Top 10 Prospects: The Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves
2010 MLB Record: 91-71 (second place, NL East)
Minor League Power Ranking: 4th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Julio Teheran, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Colombia)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Teheran has been a much-hyped prospect since his amateur days, but his career was slowed initially by some injury (shoulder) concerns. The right-hander pitched just 15.0 innings during his pro debut in 2008 and followed that up with an 81.1 inning season. Teheran’s workload then jumped to 142.2 innings in 2010 when he spent time at three different levels and finished the season in double-A. The young hurler has excellent control for his age (1.85 BB/9 in 63.1 high-A innings) and does a nice job of commanding his three-pitch repertoire (fastball, changeup, curveball). His heater sits in the 93-96 mph range and has posted double-digit strikeout rates. He repeats his delivery well but slings the ball at times. His arm angle is low-three-quarters and there is a little bit of effort to his action. I would think that his arm angle would better suit a slider than a curveball, but he makes the latter pitch work. Teheran should open 2011 in double-A and could see the Majors by August, depending on the club’s needs. Just 20, he has the potential to develop into a No. 1 starter before he turns 25.

2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
Acquired: 2007 2nd round (California HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Freeman, 21, is penciled in as the club’s opening day first baseman. The youngster produced a solid triple-A line in 2010 at .319/.378/.518 despite being one of the youngest players in the league. He did struggle during a brief MLB trial, as well as in the Arizona Fall League, so there could be some growing pains in 2011. Freeman has the potential to be a good all-around player but his offensive ceiling is somewhat limited on the pure slugging side of things. He possesses more 20-25 power than 30+ homer strength, but he should also produce a solid batting average with a decent on-base rate. I’m a big fan of his stance because he has a solid, well-balanced base. His sets up his swing plane well and gives his bat plenty of time to travel through the strike zone. Despite his size, Freeman shows good hands and feet around the bag. His plus arm is mostly wasted at the position. Freeman should be en excellent offensive complement to fellow young player Jason Heyward for years to come.

3. Mike Minor, LHP
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Vanderbilt U)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Considered a bit of a “safe pick” during the first round of the ’09 amateur draft, Minor’s stock has risen since turning pro. Just 23, the southpaw should spend the entire season in Atlanta and could challenge teammate Freddie Freeman for the Rookie of the Year award in the NL. Minor shows above-average command of his three-pitch repertoire, which includes an 87-94 mph fastball, plus changeup and curveball. His fastball velocity has a rather large range on it and he struggles to maintain his velocity deep into games. It’s not that big of a deal, though, because of his command/control and willingness to use all three pitches while keeping hitters off balance. His delivery is sound and he repeats it well. Minor should settle in as a solid No. 3 starter in the Majors, but I’d like to see him induce a few more ground balls after posting a rate of 35.0 GB% during his MLB trial in ’10.

4. Randall Delgado, RHP
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Panama)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Delgado, 21, isn’t far behind Teheran in terms of overall ceiling. The right-hander’s control and command aren’t quite as sharp as his teammates’, but he still reached double-A in 2010. He spent much of the season in high-A compiling a 2.93 FIP with just 89 hits allowed in 117.1 innings of work. He also posted a strikeout rate of 9.20 K/9 and showed an average ground ball rate. His repertoire includes a 91-96 mph fastball, above-average curveball and good changeup. Like Teheran, Delgado should spend much of 2011 in double-A and the organization could have a killer MLB rotation by 2013: Tommy Hanson, Teheran, Delgado and Minor.

5. Craig Kimbrel, RHP
Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Alabama JC)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0

Notes: Despite having just three pro seasons under his belt, Kimbrel entered 2011 with a shot at being the club’s closer, although he’ll face competition from others, including fellow youngster Jonny Venters. You can’t argue with Kimbrel’s pure stuff (92-96 mph fastball, good curveball) but it’s his control that could hamper his goal of closing out games for Atlanta – at least at this point in his career. In his 20.2 innings in the Majors in 2010, the right-hander had a walk rate of 6.97 BB/9 (and 5.66 in AAA). His extreme fly ball ways (28.1 GB%) also make me nervous. Kimbrel has a side arm delivery and doesn’t have the best balance in his delivery. When he’s finding the plate, though, he’s one of the toughest relief pitchers to hit in all of pro baseball. In 2010, Kimbrel held triple-A hitters to .147 batting average, and big league hitters had even less luck (.125). His strikeout rates look like they’re coming from a video game (13.42 in AAA, 17.42 K/9 in MLB). Kimbrel likely won’t be the club’s top high-leverage reliever for an extended period of time in 2011 but he’s a great long-term bet.

6. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A+
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Obtained from the Yankees in a trade for veteran starter Javier Vazquez, Vizcaino has been dogged by injury issues. The right-hander has a partially torn elbow ligament but has yet to undergo surgery. Tommy John surgery is probably a foregone conclusion but the organization will try and avoid it for as long as possible (although it might be best to take care of it at this point in his development). Vizcaino pitched a career high 86.0 innings in 2010 while spending most of the season in low-A and receiving a three-game trial at high-A. He should spend most of the 2011 season back at high-A ball and will look to surpass the 100.0 inning mark. His repertoire includes a 91-95 mph fastball, plus curveball and changeup. His delivery is low effort with a low-three-quarter arm slot, which bodes well for staying healthy and it produces easy velocity. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter and is a bit of a dark horse in the organization with the likes of Teheran and Delgado ahead of him.

7. Carlos Perez, LHP
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: R/A-
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: As if the Braves organization didn’t have enough internationally-developed talent already, along comes Perez. Although he spent the 2010 season in short-season ball (He injured his rib cage shortly after a promotion to low-A), the young lefty has a ceiling similar to that of Delgado, which gives him the edge on the Top 10 list over other talented pitchers like Brandon Beachy, J.J. Hoover, and Brett Oberholtzer. Perez, 19, was one of the most talented pitchers in rookie ball. His overall numbers look fairly modest but his repertoire shows signs of being above-average with an 88-93 mph fastball with good movement, as well as a curveball and changeup. Despite small sample size numbers last season, the southpaw displayed good ground ball rates (65.0 GB%). Perez should spend much of 2011 in low-A but could also see time in high-A if all goes well.

8. Matt Lipka, SS
Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (Texas HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Lipka had an outstanding debut after being drafted out of a Texas high school in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft. He displayed plus speed and stole 20 bases in 23 attempts, while also hitting .302/.357/.401 in 192 at-bats. He showed a solid eye in the rookie league with a walk strikeout rate of just 11.5 BB%. If he can stay back a bit more at the plate – and avoid getting out on his front foot – he could end up using his size and strength to drive the ball more consistently. Quieting down the hand movement in his stance might help him be a little more prepared. Defensively, Lipka showed good range and soft hands, which should allow him to stay at shortstop. He’ll likely move up to low-A ball in 2011 and will look to help the Braves forget about the loss of Elvis Andrus.

9. Edward Salcedo, SS
Acquired: 2009 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Another up-the-middle talent, Salcedo got off to a hot start in the Dominican rookie league but was overmatched when he was promoted to low-A ball. He showed outstanding patience in rookie ball (18.9 BB%) but that all but disappeared when he moved up (5.3 BB%). At both levels, he struggled to recognize pitches and control the strike zone (25.7 K% in R, 29.0 K% in A). Salcedo has good speed but he has work to do on the base paths after getting caught five times in 11 tries in low-A. His good bat speed gives him a chance to hit for power, which is good because he may have to eventually move from shortstop to third base. Salcedo has a strong base at the plate but he needs to tighten up his long, loopy swing, and needs to keep his bat through the strike zone for a longer period of time. He could potentially stick at shortstop but he needs a lot of polish and needs to grow into his body.

10. Christian Bethancourt, C
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Panama)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Bethancourt has shown flashes of immense potential for a few years now, but his first full season at low-A ball was more than a little underwhelming. The young catcher hit just .251/.276/.331 in 399 at-bats while showing an overly aggressive approach (3.3 BB%) and almost no pop in his bat (.080 ISO). With a strikeout rate of just 15.5 K%, he did show some promise with the bat. He has a solid stance at the plate but has some unnecessary hand movement. Really, though, for Bethancourt it’s just about waiting for his pitch. Defensively, he shows good skills behind the plate and a strong arm (He threw out just shy of 40%) but needs polish, especially with his receiving and blocking. Still young, there have been many questions about Bethancourt’s maturity and dedication, which should improve with time.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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Justin Bailey
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Justin Bailey

There is no u in Colombia.

Joe NP
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Joe NP

Columbia Sportswear, Columbia University in New York, Columbia Records, Columbia River, Columbia Space Shuttle just to name a few

Julio T.
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Julio T.

I’m not from Columbia Sportswear.

Ben
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Ben

There is no “u” in Colombia the country. Fixed. Happy now?

Justin Bailey
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Justin Bailey

Joe, that is the most obtuse thing I have read in at least 48 hours. Congratulations.

Ricky
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Ricky

Using the word obtuse is the most obtuse thing I’ve read in the past week.

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