Season in Review - Mississippi
Jason Heyward. Heyward did his best Andruw in '96 impression this year, playing in 3 different levels (albeit for a handful of games in Mississippi), and posting a cumulative .963 OPS with as many walks as strikeouts, a .232 ISO, and just for the hell of it, 10 steals. Theres not a whole lot to say about him. The Braves handled him with kid gloves, benching him at the first sign of injury, and as a result, he only got into 99 games. Baseball America named him the top prospect in both the Carolina & Southern Leagues. Needless to say...Jason is really good at baseball, and theres an outside shot he could be spending his April in Atlanta.
It was not such a fantastic year for Freddie Freeman, Heyward's partner in crime. After the promotion to Mississippi with Heyward in June, Freeman scuffled with a .650 OPS and a lousy 0.94 ISO. All of Freeman's XBH categories dropped from 2008 to 2009 (though he did have 87 less at bats, that wouldn't have helped his low homer total and his nonexistant amount of triples). Freeman was doing just fine before the promotion to Mississippi...lets hope that an extended stay there in 2010 can right his ship.
The absolute biggest surprise, probably in the entire Braves organization, was the stunning year by outfielder Matt Young. For some reason, Young repeated the Southern League in 2009, and totally shined, with a .817 OPS there and at Gwinnett after a brief promotion. His walk to strikeout rate was 97 to 64. 97 walks! Young isn't much of a prospect at 27, but I can definitely see him becoming kind of a 4th outfielder type in the majors. Young also stole 43 bases, but was caught 17 times...thats a pretty bad success rate. I think of Young as a better Josh Anderson.
People came into this year talking about Brandon Hicks possibly replacing Chipper Jones at third in the future...maybe not so much anymore. Hicks horribly struggled for most of the year, and only a late surge (1.029 OPS over his last 10 games) got him close to the .700 OPS mark (finished up at .692). Hicks struck out an obscene 28% of the time...you just can't survive with a mark like that, though if he could add maybe 20 more walks to his total of 53, he'd have a good shot. He's not a high average guy, and most of his OPS is SLG based...and his ISO dropped from .232 in 2008 to .135 in 2009. That is one hefty drop. Lets hope he can get things going in the AFL.
Now, onto the Mississippi pitchers...this was an odd crop. Only 3 guys with more than 10 IP finished with WHIPs under 1.25, and 2 were asskickingly dominant relievers. The other one was starter Edgar Osuna. He was also the only M-Braves starter with a K:BB higher than 2.00. Osuna had a pretty nifty year in Myrtle Beach and Mississippi, posting a 4.02 ERA with a 3:1 K:BB. Last season, he had a coming out party in Rome with a 3.31 ERA and a 4:1 K:BB. Keep you're eye on him, as he's still just 21 and moving up the organizational ladder pretty quickly. He'll be pitching in the Mexican League this winter.
I've finally decided to talk about one of the most exciting relief prospects in Braves history, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel bounced between the four (yes, four) top levels of the Braves organization this year, and aside from his first month or so in Myrtle Beach, he was an absolute delight for the season. Kimbrel struck out 103 batters in 60 innings. Chew on that for a minute. ONE HUNDRED AND THREE BATTERS in SIXTY INNINGS. Thats a K rate of 15.45. Only bad thing? He matched it with a walk rate of 6.75. Yeeeeeeeesh. But thats acceptable when you're allowing a BAA of .150. Kimbrel is also an extreme ground ball pitcher. He's got all the makings of an absolutely dominant relief ace, and he's only 21. Expect to see him start the year in Gwinnett, and possibly get called up to Atlanta. I'm pretty sure he'll be in the AFL, but MILB's profile says nothing about it. He WAS on the list, though.
Cory Gearrin had a big time coming out party this year, splitting the season between Myrtle Beach and Mississippi. Gearrin continued his GB tendencies he showed last year, posting a GB:FB of 1.60, and only allowing 4 homers in 54 2/3 innings. He also struck out 52 in that inning, and combined with his 11 walks, he's another interesting relief prospect to watch.
I'm going to go ahead and end it here, because the rest of Mississippi's pitching prospects aren't so bright. Next up, we'll have Gwinnett, which I can hopefully get to on Thursday. Then...the big club! Which I of course will cover more in depth.
The M-Braves had a solid enough year, finishing exactly at .500 for the second half of the year after a run of 8 games under during the first half. The team has some interesting prospects, some of which you should all know, and some of which are little hidden gems. Lets take a look.
The first guy on the list is not only the top prospect on the team, he's the top prospect in the organization, and in baseball. Yes, I'm clearly talking about