It has been 1 year since RSM ranked the top 10 Braves prospects and it is time to revisit the list. If you click the link to last years list, the funniest one you will see is #7 - Thomas Hanson. When reading his description, you can clearly see how he went from this type of ranking to #1 or #2 in all of baseball. He added those 3-4 MPH to his fastball and by winter ball was a dominant force that every GM coveted. Good to have him up in the rotation now, he looks like a stud. Brandon Jones is now off the list because is is 26 and has yet to homer this year in almost 200 at bats. Good hitter, possibly a decent major leaguer, but no longer a top prospect. Also, Jordan Schafer is off the list after making the club out of spring training this year. Lets look at this years list...
1) Jason Heyward - Heyward is a stud. Even if Francoeur is not dealt during the season, Heyward is getting close to the RF job being his. Probably 2011 or even next year Heyward will be in the middle of the Braves lineup for a good while. How do we know he isn't just another Francoeur? Heyward has consistently been a .300 hitter (.316 career) in the minors and his OPS has been high 800's to 900's. Francoeur was a high-200's hitter (.285 career) with a low OBP and OPS (700's). Heyward is just a damn good hitter that is going to be, again, a stud.
2) Freddie Freeman - Freddie has really come on in the last year and is probably the Braves next 1st baseman as soon as Kotchman becomes eligibile to make $$$. He is hitting .318 in advanced A ball and has some real good pop. Shaky glove at 1st, but a solid prospect nonetheless.
3) Cody Johnson - Cody is a big-time power hitter and former top draft choice. Cody is a left-handed hitter that is 6'4 and his power keeps improving. His HR totals have gone from 17 in 2007, to 26 last year, and he already has 20 this season. He also hits for a higher average against lefties. Look for him to get some serious looks as he develops (still only 20).
4) Mike Minor - Gotta throw our recent #1 pick and highest draft pick since Mike Kelly. Very live left handed arm and once signed, Minor will be on the fast track. Not sure if he will remain a starter or if the Braves will make him a reliever. But, a good prospect no matter what.
5) Cole Rohrbough - Cole is a hard throwing lefty that currently is in Myrtle Beach. He still projects as a 2-3 starter in a couple of years with his plus fastball and slider. Outside of one outing this year (2.2 IP, 10 ER), Cole has been pretty dominant.
6) Brett Devall - Brett is another left-handed pitcher that was drafted out of high school last year. Currently in Rome, he is 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA, but is still years away from the big leagues at only 19 years of age.
7) Randall Delgado - Hard throwing RHP that is a big-time strikeout pitcher. He was 2nd in the Appalachain League last season in K's and has a really high ceiling. Not a pretty record (1-6) so far this year, but still a really strong prospect.
8) Brandon Hicks - Hicks was a high draft pick a few years ago out of Texas A&M and has turned into a pretty good player. Hits for power and has a good glove (can play 3B, SS, 2B) and is likely a major league utility player or maybe an everyday second baseman. Needs to cut down on K's and get the average up, but at 23 is almost ready.
9) Craig Kimbrel - Craig's stock has dropped a tad after his recent promotion to Myrtle Beach. Out of the bullpen, Craig finished last year with an ERA under 1 in 35 games. Then, to start this season, complied a 0.90 ERA in Rome before his promotion. He has given up at least 1 run in 7 of his 8 appearances, but hopefully he just needs to adjust to his new surroundings.
10) Zeke Spruill - Spruill is a hard throwing righty (95+) out of Marietta, GA. Zeke went 7-0 last year after getting drafted and is already 7-2 this year in Rome with a good ERA. I think he projects as a reliever, but he looks pretty good as a starter so far. At 6'4, this 20 year old RHP makes the list as a guy I really like.
Biggest theme in these rankings is the lack of hitters. Trading away Lillbridge, Flowers, Hernandez, etc the last few years has cut into the Braves hitting prospects tremendously. Hopefully 2009 picks Mycal Jones and Rob Hefflinger can turn it up soon and get the balance back in the system.