BravesHeart Top 40 Prospects: #5-1
5. Mike Minor
The Braves first round pick in the 2009 draft, 8th overall, was this young man, Mike Minor. Minor was drafted out of Vanderbilt (same school as David Price, zomg) and was profiled as a 3rd or 4th starter coming out of school. When the pick was made (ironically my first day running BravesHeart), I hated it because Tyler Matzek was still on the bored. And here we are, 6 months later, and his fifth on my prospect list. So what happened? Minor only threw 14 innings this season, all for Rome. In this 14 innings, he struck out 17 without allowing a walk or home run. Minor also only allowed 1 run in that time period. So yeah, pretty good. His stint in the AFL wasn’t as successful, with 9 earned in only 16 2/3. In the AFL, Minor also allowed 3 homers and walked 6 while striking out 12. However, all 3 of those homers all came in his last outing. Really, aside from his last outing where he was shelled, and the All-Star game where he was obliterated (which didn’t count in the official stats), he was fine. Minor will start the year in Myrtle Beach most likely, and will be on a fast track to the majors.
4. Christian Bethancourt
Who exactly is Christian Bethancourt? He was signed by the Braves in March of 2008 out of Panama as a 16 year old. Bethancourt spent his 2008 in the Dominican Summer League, where he struggled with a .699 OPS. But he was a 16 year old, no one was worrying. This season, he started off as 17 year old in the GCL and put up an impressive .775 OPS. Halfway through August, Bethancourt was promoted to Danville, and he absolutely shined, OPSing .819 with a .220 ISO. As a 17 year old, keep this in mind, Christian played this entire season as a young man who couldn’t buy tobacco in America, he posted a walk rate of 10.2%, while striking out at a slightly high but overall respectable rate of 22.9%. He even stole 8 bases for the hell of it. The future is very, very, VERY bright for Christian Bethancourt, and I’d expect him to start off in Rome if he looks well-adjusted to America in the spring. At the end of 2010, he could be the best catching prospect in baseball.
3. Freddie Freeman
Freddie had a tough year. He started off at Myrtle Beach, where he was repeating his 2008 year, with a .841 OPS. There were some warning signs, like the sudden drop in power with a .145 ISO. When Jason Heyward was promoted to Mississippi in June, Freeman went along with him and the wheels came off. Freddie’s time in Pearl was marred by injury and disappointment, as over 149 at bats, he OPSed only .650 with a miniscule ISO of 0.94. Worth noting is that while in Mississippi, he cut his strikeout rate all the way down to 12.8%, but that may be due to not getting good contact on balls and turning what would be foul balls into outs. Freddie spent some time in Arizona before getting shut down once November rolled out, and he posted a .753 OPS in 45 at bats. Freddie is still one of the top prospects in baseball, and didn’t turn 20 until the season ended. For a 19 year old to even be playing in AA at all is something. Freeman should be able to rebound fine in 2010, and reclaim his spot near the top of the heap among first base prospects in the majors.
2. Julio Teheran
This is one special 18 year old. Teheran is just awesome. He was signed out of Colombia by the Braves 2 years ago, and has been handled with kid gloves. After a brief time in Danville in 2008, where he was shutdown as a precaution due to some shoulder soreness, Teheran started the year off in Virginia again and was freaking awesome. In his 43 2/3 innings, Julio posted a 39:7 K:BB ratio and allowed a .229 BAA. Plus, a 2.36 GB:FB ratio! He did everything you could have asked for, and was promoted to Rome, where he was less dominant, but still quite cool. While getting adjusted to full season ball, Teheran struggled at times, but was flat out nasty at other times. In 3 of his starts, Teheran combined to allow 15 runs in 13 1/3 innings. In the other 4, he allowed 5 runs in 24 1/3 innings, including a no hit 7 inning performance on September 2nd. Teheran will probably start the year in Rome, and it’s time for Braves fans to see what he can do over a full season of ball.
1. Jason Heyward
Like this was a huge surprise to anyone. Jason Heyward was named the best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, of course he’s the top prospect in the Braves system. Heyward spent time at 3 levels this year, from Myrtle Beach, to Mississippi, to Gwinnett. And he was flat out dominant at all 3 of them. For the season, Heyward (who was 19 for most of the year. 19. What were you doing at 19? I was going to a community college and working as a photo tech for 8 bucks an hour) OPSed .963 with a .232 ISO, 10 stolen bases, an even K:BB ratio and 46 extra base hits in only 362 at bats. Heyward, like Teheran, was handled with kid gloves. The moment there was even a miniscule sign of an injury, the Braves rested Heyward as opposed to trotting him out on the field and risking aggravating the injury further. This treatment led to Heyward leaving the AFL after only 14 at bats due to what I believe was a glute or hamstring injury. Heyward is an absolutely dynamic athlete, and someone who will hopefully be manning a corner outfield spot for the Braves for the next 20 years. In 2010, he’ll be in Atlanta at some point during the season. Whether it’s in April, June or September is anyone’s guess, but he’ll be there at some time, and will definitely be a starter in 2011. There is a reason this young man is the best prospect in all of baseball, and people who don’t know his name definitely will in 2010.
So that takes care of the top 40. We're all done folks...its been one heck of a ride, from 40 all the way down to 1. If you want to review the list, or check out writeups on any specific player, just click the tab at the top of your window that says "Top 40 Prospects", and you'll see the full list plus links to my analyses of each player. I hope it was as much fun for you all as it was for me. I had a blast doing this, honestly.
Look what we've got here, the end of the prospects list...can any of you guess who's number 1? Anyone at all? Come on, its not all that hard. Just take a guess...could it be the guy who BA named the top prospect in all of baseball?