Braves Top-10 Minor League Left Handed Starting Pitchers (1-5)

Today we finish off the Top 5 Braves southpaw prospects. Like I said yesterday, there is some good depth here, but after the top guy, Mike Minor, most of the other guys are fairly interchangeable and there are guys that are difficult to rank. Brett DeVall who missed a good portion of the season due to injury and inevitably succumbed to surgery after  the season may not even pitch next year but might have the most potential on the list. Cole Rohrbough is another guy who fought through injuries during the year has tons of upside but couldn't get it done. As a panel we actually only ranked a total of 12 different players between the three of us (as opposed to 14 on RH pitchers and 16 on relievers) but our rankings within those twelves guys were all over the place. (Also for those wondering, Andy Otero was one of the guys mentioned and two of us had him on our lists, but he was the first person off.)

1. Mike Minor B/T: R/L Born: 12/26/1987 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 200
Mike Minor was taken with the 7th overall pick in the 2009 Amateur Draft out of Vanderbilt. The Braves have caught a lot of flack for taking Minor so high (their highest pick since taking Mike Kelly second overall in 1991) and rewarding him with the largest contract ever given out to a 7th pick. While many people disagree on his total potential most recognize that he is a polished pitcher who has a great shot to reach his maximum potential.

Mike Minor led a decorated amateur career. His senior year of high school he won 13 games (12 via shutout) and struck out 188 batters in 86 innings with a 0.08 ERA. He was drafted by the Devil Rays in 2006 but chose to attend Vanderbilt for 3 years where he was a Freshman All American and SEC Freshman of the Year in 2007. He served as the staff ace for Vandy in 2008 and 2009 pitching against the toughest competition in the collegiate ranks. In 2007 and 2008 he played for the US National Team going 8-2 with a 1.17 ERA, 74K, and just 17 walks in 69 innings of work leading to being named Baseball America's Summer Player of the year in 2008. In his brief professional exposure so far Minor pitched brilliantly in a short stint in Rome and has held his own in the Arizona Fall League.

There are a lot of positive's to Minor's game and not many negatives. The first thing scouts rave about is his excellent control and command. He can throw his fastball and changeup anywhere in or out of the zone whenever he wants. He can also add and subtract velocity from pitch to pitch and make adjustments to hitters as they make adjustments to him. He throws a fastball that sits in the high 80s to low 90s with lots of movement. His changeup is considered his best pitch with lots of depth and fade coming from the same arm slot as his fastball. He also throws a slider and curve though reports are the slider has regressed since adding the curve to his arsenal last season. He has picture perfect mechanics and an excellent pickoff move that can be considered a legitimate weapon.

The biggest knock on Minor is his resemblance to former Vandy southpaw Jeremy Sowers who dominated the minors but has struggled since reaching the majors because of a lack of overpowering stuff. He is the archetype for the kind of left handed pitcher the Braves love: full of pitching savvy with sound mechanics and a great changeup. We have seen many of these guys in recent years with varying success. My guy tells me Minor is going to be better than people think, and most think he is probably a 3-4 starter in the big leagues. Look for him to skip Myrtle Beach and start in Mississippi next year.

2. Edgar Osuna B/T: L/L Born: 11/25/1987 Ht: 6'1" Wt: 165
The Braves signed the 16 year old Edgar Osuna out of Mexico in 2004. He made his stateside debut in 2006 as an 18 year old in the GCL. In 2007-08 he pitched a combined 180 innings striking out 201 batters while walking only 42. Very impressive numbers for a guy who was 19 and 20 respectively in those leagues. In 2009 he made the jump to Myrtle Beach and then finished the year in AA as a 21 year old. While his strike out rate slipped a bit (25% in Rome to 15% in Mississippi) he more than held his own in 13 starts in the Southern League allowing less hits than innings pitched and keeping his walk rate under 7.0%.

Johns Sickels posted this opening line in his prospect handbook last year in reference to Edgar Osuna: "BZZT!!! BZZT!! SLEEPER ALERT!!". So I guess he is a fan. Edgar Osuna has a very similar profile to a lot of guys on this list but he is finding more success at a higher level and has been young for his age at nearly every stop. He might actually throw softer than any of the other guys we ranked in the top 10 (reports have him topping out in the high 80s) but he mixes in two plus pitches: a curve and an outstanding change that is rated the best in a system full of good ones. While he is fairly thin most people believe that Edgar probably won't add any velocity though I think adding 20 lbs couldn't hurt him, especially for durability reasons.

Osuna will probably get at least another half season in Mississippi to hone his skills against advanced prospects. I would like to see a rebound in his K rate, at least back into the 20% range and to see his flyball tendencies reverse a bit (only 35% at Mississippi). He may not be a frontline starter in the majors but at the very least this guy is going to be a good lefty arm out of the pen and useful swing man.

3. Jose Ortegano B/T: L/L Born: 08/05/1987 Ht: 6'1" Wt: 145
Ortegano was signed by the Braves in 2003 out of Venezuela. He made his US debut in the GCL in 2006 in the GCL and then put together an impressive campaign in 2007 in the Appy League with a 1.48 ERA. In 2008 he posted a 4.62 ERA in Rome and was lost in the shuffle of the bevy of pitching prospects that the Braves had there, but the component ratios were strong and his FIP had him at 2.90, nearly 2 runs better than his pure ERA. He was a little bit unlucky with a .362 BAbip even though he was striking out 23% of hitters and walking less than 7%. He was promoted to Myrtle Beach in 2009 and then received a mid-season promotion to Mississippi in July. In 8 starts in AA he posted a 2.83 ERA with 42 K, 45 H and 19 BB in 47 IP.

Ortegano and Osuna are just 5 months apart and have followed each other up the ranks of the Braves farm system. They are very similar pitchers in a number of ways. For one, both of their names begin with the letter 'O'. Also they profile very similarly, as small soft tossing lefties with outstanding control and pitching pitching savvy. The one place that  like Ortegano better than Osuna is that he was able to maintain his K rate around 20% after his promotion to AA while seeing only a slight increase to his walk rate.

Ortegano will most likely continue to partner with Osuna on his way up the organizational ladder and they have a similar major league profile though if he can keep his K rate where it is, Ortegano could become the more valuable piece to the puzzle. 2010 could be a big season for him.

4. Dimaster Delgado B/T: L/L Born: 03/03/1989 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 180
Yet another international signing for the Braves, Dimaster Delgado joined the organization in 2007 and quickly made an impression as he struck out 86 batters in 59 innings for the Braves DSL affiliate. He wasn't quite as impressive in the Appy League in 2008 as his strike outs slipped a little but he kept his sharp control walking less than 5% of batters he faced. 2009 was a bit of a breakout season for Dimaster as he paired with the other Delgado in Rome as one of the most dynamic tandems in the Sally League. In 99 innings of work he struck out 104 batters and walked just 26 while allowing just 89 hits. His components were excellent across the board and while he posted a solid 3.61 ERA his FIP was right around 2.9 which is stellar for a 20 year old in A ball.

Scouts rave about Delgado's control and advanced feel for his changeup (heard that before?). He currently throws in the high 80s to low 90s and could add velocity as his body matures. The Braves were actually surprised by how quickly he advanced and how well he responded to being assigned to Rome instead of the initially planned Danville assignment.

At this point Delgado doesn't have a go to breaking pitch. He throws a curve and slider but neither is on par with his change at this point (which is supposedly still a work in progress, but very good none the less). He will move to Myrtle Beach next year and could move quickly like Osuna and Ortegano ahead of him. There is a lot of potential here if he can refine his secondary offerings.

5. Brett DeVall B/T: L/L Born: 01/08/1990 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 215
Atlanta took Brett DeVall with the 40th overall pick (their first of the draft) in the 2008 Amateur Draft. Atlanta scouted him extensively through the East Cobb program and signed him away from a University of Georgia commitment with a $1 mil bonus. He had a brief 10 inning debut in the GCL last year after signing and then made 10 solid starts for Rome this season before being shut down and eventually succumbing to Tommy John surgery in August and will probably miss most (and probably all) of the 2010 season.

When he was drafted DeVall was considered one of the top 3 high school lefties on the draft board. He has an ideal pitcher's frame and was thought to have a clean delivery. He throws in the low 90s currently and could add some more velocity though he already possesses a mature body. He throws a an average curve and change though both have potential to become more and at age 19 in Rome he was young for the league.

DeVall was one of the hardest people for me to rank and in the end I didn't put him on my list at all because of the injury not because of any lack of talent on his part but because I won't see him again until probably 2011. Think about guys like Eric Cordier and Cory Rasmus who both missed full seasons to injury. They both made successful returns this year but how much of a prospect are they now? DeVall still has a ton of potential and many thought he had a ceiling of a #2 starter in the majors, but with his arm injury now his future is a bit cloudy.

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