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final-afl-wrap-up | November | 2010 Articles

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Final AFL Wrap-up

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The AFL season ended a week ago, but the season for the Braves prospects out in Arizona ended a week and a half ago. Yes, I'm just getting to this now...been a little hectic with the holidays and such. Anyway, it really was a lost fall for the young Braves: only one player ended the fall playing well and healthy. We'll start with him. That player was of course, Myrtle Beach outfielder Cory Harrilchak. He led the Desert Dogs in OPS and finished second in batting average, powered by 3 homers in 75 at bats. In contrast, he hit 3 homers in 453 at bats all season for Rome and Myrtle Beach. Harrilchak's walk rate improved in the AFL, earning 12 walks in the 22 games he played, but his strikeout rate also increased, as he struck out 17 times. He didn't really run all that often, only attempting 5 steals on the (brief) season, and being successful only twice. Its going to be interesting to see if his fall performance changes his overall game at all. Right now, he's a top 30 prospect in the organization, possibly top 20. Some more power could shoot him up the list a little further.

Middle infielder extraordinaire Tyler Pastornicky also spent some time in Arizona, before missing the final week with a hamstring injury. Unlike Harrilchak, he struggled with the bat, but its not terribly shocking for him considering that he was the third youngest player on the team at only 20 years old. Tyler's bat has never been his strong suit and it showed this fall, as he was only able to muster a .649 OPS in 15 games. He was only 1/2 on the basepaths, shocking for a guy who stole 35 during the season. Pastornicky's normally above average patience wasn't on display at all either, earning only one walk in the AFL. Also, his defense, which is normally quite stellar, was pretty bad in the AFL. Pastornicky had a team high 6 errors, which is pretty bad in only 15 games. Despite all this, he was named to play in the AFL's Rising Stars game. His future is bright, as he's spent his Braves career in AA, which is pretty damn good for a 20 year old. Like Harrilchak, he's a top 30 prospect with room to grow.

The final Braves hitter who spent time in Arizona is the one who had the most amount of hype behind him, and ironically, spent the least amount of time out there. I'm of course talking about the Opening Day first baseman for the Braves, Freddie Freeman. Freeman didn't really have a chance to do anything, playing in only 5 games before injuring his thumb sliding into third base. I can't really draw any conclusions about his performance when we're talking about such a small sample size, but in those 5 games, he did have a pair of extra base hits and a pair of walks. Baby steps. He should be healthy by the time pitchers and catchers report in February.

Now, onto the pitchers. Only one Braves pitcher spent the entire fall in Arizona, and that was a guy who has an outside shot at making the Braves bullpen: Cory Gearrin. Gearrin is a ground ball machine with decent control who can get a strikeout when he needs it. His first 10 1/3 innings in the AFL were scoreless, allowing only 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. In his final 8 innings, the wheels fell off. Cory allowed 8 earned on 11 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7. I fully believe his dropoff at the end of the year is due to fatigue, as he threw 98 1/3 innings on the season. His previous career high was 54 2/3. Sure, let's increase his innings by eighty percent, I'm sure that'll work out just fine! Cory probably shouldn't have gone to the AFL in the first place, but that's life. Hopefully, he's fully healthy and will be able to come to camp ready to compete for a bullpen job.

Another guy who finished the year in Arizona was a late arrival. Benino Pruneda showed up 2 days before Halloween, and threw a scoreless inning. That would be his only scoreless appearance in his tenure in Arizona. Pruneda would appear in 4 more games, and allowed 10 earned on 14 hits while walking 7 and striking out 7. All this in only 5 1/3 innings. Erm, that's really not good. I don't want to point the finger at fatigue again, but I think the main issue here is that he was allowed to sit around doing nothing from the end of the minor league season at the beginning of September, until he was asked to come out late in the AFL season at the end of October. Maybe he wasn't in great shape, maybe his mind was a little off...whatever. I'm not going to hold this against him. When you strike out 93 batters in 64 2/3 innings on the season as a 22 year old, you've got my attention.

The other 3 Braves pitchers who spent time in the AFL left early for whatever reason, be it injury, ineffectiveness, or anything else...not going to press the issue. Michael Broadway left a week before Pruneda showed up, and had allowed 6 runs in 5 1/3 innings on a whopping 10 hits. One positive for Broadway is that he only walked 1 man and struck out 5. I'll take a positive when I can get it. He's Gwinnett bullpen fodder. Erik Cordier, who I apparently have some sort of personal vendetta against (for the sole fact that I don't think he's a great prospect because he walks too many damn batters), only got 2 appearances and 5 innings in. He allowed 7 hits and 5 earned, though all 5 runs came in the first appearance. Making my stomach turn is the 6 walks and 6 strikeouts in those 5 innings. Its like he knows what I hate and wants to fuel my fire a little more...I assume he'll spend 2011 in Gwinnett as well, not that they have a lot of room in their rotation. And finally, Kyle Cofield. He pitched one inning, allowed a solo homer, and that was that. He's spent the last 2 season in Mississippi. Will 2011 be the year where he finally gets a promotion? Time will tell.

Overall, the 2010 AFL was a borderline disaster for the Braves. Only one player really set the world on fire, and many of the ones who went out to the desert were just plain ineffective. A little disappointing to see, but sometimes, that happens. Next season should be a little more interesting, with some of the younger players in the organization getting another year of experience and possibly getting the call out to Phoenix. I'd die to see Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado pitching in November...it would truly be a beautiful thing.
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