As part of what will hopefully be a series of Q&A's with several of the top prospect gurus around baseball, we begin with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Kevin released his list of the top-11 Braves prospects in early November of last year. This Q&A is based on that ranking as well as other questions about the prospects in our system. If you're a regular reader here you'll know that I reference Goldstein all the time. He's one of the few who publish regular prospect reports online throughout the year, and he's usually got a detailed and original take on what a prospect's future might be.
This is the third year that Kevin has been gracious enough to do a Q&A with Talking Chop, and every year his answers shed added light on the state of the Braves minor league system. If you'd like to review the Q&As from previous years, here is 2008 and 2007.
Q: You listed Jason Heyward as the number-one Braves prospect, but that was before Tommy Hanson absolutely carved up the AFL. Is there any desire, after that performance by Hanson, to change that ranking and list him number-one?
A: I think more accurately, it was written during Hanson's AFL dominance, and I was talking to multiple scouts in Arizona to make sure I could provide the most up-to-date analysis of him. So the answer is no, I wouldn't flip the two. That said, if you'd want to claim that the two should be flipped, I'd accept the argument. They're very close. I can't release the Top 100 yet, but I will say that Hanson is only three spots behind Heyward.
Q: Give us a comparable player to Freddie Freeman. Could he and Heyward move as fast through the system as Francoeur and McCann did?
A: You know, I'm just not a big fan of comps unless they are obvious, and in Freeman's case I don't have one. You could reel off any of a number of big, slugging first baseman and you wouldn't be totally wrong, but none of them really ring perfect for me. I'm not sure they'll move him as fast as Francoeur and McCann, but I'd also say that I think Francoeur was rushed through the system too fast, and that's one of the reasons things haven't worked out as he was never forced to temper his approach.
Q: The 2008 draft for the Braves gave them so many young talented pitchers. Is this the best draft for pitching that the Braves have ever had? How do the likes of DeVall, Stovall, Spruill, and Thompson, compare to the 2006 draft of Rasmus, Evarts, Locke, and Rodgers?
A: I think best ever is way too strong. You list eight players there, and none of them are in my Top 11. Not that they're not prospects, but none of them are special.
Q: Will Cole Rohrbough be the 2009 left-handed version of Tommy Hanson? Does Rohrbough have as high a ceiling as Hanson?
A: Rohrbough is the kind of guy who is certainly capable of a breakout season. The stuff is there for one, but that doesn't guarantee anything. I think Teheran could be that guy as well.
Q: Who is better and why, Joey Devine or Craig Kimbrel?
A: Devine, and it's not even close. You have one guy who dominated at low levels after signing, and one guy who dominated in the big leagues last year. Is it even close?
Q: Other people have rated Jeff Locke much higher than you have him. What makes you list him below guys like Medlen, Hicks, and Delgado?
A: In general, scouts liked him, but they didn't love him. His command allows his stuff to play up, and I would classify him as having more certainty than a guy like Delgado, but less of a ceiling.
Q: Who is better and why, Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran?
A: I have Teheran No. 6 and Delgado No. 9, so there you go. I think their stuff is actually quite similar overall, but Teheran has better command and smoother mechanics.
Q: Does Jordan Schafer have what it takes to be an everyday player in the major leagues right now? Who do you think will ultimately be a more valuable center fielder, Schafer or Gorkys Hernandez?
A: Right now? It's close. If he's not ready, he's certainly almost so and will likely have the job by the end of the season. I have him ranked ahead of Hernandez because his skill set is far more well-rounded.
Q: Is Tommy Hanson ready to be an everyday major league rotation regular? Who does Hanson remind you of as a pitcher?
A: Yes, I really do think he's ready, and I think he'll be pretty damn good right away. I'm not sure the Braves necessarily agree with that sentiment, and he'll probably start the year in Triple-A unless he really dominates this spring and wins the No. 5 job. As far as a comp goes, I go back to what I said earlier about them, where I avoid them when they're not obvious. Some within the Braves organization see a bit of John Smoltz in him, with all due respect there of course.
Q: What is the biggest strength of the Braves minor league system? The biggest weakness?
A: I think their biggest strength, as per usual, is pitching, especially when it comes to depth. There are just so many live arms in this system. If there's a spot where they are a bit weak, it's middle infield.
Many thanks to Kevin for agreeing to this 10 question e-mail interview. I thoroughly enjoyed his answers as I hope you did, I especially like his reality check answer on a guy like Jeff Locke.