Braves Top 25 Pitching Prospects

The Atlanta Braves farm system has been the centerpiece of organizational success over the past 14 seasons. The continual assembly line of talent churned out Adam LaRoche, Nick Green, Charles Thomas, and Roman Colon in the 2004 season, and it doesn't stop there. Bill Shanks takes a look at the Braves Top 50 prospects, broken down into the Top 25 pitchers and the Top 25 position players. <BR> <BR> We start with the pitchers, and will share the position players with you later this week.


    21 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 13-3 W/L	
    - 2.72 ERA
    - 100 hits in 142.1 innings pitched
    - 57 walks and 173 strikeouts
    Comment: Surprise! Yea, Jose Capellan and Dan Meyer are closer, but the pitcher that has the best chance at being a major league ace is Kyle Davies. He simply wowed the Braves minor league coaches with an unbelievable season. Kyle's change up is Glavine-like. It is the best off speed pitch of any pitcher in the system. There are some of the organization that believe Davies could be ready early in 2005, although it's probably more realistic to count on him knocking on the door later next season.

    2. DAN MEYER, LHP		
    23 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 9-6 W/L
    - 2.49 ERA
    - 112 hits in 126.1 innings pitched
    - 37 walks and 139 strikeouts
    Comment: Dan is a terrific prospect, and gets the nod over Jose Capellan here because of his outstanding makeup. This kid is a winner. He's got very similar characteristics as Kyle Davies. Both are bulldogs on the mound and tough as nails. Dan is very close to sticking in the big leagues, and his impressive quick stint in Atlanta did nothing but help his chances. He will go to spring training with a chance at a spot on the staff, but more than likely he could use just a little more time in AAA – not much, but just a little more time. Meyer and Davies are the Glavine and Smoltz of this decade.

    24 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 14-4	W/L
    - 2.32	ERA
    - 113 hits in 139.2 innings pitched
    - 45 walks and 152 strikeouts
    Comment: The fact that "Cappy" is third best on the list says nothing negative about his performance or his projectability. It simply shows how strong we feel about Davies and Meyer. Nor does it represent any diminished feelings the Braves have about Capellan because of his lackluster second start against the Mets. Capellan's pitching coach in Richmond, Guy Hansen, told the Braves before he left for Kansas City to be their pitching coach that he believed Capellan has a chance to be another Bartolo Colon. But the question is when will Capellan be ready? Like Meyer, it's possible Capellan could benefit from some more time in AAA. But he could have a great spring training and show that he's ready on Opening Day. The other question is whether he'll be a starter or reliever. Could Smoltz's pending move to the rotation answer Cappy's destination? Possibly. Either way, he's a hard-thrower with great potential.

    22 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 8-9 W/L
    - 3.75 ERA
    - 145 hits in 144 innings pitched	
    - 46 walks and 125 strikeouts	
    Comment: Lerew came into the 2004 season with a 2.28 career ERA. While his 3.75 ERA was not horrible, there were higher expectations. He struggled with his breaking ball a bit this season, and the Braves want him to get it more consistent next year. Lerew got his fastball up to 97 miles an hour in 2004, and that caused him to have to adjust a bit to his new style of pitching. If he continues to refine the fastball and gets the curve and changeup straightened out, Lerew could be right there with Meyer and Davies real fast.

    20 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 9-5 W/L
    - 2.27 ERA
    - 100 hits in 135 innings pitched	
    - 39 walks and 140 strikeouts
    Comment: Wow. What a season for a 19-year old in Low-A. Jake Stevens was simply remarkable, exceeding all expectations even after having a fantastic spring to shock everyone and win a job in Rome. Stevens has a decent fastball, with some funky breaking pitches. He's got a knuckle-curve that could be a nasty pitch as he develops it more. Stevens has got to continue to work hard and not simply rest on the success he had in 2004. If he does that and continues to develop under Myrtle Beach pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton, this kid could be dangerous in a season and a half.

    25 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 4-1 W/L
    - 3.65 ERA
    - 72 hits in 74 innings pitched
    - 22 walks and 64 strikeouts
    Comment: A year and a half ago, Roman Colon was told he was going to the bullpen in Greenville. He cried, thinking his career was over. What he didn't realize was the Braves thought he could be a big league reliever. They were right. Colon had a tremendous season in AAA. Guy Hansen said he was the most improved pitcher in the International League from the beginning of the season until the end of the year. Then he made a positive impression in Atlanta. Roman Colon will be in Atlanta's bullpen in 2005, and don't be shocked if he works his way up to compete for a closer's job in the next 3 years.

    22 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 1-7 W/L
    - 4.44 ERA
    - 113 hits in 103.1 innings pitched
    - 46 walks and 102 strikeouts
    Comment: The Braves told McBride in spring training he was going to move to the bullpen sometime in 2004, and when he struggled early as a starter they went ahead and made the move. McBride then did very well in the bullpen, going 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in 26 games, 46 hits, 19 walks, and 42 strikeouts in 43.1 innings pitched. He also had a solid Arizona Fall League, and now the Braves are wondering if McBride could go to spring training and compete for a job. He was compared to Billy Wagner when he was drafted, but Mike Stanton might be the perfect comparison. He can hit 95, and mixes up his breaking pitches well. If he starts 2005 at AAA, he might not be there long.

    23 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 10-10	W/L
    - 2.98	ERA
    - 139 hits in 154 innings pitched	
    - 49 walks and 95 strikeouts
    Comment: The pitcher whom Leo Mazzone described as "a young Rob Dibble" continued to make progress in 2004 with a solid season in Myrtle Beach. Boyer is simply learning to pitch. Remember, he didn't pitch until his senior year of high school, and that was only three playoff games. So don't be deterred when he turns 24 next summer and is still a season away. He could be a very well developed pitcher when he finally gets ready. As of now, the Braves still look at him as a potential starter, but don't rule him out as a future closer just yet.

    23 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 10-5	W/L
    - 2.25	ERA
    - 92 hits in 132 innings pitched		
    - 48 walks and 156 strikeouts
    Comment: James had a remarkable season finishing second in ERA and strikeouts in the Sally League. He did it all with mostly fastballs and changeups, and later in the season he threw his improving slider even more. James spent the Instructional League working on his slider, as the Braves know he's going to need that third pitch. But so far, it hasn't mattered much. James has a 1.97 career ERA in 37 games (33 starts) in the Braves organization. James was scheduled to go to Myrtle Beach in midseason, but was suspended for an off the field episode. But now that's behind him, and he still has a good chance to skip Myrtle Beach and start the 2005 season in AA Mississippi. James has been compared to a young Mike Hampton, and if he gets his slider in order, that comparison might not be far off.

    20 years old
    2004 Statistics:
    - 3-3 W/L
    - 3.84	ERA
    - 58 hits in 65.2 innings pitched	
    - 15 walks and 64 strikeouts
    Comment: We put as our number ten pitching prospect the Braves best long-term relief prospect. Ascanio has been an off-the-radar pitcher, but remember his name. He wowed the Braves staff this summer with an off the charts fastball that reached 98 mph. He also has an above-average changeup and a plus curve ball. Ascanio could very easily go to AA Mississippi in 2005, and with a good season, we could be talking about him being the K-Rod late next summer. The Braves believe this guy is a closer in the making.

    11. MATT WRIGHT – Pitched 2nd half of 2004 with hairline fracture. Up to AA now.

    12. ZACH MINER – Having a solid AFL. He's not too far away. A dark horse for 2005.

    13. CHRIS VINES – In another year, he'll be in the Top 10.

    14. GONZALO LOPEZ – If the light bulb turns on, look out. Potential Top 5 prospect.

    15. BRYAN DIGBY – Forget ERA and H/IP. Digby had a great year of development.

    16. CHARLIE MORTON – Might start off back at Rome, but he's making great strides.

    17. LUIS ATILANO – Still on track to be the next Javier Vazquez.

    18. MATT COENEN – Great as starter late in season, but may be another Remlinger.

    19. SEAN WHITE – Very polished college pitcher who could thrive in AA in 2005.

    20. PAUL BACOT – Going to Rome in 2005. He's growing and developing.

    21. KEVIN BARRY – Has chance to be knocking on the door in the summer.

    22. KELVIN VILLA – The Braves aren't sure what they have here, but know he's good.

    23. JAMES PARR – They're calling him a younger version of Davies. We'll take that.

    24. MATT HARRISON – A lefty who is just a good ole boy who chunks the ball.

    25. RICO RODRIQUEZ – A solid middle relief prospect who still needs 3 years.

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