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chop-n-change-top-ten-prospects-2 | March | 2007 Articles

2007 Archives

Chop-n-Change Top Ten Prospects

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As a three-writer blog here at Chop-n-Change, we have compiled our three top-ten prospect lists into one using a point system for where each prospect was ranked in the three individual lists. You can find all three lists and discuss them with us as well as other fans at The Coffee Shop forum. We want this blog to be much more interactive than any others so feel free to chime in with your opinions.

  1. 1. 2B Eric Campbell- Campbell was Drafted in the second round (71st overall) in 2004 and has made Braves management look very good so far. After being drafted as a shortstop out of high, he was moved to third for defensive reasons, and made the switch to second in the Hawaiian Winter League so that Atlantaís future infield would include Van Popeís superior defense at third. Campbell has soft hands, good instincts, and with some experience should become a good defensive second baseman. Campbellís number one ranking is all about his bat though. Campbell broke out in '05 with a .313 average and a .634 SLG and continued that this past year hitting .296 with a .517 SLG and 22 HRs for Rome. Some scouts see him as a guy with a .280-.290 average down the road and 30+ HRs. Those would be perennial all-star numbers from a light-hitting position. If Campbell keeps up this pace in the next couple seasons, he could earn a starting role in í09 or maybe even ë08

  1. 2. SS Brent Lillibridge- Lillibridge has quickly impressed Braves fans and management after being picked up along with Mike Gonzalez in the Laroche deal. The 23-year old shortstop was selected in the fourth round (121st overall) of the 2005 draft, and after an unimpressive start in 2005 fresh out of the University of Washington, he put up amazing numbers in í06. Lillibridge showed the making of a leadoff man while hitting .305 with 13 HRs, 71 RBIs, and 53 SBs in 475 ABs. His strikeout numbers were a little high for a leadoff man with 104, but his 87 walks gave him an impressive .419 OBP. Lillibridge has a quick line drive swing that should translate into double-digit HRs and extra base power once he gets into the big leagues. Lillibridge probably wonít stay at shortstop long term with the supremely talented Elvis Andrus behind him, but his athleticism may allow him to make a transition to centerfield if Andruw leaves via free agency next year. Lillibridge will spend the year between Mississippi and maybe Richmond, and could be starting as early as next year.
  1. 3. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia- Saltalamacchia was drafted as a sandwich pick (36th overall) in 2003 out of high school in Florida. Salty made himself the top catching prospect in baseball after hitting .314 with 19 HRs at pitcher friendly Myrtle Beach, and even after a disappointing year plagued with injuries, he hasnít lost that title. After battling a wrist injury for quite a bit of the year, the 21 year old catcher came back to hit .310 with 5 HRs in his last 22 games and then .565 with 3 HRs in 23 Arizona Fall League ABs. Saltalamacchia may move to first or left field in the future, or there has been talks of McCann moving to first and let the defensively superior Saltalamacchia take over the catching duties. Salty projects as a .300 hitter with 30+ HRs behind the plate, so either way, Atlanta is set behind the plate for years to come
  1. 4. LHP Matt Harrison- The 6í4î Harrison was the Braves 3rd round pick (97th overall) in 2003 out of High School in North Carolina. He is not overpowering with a low-90ís fastball, and relies mostly on control, much like Chuck James and former Braves Tom Glavine. On top of the fastball, Harrison brings a good curve and change. Harrison went 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and a K/BB ration of 118/33 in 158.1 IP last year. He probably wonít ever be a dominant starter like Glavine was, but he looks headed for a middle of the rotation role as a workhorse and maybe an all-star game or two mixed in throughout his career. Harrison is advanced for a 21-year old, so he could earn himself a rotation spot next year or force the issue if one of the starters goes down mid-season this year.
  1. 5. SS Elvis Andrus- Andrusí .265/.324/.362 line isnít very impressive at first glance, until you bring up the fact that he was an 18-year old in A-Ball. Andrus, one of the most highly touted international prospects from a couple years ago has wowed scouts with his tools the past two years. The Venezuelan shortstop projects well in every facet of the game. His 6í body should fill out and give him more power, he has great speed (though he lacks the base running skills to put it into use), and good plate discipline for such a young player. His defensive tools are all there with soft hands, good instincts, good range, and a strong arm, but he needs more experience to be able to put those to use (32 errors in 2006). Right now no one really knows in what path Andrus is headed. I have seen comparisons to Jimmy Rollins, Miguel Tejada, and Edgar Renteria, so all they know right now is he will be really good. He may fill out and turn into a 30-HR guy while losing his speed, or keep the speed with less power so it is really hard to project him. Andrus most likely wonít even see a cup of coffee in the majors until 2009 at the earliest and it will probably be 2010 or 2011 before he makes a real impact.
  1. 6. RHP Joey Devine- Devine was taken in the first round (27th overall) out of NC State in the 2005 draft. One thing that the Braves liked when they took this college closer was how polished he was. He debuted in the same year as he was drafted after throwing only 26 minor league innings. For being so polished, Devine hasn't had any major league success with an 11.12 ERA in his time with Atlanta. Devine didn't get off to a very good start with Braves fans, he is the pitcher who gave up the 18th inning homerun to Chris Burke to send the Braves home in the 2005 NLDS In 2006 he made the team out of camp, but a nagging back injury basically forfeited his season. Devine has the stuff of a very good future closer and many people thought he would get that chance rather quickly before the Braves acquired Bob Wickman, Mike Gonzalez, and Rafael Soriano. Devine combines mid-90's heat that can touch 97 mph and an absolutely filthy slider, plus his almost side arm delivery hides the ball well. When he is on, he can dominate, and after his September callup he pitched 5.1 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits, walking four, and striking out 8. Unfortunately those walks are what have really stood out so far in his pro career. His last year in college, he walked 1.85 per 9 IP. He has 5.23 walks per 9 in his minor league career and 11.12 in his major league career. He wonít start out in the majors this year, but if he pitches well in Richmond, I doubt it will be long before we see him back up in Atlanta.
  1. 7. SS Yunel Escobar- After Defecting from Cuba, the Braves selected Escobar in the second round (75th overall) of the 2005 draft. Scouts saw the skills he possessed, but a lot of teams were turned away by the fact that he was already 22, and probably actually older since most Cuban defectors lie about their age. Escobar was very disappointing last year hitting only .264 with 2 HRs but won the batting title in the AFL. Escobar isnít great in one area of the game, but he seems to be average or good in just about all of them. I finally got a chance to see him this spring and his batting stance reminds me a lot of Julio Franco. Escobar might be the stopgap between the end of Renteriaís contract and when Andrus is ready or he could be used as trade bait, but either way he looks like he is headed for being a good utility man since he lacks the bat of a starter.
  1. 8. 1B Kala Kaíaihue- The name sets him apart, but this Samoan is a very good, very underrated power hitting firstbaseman. In my opinion he will supplant Thorman as the future of the Braves at first. Ka'aihue, the native of Kailua, Hawaii was first drafted by the Red Sox in the 22nd round in 2003, opted not to sign or re-enter the draft, and was signed by the Braves as a free agent in 2005. Ka'aihue certainly has the pedigree; his father, Kala Ka'aihue Sr. played 10 major league seasons. In two pro seasons, Kala has compiled a .286 average, .397 OBP, 36 HRs, and 105 RBIs. He is 6'2", has already filled out to 230 lbs, and packs a lot of power. He has been compared to Andres Gallaraga, so you know what kind of talent we are working with. This past season alone he hit .281 with 28 HRs, 80 RBIs, a .407 OBP, and a .550 SLG. That is an impressive stat line, but more impressive is what he did before he went to pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach, batting .329 with 15 HRs, a .458 OBP, and a .614 SLG. Ka'aihue will start at either Myrtle Beach or Mississippi this year and could force his way into the lineup by 2009.
  1. 9. RHP Neftali Feliz- Feliz, who the Braves signed out of the Dominican Republic, could very well jump to the top of the Braves prospect list in a season or two. The 18-year old Dominican has a perfect pitcher's build at 6'3" 180 lbs. Feliz works comfortably and easily in the 94-97 mph range with his fastball and touches triple digits. At 17 years of age in his first season of pro ball last year, he tossed 29 innings with a 4.03 ERA, 20 hits, 14 walks, and 42 strikeouts, while holding batters to a .192 average for the Gulf Coast Braves. Comparisons immediately shift to Joel Zumaya for his size, velocity, and ability to overpower and dominate opposing hitters. The only negatives were his walks last year, but for a 17-year old power pitcher, you can't really expect much better. Feliz will probably add 20-30 lbs. onto his frame by the time he is ready for the majors, but he is still far away. It is unclear whether he will start or become a full time reliever, as he 5 starts, and 6 relief appearances last year. Definitively a guy who is going under the radar and has huge potential down the road. Right now my only concern is how frequently guys like this seem to have arm problems.
  1. 10. Brandon Jones- Jones, the Braves 24th round pick (727th overall) in 2003, is the most athletic prospect in the Braves organization. The 23-year old outfielder jumped onto radars while hitting .318 with a .511 SLG in í05 and was somewhat disappointing this year. He did battle a couple injuries early on and after moving away from pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach he raised his batting average by almost 20 points and his SLG by almost 60 points. One of the major problems was his patience this year. In í05 he walked 14% of the time, but in í06 that dropped down to only 9%. One NL scout had this to say about Jones. "I think he's going to be a .300-plus hitter, hit 15-20 home runs and just be one of those quiet type leaders. He's one of those guys I think you'll look back on at the end of a year and realize how much he carried a club over the course of a seasonî. Jones will need to prove himself in the minors this year, but I could see him competing for the leftfield job in a year or two.
Guys who received votes: LHP Jo-Jo Reyes, 1B Scott Thorman, RHP Jamie Richmond

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