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.