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john-sickels-q-a | March | 2007 Articles

2007 Archives

John Sickels Q & A

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We are very lucky to have had John Sickels answer a couple questions about the Braves prospects for Chop-n-Change. For those of you who don't know, John Sickels has written for ESPN.com, Rotowire, and maintains his own blog, minorleagueball.com (If you haven't already visited it, I strongly suggest checking it out), and writes the most comprehensive guide to prospects out there in his annual prospect book. Q: Throughout the past 15+ years, the Braves have been known for their ability to build the team from within. What is the state of the Braves farm system right now? A: Down somewhat, probably about the middle of the pack or so. Depth has levelled off a great deal, particularly on the pitching side. These things are cyclical and I imagine they will rebound soon enough. Q: 2006 was a disaster for Jarrod Saltalamacchia; will he regain his top prospect status this year, or was the '05 hype more than he will live up to? A: Well, he had†nagging injuries that held him back last year. I was probably a bit hard on him in the book this year, but I do have some concerns that he may be stagnating, which happens with young catchers often enough. My guess is that he'll rebound this year, posting numbers somewhere between his '05 and '06 performances. Q: Scouts rave about Elvis Andrus and Yunel Escobar despite their modest stats. What kind of players will these two develope into? A: Andrus is so young he could develop into anything, but I can see him as an Edgar Renteria type. Escobar was†a bit disappointing in Double-A, but he controls the strike zone well, and he should be a solid player, though I don't think he'll be a star. Q: Many "prospect gurus" say that the strength of the Braves farm system lies in the pitching in the low levels. Who are some of the lower-level pitching prospects you think will make a significant impact in the future? A: There are some very good arms at the lower levels, including Tommy Hanson, Steve Evarts, and Jamie Richmond, Jeff Locke and Chad Rodgers. Neftali Feliz has a great arm. At this point it's hard to know which ones will develop, of course, but those are the names to watch. Q: You listed Eric Campbell as the top Braves prospect; what about him makes you go against the general conscensus of Andrus or Saltalamacchia in the top spot? A: I like his combination of speed, power, and a low strikeout rate. That said, I recently revised my list and I now have Salty and Andrus ahead of Campbell. But I still love Campbell. Q: Who will be the better piece of the Laroche deal in the longrun; Mike Gonzalez or Brent Lillibridge? A: Lillibridge. A major sleeper prospect who people need to pay a lot more attention to. Q: Finally, give me one Braves prospect that you think will have a big breakout this season. A: If Richmond can pick up a bit more velocity, and since he's physically projectable that's quite possible, he can emerge as one of the top RHP prospects in the game. Thanks a lot to John Sickels for agreeing to do this.

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