Post-spring top 10 Braves prospects
Players are listed with their position, 2010 team, and their opening day age:
1. JASON HEYWARD – RF – Atlanta – 20 years old
The best prospect in the game, and Monday is graduation day. The new Dave Parker. Five-tool talent. Yes, the ball comes off his bat differently. You will want to go to watch Heyward take batting practice. The expectations need to be realistic, but Heyward has given no one any reason to be skeptical. And the kid just wants to go play baseball.
2. FREDDIE FREEMAN – 1B - Gwinnett - 20 years old
Maybe more pure power than Heyward; Freeman will get one more full season and should be ready in 2011. The Braves surprised many when they assigned him to Gwinnett. That shows you they believe Freeman is very close. Freeman could stop the revolving door the Braves have had at first base. And he plays good defense, too.
3. MIKE MINOR – LHP – Mississippi – 22 years old
Last year's first round pick could be ready next season. Smart and confident, a potential number two or three starter. I've been going to spring training for the last 10 years talking to minor leaguers, and the 18-minute interview with him was the best. Minor is very impressive and is determined to show he was worthy of the high pick.
4. CRAIG KIMBREL – RHP – Gwinnett – 21 years old
A spring ERA of 0.00 has the future closer on the fast track; the right-handed version of Billy Wagner. He was penciled in for AA, but his outstanding spring has him going to AAA. Kimbrel has figured out his delivery, and that's why the walks are down and he's even more dominating. Kimbrel could be a fixture in Atlanta by midseason this year.
5. CHRISTIAN BETHANCOURT – C – Rome – 18 years old
They are calling him another Pudge Rodriguez. He's got a tremendous throwing arm, and he'll hit, too. The highest grade a scout can give a player for any tool is an 80. It's unusual to see anyone get an 80 on anything. Bethancourt's arm grades out at an 80. He's going to be young in Rome, so Atlanta will be careful with him. Three years away.
6. EDWARD SALCEDO – SS – Rome – 18 years old
Signed in March, Salcedo could be the future at 3B. They'll leave him at short for now. He'll start out down in Extended Spring Training, and then the Braves will send him to Rome. Salcedo surprised coaches with his advanced play, and they think he could be two years away. But when will they move him to third? He's really good at short.
7. RANDALL DELGADO – RHP – Myrtle Beach – 20 years old
A four-pitch starting pitcher with good size, Delgado could be close. Some scouts say he could be a future ace. I've got him ahead of Vizcaino and Teheran right now because his stuff is just ahead of the other two and he's closer to the big leagues. He doesn't get as much publicity as the other two, but he should. He's just as talented.
8. ARODYS VIZCAINO – RHP – Rome – 19 years old
Acquired in the Vazquez deal from New York, Vizcaino looks like a premium prospect. He'll start in Rome, but may not be there for long. Vizcaino wowed Braves prospects with his stuff, and at times he seemed to just play with the hitters. He loves his fastball and curve, but when that third pitch comes, look out. Maybe two years away.
9. JULIO TEHERAN – RHP – Rome – 19 years old
Another potential ace, Teheran has outstanding stuff; Braves are anxious to see what he does for a full season team. I've dropped him below Delgado and Vizcaino for one reason – some concern about his small built. But make no mistake about it Teheran's stuff is unbelievable good. He and Vizcaino will push each other, which will be good.
10. ADAM MILLIGAN – OF – Myrtle Beach – 22 years old
Left-handed power hitter who could finish this year in AA; Might finally stop the revolving door in LF. Milligan made a rapid rise through the system last year, but this will be his first full season. If he does well, Milligan will be in AA by midseason. Some even wonder if he could compete there now. Talented kid who might only get better.
(Triple-A) Gwinnett; (Double-A) Mississippi; (High-A) Myrtle Beach; (Low-A) Rome
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball 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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