11. RHP Kris Medlen- Kris Medlen took his place as one of the top relief prospects in the game last season but struggled out of the pen this season. After nineteen relief appearances and a 4.70 ERA, the 22-year old right-hander was moved into the Mississippi starting rotation, where the results have been better to say the very least. In eight starts, Medlen has a 2.30 ERA with the peripherals to back it up. The question is whether the organization really sees Medlen as a future starter or if theyre just trying to build up his arm strength before he eventually returns to a relief role. Medlens small frame leads me to believe that the latter of those two scenarios is the most likely. With his control, impressive two-pitch arsenal, and closer mentality, Medlen should get the chance to solidify himself in the Atlanta bullpen sooner rather than later.
12. 2B Travis Jones- A 7th round pick last season, Jones has to be making the Braves feel good about their selection. The former Gamecock has done nothing but hit since he signed, showing impressive home run power at a premium position. The 22-year old has hit 27 round-trippers in a little over 500 career at-bats. At 59, Jones doesnt have a prototypical power body but his strength and compact swing generate a lot of power. While his strikeouts arent too big of a concern right now, hes going to have to make sure his strikeout rate doesnt increase as he moves up. Jones is an athletic second baseman and if he continues to hit for power and get on base, he could very well figure into Atlantas infield plans within the next couple of years.
13. OF Josh Anderson- 2008 hasnt gone quite like Josh Anderson probably imagined. When the Braves acquired him from the Astros for Oscar Villarreal, it was assumed that the speedy outfielder would replace Andruw Jones as Atlantas centerfielder. Halfway through the season, hes seen only 22 at-bats in the majors but is making the most of his time in the minors with a line of .287/.333/.349 to go along with 22 steals at an 88% success rate. He has continued to make pretty good contact this season and while he should be capable of a pretty good batting average in the majors, Andersons lack of walks means hell probably be more of a fourth outfielder during his career. Even as a backup, Anderson will be valuable to a team due to his speed and ability to cover the outfield.
14. 3B Eric Campbell- 2007 was a year to forget for this former top prospect. Campbell missed significant time due to injury before being suspended by the team while rehabbing his wrist injury. Campbells poor performance and questions about his makeup knocked him off of most prospect lists and while he started off this season slow, Campbell has come charging back. The 22-year old third baseman started the season in a 3/21 slump. Since then Campbell is hitting .263/.331/.532 with twelve home runs in 156 at-bats, despite his incredibly low .234 BABIP and in his past 18 games, the third baseman has been even better with a line of .304/.372/.609. No one doubts Campbells talent but until he can show hes past it, his maturity and makeup are going to be brought into question. If he can stay out of trouble, Campbell could very well reassert himself as a top prospect and Chipper Jones eventual successor.
15. 3B Jon Gilmore- The Braves sandwich pick from last year didnt start his first full pro season off on the right foot. In 22 games with class-A Rome, the 19-year old hit a paltry .172. Once short-season ball began, Gilmore was demoted to rookie-level Danville, where he has begun to show the potential that made him Atlantas second pick last June. Through 113 at-bats with Danville, Gilmore is hitting .354/.378/.522 with two home runs and thirteen doubles. As he matures physically, those doubles will begin to turn into homeruns. His plate discipline has been the weakest part of his game thus far but that speaks more to how good he has been than to any big flaw in his game. Gilmore has a very good approach and has used that to limit his strikeout rate to under 12%, but like many young hitters, he doesnt have much patience at the plate and that has resulted in only four walks. The lack of walks is a relatively minor concern this early and with strong defensive tools, Gilmore could easily turn into a prototypical power-hitting third baseman in the future.
16. SS Brandon Hicks- With 15 home runs for Myrtle Beach so far this season, Hicks is showing far more power than most people expected when he was drafted. Unfortunately for Hicks, his inability to make contact is just as big of a negative as his power is a positive. His 101 whiffs equate to a 36% strikeout rate, which just for comparison, is three percentage points higher than Adam Dunns career strikeout rate. At the very least, his power, athleticism, and defense should make him a future utility man, but hes going to have to significantly cut down the strikeout rate to have any chance at starting in the future.
17. LHP Chad Rodgers- While the 2-10 record may not be blowing anyone away, Rodgers is still very much an impressive prospect. In 84.2 innings for class-A Rome, Rodgers has a 4.36 ERA with decent peripherals. He has shown a solid strikeout rate, groundball rate, and control but nothing really stands out. The 20-year old left-hander has improved his changeup over the past year and once he fills out his 63 frame, he could improve on his 90-92 mph fastball. With a projectable frame and an impressive three-pitch arsenal, Rodgers is still very much one of the systems best southpaws and many expect him to move quickly through the system.
18. OF Cody Johnson- Sorry Brandon Hicks, but Cody Johnson takes the cake as the systems strikeout king. His 133 strikeouts and 40% strikeout rate puts him in Jack Cust territory (1% over Cust to be exact) but Johnson has always been regarded as a very raw project. His 16 home runs and 18 doubles this season are a perfect example of the potential the 19-year old possesses. The Braves are hoping that Johnson can move away from his swing hard in case I hit it mentality at the plate and be able to put his incredible raw power into use more consistently but that is going to take a lot of time. The Adam Dunn comparisons are always going to be there but dont hold your breath on him arriving in the majors. Johnson has still got a long way to go.
19. LHP Steve Evarts- Injury concerns knocked Evarts down the list quite a bit. After posting very impressive numbers in 2007 and starting off this season with three straight strong starts, the 20-year old was shut down with elbow troubles and there are rumors that he is headed for Tommy John surgery. All of his value comes in his projectability and advanced changeup. He has shown the ability to pound the ball in the strike zone and induce groundballs. Avoiding the injury bug is going to be one of Evarts biggest challenges now.
20. LHP Scott Diamond- Diamond is yet another in the long line of talented left-handers in the Atlanta farm system. His numbers dont blow you away but they are certainly impressive for a 21-year old in his first pro season. At 63 and 190 lbs, Diamond still might be able to add a bit of velocity as his body continues to mature but he isnt overly projectable. Diamonds best two pitches are a sinking fastball in the high-80s along with a cutter. He also throws a curve but it lags behind the other two pitches. His cutter effectively replaces the need for a changeup as it neutralizes right-handers but he needs to improve his breaking pitch to succeed at higher levels.