With the trade of Andy Marte to Boston last month, Van Pope assumed the role of being the Braves' top third base prospect. Like Marte, Pope is a superb defensive third baseman, with a plus arm. Offensively, Pope is still developing and should have a good test this season in Myrtle Beach.
When the Braves drafted Pope out of Meridian Community College in the 2004 draft, they believed he was the top junior college player in the nation. The team remains confident in Pope's ability to develop into a starting third baseman in the big leagues.
Pope started the 2005 season in Rome and hit .277 with 6 home runs and 60 RBI and a .347 OBP in 386 at bats. Then he was promoted to Myrtle Beach in August to finish the season with the Pelicans and struggled a bit, hitting only .167 in 84 at bats.
Here's his manager in Rome last year, Rocket Wheeler, talking late last season about Pope's progress in the minor leagues:
"He's a RBI man. Pope needs to learn more about how to hit, and once he does that, his power is going to come. Eventually, he will cause he's a strong kid. He doesn't have big power numbers, but he will down the road. When he gets his swing corrected, the power is going to be there. There are times when he jumps at the ball, so all he's got left is his arms to swing with, and there are your fly balls to the warning track. He stays back and uses his hands and his legs into the ball, the ball will jump off his bat. Defensively, he is outstanding. He's an outstanding third baseman. I know you've got Andy Marte up above him, and Wes Timmons can play some third base too. But this kid can play some third base. He's got a 70-plus arm. He has a cannon of an arm."
Click here to listen to BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talk with Van Pope.
The podcast is titled, "Van Pope Interview." Click on the headset with the podcast dated January 13th.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at email@example.com.
Audio Podcast: Van Pope Interview
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