Minor League Predictions

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks makes a few predictions about the Braves' minor leaguers.

RICHMOND

Biggest Surprise: Kevin Barry
Okay, so we know KB has had great minor league numbers. But now is the year for him to show everyone that he belongs in the major leagues. Barry has the talent, but he's got to have the chance.

Most underappreciated prospect: Scott Thorman
How in the world a team that needs a first baseman has not called the Braves on Thorman is a mystery. This guy can play baseball. He's a hitter. But he's stuck behind Adam LaRoche, and he has the shadow of a possible move by Jarrod Saltalamacchia hanging over him. 'Thor' can play, and if he puts up 92 RBI again this season, someone's bound to take notice.

Breakout player: Billy McCarthy
Whenever Billy McCarthy has been healthy, he's hit. Well, after ankle surgery last fall, Billy is now healthy again. He's going to hit as long as he's in the lineup. Do not be shocked at all if he's called up to Atlanta at some point this season. This kid can play, but again, the chance is what he's waiting for.

Prospect most likely to be called up: Tony Pena, Jr.
At some point this season, the Braves are going to need a second baseman, shortstop, or third baseman. When that happens, Tony Pena, Jr. is the one that will get the call. He had an impressive spring, and if he does well in AAA, he could make his big league debut sometime this season.


MISSISSIPPI

Wildcard pitcher for a callup: Chris Waters
Okay, so we could have gone with Sean White here, since he wowed Bobby Cox in spring training. But with questions about Macay McBride, the chance Chuckie James could move into the rotation, the questions regarding Mike Remlinger, and the lack of lefties in Richmond, it's possible Waters could be needed in Atlanta. He's healthy now, and he's a lefty that can pitch. That's a recipe for success!

Don't give up on him yet: Bryan Digby
'Digs' is a sidearmer now, and he's actually pitching instead of throwing it by people. It will be interesting to see if this kid can be a legit prospect once again.

Breakout pitcher: Manny Acosta
He throws in the upper 90s and he's a reliever. Heck, sounds like he's needed in Atlanta right now. Manny Acosta did well in the WBC, and if he does well in AA, he might find himself in Atlanta. Maybe he's another Juan Cruz.

Just biding his time: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
If you are anywhere near the Mississippi Braves this season, go see this kid. Then you can say you saw him before he became a huge major league star. It's only a matter of time.

Make room for him - somewhere: Yunel Escobar
He might just win the Southern League batting title. Yunel thinks he's ready, but like so many, he's blocked in his quest for a big league spot right now. This guy is a hitting fool, and he whistles while he works in the infield too.


MYRTLE BEACH

How good are these two: James Parr and Matt Harrison
We might find out this summer just how good these two pitchers really are. Parr is compared to Kyle Davies, while Harrison gets thrown in with Kevin Millwood comparisons. Both could have excellent seasons in Myrtle Beach and establish themselves as two of the top pitching prospects in the game.

Won't be at the beach long: Will Startup
He might have started in Double-A if not for all the moves in late March. Startup has a chance to be very good, and he might head to Mississippi by mid-May.

Breakout player: J.C. Holt
He struggled in the first half last season in Rome, only to bounce back with a superb second half. Holt is still a prospect. He plays well in the field and is a pesky hitter. If you miss Adam Stern, this might be his twin.

Next starter in Atlanta: Brandon Jones
There's just no denying that Jones has a chance to be the next top outfielder to become a premiere player. He's a poor man's Reggie Sanders. He could be ready for Atlanta in 2008.

Watch the power develop: Van Pope
This is all we're waiting for from Van, just a few more home runs. Defensively, he's excellent at third base. But he needs to show a little more power for that position. This is a Bill Mueller-type player, and he might start showing that power this season in a tough environment.


ROME

Won't be here for long: Chris Vines
Vines had a solid spring, but the Braves sent him back for just a bit more seasoning in Rome. He'll stay there for six weeks at the most before moving up to Myrtle Beach. This kid could be ready to break out.

Breakout pitcher: Beau Jones
I wondered why Baseball America rated him so high in our organization, with all the pitching and him just joining us last summer. Well, after watching him in spring training, I know why. Jones is going to be the top pitcher in the Sally League at the end of the season - bank on it!

Most underappreciated player: Brandon Monk
The more you watch him, the more you see him developing into a Marty Malloy / Tony Graffanino in a few years. The Braves coaches really fell in love with him this spring, and you watch him long enough you know why. He's a pesky little second baseman, and the Braves love those guys.

Just stay healthy: Jamie Romak
IF Jamie Romak can stay healthy, he might hit 20 home runs for the Rome Braves this season. This kid has tremendous power, but he hasn't stayed off the Disabled List enough to show us. This year might be his year to show why the Braves drafted him so high a few years ago out of Canada.

Just had to mention him: Elvis Andrus
Oh yeah, if you haven't heard, this kid is going to be a star!


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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