Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home4/derok6/public_html/chop-n-change/plugins/system/cdnforjoomla/helper.php on line 27
top_ten_prospects_1-5 | December | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

Top 20 Prospects: 1-5

on .

I'm finally done with finals and what better way to celebrate then putting up the last part of our top prospect list. Baseball America also released their Braves top 10 list today with a surprise in there and it's definitely worth taking a look at.

5. OF Gorkys Hernandez - Hernandez's first year in the Atlanta organization was a year to forget. The 21-year old outfielder suffered a nagging hamstring injury early in the season and it really took a toll on Hernandez, whose game revolves around his speed. In 406 at-bats, the speedy center fielder hit .264/.348/.387 with 20 stolen bases (4 caught stealing) and 34 extra-base hits. One good thing about this season was his improved on-base ability. Though Hernandez's batting average was nearly 30 points lower than last season, he actually improved his on-base percentage by four points. The increase and walks also came with an increase in strikeouts but at this point it's not a really big concern. Despite the down year, the Kenny Lofton comparisons are still quite frequent. Like Lofton, Hernandez combines great speed with gap power, which could make him a game-changer at the top of the lineup. His speed and plus arm in the outfield make him a good defender in center but with Jordan Schafer ahead of him, he looks like he could end up as a very good defender in left. Look for Hernandez to open up next year at Myrtle Beach and move to double-A at some point during the season.

4. 1B Freddie Freeman - Freeman was one of my favorites from the 2007 draft, but I never imagined he'd put up the kind of numbers he did during his first full pro season. After putting up a .674 OPS in the GCL last year, Freeman destroyed Sally league pitching this year, even outhitting Jason Heyward. The 19-year old first baseman hit .316/.378/.521 with 58 extra-base hits. There are really no holes in Freeman's game. He makes contact, hits for power, has a good feel for the strike zone, and has the tools to be a very good defender at first. At 6'5" 220 lbs, Freeman has a lot of room to add muscle onto his frame. The emergence of Freeman is what allowed Frank Wren to deal Tyler Flowers this off-season, so that should tell you how much the organization thinks of him. Freeman should follow Heyward to Myrtle Beach next season and I still expect a big power breakout at some point during the next two seasons. He's a ways off, but Freeman is quickly establishing himself as one of the game's better first base prospects.

3. OF Jordan Schafer - This spot was really up in the air between Schafer and Freddie Freeman, but Schafer playing a premium defensive position is what sealed the deal. After a rocky and well publicized start to the '08 season, Schafer came back with a strong second half to end the year at .269/.378/.471. With his suspension shortened season, Schafer got just under 300 at-bats and struck out 88 times. That is easily the biggest question mark for Schafer and he'll half to work on keeping that down in the majors. The good thing is that is the only real negative for the 22-year old. He shows above-average power and speed with Gold Glove caliber defense in the outfield. It isn't a guarantee, but I expect Schafer to start off the year in Atlanta's outfield. It'll probably be a little rocky on the offensive side of the ball, but Schafer provides far superior defense and probably comparable offense to any of Bobby Cox's other centerfield options.

2. RHP Tommy Hanson - The star of this year's AFL takes the number two spot on the list. Hanson's stock skyrocketed starting with his no-hitter early in the year and ending with arguably the most dominant pitching performance in AFL. In 25 starts between Myrtle Beach and Mississippi (138 innings), the 22-year old right-hander went 11-5 with a 2.63 ERA and 163 strikeouts to only 52 walks. Hanson has a dominant arsenal to back up the spectacular performance. His two main pitches are a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range with above-average life and a sharp 12-6 curve. In addition to those two, Hanson throws an average changeup that helps to keep hitters off balance and added a slider, which shows flashes of being a very good pitch. His mechanics are strange, especially for someone of his size (he doesn't use much leverage), but they work and they aren't overly concerning in terms of future injury potential. In Hanson, the Braves may have their first home-grown ace in quite some time and while it isn't known whether he'll start the season in the majors, he will get a shot to show what he can do against major league hitters at some point this season.

1. OF Jason Heyward - Not surprisingly, Heyward takes the top spot. His combination of tools and production is unmatched in Atlanta's farm system and makes him arguably one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. In almost every write-up, the cliché "man among boys" is used but it's true. Physically, Heyward is above and beyond the other players his age. He has a smooth swing from the left side of the plate with very impressive raw power and while he isn't a burner on the basepath, he runs very well for a player of his size. This all translated into a .316/.381/.473 line, which was brought down a bit by his struggles after he got promoted to Myrtle Beach. As you can see by the numbers, his plate discipline is also pretty incredible for a 19-year old power hitter. Heyward should spend most of the '09 season at high-A, but could see a promotion to Mississippi at some point. Heyward is one of those players who really shouldn't struggle much as he moves up the ranks of the minors. His potential is through the roof and with both Matt Weiters and David Price almost certain to shed their prospect status, Heyward has a very real chance of taking the title as baseball's best prospect at this point next year.

You Might Like...