Atlanta Braves Top 5 Prospects
Have the Braves EVER not had a good farm system? The fact that this team has so consistently finished near the top of the standings (and thus at the bottom of the draft) and maintained a consistent flow of talent from the minors to the majors… why, it just brings a tear to my eye. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of Braves prospect goodness.
1. RF Jason Heyward
Who?: When Heyward was set to be drafted in 2007, I thought “that guy reminds me a lot of Travis Snider”… maybe I shouldn’t have said that, since he’s Snider’s opposite in just about every facet of the game, but the good news is that Heyward has already surpassed Snider on my prospect rankings. Heyward makes excellent contact (14.4%) and has a good walk rate (9.7%), but hasn’t been hitting for HR power yet - only 11 HR in 116 games. That’s really, really something that you shouldn’t worry about in the slightest. He just turned 19 2 weeks ago, he’s 6′4″ 220, has 44 XBH this year, a ton of raw power, and a sexy swing that seems destined to hit for 30 HR annually. You’d think it must stop there, but nah - he’s a good defender too!
Projection: A perennial all-star OF who can consistently hit .300 with a good OBP, 30 HR and 15 SB.
2. CF Jordan Schafer
Who?: Schafer may have been the most streaky prospect in baseball this year. Don’t believe me?
Told you. That doesn’t even tell the whole story, as he’s been even more volatile week-to-week. His inconsistency is due to the one real red flag on him, a rather alarming strikeout rate which currently sits at 26.3%. If that slid even 5%, he could definitely be among the elite prospects in the game. Still, he’s 21 and has a ton of talent. He has tremendous patience, plus power potential and is among the best defensive OF prospects in the game.
Projection: A CF with GG-caliber defense and perhaps something around a .850 OPS - a very, very good prospect.
3. RHSP Tommy Hanson
Who?: Tommy Hanson came into the season under-the-radar a little, as he struggled after a promotion to High-A in 2007. Hanson came in and ate up High-A baseball with a 0.90 ERA, 49 K and 11 BB in 40 IP. He hit a couple of early speed bumps in AA, but he’s come out firing since then. His last 8 games include one no-hitter and 4 double-digit strikeout games, combining for 64 K and 19 BB in 47 IP. He pitches off of a 92-95 FB and showcases good breaking stuff, especially a real plus-plus curve. His biggest problem is a propensity to pitch up in the zone, leading to allowing 16 HR in 133 IP last year and 9 HR in 128 IP this year. (All 9 were in 88 AA IP, though).
Projection: A #2 or #3 starter, perhaps a Shaun Marcum type.
4. RHSP Kris Medlen
Who?: Speaking of under-the-radar, Medlen didn’t even enter the year as a starter - he was a reliever! As a reliver in 2007 and 2008, Medlen combine to strike out 93 and walk 18 in 77.2 IP. If this starting thing doesn’t work out, he can obviously return to the bullpen, likely successfully. However, that move doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon. Since stepping into the rotation, Medlen has 82 K and 20 BB in 83.2 IP. He’s not going to blow anybody away, but he does throw a low-90s FB and some promising secondary stuff.
Projection: A control #3-#4 pitcher or an ace reliever. Preferably the former.
5. CF Gorkys Hernandez
Who?: There are definitely some prospect archetypes out there. The ‘power pitcher who doesn’t strike anybody out’ is a nasty one; there’s also the ever-popular ‘midget MIF’ type, the middle-infield prospect who puts up excellent K and BB rates but struggles to hit the ball out of the infield, and plateaus somewhere around AA. Another emerging type would be the ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ prospect, and Hernandez falls into that mold: The slap-hitting CF with plus-plus speed and plus-defense who just manages to squeak by offensively by making excellent contact and taking some walks.
Projection: ~Adam Dunn. Seriously, something closer to .280/.350/.420 with a bunch of steals and a nice glove.