Meet the Most Talented Rotation in the Minors

The Atlanta Braves organization has a history of developing talented pitchers. After a lull over the past few seasons – which still resulted in the emergence of Tommy Hanson – the assembly line is running at full speed once again. And if you’re interested in finding the most talented starting rotation in all of minor league baseball, all you have to do is throw on your flip-flops and some swimming trunks and head on down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There you’ll find Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and J.J. Hoover.

Pre-season Braves Top 10 prospect ranking by FanGraphs in parentheses.

Randall Delgado, RHP (6)
The 20-year-old right-hander has had little trouble with hitters in the Carolina League. In the league, Delgado is currently first in innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP and second in ERA. He’s given up just 59 hits in 78.0 innings. He’s also shown exceptional control with just 17 walks issued to go along with 87 strikeouts. Right-handed batters are hitting .201 against him. The Panama native has an overpowering fastball that sits in the 90-95 mph range, and he also has a 54% ground-ball rate. That is a killer combination. Delgado’s repertoire also includes a plus curveball and a change-up.

Julio Teheran, RHP (3)
Just 19, this Columbia native began the year in low-A ball but dominated the competition with a 1.14 ERA (2.68 FIP) and .168 average-allowed. Moved up to Myrtle Beach in high-A ball, Teheran currently has a 1.69 ERA (2.16 FIP) with 29 hits and just five walks allowed in 32.0 innings. He’s also struck out 37 batters. He’s still working on becoming more consistent, but Teheran has been absolutely dominating at times with 12 strikeouts in one performance (7.0 IP) and 14 in another (8.0). The right-hander is more of a fly-ball pitcher and has a ground-ball rate of 40%. His repertoire includes an 89-94 mph fastball, curveball and change-up. Teheran is not quite as durable as Delgado and has dealt with some shoulder woes in the past.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (4)
The key to the Javier Vazquez deal (wouldn’t New York fans like this one back?), Vizcaino has broken out in a big way this season. The 19-year-old is not quite as projectable (6’0” 190 lbs) as Delgado and Teheran, but he has an advanced feel for pitching given his age. The right-hander began the year in low-A ball and walked just nine batters in 69.1 innings. He also added 66 strikeouts and allowed 60 hits. His FIP was 2.29 (2.34 ERA). Like Teheran, Vizcaino gets a fair number of fly-ball outs and he produced a ground-ball rate of 40%. Moved up to high-A recently, Vizcaino has made just one start and he gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk in 4.0 innings. His repertoire includes an 89-94 mph fastball, plus curveball and change-up.

J.J. Hoover, RHP (11)
Hoover was the player pushed off of the FanGraphs’ Top 10 prospect list for the Braves when Vizcaino was acquired from the Yankees. Hoover was a 10th round draft pick out of a small community college during the 2008 draft. His stuff is not as electric as the other three pitchers on this list, but he commands his pitches and shows good control for his experience level. Hoover’s repertoire includes an 88-92 mph fastball, good change-up and curveball. The right-hander has given up 70 hits and 19 walks in 69.0 innings of work this season. He’s also struck out 53 batters. It would probably benefit him to improve his average ground-ball rate up into the 50-60% range, as he works up in the zone a little too much. That could come back to haunt him at higher levels of professional baseball.

The Myrtle Beach club also features a couple other interesting names to remember. Both Zeke Spruill and Cole Rohrbough have displayed solid potential in the past but inconsistencies and injuries have slowed their ascent through the minors. Both are currently on the disabled list after having struggled earlier in the year. Spruill came into ’10 as the No. 7 prospect on the team’s Top 10 list and was a second round draft pick out of a Georgia high school in ’08. Rohrbough zoomed up the prospect chart after a solid debut season in ’07 but has been unable to duplicate that success in subsequent seasons.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

50 Responses to “Meet the Most Talented Rotation in the Minors”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    <iwouldn't New York fans like this one back?

    Actually, no. After an awful April Vazquez has really turned it around, and the price of a fourth outfielder and a low-minors pitcher was a small one to pay for a durable starter who could reasonably be expected to have being league-average as a floor.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      boo, HTMLfail.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        Booooo! Comment fail.

        So, Kev, you wouldn’t want back this young, price controlled quality arm, a perfectly fine 4th OF’er, in Melky, instead of Thames, Russo, Golston, and the other flotsam, and your dignity back for ‘way back’ Vasquez?

        Really? Why’s that, because heading into an important series you would actually be happy knowing he’s up for a start?

        Ya full of it.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Oh, you showed up. Fun.

        Fourth outfielders are not particularly hard to come by, and Vizcaino won’t be a quality, price-controlled arm for in the majors for another 2-3 seasons. And no, I’m not full of it – before the trade happened, I wrote an article arguing that the Yanks should go after Vazquez because, at the very least, he would give them 200 league-average innings – without any kind of long-term commitment that would come with getting a pitcher of his caliber on the FA market. I really do believe the issues of April are behind him, and that he can be that innings-soaking fifth starter. And if you’re going to compare him to Melky Cabrera, you don’t get to only look at 2010 for Javy while ignoring it for Melky – both started off pretty abysmally, and they’ve now corrected themselves to what we thought they were. A fourth outfielder just isn’t as valuable as a league-average starter.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        Yeah, but reports were that Vizcaino was the most talented arm in the Yanks system. You don’t give that up for a starter most teams love to see on their menu.

        And I can’t believe your Melky hate after the progression of yuck in your OF.

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      • Temo says:

        “You don’t give that up for a starter most teams love to see on their menu.”

        This is most certainly not true. Vazquez is a good pitcher.

        Melky is terrible.

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      • SKob says:

        I love how the stupid Yankee defender looks after all is said and done. Melky sucks… Vazquez was well worth the deal… hahahahahahhaaha

        ‘This is most certainly not true. Vazquez is a good pitcher.’ hahahahahahha

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    • Jeremy says:

      Thanks for writing this comment. The jury is still out on this trade. Unless Vazquez crashes and burns this year (which is far from a given, in light of his recent turnaround), we won’t see a clear winner or loser from this trade for years.

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    • Jon says:

      Vazquez has seemed to turn a corner

      The first six outings: 1-4 with an 8.10 ERA.

      The past six outings: 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

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      • James says:

        Yes but how many of those good outings have been against the same NL teams he shut down last year? Let’s see the Yankees let him pitch against Boston instead of hiding in their bullpen when they face each other.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        One batter only, but he did come into a fairly high-leverage situation and make Youk look silly. He also dropped a 7.0 1 2 2 4 9 line on the Jays in their own place a couple weeks ago.

        Again, he’s not a world-beater, but it’s not like he’s going to completely fall apart against competent lineups.

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      • spindoctor says:

        We’ll likely see his HR/FB rate decline into the 11-12% range, while in turn, his BABIP is due for a rise. All-in-all, expect a high 4′s ERA this season but a durable starter who will eat enough innings to save the bullpen some workload.

        FWIW, Vazquez (despite his awful start) is currently a 0.1 WAR player while Melky is a -0.5 WAR player.

        The comment about not knowing the winner of this trade for years to come is on the mark, but for current value, the Yanks will come out ahead this year.

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  2. Vida Blue says:

    Anyone else read that headline and feel like you had a lottery ticket in your hands before it’s scratched?

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  3. Beer me! says:

    Great article. Plus, the Braves also have young guns Robinson Lopez and Mike Minor currently tearing up their minor leagues. A wealth of pitching indeed!

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  4. Hizouse says:

    Marc, I don’t think you should assume that your readers know that MB is Hi-A

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  5. awayish says:

    any deal that gets rid of melky and the truckload of melky love from the fanbase is a good deal.

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  6. Brain of G says:

    Marc, I wish you would have left out that one comment in reference to Yankee fans wishing they had that trade back! Over half the comments are in relation to the damn Yankees instead of the dominance of the pitching staff down in Myrtle Beach. That is one heck of a talented group of arms for High A ball. Let’s hope those arms all stay healthy! It would be a thrill to see a couple of them make it to the bigs around the same time.

    So, whose scheduling a vacation to Myrtle Beach this Summer? haha.

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  7. Egan Foote says:

    I think you jumped the gun with your “wouldn’t New York fans like this one back?” comment, as Vazquez has been good in his past several starts. Unless this was written a month ago, I can only assume you haven’t been paying attention.

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  8. Andrew says:

    Great article. I’d argue the Braves system has been solid, but Schuerholz sent most of those valuable pitchers to other teams: Feliz and Wainwright certainly come to mind.

    Venters and Medlen have also provided homegrown depth.

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  9. spike says:

    Much as this is welcome news, one should note Myrtle Beach has been a very pitcher friendly park in a pitcher friendly league. I understand this season it has been roughly neutral, although the league has not.

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    • Bronnt says:

      The park does a lot to suppress, but it’s clear that the writer barely gives any consideration to that since he’s talking about walks, strikeouts, and ground ball rates. He even acknowledges that Teheran’s fly ball rates might be problematic in the future. I don’t think any of these pitchers has seen their value inflate because of their home park. Teheran and Vizcaino are putting up K/BB rates over 7, and Randall Delgado over 5. Those first two could both be top 20 prospects next season, while Delgado should break the top 50.

      Hoover is the forgotten man there, who, though he’s been solid, may not even be the 5th best right handed starting prospect in the Braves’ system. It’s nice to see him getting some coverage here.

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    • Temo says:

      They did change the park around a bit to make it neutral a year or two ago, and it’s played that way recently.

      Also, note that only Hoover and Delgado have compiled most of these stats in Myrtle Beach. The other two were recently promoted after dominating in Rome.

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  10. DavidA says:

    I just wanted to point out that Delgado and Teheran were international signings. That’s one heckuva scouting dept the Braves have.

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    • Irwin says:

      Delgado signed for only $50,000, too.

      Kind of difficult to give all the credit to the scouting department on Julio Teheran because his cousin works for them (if his cousin worked anywhere else I’m guessing that’s where Teheran would’ve signed, which almost as easily could have been the case), but Delgado for $50,000 is incredible.

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  11. Tomas says:

    Marc, you wrote wrong Teheran birth’s place it’s Colombia.

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  12. Shaggychild says:

    I’m glad this isn’t Tampa Bay. I’m in awe of their constant flux of young new talent.

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  13. Carlo says:

    Vazquez’s velocity has gone down. I’d say he’s clearly in his decline and it was a better deal for the Braves. Given the Yankees’ payroll flexibility, they can afford to trade away a good, minor league arm like that of Vizcaino’s.

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    • Zack says:

      Both teams accomplished what they needed to do.

      Braves had 6 SP, and the 1 they wanted to trade was untradable, so they moved the Javy instead- but the Hudson/Kawakami were under reasonable deals, and the 2 kids are team controlled.

      Yankees had 3 established SP and Hughes/Joba; so they traded a 4th OF and a kid in Low-A ball for a guy who has pitched 200 IP and sub 4 FIP basically every year of his career- with Andy in his late 30s, AJ’s history, and the 2 kids- Javy was EXACTLY what the Yankees needed.

      If Vizcaino debuts in 2012/2013 and has a good career, good for him. If Javy is that durable guy in the 3rd spot this year that carries them over while TB’s young kids struggle in Aug/Sept, then what reasonable Yankee fan is going to complain?

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  14. Cidron says:

    OK. Litmus test on Vazquez love.

    Yankees and are in the World series.
    Yankees bullpen is trashed. Starters are.. iffy. They need all they can get from starter Vazquez..

    Its game 7, series 3-3. How comfortable are you with Vazquez as the Yankees starter for 7, and, realistically, needing 6+ out of him? (alot of you said he is an innings eater afterall, 6 should be a snap)

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    • Kevin S. says:

      That’s a pretty shitty litmus test for a back of the rotation innings eater. We like him because he had a one-year commitment and cost a fourth-outfielder and a low-minors pitcher, not because we think he’s the guy who’s going to save the season in that kind of situation.

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    • Zack says:

      April 1st, 2010:
      Are you more comfortable with:
      CC, AJ, Javy, Andy, and Hughes
      or
      CC, AJ, Andy, Hughes, and Joba

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Or, given Girardi’s perverse fetishes…

        CC, AJ, Andy, Hughes, and Mitre.

        Yes, I have nightmares about that thought. The fourth outfielder was well worth it.

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      • Steve says:

        right, it was called “perverse” when he kept Mitre over Gaudin. Yankee fans complained. who was right?

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      • Kevin S. says:

        I wasn’t comparing Mitre to Gaudin. Gaudin’s a ROOGY at best.

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      • Steve says:

        I didn’t mean to imply YOU were saying this, but in this thread:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/gaudin-released-after-clearing-waivers/#comments

        There was more than one comment that Mitre garnered the last spot in the pen over Gaudin because he was “Girardi’s guy”. Meaning Girardi let non-baseball reasons decide a roster spot to the detriment of the team.

        I was merely pointing out that that meme should probably be put to rest based on how the two have actually pitched so far. Girardi seems like he was right, and the emotional fans were wrong. Shocking, I know.

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    • Zack says:

      How comfortable is any team with their #3/4 starter in a game 7?

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    • Irwin says:

      Javier Vazquez is a pretty damn good pitcher. I thought he was the second best pitcher in the NL last year. Since his move back to the rotation, he’s got a 30-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 and 2/3 innings.

      He’s a fly ball pitcher, going to struggle with the long ball from time to time. The issue is exacerbated by Yankee Stadium, but the value of the HR’s decrease there so it’s really not an issue. He’s got plus control and manages to miss enough bats. He knows what he’s doing out there, rarely has trouble throwing strikes, and apart from a small hiccup at the beginning of the season most probably explained by mechanical issues he’s been pretty brilliant for awhile now. The Yankees and their fans should be glad to have him.

      And, yeah, I think he’s one of the fifteen or so best pitchers in the game, and you could do much worse than start him game 7. I’d be perfectly fine with him.

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    • Steve says:

      why would Vazquez be pitching game 7? silly scenario.

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    • Jeremy says:

      Aren’t we at least entitled to see how Vazquez does this season before we answer this question? This is a one-year acquisition. Vazquez is not the future of the organization. The extent the Yankees use Vazquez in a hypothetical playoff scenario will depend only on how good Vazqueez seems to be. If he is pitching like trash, they will exile him to the pen just like they did in 2004.

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  15. Justin says:

    Three more names to remember for the Braves are Caleb Brewer, Andy Otero, and Robinson Lopez.

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  16. Marc says:

    I think the Braves would be fine with their #3/4 starter pitching in that game as would the Red Sox.

    The Braves would have Tommy Hanson at the #3 and Jair Jurrgens at #4.

    The Sox would be Lackey at #3, and Wakefield at #4. Both have pitched in big games.

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    • Steve says:

      Wakefield is terrible, keep dreaming.

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    • Zack says:

      In what world is Tommy Hanson #3 in that rotation come playoff time? He’s the best pitcher on that staff. You start Lowe or Hudson with his 3.8 K9 in games 1,2, 5, and 6 and you dont even have to worry about a Game 7.

      Tim Wakefield hasnt had a successful postseason start since 2004. Because Francona doesnt trust him, nor should he. It’s Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz for the postseason. And have you seen Lackey pitch this year? No Sox fan would be comfortable with him in Game 7 right now.

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      • Scott says:

        Trust me if the Braves make the playoffs this year Bobby Cox is going with Tim Hudson in game one and probably Lowe in game 2. I would rather start Hanson or even Kris Medlin over both of them. Although Hudson has been great this year his strike out rate has been down but his sinker has been excellent at getting ground balls this year. Obviously those ground balls could start going for hits but he has been getting the job done. Right now the way the rotation is set up it actually is Hanson, Hudson, Lowe, Medlin, and Kawakami, who should be out of the rotation once Jurrjens comes back.

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  17. NYCTim says:

    @Marc,
    You would be comfortable with Tim Wakefield starting a Game 7? Aaron Boone wants to grab a bat.
    And Lackey is a No. 3? Besides being injured for two months, have you looked at Beckett’s recent numbers? I’m so glad the dumbasses signed him to that four-year extension. More good decisions by Theo.

    @Justin
    Who are those three guys? I know Freddie Freeman quite well. Not familiar with those three names.

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  18. K26dp says:

    Is groundball % that important in the post-steroid era? With BABiP around .300, it seems like a flyball pitcher could be more successful in this day and age, depending on the ballpark and who your outfielders are.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Ground balls that become hits are almost universally singles. Fly balls that become hits are very often for extra bases. The 11% HR/FB ratio might be down from a decade ago (I have no idea if it is or not), but the HR/GB rate is still universally 0%.

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