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, 2011.
Laura (ATL): While Simmons clearly has the better arm for SS, does Pastornicky have the better bat between the two?
Pastornicky's bat is more advanced than
Simmons'. In many ways they're different players. Simmons is a
defense-oriented guy with some style, while Pastornicky excels in doing
the little things on a consistent basis that may not show up in the
boxscore but will win games for you.
@Jaypers413 (IL): How far off the Top 10 was J.R. Graham, and how high are you on his mechanics?
Graham was close but he had some more
experienced and more advanced competition to battle within in the
organization. His mechanics don't bother me, but some scouts are worried
about his height. I believe that's often overrated. Jason Marquis has
had success with a similar build.
Ben (Leland Grove): Your thoughts on Lipka's transition to the OF? Is he a 11-20 prospect at present?
Lipka was making nice strides at
shortstop, although he didn't always look pretty doing it. I believe his
defense was underrated, but the Braves suddenly have a lot of middle
infielders. I think he'll be more comfortable in center field, which
should allow his offense to turn the corner.
Grant (NYC): Navery Moore - future SP or RP?
I see Navery as a reliever instead of a
starter. His stuff and overall repertoire could make him a dominant
late-inning guy at higher levels. Plus, with the Braves stacked with
starters, he could move quickly out of the bullpen.
@Jaypers413 (IL): What does Carlos Perez need
to work on, how far out of the Top 10 did he slip this year, and will he
likely repeat Rome in April?
Perez was not good every time I saw him
this year. Maybe he was nervous with me in the crowd—ha, ha. Seriously,
he did not look like a premium prospect in any way. He ended up being a
fringe top 30 guy who will have a lot to prove while repeating at Rome
Ben (Leland Grove): Do you see Vizcaino as
being more likely to contribute as an RP next year, or do the Braves
have enough confidence in him to let him return to starting?
I think it's more of a numbers game right
now for Vizcaino. He could return to starting in the next two seasons,
but if the Braves need him in the bullpen in 2012, that's where he'll
be. I get the feeling he will get another crack at starting. It isn't
like he wasn't doing well as a starter...the Braves just needed help in
the bullpen and Vizcaino and his electric arm were ready to answer the
Chris (Alabama): With a logjam of SS in their system, where does Nick Ahmed fit in? Is a switch to another position needed?
No, I don't see Ahmed switching, at least
not for the foreseeable future. He's a good defensive player, and the
Braves loved what they saw from him at the position during instructional
league. I see him making the jump to Lynchburg in 2012 where he should
show a well-rounded game with solid upside.
Jacob (DC): Where would Minor rank on the list were he eligible?
He would be in the top three, either two
or three. He would be ahead of Delgado, and it would splitting hairs to
separate him and Vizcaino, even though they are two different types of
@Jaypers413 (IL): If you had to choose between this year's Top 10 and last year's, which one wins out and why?
Interesting question. Last year's was
impressive with four players having outstanding rookie seasons in
Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. Throw in
Teheran and Vizcaino and that's pretty darn formidable. I like this
year's group as well, but I'd give the edge to last season's due to
Matt (Scranton): Without giving too much away,
where does Joey Terdoslavich rank and what does he project to become? I
didn't expect him in the Top 10, but seeing him in the 2015 project
lineup gives some hope.
Terdoslavich was a strong consideration
for the top 10. He lives to hit and he does it well. I was a fan of his
before some of the more recent followers jumped on board because of his
determined approach at the plate. The Braves believe he could be a
corner defensive player at higher levels, but I'm a little concerned if
he will be more than simply an adequate guy anywhere with the leather.
If he could improve his skills at the hot corner, he could be a fit for
when Chipper decides to hang it up.
Kyle (Atlanta, GA): He's no longer a prospect,
but could you comment on Heyward's year for us? Do you give him a
mulligan and say he'll bounce back next year, or is there cause for
I believe he will be back, but the Braves
are not going all in on that happening. He's going to have to fight for a
full-time job in spring training. That said, I feel he gets a mulligan.
I see it as a combination of several factors, including the dreaded
sophomore slump, a series of nagging injuries, and a couple of doubts
that might have entered his mind for the first time in his career. He
has the ability and the intelligence to overcome those hurdles, and I
see him as a fixture in right field for years to come.
William (Pensacola, FL): If Bethancourt's defense doesn't improve in 2012, any ideas on where the Braves could possibly move him ?
I wouldn't say Bethancourt's defense is
bad. He has excellent catch-and-throw skills with a plus arm and good
footwork. I think it's all a matter of him maturing. He needs to bust it
back there every play, which means doing a better job of blocking balls
and showing more leadership abilities that the job requires. That
should come as he gets older. He was only 19 this past season. I saw
Yadier Molina come up through the Cardinals' organization and I see some
parallels in their careers. Bethancourt has a solid future, if he wants
deep down to be that kind of player.
William (Pensacola, Florida): So is Sean Gilmartin basically Mike Minor revisited ? His fastball didn't look all that spectacular my week in Arizona.
That's a fair comparison. They're both
intelligent, left-handed college pitchers who have solid repertoires and
the knowledge of how to work batters to their advantage. I believe both
will have lengthy major league careers.
Derek (ATL): Just in - Derek Lowe traded to the Indians. Does this mean Vizcaino could be looked at for the rotation next year?
Possibly. Frank Wren has made it clear
that the starting pitching will continue to get younger in 2012. Hudson
will be back to go with Hanson, Jurrjens, Minor, Beachy, Teheran and
possibly Delgado. Unless there's another trade or two on the horizon, it
could be tough for Vizcaino to crack the rotation at this point, but
remember he has a special arm. It should be interesting to see how it
all works out.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): More of an
observation, but I can't help but think that the Braves are an
organization in decline. From their alternately tight-fisted and
indifferent ownership, to the mildly addled leadership of Frank Wren
& Fredi Gonzalez to the shift in drafting philosophy that has
nothing to do with the "Braves way", I don't hold out a lot of hope that
they'll be able to sustain any degree of competiveness. Thoughts?
Tom, I have to admit I've had similar
thoughts, although I've mellowed on some of those assessments since
doing some pretty deep digging into the organization over the past
month. I believe Wren and Gonzalez are better than "mildly addled" in
terms of leadership, but you are not the first to suggest that. I agree
with the ownership being tight-fisted and indifferent, which has tied
Wren's hands much of the time. The past two drafts have been unusual,
especially since scouting director Tony DeMacio is a direct descendant
of Paul Snyder, but frankly one or two of Roy Clark's drafts turned out
to be fairly mediocre. I think it is most accurate to say that the
Braves continue to have top prospects, but I don't see as many mid-level
guys as in the past. Of course, that could change with the development
of several guys drafted out of college, but their shortened shelf life
is what worries many Braves fans.
Dan (Chicago): Why Delgado as the 5th starter in the 2015 lineup and not Vizcaino if Vizcaino is ranked as the better prospect?
At this point Vizcaino would be a
reliever, and with Kimbrel owning the closer role, that would leave
Arodys as a set-up guy, which isn't listed in the chart.
Karl of Delaware (Georgoetown, Delaware): Evan Gattis is a receiver with a lot of pop - does he stay at catcher, particularly in view of the Braves having Betancourt?
Having one guy ahead of you on the depth
chart does not merit a position change. I see the Braves continuing to
give Gattis every opportunity to remain behind the plate in hopes that
he could be a solid back-up receiver with above-average pop off the
pines. If he doesn't develop at catcher at higher levels, then he could
move to first base or a corner outfield position.
Steve Pfeiffer (Sarasota, Fl): I thought Mike
Lipka would show up at least at the bottom end of this list. It looks
like he can steal a base, but is his bat just too light?
Lipka had a better second half of the
season but his lack of offensive consistency, especially in his ability
to drive the ball, is what's holding him back right now. He needs to
polish his small-ball approach at the plate in order to take greater
advantage of his plus speed.
Dave (Atlanta): Christian Garcia and Evan
Gattis has big seasons at Rome, though each was old for the league.
Which player has the best chance of success at higher levels?
Gattis. Garcia did well at Rome, but he
was signed out of an independent league and was an older, more
experienced guy going against young players. Even though Gattis turned
25 in August, he missed nearly four years due to an injury and a
three-year hiatus from playing the game during his college tenure. If
Gattis maintains the desire to play, he could make an impact at higher
Richard (Lauderdale): Any thoughts on Mychal Jones?
Jones had a tough year, especially during
the first couple of months. Mycal had a foot injury in spring training
that cost him April and then was arrested for suspicion of DWI in May.
Add to that a position change to center field after playing shortstop
his first two seasons and second base in the 2011 instructional league
and there's little wonder why his performance was uneven. Knowing his
character, Jones should get back on track in 2012, even if he returns to
Mississippi. I like his athleticism and approach to the game and
believe he has a chance to play in the big leagues.
Jesse (AZ): Bill, what are you hearing about JJ
Hoover in light of his move to the bullpen? Short path to the majors,
or better fit longer term?
Both. Scouts are mixed on Hoover's
ceiling. I think it's higher than many believe. His body may not get a
lot better, but he competes very well and was throwing four pitches for
strikes as a starter at Mississippi in 2011 before shifting to relieve.
He mixed his slider and fastball with aplomb as a reliever and dominated
more experienced hitters in the International League. He would prefer
to start but is happy to relieve if it means making the big leagues. If I
were another team with needs in both starting and relief pitching, I
would be interested in acquiring Hoover in order to gauge where he fits
best. With Atlanta, it seems like he's on the verge of getting caught up
in a numbers crunch.
Halvy (Seattle, WA): The write-up said,
"Atlanta has shifted its draft philosophy. The Braves used to focus on
younger players. Now they concentrate primarily on college players who
might have lower ceilings but cost less and will move faster through the
minors." The Braves have an embarrassment of high-end young pitching
talent, and the last few years have seen them graduate Heyward and
Freeman, among others. It seems like the old philosophy was clearly
effective. Why the change? What is the rationale behind moving away from
something that has worked so well? Thanks for your insight.
The initial reason was to add depth to the
middle of the farm system, particularly among the position players,
where the organization had become very thin while focusing so much on
young pitching in the draft. The second part to the equation is an
assumption on my part, but I believe it involves ownership putting the
squeeze on the budget. The Braves did not any significant money this
year in the draft or on the international front after signing Mike Minor
and Edward Salcedo in 2010. It seems to me that the commitment from
Liberty Media is lukewarm at times, which has contributed to the limited
number of a big-splash amateur signings in recent seasons.
Norm (Portland, OR): Will Andrelton Simmons be in the majors by the end of next season?
He might, especially if he makes the same
improvements as he did in 2011. The Braves are penciling him at Double-A
Mississippi to open the 2012 season, but his defense is already better
than that. It all depends on how he progresses against better pitching
and how well he does the little things that will make him a better
player at higher levels. Simmons' experience is limited due to his late
departure from Curacao but you have to be impressed with the development
he has shown in such a short period of time.
stew (indianapolis): who is the favorite to play SS next year for the braves?
At this point I would say Tyler
Pastornicky. The Braves have not been shy about giving rookies starting
jobs if they prove they are ready. At the same time, I could also see
Atlanta signing a veteran to keep the seat warm for part of the season
while Pastornicky gets comfortable in the key infield position. I'm not
sure if Mark DeRosa could handle shortstop on a day-in, day-out basis in
the big leagues any longer, but someone like that who could help
Pastornicky make the adjustment would give the Braves a backup plan
and/or a safety net.
Dave (Atlanta): Any speculation as to why Kurt Kemp left the organization?
The farm director job is a 365-days-a-year
responsibility. It requires managing a lot of coaching egos, handling
the constant bombardment of agents begging for more opportunities for
their player clients, and living with the ups and downs associated with
the overall development of the athletes. Kurt has always been a scout at
heart, and while he did a solid job as farm director, he may have tired
of the toils associated with the constant pressure. That's just my
assumption, and if true, Kurt wouldn't be the first one to step back to
catch his breath.
Taylor (Auburn, AL): Talk about Todd Cunningham. He seems to be a high-upside OF with the chance to play all three spots. Is that accurate?
That's a fair assessment. He battled an
injury for two months this past season and was not the same offensive
player upon his return in August. He's looked good in Arizona and has
above-average defensive abilities that even had the Braves considering
giving him a look at third base upon drafting him. I see him remaining
in the outfield, however, and I would not be surprised if he had a
breakout season at the plate in 2012.
Dave (Atlanta): No Braves player made BA's GCL top 20. Are there any sleepers from that team?
The Braves really did not overwhelm anyone
with their talent in the GCL this year. On the mound, Jean Carlos Gil
has some upside. I also like Ronald Luna at shortstop and Carlos Franco
at third base.
Dave (Minnesota): If trading Lowe opens a spot
for one of the trio of prospects and the projected 2015 starting
rotation doesn't include him, where does this leave Brandon Beachy? Also
do you see Chris Medlen returning to the starting rotation at some
I see Kris Medlen working out of the
bullpen for the foreseeable future. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if
Brandon Beachy was still in the rotation in 2015. Other guys may be
more heralded, but Beachy has proven he's the real deal in his ability
to do so many things well on the mound.
Neil (New Zealand): With the trade of Derek
Lowe which of those 3 top pitching prospects (teheran, delgado and
Vizcaino) has the first crack at winning the final rotation spot or is
it mike minors to lose? Who in your opinion would be the best bet for
2012 of those 3?
I believe the job if Mike Minor's to lose
at this point. Teheran could spend some time improving his fastball
command at Gwinnett during the early portion of the season, while
Delgado and Vizcaino could definitely use some fine-tuning in Triple-A,
particularly if they are going to remain as starters. That said, I
expect both Minor and Teheran to spend the majority of the 2012 campaign
in the Atlanta rotation.
Jason (Charlotte): There seems to be an opinion
that Teheran didn't live up to the hype this season and got overtaken
as the best pitching prospect in the minor by Matt Moore. Do you think
this is a product of Teheran's lack of development in a breaking ball or
Moore being that good
Those are simply opinions that will be
determined in the end by their performance in the big leagues. I believe
Teheran will live up to the hype; he simply has a few minor things to
work on. And if you're considered second behind Matt Moore among all
pitching prospects, that's not an insult. Moore is a beast.
@Jaypers413 (IL): As you compile both the
Braves and Rays lists, who would you choose between these pitcher/SS
combos - Teheran/Simmons or Moore/Lee?
That's an awesome question, but it's
really hard to answer. Given Lee's performance at higher levels than
Simmons and Moore doing what he did in the big leagues at the end of
2011, right now I'd give the edge to the Rays players.
Efrim (CT): Given that their drafting strategy
has changed and gone from high school players with upside to low
ceiling/high floor college players, is this the last year the Braves are
viewed as a strong farm system?
Farm systems are always in a state of
flux; it's the nature of the beast. Does it appear at this point that
the Braves will be hurting in terms of having a plethora of top-shelf
prospects next year if the top three graduate? Yes. But player
development will be the cornerstone of the Braves for years to come, and
I expect they will continue to thrive in that department, even if they
falter a little on the prospect lists over the next season or so.
Thanks for the questions, everyone. Have a safe Halloween and keep on burning up the hot stove!