1. KYLE DAVIES, RHP 6'2" 190 21 years old
2004 Statistics: - 13-3 W/L - 2.72 ERA - 100 hits in 142.1 innings pitched - 57 walks and 173 strikeoutsComment: Kyle Davies almost prevented the Tim Hudson deal from going through. Oakland GM Billy Beane wanted Davies in the deal along with Dan Meyer, but Braves GM John Schuerholz said no. Schuerholz knows Davies is a special pitcher. He was the top-pitching prospect before Meyer and Jose Capellan were traded, and he remains in the top spot today. Now with the other two gone, Davies has a better chance of getting to Atlanta sometime in 2005. If one of the Atlanta starters (Hudson, John Smoltz, Mike Hampton, John Thomson, and Horacio Ramirez) go down with an injury, Davies will probably get the call up. Davies 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. How big of a compliment to Davies that the Braves would have allowed the Hudson deal to die if he had to be included? Pretty big. That tells you how important he is to the Braves future. Davies is the Braves best pitching prospect since Kevin Millwood.
2. JAKE STEVENS, LHP 6'3" 210 20 years old
2004 Statistics: - 9-5 W/L - 2.27 ERA - 100 hits in 135 innings pitched - 39 walks and 140 strikeoutsComment: Stevens gets the nod over others who are closer to the big leagues mainly based on the trade discussions with the Athletics. The third pitcher Billy Beane wanted in the Hudson discussions was Stevens. That's pretty good praise for someone with only one season under his belt. But what a season it was for the 19-year old in Low-A. 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.
3. ANTHONY LEREW, RHP 6'3" 220 22 years old
2004 Statistics: - 8-9 W/L - 3.75 ERA - 145 hits in 144 innings pitched - 46 walks and 125 strikeoutsComment: 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 Davies real fast.
4. MACAY MCBRIDE, LHP 5'11" 212 22 years old
2004 Statistics: - 1-7 W/L - 4.44 ERA - 113 hits in 103.1 innings pitched - 46 walks and 102 strikeoutsComment: 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.
5. ROMAN COLON, RHP 6'6" 225 25 years old
2004 Statistics: - 4-1 W/L - 3.65 ERA - 72 hits in 74 innings pitched - 22 walks and 64 strikeoutsComment: 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.
6. BLAINE BOYER, RHP 6'3" 215 23 years old
2004 Statistics: - 10-10 W/L - 2.98 ERA - 139 hits in 154 innings pitched - 49 walks and 95 strikeoutsComment: 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.
7. CHUCK JAMES, LHP 6'0" 170 23 years old
2004 Statistics: - 10-5 W/L - 2.25 ERA - 92 hits in 132 innings pitched - 48 walks and 156 strikeoutsComment: 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.
8. JOSE ASCANIO, RHP 6'0" 160 20 years old
2004 Statistics: - 3-3 W/L - 3.84 ERA - 58 hits in 65.2 innings pitched - 15 walks and 64 strikeoutsComment: 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.
9. ZACH MINER, RHP 6'3" 190 23 years old
2004 Statistics: - 6-10 W/L - 5.22 ERA - 132 hits in 129.1 innings pitched - 55 walks and 111 strikeoutsComment: Zach Miner had a tremendous showing in the Arizona Fall League, displaying a 95-mile an hour fastball and solid control. The Braves were very worried that his strong performance would get him drafted in the Rule V draft. But Miner was passed over, meaning he will probably go to spring training as a non-roster invitee. It will be his chance to finally impress Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Miner is Leo's kind of pitcher: he pitches away and does an excellent job of mixing up his off speed pitches. If Miner doesn't surprise everyone and win a job in Atlanta, which is possible, he'll go to AAA Richmond and get closer to the big leagues. Miner is a very talented pitcher, and now that the top end of the system is a bit thinner, there's an excellent chance he's going to pitch in the big leagues for the Braves next summer.
10. MATT WRIGHT, RHP 6'4" 225 23 years old
2004 Statistics: - 4-6 W/L - 3.53 ERA - 111 hits in 119.2 innings pitched - 54 walks and 127 strikeoutsComment: Matt Wright had a very solid season in High-A Myrtle Beach, showing consistent development in his pitching. The amazing thing is he pitched most of the second half of the season with a hairline fracture in his right (pitching) arm. That shows you the grit and determination of this former high school football star from the state of Texas. He'll now head to AA Mississippi where he'll be reunited with his favorite pitching coach, Kent Willis. When Wright got into trouble early in 2003 with a bad start in Myrtle Beach, the Braves sent him back to Rome where he thrived under Willis's tutelage. The Braves are also getting Wright's upper body strength better so his fastball will move up a few miles an hour. He usually tops out at around 92, but with his size, he should be getting it up to at least 94 miles an hour. If he has a solid season in AA and stays healthy, the big leagues may not be too far behind.
11. KEVIN BARRY – Has chance to be knocking on the door in the summer.
12. CHRIS VINES – In another year, he'll be in the Top 10.
13. GONZALO LOPEZ – If the light bulb turns on, look out. Potential Top 5 prospect.
14. BRYAN DIGBY – Forget ERA and H/IP. Digby had a great year of development.
15. CHARLIE MORTON – Might start off back at Rome, but he's making great strides.
16. LUIS ATILANO – Still on track to be the next Javier Vazquez.
17. MATT COENEN – Great as starter late in season, but may be another Remlinger.
18. SEAN WHITE – Very polished college pitcher who could thrive in AA in 2005.
19. PAUL BACOT – Going to Rome in 2005. He's growing and developing.
20. KELVIN VILLA – The Braves aren't sure what they have here, but know he's good.
21. JAMES PARR – They're calling him a younger version of Davies. We'll take that.
22. MATT HARRISON – A lefty who is just a good ole boy who chunks the ball.
23. RICO RODRIQUEZ – A solid middle relief prospect who still needs 3 years.
24. RYAN BASNER – Closer than Rodriquez and is another middle relief prospect.
25. CHRIS WATERS – When he gets back healthy, he'll be knocking on the door.