April 24, 2009 at 1:31 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Prospects, Scouting
Number 10: Brett DeVall – LHP (19) 6′3″ 215 LB
Last year’s compensatory pick was taken out of high school. He’s a big, high-upside lefty that already has 3 good pitches. He’s crafty and controls his pitches really well. His fastball, though it rarely tops 91 MPH, has great movement on it and he can locate it to both sides of the plate. He’s only pitched 9 and 2/3 professional innings and we’ll know more after we get a more sufficient sample size. He still has plenty of time and could probably add a few miles per hour to it as he progresses through the minor leagues. His full season debut is much anticipated.
Number 9: Brandon Hicks – SS (23) 6′2″ 200 LB
Brandon Hicks caught a lot of attention this spring in Braves camp. After putting up good number at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class AA Mississippi last year, he stuck around until the end of spring training. Bobby Cox raved about his defense this spring stating something to the effect of “he’s a major league shortstop right now”. That being said, he still needs work with his bat. He’s never going to be a high average guy, but he’ll hit 20+ homers every year. Last year he hit .235 with a .335 OBP and a .467 SLG % with 20 home runs, 52 walks, and 139 strikeouts. Ah, yes, the strikeouts. As I mentioned, his swing is geared for power, not average, so he misses the ball a lot. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts and maybe work on making a little bit more solid contact. Regardless, he will make it to the big leagues as a utility player or back-up SS at some point with some club. Weather or not he makes it as a starter remains to be seen, but the potential is there and he’s not far away either.
Number 8: Cole Rohrbough – LHP (22) 6′3″ 205 LB
He’s another big lefty who projects to strike out a ton of batters. He has a low-90′s fastball and a plus curveball that he throws to both sides of the plate and he will throw as a get-me-over strike pitch or a chase pitch out of the zone. He’s struck out 200 batters and walked only 59 in 151 and 1/3 professional innings. He’s got a ceiling through the roof, but he’s still a few years away. Class AA Mississippi will be his next test.
Number 7: Jeff Locke – LHP (21) 6′2″ 180 LB
Locke’s much anticipated full season debut didn’t wow anyone with numbers, but the stuff was certainly there. He features a low-90′s sinking fastball, a tight curveball, and a change-up. All of his pitches he commands well. Scouts are concerned about his mechanics and he needs to straighten them out before he makes the jump to the high minor leagues. He’ll spend 2009 at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, the ideal place to work out mechanics. We’d like to see his K/9 get back over 9 as it was only at 7.3 last year. His minor league career K/9 is 8.7 (including nearly 140 innings of 7.3 K/9). There should be plenty of reason to believe in Locke after he has an impressive year at Myrtle Beach, but we’ll see.
Number 6: Randall Delgado – RHP (19) 6′3″ 175 LB
One of the livest arms in the system, Randall Delgado will transition from short season to full season this year as he’ll be one of the headliners of Class A Rome’s pitching staff. He’s got some of the highest upside of anyone in the system based on his frame, projectability, and stuff. His fastball sits in the mid 90′s with loads of sink on it and he already has a plus curveball. He has trouble commanding his secondary pitches at times, but he’ll spend his full season debut as one of the South Atlantic League’s youngest pitchers (i.e. he’s still very young and way ahead of his time). Last year he struck out 81 batters in 69 innings for the Danville Braves.
Number 5: Julio Teheran – RHP (18) 6′2″ 150 LB
Another young, high-upside guy. Teheran hits 95 on the radar gun seemingly without trying and has great life on those pitches. He’s also hit 97 when he dials it up. He has a sharply breaking curveball and a change-up as well. He battled shoulder soreness during his professional debut last year, but every scout that saw him throw was very impressed. He’ll repeat short-season rookie ball this year and we’ll have more than 15 professional innings to judge him by. His upside surpasses that of anyone in they system. Yes, including Tommy Hanson.
Number 4: Gorkys Hernandez – CF (21) 6′0″ 175 LB
Gorkys came along with Jair Jurrjens in the Edgar Renteria deal, a deal that will undoubtedly make Dave Dombrowski look like a fool for years to come. Gorkys Hernandez had an excellent season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, batting .264 with a .348 OBP. He didn’t hit for much power and doesn’t project to, but he was excellent in the field and ran very well stealing 20 bases while being caught only 4 times. His ultimate projection is that of a 10-homer, 40 SB, high average, high OBP, defensively gifted player. He’s one of the fastest players in our system and he uses his speed to his advantage on both sides of the ball, frequently legging out infield hits, stealing bases, taking extra bases, and covering a ton of ground in center field. We’ll see how he responds to his promotion to Class AA Mississippi.
Number 3: Fredrick Freeman – 1B (19) 6′5″ 220 LB
This kid is huge. And he can hit. Really well. And he can hit it really far. Freeman is your prototypical clean-up hitting 1B on a championship level team. Last year at Class A Rome he hit .316 with a .378 OBP and a .521 SLG %. He hit 18 home runs, 33 doubles, and 7 triples as well. He has a surprisingly level swing for a guy who can hit so much power and projects to be a high-average hitter in addition to his tremendous power. He fields well with a good glove and good footwork despite well below-average range. I once saw him take a high and tight fastball from a left-handed pitcher and hit it as far as I’ve seen anyone hit a ball. Smoked. He is our future at 1B. He’ll team up with Jason Heyward at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2009 before he tackles the higher minor leagues in 2010. ETA to the majors is 2011.
Number 2: Thomas Hanson – RHP (22) 6′6″ 210 LB
In most systems he would rate as the number 1 prospect. In fact, I don’t think there’s but 10-12 guys in minor league baseball that you could even suggest are as good as Tommy Hanson. Hanson features a 4 pitch repertoire including a 94 MPH fastball with great life, a plus plus curveball, a plus plus slider, and an above-average changeup. He’s able to command all of his pitches and has ace stuff right now. Last year he struck out 114 batters in 98 innings at Class AA Mississippi with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He also tossed a 14-strikeout no-hitter, the first in Mississippi Braves history. And those numbers are puny compared to the showing he put on against baseball’s best prospects in the Arizona Fall League. Hanson struck out 49 batters in 28 and 2/3 innings. He walked 7, hit 3, allowed 10 to reach via base hit (1 HR), and allowed 2 to score, good for a 0.63 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP. He became the first pitcher to ever win the MVP of the AFL. The only complaints scouts have about him are that he uses too many pitches to retire hitters and he has a fairly violent delivery, but neither are huge long-term or really short-term concerns. He’s about ready to be an ace and he’ll get that opportunity sooner than later. Having proved everything he needs to against prospects, Hanson will begin 2009 at Class AAA Gwinnett where he’ll wait until the Braves deem he’s ready (aka he won’t accumulate enough playing time to gain “Super 2″ status so we can save money down the road, a good business decision).
Number 1: Jason Heyward – OF (19) 6′4″ 220 LB
Here’s Jason Heyward’s line from Class A Rome last year: .323/.388/.483 with 11 HR, 49 BB’s, 74 K’s, 15 SB’s, 3 CS. So basically, he did it all last year. He was a very, very good player. The 300+ average figures to stay around and the 380+ OBP figures to be a mainstay. He figures to steal 15-20 bags a year too. But he’s also projected to triple those home run numbers driving his slugging percentage through the roof. He’s going to be a super-star. We’re talking about a number 3 hitter for the best of the best. He’s one of the smartest players in our farm system as both his parents were teachers. He’s also one of the hardest workers in the farm system and every executive and coach raves about his work ethic. At 19 he came into spring training and not only played very well even against big-league quality pitching (and played excellent defense as he always had), but acted like he fit right in. He’s best friends with Freddie Freeman and they’re on the same time-table to the big leagues. The Braves will have something very special when Freeman and Heyward arrive and it will be a very exciting time in the organization.
View the entire top 40 list here.