In the last 24 hours, two more lists of top prospects have come out: MLB.com's Top 60 and Keith Law's Top 100. Both lists are largely scout-driven, though MLB.com's is basically the result of a poll and Law's is mostly based on his own eyes. Law also said that he tended to give weight to high-upside players, rather than lower-upside players who were nonetheless closer to the majors -- which is why Mike Minor was #58 on the MLB.com list and left off of Law's list entirely.
Still, there were a lot of similarities. Jason Heyward was #1 on both (and both posted video of his smooth, sweet swing). And they praised a lot of other Braves prospects as well. The Braves had four prospects listed on the MLB.com list, tied for most in baseball with the Indians, Rays, and Royals. They had five prospects on Law's list, tied for third-most in baseball with the Indians and Reds, and behind only the Red Sox and Rays. No matter how you look at it, a growing consensus of scouts agrees that the Braves system is one of the best in the big leagues, and by far one of the best in the NL.
The four Braves on the MLB.com list were #1 Jason Heyward, #34 Julio Teheran, #58 Mike Minor, and #59 Freddie Freeman. The five Braves on the Law list were #1 Jason Heyward, #43 Arodys Vizcaino, #63 Julio Teheran, #67 Freddie Freeman, and #85 Randall Dalgado. Christian Bethancourt was nowhere to be found on either list, but I'm guessing we'll see plenty of his name next year.
Just because I'm a glutton for praise, I've pasted what they wrote, below the jump...
Statistically speaking: Think the lefty-swinging outfielder will have trouble with southpaws? Think again. Heyward hit .339 in 112 ABs vs. LHP in 2009; .316 vs. RHP. In his career, he's hit lefties at a .335 clip, righties at .313. The power has been better against right-handers, with 23 out of his 29 homers coming against RHP.
Scouting report: There's little Heyward can't do. He's got great bat speed, with the ability to hit for average and power. He has an excellent knowledge of the strike zone. He's got a plus arm from the outfield, runs well and is an excellent base-runner. His makeup is off the charts. Oh, and he's only 20. The only small knock has been a little bit of an injury history.
Upside potential: All-Star right field prototype, a la Dave Winfield or Dave Parker.
Heyward's ascent to the top of these rankings was swift and unimpeded, and his path to the majors appears to be much the same, as he'll have a good chance to win the every-day right-field job this spring. Heyward will be a middle-of-the-order bat with power and patience while playing above-average defense in right with a plus arm. He has an advanced approach at the plate, something that was already in place when he was a 17-year-old high school senior, and strong, quick wrists that let him commit later to pitches while still driving the ball to all fields. He gets good leverage in his swing and has plenty of loft to eventually produce 30-plus homers a year, and so far hasn't shown any tendency to expand the zone because he's trying too hard to hit for power. In the field, he has outgrown center but moves extremely well in right with good reads off the bat. And you can see from all of the above that he has a high baseball IQ, with good feel and/or instincts in every area of the game, especially for someone his age. He murdered Double-A pitching at age 19 in a 200-PA sample, and his career stat line reads .318/.391/.508, nearly all of which was compiled before he turned 20 in August. His swing isn't perfect -- he does bar his front arm very briefly -- but he's so strong and has such bat speed that the minor flaw has been irrelevant at every stop of his pro career. Everything else here points to stardom.
Statistically speaking: Teheran's best outing of the season came in his penultimate start with Rome. Facing Charleston on Sept. 2, the 18-year-old tossed seven hitless innings, walking just one and striking out seven.
Scouting report: Teheran has some good stuff to go along with outstanding mound presence. He can get his fastball easily up into the mid-90s. Both that and his curve are plus pitches at times, and should only get better as he matures. He's very confident on the mound, though while he is advanced for his age, he still has a lot to learn about pitching.
Upside potential: He's got the stuff and the swagger to top a rotation in the future.
Teheran was one of my picks to jump on this list last offseason, and now he's one of my picks to jump up into the top quarter of it. Teheran, the nephew of an Atlanta scout, barely pitched in 2008 after the team took a conservative approach with his sore shoulder. But in '09, he showed why teams are increasingly scouting the north coast of Colombia. He's got a huge arm already despite his rail-thin frame (6-foot-2, 150 pounds), 91-96 mph on the fastball with an above-average changeup, and his curveball also has a chance to be above-average in time. He's a good athlete, but his arm action isn't pretty and he has to work to stay on top of the ball if that curveball is going to be a consistent weapon for him. He has good rhythm on the mound and pitches very aggressively -- he hit almost as many batters as he walked in 2009, which usually isn't an accident -- but he has to avoid telegraphing his off-speed pitches. He still has a lot of room to fill out and could easily end up a No. 1 starter or, if he doesn't get stronger or doesn't develop the breaking ball, an upper-echelon closer.
Vizcaino was the key to the Javier Vazquez trade even though he has yet to appear above short-season ball, which speaks to his potential as a front-line starter. His fastball is already 91-93 mph, flashing a little above that, with good life, and he hides the ball well to help the pitch play up. His best off-speed pitch is a hammer curveball that is plus at times with good depth and a slight two-plane break. His feel for pitching is advanced for someone his age, and while his arm action is short and repeatable he can lose his slot and start to drift downward, something he'll have to eliminate via instruction. He has a chance to move up the Atlanta system quickly and could catch up to fellow high-upside arms Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado soon.
Freeman is yet another former two-way star on this list -- if you're a legitimate prospect as both a position player and a pitcher, you're probably a pretty good athlete and offer more upside than the typical one-way prospect. At the plate, he sets up with a wide base and doesn't stride or really transfer his weight through his swing. So while he has good rotation to hit for power, he's mostly hands at this point and has traded some power for high contact rates. Unlike a lot of young left-handed hitters, he shows no appreciable platoon split, and while he's not exactly patient, he's not a hacker. Freeman is an above-average defender at first base, and there's some reason to expect more growth as a hitter given his youth and frame. But I still see him as a guy who'll hit for average with doubles power, but not the high OBP or home run totals that would make him a star at first base.
Delgado pitched in the shadow of Julio Teheran this year, and I'd bet you could find a few scouts who rated him over Teheran even though I have Delgado second. Delgado is 6-foot-3 and has already put on a good 25 pounds since signing, with improvement in his stuff to match. His fastball is just above average and will touch 94-95, with a changeup that has improved to above-average and a chance for the curveball to be the same. He's still looking for a consistent arm action, which is part of why he's behind Teheran, but his upside isn't much lower than his teammate's. It's to the Braves' credit that they found two top-flight pitching prospects from outside the traditional Latin American talent markets, getting Teheran from Colombia and Delgado from Panama.