Braves Top 30 Prospects: 20-16
20. C/1B Tyler Flowers- Flowers, who was suspended 50 games for steroid use in 2006, came back strong after his suspension forced him to miss the end of last season and the beginning of the '06 season. The 21-year old played in 106 games for Rome after a fairly mediocre stint for Danville last year. His offensive potential isn't really doubted as he possesses power potential, decent plate discipline, and good hitting ability. It is his defense that will slow his progression. Flowers, who stands at 6'4" and weighs in at 220 lbs is quite large for a catcher and it is quite obvious where the organization sees his future as he played 69 of his 84 games in the field at first base. His offense behind the plate could be intriguing, however at first he just won't hit enough.
19. LHP Chad Rodgers- Rodgers is one of the large class of lefty arms from the 2006 draft for the Braves. After a pretty good start to his pro career last year in the GCL, Rodgers put up even better numbers this year for Danville, going 3-1 with a 3.88 ERA. His peripherals were all good showing control, and an ability keep the ball on the ground and get the strikeout. Rodgers has the normal fastball, curveball, changeup arsenal and while he can control all of them, none of them are considered to be anything more than average pitches. Rodgers is just about 20 and at 6'3" 185 lbs, he still has room to fill out and add a couple mph onto his fastball. If all goes well, he'd fit in as a back-end of the rotation starter down the road.
18. 2B Travis Jones- Every expert I talked to after this past year's draft told me to watch out for one player: Travis Jones. Jones is yet another local product, attending Redan High School in Stone Mountain, GA before eventually ending up at South Carolina. The second baseman stands at only 5'9", however he is considered a tootsy player with possibly his best being his power. Jones showed the 18 homers this past season for South Carolina weren't just a product of aluminum bats, belting 12 home runs in only 59 games between Danville and Rome. His approach at the plate still needs fine tuning, however his power could make him quite the offensive second baseman in the future.
17. 1B Freddie Freeman- Freeman is my favorite sleeper from this year's draft class. I ranked him aggresively high in the end-of-year top ten, however I think 17 is a bit more reasonable. Freeman held his own as a 17-year old in the GCL during his first taste of pro ball, hitting .268/.295/.379. Freeman has a very nice swing from the left side. He has very quick hands and turns on balls well. At 6'5" and 210-220 lbs, Freeman has plenty of room to add muscle, which should take the easy gap power he has now and turn that into big time home runs. I'm setting 2009 as the year I expect a big breakout in terms of power. His defense still needs some work since he was never a full-time first baseman in high school, however he does possess a strong arm and with experience should develop into a better defender.
16. 1B Kala Ka'aihue- No one in this system's stock went up so high and then down so low like Ka'aihue's did this past year. After struggling with the move up to Myrtle Beach last year, the 22-year old first baseman absolutely crushed Carolina League pitching this past season. In 89 games for the Pelicans before his promotion, Kala hit .298 with 22 long balls and 2o doubles. All this in a stadium that severely cuts back on home runs. Mid-year, people were handing him the future first base job for the Braves, but after his promotion to Mississippi, his offense plummeted. Ka'aihue managed a measly .397 OPS with no home runs and struck out in nearly half his at bats. Despite a rather large frame, Ka'aihue is a good defender, however if his consistency doesn't improve, he could turn out as Russell Branyan the sequel.