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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 League--where managers rated him the league's No. 3 prospect--and 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. 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. 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. Wainwright has the ingredients to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but the Braves don't 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 Atlanta's hand.
Considered one of the top prospects in baseball, Betemit struggled mightily in 2002 at Triple-A Richmond. He hit just .198 during the first three months and made 21 errors in 93 games. A strained back, bruised foot and sprained ankle hurt his performance. Betemit remains a five-tool athlete whose skills are still blossoming. He hits to all fields from both sides of the plate and is adding power. He has a live body with easy actions toward the ball and good bat speed with excellent extension. Scouts believe he'll hit 20 homers and steal 25 bases annually in the big leagues. Betemit can make the spectacular play but also can be lackadaisical on defense. He fields the ball too close to his body at times, and he lets the ball play him instead of being aggressive. The accuracy of his strong arm is unpredictable. His plate discipline has never been strong. After having an outside shot at winning Atlanta's shortstop job last spring, Betemit will return to Triple-A in 2003. He must prove that 2002 was a fluke and a move to third base isn't needed.
Marte hit just .200 in the Appalachian League in 2001 after signing for $600,000 the previous September. But he proved to be a bargain last year by pacing the South Atlantic League in RBIs and ranking second in home runs and extra-base hits. Managers also rated him the SAL's best defensive third baseman. Marte has quick wrists that allow him to turn on most fastballs. He has power to all fields, makes impressive adjustments to all types of pitches and refuses to concede any at-bat. Marte possesses quick reflexes, soft hands and a strong arm. He also has impressive maturity for a teenager. His speed is average. Despite being a plus defender, Marte can become careless in the field. He also tends to give up on pitches on the outer half of the plate, limiting his overall coverage of the dish. He could stand to draw a few more walks. Because the Braves lack depth at the hot corner, Marte is in position to move rapidly through the system. He should start the 2003 season in high Class A and could move up to Double-A at midseason.
In 2001, his first full season, Nelson went 9-2 in the first half at Macon but lost six of his last nine decisions. He avoided such inconsistency last year, leading the minors with a 1.66 ERA and holding opponents to a .197 average. Nelson is a great competitor who allows the natural nasty movement of his pitches to work for him. His heavy fastball sits at 91-94 mph and induces plenty of grounders. His two-seamer has improved since he added the pitch in 2001. His strikeout pitch is a hard slider, and he's most consistent with a plus curveball he throws any time in the count. When he struggles, Nelson gets caught in between his curveball and slider, which causes his breaking pitches to flatten. He should avoid the problem when he gains more consistency with his arm slot. His changeup could use refinement. The Braves believe Nelson is on the verge of being ready for the big leagues. While he could be the first pitcher from Atlanta's heralded 2000 draft class to reach the majors, he'll open 2003 in Double-A.
The Braves planned to start McBride at Rookie-level Danville last year before injuries hit Macon hard in early April. He proceeded to lead the South Atlantic League in ERA and earn most valuable pitcher honors. He won nine of his last 10 decisions and didn't allow an earned run in 11 of his 25 starts. The 24th overall pick in 2001, McBride has outstanding arm strength and impressive command. He throws a heavy, low-90s fastball along with a plus slider with excellent late break. His 12-to-6 curveball and changeup improved over the course of last season. McBride discovered how to set up hitters in 2002, and by the end of the season he was breaking bats with his changeup. He's aggressive yet maintains his composure on the mound. McBride is polished and mainly requires more experience. He'll focus on improving the finer points of pitching, such as holding runners on base and getting to pitcher's counts. While McBride will begin 2003 in high Class A, there's no doubt he's on a fast track to the major leagues. Few lefthanders at any level can match his stuff.
The 23rd overall pick last June, Francoeur made a seamless transition from high school to pro ball. He was the Appalachian League's No. 1 prospect. A prep All-America defensive back, he passed up a football scholarship from Clemson to sign for a Braves-record $2.2 million bonus. Francoeur impresses scouts as much with his character as he does with his tools. And he's loaded with tools, starting with 6.43-second speed in the 60-yard dash and solid baserunning instincts. He has a plus arm and the ability and instincts to play all three outfield positions. He drives the ball to all fields and makes rapid adjustments. His swing is smooth and features little wasted movement. Experience is the biggest thing lacking for Francoeur. As he focuses on baseball, he'll understand how pitchers are trying to set him up at the plate and how to read them while getting leads. Francoeur is a natural leader with a tremendous drive to reach the big leagues. Several Braves officials said he could top this list at the end of 2003, which he'll begin at Rome, the organization's new low Class A affiliate.
Macon featured one of the better outfields in low Class A last year, with Duran joined by Gregor Blanco, Angelo Burrows and Greg Miller. Duran combined his speed and hitting to lead the South Atlantic League in triples while ranking fourth in hits and fifth in runs. Duran has incredible instincts that enhance his natural tools. He has a smooth swing and the speed to allow him to create havoc on the basepaths. He continues to add power and could hit 20 home runs annually. Defensively, he owns a strong arm and gets good jumps on balls hit into the gaps. Opposing managers liked the way he carried himself last year. Duran must understand the importance of playing with intensity at all times. He gave away too many at-bats last season because he lacks patience. He has to work deeper counts to see more advantageous pitches. He also needs to learn the nuances of basestealing after being caught 17 times in 40 attempts. The Braves are in no hurry to push Duran, who will move up to high Class A this year. He has the potential to be an all-star if he can refine all five of his tools.
Drafted with the 30th overall pick in 2000, Thorman missed all of 2001 after shoulder surgery. He made up for lost time last year, putting together a 21-game hitting streak while leading the South Atlantic League in doubles and tying for second in extra-base hits. No one in the organization has more raw power than Thorman. He struggled early last season while trying to crush every pitch before realizing the ball naturally jumps off his bat. He has a smooth, easy swing with a slight uppercut. A pitcher in high school with a mid-90s fastball, Thorman maintains a strong arm. After moving from third base to first in 2002, he showed quick feet and good hands. He also runs out every ball. Despite making a successful shift to first base, Thorman still is learning the position. While his passion for the game is obvious, channeling his emotions will enable him to get the most out of his abilities on a consistent basis. Thorman's offensive potential, not to mention his hustle and determination, could make him Atlanta's long-term answer at first base. He'll climb a step to high Class A this season.
His ailing shoulder led the Braves to shut Evert down in late July 2001, but he proved healthy and durable last season. He started well in Double-A to earn Futures Game recognition, then slumped and was sent to high Class A. Evert's fastball gets into the low 90s and has natural movement. His curveball is also a plus pitch, featuring a tight spin and a hard, 12-to-6 drop. He continues to make progress with his changeup, which should be at least an average pitch. His command had been excellent before slipping in 2002. Evert's struggles began when his mechanics got out of whack. With his gangly frame, he must maintain control of his body and repeat his delivery. He also needs to keep his pitches down in the strike zone more often. The Braves admit that they may have overreacted last July when they sent Evert down to Myrtle Beach. But they wanted him to work with pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton, who got him back on track. Expected to begin 2003 in Double-A, Evert could be as close as a half-season away from Atlanta.
Lopez discovered the ups and downs of playing in a full-season league at 18. He posted his sixth win of the season on July 8 with a five-hit shutout at South Georgia, but had only one more win the rest of the season. He faded in August, though that couldn't erase the impression he made in 2002. One day Lopez could have three plus pitches. His lively fastball averages 93 mph, his curveball has its moments and his changeup is effective. He's advanced for a teenager, both in the quality of his stuff and his command. While his curveball has potential, Lopez lost it during the second half of last season. As a result, he relied almost exclusively on his fastball and paid the price. He needs to improve the spin and depth of his curve, and he did make some progress with the pitch in instructional league. He also must use his changeup and the bottom half of the strike zone more often. Some people have misgivings about his makeup. At 19, Lopez figures to be one of the Carolina League's youngest pitchers in 2003. If he can mature both on and off the mound, his ceiling is unlimited.
After placing second in the Carolina League with 15 wins in 2000, Ramirez threw just three games in 2001 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. The lefthander made a rapid recovery by excelling in Double-A during the second half of last season. Ramirez won seven of his last eight decisions and tossed at least six innings in eight of final 10 outings. He capped that effort with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Ramirez is a solid four-pitch pitcher with excellent command and good poise. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he complements it with a natural cut fastball with a sharp break. His curveball is effective when he repeats his delivery, and his changeup has shown steady development and added depth. Ramirez fought through a dead-arm period shortly after reporting to Greenville last June. While he has made impressive progress in his rehabilitation, he must continue to rebuild his arm strength. From a pitching standpoint, regaining the feel of his curveball on a consistent basis is a must. Pitchers typically make their greatest strides during their second season back from reconstructive elbow surgery. With that in mind, the Braves feel Ramirez is close to pitching in Turner Field. He'll be evaluated closely in spring training, and could reach at Atlanta at some point this year after starting in Triple-A.
Johnson made a major splash in 2001, his first full season of pro ball, earning top-prospect honors in the South Atlantic League. His jump to high Class A last year was not as smooth, as he struggled for the first time before regaining his swing in July. Johnson is an offensive infielder with above-average pop and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His power numbers were hurt last year by the large dimensions and constant breeze blowing in from center at Myrtle Beach's Coastal Federal Field. His quick hands will allow him to hit for both power and average once he quits out-thinking himself and trusts his natural ability. While he has improved defensively, Johnson's range and arm strength rate no better than average at shortstop and could lead to a move to third base. That said, he has the ability to become an impact player in the major leagues. He'll make the jump to Double-A in 2003.
LaRoche made the greatest leap among any player in the Atlanta organization last year. Returning to high Class A after a mediocre showing there in 2001, he was the Carolina League's most productive all-around hitter outside of Rockies prospect Brad Hawpe. He earned a promotion to Double-A and led the Braves system with a .317 average. LaRoche has a solid baseball background. His father Dave earned two all-star berths during a 14-year major league career, and his brother Jeff used to pitch in the Rockies system. LaRoche took his turn on the mound as a two-way player at Seminole State JC, where he earned MVP honors at the 2000 Junior College World Series. While several teams were interested in LaRoche as a pitcher, the Braves are reaping the rewards for allowing him to hit. LaRoche attacks pitches with his aggressive approach. Beginning with a wide-open stance, his swing creates a natural lift thanks to his excellent weight transfer and his ability to use his hands well. He makes good contact, though he doesn't draw an abundance of walks and has yet to show true first-base power. His timing gets out of whack on occasion, which hurts his consistency. He has a laid-back personality that allows him to handle adversity well. CL managers rated him the league's best defensive first baseman, and the Braves believe he could become a Gold Glover. LaRoche isn't a good runner, which limits him to first base. LaRoche will get an extended look in spring training. While a trip to Triple-A appears likely, he could be a major league surprise as a potential backup to Robert Fick.
The 2002 season could have been a major disappointment in Digby's development. He came down with a shoulder impingement in April and pitched just 26 innings. But he recovered in time to report to instructional league, where he made outstanding progress working with roving pitching instructor Rick Adair. Under Adair's guidance, Digby shortened his arm action. Previously, his delivery was so long that the hitters could see the ball behind Digby, which led to poor command. The more compact motion is easier for him to repeat, which has led to increased consistency and confidence. Digby continued to excel after making a late trip to the Arizona Fall League. He throws a hard sinker in the low 90s. If he can maintain his new mechanics and continue to develop a better feel for his slider and changeup, the Braves believe he can move rapidly. Digby projects as a power reliever, though he likely will continue to start this year in Class A in order to get as many innings as possible.
Miner quietly put together one of the strongest seasons in the organization last year, a fact disguised somewhat by his 8-9 record. Considered a first-round talent in 2000, Minor lasted until the fourth round because of signability questions surrounding his commitment to the University of Miami. He signed for a $1.2 million bonus and has lived up to projections. He has a mature approach to pitching along with quality stuff that's continuing to develop along with his body. Miner has an easy and smooth delivery that produces 90-91 mph sinkers. He also throws a solid slider and a good changeup that made significant improvement in 2002. Miner also mirrors other pitchers in the organization with his burning competitiveness and unwillingness to give in to hitters. His greatest need is to add strength, which will make his overall stuff that much better. Miner was gassed at the end of last season and got in trouble when he left pitches up in the strike zone. The Braves believe those adjustments will take place naturally as Miner heads to high Class A this year.
Few pitchers created a louder buzz during the Arizona Fall League than Bong. The lefthander continued his impressive August at Greenville by displaying a plus-plus changeup and solid overall command in the AFL. The Korean had opened the season on a steady note in Double-A before making an emergency start in Atlanta on April 23, allowing five earned runs in six innings and taking a loss against Arizona. Bong then fell apart upon his return to the Southern League, losing six straight starts. He was demoted to the bullpen in order to focus on his control and aggressiveness, then re-entered the rotation in August and went 3- 1, 1.14 in his last five outings. In addition to his superb changeup with excellent fade and sink, the athletic Bong has a low-90s fastball that touches 94 mph, plus an improving curveball. He needs to command his fastball better and continue to develop his curve. Based on his development over the past two seasons, Bong has the potential to be a fine No. 3 or 4 starter. He's slated for Triple-A in 2003.
Blanco opened eyes throughout the organization with a strong showing during instructional league in 2001 before continuing to impress in low Class A in 2002, his first season in the United States. The Venezuela native struggled early as an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League, hitting .219 through May 23. He then heated up and improved to a season-best .282 in late July before tiring over the final month. Blanco's plus speed and knack for getting on base make him a potential leadoff man. He hit into just two double plays last year and tied Adam Stern for the organization lead in stolen bases. Blanco hits southpaws and righthanders equally well and showed surprising power at times. Still, he tends to swing for the fences more than he should instead of perfecting the small-ball aspects of the game, particularly bunting. A good outfielder with an above-average arm, Blanco's biggest need is to mature. Some SAL managers didn't like the way he carried himself last year, but the Braves believe he'll grow up as he gets older and continues to adjust to the United States. He'll play in high Class A this year.
Atlanta scouting director Roy Clark said he believes the Braves got a steal when they grabbed Meyer with the 34th overall pick last June. Clark also said he would have taken Meyer with his first pick, 23rd overall, had Jeff Francoeur not been available. The highest-drafted collegian by the Braves since they took Mike Kelly second overall in 1991, Meyer ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Appalachian League in his pro debut. He projects as either a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a key bullpen lefthander. Meyer has an 89-93 mph fastball with great late movement and sink. His best pitch is a plus straight changeup that scouts say is better than that of most big leaguers. He also has a hard slider that has shown steady development and should become a third plus pitch. Meyer does a fine job of mixing his pitches, which also include a curveball and splitter, and shows an outstanding feel for pitching. Scouts love Meyer's lanky body, loose arm and sound mechanics. It wouldn't be a surprise if Meyer started to move fast through the organization and landed as high as Double-A during 2003.
ESPN's Chris Berman sometimes says that all wide receiver Cris Carter does is score touchdowns. Hodges is the Braves' version of Carter: All he does is win. Since undergoing major shoulder surgery while at Louisiana State, Hodges won the deciding game and the MVP award at the 2000 College World Series and has earned 15 minor league wins in each of his two full pro seasons. He was the Carolina League co-pitcher of the year in 2001 and led the Triple-A International League in wins last season. The trend continued during his first taste of the big leagues last September, as Hodges had two victories while making four relief appearances. His success stems from baffling hitters instead of overpowering them. His best pitch is a plus slider that he throws at any time in the count. He has outstanding command of that offering as well as an 88-91 mph fastball that sneaks up on hitters. Hodges' changeup continues to improve but still needs additional depth. Hodges eats innings with his consistency. The Braves' signing of Paul Byrd probably ended Hodges' chances of being their fifth starter, but he could pitch out of the bullpen while awaiting an opportunity.
The numbers have been slow to come for Langerhans, but he continues to push forward and is closer to the majors than any of the Braves' outfield prospects. He made a one-day cameo in Atlanta on April 28 after B.J. Surhoff blew out his anterior cruciate ligament. Langerhans subsequently battled a knee injury of his own and slumped in Double-A before finishing well in August and in the Arizona Fall League. His defense is unquestioned, as he has the instincts and enough speed for any outfield position and the arm strength to handle right field. He also runs the bases well, works counts to draw walks and projects to hit 20 homers annually. The lone concern is whether he'll hit enough at the major league level, especially after he batted just .184 against lefthanders last year. The Braves say that Langerhans, whose father John was a second-round pick of the Twins in 1968 and was Ryan's high school coach, will be at least an average everyday outfielder in the majors, though he will need at least a full season in Triple-A.
Lerew was an unheralded 11th-round draft pick before breaking out with a performance that earned him co-pitcher-of-the-year honors in the Appalachian League. He ranked second in the Appy League in wins and ERA, and fourth in strikeouts. Using a 92-94 mph fastball with good movement, a hard breaking ball and a solid changeup, Lerew allowed no more than one run in 10 of his 14 starts at Danville. He has impressive size for a 20-year-old at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds and mixes his offerings with the savvy of a veteran. The Braves rave about Lerew's makeup and the way he comprehends and responds to instruction. He's working on becoming more consistent with his breaking pitch and doing a better job of spotting his pitches in the strike zone. Based on his development thus far, Lerew could be on the verge of blossoming into an even better pitcher. His next step will be low Class A in 2003.
Boyer had a rough initiation into low Class A last year, giving up 13 earned runs in his first 13 innings. Yet just as it appeared that a demotion might be necessary, he bordered on untouchable. Boyer put together 16 straight scoreless outings and allowed just 11 earned runs in his last 57 innings, then continued to make progress during instructional league. Boyer has two plus pitches: a heavy fastball that has been clocked as high as 95 mph and a sharp-breaking curveball. During instructional league, he had more consistency with his curve and did a better job of incorporating a developing changeup into his repertoire. After showing a lack of concentration as a starter in 2001, Boyer displayed the makeup to develop as a power closer. He must do a better job of mixing his pitches, which should occur once he polishes all of his offerings and builds confidence. Boyer also battles with his control as well as the consistency of his release point. Nevertheless, his progress at Macon was impressive, leaving the Braves interested to see what develops in high Class A this year.
Second base has been a revolving door in Atlanta since the retirement of Mark Lemke. Veterans Quilvio Veras and Bret Boone were acquired and discarded, youngster Marcus Giles and Mark DeRosa have been inconsistent, and Keith Lockhart has been nothing more than a stopgap. Lewis could become the long-term answer. The unspectacular Lewis is a Bobby Cox type of player, a steady performer who plays solid defense and does the little things necessary to win. The 40th overall pick in the 2001 draft after playing multiple infield positions at Georgia Tech, Lewis has settled at second base as a pro. He has good range and a strong arm for the position. He looks a little stiff on plays to his right, yet turns the double play well and was the most surehanded second baseman in the Carolina League last year, committing eight errors in 124 games. An excellent baserunner with surprising speed that helped him swipe 31 bags in 41 attempts, Lewis has solid gap power and continues to incorporate more power in his game. He needs to get stronger but should be a consistent No. 2, 7 or 8 hitter with the ability to bunt and hit-and-run. He's scheduled to begin 2003 in Double-A and could reach Atlanta sometime during the next two seasons.
Durability is one of the keys to success in developing a minor league pitcher, and Waters hasn't missed a start while being able to prove his worth by making consistent progress over his three pro seasons. He ranked fourth in the minors in innings last year, when he led Myrtle Beach in wins and ranked fifth in the Carolina League in ERA. Waters doesn't have an overwhelming pitch, but he has three solid ones: a 90-92 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He has fine overall command of his pitches, thanks to a fluid delivery he repeats on a regular basis. While Waters' stuff is as consistent as any pitcher in the organization, he must understand that every pitch he throws should have a purpose. Waters also needs to become steadier with his control. Though he allowed just 43 walks last year, he needs to cut down on his hit batters (24) and wild pitches (12). Some fine-tuning remains on the agenda for him this year in Double-A.
The Braves surprised a lot of people last spring when they gave up lefthander Ben Kozlowski to get Pratt, whom the Rangers designated for assignment when they got in a 40-man roster bind. The consensus was that Kozlowski was the better prospect to begin with, and he didn't need to be protected on the 40-man roster. The trade now looks even worse, as Kozlowski blossomed in 2002 and widened the gap between him and Pratt, who lost his first seven decisions in the Atlanta system. Pratt eventually regained his command and eventually received a cup of coffee with Atlanta in September. Pratt is a finesse pitcher who has added velocity in the past year, as his fastball now sits in the low 90s. He also throws a cut fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He does an excellent job of mixing his pitches while painting the outside corners. The Braves aren't sure what his long-term role will be, especially after watching Pratt pitch exceptionally well in Puerto Rico over the winter. He could earn a job in the Atlanta bullpen with an impressive spring, but chances are he'll begin 2003 in the Triple-A rotation.
Like Jung Bong and Ryan Langerhans, Ennis had a one-game stint in the majors last year. He made his debut on April 11 against the Phillies, allowing two earned runs in four innings while making an emergency start in place of Albie Lopez. Ennis spent the rest of the year in Double-A. He knows how to set up hitters with his three-pitch repertoire, which includes a low-90s fastball, a hard curveball and a changeup. He'll also throw a slider on occasion to give hitters another something else to think about. Upgrading the overall consistency of his pitches and working on the little things such as fielding and holding runners are on his to do list. He'll be promoted to Triple-A for 2003.
Wright had to wonder what else could go wrong during the first half of 2002. He suffered through every type of bad luck imaginable while losing his first seven decisions in low Class A. His maturity and determination allowed him to turn his season around, as he won 10 of his last 11 decisions. Wright has better stuff that would be expected from a former 21st-round pick, beginning with a low-90s fastball that he works to both sides of the plate. His changeup is solid and continues to show more consistency and fade. Wright's third option is a power curveball that could develop into an above-average pitch if he can maintain his release point when throwing it. Wright has made steady progress in the organization by applying instruction and making the necessary adjustments. Added physical maturity will enable him to become stronger and develop into a potential No. 4 starter in the major leagues. He'll spend this year in high Class A.
The weakest position in the Braves organization is catcher, which could lead to a rapid ascent for McCann, provided the 64th overall pick in the 2002 draft remains behind the plate. McCann's calling card is his offensive potential, including some of the best raw power in the system. The son of former Marshall head coach Howard McCann, Brian has a textbook swing and an impressive approach to hitting. His quick wrists allow him to turn on any pitch and he drives the ball to all fields. He needs to make more consistent contact and do better against breaking balls. McCann has catch-and-throw tools, but he also has a thick lower body. He needs to improve his footwork and agility. He does a good job of calling a game. After signing late in the summer, McCann reported to the Gulf Coast League out of shape. The Braves say McCann can develop into a frontline receiver, though others see him as a power-hitting first baseman. Regardless, if his bat lives up to expectations he could move quickly up the ladder. He'll begin this year in low Class A.
Belisle had difficulty gaining any consistency last season, mainly because he missed all of 2001 after having surgery to repair a ruptured disc in his back. While he looked strong during instructional league in the fall of 2001, his rustiness was apparent as he tried to make the jump to Double-A after never pitching above low Class A previously. Belisle can be overpowering when his mechanics are in sync. His fastball registers in the low 90s and touches 95 mph. He also has good control of his changeup and curveball. Belisle is strong and athletic, but he looked a little stiff last year compared to the past. He struggled against lefthanders, who batted .282 against him. While he threw strikes with all his pitches, he couldn't locate them in the zone like he wanted. The Braves hope that with Belisle now a full year removed from back surgery, he'll get back to where he was before the injury. A return to Double-A is likely for Belisle to begin 2003.
McCarthy joined Adam Stern and Mailon Kent, fellow Braves college outfielders selected in the 2001 draft, in spending his first full pro season in high Class A. He outperformed Stern and Kent, leading Myrtle Beach in doubles, RBIs and total bases. McCarthy has good pop and drives the ball to all fields. He stands close to the plate, which allows him to cover the full strike zone and also makes him a magnet for pitches (he was hit 23 times last year). He runs well on the basepaths and is steady in the outfield, committing only one error last year. McCarthy's arm is strong enough for right field, but his power potential isn't quite what big league clubs want at the position. He's not fast enough to play center in the majors, though he does get good jumps on balls. McCarthy has the tools and the makeup to play in the majors if he continues to improve his all-around game. His development will continue this year in Double-A.