Talking Chop Top-25 Braves Prospects:  16-20

Braves relief prospect Corey Gearrin should be able to find the majors with his deceptive side arm delivery. (Photo by C.B. Wilkins)

Our countdown of the top-25 prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization continues with #16 through #20:

16.  Cory Gearrin, RHRP :: B/T: 6'3" Born: 04/04/1986 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 200
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  NR
The Skinny:  Was a dominant college reliever that the Braves took in the 4th round of the 2007 draft and has since shined at two levels in 2009. 
The Good:  He throws a hard heavy fastball that produces a lot of strikeouts and ground balls that is accompanied by a hard biting slider that baffles hitters at time. In years past his command and control were an issue as he walked almost as many batters as innings pitched. In 2009 however he corrected that problem and his control was an asset instead of a question mark.
The Bad:  Not much honestly. He has only been pitching since his freshman year of college and he is still growing into his sidearm delivery. We have to hope the control problems are truly behind him.
...In a perfect world... he slots in behind Craig Kimbrel for the next 6 seasons as the Braves setup may a la Peter Moylan
ETA:  I wouldn't be surprised to see him start 2010 with the Braves if he impresses in spring training, but a call up later in the year is more likely.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

17.  Jacob Thompson, RHSP :: B/T: R/R Born: 11/19/1986 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 215
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  NR
The Skinny: Once thougt of as a first round talent, he was considered a fifth round steal in the 2008 draft, and performed better in 2009 after a promotion to a higher level.
The Good: Huge, strong frame. Deceptive delivery. Best pitch is a diving curveball. Is a workhorse, leading the entire Braves Minor League system in innings this season. Listens to instruction well, as shown by his progress under Guy Hansen's tutelage at Myrtle Beach.
The Bad: Lankiness makes it hard for him to repeat his delivery. Hasn't shown himself to be a strikeout pitcher and walked too many batters in 2009. Hasn't shown the ability to remain consistent as a pro.
...In a perfect world...he regains the brilliance he showed in his early college career and becomes a top of the rotation starter. Barring that, he still works effectively as a middle to back of the rotation innings eater.
ETA: With his success at Myrtle Beach he seems likely to open 2010 at Missisissippi, so an Atlanta debut next season isn't out of the question. Look for him to stick sometime in 2011.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

18.  Benino Pruneda, RHRP :: B/T: R/R Born: 08/08/1988 Ht: 5'9" Wt: 170
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  NR
The Skinny:
  Had a great year at Rome in 2008 and started well in 2009 only to fade late in the season as he struggled while giving up too many walks.
The Good:
  Pruneda throws hard for a guy his size, generating a fastball that can hit the mid 90s and creates a lot of groundballs. He also gets his share of strikeouts.
The Bad:
  So far he hasn't shown any signs of breaking down, but whenever you have a guy who throws this hard and is this small there are going to be questions about his durability. He also struggled with his control this year walking over 15% of the batters he faced, and he struggled against RH after he was promoted to Myrtle Beach.
...In a perfect world...
Pruneda harnesses his stuff and brings his walks down and becomes a reliable power arm in the late innings
  The Braves might send him back to Myrtle Beach to start 2010 after his second half struggles last season. If all goes well he could be in Atlanta by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

19.  Scott Diamond, LHSP :: B/T: L/L Born: 07/301986 HT: 6'3" WT:190
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  22
The Skinny:  Diamond was an unheralded and undrafted player who signed as a free agent with the Braves after the 2007 draft. He used family connections to get a tryout with the Braves and has been impressive at every level since.
The Good:  He throws 4 pitches for strikes and will throw any of them on any side of the plate in any count. Scouts describe him as fearless and praise his ability to keep the ball down in the zone to create groundballs. He passed the AA test that most people consider the most difficult transition in baseball.
The Bad:  Scott fits in perfectly with most of our other LHP prospects in that he doesn't throw very hard. His K rates were low in AA and he gave up a lot of hits. For him to succeed he has to be incredibly fine with his pitches.
...In a perfect world... his ability to command the strike zone continues to play up at AAA and the majors and he becomes a back of the rotation starter or a an excellent situational lefty. 
ETA:  Diamond could find himself back in AA next season or start in AAA. He probably won't get a look until 2011 unless things go horribly wrong in Atlanta.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

20.  Brandon Hicks, SS :: B/T: R/R Born: 9/14/1985 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 200
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  12
The Skinny: Defensive stalwart has shown the ability to slug and strikeout.
The Good: Excellent defensive shortstop with a strong, accurate arm who rarely makes mistakes. Is a fine all around player with a ton of pop in his bat. One of the hardest workers in the system.
The Bad: His power seemed to vanish when he couldn't adapt to Mississippi's home park. He cut down his strikeout rate in 2009 but the Ks are still a major concern. His lack of range and his thick body will like necessitae a move off of shortstop to third base.
...In a perfect world...he becomes a more polished hitter, getting his strikeouts in check, and becomes Atlanta's long term solution at third base after Chipper Jones' retirement.
ETA: He'll likely return to Mississippi to start 2010 but with a strong season he could see time with Atlanta late in the season. Should be poised to grab a full time spot by mid 2011.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

Tomorrow the countdown to the top-10 continues with 5 exciting young pitchers.

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