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Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects

By Bill Ballew

1. Wilson Betemit, ss

Age: 20. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: B. Throws: R. Signed: Dominican Republic 1996. Signed by: Rene Francisco/Felix Francisco.

Top Prospects of the Decade

1992 Chipper Jones, ss
1993 Chipper Jones, ss
1994 Chipper Jones, ss
1995 Chipper Jones, ss-3b
1996 Andruw Jones, of
1997 Andruw Jones, of
1998 Bruce Chen, lhp
1999 Bruce Chen, lhp
2000 Rafael Furcal, ss
2001 Wilson Betemit, ss

Background: In his first full season, Betemit reached the major leagues when rosters were expanded in September. Signed prior to his 16th birthday in violation of baseball rules, Betemit sued the Braves during the spring of 2000 before reaching a contract agreement shortly thereafter. He was the top prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League that year, then jumped to high Class A Myrtle Beach to start 2001. Promoted to Double-A Greenville in July after Rafael Furcal was lost for the season, Betemit rose to the occasion and improved in all phases of his game. Carolina League managers rated Betemit as their top prospect, while Southern League skippers ranked him third.

Strengths: Betemit is a natural baseball player and a budding five-tool talent who’s still maturing. His body will only get stronger, which should enable him to hit for power from both sides of the plate. He hits to all fields with his line-drive stroke. He has outstanding athleticism, as evidenced by the Ozzie Smith-style flip he sometimes makes when taking the field. Betemit also has slightly above-average speed that should allow him to steal 15 bases a year. Defensively, he has good range, a strong arm and soft hands. Betemit thrives on challenges and raises his game to the level of the competition.

Weaknesses: Betemit lost his focus on occasion at shortstop, leading to careless mistakes. Some scouts say he will outgrow the position, necessitating a move to third base. He might be better there because it’s a reaction position instead of one that requires concentration. His plate discipline is still rudimentary and may be exploited by pitchers at higher levels.

The Future: The Braves showed with Furcal in 2000 they aren’t afraid to let a middle infielder make a big jump to the major leagues. Should Betemit prove during spring training that he’s ready to take over a starting job, Atlanta officials are willing to create room. If not, he’s expected to go to Triple-A Richmond before moving up when the situation dictates. Putting Betemit at third would allow the Braves to shift Chipper Jones to left field, a position of weakness in 2001.

2001 Club (Class)AVGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSB
Atlanta.0003100000231
Greenville (AA).355183226514051912366
Myrtle Beach (A).277318388820174323718

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