We all know the potential arrival of Jason Heyward could be one of the big storylines next season. But there are other prospects who could make an impact in 2010.
Let's start with the pitchers. Jo Jo Reyes is still around, and once again when he was sent back to Triple-A he did well. Reyes had a 2.86 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) for Gwinnett. If he's not traded this winter, Reyes will be back in Triple-A.
Todd Redmond had a decent season in Triple-A Gwinnett last year, going 9-6 with a 4.41 ERA in 27 games. If the Braves need an emergency starter in 2010, Redmond could be at the top of the list if he's doing well back in Gwinnett.
Luis Valdez got in three games with Atlanta last season and did good work. Valdez saved 27 games in Gwinnett and posted a 3.28 ERA. He had 75 strikeouts in 71.1 innings. Valdez is another Manny Acosta-type of pitcher.
Tim Gustafson came back after having Tommy John surgery and made an impression. He pitched in Rome, Myrtle Beach, and Mississippi and had a 3.83 ERA in his 34 games at those three spots. Gustafson can strike out people (61 in 82.1 innings), but he's got to cut down on his walks (42). The Braves like his stuff, and he is someone to keep an eye on.
Ryne Reynoso could move up to Triple-A next season after 24 starts in Mississippi. Reynoso's H/IP ratio (127 hits in 148 IP) was very good, and opponents hit only .236 against him. The Braves think Reynoso could be a middle reliever if he continues to develop.
Lee Hyde is a name that is on the radar all of a sudden. He came back from arm injuries and pitched in 26 games in three minor league stops in 2009. Hyde had a 2.27 ERA, with 45 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched. He's a lefty reliever with good stuff, and the Braves sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he's made another positive impression. Expect the Braves to bring Hyde to big league camp as a non-roster player, and it's likely we'll see the former Georgia Tech star in Atlanta sometime next summer if he continues his good work.
Craig Kimbrel had quite a journey this season, with stops in the Braves top four affiliates. Overall, Kimbrel had a 2.85 ERA, with 103 strikeouts in 60 innings. That's an amazing stat, but so is the 45 walks he allowed. His control issues have continued in the Arizona Fall League. The Braves know Kimbrel has great stuff, but he's got to harness his control. If he cuts down on his walks, Kimbrel will be in Atlanta very soon.
James Parr pitched in eight games with Atlanta last spring, and then when he went down he had injury issues. Parr should be recovered and ready to go next spring. He'll battle for a bullpen job, but likely be back in Gwinnett. If the Braves need someone, Parr will be near the top of the list if he's doing well.
Francisley Bueno keeps on hanging around. The lefty pitched in 33 games for Gwinnett last season and was effective. Bueno had a 3.13 ERA, mostly in relief. The Braves need to make a decision on Bueno, who will be 29 next March.
Clint Sammons will once again the catching insurance policy next season. He hit only .214 last year in Gwinnett, and when he came up to Atlanta Sammons hit only .182. But the Braves know he can catch, and that's his main function.
Barbaro Canizares saw his first major league time in 2009, playing in five games for Atlanta. He hit only .190 in his 21 at bats. But the Braves know Barbaro can hit, as he proved with a .294 average in Triple-A, with 12 home runs and 79 RBI. He'll probably have the same role again next season – in Gwinnett and on call if needed in Atlanta.
Brian Barton was acquired in April for Blaine Boyer. He only got into one game for Atlanta, as a pinch-runner, but when he was in Triple-A Barton did good work. The right-handed hitter batted .266 with 7 home runs and 46 RBI in 369 at bats. He'll be 28 next April, but Barton is not a bad option if you need an outfielder up from Triple-A.
Brandon Jones has just not separated himself in the last few seasons. He's simply a Quad-A player – one who does well in Triple-A, but has not taken advantage of his opportunities in the big leagues. He has time to still shake that reputation, but if he's not careful his time will run out. Jones hit .281 in Gwinnett. He needs a good spring training, and the next time Jones gets called up he really needs to perform well.
Gregor Blanco had a brutal season in Gwinnett in 2009. A year after being the Braves' primary left fielder, Blanco hit only .228 in 333 at bats in Triple-A. Blanco then hit only .186 in Atlanta. His Braves' career is in jeopardy.
Jason Heyward is the one everyone is waiting for. He'll be the prospect who could make the most impact in 2010. He has a shot at being a superstar, and the Braves can't wait for him to get to Atlanta.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
26. Which prospects could help out in 2010?
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