2006 Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects

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, 2006.

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1. Andy Marte, 3b
2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c
3. Elvis Andrus, ss
4. Yunel Escobar, ss
5. Anthony Lerew, rhp
6. Joey Devine, rhp
7. Chuck James, lhp
8. Brandon Jones, of
9. Eric Campbell, 3b
10. Beau Jones, lhp
Best Hitter for Average Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Best Power Hitter Andy Marte
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Wes Timmons
Fastest Baserunner Ovandy Suero
Best Athlete Brandon Jones
Best Fastball Anthony Lerew
Best Curveball Beau Jones
Best Slider Joey Devine
Best Changeup Chuck James
Best Control Matt Harrison
Best Defensive Catcher Clint Sammons
Best Defensive Infielder Luis Hernandez
Best Infield Arm Luis Hernandez
Best Defensive Outfielder Gregor Blanco
Best Outfield Arm Jon Mark Owings
Team Player, Pos. 2005 Org
1996 Andruw Jones Braves
1997 Andruw Jones Braves
1998 Bruce Chen Orioles
1999 Bruce Chen Orioles
2000 Rafael Furcal Braves
2001 Wilson Betemit, ss Braves
2002 Wilson Betemit, ss Braves
2003 Adam Wainwright, rhp Cardinals
2004 Andy Marte, 3b Braves
2005 Jeff Francoeur, of Braves
Team Player, Pos. 2005 Org
1996 A.J. Zapp, 1b Reds
1997 Troy Cameron, ss Padres
1998 Matt Belisle, rhp (2nd round) Reds
1999 Matt Butler, rhp (2nd round) Out of baseball
2000 Adam Wainwright, rhp Cardinals
2001 Macay McBride, lhp Braves
2002 Jeff Francoeur, of Braves
2003 Luis Atilano, rhp Braves
2004 Eric Campbell, 3b (2nd round) Braves
2005 Joey Devine, rhp Braves
Jeff Francoeur, 2002 $2,200,000
Matt Belisle, 1998 $1,750,000
Jung Bong, 1997 $1,700,000
Macay McBride, 2001 $1,340,000
Joey Devine, 2005 $1,300,000

It’s no secret that the Braves have relied on their farm system throughout their unprecedented current run of 14 consecutive division championships. In 2005, Atlanta took its dependence on homegrown players further by using 18 rookies, including 12 who made their major league debuts. The Braves fielded a lineup with at least seven position players signed and developed by the organization in more than half their games, and had a minimum of one rookie in the lineup in every game after May 28.

Atlanta didn’t plan on relying on so much youth heading into 2005. At the start of the season, the likes of outfielder Jeff Francoeur, catcher Brian McCann and reliever Blaine Boyer were at Double-A Mississippi and appeared to be at least a year away from the big leagues. Others, including righthander Kyle Davies and outfielders Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson, were looked upon as complementary parts. Injuries and poor performances, however, forced general manager John Schuerholz to consider a different route, beginning on Memorial Day weekend.

In addition to promoting from within, Schuerholz used the Braves system to acquire veterans. The most prominent deal took place right after the 2004 Winter Meetings, when Atlanta got Tim Hudson for prized lefthander Dan Meyer and big leaguers Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas. Schuerholz grabbed hard-throwing Jorge Sosa from the Devil Rays for utility infielder Nick Green during spring training.

Shipping righthanders Roman Colon and Zach Miner to Detroit for Kyle Farnsworth prior to the trading deadline bolstered the bullpen, and looked like a steal when Farnsworth posted a 1.98 ERA and 10 saves over the final two months.

While all the comings and goings forced the Braves to make more than 100 roster moves at Triple-A Richmond alone, additional talent continued to enter the system. The Braves had yet another promising draft under the guidance of scouting director Roy Clark despite signing only two players taken after the 13th round. First-round righthander Joey Devine reached the major leagues in a hurry and second-round shortstop Yunel Escobar attracted raves for his bat and glove. Lefty Beau Jones (supplemental first round), righty Jeff Lyman (second) and outfielder Jordan Schafer (third) all ranked among the top 20 prospects in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

What’s more, Atlanta signed six draft-and-follow selections from 2004. The team also came to terms with a couple of significant foreign standouts, Venezuelan shortstop Elvis Andrus and Australian lefthander Steve Kent. Kent paid his own way to Atlanta to try out before signing for $280,000.

Even with all the big league promotions, the Braves maintain depth at several positions. They’re loaded at catcher, shortstop and third base after they deemed all three spots major weaknesses earlier in the decade. While positions players stand out the most in the system, Atlanta also has quality pitching, its calling card for years.