The Braves have one of the best farm systems in baseball and that is predicated on the talent they possess in pitching and, more specifically, RHP. The Braves are blessed with both top flight talent and depth on the right handed side of the mound. With guys that will make an impact now and 4 or 5 years from now to guys who could be future all stars or back of the bullpen stoppers the Braves have it all when it comes to pitching. Our future will be determined by what these guys can do it in Atlanta (or what we can get for them on the trade market).
6. Cory Rasmus - B/T: R/R, Born: 11/06/1987, Ht: 6'1", Wt: 220 – Between 2006 and 2009 Cory Rasmus appeared in just 20 games after having shoulder surgery at the start of 2007. Rasmus finally got to pitch for a full season in 2010 and he was pretty damn good. Between Rome and Myrtle Beach he pitched 124.1 innings and struck out 102 batters while giving up just 115 hits. He did issue 47 free passes, but for now that can be chalked up to a little rust. Before his injury Rasmus featured a fastball that worked up to 97 and a slider with good spin. Most reports said his velocity was mostly back though he was sitting closer to 91-92 than the 94-95 in the past with the occasional jump up to get a guy out. Even with nearly 3 years lost to his shoulder Cory will begin 2011 as a 23 year old in AA which still makes him a legitimate prospect though not the top flight guy he was at one time.
7. Erik Cordier – B/T: R/R, Born: 02/25/1986, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 230 – Eric Cordier's story is similar to Rasmus' in that he has missed multiple seasons to injuries though his were separate injuries and separate years. Drafted in 2004 by the Royal he missed all of 2005 with a knee injury and then all of 2007 after having Tommy John Surgery. The Royals then traded him to Atlanta in a blockbuster deal for Tony Pena, Jr. Erik made his full return in 2009 with 25 starts for Myrtle Beach. He posted a 3.87 ERA for the season but with just 6.5 K/9 and 74 walks. 2010 saw him make a move back his pre-injury form. His K rate rebounded to 7.4 and he cut his walks down while pitching in a few more innings. The walks still aren't great (69 in 135 innings for Mississippi) but there was progress in the two most important areas. His fastball has rebounded back from the surgery but neither his curve or change are where they were when he was drafted. Cordier remains an interesting case but right now has the upside of a #4 or middle reliever. Look for him in Gwinnett in 2011.
8. David Filak – B/T: R/R, Born: 11/24/1989, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 220 – Atlanta's 2010 4th round pick put together a solid debut season for Danville in 2010 posting a 2.42 ERA with 27 K in 26 innings. Filak has very little experience pitching after he walked on at Oneonta State as a catcher and was converted to the mound when coaches saw what kind of arm he has. He broke out in 2010 when his fastball velocity jumped and he posted some crazy K numbers. He left a game early in the season with elbow soreness which sapped his velocity for a while but it came back and Braves liked what he had to offer. When he is on his fastball gets up to 96 and sits 92-94 with a plus-plus curve that he can spot remarkably well for a guy with very little pitching experience. His developing changeup will likely be the deciding factor in how his future plays out . Expect to see him in Rome to start 2011 with the ability to move fast, especially if Atlanta decides he is a reliever.
9. Zeke Spruill – B/T: S/R, Born: 9/11/1989, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 184 – Zeke Spruill has had a roller coaster ride in the Braves organization thus far. He was drafted in the 2nd round in 2008 and had successful debut that same season in the GCL. He started 2009 in Rome pitching very well and created enough buzz to get himself all the way up to TalkingChop's #8 prospect on our mid-season rankings. With all of his success however he received mystery demotion back to the GCL that apparently was based on some behavioral issues. Zeke worked his way back into the Braves good graces and started 2010 with Myrtle Beach where he went on the DL after two starts when he broke his hand punching a wall in anger. That mishap sidelined him until July and he never regained his form from 2009. As a pitcher there is a lot to like about Zeke. He has a long lean body with a lot of projection, fantastic control of his pitches and a heavy fastball that generates a lot of groundballs. Zeke saw his K rate slip from nearly 8 K/9 to just above 5 K/9 between 2009 and 2010. His career (and/or future with the Braves) could hinge on how he handles the 2011 season on and and off the field.
10. Abraham Espinosa – B/T: R/R, Born: 06/03/1993, HT: 6'1" WT: 175 – Abraham Espinosa made his professional debut in 2010 and it was resounding success. Playing at just 17 years old for the entire season he posted a 1.41 ERA in 70 innings of work while giving up just 60 hits and 11 walks. That works out to a 1.01 WHIP while playing against competition 2-3 years older than him. He posted a 7.0 K/9IP, which isn't ideal for a dominant season but isn't terrible and at such a young age shouldn't be considered a red flag. The best thing Espinosa has going for him right now is his age and the consideration the Braves have developed some excellent young Latin American pitching prospects in recent years. Right now the sky is the limit for Abraham, but be warned, his career could go in a variety of directions.