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Atlanta Braves

Prospects Overview

Top 30 Prospects

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Top 30 Prospects Archive

Player Reports

  1. 1. Wilson Betemit | 1B
    Wilson Betemit
    Born: Nov 2, 1981
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 220
    Minors: .305/.349/.449 | 12 HR | 14 SB | 501 AB

    Early last spring it appeared Betemit might not live up to his potential in the Atlanta organization. In the offseason, Major League Baseball determined the Braves had signed Betemit before he was 16, in violation of baseball rules. While Atlanta was fined and prohibited from signing Dominican players for six months, Betemit staged a walkout at his agent's direction during spring training. An agreement wasn't reached for several weeks, costing Betemit a shot at playing in a full-season league. After blossoming in 1999 as an all-star in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and ranking as the circuit's No. 2 prospect, Betemit dominated the short-season New York-Penn League by placing second in hits and runs and fourth in average. He also was the loop's best prospect. What's not to like? Betemit is a 20-year-old switch-hitter who plays a premier position, has outstanding size and has produced every time he has taken the field. He has incredible range and soft, quick hands that make him an ideal candidate for shortstop or third base. His arm also rates above-average, capable of strong, accurate throws in the hole. His defense has improved considerably and attracted rave reviews from NY-P managers. Betemit has plus power that is expected to increase significantly as his body continues to mature. He's reasonably disciplined at the plate and improved his ability to make contact in 2000. Not unlike other young players, Betemit makes careless mistakes, particularly in the field. He tries to make every play a spectacular one instead of recording the out, which has inflated his error total. Experience is a great teacher, and nowhere is that more evident with Betemit than in keeping up with the speed of the game at higher levels. He tends to rush throws and attack pitchers early in the count, so he needs to get more patient on defense and at the plate. Had he not missed most of spring training, Betemit would have spent 2000 at Class A Macon. But he lost little from an overall development standpoint. That will be proven when Betemit bypasses Macon and opens 2001 at high Class A Myrtle Beach. It would surprise no one if he blazed a trial to Atlanta in less than two more years.

  2. 2. Matt McClendon | RHP
    Matt McClendon
    Throws: R

    A supplemental first-round pick by the Reds out of high school in 1996, McClendon was expected to go higher in 1999 before a minor shoulder injury robbed him of his velocity. After signing for a $950,000 bonus, McClendon pitched just 23 innings at short-season Jamestown before returning to a normal schedule in 2000. He emerged as hoped and reached Double-A Greenville in May. McClendon has all the ingredients to be a quality starter. His best pitches are his low-90s fastball with good movement and a sharp curveball he added during instructional league in 1999. He has good command and a solid idea of what it takes to get hitters out. An improved changeup would make McClendon much tougher to hit. He could also stand to fine-tune a breaking ball that tends to flatten out at times. Because of his size, refined mechanics are also a must. McClendon could have handled Triple-A at the end of last season. He'll get that opportunity this year at Richmond, with a promotion to Atlanta just around the corner.

  3. 3. Marcus Giles | 2B
    Marcus Giles
    Born: May 18, 1978
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'8" Wt.: 175
    Minors: .333/.387/.488 | 6 HR | 13 SB | 252 AB

    The MVP in the Class A South Atlantic and Carolina leagues in 1998-99, Giles struggled early last season in Double-A before making adjustments to higher quality pitching. He found his groove in June and wound up with another productive season while playing in the Southern League all-star game, Double-A all-star game and the Futures Game. Giles is a pure offensive player. He has a short, compact stroke that packs a line-drive punch to all fields. While he continues to hear criticism about his defense, his glovework is consistent and better than advertised. Giles' range is only average, though he makes plays on every ball he reaches. His speed is also average, but his knowledge of the basepaths enabled him to steal a career-high 25 bases last season. Once he makes adjustments at the plate, Giles tends to get bored with a league, a trait that should end in the near future. Those who hit play in the major leagues. As long as Giles continues to produce and improve his defense, he'll join his brother Brian, an all-star outfielder with Pittsburgh, at the game's top level. Marcus' trek continues this spring in Triple-A.

  4. 4. Matt Belisle | RHP
    Matt Belisle
    Born: Jun 6, 1980
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 230

    The Braves' first pick in 1998, Belisle signed for $1.75 million, still a club record and the largest bonus given a high school pitcher that year. After limited success in the Appalachian League in 1999, he was tabbed as the best pitching prospect in the South Atlantic League last summer. He received a midseason promotion to the Carolina League and pitched well in August. Belisle has outstanding arm strength and the ability to be a top starter. After a rough start, he proved he can make adjustments against better hitters. He has impeccable makeup and a strong inner drive with a desire to learn everything possible about pitching. Belisle needs to improve the command of his curveball and changeup. His curve is on the verge of becoming a solid pitch, but his changeup needs work. He also must be a little more patient, setting hitters up instead of trying to strike out everyone. Belisle could follow in McClendon's footsteps by starting 2001 at Myrtle Beach before moving up to Double-A. If he picks up where he left off in instructional league, he'll open in Greenville.

  5. 5. Jason Marquis | RHP
    Jason Marquis
    Born: Aug 21, 1978
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 220

    Injuries to the Atlanta pitching staff accelerated Marquis' progress to the major leagues last year. He threw well as a starter in Double-A and as a reliever with Atlanta, but showed the effects of bouncing around with six inconsistent starts at Triple-A. Marquis always has been an intense competitor. He showed more maturity last season by making the climb from Double-A to the big leagues. The jump made him more of a pitcher than a thrower, and may serve as the final ingredient for long-term success. Marquis maintains his outstanding arm strength with a mid-90s fastball, a plus curveball and a good changeup. Marquis' greatest need is better overall command. He also discovered in Triple-A and the majors that he can't overpower hitters if he fails to keep his pitches low in the strike zone. The Braves need help in the bullpen. With a successful test run, Marquis is a viable candidate to serve in a set-up role. He could join the rotation as a fifth starter should an opening occur.

  6. 6. William Sylvester

    Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of junior college in 1997, Sylvester blossomed in his fourth professional season. After ending the 1999 campaign with minor arm problems, he didn't allow an earned run until June and was the top relief prospect in the Carolina League. Sylvester is a strong-armed pitcher who came into his own last season thanks to increased confidence. A former starter, he thrived in the closer's role by using his mid-90s fastball and a nasty, sharp-breaking curveball. He also has an average split-finger fastball. Confidence continues to be the key for Sylvester. He must realize that his stuff is good enough to succeed. He also needs to continue throwing strikes consistently by challenging hitters. Improving his splitter and throwing it more often should make his jump to higher levels smoother. The Braves knew they were pushing Sylvester in the Arizona Fall League, where he got rocked after missing the last two months of the season with a minor ribcage injury. He did show the ability to make adjustments against better hitters, and will have to do that in Double-A in 2001.

  7. 7. Adam Wainwright | RHP
    Adam Wainwright
    Born: Aug 30, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'7" Wt.: 235
    Minors: 10-10 | 3.77 ERA | 184 SO | 48 BB | 164.7 IP

    The Braves targeted Wainwright throughout the spring as the 29th overall pick in the 2000 draft. He breezed through the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before receiving a promotion to the Appalachian League after seven starts. He left no doubt why he was a first-rounder, ranking as the Appy League's top prospect and second-best in the GCL. For a teenager, Wainwright's overall command and ability to throw strikes with his changeup is uncanny. He's mature and competitive. In addition to a plus changeup, Wainwright features a low-90s fastball and an average curveball. His maturity can overshadow his inexperience against professional hitters. He wore down in late August and must improve his strength in order to pitch at a high level for a full season. Added strength should add velocity to his four-seam fastball. The progress Wainwright made last season will enable him to open 2001 at Macon. The Braves say that finding the right place to challenge Wainwright at this point in his career could be the most difficult decision.

  8. 8. Wes Helms | 3B
    Wes Helms
    Born: May 12, 1976
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 230

    Helms had one of the best all-around seasons of any hitter in the organization last year. Two different shoulder injuries limited him to 39 games in 1999, yet he bounced back and made improvements while posting career-highs in home runs and RBIs at Triple-A. For the first time, Helms displayed his above-average power without hurting his average. He loves the challenge of hitting with the game on the line and has a knack for producing the big hit. His defense at third base also showed a little improvement, though the Braves had the athletic Helms playing first base and the two corner outfield positions in Venezuela during winter ball. On the downside, his big swing continues to show holes. His hands are not soft on defense, and he tends to rush his throws despite possessing a plus arm. In short, he lacks overall consistency in his game. Perseverance appears to have paid off for Helms. The Braves are considering moving Chipper Jones to the outfield and giving Helms a shot at the hot corner. This spring is shaping up to be Helms' first real chance at making the 25-man roster.

  9. 9. Christian Parra

    Getting the opportunity to pitch on a regular basis allowed Parra to blossom last season. Unknown before the 2000 campaign, he was the Carolina League’s top pitcher after leading the circuit in wins and placing second in ERA. Parra is a fearless, barrel-chested pitcher who may be the most competitive in the organization. He believes in his ability to get hitters out and wants the ball with the game on the line. Parra challenges hitters even though his stuff is only slightly above-average. He throws four pitches for strikes and works off an average fastball with good movement. He has a clear understanding of what he wants to accomplish. Parra tends to rush through his delivery, which can affect his mechanics and cause his pitches to rise in the zone, where they become more hittable. He must continue to throw strikes consistently and mix his pitches. Parra is at a place in his career where he needs to improve upon what he’s done against better competition. A move one step higher to Double-A is in Parra’s immediate future. Proving himself in Greenville will place him firmly in Atlanta’s long-term plans.

  10. 10. Scott Sobkowiak | RHP
    Scott Sobkowiak
    Born: Oct 26, 1977
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 230

    After ranking as the Braves' No. 4 prospect last year, Sobkowiak made four Double-A starts before going on the disabled list on April 26. He had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow shortly thereafter, costing him the rest of the season. Based on Sobkowiak's rehabilitation efforts in Florida, the Braves believe he'll have better stuff than before his injury. He's a power pitcher with good size and the ability to be a workhorse. He challenges hitters with virtually every pitch. Both his fastball, which tops out at 95 mph, and his curveball are plus pitches. He showed an improved changeup prior to getting hurt. The Braves were concerned Sobkowiak's large frame and labored delivery could lead to injury. He needs to fine-tune his mechanics when he's healthy again. Continued improvement with his changeup can do nothing but help. Several scouts thought Sobkowiak would have pitched in the major leagues last year had he not been injured. He's expected to be at full strength in spring training and should open the season at Greenville.

  11. 11. Horacio Ramirez | LHP
    Horacio Ramirez
    Born: Nov 24, 1979
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 220
    Minors: 1-1 | 4.91 ERA | 17 SO | 8 BB | 14.7 IP

    Ramirez combined with Christian Parra to give Myrtle Beach the minors' best one-two punch in 2000. The lefthander had battled minor arm injuries throughout his first three seasons before making every start last year and ranking second in the Carolina League in wins and fifth in ERA. Ramirez is a four-pitch pitcher who works off his 92-93 mph fastball and an effective curveball. He also has a natural cut fastball with outstanding movement that produces little strain on his arm. He has made significant improvement with his changeup, which also served as a key to his success last season. Because of Ramirez's health history, the Braves held their breath as he inched toward 150 innings, which is the point he would have been shut down. Though he came within two innings of reaching that level, Ramirez still needs to add strength to help him stay healthy. He also must stay consistent in the strike zone and throw his changeup more often in order to keep hitters off balance. An improved two-seam fastball also will enable him to climb the final rungs of the organization. A promotion to Double-A awaits Ramirez in 2001.

  12. 12. Matt Butler | RHP
    Matt Butler
    Throws: R

    Butler showed the Braves exactly what they hoped to see during the second half last year. After Matt Belisle was promoted to Myrtle Beach at midseason, Butler took over as Macon's No. 1 starter and dominated down the stretch. His best performance came on Aug. 20, when Butler retired 20 of the first 21 batters he faced to record his second shutout of the season. Atlanta's first pick (second round) in the 1999 draft, Butler began his professional career by allowing one run or less in seven of his 11 outings in the Gulf Coast League. He added to that performance last year by finishing one win behind the league leader and ranking fifth in ERA in the South Atlantic League. Butler is a power pitcher who throws his four-seam fastball in the low 90s. He showed improvement with his changeup as the season progressed last year. His primary needs center on keeping his pitches low in the strike zone and upgrading his command. Butler also would be more effective if he tightened the spin on his breaking ball. Plans call for him to open the 2001 season at Myrtle Beach, with a midseason promotion to Double-A a possibility.

  13. 13. Matt Wright | RHP
    Matt Wright
    Born: Mar 13, 1982
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 270
    Minors: 3-5 | 3.72 ERA | 89 SO | 26 BB | 72.7 IP

    Members of the Braves front office were unanimous in their belief that Wright made as much progress as any newcomer in 2000. Bypassed until the 21st round last June, he made some minor adjustments to his delivery that were suggested by the Atlanta coaching staff and emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. He combines a 92-93 mph fastball with a hard, sharp-breaking curveball that made him almost unhittable late in the Gulf Coast League season and during instructional league. The Braves were most impressed with the command he has of his plus curveball as well as his knowledge of when to use it to his greatest advantage. He'll have to improve his third pitch, an average changeup, to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. As a late-round pick, Wright was used in relief last year to allow top draft picks to work as starters, limiting his innings. That scenario won't be repeated in 2001 when Wright joins the Macon rotation.

  14. 14. Bubba Nelson | RHP
    Bubba Nelson
    Born: Aug 26, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 210
    Minors: 12-8 | 3.93 ERA | 154 SO | 57 BB | 151.0 IP

    Nelson is another pitcher the Braves consider to be a first-round talent. In fact, one of Atlanta's crosscheckers liked Nelson better than Wainwright on draft day. Nelson touches 94 mph on the radar gun with a heavy, sinking fastball. It has natural plus movement due to a release point that is slightly above sidearm. Considered a potential third baseman in the professional ranks, Nelson has added velocity since he signed because he focused only on pitching. The Atlanta scouting department rated Nelson's curveball as the best breaking ball it saw among the 2000 draft class, while his changeup ranked near the top among high school pitchers. He also has above-average command, particularly for a pitcher fresh out of high school. Nelson got off to a rocky start before putting the pieces together late in the Gulf Coast League and during instructional league, including one game in which he struck out seven straight batters while using all three pitches. He needs to continue to challenge hitters, use both sides of the plate and get ahead early in the count. Nelson has proven to be advanced for his age, and he could move quickly through the system. His next stop is Class A Macon's starting rotation.

  15. 15. Tim Spooneybarger | RHP
    Tim Spooneybarger
    Born: Oct 21, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 205

    Spooneybarger was a 1998 draft-and-follow who showed glimpses of potential after signing in 1999 before blossoming last season. Hitters rarely get good swings against him because of the movement on his pitches and his deceptive delivery. He limited opponents to a .110 average last year after allowing them to bat .179 in 1999. Spooneybarger has good command of his two fastballs. His four-seamer averages 90-91 mph and has great movement with a natural cutting action. His two-seam fastball looks similar to his four-seamer before diving just prior to reaching the plate. He complements both fastballs with a good, hard curveball. He has spent the past two instructional leagues focusing on improving his changeup, which continues to need work. Spooneybarger also needs innings after working just 50 last year while missing more than a month with a minor shoulder ailment. The Braves are uncertain what role fits Spooneybarger best. He prefers to relieve, but Atlanta officials believe he has the arm as well as the athleticism to be a dominating starter. Either way, he's scheduled to open 2001 in Double-A.

  16. 16. Derrick Lewis | RHP
    Derrick Lewis
    Throws: R

    Atlanta drafted Lewis out of Florida A&M knowing the big righthander was a raw prospect. While he continues to lack polish in some phases of the game, he's on the verge of meriting major league consideration. He started to emerge in 1999 by ranking second in the Carolina League with a 2.40 ERA and followed up with a solid encore in Double-A. Lewis' fastball registers in the low 90s and is hard to hit because of its heavy, sinking action. He also throws a decent slider, though his changeup needs to become more consistent. The albatross throughout Lewis' career has been his lack of control and command. In order to succeed at higher levels, he must reduce his walks and minimize the number of pitches he throws so that he may go deeper in games. Lewis remains a work in progress, which will continue this season at Triple-A Richmond.

  17. 17. George Lombard | OF
    George Lombard
    Born: Sep 14, 1975
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 210
    Minors: .318/.423/.682 | 4 HR | 3 SB | 44 AB

    Lombard is at a crossroads in his baseball career. Since bypassing a potential Heisman Trophy career as a running back at the University of Georgia in 1994, the athletically gifted Lombard has made a slow yet steady climb through the Atlanta farm system. Now out of options, he's the leading contender to earn a job as the Braves' fourth outfielder after putting together a late charge last season in Triple-A and earning a spot on Atlanta's playoff roster. Lombard has world-class speed and an unmatched work ethic. His defense in left field has improved immensely, though his arm remains below average. He also has developed into an outstanding, high-percentage basestealer. Lombard has become more patient at the plate and has shown an increase in power throughout his career. Some scouts wonder, however, if he'll hit well enough to remain in the big leagues, especially because offspeed pitches continue to give him significant difficulty. Some observers believe Lombard will follow in the footsteps of Chris Weinke and play college football if he fails to make Atlanta's 25-man roster this spring. The Braves are confident Lombard won't be faced with that decision.

  18. 18. Damian Moss | LHP
    Damian Moss
    Born: Nov 24, 1976
    Bats: R Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 183
    Minors: 5-5 | 3.13 ERA | 104 SO | 38 BB | 97.7 IP

    For the first time in several years, the Braves were pleased with the progress Moss made. His arm strength finally returned to where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery during the 1998 season. Moss looked strong while pitching 189 innings between Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League. While his fastball is no better than average, he owns a sharp curveball and an above-average changeup that he mixes well. Batters have difficulty timing Moss, but his control has worsened since his surgery. He issued an International League-high 106 walks last year before surrendering 26 in 28 AFL innings. He tends to nibble instead of challenging batters and appears to lose his concentration at times. While there are major league pitchers who don't have as strong a repertoire as Moss does, his opportunities in Atlanta will be limited until he can discover consistency and command.

  19. 19. Zach Miner | RHP
    Zach Miner
    Born: Mar 12, 1982
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 225
    Minors: 3-4 | 1.89 ERA | 68 SO | 16 BB | 90.7 IP

    Had Adam Wainwright been selected prior to the 29th overall pick in last year's draft, the Braves would have taken Miner in the first round. Several other teams also deemed Miner first-round material, with more than a few trying to work out predraft deals with agent Scott Boras. Atlanta showed how much it wanted Miner by signing him for $1.2 million on the day he was to begin classes at the University of Miami. Miner displayed an impressive knowledge of how to pitch in instructional league. He has an 88-90 mph fastball with good movement, and should add some velocity as his body fills out. His curveball and changeup also are advanced for a high school pitcher. He impressed the organization's coaching staff with his command of all three pitches, especially after missing the entire summer. Miner tries to do too much with his pitches at times, and needs to use his fastball more often at the expense of his changeup. The Braves feel the greatest challenge awaiting him is the mental and physical drain he'll experience during his first full season in the pro ranks this year at Class A Macon. If he proves capable of handling it, his ceiling could be considered unlimited.

  20. 20. Brett Evert | RHP
    Brett Evert
    Throws: R

    Evert, who ranked 10th on this list last year after ranking second in the Gulf Coast League, opened 2000 in extended spring training before moving to Macon, which proved to be a bigger jump than he could handle. He was demoted to Jamestown when the New York-Penn League season started in mid-June and regained his rhythm, ranking second in the circuit in victories. Evert's body is continuing to develop, with the Braves believing he will become a strong, workhorse type once he fully matures. In the meantime, he's making continuous adjustments to his game as his body finds a comfort zone. Evert has an excellent feel for pitching despite hailing from a cold-weather state. He works off his plus fastball and is adept at setting hitters up with his average changeup. He's trying to tighten the spin on his curveball and improve his overall command. Braves coaches were impressed with how much Evert learned from his mistakes last year and believe those lessons will accelerate his progress this season in the Macon rotation.

  21. 21. Scott Thorman | 1B
    Scott Thorman
    Born: Jan 6, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 225

    The 30th overall pick in the 2000 draft, Thorman possessed as much strength and power potential as any available high school player. The Canadian hit just one home run in the Gulf Coast League after visa problems delayed his professional debut by a month, but he put on a power display during instructional league. The articulate Thorman impressed the Braves with his outstanding makeup, impeccable character and strong desire to play the game. That should enable him to emerge as a leader in the clubhouse. He comes to the ballpark ready to play and never gets cheated at the plate. A pitcher in high school who has been clocked as high as 95 mph off the mound, Thorman has a plus arm for third base. His defense needs considerable work, and his range must be increased. Improvements also are needed with his pitch recognition and overall patience. The Braves realize that his two-way efforts in high school prevented his glove from receiving as much attention as needed. If third base doesn't work out, Thorman has the arm to move to right field. He'll remain at the hot corner in 2001, with Macon his most likely destination.

  22. 22. Miguel Bernard
    Miguel Bernard
    Born: Jan 1, 1981

    Bernard is without question the top catching prospect in the Atlanta organization. After toiling in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League for two years, Bernard spent his first season in the United States in 2000. He’s an excellent catch-and-throw receiver. His arm strength is above average and his footwork behind the plate has improved considerably. The Braves’ minor league staff raves about his enthusiasm, with several coaches saying Bernard reminds them of shortstop Rafael Furcal with his love for playing the game. Bernard does an excellent job of communicating with his pitching staff and has a strong idea of how to call a game. His bat shows considerable promise and budding power, but his big swing possesses several holes. He sits on fastballs to the point where he becomes overanxious when he gets one. Breaking balls and offspeed pitches eat him alive, so he’ll have to make adjustments at higher levels. His next stop is Macon.

  23. 23. Cory Aldridge | OF
    Cory Aldridge
    Born: Jun 13, 1979
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 225
    Minors: .246/.323/.423 | 19 HR | 12 SB | 452 AB

    Aldridge is one of the newest members of Atlanta's 40-man roster, having made the cut over such better-known players as first baseman A.J. Zapp and second baseman Travis Wilson. Aldridge has made impressive strides in his game over the past two years, a byproduct of playing the game daily after focusing on football in high school. Despite having natural athleticism, his tools were rough throughout his first two seasons in the organization. He has developed to the point where several scouts have compared Aldridge to former Brave David Justice. Aldridge has outstanding speed and increasing power that should enable him to hit more than 20 homers annually in the near future. His defense has improved considerably, and his arm is average and getting better. Aldridge still has several areas that need additional work, including his plate coverage, strike-zone knowledge and basestealing ability. The game is far from being second nature to him, which means staying healthy and getting as many repetitions as possible are essential. A strong spring would land Aldridge in Double-A.

  24. 24. John Ennis | RHP
    John Ennis
    Born: Oct 17, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 220
    Minors: 6-8 | 3.58 ERA | 144 SO | 45 BB | 138.3 IP

    A light came on last year for Ennis. In his first two seasons, the powerful righthander struggled to find consistency until late in 1999, and his progress carried over to 2000. Ennis has developed into a composed pitcher with a thorough understanding of what he wants to accomplish with all of his pitches. His makeup is so strong that one coach said Ennis pitched like a 10-year veteran during instructional league. His low-90s fastball is his best pitch, followed closely by his hard curveball and effective changeup. Ennis also mixes in a slider, though the Braves would prefer he focus on the curveball to reduce the long-term strain on his arm. As with any young hurler, Ennis needs to improve his consistency, particularly with his curveball, which goes flat when his arm tires. Atlanta officials believe if Ennis continues to develop at the same rate this year at Myrtle Beach, much bigger things await.

  25. 25. Kelly Johnson | 2B
    Kelly Johnson
    Born: Feb 22, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 200
    Minors: .289/.404/.513 | 23 HR | 25 SB | 415 AB

    More than a few members of front offices throughout the majors looked at one another and said "Who?" when the Braves called Johnson's name last June as a supplemental first-round pick. Unlike most high-profile draft choices, Johnson hadn't played in national showcases, causing him to slip under the radar screen. The Braves, however, had eight different scouts evaluate him and every report echoed the same sentiments: Johnson is a player. After his solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, Johnson has drawn comparisons to Robin Ventura. A shortstop throughout his career, he has soft hands and a strong arm, but his body is on the verge of necessitating a move to third base. His natural sweet swing attracts the most praise because of his outstanding plate coverage. He also has better-than-average speed and is consistent defensively. Johnson produces a lot of line-drive hits in the gaps, and the Braves believe he'll hit for more power as his body matures naturally. Johnson is in need of more experience, which he'll get in his first full season at Macon.

  26. 26. Alejandro Machado | 2B
    Alejandro Machado
    Born: Apr 26, 1982
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 185
    Minors: .263/.354/.311 | 1 HR | 25 SB | 415 AB

    Machado was a solid shortstop prior to making the move to second base. His hands are softer and his arm is stronger than most players employed at the keystone sack. He also displays impressive instincts and has a knack for positioning himself at the right spot in order to make plays. Machado has the speed to hit leadoff and to steal some bases. A slasher with the bat, he makes good contact and doesn't try to do more than his physical limitations allow. One scout said Machado has all the makings of developing into a complete player should he continue to make the same type of improvements he's made in the past year. He needs to get stronger in order to handle the physical stress of playing every day for a full season. Improved bunting ability would allow him to get on base more often, though he does have a fine eye for drawing walks. Machado also needs to learn the nuances of stealing bases, especially making the proper reads and getting the necessary leads. He'll continue to work on those skills this year at Macon.

  27. 27. Brad Voyles | RHP
    Brad Voyles
    Born: Dec 30, 1976
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 195

    Voyles isn't the prettiest pitcher in the game, but he gets the job done. He combined with Billy Sylvester during the first half of last season to give Myrtle Beach the minors' best relief tandem. Voyles then carried the Pelicans to the Carolina League title by handling most of the closing duties after Sylvester was lost for the season in July. He turned the corner last year by working off his fastball instead of his curveball at the behest of Myrtle Beach pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton. Once Voyles started employing his fastball more often, its velocity and movement increased, making it at least an average pitch. An upgraded fastball also made his hard curveball more effective. Voyles threw his changeup for strikes last season, giving him three solid pitches. While he was consistent in 2000, he needs to maintain that success rate against better competition. He also needs to continue working on his changeup so that he can throw it at any point in the count. While Voyles is slated to pitch at Double-A this season, the Braves believe Triple-A and even the major leagues aren't out of the question.

  28. 28. Jung Bong | LHP
    Jung Bong
    Born: Jul 15, 1980
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 175

    Bong is an excellent all-around athlete who was considered as promising a prospect as a hitter in Korea as he was on the mound. He hasn't been shy about his continued desire to swing the bat, a longing that may have affected his pitching efforts during the 1999 season. After looking anything but impressive last year during spring training, Bong rededicated himself and started to live up to his tremendous promise. The velocity of his fastball increased to 90-91 mph early last year, and his changeup showed marked improvement. Bong's primary weakness has been his inability to throw a consistent curveball. He has worked on a variety of grips but has yet to find one he can use to throw strikes on a regular basis. The Braves still believe Bong is just scratching the surface regarding his long-term potential. He's slated to return to Myrtle Beach this year to continue his work on his curve and his overall approach with pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton.

  29. 29. Chris Waters | LHP
    Chris Waters
    Born: Aug 17, 1980
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 170
    Minors: 8-6 | 3.35 ERA | 78 SO | 52 BB | 147.7 IP

    Waters is yet another pitcher from last year's draft class who attracted rave reviews from the entire organization. He pitched well throughout the Appalachian League season and displayed an easy, fluid motion. Waters then touched 91 mph with his average fastball during the last two weeks of instructional league. He has two other pitches--a changeup and an improving curveball--that are no worse than average. After working intensely with minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair in Florida, Waters turned his pickoff move into an asset. He must improve his overall strength, which will allow him to go longer in games and reduce his chances for injury. Waters may be one of the more unheralded members of the Macon rotation this spring, but the Braves feel his long-term potential is nearly as promising as that of the pitchers they drafted ahead of him.

  30. 30. Damien Jones | OF

    No one in the Atlanta farm system was rawer than Jones two years ago. He was an exceptional all-around athlete whose greatest accomplishments to that point had come on the gridiron, so much so that he had a full scholarship to play wide receiver and cornerback at the University of Alabama awaiting him. Now Jones could be on the verge of a breakout season. He combined a natural aggressiveness with plus speed to emerge as one of the more exciting players in the South Atlantic League last year. His power has been minimal during his first three seasons, but several scouts believe he could hit more than 20 homers a season once he learns how to employ his natural strength into his swing. Placed in center field last season at Macon, his defense improved markedly. His knowledge of the strike zone needs to continue to get better, as does his ability to read the ball off the bat and take the right routes on defense. It wouldn't be surprising if Jones becomes a bigger name after he spends 2001 at Myrtle Beach.

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