Season in Review: Rome Braves
Robert Hefflinger not missed most of July and August. Regardless, its a really bad number. Since I mentioned him, we'll talk about Hefflinger first. His season in 2010 was shockingly similar to his 2009 in Danville. Last season, his slash line was .242/.288/.383. This season, it was .245/.302/.376. Decent power, an average walk rate, oodles of strikeouts, a low batting average. Bright spot: he killed lefties. .310/.333/.535. I'll take anything I can get at this point.
There were a couple of legitimate hitting prospects on this Rome team...in fact, there were a pair of top ten hitting prospects on this team: Christian Bethancourt and Edward Salcedo. Both men were terribly disappointing in 2010, but I'll begin with Bethancourt. After posting a .788 OPS last season in the GCL and Appy Leagues, he played 2010 with Rome and was expected to possibly play at a level consistent of a top 100 prospect. He...did not do that at all. He absolutely died with the bat, going .251/.276/.331. He somehow walked less times in 2010 than he did in 2009, despite 200+ more plate appearances. This shouldn't be happening. He also only had 6 more extra base hits over that huge timespan. These are two absolutely massive red flags. When a young, developing hitter suddenly has his power and patience completely disappear...what are you left with? A very disappointing season, that's what. He did show good speed for a catcher, stealing 11 bases on 14 attempts. But...what the hell? Is he even going to remain behind the plate? If you switch him to another position, the potential for his bat goes way down. A .788 OPS behind the plate is special, but in the infield? A little less so. Thank god he played the season as an 18 year old, and there could be some room for improvement. It was a lost year, otherwise
Now, Salcedo. He flourished in his month in the DSL, but was promoted to Rome in July. Once arriving in America, he struggled, but its a little easier to rationalize than Bethancourt's struggles...Salcedo played most of the season as an 18 year old making his debut in America. His overall line was .225/.307/.333, not what you're expecting out of a multi million dollar bonus baby...but I'll allow it based on the circumstances. His grasp of the strike zone seemed to disappear when he debuted in Rome...perhaps overcompensating? Regardless, the 75 strikeouts in 267 at bats overall is a little disappointing but not a cause for panic. The .108 ISO, maybe a little more so. The 28 errors in only 54 games with Rome? Yeah, *thats* not a good sign. Its safe to call this a lost year as well...but he's got plenty of time and room to grow. Maybe an offseason in the organization will help him out a lot.
Joe Leonard is a 2010 draftee who split his time between Rome and Danville this season, and posted a .749 OPS with a .169 ISO between the 2 levels. I like Leonard as a prospect, despite being a 22 year old. His 19.6% strikeout rate isn't egregious. He's a college bat, so is expected to move pretty well. His season was unfortunately cut short in mid-August, which sucks because I wanted to see what he could do a little more. He's a guy that could move fast in 2011.
Todd Cunningham is another 2010 draftee who was immediately assigned to Rome upon signing in June after the draft. His professional debut was rather uninspiring: .260/.341/.338, joining the OBP > SLG club. His 13% strikeout rate is great, and I can live with the 5.7% walk rate when striking out that little. But that power...concerning. A .078 ISO is just bad. Hopefully that will improve as he ages.
The most disappointing member of this team is far and away Riaan Spanjer-Furstenberg. The man known as RSF broke his hand during the first week of the season, and never took off and replicated his player of the year season in 2009. A first baseman posting a .691 OPS and .093 ISO is pretty damning. He did walk 19 times and only struck out 41 in 236 at bats...so that's a plus. But Braves fans expected nothing that bad after a .953 OPS in 2009.
A 2010 draftee that actually impressed was second baseman Philip Gosselin. His play actually earned him a promotion to Myrtle Beach for the final week of the season. He had a good debut, going .279/.353/.379 at the 2 levels he played at. Downside: he struck out a lot, 58 times in 240 at bats. Brightside: he walked 25 times. Gotta take the good with the bad. He's a second baseman, so expecting huge power numbers is silly...but it was an inspiring debut regardless.
Now...the bread and butter of the Rome team. The pitching staff. We'll start with the one man from the trio of young heralded hurlers who actually finished the year in Rome...Arodys Vizcaino. Acquired from the Yankees this offseason in the Javier Vazquez deal, Vizcaino was absolutely dominant this season, earning a promotion to Myrtle Beach in June before being shut down with an elbow ligament injury until the final week of the season. His overall numbers? 85 1/3 innings pitched, 79 hits, 2 homers allowed, 12 walks, 79 strikeouts. Pretty damn good for a young man who is still only 19 years old. The strikeouts were down a tad bit from where he was in his first 2 professional seasons, but the control definitely picked up to a point where it could be called "pinpoint", and his ability to keep the ball in the park definitely improved with another season under his belt. He's third on the pecking chart behind Teheran and Delgado, but is still one hell of a prospect...top 5 in the organization.
There was a huge dropoff in talent after Vizcaino, though. A man I had high expectations for this season who disappointed, largely due to the defense behind him, was Chris Masters. Masters struck out 85 and walked only 9 in 69 2/3 innings last year for Danville, and expectations were set high. He didn't live up to them, but he still was solid. He threw 136 innings, allowed 14 homers, walked 52 and struck out 123. Not the greatest stat line...but Masters was clearly tiring as the season wore on. After the all-star break, he allowed 9 of his 14 homers and walked 33 of his 52 batters. His ERA also jumped from 1.93 pre-break to an ugly 6.50 post-break.
I've written about former top pick Brett DeVall a lot, so lets do it again. His season started at the end of May, and ended in the middle of August, the injury bug biting him once again. DeVall only threw 106 2/3 innings this year, but hey, that's a career high. The results were...mixed. In those 106 2/3 innings, he only struck out 71, but also only walked 28 and allowed 5 homers. But good god was he hittable...how much of that is attributable to his defense, and how much of that is because of his stuff? No idea, but a .309 batting average is ugly. You might not be seeing much of DeVall in 2011, as the injury that ended his year is rumored to need Tommy John to fix. Then again, this was the rumor last year, and it turned out to be not true. DeVall is still only 20 years old, and its a shame to see this keep happening...but you just need to wonder at this point if he'll ever be healthy for a full year.
One young man who came out of nowhere to impress the hell out of me in 2010...Steve Kent. The Australian was recovering from Tommy John and didn't make his season debut until June, but man was he fantastic, mostly working out of relief: in 39 1/3 innings, Kent allowed only 3 earned runs, 1 homer, walked 8 and struck out an astounding 54. That translates into a 1.39 FIP. Good god almighty is that a pretty thing to see. His final 3 appearances of the year were both starts, and he continued to impress: 12 shutout innings, 10 hits, 2 walks and 12 strikeouts. I'm hugely interested in what he does in 2011.
Switching gears back to the 2010 draft, Willie Kempf had a hell of a debut, moving from the GCL all the way up to Rome and dominating along the way. The righty out of Baylor pitched in 74 1/3 innings, a pretty big total for someone who made his debut in June. He allowed only 2 homers while walking 11 and striking out 71, nearly a batter an inning. He also posted a 2.09 GB:FB ratio. Not a lot to not like about Kempf...he'll have a rocket attached to his back in 2011, as he'll be 23 once the season begins. He can move fast.
We're gonna go ahead and end it there. If I didn't list your favorite pitcher from Rome this year...well, a lot of those guys ended up at Myrtle Beach and will be talked about there. There were others I didn't talk about...they just didn't make the cut, but I'll be keeping tabs on them in 2011.
Finally, we get to a full season team! Today, I'm taking a look at the low-A Rome Braves
59-80, last in division
All-Stars: Chris Masters (midseason), Arodys Vizcaino (midseason)
Rome looked like they were going to be a really good team this season, after the success of Danville last season and the rush of prospects that would be on the team. Unfortunately, many of those great prospects were promoted midway through the season (Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Brett Oberholtzer, Mycal Jones, Cory Harrilchak to name 5) and the team was left with an absolute wasteland of players, especially on offense. To put it mildly...this Rome team was really, really bad offensively. The team leader had 6 home runs. *Six*. In all due fairness, that number would be higher had Jones not been promoted to Myrtle Beach in June, and had