Braves Top 10 Prospects
By Bill Ballew
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSSt. Simons Island, Ga., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Rob English.
Background: The 29th overall pick in the 2000 draft, Wainwright has lived up to the Braves early projections. He was the strikeout leader in the high Class A Carolina Leaguewhere managers rated him the leagues No. 3 prospectand earned a spot in the Futures Game last season. Since signing, he has been ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and No. 1 in the Rookie-level Appalachian and low Class A South Atlantic leagues. In 2001, he set a Macon record and led the SAL with 184 strikeouts.
Strengths: Few pitchers are more projectable than Wainwright. His tall body and loose arm action should allow him to add velocity as he continues to mature and develop. He reached 96 mph during the Futures Game and sat in the 90-93 mph range last season at Myrtle Beach. His fastball, rated the best in the Carolina League by managers, has outstanding movement and frequently fools hitters. Wainwright is nearly as successful with his hard curveball, though he has yet to master consistency and feel with it. He also throws strikes with his solid changeup. Wainwright has an excellent mound presence and can be intimidating with his downward angle to the plate. He works both sides of the dish well and has a solid idea of what he wants to accomplish with every pitch.
Weaknesses: Wainwright needs to get stronger and improve his stamina by intensifying his offseason conditioning. He has faded in the past two seasons. He went 8-3, 2.24 during the first four months of the 2002 season before going 1-3, 6.32 in his final seven starts. While he has ranked among the minor league leaders in strikeouts the last two years, Wainwright could be more aggressive in the strike zone. With his lanky body, he has difficulty repeating his delivery, resulting in a loss of control and rhythm. His over-the-top delivery gives hitters a good view of the ball, so he needs to add deception.
The Future: Wainwright has the ingredients to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but the Braves dont want to rush him. His ETA in Atlanta is 2004, and he should spend most of 2003 at Double-A Greenville. If Wainwright continues to perform as he has, though, he could force Atlantas hand.
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