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2010 Preview: Gwinnett Braves

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Everyone else is doing it, so why don't I stick my nose in this minor league preview stuff too? We start with...the Gwinnett Braves! Gwinnett reached the IL playoffs last year as a wild card, and were eliminated in the first round. Unfortunately, much of that team has moved on to greener pastures. But on the bright side, Gwinnett's roster looks much different this year, for the better. The rotation will be a major weak point this season. It will be headed by Todd Redmond (BH #29) and James Parr, both of whom spent last season as members of the G-Braves rotation. However, the 3 men likely to follow them all spent last year exclusively in Mississippi. Confirmed to be in the rotation is Ryne Reynoso (BH #36), who is a good but not great prospect. Gwinnett's official website lists Kyle Cofield and Scott Diamond (BH #22) as the other 2 starters, however both are listed on the roster page for the Mississippi Braves. If neither ends up starting the year in Gwinnett, the other 2 starters would most likely be Tim Gustafson and Johnny Venters, who nearly won a spot in the Braves bullpen on opening day. Gustafson is around average for an AAA player, while Venters seems destined for the bullpen. Speaking of bullpens, the G-Braves have an awesome one. The closer will be top prospect Craig Kimbrel (BH #13), who will look to harness his control fully to become a member of the major league bullpen in 2011. Preceding him in the pen, he's got Scott Proctor, who will likely be called up to Atlanta before the end of April once his elbow rehab is completed, Jeff Lyman (BH #31), the hard thrower who impressed me a lot this spring, and Mike Dunn, acquired from the Yankees this offseason in the Javier Vazquez deal. Shockingly, a man thought of as a future closer, Cory Gearrin (BH #16) will also start the year in Gwinnett, continuing his meteoric rise through the sytem. He also could reach the majors in 2011, possibly in 2010 if he continues to live up to the standard he set for himself in all his previous stops in the Braves system. The bullpen will also feature Mariano Gomez, Vladimir Nunez, and Chris Resop, but the less said about those gentlemen, the better. JC Boscan will back up Clint Sammons this season for Gwinnett behind the plate, so continue to expect what you've been getting offensively and defensively behind the dish for the G-Braves. Gwinnett's infield gets a huge boost with the addition of 1B Freddie Freeman (BH #3), who will likely debut in 2011 with an above average season this year, and SS Brandon Hicks (BH #24) who could end up replacing Omar Infante as the Braves main utilityman next season. Freeman is an all around stud, as he hits for a good average and decent, always improving power, and also gives the team great defense over at first. Brandon Hicks on the other hand, had a terrible year offensively in 2009, but seems to have bounced back with solid performances in the AFL and this spring in Orlando. He's got great speed, and fantastic power for a middle infielder. The DH position, when in effect, will be filled by Barbaro Canizares, the omnipresent beast of the International League. Third base will likely be manned by Wes Timmons, and second base will feature Joe Thurston, who just missed out on a spot on the Braves opening day roster this season.  Timmons is a career minor leaguer who knows how to take a walk, while Thurston is more of a jack of all trades kind of guy who has been in several organizations throughout his career. JC Holt will be the backup infielder. The G-Braves are only carrying 4 outfielders, and I really don't know what kind of system they'll be using to play them. Gregor Blanco will likely be playing daily, as will Matt Young. They have a few things in common, mainly their fantastic eyes at the plate, but Young is the better player as he's got some really good power, while Blanco barely has enough power to flick a pen off a table. The other two outfielders are Mitch Jones, he of the titanic minor league OPSes and a very disappointing spring, and Brent Clevlen, who like Jones, impressed none this spring. All 4 of these guys could get brief callups to Atlanta this season if there is an injury to an outfielder. Personally, I'd like to see Young get a shot, because I firmly believe he could be a solid backup outfielder in the majors. Gwinnett has what I'd consider a typical AAA team: a few prospects, a few lifers, and a few guys just trying to catch a break. I'd rather that the prospects and unheralded guys get most of the playing time, as they could at least tap some potential and be capable major leaguers. As for the rest...god bless them for doing what they love, and never giving up. I wish I could do that. Today's schedule: player preview of Martin Prado coming around dinnertime, recap of the Cubs game coming when the game concludes. I have to make up for yesterday's lack of updates somehow!
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