Minor League Rosters Still Unsettled

With a full week to go before the end of spring training, there are still a lot of decisions to be made at the Braves' minor league complex. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks will take a look at the possibilities for the top four farm teams, starting with AAA Richmond.

Guessing the Triple-A roster the week before a season is to start is somewhat dangerous. Richmond's roster is always determined by the moves made in Atlanta, and then the chips fall down the entire system. But let's take a look at the possibilities for AAA as we head into the final seven days of spring training.


STARTING ROTATION
  1. Kyle Davies - The Braves top pitching prospect didn't have a great ERA in big league camp, but truth be told that number was grossly affected by a few pitches to Jim Thome. Davies is still the top prospect, and it is expected that the Braves will challenge him a bit by sending him to AAA Richmond. There's still a chance he could go to Pearl to start the season and then head up to AAA later on, but why not have your top arm one step away?
  2. Zach Miner - Not on the 40-man roster but invited as a non-roster player, Miner did fairly well in his debut with the big club. Zach is really a Leo Mazzone-type pitcher, so it's possible he made a good impression on the Atlanta pitching coach. Zach could return to AA, where he struggled a bit early last season. But with his good showing in the spring, the Braves may be willing to let him go to AAA.
  3. Ray Aguilar - He's been a constant in the organization for several seasons. Ray is a solid AAAA pitcher, meaning he's good enough to do well in the minors but may never get his chance in the big leagues. With his knuckler, he can still be an effective pitcher for the Richmond team.
  4. Andy Van Hekken - He's appeared in a few big league games this month, but chances are the former Tigers' prospect is headed for Richmond. He's a nice lefty that could be called upon if needed in Atlanta.
  5. Sam McConnell - Perhaps the ace of the Richmond staff in 2004 could return there this year as well. Surprisingly, McConnell was not invited to big league camp after a decent showing with Atlanta in a brief stint last season. He could be falling into that AAAA label himself. But he is a decent pitcher and will be a solid arm for pitching coach Mike Alvarez.
  6. Macay McBride - The Braves must decide if they want to keep McBride in the bullpen or return him to the starting rotation. If he starts again, they may decide to send him back to AA, where he struggled early last season as a starter. After his switch to the bullpen, McBride did very, very well. So the Braves just have to make up their mind on what he needs to do to prepare for Atlanta. Chances are he'll make it to Atlanta as a reliever, but they may want him to get innings again as a starter to prepare for the role.
  7. Daniel Curtis - He's bounced around from the rotation to the bullpen the last few years, but Curtis might get his chance as a starter this season in AAA. The Braves need to decide what they are going to do with Curtis. He didn't do very well in big league camp, so we'll see if he's on the bubble in Richmond.
  8. Chris Mears - Mears was the extra pitcher in four games on the big league side and did very well. He could be a candidate for the AAA rotation or bullpen.

BULLPEN

  1. Jorge Vasquez - He may be the Richmond closer after a pretty decent showing in big league camp. This guy has a lot of movement on his pitches and can get it into the mid-90's with his fastball. If the bullpen needs a reinforcement in Atlanta, Vasquez could get the call.
  2. Hector Almonte - The Braves like veterans in the AAA bullpen, and Almonte has a chance to be one of their leaders.
  3. Jeremy Ward - Another closer candidate; veteran minor leaguer with good AAA experience.
  4. Kevin Barry - Having a solid spring and still has an outside shot at a big league roster spot. More likely, however, "KB" is headed to Richmond. He made a positive impression with some solid outings, including a number of strikeouts. The Braves like their relievers to strike people out, so Barry may be an Atlanta option if needed.
  5. Buddy Hernandez - Still has an outside shot at a job in Atlanta. If Gryboski goes down, Buddy could get the spot. If not, he'll head to Richmond for the third year in a row. But now that Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone have seen him and he's done well, he's definitely on the list as an option if a bullpen arm is needed this year.
  6. Matt Childers - A bit older and was mostly a reliever the last few years. Childers pitched well in his five games in big league camp.
  7. Matt Coenen - The Braves may send Coenen back to AA to start the season, but he is a bit older and they may want to test him in Richmond. Some believe Coenen could still develop into a Remlinger-type of reliever. If he does well in AAA, he might get his chance.
  8. Alex Herrera - Another veteran minor leaguer who has AAA experience. He may be battling Almonte and Ward for the closer's role in Richmond.
  9. Casey DeHart - Former Reds farmhand is in minor league camp and is battling for a job. He could be in AAA or AA.
  10. John Foster - Probably a month or two away from being ready to go. John is recovering from his shoulder surgery from last year. He'll probably stay in extended spring training and the Braves will see where he is in his recovery in May. If he bounces back, don't count him out.
  11. Macay McBride - Could be the lefty out of the bullpen.
  12. Daniel Curtis
  13. Chris Mears
  14. Scott Sturkie
  15. Brian Langen

CATCHERS

  1. J.C. Boscan - He's gotten a lot of work in big league camp. J.C. is a light-hitting catcher that is dependable behind the plate. There's still a chance he could develop into a decent backup major league catcher, but he's got to make improvements at the plate.
  2. Carlos Mendez - The Braves love to bring in veteran catchers for AAA. This year it's Mendez. The pitchers seem to like him as a receiver.
  3. Iker Franco - Another veteran minor leaguer who could be placed at either AAA or Mississippi.
  4. Brayan Pena - He did well in AA last season, but could stand another season at that level. Pena still needs to develop more defensive skills.
  5. Ray Serrano - One tough hombre. This guy is a very good catcher who is in charge of the game. He could play at any level and be an asset on the team.

INFIELDERS

  1. James Jurries - He's probably got the Richmond job locked down. Scott Thorman could knock on the door later in the season, but for now James is set at first base.
  2. Pete Orr - If Wilson Betemit gets the last infield reserve spot in Atlanta, as expected, Orr will return to Richmond and play second base. But make no mistake about it - if the Braves need an infielder this season Orr will get the call. He showed Bobby Cox the exact type of player he is - another Charles Thomas.
  3. Tony Pena, Jr. - This could be an interesting decision. While Tony is 23, he is still young as a ballplayer. He could stand a return to AA, since his batting average and plate discipline need improvement. The Braves may want to push him a bit, since Luis Hernandez is breathing down his neck and needs to play short in AA.
  4. Andy Marte - Just biding his time. There's no reason to think he won't do well in Richmond. He's a star waiting to happen.
  5. Juan Velasquez - He did well for the organization last year, and he could again be called on to fill several spots in 2005. Velasquez could be the primary shortstop in Richmond if the Braves send Pena back to AA.

OUTFIELDERS

  1. Billy McCarthy - One Atlanta official called him the best right-handed hitting prospect since Marcus Giles. Not a bad compliment for Billy. He's headed back to AAA, but if (should I say when?) Mondesi or Jordan go down, Billy will be willing and able. This kid is a player, and he's going to help the Atlanta Braves win sometime soon.
  2. Kelly Johnson - He's played a lot in the infield this spring, mostly at third base. But Kelly has also taken some ground balls at second base, a new position for him. The Braves seem to be grooming him as a Ryan Freel-type player, one that could play in the outfield and at second, short, or third if needed. Johnson still has a great hitting stroke, so don't be shocked if he shows the Braves he might just be better than Ryan Freel.
  3. John Barnes - He's not really done well in big league camp, but the Braves know this guy can hit. So he's battling Esix Snead and the other vets for a spot.
  4. Esix Snead - He has done well in big league camp and is this year's DeWayne Wise. But the Braves have pretty much settled on Ryan Langerhans as their 4th outfielder. If Mondesi can't go due to his ankle, Snead might get the chance over Billy McCarthy. He's performed well enough to merit a chance. But he'll likely spend most of this season as Richmond's leadoff man.
  5. Roosevelt Brown - Not sure if Brown is prepared to accept a role in Richmond or not. He's got big league experience, so that's always a plus. But he hasn't knocked anyone's socks off this spring since his return from Japan. The Braves will have to make a decision on Brown. He's not a bad player to have around.
  6. Derrick Gibson - Veteran minor leaguer who looks like a linebacker. Gibson is battling for a backup role in AAA and AA.
  7. Mike Rosamont - Veteran minor leaguer who looks like a quarterback. Rosamont is battling for a backup role in AAA and AA.
  8. Scott Pratt - Veteran minor leaguer who looks like a safety. Pratt is battling for a backup role in AAA and AA.

Bill Shanks has a new book coming out next month on the Braves' scouting and player development philosophies called Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com


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