Ten minor league position players to watch
Jordan Schafer - Chances are Schafer will have to be a minor league again until he can prove his wrist is healthy. The Braves are being careful with Schafer. The hope is he'll be ready to go to Gwinnett on Opening Day and have no lingering effects from his injury. If he can show he's healthy, Schafer will get back to Atlanta once there is an opening.
Freddie Freeman - The Braves will likely send Freeman back to Double-A Mississippi. Let's see him spend the entire year there and be healthy. If he's productive, a late-season stint in Gwinnett is possible. Most believe Freeman just needs this one year before being ready in 2011 to take over first base in Atlanta. So he'll be watched and evaluated carefully.
Brandon Hicks - Will the Braves send Hicks back to Double-A, or will they push the 24-year old to Gwinnett? That will be a question in spring training, as the Braves need for Hicks to improve his plate discipline. Hicks can pick it at shortstop, so he's just got to do better at the plate to convince the front office he could be an option, either late this season or in 2011.
Cody Johnson - The big lefty hitter is showing off his power in big league camp. While there is no doubt he has some things to work on, Johnson's power is just something you can't teach. If he has a productive and powerful season in Double-A, more scouts will have to jump on board. If he hits 20-plus homers and can get that average up, Johnson will be a serious prospect.
Adam Milligan - Another big lefty hitter, Milligan will have his first full season in 2010. Last year he started late, with short-season Danville, and wound up the year in Myrtle Beach after an impressive stint in Rome. Overall, in about half a season, Milligan had a .344 average, 13 homers, and 49 RBI. So what will he do in a full season? We'll find out as he probably starts out back in Myrtle Beach. Could he eventually close the revolving door in left field for the Braves?
Christian Bethancourt - One of the many top prospects who will be in Rome, the Panamanian catcher dazzled scouts in Danville and in Rome last season. Bethancourt just turned 18 in September, so he'll be mighty young for the Sally League. But if he does anything close to what he did a year ago, Bethancourt could be one of the top prospects in the game.
Riann Spanjer-Furstenburg - Is he a real prospect, or just a player with a long and interesting name? He's one of the many college players who did well last year in the Appy League. But was that just a good college hitter doing well, or is RSF a real prospect? These questions will be answered as he starts the season in Rome.
Edward Salcedo - Well, the Braves just spent a lot of money on this kid, so you can bet fans will be watching his progress. Once he gets to Florida, the Braves will quickly evaluate him and see where he needs to go. Do the Braves push him to Myrtle Beach, or do they let him play third in Rome? If Salcedo is really that good, could he be the top prospect a year from now?
Mycal Jones - With Salcedo now in the fold, it'll be interesting to see how the Braves treat Jones. He was scheduled to start in Rome, but they have to decide what to do with Salcedo, who could get preferential treatment. Could one move to third? Or will one be pushed to the Carolina League? It'll be fun to see what Jones does in a full season, since he did well last year in short-season Danville.
Kyle Rose - Coaches were impressed with Rose's ability to steal bases last year in the Gulf Coast League. Rose had 20 steals in 48 games. The Braves really need to find a potential major league base stealer, so Rose might be the best candidate. With a good March, the 20-year-old could go up to Rome to play with a full-season team.
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 column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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