The second half of the Braves top right handed starting pitching prospects contains several young, live arms, as well as a few more polished players, and one pitcher who could have an impact in Atlanta in 2010.
6. Caleb Brewer B/T: R/R Born: 2/2/1989 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 205
A 14th round draft pick in 2007, Brewer had a decent debut with the Orlando Braves in the GCL as an 18 year old, going 0-1 with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP in 32.2 innings, but certainly wasn't on anybody's prospect list coming in to 2009 after missing all of 2008 with an injury. But, he's rocketed himself up those prospects list after returning to the GCL this year, compiling a 3-3 record with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 44.2 innings in 12 games (10 starts).
Brewer held opponents to a pathetic .132 average against and led the team in strikeouts with 65, which was 23 more than Robinson Lopez, who pitched 4 more innings than Brewer, as well as leading the team in strikeouts per 9 innings, with an astounding 13.1. But, he also walked a ton of batters, 31, good for a whopping 6.2 per 9 innings. He had troubles with this in his first season, walking 6.6 per 9 innings that year, and while each could be explained away easily, inexperience the first season and rust this year, this is something he's going to have to dramatically improve as he moves up the ladder.
Baseball America recently rated Brewer's curveball as the best in the system, and he pairs it with a good fastball and a developing changeup. At 6'3", he has great size for a pitcher, allowing him to get good leverage on his pitches. The biggest thing for Brewer at this point is staying healthy. He should begin 2010 at Rome and since he's coming into the season as a 21 year old, he'll be a little old for a typical top prospect at that level, but given the missed time and his dominance this season, he seems capable of quickly mastering the Sally League, which could lead to quicker promotions in the ensuing years.
T7. Todd Redmond B/T:R/R Born: 5/17/1985 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 215
After being acquired from the Pirates in exchange for Tyler Yates, Redmond was the Southern League Pitcher of theYear in his first season with the Braves. He followed up that strong showing with an up and down AAA debut that saw him end up with a team leading 9 wins, along with 6 losses, a 4.41 ERA, and 1.37 WHIP in a team leading 145 innings in 27 games (24 starts). He started well, with a 3.32 ERA in April, but stumbled in the middle, going 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA in May and June, before getting on a roll again with a 5-0 record and 3.71 ERA in July and August. Redmond continued that roll as he established him self as the ace of USA's World Cup team, going 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in three starts, covering 22 innings. Facing Germany, Taiwan, and Puerto Rico, he held batters to a .147 average and struck out 17 while only walking 1.
Redmond doesn't have the pure stuff of some of the other pitchers on this list, pairing a solid curveball and changup with a fastball that tops out at 90 mph, but he's as polished a pitcher as anyone in the organization. He's a control pitcher who hits his spots and rarely hurts himself with mistakes or walks. AAA was obviously a bigger adjustment for him than AA, as he allowed more hits and walks per 9 innings than his career numbers and struck out fewer per 9 innings than his career numbers. But, across the board, those numbers were still solid, if unspectacular, which is a great assement of Redmond himself.
Already a member of the Braves' 40 man roster, Redmond will turn 25 early next season. Essentially, he's a finished product, and will likely be asked to return to Gwinnett to further refine and polish his pitching. While he would be more than suitable as a back of the rotation starter, a role that he could probably fill suitably in 2010 if needed, his ultimate landing spot will likely be the bullpen, where his ability to get ground balls, as well as his stubborn pitching style, could make him a highly effective middle reliever.
T7. Robinson Lopez B/T: R/R Born: 3/2/1991 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 190
One of the youngest players on the Talking Chop prospects lists, Lopez made his professional debut as an 18 year old this season playing for the Orlando Braves in the GCL. He was named the team's Pitcher of the Year and paired with Caleb Brewer to form a daunting duo at the top of the team's rotation, and led the starters with a 1.29 ERA and innings pitched, 48.2, to go with his 3-1 record and 1.08 WHIP in 11 games (8 starts).
Showing this kind of ability at this young an age is a great sign of Lopez's ability. He was highly thought of when the team signed him and he rewarded the scouting department's belief in him. Honestly, little could have gone better for him in his debut and he'll look to build on his success in Rome in 2010, where another fine season could catapult him up this list.
9. Kyle Cofield B/T: R/R Born: 1/23/1987 Ht: 6'5" Wt: 190
Since being drafted in the 8th round of the 2005 draft, Cofield has quietly moved up the organizational ladder, one rung at a time, pitching this year for AA Mississippi as a 22 year old. He turned in another solid season, leading the team with 10 wins, along with 5 losses, a 3.90 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 140.2 innings piched in 26 games (24 starts). While he's never been outstanding in his career, Cofield has been consistent, as the majority of his per 9 inning stats were relatively close to his career averages, including 7.8 hits per 9 innings (compared to 8.4 for his career) 5.7 walks per 9 innings (compared to 5.0) and 5.6 strikeouts per 9 innings (compared to 6.3).
Like Redmond, Cofield doesn't have overpowering stuff, but his knowledge of pitching has increased exponentially in his time with the organization and while there's a chance he could return to Mississippi to start out 2010, it's more likely that he makes the move up to AAA Gwinnett. Also like Redmond, his lack of overpowering stuff likely means that his eventual landing spot is in the bullpen, but, unlike Redmond, he's still young enough to make some drastic improvements in his development, meaning that he could establish himself more prominently as a possible starting candidate for Atlanta in late 2010 or 2011.
10. David Francis B/T: R/R Born: 2/8/1988 Ht: 6'1" Wt: 200
The Canadian born Francis made headlines when he struck out 16 on his way to pitching a 7 inning no-hitter while playing for Danville in 2008. The rest of his debut season was equally successful as the 12th round draft pick picked up 5 wins and 3 losses, a 2.35 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 53.2 innings in 11 games (8 starts). Things didn't go quite as smoothly in his second season as the 21 year old went 5-7 in 30 games (6 starts) for Rome this year, compiling a 3.67 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 88.1 innings. He also started 4 games for Myrtle Beach, where he didn't record a win or a loss, but did post a 7.02 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 16.2 innings.
Francis got in trouble by allowing hitters to make good contact, giving up a .293 average against while pitching for Rome, giving up 10.3 hits per 9 innings. Oddly enough, he had less of a problem with this in his starts for Myrtle Beach, dropping his average against to .258 and his hits per 9 innings to 8.6, and while those numbers paired with a huge jump in his strikeout rate, from 7.4 per 9 innings at Rome to 11.9 per 9 innings at Myrtle Beach, both of the hitting stats are still fairly high and he also saw a huge jump in his walks, from 3.1 per 9 innings at Rome to 7 per 9 innings at Myrtle Beach.
It's fairly clear the Francis isn't as bad as his overall 2009 numbers would indicate, but he's also probably not as good as he was in 2008 either. Depending on how things play out in Spring Training, he may find himself returning to Rome in 2010 as a 22 year old, which makes him several years too old to be considered a top prospect. But, if he can keep the batter from getting square on his pitches and start making them miss a few balls again, he could develop into a useful pitcher at the upper levels, even if that may have to happen with him in the bullpen.