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Atlanta Braves

Prospects Overview

Top 30 Prospects

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Player Reports

  1. 1. Jeff Francoeur | OF
    Jeff Francoeur
    Born: Jan 8, 1984
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 225
    Minors: .275/.322/.487 | 13 HR | 13 SB | 335 AB

    A two-sport standout in high school, Francoeur was a high school all-America defensive back who turned down the opportunity to play football and baseball at Clemson. Since signing for a club-record $2.2 million bonus, he twice has been named the top prospect in his minor league, first in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2002 and again in the high Class A Carolina League in 2004. Francoeur was on the verge of a promotion to Double-A Greenville last July when he squared around to bunt and the ball ricocheted off the bat up into his face, breaking his right cheekbone. Initially expected to miss the rest of the season after having surgery, Francoeur pushed himself and returned in five weeks. He finished the year in Double-A and made up for some lost time by batting .283 in the Arizona Fall League. Francoeur is one of the purest five-tool players in the minor leagues. Scouts rave about the way he consistently gets the barrel of the bat on the ball. He uses his hands well in his swing and generates tremendous bat speed, which combined with his natural power should enable him to hit 30-plus home runs annually in the majors. Francoeur uses the entire field and used his season at pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach to his advantage, becoming adept at driving outside pitches the opposite way. Defensively, he made a seamless move from center field to right last year. Managers rated his arm the best among Carolina League outfielders. He has outstanding range and gets good jumps on balls. His knack for being in the right position can be attributed to his speed as well as his baseball instincts and intelligence. As impressive as his tools may be, Francoeur's makeup may stand out even more. One of the most competitive players in the organization, he's a fiery team leader, which could be just what the big league team needs. Francoeur's greatest need is to show more patience at the plate, and at this point it appears to be the only flaw in his game. While he doesn't strike out excessively, he also didn't draw a walk in 18 Double-A games and he worked just two in 25 AFL contests. The Braves don't want him to change his aggressive approach, but he understands that better strike-zone discipline will make him an even more dangerous hitter. After another year of making adjustments against advanced pitching, he should be ready for his major league debut soon thereafter. Longtime Atlanta officials continue to compare Francoeur to Dale Murphy, and his swagger is more reminiscent of Chipper Jones. He's an exciting player who gives the game every ounce of his energy every time he takes the field. His natural ability and approach could make him a 30-30 man and an all-star for the Braves. Even if he's moved at a conservative pace, he should get his first taste of the big leagues by the end of 2006.

  2. 2. Andy Marte | 3B
    Andy Marte
    Born: Oct 21, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 205
    Minors: .275/.372/.506 | 20 HR | 0 SB | 389 AB

    Marte turned in another solid season in 2004, appearing in the Futures Game and being rated as the top prospect in the Double-A Southern League. Despite missing a month with sprains in both ankles, he finished second in homers among Braves farmhands. Marte's ability to drive the ball to all fields is outstanding and getting better. He already shows patience at the plate. His glovework is also above-average, as managers named him the best defensive third baseman and top infield arm in the Southern League. He shows impressive maturity for his age. Marte's swing has a slight uppercut and can get a little long when he tires, but the Braves consider those minor problems. Still, his strikeout rate jumped in 2004. His body has gotten a little thick over the past two years and might need monitoring. Marte is the Braves' long-term answer at third base. He needs another half-season in the minors and will begin 2005 at Triple-A Richmond, but he could take over full-time as soon as Opening Day 2006. His potential as an all-around impact player is unquestioned.

  3. 3. Brian McCann | C
    Brian McCann
    Born: Feb 20, 1984
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 225
    Minors: .265/.359/.476 | 6 HR | 2 SB | 166 AB

    Despite playing at pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach, McCann put together one of the best all-around seasons of any catcher in the minors. A Carolina League all-star, he tied for the organization lead in doubles and set a career high for homers. Older brother Brad, a third baseman, signed with the Marlins as a 2004 sixth-round pick, and his father Howard is the former head coach at Marshall. McCann has a sweet lefthanded swing and as much raw power as anyone in the organization. He employs a disciplined approach at the plate and makes solid contact. Drafted primarily for his bat, he has dedicated himself to improving behind the plate and was named the CL's best defensive catcher. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers with his strong, accurate arm and quick release. While pitchers like throwing to McCann, he needs to hone his skills behind the plate, particularly his footwork and agility. Offensively, he could draw more walks. He's a below-average runner. He has drawn comparisons to Eddie Taubensee, but the Braves say McCann has a higher ceiling. He'll spend 2005 at the new Double-A Mississippi affiliate and could reach Atlanta by late 2006.

  4. 4. Kyle Davies | RHP
    Kyle Davies
    Born: Sep 9, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 210
    Minors: 5-2 | 3.44 ERA | 62 SO | 34 BB | 73.3 IP

    Baseball America once rated Davies, a standout in the East Cobb program in suburban Atlanta, as the nation's top 14-year-old (1998) and 15-year-old (1999) player. After a breakthrough season in 2003 and reaching Triple-A in 2004, he's now the Braves' top pitching prospect following the trades of Jose Capellan and Dan Meyer. After revamping his mechanics in 2003, Davies showed consistency in 2004. His great command of his 89-93 mph fastball makes it a plus pitch. His changeup is the best in the system, and his curveball features nice bite. He also works both sides of the plate and alters the hitter's eye level. With his delivery ironed out, Davies simply needs to compete against experienced hitters and prove he can make the necessary adjustments. His curveball could use a little more consistency. Some Braves instructors say Davies could win a job with the major league club this spring. He's more likely to open the season in Triple-A, but he'll make his big league debut soon enough.

  5. 5. Anthony Lerew | RHP
    Anthony Lerew
    Born: Oct 28, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 225
    Minors: 10-6 | 3.71 ERA | 117 SO | 55 BB | 148.0 IP

    Lerew flew under the radar in high school because he also played football-- he was an all-star punter in Pennsylvania--but area scout J.J. Picollo identified his talent and signability early on. The Braves stole him in the 11th round in 2001, and he has posted a 2.79 ERA in four pro seasons. Lerew's fastball suddenly jumped 4-5 mph in 2004. After touching 93 mph the year before, he started working at 91-94 and peaking at 97. The pitch also has nice movement, and he generates that velocity with an effortless delivery. He also has good overall control. At its best, his changeup can be a plus pitch and has the break of a splitter. The increase in velocity affected Lerew's command, as he still threw strikes but didn't locate his pitches as effectively in the zone. His secondary offerings also need refinement. He lost the feel for his changeup at times and must tighten his slider further. Provided he maintains his newfound velocity, Lerew has the makings of a power pitcher in the middle of a major league rotation. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he's expected to spend most of 2005 in Double-A.

  6. 6. Jake Stevens | LHP
    Jake Stevens
    Born: Mar 15, 1985
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 215
    Minors: 10-9 | 4.93 ERA | 102 SO | 62 BB | 148.0 IP

    Stevens had the best first full season of the five pitchers Atlanta selected in the first three rounds of the 2003 draft. He had a streak of 25 consecutive innings without an earned run in June and finished eighth in the minors in ERA. Scouts drool over Stevens' projectable body. He's a good athlete and shows excellent stamina. He has terrific command of three pitches, beginning with an 89-91 mph fastball that has registered as high as 94. He displays excellent feel for an overhand curveball that could become a plus power pitch. Stevens' changeup could give him a third above-average pitch. His competitiveness enhances his total package. Stevens showed his age at times in 2004, getting flustered on the rare occasions when he got hit hard. He needs to learn how to minimize the damage instead of throwing gas on the fire, as he did during two seven-run outings in July. His changeup needs more depth. Stevens is well ahead of the curve for a young lefthanded pitcher. A promotion to high Class A is in his immediate future. He has a ceiling as a No. 2 starter.

  7. 7. Luis Hernandez | SS
    Luis Hernandez
    Born: Jun 26, 1984
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'10" Wt.: 190
    Minors: .243/.315/.317 | 3 HR | 5 SB | 419 AB

    No one made greater strides in the Braves system in 2004 than Hernandez. The youngest player in the Carolina League, he boosted his batting average 41 points from the previous season while continuing to shine on defense. At least one opposing manager said he has as bright a future as teammates Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann. Hernandez is a smooth fielder with soft, quick hands, drawing raves for the way he picks the ball at shortstop. His ability to transfer the ball from glove to hand enables him to make highlight plays, and he also completes the routine ones. An improving contact hitter, he has decent pop and should improve his ability to drive the ball as he gains strength and maturity. Hernandez needs more patience after drawing just 40 walks in 228 full-season games. His free-swinging approach will be challenged, and possibly exploited, at higher levels. His body is built more for quickness than speed, so he's not much of a threat to steal. The Braves say they're more convinced than ever that Hernandez will be a special player. He's slated for Double-A and will be one of the game's youngest players at that level.

  8. 8. Kelly Johnson | 2B
    Kelly Johnson
    Born: Feb 22, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 200
    Minors: .310/.438/.581 | 8 HR | 7 SB | 155 AB

    A supplemental first-round pick in 2000 who was initially a promising shortstop prospect, Johnson stalled in 2002-03 but got his career going again last season when he repeated Double-A. He also moved from shortstop to the outfield with relative ease, seeing time at all three spots and playing primarily in left field. Johnson has solid all-around tools and a hard-nosed, fearless approach. He spread his stance at the plate and regained the power he showed three years earlier in low Class A. As an outfielder, he showed a plus arm along with good speed and range. Johnson is still learning to trust himself. Once he reacts instead of thinking about every move, he'll have a better chance to blossom. He also has to make more consistent contact at the plate and work on the nuances of outfield play. It's easy to forget how young Johnson is. Another dash of maturity could allow him to move more quickly than he has to this point. The Braves have slated Johnson for Triple-A in 2005 and continue to count on him as an eventual contributor in the majors.

  9. 9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia | C
    Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    Born: May 2, 1985
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 235
    Minors: .314/.394/.519 | 19 HR | 4 SB | 459 AB

    The Braves thought they got the best catcher out of the draft in both 2002 (Brian McCann) and 2003 (Saltalamacchia), and nothing has happened to change that thought. Despite wrist and hamstring injuries, Saltalamacchia had a solid first full season. Saltalamacchia's calling card remains his bat. He possesses power from both sides of the plate, especially as a lefthander, where he has a sweet swing with natural loft. He has good physical skills behind the plate, with his arm strength and agility standing out the most. He's more athletic than most catchers. Though he made strides with his defense in 2004, Saltalamacchia's receiving and footwork need further improvement after he erased just 21 percent of basestealers. He's still learning the nuances of calling a game and working with pitchers. He could do a better job of loading his hands from the right side, where his swing looks somewhat mechanical. With his performance at low Class A Rome, Saltalamacchia quieted skeptics who wondered if he'd be able to stay behind the plate. He'll open 2005 in high Class A.

  10. 10. Blaine Boyer | RHP
    Blaine Boyer
    Born: Jul 11, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 235
    Minors: 2-4 | 5.03 ERA | 40 SO | 18 BB | 48.3 IP

    Boyer is a product of the same Walton High (Marietta, Ga.) program that produced big leaguers Marc Pisciotta and Chris Stowers and recent Red Sox draft picks Scott White (third round, 2002) and Mickey Hall (second, 2003). Boyer has moved slowly, reaching high Class A in his fifth pro season, but he has made steady progress and led the system in innings pitched in 2004. Boyer operates with two plus pitches. His heavy sinker sits at 92-93 mph and generates plenty of groundball outs. His sharp curveball is a potential strikeout pitch. His command continues to get better each season. Boyer's changeup lags behind his other two pitches, and its development will determine whether he becomes a starter or reliever. He spent all of 2002 in the latter role before returning to the rotation. While he has matured in the last two seasons, he must remember to keep control of his emotions on the mound. In 2005, Boyer finally will get his first taste of Double-A. His long-term role is still undetermined, but if he puts everything together it's possible that he could be a big league closer in the future.

  11. 11. Jose Ascanio | RHP
    Jose Ascanio
    Born: May 2, 1985
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'11" Wt.: 195
    Minors: 3-1 | 6.10 ERA | 12 SO | 9 BB | 20.7 IP

    After disciplinary issues limited him to eight games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League during his U.S. debut in 2003, Ascanio put in a full season in 2004 and showed the ability to dominate against more experienced hitters. The Braves assigned him to extended spring training at the outset of 2004, but summoned him to low Class A in mid- April when Ricardo Rodriguez came down with shoulder tendinitis. Ascanio had no problems adapting, quickly emerging as a reliable bullpen option and pitching well until running out of gas in August. Despite his relatively small frame, he has a big arm. He reached 97 mph on several occasions with his well above-average fastball, which also features good movement. He's still trying to gain a consistent feel of his changeup and breaking ball, and Atlanta believes that will happen if he stays healthy. He already does a good job of throwing strikes. He also has a strong desire to succeed. As with Odalis Perez in the late 1990s, the Braves are trying to protect Ascanio by limiting his appearances while his maturing body catches up with his arm strength. He'll be promoted to high Class A in 2005.

  12. 12. Scott Thorman | 1B
    Scott Thorman
    Born: Jan 6, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 225
    Minors: .294/.343/.480 | 21 HR | 2 SB | 558 AB

    A surprise first-round pick in 2000, when most teams rated him as a third-rounder, Thorman has been slow to develop. He missed all of 2001 after shoulder surgery, and after coming back with a promising season in low Class A, he has been inconsistent at the plate the last two years. But he gave the Braves hope late last season in Double-A, when he made some adjustments and batted .282 with seven homers in the final month. A 2003 Futures Game participant, Thorman is a hard-working student of the game with awesome natural strength that translates into big-time power potential. He makes consistent contact for a power hitter but tends to get pull-happy on occasion. The former third baseman/pitcher has made impressive strides with the leather at first base. Thorman has good hands and unlike a lot of first basemen, doesn't hesitate to take chances with his arm, which is strong for his position. He still has to improve his footwork around the bag. The Braves believe Thorman's greatest need centers on slowing down and not being so anxious at the plate. Those traits should come with additional experience, beginning with a possible return to Double-A to open 2005.

  13. 13. Roman Colon | RHP
    Roman Colon
    Born: Aug 13, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 245
    Minors: 1-1 | 1.66 ERA | 16 SO | 7 BB | 21.7 IP

    A move to the bullpen proved to be just what Colon needed to blossom into a major league prospect. A starter since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 1995, he didn't shift to relief until mid-June in 2003. Strictly a reliever in 2004, he improved his command in Triple-A and earned a chance to showcase his electric arm in the majors by August. By working shorter stints, Colon saw his velocity increase to the low 90s and peak at 95 mph. He also made considerable improvement with the consistency and movement on his slider ball and splitter. He became more of a pitcher than a thrower, and displayed the necessary demeanor required to pitch in relief. Big and strong, Colon remains a little raw and could use further refinement of his secondary pitches. His progress is undeniable, however, and could lead to a job in the Atlanta bullpen in 2005.

  14. 14. Ryan Langerhans | OF
    Ryan Langerhans
    Born: Feb 20, 1980
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 220

    Langerhans rewarded a faithful core of believers in the Atlanta front office by putting together the most consistent season of his career last year in Triple-A. He ranked among the International League leaders and topped Braves farmhands in runs and on-base percentage. Langerhans always has had a sweet swing from the left side of the plate, with above-average power and the ability to spray line drives to all fields. He also has good speed and is a plus baserunner. With his speed and baseball instincts, Langerhans is one of the best defensive outfielders in the organization as well as one of the most versatile. Add in his plus arm strength, and he should be able to play any of the three outfield positions in the major leagues. Langerhans enters spring training out of options, but the Braves are confident that his versatility and hard-nosed approach will enable him to make the 25-man roster. If he continues to hit, he could push for more than a reserve role. With J.D. Drew departing via free agency and Charles Thomas used in the Tim Hudson trade, Atlanta needs corner outfielders. Declining veterans Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi are all that stand behind Langerhans and regular playing time.

  15. 15. Wilson Betemit | 1B
    Wilson Betemit
    Born: Nov 2, 1981
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 220

    It wasn't that long ago when Betemit, No. 1 on this list in 2001 and 2002, was projected to be a fixture on the left side of Atlanta's infield. Of course, that was before Rafael Furcal took over at shortstop and Chipper Jones returned to third base to keep the hot corner warm for Andy Marte. Meanwhile, Betemit has gone backwards in his development, having only sporadic success with the bat in three years in Triple-A. He did have his best season at Richmond in 2004, but it was his third straight season there. While he set career highs in doubles and homers and improved his batting average, he still has holes in his swing and needs more patience at the plate. He has average speed. Betemit is an above-average defender at third base and at least average at shortstop, displaying good range, soft hands and the strongest infield arm in the system. Some club officials still believe Betemit is capable of blossoming into a regular, but he'll first need to prove himself as a backup infielder with Atlanta in 2005.

  16. 16. Macay McBride | LHP
    Macay McBride
    Born: Oct 24, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 5'11" Wt.: 210
    Minors: 4-6 | 4.08 ERA | 63 SO | 34 BB | 68.3 IP

    McBride had progressed nicely after going 24th overall in the 2001 draft. He was the low Class A South Atlantic League pitcher of the year in 2002 and led the Carolina League in strikeouts in 2003. But after working out strenuously during the winter to prepare for the 2004 season, McBride lost the feel for his slider and changeup. He went 0-6, 5.61 in 10 Double-A starts before the Braves moved him to the bullpen to take some pressure off. With his secondary pitches at less than their best, McBride began working the outside corners with his low 90s fastball, which meant he was too often behind in the count. He regained the command of his best pitch, a sharp slider, and a solid changeup, and was back on the right track at season's end. After learning how to pitch on nights when he's not hitting his spots, McBride must continue to trust his stuff. He also needs to do a better job of altering the batter's eye level by working his pitches up and down in the strike zone, rather than just side to side. Atlanta still projects McBride as a starter, though he could fill a void as a quality lefty reliever in the majors. He'll return to Double-A to begin this season.

  17. 17. Tony Pena | RHP
    Tony Pena
    Born: Mar 23, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 180
    Minors: .249/.285/.347 | 5 HR | 17 SB | 490 AB

    The 2004 campaign was a tale of two seasons for Pena, whose father Tony is a former all-star catcher and currently manages the Royals. T.J. received raves for his improved offensive contributions during the first half, hitting .298 with seven homers in Double-A. But he soon wore down and his already shaky plate discipline declined further. Pena batted just .183 with two homers after the all-star break, with 42 strikeouts and just five walks. While his bat always has been a question, Pena's defensive reputation took a hit as well as he made 26 errors. He has a strong arm, covers a lot of ground and does an excellent job of turning the double play. Consistency was a problem last year, with some scouts wondering if Pena was taking his offensive woes to the field late in the season. He must get stronger and adapt at the plate, especially with Luis Hernandez rising up the organization depth chart. After a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, Pena is expected to start this season in Triple-A.

  18. 18. Charlie Morton | RHP
    Charlie Morton
    Born: Nov 12, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 215
    Minors: 5-9 | 5.20 ERA | 86 SO | 62 BB | 124.7 IP

    Morton has yet to have a winning season or post an ERA less than 4.54, but he may be ready to take his game to the next level and surge up this list. The lanky hurler showed a lot of progress when the Braves made him a full-time starter last July after alternating him between the rotation and long relief in the first half of the season. Morton displayed improved command of all of his pitches and wound up limiting opponents to three earned runs or less in nine of his last 11 starts. His best offering is an overhand curveball that appears to fall out of the sky. His fastball features good movement while residing in the low 90s. He continues to work on getting a feel for his changeup, which could develop into a solid-average pitch. More innings to work on his command and feel for his pitches is Morton's greatest need. He'll move up to high Class A this year.

  19. 19. Gonzalo Lopez | RHP
    Gonzalo Lopez
    Born: Oct 6, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 175

    Few pitchers tease scouts as much as Lopez, who ranked No. 8 on this list in 2002 and No. 10 in 2003. He missed most of 2003 because of shoulder tendinitis and a team-imposed suspension, then turned in a solid season in low Class A last year--just as he had in 2002. The Braves believe Lopez has the ability to have a Jose Capellan-like breakthrough as soon as 2005, but several aspects of his game must come together in order for that to happen. He operates with three quality offerings, including a lively low-90s fastball, an ever-improving and already solid curveball and an effective changeup. He commands all of his pitches well and is capable of dominating when he keeps his stuff down in the strike zone. The moody righthander has been disciplined a couple of times by Atlanta for his attitude. If he can significantly improve his mindset and dedication, Lopez has the physical tools to move quickly. The Braves hope he starts doing that in high Class A this year.

  20. 20. Chuck James | LHP
    Chuck James
    Born: Nov 9, 1981
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 190
    Minors: 13-7 | 2.12 ERA | 193 SO | 36 BB | 161.3 IP

    The Braves were prepared to take James in the third round in 2002, but days before the draft he suffered serious injuries to both of his arms after attempting to jump off a roof into a pool. He hit the ground before the water, and it cost him 17 rounds and a large chunk of bonus money. In his first taste of full-season ball last year, he won the South Atlantic League's most valuable pitcher award. James displays great concentration and moxie on the mound. An aggressive pitcher who keeps hitters off balance, he challenges them with his 89-91 mph fastball. He also has a plus changeup that he'll use at any time in the count. He not only throws strikes, but he also locates his pitches well. Considered undersized by some scouts, James certainly doesn't have a projectable build. To continue to start at higher levels, he'll have to improve his slider. He also must upgrade his stamina, because his fastball dips into the mid-80s when he gets tired. A possible end-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, James will open the 2005 season in high Class A.

  21. 21. Bill McCarthy | OF
    Bill McCarthy
    Born: Dec 2, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 205
    Minors: .226/.295/.339 | 5 HR | 1 SB | 239 AB

    Charles Thomas wasn't the only Richmond outfielder to have a breakthrough season in 2004. McCarthy did as well, and with Thomas sent to Oakland in the Tim Hudson trade, he has a chance to make the Braves. He advanced to Double-A to start his second full season, but a hand injury ended his 2003 in July. He bounced back last year, once again displaying good pop and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He could develop into a 20-25 home run hitter. McCarthy is also a smart and aggressive baserunner with decent range in the outfield. His arm is strong enough for right field, but his future in the majors probably lies in left. Atlanta added McCarthy to its 40-man roster for the first time in November. He hit .379 against lefthanders in 2004, though his chances of serving the Braves in a platoon role took a hit when they signed veterans Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi.

  22. 22. Brandon Jones | OF
    Brandon Jones
    Born: Dec 10, 1983
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 215
    Minors: .312/.417/.511 | 8 HR | 4 SB | 231 AB

    Had Atlanta not signed Jones out of Tallahassee (Fla.) CC as a draft-and-follow last May, he could have gone in the first three rounds of the 2004 draft. The Royals drafted him in the sixth round out of high school, where he played quarterback, defensive back and punter for his high school football team and also served as a point guard in basketball. Compared to Garret Anderson, Jones has solid tools across the board. Speed is his greatest asset, though he didn't run wild on the bases in his pro debut. At the plate, he's a line-drive hitter who has shown flashes of budding power that will continue to blossom as his body matures. He has good defensive instincts with above-average arm strength, skills that could enable him to man center field at higher levels. Jones remains a raw product, but the polish he displayed after some initial coaching has the Braves believing he could develop rapidly. He'll spend his first full season in low Class A.

  23. 23. J.C. Holt | 2B
    J.C. Holt
    Born: Dec 8, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'9" Wt.: 175
    Minors: .268/.324/.367 | 5 HR | 12 SB | 441 AB

    A center fielder during his last two years at Louisiana State, Holt returned to second base after signing for $380,000 as a third-round pick last June. He played the position as a college freshman and displayed solid ability there as a pro. Holt made all the plays to his left and showed good overall range and a decent arm. Not surprisingly, he needs work on going up the middle as well as his double-play pivot. He also needs to make the adjustments to the speed of the game on defense. Offensively, Holt is a speed-oriented player who makes consistent contact with the ability to drive the ball from gap to gap. He's a proven hitter with wood bats, winning the 2003 Cape Cod League batting title at .388, so it was no surprise he hit .321 in his pro debut. His strike-zone judgment is decent and should get better with experience. A former Louisiana high school sprint champion, Holt has the quickness and savvy to steal 30 bases annually. He's a potential leadoff hitter who should reach high Class A at some point in 2005.

  24. 24. Gregor Blanco | OF
    Gregor Blanco
    Born: Dec 24, 1983
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 5'10" Wt.: 187
    Minors: .252/.367/.384 | 6 HR | 28 SB | 401 AB

    The Braves had Blanco repeat high Class A in 2004, when he posted numbers that mirrored those from his first season at Myrtle Beach. Nevertheless, he showed steady progress in all phases of his game. He put together a solid if unspectacular year at the plate while managers rated him the best defensive outfielder in the Carolina League. Blanco has outstanding athletic ability, which shows up best with his outstanding play in center field. He has plus speed and a strong arm. He has shortened his swing during the past two years in order to help him get on base and put his legs to work. He also continues to add strength and more pop at the plate. Blanco has a reputation as a slow starter, and didn't shake it by hitting just .228 last April. He needs to develop more overall consistency in his game, especially making more contact. Reversing his trend of declining walk totals also would let him use his speed more often. Blanco's next challenge will come in Double-A.

  25. 25. Josh Burrus | OF
    Josh Burrus
    Born: Aug 20, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'11" Wt.: 190
    Minors: .263/.338/.427 | 16 HR | 36 SB | 490 AB

    A cousin of Jeffrey Hammonds, Burrus was considered one of the most advanced prep hitters in the 2001 draft. But after going 29th overall and signing for $1.25 million, he took three years to escape Rookie ball and entered last season with a .225 career average. However, his stock is on the rise again after he made some adjustments in low Class A and set career highs across the board. Burrus possesses strong, quick wrists and finally began driving the ball to all fields as it was anticipated he would do coming out of high school. Like many of Atlanta's position prospects, he must address his strike zone judgment and make more consistent contact. He also has above-average speed and shows the makings of becoming a plus baserunner. Defensively, the Braves tried Burrus at shortstop and third base before moving him to left field in 2003. He has good range but modest arm strength. He faces a pivotal season in high Class A this year, when he can prove if the gains he made in 2004 were for real.

  26. 26. Zach Miner | RHP
    Zach Miner
    Born: Mar 12, 1982
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 225
    Minors: 5-9 | 3.78 ERA | 101 SO | 70 BB | 140.3 IP

    Miner has as much natural ability as any pitcher in the organization. He ranked as high as No. 7 on this list after the Braves bought him out of a commitment to the University of Miami with a $1.2 million bonus. But he has fared progressively worse as he has moved up the minor league ladder, and he won just one of his final 10 starts in Double-A last year. Miner needs to quit playing keep-away from hitters. He possesses a solid slider with sharp bite and good sinking movement on his low-90s fastball, but he's constantly behind in the count because he tries to be too fine with his offerings. That also leads to high pitch counts, the main reason he never went past seven innings in a start last season. More aggressiveness and more depth with his changeup would work wonders for him. He showed promise while pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Regardless of his future role, Miner must start challenging hitters this year when he returns to Double-A.

  27. 27. Luis Atilano | RHP
    Luis Atilano
    Born: May 10, 1985
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 220
    Minors: 8-9 | 4.17 ERA | 66 SO | 32 BB | 136.0 IP

    Atlanta's top pick in 2003, Atilano signed for $950,000 as a supplemental first-rounder. The best thing he had going for him was his projectability, so it wasn't unexpected when he struggled initially after turning pro. He found more of a comfort zone last year at Rookie-level Danville. Atilano's fastball added velocity, moving from 88-91 to 92-93 mph. His changeup also showed flashes of becoming a solid-average pitch. He needs to work on the consistency of his curveball. Atilano has established himself as a strike-thrower, but his overall command and pitch quality need to show improvement before he's ready for the upper levels of the minors. He has a tendency to leave his pitches up in the zone, leaving him vulnerable to home runs. He'll move up to the full-season ranks in 2005, opening the season in low Class A.

  28. 28. Martin Prado | 3B
    Martin Prado
    Born: Oct 27, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 215
    Minors: .298/.353/.395 | 5 HR | 12 SB | 440 AB

    After spending three years in Rookie ball, Prado made a strong impression in his first shot at full-season ball last year. He ranked ninth in the South Atlantic League in batting and made the postseason all-star team. Managers also rated him the best defensive second baseman in the SAL, thanks to his soft hands, above-average range and ability to turn the double play. Prado has only minimal power, so his offensive game centers around making contact. He has good bat control but needs to show more patience so he can draw more walks. Prado has good speed, but he needs considerable work on his reads and jumps after getting caught on 10 of his 24 basestealing attempts in 2004. Though his body continues to mature, Prado doesn't project off the charts. He'll try to keep his momentum going this year in high Class A.

  29. 29. Diory Hernandez | 3B
    Diory Hernandez
    Born: Apr 8, 1984
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 185
    Minors: .263/.318/.386 | 6 HR | 5 SB | 293 AB

    Few players in the organization receive more mixed reviews than Hernandez. His proponents love his offensive potential. He's much further along at the plate than Luis Hernandez (no relation) and T.J. Pena were at the same point of their careers. Twenty-four of Hernandez' 83 hits last year went for extra bases, and he finished with a flourish by batting .307 in the final month. Detractors point to Hernandez's free-swinging ways and his mediocre speed and question how he'll be able to produce against better pitching. Defensively, Hernandez is raw and his range might be better suited for third base than shortstop. The Braves wish he'd mature, because he gets moody and doesn't always deal with the daily grind of baseball. But like Gonzalo Lopez, he's considered to be worth the warts because of his potential. His next stop is high Class A.

  30. 30. James Jurries | 1B

    Jurries has been productive at the plate for as long as anyone can remember. He hit .500 in three of his four seasons in high school, beat out Mark Teixeira to win Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award in 1999 and earned all-Conference USA honors in each of his four seasons at Tulane. After totaling 15 homers in his first two pro seasons, Jurries drilled 25 to lead Braves farmhands in 2004. He uses the entire field at the plate, and can hit the ball out of any part of the park. His increased power came at a cost, as his plate discipline slipped last season. He's an offensive-only player, as he has below-average speed and is adequate at first base. He also has seen time at third base, and realistically projects as a corner infield backup in the majors. Jurries probably will return to Triple-A to begin 2005.

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