Atlanta Braves: Top 10 Prospects

Atlanta Braves

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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Bill Ballew
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1. Jason Heyward, of
2. Freddie Freeman, 1b
3. Julio Teheran, rhp
4. Mike Minor, lhp
5. Craig Kimbrel, rhp
6. Christian Bethancourt, c
7. Randall Delgado, rhp
8. Zeke Spruill, rhp
9. Cody Johnson, of
10. Adam Milligan, of
Best Hitter for Average Jason Heyward
Best Power Hitter Cody Johnson
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Jason Heyward
Fastest Baserunner Kyle Rose
Best Athlete Mycal Jones
Best Fastball Craig Kimbrel
Best Curveball Caleb Brewer
Best Slider Cory Gearrin
Best Changeup Edgar Osuna
Best Control Mike Minor
Best Defensive Catcher Christian Bethancourt
Best Defensive Infielder Brandon Hicks
Best Infield Arm Brandon Hicks
Best Defensive Outfielder Jason Heyward
Best Outfield Arm Jason Heyward
Catcher Brian McCann
First Base Freddie Freeman
Second Base Martin Prado
Third Base Mycal Jones
Shortstop Yunel Escobar
Left Field Nate McLouth
Center Field Jordan Schafer
Right Field Jason Heyward
No. 1 Starter Tommy Hanson
No. 2 Starter Jair Jurrjens
No. 3 Starter Julio Teheran
No. 4 Starter Mike Minor
No. 5 Starter Javier Vasquez
Closer Craig Kimbrel
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Rafael Furcal, ss Dodgers
2001 Wilson Betemit, ss White Sox
2002 Wilson Betemit, ss White Sox
2003 Adam Wainwright, rhp Cardinals
2004 Andy Marte, 3b Indians
2005 Jeff Francouer, of Mets
2006 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c Rangers
2007 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c Rangers
2008 Jordan Schafer, of Braves
2009 Tommy Hanson, rhp Braves
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Adam Wainwright, rhp Cardinals
2001 Macay McBride, lhp Tigers
2002 Jeff Francouer, of Mets
2003 Luis Atilano, rhp (1st round supp.) Nationals
2004 Eric Campbell (2nd round) Braves
2005 Joey Devine, rhp Athletics
2006 Cody Johnson, of Braves
2007 Jason Heyward, of Braves
2008 Brett DeVall, lhp Braves
2009 Mike Minor, lhp
Mike Minor, 2009
Jeff Francouer, 2002 $2,200,000
Kenshin Kawakami, 2009 $2,000,000
Matt Belisle, 1998 $1,750,000
Jason Heyward, 2007 $1,700,000
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Atlanta Braves

The Braves' recent rebuilding effort advanced to the next stage in 2009. They won 86 games, their most since their 14th straight and most recent playoff appearance in 2005, and contended into the final week of the season.

The offseason acquisitions of veterans Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez solidified the rotation. Atlanta took heat for releasing Tom Glavine after he completed a rehab assignment, but his departure led to the arrival of rookie righthander Tommy Hanson, who lived up to his billing as the organization's top prospect. The pitching additions helped the Braves improve from 12th in the National League in runs allowed in 2008 to fourth last year.

Atlanta retooled its lineup as well, with less effect, ranking sixth in the NL in scoring for the second straight season. The Braves reacquired Adam LaRoche at midseason after Casey Kotchman didn't provide enough production at first base, and Martin Prado proved ready for prime time when given the opportunity to play regularly while shuffling around the infield.

Two past No. 1 prospects in the outfield proved less effective. The insertion of rookie Jordan Schafer in center field didn't last, as Schafer homered in his first big league at-bat but struggled afterward with a wrist injury that eventually required surgery following his demotion to Triple-A. Atlanta filled that hole by trading for Nate McLouth in June. A month later, the Braves pulled the plug on 2002 first-round pick Jeff Francoeur in his fifth season, dealing him to the Mets.

The Braves will continue to evolve in 2010, which is expected to be manager Bobby Cox's swan song. The fourth-winningest manager of all time, he has skippered the team since mid-1990, by far the longest current reign in the major leagues. Chipper Jones is also nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, and he expressed frustration with his performance late last season.

While Jones has no obvious heir, more young talent is on the way. Jason Heyward, Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, will give the lineup a major jolt when he arrives in 2010. First baseman Freddie Freeman also should crack the lineup in the near future, and Atlanta still has high hopes for Schafer. Lefthander Mike Minor, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft, is expected to advance rapidly. However, trades for the likes of McLouth and Vazquez significantly thinned the farm system's depth.

In another major change, scouting director Roy Clark left in October to become an assistant general manager with the Nationals. Clark had worked for the Braves for 20 years and had run their drafts since 2000. Atlanta promoted special assistant/major league scout Tony DeMacio to replace him.

DeMacio had a mixed record as Orioles scouting director from 1999-2004, when he had 10 first-round choices (Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis among them) and five sandwich picks but had to contend with owner Peter Angelos' meddling and thriftiness. DeMacio began his scouting career with the Braves, for whom he signed Glavine and Jones.

The Braves increased their emphasis on the foreign front with the hiring of international scouting director Johnny Almaraz in late 2006, and those efforts are about to bear fruit. Righthanders Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Robinson Lopez, catcher Christian Bethancourt and lefty Dismather Delgado have proven to be as good as advertised. Atlanta opened a complex in the Canary Islands last February, in hopes of developing European talent.

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