Braves' Hale, Minor Making Progress





KISSIMMEE, FLA.—Having taken a pair of college pitchers with their first two picks last June for only the second time in draft history, the Braves were hoping to add some depth at the major league level in the not-too-distant future. That scenario remains on track given the early progress displayed by first-rounder Mike Minor and third-round selection David Hale.

Minor, a 22-year-old lefthander out of Vanderbilt who received a $2.42 million signing bonus, pitched in four games last August at low Class A Rome before twirling in the Arizona Fall League. Displaying a solid four-pitch repertoire, Minor generates outstanding movement with his upper-80s fastball and throws one of the best changeups in the organization. He spent the early part of spring training with the major league club and looked capable of moving rapidly up the ladder.

"I still need to work on my breaking ball, which is a pitch I struggle with from time to time," Minor said. "I've developed a new grip on that pitch and got a later break on the ball."

Hale, 22, is a little bit more of a work in progress, simply because he was a two-way player at Princeton. Recruited as an infielder before spending much of his time in right field, Hale worked in 26 games on the mound with the Tigers, displaying fastballs that have been clocked as high as 96 mph. He also has a hard slider that sits in the mid-80s and is working on developing a better feel for his changeup.

Given his lack of experience as a pitcher, Hale believes he is developing rapidly simply because he is able to focus on just one aspect of the game.

"I have no doubt that focusing solely on pitching for the first time in my career is really helping me become a better player," Hale said. "For instance, when playing catch, I can work solely on my grips and keeping my mechanics in sync. Just having the mindset of a pitcher all of the time, I think, will enable me to make some big strides this year."

Wigwam Wisps

• Third baseman Van Pope is attempting to make the move to the mound during spring training. The 26-year-old Pope has been considered one of the organization's top defensive infielders but has struggled at the plate, including a .202/.279/.286 average last season at Triple-A Gwinnett.

• First baseman Freddie Freeman impressed the major league brass with his glovework as a non-roster invitee. Freeman also showed more power than in 2009, when he tried to play through a rib injury and a bruised hand.