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minor-league-report-rome-v15-2344 | May | 2008 Articles

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Minor League Report: Rome

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The Rome Braves are an odd team to say the least. From a win-loss standpoint, their 13-28 record makes them Atlanta’s worst farm team (even worse than Mississippi) but from a talent perspective, this club is pretty easily the best in the farm system and rivals just about any other team in the minors. Rome – Atlanta’s single-A affiliate – is the crown jewel of this farm system, stacked top to bottom with legitimate prospects and the recent additions of Jon Gilmore and Cole Rohrbough just add to that. If you’re a Braves fan with any interest in the team’s future, Rome is certainly a team to keep in mind. Who’s Hot OF Jason Heyward- Last year’s first round pick seems to be one of the few positives of Rome’s offense so far this year. The 18-year old outfielder is hitting .323/.366/.487 with five homeruns and eleven doubles through 41 games this season. His 13/28 K/BB isn’t great but for an 18-year old power-hitter with a 6’4” frame, it definitely isn’t a big knock against him. He’s stolen eight bases already this season (caught once) but some of that speed will probably go away as he fills out. He’s been one of my favorite prospects since he was drafted and despite Tommy Hanson’s dominating start, I’d still probably put Heyward as the Braves’ top prospect so far. There has to be a number of GM’s wondering why in the world they allowed this guy to drop to fourteen right about now. 1B Freddie Freeman- My big sleeper from the ’07 draft class is looking good through just about 160 plate appearances this season. The 6’5” firstbaseman is hitting .288/.331/.458 this season with only three homeruns but fifteen doubles already. After seeing this guy at spring training, I can tell you that he has a lot of room to fill out that frame and when that happens, a lot of those doubles are going to start leaving the yard. From everything I’ve heard and seen, he is a terrific defender at first and he’s really got a beautiful swing from the left side. The only issue I’m afraid of down the road is that his strikezone could become unmanageable if he grows any more. It doesn’t seem to be a problem yet though and I’m still targeting around 2010 for a big power breakout. LHP Chad Rodgers- Scott Diamond definitely gets an honorable mention but Rodgers just edged him out, despite the higher ERA. The southpaw’s 1-6 record is pretty laughable however it’s not at all indicative of how he has pitched so far. Rodgers has pitched just under 40 innings this season with a 3.63 ERA and very impressive peripherals. The 3.36 K/BB is good to see, as is his 1.63 GO/AO. His stuff isn’t great but his pitching ability -- which has drawn comparisons to a young Tom Glavine -- certainly makes him an intriguing prospect. This is the 20-year old’s first full season so we’ll see what the extra innings do to him late in the year but this is another one of my breakout candidates and a guy to keep an eye on. Who’s Not LHP Jeff Locke- Many thought that this hard-throwing lefty would breakout big this season and move up into the top tier of pitching prospects in baseball (I was one of them). He certainly hasn’t done that so far with an ERA just south of five through eight starts for Rome. If you look at his peripherals, it’s been mostly about bad luck for the 20-year old though. His K/9 is a little lower than you’d like to see but not bad, he’s getting over two ground-outs for every fly-out, and his control has been good. Theoretically, his ERA should start going down and if given the choice of any of the Braves’ pitching prospects, I’m still taking Locke. LF Cody Johnson- After tearing up the Appalachian League last year, the former first-round pick has gotten off to a very disappointing start, managing an OPS just over .700 so far this season. He has five homeruns and ten doubles, so the power is still there but Johnson’s plate discipline – his big weakness – has really taken its toll this season. If you stretch Johnson’s current stats out to 650 plate appearances, his K/BB would be right around 263/64. He’s still young and it isn’t a shock that he’s still very raw but his plate discipline is going to need to improve immensely if he has any shot of becoming a major leaguer. His ceiling is an Adam Dunn type of player but he has got a long way to go.

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