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No teenage pitcher over the past two decades has sped through the Braves system faster than Teheran. He signed as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2007 for $850,000, the largest bonus for an international amateur pitcher that year. The Yankees actually offered him more money, but Atlanta had an edge in that his cousin Miguel was one of the scouts who signed him. Teheran battled shoulder tendinitis during his 2008 pro debut but hasn't slowed down since. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2009 and again in the high Class A Carolina League the following year. That success notwithstanding, Teheran put together his best pro season in 2011. He made a pair of emergency starts in Atlanta in mid-May before returning for three appearances in September. In between, he led the Triple-A International League with 15 wins while ranking second in ERA (2.55) and opponent average (.232). With an electric arm, excellent instincts and maturity beyond his years, Teheran makes pitching look easy. He mixes four pitches to keep hitters off balance and does a good job of getting ahead in the count. A lanky hurler who throws on an impressive downward plane, Teheran works low in the zone and also is capable of getting batters to chase high fastballs. His heater sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. He commands the pitch to both sides of the plate and isn't afraid to pitch inside. His changeup is nearly as good as his fastball, featuring outstanding depth and fade. He seems to know to throw his changeup when the batter least expects it. Teheran throws two breaking balls--a curveball in the low 80s with late bite, and a slider he uses less frequently--and developing a consistently reliable one is his main need at this point. Otherwise, he just needs to refine a few things, such as his fastball command and his pickoff move. The Braves have ironed out his delivery and will continue to monitor his mechanics in order to minimize the violence associated with generating such tremendous power. His pitching coaches rave about Teheran's work ethic, desire to improve and willingness to accept constructive criticism. Teheran has the ability to become a No. 1 starter. He'll need to add some strength and become a little sharper with all of his pitches in order to attain that status--which is why he may start 2012 back in Triple-A--but the goal is well within reach.
Acquired from the Yankees in the December 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to New York, Vizcaino partially tore an elbow ligament in his first season in the Braves system but put that behind him in 2011. He appeared in the Futures Game while rising from high Class A Lynchburg to Atlanta, moving from the rotation to the bullpen when he got to Triple-A Gwinnett. Vizcaino's fastball sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. He also has sharp-breaking curveball that's a plus pitch but he tends to fall in love with it too much. He made impressive strides with his changeup in 2011 to give him three solid offerings. He does an excellent job of challenging hitters when he's behind in the count but needs to improve his fastball command in order to stay ahead. Given the way he responded to relieving as well as the depth of starters in Atlanta, Vizcaino could remain in the bullpen. At the same time, a potential No. 2 or 3 starter is a prized commodity. One way or the other, he'll take a prominent role with the Braves as he gains experience.
Delgado was an unsung hero in Atlanta's unsuccessful playoff drive. After making a pair of emergency starts early in the year, he allowed a total of seven earned runs in five September starts. Unheralded when he signed at age 16 out of Panama, he has progressed faster than expected because his maturity and coachability allow him to make quick adjustments. Delgado maintain a 92-94 mph fastball but struggles at times to command the pitch. His best offering is a plus curveball with sharp downward bite, and he also has a solid changeup. He has a smooth, quick delivery and does a good job of using the same arm speed with all of his pitches. Delgado tends to lose some deception when his arm action gets long. Despite his strong frame, he doesn't have an abundance of athleticism and doesn't handle the bat well, particularly in terms of bunting. The Braves believe Delgado is ready to join the back of their rotation to open the 2012 season, though spending some more time in Triple-A to hone his fastball command could be beneficial as well. He profiles as an eventual No. 3 starter with a ceiling of a No. 2.
Western Oklahoma State JC head coach Kurt Russell discovered Simmons in Curacao, and several clubs were interested in him as a pitcher after seeing his fastball hit 98 mph in his lone juco season. Atlanta granted his wish to play shortstop, and he responded by winning the Carolina League batting title (.311) in 2011. Managers rated him as the circuit's top defensive shortstop, best infield arm and most exciting player. Simmons is a premier defender with a cannon for an arm and soft, quick hands. He covers lots of real estate with his quickness, ability to charge the ball and feel for the position. He committed careless errors by trying to make every play early in 2011 but improved in that regard. An aggressive hitter, Simmons knows the strike zone but doesn't walk much. He has bat speed and can turn on fastballs, but he won't have more than gap power. An average runner, he needs to improve his reads and jumps after getting thrown out 18 times in 44 steal attempts. Simmons will open 2012 in Double-A Mississippi, and more than few observers believe he already can play defense at a major league level. Tyler Pastornicky may get the first crack at the Braves' shortstop job, but Simmons is their shortstop of the future.
The Braves took Gilmartin with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft, marking the second time in three years they went with an advanced college lefthander in the first round. He has drawn comparisons to Mike Minor, taken seventh overall by Atlanta in 2009. Signed for $1,134,000, Gilmartin had no problem handling low Class A hitters in his brief pro debut. Gilmartin has a clean arm action and above-average athleticism. A two-way player at Florida State, he throws an 88-91 mph fastball with good life and a solid slider. His best pitch is a plus changeup, and he knows how to set up hitters while mixing all of his offerings. While he won't get many swings and misses against advanced hitters, Gilmartin is an efficient hurler who records lots of groundouts. He fields his position well and can swing the bat. An eventual No. 3 starter, Gilmartin has the polish to move as quickly as the Braves need. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League and will ship him to Double-A Mississippi to begin his first full pro season. He may not need much more than a year in the minors.
Salcedo was a hot prospect on the international market in 2007, but he lost two years while MLB investigated his identity and birthdate. He finally signed for in February 2010 for $1.6 million, a franchise record for a foreign amateur. He has spent most of his career struggling at low Class A Rome, but he has shown improvement and his natural ability has begun to emerge. Salcedo has above-average power potential, thanks to his quick bat and smooth stroke. Tremendously raw when he signed, he showed a more advanced approach and greater knowledge of the strike zone in 2011. He's a below-average runner, so his move from shortstop to third base was inevitable. Salcedo has the arm strength and agility for the hot corner, but he makes too many errors (40 in 100 games at third) by trying to force plays. Scouts are mixed on whether he should remain on the dirt or move to an outfield corner. Salcedo could move faster now that he has started to build a solid foundation. He'll move up to high Class A in 2012 and could reach Double-A Mississippi in the second half, though he doesn't figure to be big league-ready before 2014.
Swapping Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez hasn't worked out as the Braves hoped, but they did get Pastornicky as part of the July 2010 trade with the Blue Jays. The son of former big leaguer Cliff Pastornicky, he blossomed in all phases of the game in 2011 and would have made his major league debut if not for a high ankle sprain in mid-August. Pastornicky competes as well as anyone in the system and has excellent instincts. He has a good feel for hitting and makes consistent line-drive contact, though he could stand to draw a few more walks. He doesn't have a lot of strength, but he has a quick bat and could develop some gap power. Pastornicky has plus speed and the aptitude to steal bases. He has above-average range at shortstop, and he could get more out of his average arm with a more consistent arm slot. Pastornicky has proven to be better than Atlanta expected and now is knocking on the door to the big leagues. With Gonzalez gone after signing as a free agent with the Brewers, Pastornicky is clearly the best in-house option to replace him.
Scouts have been enthralled with Bethancourt's potential since he played in the 2004 Little League World Series for Panama. Four years later, he signed with Atlanta for $600,000. His lack of maturity and consistency has been frustrating at times, but he's a rare catching prospect with all-around potential. No one questions Bethancourt's raw tools. He has soft hands, plus arm strength and a quick release that helped him throw out 38 percent of basestealers in 2011. He also possesses good hand-eye coordination, makes consitent contact and shows solid raw power. He also runs well for a catcher. However, several scouts question Bethancourt's approach at the plate and behind it. He's a free swinger who rarely walks and wastes too many at-bats. Defensively, he often picks at pitches in the dirt instead of shifting his body. His body language and lack of fire at times also leave a lot to be desired. Bethancourt is still just 20, so he has time to develop. The Braves challenged him to show improvement in 2011 and he responded impressively. If he continues to work hard and hone his skills, he can become a big league starter and perhaps an all-star. He should spend the majority of 2012 in Double-A.
After missing time because of off-field issues in 2009 and a broken right hand (the result of punching a dugout wall) in 2010, Spruill finally put together the full season the Braves hoped for in 2011. He led the minors with six complete games and ranked third with 175 innings, and he also topped the Carolina League with a 1.01 WHIP. Spruill found success by pounding the bottom of the strike zone with his sinking 91-94 mph fastball, pitching to contact and not worrying about strikeouts. He uses his fastball command to get ahead in the count, then mixes in his secondary pitches to keep hitters off balance. Spruill's solid changeup also has good sink and he throws it with the same arm action he employs with his fastball. His slider has been inconsistent but shows impressive tilt and movement when he's throwing it well. He gets in trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone. In danger of becoming a forgotten prospect before his breakout season, Spruill will return to Double-A to open 2012. If he continues on this path, he can become a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues.
Oregon's top high school position player in the 2010 draft, Drury signed for $85,000 as a 13th-rounder but hit just .198/.248/.292 in his pro debut. He looked like a different hitter in 2011, leading the Appalachian League with 92 hits and falling .0003 shy of the batting title. Drury employs a compact stroke while keeping his hands back and generating above-average bat speed. He excels at making contact--almost to a fault because he walked just six times in 63 games in 2011--and does a nice job of using the entire field. He gets good carry on his hits because of the backspin he generates, and his doubles could turn into homers as he adds more strength and experience. A shortstop in high school, Drury has made a smooth adjustment to third base. He displays average range with solid arm strength and good instincts at the hot corner. The only thing he doesn't do well is run, as he possesses below-average speed. His work ethic and makeup are considered major assets. Edward Salcedo is his competition to be Atlanta's third baseman of the future, and Drury may eventually win out because he's the better defender. He'll get his first taste of full-season ball at Rome in 2012.
The nephew of former all-star Mike Greenwell, Terdoslavich was born to hit. In 2011, his first full pro season, he broke a 65-year-old Carolina League record with 52 doubles. He also paced the circuit in extra-base hits (74) while ranking second in total bases (254), third in batting (.286) and homers (20) and fourth in RBIs (82). The Braves named him their minor league player of the year. A switch-hitter, Terdoslavich is aggressive from both sides of the plate with an uppercut swing and a high finish that generates impressive backspin. He doesn't strike out excessively for a power hitter and could hit in the neighborhood of .270 with 20 or more homers per year. Terdoslavich has yet to find a defensive home after splitting time between first and third base in his pro debut and playing almost exclusively at first last year. He saw some time in left field during instructional league but has below-average speed and just average arm strength. Atlanta officials are intrigued with Terdoslavich's offensive potential and are interested to see how he fares in Double-A this year.
Hoover progressed nicely as a starter in his first three-plus seasons in the minors, and he posted a 2.84 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 67 innings in the Mississippi rotation at the outset of 2011. But he also got bombed in a pair of starts at Gwinnett in mid-May, and a month later the Braves moved him to the bullpen. He took to the switch, compiling a 0.77 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35 relief innings between the two clubs. A burly hurler with a thick and strong lower body, Hoover has workhorse capability as a starter and an aggressive approach as a reliever. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph when he starts and picks up 2-3 mph when he relieves. His heater has decent movement, though it flattens out and becomes hittable when he doesn't stay on top of it. His low-80s slider has good deception and complements his fastball well. He improved the depth and fade of his changeup last season but rarely threw it when he worked out of the bullpen. Scouts consider Hoover a below-average athlete with a maxed-out body. He tried hard to force Atlanta's hand with his strong performance, hoping it would result in a September callup, but instead received a trip to the Arizona Fall League to continue making the transition to relieving. His likely ceiling is as a No. 4 starter or a seventh-inning reliever. After getting added to Atlanta's 40-man roster in November, he'll likely open 2012 in Triple-A and make his major league debut at some point during the campaign.
Graham made the most of his three-year stint at Santa Clara, going from being an Angels 46th-round pick out of high school to a Braves fourth-rounder in June. Initially a two-way player for the Broncos, he focused on pitching in the second half of his college career. He made his first college start midway through his final season, then moved seamlessly into that role in pro ball after signing for $174,600. He led the Appalachian League with a 1.72 ERA, ranked second with a 1.13 WHIP and didn't allow a homer in 58 inings. A bulldog on the mound who overcame being born three months premature as a two-pound baby, Graham doesn't have classic size for a righthander and concerns some scouts with the limited downward angle on his pitches. At the same time, his strong core and quick-twitch athleticism help generate a hard, moving fastball. He sits at 92-95 mph as a starter, working at 95-96 and topping out at 98 as a reliever. He overpowered Rookie-level hitters, getting them to chase his four-seam heat up in the zone. Graham throws a solid slider with good lateral movement at 82-85 mph. He needs more depth on his below-average changeup, which is too firm and unlikely to fool many hitters at higher levels. After putting together an impressive pro debut. Graham will open the 2012 season in Rome's rotation in order to get him some innings. The bullpen is likely his long-term destination, and he'll have closer stuff if he can improve his slider.
The Braves have gone heavy with college players during their first two drafts with scouting director Tony DeMacio. The lone early-round exception is Lipka, who was taken with the 35th overall pick in 2010 and signed for $800,000 after turning down a baseball scholarship to Alabama and numerous opportunities to play college football as a wide receiver. Despite possessing plus speed with tremendous work ethic and makeup, Lipka struggled in his first full pro season. After earning all-star honors in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2010, he showed a limited ability to drive the ball in low Class A. With a bottom handdominant swing, he didn't record an extra-base hit until the 37th game of the season and homered only once all year. Lipka has a defensive approach at the plate and needs to do a better job of employing his plus-plus speed by becoming more adept at small ball, such as dropping down bunts and working counts for walks. He also could do a better job of using the entire field. He's still learning to read pitchers after getting caught 14 times in 42 steal attempts last year. As a defender, Lipka offers good range and solid arm strength but awkward actions at shortstop and an unusual throwing motion. He also saw time at second base in 2011, and since drafting him Atlanta has suggested he could wind up in center field, where he spent most of his time in instructional league. A new defensive home could take some of the pressure off Lipka, who seemed to be constantly trying to prove he should stay at shortstop last year. He'll probably move up to high Class A in 2012.
The fifth college shortstop taken in the 2011 draft, Ahmed went 85th overall and signed for $417,600. He attracted attention thanks in part to Connecticut teammates George Springer and Matt Barnes, both first-round selections, but also added impressive size and strength last offseason thanks to physical maturation and dedication in the weight room. A high-energy player, Ahmed showed his toughness last spring by returning quickly from a collapsed lung he suffered during a collision at first base. He's a good athlete with plus arm strength and a quick release that generated 91-94 mph heat as a reliever during his sophomore season at UConn. A smart defender with solid range, he positions himself well with his quick feet and ability to read hops. While he makes most of the routine plays, he doesn't possess the smoothest infield actions and looks awkward on occasion. Offensively, he manages the strike zone well, generates walks and has solid speed. He doesn't drive the ball consistently and can struggle against quality fastballs. Ahmed has a chance to be a regular at shortstop but may profile better as a utility player. He'll open his first full pro season in low Class A.
The Braves used the 53rd overall pick in the 2010 draft on Cunningham, more specifically his bat. He won batting titles in the summer Texas Collegiate (.310) and Cape Cod (.378) leagues before batting .359 as a Jacksonville State junior. He hasn't delivered as much offense in pro ball, though he did go straight to low Class A after signing and was bothered by a strained right elbow in 2011. Club officials were encouraged by his performance in the Arizona Fall League and still believe he can become an impact player. Cunningham has a smooth, compact stroke from both sides of the plate. He produces line drives and does an excellent job of using the middle of the field. He excels at making contact and has strong hands, but he doesn't have much power. He profiles as a leadoff hitter but will need to draw more walks to fit that role. He has the above-average speed desired at the top of a lineup, but he's still learning to read pitches and steal bases. Cunningham has good instincts in center field, where he shows plus range and good first-step quickness. He has below-average arm strength, though the accuracy of his throws helps overcome their lack of carry. The Braves are likely to challenge Cunningham by putting him in Double-A to open this season, believing he could blossom provided he remains healthy throughout the campaign.
The highest-drafted position player and third-highest overall pick in Texas State history, Kubitza went in the third round last June and signed for $261,000. He left school as the Bobcats' career leader in walks (125) while ranking second all-time in homers (27), and his patience and power were evident in his pro debut. Kubitza understands the strike zone and uses that knowledge to get in hitter's counts. He possesses a line-drive stroke and drives balls to the alleys, and he could have average or better home run power once he adds some loft to his swing and turns on more pitches. He tends to tinker with his stance, but club officials believe he'll settle down as his comfort level increases. Kubitza runs well for his size and has good instincts on the bases. With soft hands, solid arm strength and good footwork, he has the tools to get the job done at third base but lacks consistency. He should start 2012 in low Class A and could finish the year in high Class A.
Delgado put together an impressive comeback that went underreported in 2011. He missed all of the previous season after he was involved in an automobile accident in his native Panama, resulting in a broken femur in his right leg, a torn ligament in his right knee and a broken left hand. He spent most of 2011 in the Lynchburg rotation and got stronger as the season progressed, going 5-2, 2.98 in the second half. Delgado's strength is his overall feel for pitching. He keeps hitters off balance by mixing a low-90s fastball, above-average changeup and a slow curveball. He employs a pronounced overhand delivery that gives him good leverage and movement on his pitches while creating good deception against left-handers, who batted just .204 against him last year. Delgado commands both sides of the plate with his fastball and isn't afraid to pitch inside. He has one of the better changeups in the organization, and his curveball is effective as long as he doesn't hang it. His control was unusually shaky in 2011, though it got better as the season progressed. A good all-around athlete who fields his position well, Delgado could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He'll move up to Double-A this year.
Martin saved 15 games in his first two seasons at Gonzaga before moving into the Zags rotation as a junior in 2010. Though he went 5-7, 6.55 in 14 starts, the Twins drafted him in the 20th round, yet he opted to return for his senior season. He returned to the bullpen and earned first-team All-America honors, leading NCAA Division I with a 0.86 ERA and setting a school record with 12 saves. He signed for $45,000 as a seventh-round pick. Martin, whose father Chuck pitched in the Braves system in the mid-1980s, had a stellar pro debut. He posted a 1.08 ERA and nine saves while striking out 13.2 batters per nine innings. Martin pounds the strike zone with four pitches and his impeccable command. His 90-94 mph fastball has plus movement, generating a lot of swings and misses. His best pitch may be his mid-80s slider, and he also has a solid curveball and changeup. Martin keeps hitters off balance with his repertoire, and some scouts suggest he should get another look as a starter. The current plan calls for him to open 2012 in the Lynchburg bullpen, and he could rise quickly and has set-up man potential if he remains a reliever.
The lone over-slot signing in the Braves' 2011 draft class, Moore received a $400,000 bonus in the 14th round. After having Tommy John surgery in high school, he pitched just 13 innings in his first two seasons at Vanderbilt before tying a school record with 11 saves last spring. Moore's calling card is his arm strength. His fastball resides in the 92-96 mph range and has above-average movement. He has struggled with the release point of his slider, which tends to sweep more than drop. His long arm action has caused some evaluators if it will prevent him from developing a plus breaking ball, which would limit his role in the bullpen. In addition to improving his slider, he also needs to tighten up his command. If everything comes together for Moore, he could develop into a set-up man or perhaps even a closer. He'll make his pro debut at one of Atlanta's Class A affiliates and could move quickly through the system.
Hale has experienced Jekyll-and-Hyde seasons during his first two full years as a pro. In 2010, he began the year by going 0-4, 7.99 in six starts at Rome before changing roles and going 5-3, 2.16 with five saves as a reliever. Last year at Lynchburg, he posted a 5.91 ERA out of the Lynchburg bullpen before moving back to the rotation and going 3-4, 3.66 in 13 starts. A two-way player who spent most of his time at Princeton as a center fielder, Hale still is figuring out the cat-and-mouse game that is the duel between pitcher and batter. Scouts rave about his lightning-quick arm, which generates a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He also throws a mid-80s slider that's one of the best in the system, but he's still trying to improve his feel for a changeup. He works behind hitters too often because an inconsistent release point hampers his command. Hale initially preferred working as a reliever because the routine was more similar to being an everyday player. The development of his changeup will determine what role he serves in the future. A promotion to Double-A is next on his agenda.
For the second time in as many seasons and the third time in four years as a pro, an injury sidelined Milligan for an extended period time. A right knee injury cost him his first pro summer after he signed in 2008, and a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder knocked him out for all but 21 games in 2010. His 2011 season ended in mid-July when he reinjured his right knee. Yet the Braves, who drafted him three times before landing him, still remain high on his offensive upside after seeing him bat .301/.356/.546 as a pro. Originally ticketed to play football at Austin Peay State before spending two years with the Walters State (Tenn.) CC baseball program, Milligan has well above-average raw power can hit the ball out of the park to all fields. He's overly aggressive at the plate, however, and will have to prove he can make enough contact against more advanced pitching. Milligan has below-average speed, but he runs the bases well and covers enough ground on the outfield corners. He has fringy arm strength and lacks accuracy on his throws, so he fits better in left field. Atlanta hopes he finally will stay healthy when he moves up to Double-A in 2012.
Jones has experienced a roller-coaster ride since the end of the 2010 season. A shortstop in his first two years as a pro, he moved to second base in instructional league and then to center field in spring training. He missed the first month of the 2011 season with a foot injury and was arrested for driving under the influence a week after he returned to action, which led to a 10-day suspension. His batting average sank to .212 on July 11 before he rebounded to hit .289 the rest of the way. At his best, Jones gets on base by working the count and driving the ball from pole to pole. He possesses a quick swing with some pop, but he can try to do too much at times instead of employing his plus speed to his greatest advantage. He's raw as a basestealer, too. Jones has become a more disciplined hitter since he signed and has a better understanding of the strike zone, though he still swings and misses too much. He looked comfortable in center field by the end of the season, showing above-average range and arm strength. Jones has displayed considerable promise but has yet to put together an impressive showing from start to finish in any of his three pro seasons. He'll try to do so this year, when he could get his first taste of Triple-A.
After the Twins took Scott Diamond from the Braves in the 2010 major league Rule 5 draft but decided against keeping him on their big league roster, they traded Bullock to Atlanta for Diamond. Bullock overpowered Double-A hitters, limiting them to a .193 average while striking out 11.8 per nine innings, but he also struggled at times with his control. He uses his size to throw on a downhill plane, working mainly with a heavy 92-94 mph fastball with some armside run. His feel for his slider comes and goes. It resides in the low 80s with hard, late cut at its best but often becomes slurvy and hangs up in the zone. Bullock has tried to add a changeup during his first two full pro seasons but has yet to find any consistency with that offering as well. He has the makeup of a closer in that he's not afraid to challenge hitters and can put poor performances in the past, though he doesn't quite have the stuff. A probable set-up man, he'll open the 2012 season in Triple-A and could receive his first big league callup later in the year.
After signing for $600,000 in 2008 and earning top-prospect honors in the Appalachian League in 2010, Perez looked liked the Braves' next international pitching phenom. But his stuff and poise regressed last year in low Class A, and he struggled with his control and command. Perez worked in the low 90s and touched 94 mph with his fastball in the Appy League, but mostly pitched at 86-89 in 2011. Scouts noted the sloppy front side in his delivery, which limited his arm speed. He didn't attack hitters like he had in the past, fell behind in the count and too often left the ball over the middle of the plate. Perez tightened the spin on his curveball in 2010 but it lacked consistency last year. The same was true of his changeup, which shows good fade at times. He's still just 20, so the Braves will send him back to Rome and hope he learns from his mistakes. He still has the upside of a No. 3 starter if he can figure everything out.
Acquired from the Royals in a trade for shortstop T.J. Pena in the spring of 2007, Cordier has had difficulty staying healthy. He missed the entire 2005 (knee injury) and 2007 (Tommy John surgery) seasons, then had another elbow operation last January to remove a bone spur. He returned by late May but never got untracked. He also got struck by a couple of liners late in the year, resulting in abbreviated starts, yet he said at the end of the season that his arm felt as good as it had since the previous campaign. When he's 100 percent, Cordier is a true power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97. At times, his slider gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup lacks consistency but looked better late in the year and in the Arizona Fall League. Because he has fringy command and has yet to prove durable, Cordier is a candidate to move to the bullpen in the near future. The Braves' depth of starting pitching at the upper levels of the organization also could contribute to a change in roles. He figures to return to Triple-A to start 2012.
A bargain for $1,000 in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft, Gattis seemed to emerge from nowhere during the second half of his first full pro season. He opened 2011 in extended spring training and played only part-time upon joining Rome in early May. The promotion of Christian Bethancourt in late June opened an opportunity behind the plate and Gattis made the most of it. He hit .382 in August and won the South Atlantic League batting title with a .322 average. He also tied for fifth with 22 homers despite playing in just 88 games. Gattis has a quick, compact swing that generates plus raw power. He gets excellent leverage from his tall frame and can hit lasers when he gets his arms extended. He lacks patience at the plate, something more advanced pitchers may be able to exploit. Though he's a below-average runner, he's not bad for his size or his position. Gattis does a good job of working with pitchers but looks rusty and mechanical at times behind the plate. That's understandable considering that Gattis didn't play baseball for four years. He originally committed to Texas A&M but never wound up in College Station, admittedly terrified of playing big-time college baseball. He spent a month in drug rehab because his parents worried that he smoked marijuana too often, then hurt his left knee at Seminole State (Okla.) JC and left. He spent three years driving around the country and living out of his pickup. Gattis has the arm strength and receiving skills to make it as a catcher, but he still has a lot of work to do behind the plate. He threw out just 23 percent of basestealers and committed 10 errors and 15 passed balls in 52 games last year. If he can't polish his catching, he'd have to make it as a first baseman, where he saw some action in 2011. Gattis is already 25 but he's intriguing and could jump on the fast track if he gets off to a hot start in high Class A this year.
La Stella began his college career at St. John's before transferring to Coastal Carolina, where he nearly won the Big South Conference triple crown as a redshirt junior in 2011. After signing for $105,000 as an eighth round pick, he shook off a 4-for-31 in pro ball to hit at a .358 clip in his final 55 games. La Stella's calling card is his bat. He hit second in the lineup at Rome and displayed the ability to make consistent hard contact and some surprising pop. He employs an unusual batting stance with his feet close together and his lead foot open before stepping in toward the plate. He has above-average bat speed as well as a discerning eye at the plate. La Stella runs the bases well but isn't blessed with a lot of quickness or athleticism. Because his arm and range are fringy, most scouts believe he'll be hard pressed to remain in the infield at higher levels. He could end up in left field, where he played in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2010. Ticketed for high Class A in 2012, La Stella will go as far as his bat will take him.
When Peter Moylan went on the disabled list last April, the Braves replaced the sidearming Australian with another sidewinder in Gearrin. He posted a 3.60 ERA in 13 appearances before returning to Triple-A in early June. When Atlanta recalled him a month later, he surrendered 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings over five outings and was demoted to Gwinnett for the rest of the year. Gearrin cuts his pitches across the plate with Frisbee-style life that helps produce groundballs. He works mainly with an 89-91 mph fastball with late movement and a sweeping 77-80 mph slider. He does a good job of adding and subtracting from his pitches, though his control tends to waver. Gearrin is tough on righthanders, who batted just .143/.260/.167 with 18 strikeouts in 50 plate appearances against him in the majors. Lefties see him a lot better, however, and pounded him to the tune of .393/.514/.643 in the big leagues. His splits were pronounced but not as extreme in the minors. With Moylan having offseason rotator-cuff surgery, Gearrin never will have a better opportunity to stick with the Braves than he'll get in spring training. He could claim a middle-relief role if he can figure lefthanders out.
Gosselin creates mixed opinions among talent evaluators. The Braves think he was a steal in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, while scouts with other teams believe his grit stands out more than his physical ability. A hard-nosed player with keen instincts, he missed the last two weeks of the 2011 season and a planned trip to the Arizona Fall League when he injured his thumb sliding into a base. Gosselin has a quick bat and barrels the ball consistently, though he offers only modest gap power. He has fringy speed but has a knack for taking the extra base. After seeing action at several positions in college at Virginia, Gosselin has played exclusively at second base in pro ball. He has good footwork and does a solid job of turning the double play. His arm strength is no better than average, which limits his ability to play on the left side of the infield. Nevertheless, he still profiles more as a utilityman than as a regular. He'll play in Double-A this year.
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