Top 20 Pitching Prospects

The BravesCenter.Com Staff has compiled our Top 20 Pitching prospects list with profiles, stats and analysis of some of the hottest pitching prospects in the organization.

BRAVES TOP 20 PITCHING PROSPECTS

Statistics are combined numbers


1. Adam Wainwright
RHP     10-8     3.37     133-149.2     37bb-128k

Adam had a very solid season in AA with Greenville. He started the All Star Game in Jacksonville and then followed that up with a strong second half of the season. In Wainwright's last 10 games, he was 5-1 with an ERA of 2.40. He allowed only 42 hits in 60 innings, walked 10, and struck out 47 during that stretch. His strong finish made many wonder if he's ready for the big leagues. Adam has now gone over the magical 500 career innings number, usually a benchmark for the potential readiness of a minor league pitcher. Adam is going to work out with a personal trainer this offseason to hopefully build more strength to his 6'8" frame. He'll then head to spring training in March with an outside shot at winning the 5th starter's job, but more than likely spend a little more time in the minors at AAA Richmond. 2005 should be his season to lead the charge into the next era of Braves pitching.

2. Bubba Nelson
RHP     8-11      3.04      116-133.1     50bb-84k

Bubba Nelson was the talk of the Braves minor league system late in the season. The Braves were curious to see if he could handle the role of a reliever, so they promoted him up to AAA Richmond for the rest of the season. He did well, going 0-1 with an ERA of 1.88. The Braves did not call Nelson up to Atlanta, but still believe he could handle the role if needed in 2004. However, the Braves still prefer to have Nelson as a starting pitcher. He has a great assortment of pitches that can make him extremely effective in the big leagues. Like Wainwright, Nelson will go to spring training with an outside chance to make the Atlanta club, but could start in Richmond.

3. Macay McBride
LHP     9-8      2.95      164-164.2      49bb-139k

Macay McBride continued to take tremendous developmental steps in 2003. His walk and strikeout totals were similar to 2002, when he walked 48 and struck out 138. There is little doubt that McBride remains one of the Braves prized pitching prospects. Macay will move on to AA Greenville in 2004, and is still considered a couple of years away from being ready.

4. Dan Meyer
LHP     7-10     2.87     145-160     32bb-158k

Meyer started out strong in 2003 and was promoted from Rome to Myrtle Beach. His success in High A may get him a promotion to Greenville to start 2004. Dan's great control is a huge sign of his progress since coming to the Braves out of James Madison in 2002. Some scouts believe he's already climbed into an elite status with Wainwright, Nelson, and McBride.

5. Anthony Lerew
RHP     7-6     2.38     112-143.2     43bb-127k

Anthony Lerew continues to put up amazing numbers. He now has a career ERA of 2.28, which is unheard of for a pitcher with that many career starts (46). Lerew throws the ball with an easy motion, and simply gets people out. You are not going to see him overpower people, but he keeps the ball in the strike zone with solid control. He should be getting some national attention this winter. Lerew held opponants to a .215 batting average.

6. Jo Jo Reyes
LHP     5-3     2.56     34h-45.2ip     14bb-55k

After Jo Jo Reyes was drafted in the second round this past June, he reported to Orlando in the Gulf Coast League. It did not take the coaches long to see how special a pitcher the Braves have in Reyes. He is blessed with four solid pitches: fastball, curve, slider, and change. Some have compared him to a young Horacio Ramirez, but with better stuff at this point in his early career. Of all the kids in Orlando, Reyes has the best chance at skipping Danville and going to Rome in 2004. The Braves believe Reyes was a first round value at pick number 43.

7. Andy Pratt
LHP     7-10     3.40     146-156     77bb-161k

Pratt's last minor league stop was a successful one. He led all Braves minor leaguers in strikeouts with 161. There were some great games where he showed dominance, and other games that showed why he was still in AAA. Pratt's control is his big question mark. If he can get his slider over for strikes consistently, he should be fine. Pratt should enter 2004 as a leading candidate for a spot on the Atlanta pitching staff.

8. Kyle Davies
RHP     8-8     2.89     128-146.1     53bb-148k

Kyle was the Rome Braves big game pitcher down the stretch, winning the division series clincher and the league championship clincher. Like Lerew, Davies also has a career sub-3.00 ERA of 2.82 in 52 starts. He's a strikeout pitcher, with a crisp and moving fastball that is his out pitch. Davies and Lerew will anchor the Myrtle Beach rotation in 2004.

9. Blaine Boyer
RHP     12-8     3.69     146h-136.2ip     58bb-115k

Boyer tied for the lead in the Braves minor leagues with twelve victories after a terrific second half of the season. Blaine was 6-0 with an ERA of 0.70 in his last seven starts of the season. The Braves had him repeat Low-A ball so he could get innings, after spending 2002 in the Macon Braves bullpen. The Braves are still split on whether he'll be a starter or reliever in the big leagues, but for now they are content with allowing him to get solid innings as a starter.

10. Matt Wright
RHP     12-9     3.66     135h-142.2ip     74bb-156k

Back in mid-June, Matt Wright was in trouble of seeing his Braves career coming to an end. As a player who must be protected this winter, Wright's slow start in Myrtle Beach caused huge concerns. He was 2-7 with an ERA of 6.38 with the Pelicans, but went to Rome and drastically turned things around. Wright was 10-2 with an ERA of 1.65 in fourteen games (thirteen starts) with Rome, and allowed 53 hits in 82 innings. Wright also struck out 98 batters with the Braves. There is no doubt that Rome pitching coach Kent Willis helped Wright find his mechanics, but as Matt moves up the minor league ladder, he'll have to rely on his own knowledge to maintain the fantastic pace he set at Rome.

11. Brett Evert
RHP     4-9     4.02     126h-122ip     44bb-103k

Brett struggled in his first eight starts of the season (1-6, 5.79 ERA), so the Braves moved him to the bullpen where he did very well (0-0, 2.55, 33h-35.1ip, 11bb-40k). Then when Matt Belisle was promoted to Richmond, Evert moved back into the rotation and was decent (3-3, 3.46, 40h-39ip, 16bb-36k). Now the Braves must decide if he's a starter or a reliever. Brett is headed to the Arizona Fall League, and a good performance could propel him to the front of the pack in the battle for a bullpen spot in Atlanta next spring. With Wainwright, Nelson, and Pratt ahead of him in the starter's race, Evert might get his chance as a reliever first. Don't count against him being very successful as a reliever. He has a fastball that can reach 95 and very good offspeed stuff.

12. Alec Zumwalt
RHP     6-3     1.98     42h-63.2ip     28bb-62k

This may be a surprise to some, but Zumwalt has become the surprise of the organization. Two years ago, he was a struggling outfielder in Macon with a career batting average of .216. The Braves came to him about changing into a pitcher, and Zumwalt reluctantly agreed. The results have been outstanding. After struggling a bit in 2002 (2-4, 5.94 in Macon and Myrtle Beach), Alec was amazing at two stops in 2003. Zumwalt has a blazing fastball and is still learning how to pitch.

13. Zach Miner
RHP     6-10     3.69     150h-153.2ip     61bb-88k

The Braves truly believed Miner would be up at the top of this list by now. But instead, Zach is coming off a mediocre season in Myrtle Beach. His numbers were not horrible, but nothing stands out to separate him yet from other Braves prospects. The Braves would like him to use his fastball a little more instead of relying so much on his breaking stuff. Miner will take another step in his development in 2004 by going to Greenville. The Braves are waiting for him to bust out and dominate, and still believe he has the potential to do so.

14. Matt Merricks
LHP     6-15     2.99     103h-114.1ip     42bb-97k

Forget the poor record, Merricks was the victim of poor offensive support from the weak Myrtle Beach offense. Overall, his numbers were solid, and he continues to be the unheralded prospect in the Braves system. That's exactly the way he likes it. Merricks has a decent fastball and relies on some effective breaking pitches. There have been concerns with his health, so the Braves will be watching him closely in 2004.

15. Jose Capellan
RHP     1-3     3.50     61h-64.1ip     27bb-49k

His first full season back from Tommy John surgery was very successful. The Braves brought along this tall, hard throwing righthander slowly, pacing his innings particularly after he had some numbness in his fingers during late July. Capellan has the ability to hit the high-90's consistently. He may be in the same boat as Boyer. Capellan might be a reliever down the road, but for now the Braves want him to get solid innings, which is easier to do as a starter. But it's natural to look at this guy, see his 96-99 mph fastball, and see closer written all over him.

16. Sean White
RHP     3-3     2.98     53h-51.1ip     16bb-32k

White was an 8th round pick in the 2003 draft, and established himself as the most advanced of the college pitchers who were at Danville. The Braves totally reconstructed his delivery and White was unhittable in his last 7 appearances (3-1, 1.06 ERA, 24h-34ip, 9bb-25k). White will more than likely be a senior member of the Rome rotation, and the Braves hope he can advance as quickly as Dan Meyer, another college pitcher drafted a year earlier.

17. Chris Waters
LHP     4-9     4.26     111h-95ip     32bb-60k

Chris had a rough year with injuries, battling tendinitus throughout the year. He still has great control and is perhaps the best athlete in the Braves system. Waters has a changeup that could be the best in the organization, and his fastball can sneak up over 90. Waters has more characteristics of Tom Glavine than any other pitcher. He's not overpowering, but gets people out with good stuff and intelligence. Waters needs to bounce back strong in 2004, and most likely will return to AA Greenville to start the season. He gets lost in discussions, but you should not forget his name.

18. Roman Colon
RHP     11-3     3.36     104h-107ip     33b-58k

Colon was moved from the rotation to the bullpen in midsummer when the Braves wanted to take a look at him as a reliever. Some in the organization really believe Colon could be a candidate for a bullpen spot in Atlanta next season. He does not overpower anyone, but has good movement on all his pitches. Colon still has some desire to be a starter, but could get to the big leagues real soon as a reliever.

19. Ray Aguilar
LHP     4-4     2.66     83h-98ip     22bb-96k

Lefthander Ray Aguilar took up anchor in the Greenville rotation when Bubba Nelson was promoted to Richmond. He promptly started throwing his knuckleball, which from the left side devasted most hitters. Greenville pitching coach Mike Alvarez suggested to Aguilar that instead of throwing the knuckler 10 percent of the time to throw it 30 percent of the time. It paid off. Aguilar showed a lot of people some nasty stuff that could get him a spring training non-roster invite. With his solid 2003 season, Aguilar's career ERA is now up to 1.99.

20. Chuck James
LHP     2-1     1.25     26h-50.1ip     19bb-68k

Chuck James was a 20th round pick in the 2002 draft out of Chattahoochee Community College in Alabama. His debut in Danville was outstanding mostly due to a dangerous fastball. Due to breaking his wrist, coaches limited his pitch count and his breaking stuff. Right now, it's mostly fastballs getting people out. James should join White and Reyes in Rome's 2004 rotation.

Best of the Rest:
21. Ryan Basner, RHP
22. Daniel Curtis, RHP
23. Luis Atilano, RHP
24. Paul Bacot, RHP
25. Matt Coenen, LHP

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