As a life long Braves fan, I take a certain interest in the state of the Braves farm system. I remember the days when I would go to games with my dad and we could sit anywhere we wanted because the Braves were horrible and there might be 10,000 fans out on a good night. I usually wanted to sit in right field behind Dale Murphy, and I would spend hours yelling his name trying to get his attention.
Anyways, hometown heroes have been in abundance in Atlanta, and it looks like the trend continues on. However, the Braves farm system is not quite what it used to be, and I can't help but be a bit cynical about the future of the team when I look down the list of minor league stats. There are a few bright spots, however, so let's focus on those for now.
1. Jason Heyward – Obvious choice. Potential to hit .300+ with 30+ home runs and 20-30 steals throughout his 20’s.
Comparable player: a more advanced Fred McGriff
Projection: .295-.325 average, 25-35 home runs, 20-30 steals, .800-.930 OPS
2. Freddie Freeman – Still not sure about his splits, but as a left handed hitter he will face right handed pitchers at least 65% of the time in the majors. Lots of power, good walk to strike out ratio, and nobody standing in his way.
Comparable player: Prince Fielder with a bit less plate discipline
Projection: .285-.315 average, 30-45 home runs, .800-.960 OPS
3. Gorkys Hernandez – Decent power and a good plate approach, but mostly speed and plenty of it. The real debate here is whether the Braves – who aren’t very aggressive on the base paths --will use Hernandez as a base stealer or not. Potential .300 hitter with 50+ steals.
Comparable player: Jacoby Ellsbury
Projection: .285-.310 average, .780-.820 OPS, 15-20 home runs, 40-60 steals
4. Tyler Flowers – Here’s where the list starts to break down. At catcher Flowers is one of the better prospects in the game, but with Brian McCann blocking him, a move to first base or the outfield – or a trade -- may be in order. Potential plus contact and power.
Comparable player: Jorge Posada
Projection: .290-.305 average, .850-.890 OPS, 23-31 home runs
5. Jordan Schafer – I still don’t know why everyone got so excited about Schafer this past winter. He’s an above average prospect, but doesn’t really have any excellent skills. 20-25 home run potential, low OBP, average steal totals, decent defense, and a batting average in the high .200’s. Good, but not great. If the Braves had more offensive talent, I’d like to drop Schafer from the top 5, but they don’t, so I can’t.
Comparable player: Jim Edmonds without the peak years
Projection: .260-.290 average, 20-30 home runs, 20-25 steals
Honorable mentions: Brent Lillibridge, Eric Campbell, Kala Kaaihue
Before I start the list, let me just say that the Braves have 6 pitchers that all rank about the same. They don’t have any can’t-miss prospects, but most of them will probably start in the majors at some point, and a couple of them could be good #2 or even #1 starters in 5 to 10 years. The following chart will help explain what I mean.
(For the record, I threw in Jair Jurrjens' numbers as a comparison to the Braves current top pitching prospects. I used his A+ ball stats when he was 20 to help even things out. He actually pitched at A ball as a 19 year old.)
See what I mean? Each of the 6 pitchers went through A ball at about the same age, and between their strike out rates, ground ball rates, and walk rates, they all pretty much balance out. The popular vote usually goes with Tommy Hanson, but I actually think Cole Rohbrough has the highest potential. After that you can throw in just about any name you want, but here’s how I rank them.
1. Cole Rohbrough - Of all the Braves pitchers, Rohbrough probably has the highest ceiling. He can be dominate at times, but there are questions about his health.
Comparable Pitcher: Yovanni Gallardo
Projection: Early #3 or #2, prime years as a #1
2. Jeff Locke - I know most people want to see Tommy Hanson in the top 2, but Locke has good numbers all around, and compares well with Jair Jurrjens who is having a fantastic year in the majors.
Comparable pitcher: Jair Jurrjens, Mike Pelfrey
Projection: Solid #2
3. Kris Medlen - All the Tommy Hanson fans will have to wait just a little bit longer before he shows up on this list. Medlen has been very good as both a relief pitcher and a starter.
Comparable pitcher: Adam Wainwright
Projection: Great relief pitcher, or good #3 starter
4. Tommy Hanson - Just so everyone knows, I'm only putting Hanson in at #4 because Jose Ortegano has had some recent arm issues. If Ortegano was completely healthy, Hanson would probably be #5 on this list. Anyways, Hanson is a fine pitcher, but not as good as the hype surrounding him. He's pretty much Kyle Davies and Jo Jo Reyes wrapped up into one player.
Comparable pitcher: Kyle Davies and Jo Jo Reyes
Projection: #3 or #4 with a shot at a #2 spot in a bad rotation
5. Scott Diamond - By the end of the season, I expect Ortegano to regain his spot as the #4 prospect, and Kris Medlen and Scott Diamond to switch places, leaving Tommy Hanson off the list. Diamond has been stellar at every stop, with great numbers all around.
Comparable Pitcher: Tom Glavine, Ben Sheets
Projection: #2 or 3, with a shot at being a good #1
Honorable mentions: Julio Teheran, Jose Ortegan,