Atlanta Braves: Chat
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): Do you think Cody Johnson is just stubborn, or is he simply not capable of tightening his approach at the plate?
He actually has tightened his approach at
the plate. He did a good job of that late last season and during the
first three months of 2009, yet simply tried to carry the team at
Myrtle Beach in July and August after Freeman and Heyward were
promoted. He got out of what he was doing, and the results were not
good. He's making progress, but he still has a ways to go.
Jason (Charlotte): Bill,
The year's Braves list looks a lot weaker than the last few years.
However, it might have more "star" power. What are your thought on this
I agree, Jason. As a whole, the Braves'
top 10 is pretty good, but the overall depth of the top 30 is not,
aside from left-handed starting pitching. Having said that, Heyward and
Freeman have very high ceilings from a position player standpoint, and
while young, Teheran could be spectacular.
Jason (Charlotte): What happened to Cole Rohrbough ? It seems like he is following the Macay McBride.... and that might be kind.
I predicted a big breakout year for Cole
in '09, but he suffered a hamstring injury in April and never really
could find his consistency. Some outings he'd be great, only to
struggle in a big way the next time out. He said it was simply a matter
of getting his mechanics together. McBride is a good comparison, and
hopefully Rohrbough will work his way to the major leagues.
JAYPERS (IL): Had Donavan Tate somehow slipped
to the Braves, would they have picked him, or were they determined not
to exceed slot regardless?
I thought Tate might slide to Atlanta, a
la Heyward, but the Boras factor would have been a big negative and
probably wouldn't have happened.
Robert Goldberg (Lyndhurst, NJ): Did JJ Hoover get any consideration for the top 10?
A lot. Here's a hint, his name is
prominent in the top 30 list. Hoover had a great year at Rome while
leading the organization in strikeouts. He doesn't project as high as
some of the other pitchers on the list, but he has the package to be
effective at higher levels. I wouldn't be surprised to see him develop
into a solid end-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues or a setup
Brian Daniels (at my desk): Bill, when seeing
Tehran pitch earlier this year, I was surprised at his motion. I would
compare his loose arm action to that of Juan Cruz. Based on his body
size, and age, do you see him eventually breaking down with shoulder
problems? Also, what prospects can we plan to see in Rome next year?
Of course we hope that doesn't happen,
but his type of impressive velocity does generate some wear and tear.
That said, his mid-90s heat is very easy. His delivery is a little
unusual, but I don't think it's violent, which will help him over the
As far as prospects at Rome is concerned, the pitching should be very
deep once again. The Braves are going to have to make some decisions on
a few hurlers, based on whether they remain in the rotation, piggy-back
with someone, or move to the pen. There's simply a lot of wings
Dale Berra's Stash (Pittsburgh): Where would J. Locke LHP and G. Hernandez OF have ranked in this Top 10?
Hernandez would probably be in the 6-8
range and Locke maybe in the 8-10 range. That's just a guess because I
didn't factor them into the equation, and I didn't get a lot of
feedback on their performances with the Pirates. Both had slipped a
little in the Braves' eyes shortly before the trade.
Tom (San Diego): What are your thoughts on LHP Scott Diamond?
Diamond really knows how to pitch. As a
non-drafted guy, he's an underdog, but he showed at Mississippi what an
excellent feel for pitching he has. He received minimal support in the
Southern League and still wound up having a very good year. He
definitely has a chance if he continues to stay within himself and hit
his spots at higher levels.
Jason (Charlotte): Do you think Schafer and
Heyward spend til around June is AAA ? That could be a great infusion
of young great talent. Also, I know Schafer doesn't qualify for the
list but what are the Braves feelings on him now.
It's too early to speculate on where
they'll be. Spring training will go a long ways in determining the
immediate future for both. I really see Schafer needing a couple months
in Gwinnett just to make sure he's healthy and comfortable. The Braves
still have solid hopes for Schafer, but the roller-coaster ride that
describes his career needs to get some positive consistency. I think
that will happen, beginning in 2010. Heyward would have the better shot
at opening with Atlanta right off the bat, but he'll have to leave no
doubt in Florida that he's ready for the move.
keith hudson (wampsville, ny): How will the
Braves drafts change under DeMacio? More high schoolers? Fewer Juco's?
Will the Braves still draft heavy from former East Cobb programers?
I don't think those decisions have been
made yet, although I doubt there will be a big change in philosophy.
Like Roy Clark, Tony DeMacio is a disciple of Paul Snyder, so young
pitchers—particularly lefties—will always get the first nod. I don't
see the Braves going heavy with four-year college guys. I'd imagine
that with the draft-and-follow process gone that they will continue to
hit the jucos hard. I wouldn't be surprised to see them pull back a
little from the East Cobb kids while letting scouts from other parts of
the country push their guys a little bit more.
Mrs. O (Delaware): Brett Oberholtzer was a top
20 prospect in the Appy League this year - was he close to the top 10
prospects? And if not where exactly does he fit in the top 30?
Oberholtzer fits solidly in the top 30.
He had a very good year at Danville that was overshadowed a little by
impressive performances by Chris Masters and Matt Crim, but
Oberholtzer's ceiling is the highest of the trio.
Clooch (VT): This is the first I'm hearing about Spruill's non-physical DL stint. What else can you tell us?
That's really all the Braves have said.
In reality, they said it wasn't physical. Anyway, that's a very minor
bump in the road for a young man who has pitched very well in his first
two professional seasons. If the 2008 draft were held today, Spruill
would definitely be a first-round pick.
Ben (Leland Grove): How close to the top 10 was Riann Spanjer-Furstenburg?
He really wasn't a strong top 10
consideration; he was more toward the end of the top 30. He had a very
good year at Danville, but he's limited to first base defensively, and
he's only average there. He also doesn't have classic power for the
position, although he should hit more home runs as he learns how to
drive the ball with consistency at higher levels. He's one of the more
interesting position players in the organization. And should he reach
the big leagues, at 18 letters, he will shatter the record for the most
letters in a last name at the major league level, currently held by
former Brave Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Kyle Reese (The Future): This system has definitely been thinned out by promotions and trades. Do you feel it is a bottom 10 system right now?
No. Some teams would kill to have the
Braves' pitching depth. By the Braves' standards, it is not real deep.
But when comparing it to all 30 organizations, it's probably in the
middle of the pack.
Ben (GA): Whats the future look like for Ryne Reynoso?
Reynoso is a classic under-the-radar type
of guy. He's climbed the organizational ladder very quietly despite
having some solid success at both Myrtle Beach and Mississippi. I don't
know if his stuff is good enough to get big league batters out on a
consistent basis. I also don't see him reaching the major leagues with
Atlanta, meaning his opportunity would likely come with a team that's
struggling with pitching depth.
Nebo Ned (Nebo, NC): Can you explain the
Braves theory for the 2009 draft? It seems like they really threw in
the towel this year for something that has been an important mainstay
I understand what you're saying, even if
I don't really agree with it. Yes, I believe the Braves made some
"safe" choices, particularly with Minor at number seven overall. David
Hale is a tremendous athlete who has never focused solely on pitching,
and Mycal Jones is another excellent athlete but a little old for a
juco guy. I believe the Braves were trying to fill some holes in the
organization with this draft while not wanting to over-spend in what
most scouts believed to be a modest talent pool.
Gilmore (AL): Are the Braves involved in the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes, by any chance?
I have no doubt the Braves are among the
ones kicking the tires, but I don't expect them to be a major player in
the sweepstakes. The organization, from the major league level down, is
deep with pitching, and I don't foresee the willingness to open the
checkbook in a big way for Chapman.
keith hudson (wampsville, ny): What is your take on the Braves releasing Tom Battista?
There were probably some politics and/or
personalities involved because Battista has signed his fair share of
high-ceiling prospects, most notably Freeman and Hanson. I don't know
for certain for the reasons for his departure, but there is no question
Battista was a big asset for the Braves while Clark was the scouting
Nebo Ned (Nebo, NC): Doesn't paying a player "slot money" for a slot higher than he should have gone defeat the purpose a la Mike Minor?
It does provide a loop-hole in that logic, doesn't it?
Tom T. (Houston): What happened to Brandon
Hicks? I thought he was an up-and-comer before this lost season. Do you
like his odds to get back on track?
Hicks really needs to reduce his
strikeouts and make more consistent contact. His glove is very good at
shortstop, and he plays the game the right way, with great intensity
and an impressive work ethic. He has some pop in his bat, but he didn't
show much power during the first half at Mississippi while trying to
make some adjustments at the plate. His stock has fallen somewhat,
especially since he's getting close to 25 years old. If he's going to
rebound, he needs to do it pronto.
Ben (Leland Grove): What does Heyward have now that Francoeur didn't, back in his heyday?
I believe Heyward is a smarter and
savvier player than Francoeur was at the same point. Heyward also has
much more patience at the plate. I don't see him pressing as much as
Francoeur did when the inevitable struggles come around. I also believe
Heyward is a better and smarter baserunner than Francoeur.
JH (Berkeley): I've heard reports on Dimaster
Delgado's present velocity (mid-high 80s ), but little about his
projectability. Is there room to dream there, or is he pretty much
guaranteed to remain a soft-tossing lefty?
I believe he's a little more than a
soft-tossing lefty. With Randall Delgado and all the draft
picks—Hoover, DeVall, Spruill, etc.—at Rome, Dimaster flew under the
radar. I can see his fastball residing in the low 90s, which will look
faster based on his solid changeup and other off-speed pitches.
Jason (Charlotte): Adam Milligan has a great season. What kind of player does he profile as ?
Milligan did have a great season, which
made him one of the biggest risers in the organization. He makes hard,
solid contact and drives the ball well into the gaps. A center fielder
in college, he has excellent all-around athleticism and a good arm,
which should enable him to play in right field. Of course, with Heyward
about to nail down right field, Milligan may want to remain familiar
with left and center. At this point, he could be a solid fourth
outfielder in the big leagues down the road.
Eric (Atlanta): There seems to be a lack of
good position prospects in the system after Heyward and Freeman. Their
2008 draft was pitching heavy with no first rounder and their 2009
draft was criticized by many. What did you think of it?
There isn't a great depth among the
position players in the organization, but that simply provides a land
of opportunity for several players. I expect DeMacio will address that
situation in his first draft. As far as the 2009 process is concerned,
I was surprised about the selection of Minor and Hale with the first
two picks, which means absolutely nothing. I would have liked to have
seen a four-year college guy with one of those picks, but the Braves
didn't see it that way.
Dane (Atlanta, GA): The Braves seem to like
Kimbrel to be an arm in the big league pen in 2010, but it looks like
his walks are a BIG problem. Do the Braves have any other options for
the back end of the bullpen in 2010?
I wouldn't say his walks are a big
problem. He started the year out of sync with his mechanics and his
free passes declined considerably after he worked them out at Rome.
Kimbrel is the only true candidate to see for the end of the rotation
at this point, and I expect to see him in Atlanta at some point in the
Nelson (Hawaii): What is Linares' ceiling at 3B?
It's not real high. Unfortunately,
Linares spent three years of precious developmental time in the
Dominican while trying to get a work visa after leaving Cuba. He'll be
26 next year. He had a good year in the Carolina League because of his
experience, but I don't see him as a future major leaguer.
Steve (Ohio): How has Cory Rasmus' stuff looked after his comeback from surgery?
Rasmus made a nice return at Danville
this past summer and even posted a no-hitter in the Appalachian League.
That was really his first extended activity in the organization after
being drafted more than three years ago. His stuff is not as nasty as
it was coming out of high school, and his overall feel for pitching is
lagging due to the time he missed. He has a lot of catching up to do,
but he still has a shot if he continues to develop and add strength.
Rick (Dallas): Heyward and Freeman often are compared to Florida's Stanton and Morrison. Which duo would you prefer and why?
I would prefer the Braves' duo for one
primary reason—Heyward. I believe he's the best all-around player I
have seen in more than 25 years of following the minors. I truly
believe he is the complete package. Freeman is right behind him—an RBI
machine with budding power and a difference maker with the glove at
first base. I believe Stanton and Morrison are exceptional prospects as
well, but Heyward has a chance to be a true superstar.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): Thoughts on Robinson Lopez?
I like the notice of Lopez! He has all
the makings of a potential top 10 prospect. He was one of the best
pitchers in the GCL last year and he's still a baby. His fastball is
90-92 while touching 94 with an above-average curveball and a feel for
an average changeup. He really competes well and works hard, too. I
believe he's the biggest sleeper in the organization.
Bradnon (Hickory, NC): What is the word on Todd Redmond? Is he still a prospect?
Redmond doesn't light up the radar gun
and doesn't get a lot of love from scouts, but all he does is win. He
was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year in 2008 after coming over
from the Pirates organization and was the most consistent hurler at
Gwinnett after the departure of Hanson in 2009. He was dominating in
World Cup play in September, which should at least keep his name in
circulation. He knows how to pitch and he mixes his offerings very
well. I don't see him as a factor in Atlanta, but I think he can pitch
in the major leagues. I believe he'll need to have success pretty fast,
however, so that he isn't labeled as a 4-A hurler.
Wilson (King County): What are the major differences between teheran and delgado, they seem fairly similar?
Teheran's stuff is a little more electric
than Delgado's. In fact, his entire game seems to be a little more
polished, given the fact he's a year or so younger than Delgado. But I
wouldn't say there's a huge difference between the two. Both have shown
the ability to make adjustments with their impressive God-given
David (Atlanta): Did Tony De Macio hire anyone to scout for him? I assume some of Roy Clarks guys left as well?
I know DeMacio has hired Orioles
crosschecker Deron Rombach and that Tom Battista has been let go. There
may be some other moves in the works, but none that I'm aware of right
Tony (Battle Creek): What sort of reviews did
Stovall receive? His numbers look like your typical "struggling to find
control of very good stuff" young starter. Will he get a starting spot
in Rome next year, and what's his ceiling if he can harness his stuff?
The numbers don't always tell the truth
in the minor leagues, but Stovall's are pretty accurate. He's had
trouble locating his fastball and maintaining his overall control. At
the same time, the Braves are encouraged with the progress he has made.
He does an excellent job of forcing batters to hit the ball on the
ground, and he limited left-handed hitters to a .147 average in the
Appalachian League. His 89-91 mph fastball has great movement, which
makes commanding it tough for the lefty. Scouts will tell you that
southpaws are slower to develop, and Stovall looks to be a classic
case. He was a solid top 10 consideration and was not far from making
Jason (Charlotte): Randall Delgado really
improved his control in the second half of the season. He is my pick
for breakout player in 2010. I think he will really excel in Mrytle
Beach ! Do you agree ?
He's definitely one of the leading
candidates. After all, he had a breakout season of sorts in July and
August. Of all the pitchers who opened at Rome in 2009, Delgado may
have the highest ceiling. And if he can use BB&T Coastal Field to
his advantage at Myrtle Beach, he could have a great season in 2010.
Bubba Brown (Roy, Utah): Bill, what do you
think would be a reasonable stat line to expect from Heyward in the
bigs next year if he began the season in Atlanta? How bout a stat line
in his prime?
I believe the Braves would be pleased if
he hit .280-15-80 in his first season. I could see his batting average
falling from his recent minor league showings, particularly if he
experienced a typical slump that most rookies encounter. In his prime,
he can be a .310-25-100 guy or better. I never like putting numbers on
guys, but Heyward could do that and possibly even more.
Jason Layton (St. Louis): Heyward is the best all-around player in more than 25 yrs.....would you pick Heyward over Justin Upton?
Yes. Off the top of my head, I cannot
think of another position player I would take over Heyward, based on
their minor league output. Eric Davis would be right there, along with
a few others.
JE (Buffalo): Great Chat thus far. When do you
think Freeman will end up in the majors? Is it too late for him to
develop the power that he will need in a DH'less NL, I know he is very
young still but if you aren't raking at the lower levels what is the
probability he will in AA/AAA/MLB ? thanks
Thanks, JE. I hope I don't blow it on
this question. I can see Freeman getting a call during the second half
in 2010, but I believe 2011 is more realistic. And I believe he'll hit
for more power in the major leagues than he has in the minors. He hits
the ball very hard and posts a lot of doubles, plus he has a knack for
driving in runs. Some of those doubles will turn into home runs at the
higher levels, especially once he adds a little loft to his swing
without compromising his batting average.