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braves_top_20_prospects_6-10 | November | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

Braves Top 20 Prospects: 6-10

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I finally found the time to get this post done between a paper and watching my Huskies start their quest for an NCAA championship (I had to throw that one out there). I'm hoping to get the last part of the list up by this weekend.

10. RHP Kris Medlen- Starter or reliever? That seems to be the question when it comes to Medlen. After pitching exclusively out of the pen for his entire pro career, Medlen made the switch to the rotation with very impressive results. In 36 appearances (17 starts), the right-hander had a 3.52 ERA with a 120 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 120.1 IP. Clearly the stats are there and his stuff backs up the results. Medlen has a low-90's fastball that sets up a very good curve. He also has a developing changeup, which may or may not be used that much depending on where he ends up. Another thing that shouldn't be ignored is Medlen's AFL performance. In 18 innings, Medlen has a 2.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only one walk. The majority of commentators seem to think that Medlen's future is in the pen and I can't say I disagree. At 5'10" 175 lbs, it seems unlikely that he'd be able to carry a large amount of innings and his fastball/curve repertoire should really play out well in one inning appearances. I'd be shocked if he isn't in Atlanta's pen by the end of the season and he's got the potential to be a mainstay at the back of the Atlanta pen for quite some time.

9. LHP Jeff Locke-
Locke, a personal favorite, was one of a number of young pitchers in the Atlanta farm system that didn't live up to pre-season expectations. The left-hander had a 4.06 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) over his first full season, which is more than one run over his 2007 stats. The soon-to-be 21-year old starter continued to show his superb control, home run prevention, and groundball rate, but a slip in strikeout rate is what kept his overall performance rather pedestrian. Locke's strikeouts dropped by more than 3.5 K/9 from his '07 numbers, but I'm not all that concerned. He has all the makings of an elite pitching prospect. Locke's fastball sits in the low-90's with a good amount of movement and room to add on a couple more ticks as he matures physically. Along with the fastball, Locke uses a hard curve and a changeup, both of which are works in progress and both of which have plus potential. Like many young starters, Locke's mechanics are still inconsistent, and improving that will go a long way towards his ability to succeed at higher levels. Locke possesses an excellent ground ball tendency, strong control, and a good repertoire of pitches, and most of his detractors are things that should go away with experience. A big breakout within the next year or two is not out of the question at all.

8. 3B Eric Campbell- No one has ever doubted Campbell's talent, but a seemingly never-ending string of injuries, suspensions, and poor performance put his professional career in jeopardy. Although his .255/.362/.479 line seems modest, Campbell's performance went a long way towards silencing his critics and re-establishing himself as a future starter. There were two big positives to Campbell's 2008 season. The first is that he was able to combine on-base ability and power, which he has done in the past, but not since 2005 with Danville. The second was that he wasn't reprimanded or called out for his lack of commitment once, which was arguably his biggest knock in the past. The tools are all there for Campbell. He has very good power, plate discipline, defensive tools, and no real major holes in his game, and barring a major setback, he should make it to Atlanta right about the time that Chipper is ready to hang up his spikes. Campbell, who was 22 during the season, was a little old for his league, so he's going to have to validate his performance with a big showing next year for Mississippi, but I'm very confident that he'll be able to deal with the higher level of competition.

7. LHP Cole Rohrbough- There were huge expectations for Rohrbough heading into this past season after n '07 breakout. Things didn't go exactly as planned though. The left-hander got off to a late start for Myrtle Beach after rehabbing an ankle and shoulder injury (possibly caused by the ankle injury) and then struggled once he got on to the field. In just under 60 innings with Rome, the 21-year old posted a 4.94 ERA, due largely to his 4.78 BB/9. Inconsistency in his delivery has led to control issues in the past and the injuries may have had a part in this. Despite his struggles, the Braves promoted Rohrbough to Myrtle Beach, where he turned his season around. In five starts with the Pelicans, Rohrbough went 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA. His strikeout rate went down quite a bit but he also cut his walk rate down by more than half. The outlook for this southpaw is still very good. He has one of the top fastball-curve combos in the minors, is still somewhat projectable, and has an advanced knowledge of how to pitch. Consistency is going to be his biggest challenge as he moves up the ranks, both in his mechanics and his changeup. He still has top of the rotation potential but with some issues to work out.

6. C Tyler Flowers-
2008 was Flowers' first season unhindered by injury or suspension and the power-hitting catcher did not disappoint. In 413 at-bats, Flowers shredded Carolina League pitching with a .288/.427/.494 line. That .921 OPS is a 55-point jump over his 2007 numbers, driven mostly by a huge increase in walks. The 22-year old continued to show the same kind of power as last year, while increasing his walk rate from 11.2% in '07 to 19.2% this past season. While the regular season numbers were very impressive, they are nothing when compared with what he's done in the AFL. In 62 at-bats, Flowers is batting .387 with 16 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and a 1.458 OPS. Aside from making Billy Beane drool, that kind of power/on-base ability is a huge plus for a prospect with relatively little experience. There are quite a few question marks surrounding Flowers at this point. The biggest has to do with whether he'll stick behind the plate. He's still very raw defensively but the bigger problem is his sheer size. Listed at 6'4" 245 lbs, Flowers' size has already led to knee problems (and surgery). Even if he improves his defense, I'd be shocked if he doesn't end up at first base over the long run, where his value is significantly lower. The other big knock is his strikeouts. With 102 whiffs, Flowers struck out in just under one quarter of his at-bats. With his power and walks, he can afford to keep it at that level and still be successful, but if that strikeout rate starts to rise at higher levels, his performance could really suffer. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

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