Talking Chop Top-25 Braves Prospects:  1-5

The future of the Atlanta Braves organization, the number-1 prospect in baseball, Jason Heyward (Photo by C.B. Wilkins)

Our countdown of the top-25 prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization concludes with the top-5:

1. Jason Heyward, RF :: B/T: L/L Born: 8/9/1989 Ht: 6'4" Wt: 220
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  1
The Skinny: The best prospect in baseball, and the Braves' best prospect since Andruw Jones came through the system.
The Good:  Heyward hits for average and power, he drives in runs, and runs the bases well. He's a true five tool talent who compares with All-Stars like Fred McGriff and Dave Parker.
The Bad:  While Heyward has recorded good stolen base numbers in each of his minor league stops, his speed likely won't translate as stolen base speed in the majors, though he is still an above average baserunner. Heyward's several nagging injuries the last few years are starting to raise questions about durability.
...In a perfect world... he's a perennial All-Star and one of the best middle-of-the-order hitters in baseball.
ETA:  He will get his chance in spring training 2010 with the Braves. He could follow the path of Jordan Schafer and make the club out of camp, or he could follow the path of Tommy Hanson and get some triple-A seasoning with an eye towards a mid-year call-up. He should be a lineup mainstay by the end of 2010.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

2.  Freddie Freeman, 1B :: B/T: L/R Born: 09/12/1989 Ht: 6'5" Wt: 220

Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  4
The Skinny:
  One of the best 1B prospects in baseball and a virtual lock to out 1B of the future.
The Good:
  He has excellent bat control and a great eye at the plate, especially for someone so young. Scouts rave about his improved defense and he is considered one of the better defenders in the minors.
The Bad:
  While Jason Heyward was setting the world on fire in AA, Freddie struggled and was eventually shut down with an injury. Despite hitting 19 homers in Rome and leading Myrtle Beach in doubles this season, onlookers continue to question his power
...In a perfect world...
he becomes our cleanup hitter behind Jason Heyward and stays there for the next 10 years while winning Gold Gloves and leading the league in RBIs for several years.
  With his injury and struggles in AA (and in the AFL to an extent) Freddie will probably find himself back in AA to start next season but could be the first guy called up if there is the a corner INF shortage in Atlanta. If all goes according to plan he will make his debut next season with an outside shot at the starting job if the Braves let Laroche walk.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

3.  Julio Teheran, RHSP :: B/T: R/R Born: 1/27/1991 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 150
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  10
The Skinny: Fireballing teenager with an advanced feel for pitching.
The Good: Combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating curveball. Unlike most players his age, he's a thinking pitcher, working batters into counts and situations that suit him.
The Bad: Missed the majority of 2008 with a sore shoulder. Despite his stuff, he hasn't shown himself to be much of a strikeout pitcher. His other pitches, particularly his slider, still need a lot of work.
...In a perfect world...he becomes a top of the rotation Major League starter, competing with Tommy Hanson year in and year out for the Cy Young Award.
ETA: He'll likely begin 2010 back at Rome and if he progresses quickly he could debut in late 2011, but seems likely to be up for good in mid to late 2012.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

4.  Mike Minor, LHSP :: B/T: R/L Born: 12/26/1987 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 200
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  NR
The Skinny: Storied amateur pitcher taken by the Braves with the 7th pick in 2009 much to the chagrin of onlookers.
The Good:  Excellent control and command of a 4 pitch repertoire with an advanced understanding of how to get batters out by changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance. He also possesses a frightening pick off move.
The Bad:  Underwhelming stuff to go along with a low but achievable ceiling.
...In a perfect world... his stuff plays better than expected and he is Cole Hamels-light for the Braves, reaching the majors in the next year and a half and allowing the Braves to trade surplus pitching for more offensive help.
ETA:  Could make his debut in 2010 and no later than 2011 barring injury.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

5.  Zeke Spruill, RHSP :: B/T: S/R Born: 9/11/1989 Ht: 6'4" Wt: 184
Last Year's Talking Chop Rank:  23
The Skinny: Lanky teenager led Rome in wins this season.
The Good: Was very effective in an All Star season, primarily using a low 90s fastball and a biting curveball while pitching to contact. Trusts his defense and knows how to pitch. Huge, projectable body.
The Bad: Was punished with a demotion to the GCL for a month for a disciplinary infraction. Hasn't shown himself to be much of a strikeout pitcher. Secondary pitches need work.
...In a perfect world...he develops into a solid, middle of the rotation innings eater who can act like an ace for stretches, like an early-career Kevin Millwood.
ETA: He'll start 2010 at Myrtle Beach and seems likely to debut for Atlanta in 2012, with the possibility of permanent role in 2013.
...for a full scouting report, go here.

Come back tomorrow and post your own top-25 Braves prospects. A new thread will be opened for those submissions.

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