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 prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


51 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The Atlanta Braves”

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  1. Justin Bailey says:

    There is no u in Colombia.

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  2. Ryan says:

    It appears this list is slanted more towards MLB readiness if Minor is listed as a better prospect than Delgado or Vizcaino and Kimbrel (a reliever) is in the top 5. Both those players should be on the opening day roster.

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    • Zach says:

      I was going to say the opposite. Minor and Delgado have similar ceilings and Vizcaino has been dropped due to injury concerns and the possibility he could end up in the bullpen.

      I’d point to the inclusion of Perez, Salcedo, and Bethancourt on the list over more polished players like Oberholtzer and Hoover as evidence that this list is slanted more towards potential.

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  3. Rudy Gamble says:

    Thoughts on 4th/5th OF since McLouth seems fragile and played so poor last year. Plus, Prado may move to 2B/3B if there are injuries. Matt Young vs. Jordan Schafer vs. Joe Mather?

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    • spike says:

      In the race for the Tallest Pygmy award, Young has played the best so far, but given the traditional extreme risk aversion the organization has traditionally shown, I would bet Mather gets the gig to start off with.

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      • Rudy Gamble says:

        Thanks! I figure Mather doesn’t have the chops to play CF and you’d think they’d want some speed on the bench given they are a SLOW team….(try finding a slower 2B/SS than Uggla and Alex Gonzalez). Guess we’ll have to see if the new coach does things differently…

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  4. Preston says:

    Kimbrel and Tehran are two of the reasons I’m picking the Braves to win the NL East this year. It’s great to have big name starters but you need to have depth.

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    • Joe NP says:

      Tehran won’t touch the majors so there is no way that he will help the Braves to the Wild Card

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        It’s entirely possible that Teheran sees at least some time in the bigs this season. The Braves may trade one of their starters for some offensive help and I imagine Teheran would be the one called on if he’s continuing to dominate in AAA.

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      • Deadpool says:

        What’s his name at BP said when he put out his list that he sees a chance that Teheran uses up his rookie qualification, right in this article he gives Teheran a shot to be up by August. I’d say its even odds he gets a call-up in time to be playoff elligeable.

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  5. Eric says:

    I can’t believe you ranked Toronto over Atlanta

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    • smelly shelly says:

      why, the Braves system lacks positional guys with the exception of Freeman, Lipka and Salcedo. Toronto has 3 catchers alone that are better prospects than Betancourt. And possibly 4 depending on if you like A.J. Jimenez better or not.

      Toronto is deeper than Atlanta. They may lack the high end guy on the pitching staff like Teheran, but they have a ton of guys that could see the majors. Don’t be fooled by guys like Oberholtzer. While he is a prospect, he doesn’t have much margin for error, as he is essentially a command lefty. His stuff just isn’t that good.

      Atlanta is stronger at the top 5 than Toronto, but a case could certainly be made for Toronto’s depth, and if you dream on guys like Aaron Sanchez (whose scouting reports are awesome) and Ardonis Cardona, you could see some plus pitching to go along with a lot of mid rotation help in Drabek, Stewart, McGuire, and Wojo.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      I can’t believe you are nitpicking the rankings of the 3rd and 4th best prospects lists. It’s almost as if he’s ranking something almost impossible to rank.

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  6. Ben says:

    Bethancourt reminds me of a catching version of Franceour. Huge ego, some tools, but bat stinks primarily because of their free swinging approach.

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  7. Matty Brown says:

    WOW. I was thrilled when the Philles were 5th because I thought that meant the Jays would be 4th, but apparently you think they are 3rd, that pleases me to end.

    I had made a comment on this site a few weeks ago claiming that the Jays had a Top 5 system and I was berated and called foolish…who foolsih now mofo?!?!

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  8. fantasystud1305 says:

    It is nearly impossible to rank Minor Leaguers because they are so hit and miss but I think this list is certainly defensible. My argument is that the ceilings for these players are higher than listed. However, good list and I love the depth of the Minor League system that the Braves possess. Year in and year out, the Braves minor league system provides the big squad with both top-notch talent and guys to fill the gaps.

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  9. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Can’t argue that Atlanta isn’t in the top 4.

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  10. NickC says:

    Interesting that you note Teheran has an arm angle suited to the slider, because it seems that the Braves don’t let their pitchers throw this until they reach Double A. This may be something he adds this year.

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  11. Dan says:

    Nitpicking here…

    Kimbrel “has a side arm delivery?” The video disagrees.

    http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=12784007

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      He does have a tendency to lower his arm slot depending on the count. He definitely doesn’t mix it up like Smoltz did later in his career, but every now and then you can see it.

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  12. Marc says:

    I originally had Atlanta 3 and Toronto 4 when I did my list back in November and I do prefer the Braves’ top 10 list but I feel Toronto has better overall depth in the system, especially up the middle (catcher, SS, 2B, CF). As a result, I made a late switch… but I definitely wouldn’t argue with flipping the two… it’s a personal preference. I know the Jays’system really well… and they have really good depth now but a lot of the players are first or second year pros.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Can’t really argue with that assessment since I don’t know Toronto’s guys at all, but I think Atlanta has some decent depth up the middle as well. Including Lipka and Salcedo from the top ten (Lipka being a SS who might up as a CF), there’s few guys just outside the top ten with solid ceilings. It’s finding any corner prospects beyond Freeman who look to have strong bats.

      Outside of your top ten, Braves have Tyler Pastornicky, who is close enough that he figures to be at least a back-up IF. Also slick fielding Andrelton Simmons (who probably ultimately ends up as a relief pitcher). Mycal Jones has come a lot further with the bat than I thought he would, and even though he’s being away from short, he could be a real asset if he can handle 2B. And Todd Cunningham’s pro debut sure was disappointing, but if his CF defense holds up, he’ll have plenty of time to prove he can hit.

      I also just have to love the pitching beyond the top ten. You’re one of the few people not to put Brandon Beachy in his top ten, and then there’s J. J. Hoover, who is really damn good to essentially serve as the forgotten man in the system. And BA also even had Brett Oberholtzer in the Braves’ top 10. There’s just so much pitching that a trade almost becomes necessary.

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  13. jp says:

    The problem I have with these “rankings” is that in a 4 year period most teams will have 7-8 new ball players at max. What I mean is you saying the Jays have better depth from 11-25 makes no sense because hardly any of those players will it make it to the majors. If they do then you didn’t rank them properly.

    From this, I conclude the Braves top 10 is better than anybody’s except the Royals therefore I’ll take the Braves system over anyone else’s except the Royals. And in fact I might take the Braves guys before the Royals because the Braves minor leaguers perfectly complement their major league holes. With the exception of 2b, the Braves will have guys under 30 to fill out their entire roster in 2 years.

    Think about that for a second. They’ll have top level talent that is cost controlled all under 30 til 2017 or so. Now put that down your pipe and smoke it.

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    • André says:

      “If they do then you didn’t rank them properly.”

      I’m really struggling to make that logical. How do you know those players won’t make it to the majors? Do prospects have to make it to the majors with the team that developed them? I don’t really care how you rank Atlanta, but that statement (the conclusion that follows) is just bizarre.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Not sure if I get the logic. You’re saying that nobody who isn’t ranked in the top 10 makes it to the big leagues? That’s a pretty bald-faced lie. Most teams have players who aren’t in the top tens at present who eventually WILL be in their top 10 lists, might even end up becoming their top prospects. There’s even plenty of prospects who fly totally under the radar that end up becoming quality big leaguers.

      Martin Prado, for example, just had a four WAR season at age 26 and was never a highly touted prospect, in fact never made a top 10 list at all. Dan Uggla, fairly similarly, was not a highly-touted prospect, ended up being Rule 5-ed, and just had a FIVE WAR season. Yunel Escobar barely squeezed into the 10th spot in 2007, well behind guys like Van Pope and Jo-Jo Reyes, before becoming the Braves’ starting shortstop at season’s end.

      This crap happens all the time.

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  14. Micah says:

    Teheran would have to dominate to be called up this year before Sept because Beachy has already shown it on an MLB level and I am sure the Braves would prefer to give JT a full year in the high minors. Of course, all that could change based on injuries.

    And I do think the Braves have improved their depth up the middle. They have pastornicky (I feel like I completely botched his name, but don’t feel like looking it up), M. Jones, Cunningham, Schafer floating around the MI and Center along with Salcedo and Lipka. The Braves system isn’t as bad on the offensive side as people think, although most of these are a couple years away.

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  15. Anthony says:

    When I look at a minor league system, you have to look at not only what the farm will bring the team, but what trade bait they have. With the way teams salivate over pitching, the way the braves practically ooze pitching from their pours, you’d think they’d be able to trade for most bats without giving up even any of their “big 3″ of teheran, delgado, and vizcaino. A team ready to unload would probably give up a good hitter for a handful of the Braves mid level arms.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Either Delgado or Vizcaino has to be considered expendable anyway. In 2013, Braves will have Jurrjens in his Arb3 year (unless he’s traded), Hanson, Minor, Teheran, Medlen, plus an option on Tim Hudson. That’s already six quality starting pitchers if Tim Hudson’s arm doesn’t fall off. In addition, you’ve got Brandon Beachy somewhere in the works, plus Randall Delgado should be ready for the majors by then, and if Vizcaino comes back healthy, he’ll also be pushing hard.

      That’s 8 starters who could all be ready to perform at a high level for 2013, plus one more who I’d expect would push for a mid-season callup. Surely the Braves will see if they can get a premium outfielder for a package built around either Delgado or Vizcaino. This depth doesn’t even take in account Hoover or Oberholtzer, two more high considered prospects.

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  16. potcircle says:

    just wondering… what about brandon beachy?

    seems like a pretty good prospect, too…

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  17. potcircle says:

    what about brandon beachy?

    seems like a pretty good prospect, too…

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  18. Heyward says:

    any mention of brandon beachy?

    seems like a pretty good prospect, too…

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  19. Travis says:

    Just a heads up, you said Vizcaino has a 91-95 MPH fastball but a few days ago he hit 101. Are stadium guns usually higher than they should be?

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  20. Marc says:

    Beachy had a nice season but he’s more of a No. 4 guy… solid but unspectacular stuff with control that makes it play up. I’d have him in the 11-15 range.

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  21. James says:

    Vizcaino’s elbow healed through rest last year, so I’m not entirely sure why you would recommend Tommy John surgery when he’s been given a clean bill of health.

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  22. Andy G. says:

    The Braves’ rotation in 2013 could easily be Hanson, Teheran, Delgado, Vizcaino and Minor. Then in 2014, Carlos Perez is likely to be ready for the major leagues. That’s just ridiculous.

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  23. Anthony says:

    Well that’s assuming they all pan out. Even guys who look like sure things will faulter. I honestly expect only one of the Vizcaino/Teheran/Delgado to ever contend for a Cy and at least one to never achieve his potential. If everyone achieves their potential (and this means Hanson and Minor don’t suddenly start to suck like pitchers sometimes do) then yea, that’s ridiculous. However, when I look at pitchers, 3 top pitching prospects=I great major league pitcher to me just because of the statistics of failure.

    As a Braves fan, I’m both very excited and at the same time I try to keep everything in perspective.

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  24. Andy G. says:

    But each prospect has to be evaluated on their own skills. Just like it wouldn’t be right to assume that each one of them reaches their full potential, it wouldn’t be right to assume that the best case scenario is that only one of them will be very good major league pitchers.

    All we know is that all of them have the stuff to pitch in the major leagues, and they’ve all performed admirably so far in their professional careers. Vizcaino has the injury issue, and we’ll see how it all works out, but it’s looking pretty good for all of them at this point.

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  25. Dan Stanmanhoo.com says:

    Can we say “whoops” on Kimbrell?

    And Beachy…

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  26. Dave Cornutt says:

    It’s always interesting to look back on these and see how the projections worked out. So here’s the 2011 wrapup:

    Teheran is still regarded as a top prospect. He improved his control somewhat in AAA, and got a few starts in Atlanta at the end of the season. The Braves have a glut of starting pitchers, so Teheran probably starts 2012 in Gwinnett, although he has nothing left to prove there.

    Freeman’s season went exactly as predicted. After a period of adjustment in April/May, .282/.346/.448 for the season, with 21 home runs.

    Minor, as we know, was beaten out for the fifth starter job by Beachy. But he was called up several times and ended up being a significant contributor down the stretch.

    Delgado actually did better with his September call-up than Teheran did. His stock has risen with the organization. Going to be interesting to see how the Braves resolve the logjam.

    Absolutely everybody underestimated Kimbrel. He got his control issues worked out while maintaining the video-game-like strikeout rate. The one knock I heard on him last season was a tendency to over-use his slider.

    Vizcaino had a good season, jumping between four levels. As expected, he was moved to the bullpen, where he wound up with some unexpected competition in the form of J.J. Hoover, who was also moved to the bullpen mid-season. His arm is still a concern, although he was healthy throughout last season.

    Perez was inconsistent at low-A last year and has been bumped down the list a bit by some of the 2011 draftees (e.g., Sean Gilmartin). The Braves still think he has a lot of potential.

    Lipka had a disappointing season. At best, he is now fourth in line in terms of SS prospects, behind Pastornicky, Simmons, and Salcedo. Talking Chop reports that he’s going to be moved to CF. And yes, it does appear now that Simmons is going to stick at SS, and some observers rate him as a better prospect at that position than Pastornicky, who may be more of a utilityman/pinch hitter type.

    Bethencourt had an inconsistent season, and some of the concerns by the commenters above have been noted. He’s the only catching prospect in the Braves system, though.

    One guy that nobody had on their lists at the beginning of the year was corner infielder Joey Terdoslovich, who came out of nowhere and absolutely destroyed the Carolina League last year. He’ll get the chance to do it at AA this year.

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