greg Maddux mold. He’s only tossed 9 and 2/3 innings of professional baseball so we’ll know more after this season in Class A Rome. He pitched at the University of Virginia so you’ve got to like his chances to develop into a Maddux type with his early exposure to competition and intelligence.
Number 33: Kyle Cofield – RHP (22) 6′5″ 190 LB
Another huge right-hander. Cofield is a year or two ahead of Thompson developmentally despite being the same age. Cofield’s minor league career got off to a really crappy start posting ERAs above 5 at the first few rungs, but he settled in nicely and has had back to sub-4 ERA seasons at Class A and Class A Advanced. He doesn’t project to strike out a ton of guys. His ceiling is that of a blue-collar strike-throwing machine ala Joe Blanton. He’ll spend most of 2009 at Mississippi. This is a make or break year for Cofield at Mississippi and if he preforms well he could find himself on a big-league roster within 2 years.
Number 32: Dimaster Delgado – RHP (20) 6′2″ 180 LB
Like much of the farm system, Delgado is a Panamanian import. He’s still very raw and hasn’t pitched above Rookie ball. He’ll be assigned to Danville (Rookie Advanced) this summer where he’ll attempt to refine his pitches and build up his arm strength in preparation for his first full season in 2010. He struck out 39 batters in 39 and 2/3 innings in 2008 in rookie ball, though he gave up 51 hits. We won’t know much more until after his first full season, so he’s not much of a candidate to shoot up through these rankings this year.
Number 31: Paul Clemens – RHP (21) 6′4″ 170 LB
Another right-handed junior college product. He’s long and lanky as you probably have deduced from his 6’4″ 170 LB frame. He projects to add velocity to his fastball and strike out more batters than he currently does (he already struck out 59 in 65 and 1/3 innings in his professional debut season). He’s headed to Class A Rome in 2009 and we’ll know a lot more about what to expect from him after his first full season.
View the complete top 40 list here.