October 6, 2009 at 6:30 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Number 20: Scott Diamond – LHP (22) 6′3″ 190 LB
Diamond didn’t make a whole lot of statistical progress in 2009, though I suppose a promotion to AA with no noticeable progress either way is progress in itself. Diamond pitched 131 innings in 23 starts for the Class-AA Mississippi Braves, posting a 3.50 ERA, a 1.565 WHIP, and a 111-to-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While his strikeout rate was slightly up from 2008 (7.6 K/9, up from 7.3 K/9 in 2008), his walk rate increased rather drastically (2.3 BB/9 in 2008 to 3.6 BB/9 in 2009). He also averaged 2 more hits per 9 innings (8.4 H/9 2008, 10.4 H 2009). As a pitcher who relies on control, he’s not going to be effective posting a 3.6 BB/9 and allowing more than 10 hits per 9 innings. Still very much a prospect and he’ll appear on this list again next season.
Number 19: Craig Kimbrel – RHP (21) 5′11″ 205 LB
Craig Kimbrel’s 2009 performance has shot his stock through the roof. After striking out 56 batters in just over 35 innings last year, he actually increased his strikeout rate this season. In 60 innings between four levels (Myrtle Beach, Rome, Myrtle Beach again, Mississippi, and Gwinnett), Kimbrel posted a 2.85 ERA, a 1.250 WHIP, and a 103-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The walks are a problem and he’ll have to get them under control before he’s ready to take on big league competition. Scouts drooled over Kimbrel’s fastball, which he infrequently touches triple-digits with, and his slider, a pitch that scouts call a “true out pitch” right now. In Kimbrel’s first stop at Myrtle Beach he struggled mightily, but after a demotion to Rome he pitched brilliantly the rest of the season. Here are Kimbrel’s stats from his stints with Rome and Mississippi in 2009 (after his first MB stint):
Rome – 20.0 IP, 0.90 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 38-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mississippi – 11.2 IP, 0.77 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 17-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Kimbrel is now the best relief prospect in the system and one of the top pitching prospects in the system. He’ll join a few other fellow Braves’ prospects in the Arizona Fall League later this off-season. He’ll also rank in my top-10 for 2010. He’s currently penciled in at number 6 and I don’t think the ranking will change.
Number 18: Travis Jones – 2B (23) 5′9″ 190 LB
I predicted a breakout year for Travis Jones in 2009 and I couldn’t have been more wrong. His contact rate dropped (21.4 K% in 2009, 19.5 K% in 2008), his walk rate dropped (11.5 BB% in 2009, 14.0 BB% in 2008), and he stopped hitting for power (.180 ISO, 16 HR in 2008; .106 ISO, 5 HR in 2009). He did enjoy his most successful base-stealing season, stealing 23 bases in 29 attempts (79.3% success rate). He was also very good defensively, as always, but as a 24-year old most likely repeating AA, his stock is way down. Expect to see him at the bottom of my rankings.
Number 17: Eric Campbell- 3B (23) 6′0″ 195 LB
After hitting .241/.308/.331 at Class-AA Mississippi and generally being a jackass, he was released. I’m glad the Braves don’t have to worry about him anymore.
Number 16: Stephen Marek- RHP (25) 6′2″ 200 LB
Awful. In 45 innings between Class-AA Mississippi and Class-AAA Gwinnett, Stephen Marek posted a 6.00 ERA, a 1.844 WHIP, and a 35-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There were times when I thought Marek would turn out to be a very good set-up man. Those days are early and he’ll be lucky to make a MLB roster. He’ll be 26 years old next year and most likely won’t appear on my top-40 list.
Number 15: Luis Sumoza – OF (20) 6′0″ 170 LB
Sumoza had a hard time translating his tools into production in 2009. In 534 PA’s between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, he hit just .265/.311/.353 with 4 HR, 8 SB, and 11 CS. His contact rates didn’t change much, but his walk rate fell drastically and his ISO dropped from .236 to .088. The tools are still there and despite his statistically bad year, he’s still a legitimate prospect. He won’t make the top-20 again, but he’ll be between 21 and 30.
Number 14: Edgar Osuna – LHP (21) 6′1″ 165 LB
Edgar Osuna had a fairly successful 2009 season. In 150 innings between Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class-AA Mississippi, Osuna posted a 4.02 ERA, a 1.273 WHIP, and a 105-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Despite his strikeout rate dipping and his hit rate increasing, he was still fairly consistent across the board from last season. If the strikeout rate drop is a fluke, he could be a bigtime sleeper for next year. If not, he’s probably destined to be a LOOGY. I don’t think his ranking will change too much.
Number 13: Kristopher Medlen – RHP (23) 5′10″ 175 LB
Medlen was promoted to MLB early in the season and no longer qualifies as a prospect.
Number 12: Benino Pruneda – RHP (20) 5′9″ 170 LB
Not a terrible season for Pruneda, but not an overwhelmingly good one. In 59 innings between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, Pruneda notched a 4.73 ERA, a 1.508 WHIP, and a 77-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Though his strikeout rate increased (11.5 K/9 in 2008 to 11.7 K/9 in 2009), his walk rate also increased (3.6 BB/9 in 2008 to 5.0 BB/9 in 2009). He’s still very young and one of the higher upside relief prospects in the system. He stays in the top-2o.
Number 11: Ezekiel Spruill- RHP (19) 6′4″ 184 LB
Zeke Spruill had a very strange season. After pitching very well for the first few months with Class-A Rome, he was mysteriously demoted to the Gulf Coast League, where he made a few starts before finishing the year where he started. Between the two levels, he pitched 135 and 2/3 innings with a 3.25 ERA, a 1.275 WHIP, and a 118-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. I currently have Spruill penciled in as the 12th ranked prospect in the system. I think that ranking will probably stand up.
View the entire top 40 list here.