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top-9-prospects-from-baseball-america | February | 2006 Articles

2006 Archives

Top 9 Prospects from Baseball America

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It's time to take another look at the Baseball America's top Braves prospects. The list was published last November with Andy Marte still at the top, so I've taken the liberty of assuming the rest of the list actually makes up the Braves' top 9. 1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) Now that I can finally spell his name without looking it up, I like him even more! He may be the best overall hitter in the Braves' minor league system right now. At High-A Myrtle Beach last year, he batted 314/394/519 with 19 homers and 81 RBI in just 129 games -- and he's a catcher! He'll turn 21 in May, probably somewhere in the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi, but I bet he's McCann's primary backup in September. I think CannCann and Salty would make a nice 1-2 punch behind the plate, don't you? 2. Elvis Andrus (SS) So fresh that The Baseball Cube doesn't even know how young he is! He's an undrafted signee from Venezuela, and he batted a combined 293/380/391 in his first 52 professional games at the Braves' rookie-level Danville and Gulf Coast clubs last year. He also appears to be a speedy runner with good range in the hole at short. I'll peg him for an MLB splash sometime in 2008 or 2009, unless he's used as trade bait instead, which isn't unlikely considering the next player on this list. 3. Yunel Escobar (SS) Drafted a round behind Joey Devine last year, he was put on a similar fast track, jumping to A-ball (Rome) after only 8 games at the rookie level, batting 313/358/470 and scoring 30 runs there. This is after he batted 400/472/733 in 31 plate appearances at Danville! By the time the Braves are done with Edgar Renteria, Escobar might be ready to take the starting shortstop job in Atlanta. 4. Anthony Lerew (RHP) It's always good to see a name you know. Lerew was the Braves' 17th rookie to play for Atlanta last year, but don't let the five runs in eight innings scare you: he's been solid in the minors sporting a 2.77 ERA in 370+ innings, with 327 strikeouts and only 114 walks. His fastball tops out at 97mph and he's got his pitches under control. Don't be surprised if he's thrown into the closer mix with that stuff. 5. Joey Devine (RHP) The Braves' #1 draft pick of 2005 played four games in Myrtle Beach (A), 18 in Mississippi (AA), and one in Richmond (AAA) before making the last jump in September to play five games with Atlanta -- and he had played in 28 games at North Carolina State earlier in the year. So if his arm was a little tired by the end of the year, that's understandable. Expect his performance in 2006 to be much stronger than his professional debut. Oh, and technically, he's still a rookie. 6. Chuck James (LHP) He fell all the way to the 20th round (605th pick) in the 2002 draft, but look what he's done. These are his career numbers in the Braves' system, including his brief stint in Atlanta last year: 62 starts (plus six other appearances), 349.1 innings, 225 hits allowed, 106 walks, 422 strikeouts, a 25-13 record, 2.04 ERA, and 0.95 WHIP. I don't care what level you're pitching at -- those numbers indicate a rising star. Horacio Ramirez's role as the token lefty in the Braves' rotation is no longer safe. 7. Brandon Jones (OF) Jones posted a 1.000-even OPS at Rome (A) last year. He's a .300-hitter with power, and at age 22 in 2006, I expect he'll spend most of his time in Mississippi or Richmond. Baseball America says he's the best athlete in the Braves' minor league system. 8. Eric Campbell (3B) Campbell was a star at Danville (rookie), batting over .300 with tons of extra-base hits. You can bet he'll be watched him at whichever A-level affiliate he plays for, and he probably won't stay low in the system for very long. 9. Beau Jones (LHP) He's still just 19 years old and has only played a few professional games at the rookie level, but he was successful while he was there. Baseball America says he's got the best curve ball in the system. Let's just see how he figures on the prospects list a year from now! Who's #10? I leave you with a question: Can Jose Ascanio (RHP), one of last year's top prospects, come back after a disappointing 2005 season? Let's hope so!

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