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Three Braves Crack 31st Team

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Every year Baseball America compiles write-ups for a couple prospects who don't make their team's top 30 list and publishes them online. They call this their 31st team and this year, three Braves made that list. Martin Prado made the list for the second straight year along with 2007 draftees Michael Fisher and Cory Gearrin.
Michael Fisher, ss, Braves Born: March 22, 1985. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2007 (6th round). Signed by: Al Goetz. After a solid junior season at Georgia Tech, Fisher went in the sixth round of the 2007 draft and advanced quickly after signing for $125,000. He finished his first pro summer with a month in high Class A. A switch-hitter, he sprays line drives to all fields and is capable of driving the ball to the right-center field gap from the left side. His overall power isn't impressive, but he does have plus speed. He has work to do as a basestealer after getting caught in all five of his pro attempts. After playing shortstop during his pro debut, Fisher likely will move to second base in the near future. His fringe-average range and arm strength at shortstop will necessitate the shift, though some scouts believe he could be a serviceable utility player. The Braves like the high-energy attitude Fisher brings to the ballpark every day. He's expected to return to Myrtle Beach to open the 2008 season. Cory Gearrin, rhp, Braves Born: April 14, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Mercer, 2007 (4th round). Signed by: Al Goetz. The sidewinding Gearrin went from a virtual unknown in two years at Young Harris (Ga.) JC to a star in the Cape Cod League in 2006. He continued to shine last spring upon transferring to Mercer, posting back-to-back saves against Miami and allowing no runs until March 20. The Braves drafted him in the fourth round last June and signed him for $186,750. The former high school middle infielder mixes an 88-91 mph fastball with a Frisbee slider in the upper 70s that starts behind righthanders before slicing horizontally across the plate. His fastball possesses late movement and excellent deception, and his overall feel for pitching is impressive considering his relative lack of experience on the mound. Gearrin continues to work on repeating his unorthodox delivery. A projected setup man with possible closer ability, he should begin 2008 in low Class A and could move quickly. Martin Prado, 2b/3b, Braves Born: Oct. 27, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Signed: Venezuela, 2001. Signed by: Rolando Petit/Julian Perez. Prado is a classic example of a player who's better than his individual tools would suggest. He's an excellent contact hitter who finished second in the Triple-A International League batting race last year at .316, raising his career minor league average to .302. He has very good command of the strike zone and is considered to be the best two-strike hitters in the organization. While the Braves have given him 101 big league at-bats over the last two seasons, Prado doesn't have another tool that helps his cause in becoming a regular in the majors. His approach leads to very little power and his ability to make contact even cuts down on his walks. While he has slightly above-average speed, it doesn't translate into stolen bases. Defensively, neither his range nor his arm is overwhelming. He's as sure-handed as any infielder in the system and committed just six errors last year year. Prado does a solid job of turning double plays and is capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop. Though he lacks flash, Prado has impressed Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and will get a chance to help the Braves in a reserve role this year.
Out of these three, I'm really only excited by Gearrin but not as much as them. I can definitely see the fourth round pick moving quickly through the minors in 2008 and knocking on the door to the Braves' bullpen by the end of the season. I don't know if I agree with their ceiling but I do believe he could be a very good middle reliever or a decent setup man. Gearrin's stuff should translate well at the major league level and he has got the aggressiveness and polish to fulfill his potential fairly quickly. The 21-year old reliever had 4.44 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks in 26.1 innings for Danville after signing. He allowed only 21 hits but control was obviously his problem. I doubt that will persist at that high a rate but it is definitely a key to get that number down if he wants to have success at higher levels. Prado and Fisher I am not nearly as excited about. Both profile as utility men and I think Prado could be a rather good one, however that kind of player still doesn't carry all that much value. If the Aybar rumors actually do transform into something, it would raise the chance of Martin Prado breaking camp with the Braves significantly. Fisher however is one of quite a few middle-infielders with questionable bats in Atlanta's system, along with Diory Hernandez, Brandon Hicks, and a few others.
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