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Braves Prospects

Moderator: Bill Ballew stops by the chat room for the second time in three days. This time, he's breaking down the Braves.

 Q:  Tyler Smith from Milledgeville asks:
Will Betemit be able to make an impact when he finally arrives? How good will he be when he reaches his peak?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Betemit can still be an impact player. It was a little disturbing to see him struggle mightily against Triple-A pitching, but the Braves are still 100 percent behind him. It's hard to see what kind of impact player he will be, but I think it's a notch below Chipper, Andruw, etc.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Bill, thanks for doing these chats. I have a question about a couple of guys that fell out of the Top 10, namely Kelly Johnson and Matt Belilse. Johnson had a horrible first half of the season but rebounded reasonably well in the second half. What is your opinion of his bat. Did he just get into a little slump the start pressing, especially in the black hole named Coastal Federal Fieldhouse. Also, with the presence of Marte do you see him moving to say right field since it doesn't look like he is a SS. Also, Belilse's numbers at Greenville weren't impressive. He missed the previous season with his back. Is it ok? Do you think he can put some luster back on his star this season?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Johnson has a legit bat. He barely missed the top 10, and I would not be surprised to see him back in there next season. He has some adjustments to make defensively, and an outfield corner position might be in his future. But offensively, he could be a stud. As for Belisle, the Braves were disappointed with his season at Greenville, but they have not given up on him at all. He was up and down, plus, as you mention, he was coming back from the back injury. Let's see how he does this year; he could be back on top again.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
How do the Braves feel about Betemit? Can he play SS in the majors? Do they think this seaon was a fluke? The Braves pushed him rather quickly and maybe he just needed to catch him breathe a little. Also, is there any truth to the rumors about some questions about his character?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Betemit is not a bad guy from what I gather, but his work ethic is not outstanding, either. He may have been pushed a little too fast. I don't think he's a major league shortstop. I think he's more of a third baseman, especially as his body continues to mature.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Who do you feel in the Braves organization with bust out in 2003, as Marte did in 2002.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: That's tough, but I think you're going to see Francoeur really establish himself as a big time prospect. Also, keep an eye peeled on outfielder Ardley Jansen, who should be at Rome.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
What is your opinion on Thorman? Is he another Wes Helms in the making?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He's better than Helms. More power, better hitter for average, better all-around athlete. I'm looking for Scott to have a breakout season in the power departments this year.

 Q:  Adam Hunt from Mt. Pleasant asks:
Do the Braves have legitimate catching prospects at any level of the minor leagues? Also is it just me or is Jon Schuerholz slipping a little? (Millwood,Kozlowski and he caught a break in the deal for Hampton when MLB nixed the original deal) Thanks love these chats
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The best catching prospect in the organization is Brian McCann, who was drafted in the second round last June out of high school. The Braves are convinced he could move rapidly as an offensive catcher, although some scouts believe he will be a first baseman. As for Schuerholz, he's feeling more pressure to cut salary than he's letting on, in my opinion. He's not losing it, though. Andy Pratt could be much better than Kozlowski. And some people in the organization worried that Millwood has some injuries that could hamper him long-term.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Bill, is you could have any minor leagues system whose would it be? Cleveland, Atlanta, or maybe someone else.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I love Atlanta's farm system. It's stacked with pitching and several position players are starting to emerge. Cleveland's is unbelievable. I also really like Minnesota's farm system, which I feel is underrated.

 Q:  Raymond Khermouch from Little Neck, NY asks:
Hi Bill, Thanks (again) for your terrific Braves' coverage in BA ! Due to injuries, pitchers Matt Belisle, Scott Sobkowiak and Matt Mc Lendon are no longer top prospects. The latter two are not on the 40 man roster. Do you know if any of the three are still considered possible major leaguers by the Braves even if not top ones ?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Sobkowiak has not been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago. McClendon just seemed to lose his ability and command in 2001 and has not regained it. Belisle gets a mulligan due to missing all of 2001 with his back surgery. 2003 is an important season for him.

 Q:  Keno Leighty from Vancouver, WA asks:
Good afternoon Bill. Curious with all the pitching talent that the Braves have do they have any good catchers in their system? Who is their best hitter C prospect, not including Bobby E? Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Brian McCann holds that distinction. He's by far the top catching prospect in the organization at this point.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
In the latest Ask BA, Jim Callis gives his list of some of the best pitchers from the 2001 draft. In this list he included Foppert, Floyd, and Bonderman. In your opinion, does McBride belong in that catagory? He has nice stuff but I am sure some people would argue with his size.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: No one who has watched him pitch would worry about his size. McBride in my opinion is one of the top 10 pitching prospects in the minors. I saw him pitch six or seven times last year and every performance except for the first one was a thing of beauty. His maturity on the mound and off is incredible for a 19-year-old. I also saw Floyd twice this year and I put those two guys in the same category.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Josh Burrus has been a huge disappointment. Could you shed some more insight on his struggles.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: In my view, his lack of a defensive position has carried over to give him problems at the plate. He has a quick bat with good power, but he's been at short, third and left field in less than two full years. He's an athlete, but right now he's struggling to make the adjustments as a baseball player.

 Q:  TJ Lawrence from Boca Raton, Fl asks:
With no mention of Kelly Johnson in the Braves top 10, what does the future hold for him in the organization? Has he fallen so far out of favor from the 2001 season he had, Baseball America #2 rated prospect, SALLY most exciting player? What is the cause of such a drop in standing?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Johnson had a tough first half before making the adjustments. I wouldn't worry about him not making the top 10. He's simply in an organization that's loaded with talent.

 Q:  David from Atlanta, Ga. asks:
I recently read a scouting report on Adam Wainwright wherein the scout mentioned one concern was the whip-like arm action at the end of Wainwright's follow through. Have you heard much on this and do you concur?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Braves have worked with Wainwright's mechanics, which really has been more of a fine-tuning than anything else. I don't think his follow-through is anything to be concerned with.

 Q:  Tom Holste from Ft. Lauderdale asks:
Who are some of the prospects not on Atlanta's top 10 that could have break out years? (Kelly Johnson, Matt Belise, etc.)
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think rhp Zach Miner could make some big noise this year. RHP Blaine Boyer is on the verge of dominating in relief. And as I mentioned earlier, Ardley Jensen has a world of potential after a strong showing in Danville.

 Q:  Patrick from Covington, Ga. asks:
Is RHP Matt Butler toast? Where does Scott Sobkowiak rank (if at all) in top 30 and does he still project as a starter, late-inning reliever, or career minor leaguer (due to control problems)?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I don't see Sobkowiak reaching the big leagues unless he has a pretty sudden change of fate. And I think it's safe to say that Butler is all but toast.

 Q:  Claudio from Milan asks:
Hi! Writing from Italy. I'd like to know your take on Kelly Johnson. He had a good to great 2001 in Macon, then came back to earth in 2002 playing in a pitcher's paradise in Myrtle Beach (but his KBB ratio also worsened). How do you think he will fare in 2003? will he rebound? Since he's not a good shortstop, what is more likely for his future? Outfield? Third Base? Thanks, Claudio
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Here's the last Kelly Johnson question. He will be fine offensively, beginning this year at Double-A Greenville. He is a shortstop for the moment, but long-term he will play third, right field or left field, in my opinion.

 Q:  Tim Hyers from Snellville, Ga. asks:
I haven't seen any reports on LHP Ray Aguilar. The numbers indicate near dominance. What have you heard?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He had a heckuva year. Ray's an unheralded guy who literally did not have a bad outing last year. But since no part of his game is real overwhelming, he's going to have to prove himself at every level. Next stop: Greenville.

 Q:  Chris from Walnut Creek, CA asks:
Bill-- Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I loved the MossOrtiz swap (from a Giants perspective) but I'm also very intrigued by Manuel Mateo. Where would he have ranked on the Braves list? What are your overall impressions on the deal? Was Millwood available for Marvin Benard???
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Mateo was around 19, 20 on the Braves list, but would have been top 10 material in some organizations. He only allowed 47 hits with 76 whiffs in 68.1 innings in the GCL. The Giants really wanted to unload Ortiz, and several people in the SF organization feel Ortiz could be on the verge of breaking down. He does have a lot of innings on his shoulder, so I think the deal looks pretty even right now. As for Millwood-for-Benard, that would be worse than the Estrada deal, simply because the broken-down Benard is perhaps the most overpaid player in the game, IMO.

 Q:  Claudio from Milan, Italy asks:
Hi! Who is more likely to be fast tracked? Marte, Francoeur or Dan Meyer? Claudio
 A: 

Bill Ballew: All of the above have the potential to move rapidly through the system. Meyer tops the list because of his college experience.

 Q:  Ryan from Boston asks:
Is Wilson Betemit going to be completely healthy going into the 2003 season and can we expect him to return to his normal self with some good numbers in AAA this year and a shot in the bigs for 2004?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Braves believe Betemit will be much more comfortable in 2003, which should set the stage for a long look in 2004. He was injured much of last year, but nothing appears to be a long-term thing.

 Q:  Eric Chen from Taiwam asks:
Do you think Betemit Johnson Marte who will be the best in the future?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think Marte has the highest ceiling, but all three players have excellent chances to be impact players.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
I am sure you are going to get alot of questions about this, but is Johnny Estrada all Jon Schuerholz could get for Kevin Millwood? Wouldn't you rather have Millwood than Paul Byrd? I know Estrada doesn't qualify for the top 10 list because he is about 100 at bats over the limit, but where would he fit in on this list if he qualified?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Estrada would have been around 20-25 in the Braves' top 30. As for Millwood over Byrd, long-term, yeah, I guess I'd take Kevin. But for the 2003 season, it's a push.

 Q:  James from Southwest asks:
Hi again Bill my last question. How do Carlos Duran and Josh Burrus project for the future for the Brave? Everday Player? Star Player? All StarSuper Star Player? Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Duran--somewhere between everyday player and star player. Burrus--somewhere between minor leaguer and who knows?

 Q:  Rob from Reading, PA asks:
Where does Billy McCarthy wind up in your top 30 list? A career 300 hitter he seems to hit everywhere he goes. Did he miss the top 10 by much?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: McCarthy finished right around 30th. He surprised the Braves a little this year, and he could be solid everyday player in the big leagues if he continues to make the necessary adjustments.

 Q:  Jodi H. from Madera asks:
With the success of Mark DeRosa, do you think the Braves will look more to the Ivy League with some of their mid level draft picks?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I don't think DeRosa's success has anything to do with the Braves' scouting effort. Roy Clark's staff scours the world better than any team. Ivy Leaguers could wind up with the Braves in the future, especially since the organization puts such a high priority on character and intelligence. Of course, talent has to come into play as well.

Moderator: sorry for the delay, but Alan Matthews probably wants to know it's pouring snow here in Asheville, NC

 Q:  Robert from Myrtle Beach asks:
How do you project Pelican players Richard Lewis and Billy McCarthy? Where do they fit in for the future Braves?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Lewis could wind up as the Braves starting second baseman in the next two years. McCarthy could be a corner outfielder if the Braves decide to do something with Chipper and first base.

 Q:  Tom from Georgia asks:
I was wondering how you would compare and rank someone like Jeff Francour to 03's outfield class mainly Young and Milledge?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I have not seen those two guys, but I know Francoeur is as much of the total package as you'll find, especially when you consider his tools, makeup, ceiling, etc. I reminds me of a young Dale Murphy in so many ways.

 Q:  trippingd from lolleygag, tx asks:
Who is the better prospect, Wainwright or Kozlowski of the Rangers organization, who the Braves traded for Andy Pratt. Also, what are the chances of Pratt being a rotation member with the Braves in a year or two. Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I like Wainwright, but that does not take anything away from Kozlowski, who is excellent (and lefthanded) in his own right. Pratt had a great showing in winter ball, and the Braves are thrilled with the development he's showing.

 Q:  Michael from bravesreport.com asks:
Do we know anything yet of Dayton Moore's general philosophy on workloads, promotions, drafts, etc...? Will there be any discernible difference in his management of the farm system over Dick Balderson's?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think Dayton will have a better overall feel for the Braves' ways of doing things than Dick did. Dayton has been in the organization for about eight years now and is really on the same wavelength as Schuerholz and Roy Clark. Clark is still in charge of the draft, but it has always been a committee approach, especially in the early rounds.

 Q:  John M. Perkins from Macon, GA asks:
18 year old Gregor Blanco started the 1st two weeks bunting every PA regardless of situation or count ignoring opposing 3B playing at T-ball distances., learning the movement of the pitches. Then Gregor half swung for two weeks, then single hitters swing, then Blanco was given permission for full swings. By the end of the season, Blanco had knocked Marte out of the 3 hole and launched balls longer than any other MBrave not named Thorman, and unlike pull happy Marte, Blanco hit long HRs to all fields. All this with 85 BB and 40 SB. What's not to like? Oh, yeah, Blanco plays COF only slightly better than Chipper Jones and plays CF like the World Series version of Kenny Lofton. So is Blanco fighting Zach Miner for #11?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Whew. Both Blanco and Miner were close to the top 10 before falling just short.

 Q:  John M. Perkins from Macon, GA asks:
Would Buddy Hernandez have made the Braves top 30?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: No. He would have been in the 32-36 range.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
Wainwright stuggled a bit down the stretch. It was attributed to fatigue, but my concern (and question) is how likely is this to fade away as he ages and matures, andor as a Braves' fan, is this something to be concerned about?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: More than anything, the Braves want Wainwright to work on his conditioning so that the scenario you mentioned does not become an annual event. A little more dedication in the offseason could be the final ingredients in Wainwright's development for the game's top level.

 Q:  Michael from bravesreport.com asks:
The rotations are getting very crowded in Greenville and Richmond this year, especially if a host of minor-leaguers aren't used in Atlanta's rotation or bullpen. Is there any indication that the Braves would actually go with an all-prospect rotation in AAA rather than using a few older, major-league veterans as they have in the past? If not, where do all these guys find innings?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: There will be more prospects in the Richmond rotation this year than in the past. By 2004, there should be very few if any Triple-A journeymen taking the mound for the R-Braves.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
Marte killed the ball in the SALLY, moving into a fairly extreme pitchers' park, what would be realistic #s to expect for this season.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Marte's power numbers could drop slightly by playing his home games at Myrtle Beach's Coastal Federal Field. Still, he has tremendous pop for such a young player.

 Q:  Kelly Mann from Frederick, MD asks:
I first saw Horacio Ramirez in the Carolina League a few years ago. Fast forward to the 2002 Arizona Fall League. He looked like he was ready to make the jump to the bigs, at the very least Richmond. What are your thoughts on him and another good looking prospect, Nick Green?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Ramirez made an incredible recovery from Tommy John surgery last year and really had an unheralded season at Greenville. Like you said, he was outstanding in Arizona. He will either be in the Richmond rotation or the Atlanta bullpen. As for Green, he has not looked to be 100 percent since suffering a severe knee injury in 2001. I would expect him to have a strong season in 2003 provided the knee is back to normal.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
Despite struggling for the first half the season, Betemit is still ranked high, will the Braves give him an opportunity to win the 3B job in Atlanta this season (his ML free angency clock is already ticking)?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He will get a look in spring training, but the Braves do not want to put any pressure on Betemit. Another season in Richmond is his reality.

 Q:  Ed Whited from Richmond, VA asks:
Hey, love the chats. my question is about Matt Merricks and Zach Miner. Both looked sharp in Macon...will they make the jump to a prospect-laden pitching staff in Myrtle Beach?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: That was one heck of a season you had in Asheville in 1987, Ed. Anyway, yes, both Merricks and Miner should make the jump to Myrtle Beach in 2003.

 Q:  Tommy Harrison from Varina, VA asks:
Keoni DeRenne....prospect or career minor leaguer? He jumped to AA early and has stalled there....
 A: 

Bill Ballew: more than likely a career minor leaguer

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
Didn't I hear that Wilson Betemit played 3B in the winter leagues? How did he do defensively?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He did a decent job while playing some third base in the Dominican. I think his body will prove to be better suited for third than short.

 Q:  Connor from Chicago, IL asks:
Has there been any indication that Andy Marte is fibbing about his age like so many other of his fellow players from the Dominican Republic?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: It's possible, I guess, but he does not appear to be older than he is.

 Q:  Michael from bravesreport.com asks:
The Braves' 1B of the future: Scott Thorman or Adam LaRoche?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Long-term, Thorman, but LaRoche really surprised some people in 2002 and will get a long look with the Braves at some point soon.

 Q:  Jeremy from Clayton, NC asks:
Where would you rank Andy Marte in your top 100? Was last year a fluke or does this kid have a real chance to make it to the majors?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He has a real chance to make it because of his ability to adjust to all types of pitches, his quick wrists and excellent power. He also has the demeanor, always on an even keel, to make it in the big leagues.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
The Braves let (arguably) their best internal left handed candidate - Buddy Hernandez - for the ML bullpen go bye-bye via the Rule 5 draft. How big was this loss (aka: how good was he?)? And where would he rank on this list?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Braves liked Buddy, but they weren't in love with him. He probably needs to develop an extra pitch in order to survive the adjustments hitters will make against him in the big leagues.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
The 2002 draft was reportedly light on catching talent but the Braves went and loaded up on HS catchers anyway. Any keepers?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Braves did well in the catching department last June, with Brian McCann heading the list.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
3B Hessman seems like a late bloomer and a virtual Wes Helms clone. Will he get a shot at 3B or has been relegated to AAAA status?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think Mike Hessman will get a shot at playing in the big leagues, but probably not with Atlanta. The Braves do not appear to be that interested, but his power is undeniable. Tampa Bay, anyone?

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
I know Trey Hodges isn't an Adam Wainwright, or a John Stephens for that matter. But all the guy does is win w a consistently low (though not spectacular) ERA. Where will be ranked and should the Braves being giving him a shot?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Trey is in the lower reaches of the top 30. He appeared to be in line for a shot as the fifth starter, but unless injuries appear, he could be a reliever in Atlanta, a starter in Richmond or tradebait in March.

 Q:  Rick from Orlando asks:
I've heard Gonzalo Lopez has as much upside as any pitcher in the system. How do you think he'll fare in Myrtle Beach this season and do you see him moving up on this list soon?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Lopez could have an incredible season pitching in Coastal Federal Field. He's definitely a pitcher to keep close tabs on.

 Q:  Al Hrabosky from Hungary asks:
I'm mad! No Matt Belisle--even in the best of the rest? Despite his poor record and medicore ERA he appears to have come back from his injury about as well as could be expected. His 12339 KBB ratio is excellent and he was obviously once considered a top prospect. Do you believe he still has the ability to become a regular member of a major league rotation?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Calm down, Al. I'm as high on Matt as anyone. Let's see what unfolds in 2003, which I suspect could be a very good year for the righthander. If that's the case, he will be a regular member of some major league rotation.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from Assonet, MA asks:
Would LH reliever John Foster (traded to Milwaukee in the Wes Helms Ray King deal) have snuck on to the outer edges of the Braves' Top 30 this year? Where was Foster last season? What was Helms' highest BA ranking over the years, and what type of numbers do you expect to see from him given 500 AB's with the Crew in 2003? Thanks!
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Foster was not a top 30 guy in the Atlanta organization last year after pitching briefly in Atlanta as well as richmond. As for Helms, he could go deep 25-30 times, but he will struggle to hit .250.

 Q:  Billy from Atlanta asks:
Knowing the Braves penchant for drafting home state products, are you surprised that they did not draft Gainesville high school RHP Micah Owings in June? They may have been the only major league team to convince him to sign and prevent him from playing at Georgia Tech. He probably would have made their top 10 minor league prospects list. As it is, he will probably be a 1st round pick in the 2004 draft since he will be 21 years old.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think those are astute observations regarding Micah. The Braves really liked Owings and probably would have nabbed him if he was still on the board.

 Q:  Steve from Houston asks:
Where do a couple of Georgia Tech alums, Richard Lewis and L.J. Yankosky stand in the Braves' prospect constellation? I see you have Richard as No. 19 on the prospect list for the Carolina League.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Lewis is around 15 on tehlist, while Yankosky was released by the Braves at the end of the 2002 season.

 Q:  Ted from Atlanta asks:
Just curious why Ramon Castro isn't regarded very highly. He seems to have put up pretty decent OPS the last two years at each level and he does not appear to be too old for each level he's been at. Just curious. Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Castro isn't a tools guy, but he is a productive player. He's just a split-second slow at times. Still, if he keeps producing, he'll remain in the picture.

 Q:  Mario from Las Vegas asks:
What is the likelihood that Mark DeRosa opens 2003 with a starting job in the infield?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He's definitely in the mix at second base and possibly a consideration at third.

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
Who's the future at second base; Green, DeRenne, Herr, Manning or other?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Manning retired last season, DeRenne is not a true prospect, Herr has struggled, and Green is still coming back from a knee injury. The answer would be Richard Lewis at this point.

 Q:  Dan from Atlanta asks:
Does Wainwright compare favorably to Gavin Floyd?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Yes, they're similar. Both have extremely high ceilings.

 Q:  Steve from Philadelphia asks:
Where's Johnny Estrada? He's not in the list of top ten prospects for the Braves not mentioned in the "oh yeah these guys section". That's scary after giving up Millwood for him.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Estrada would not qualify for the list due to his at-bats, but he would have been in the 20s if he did.

 Q:  david from memphis asks:
Which braves prospects do you expect to see starting in the lineup sometime in the next 2 yrs?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: LaRoche and Lewis would head the list in terms of position players. Ryan Langerhans could also get a look, but more likely as a reserve outfielder due to the presence of Jones, Jones and Sheffield.

Moderator: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks for the questions and thanks for participating!

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