Starting pitching has long been the fulcrum of the Atlanta Braves organization, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon, but the team has been very thin on left handed pitching in recent years. The Braves have only had 13 starts by a left handed pitcher in the last 2 seasons, 5 by Jo-Jo Reyes in 2009 and 8 by Mike Minor in 2010. Fortunately, there's plenty of high end, if unrefined, talent moving up the organizational ladder, though some of the pitchers are recovering from various injuries.
6. Dimasther Delgado - B/T: L/L, Born: 3/3/89, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 180 - After joining Rome partway through the 2009 season, Delgado performed wonderfully, finishing with a 5-7 record, a 3.61 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 in 99.2 innings over 17 starts. He seemed poised to come into 2010 and establish himself as one of the top prospects in the organization, but an car accident in his native Panama resulted in a broken leg that stole his entire season. All reports indicate that he'll be back to full strength in time for Spring Training, but it's likely that he begins his season a little late, perhaps joning Rome in May once again. He's a strong, thick bodied pitcher who uses his legs to get power behind his low 90s fastball, so it will be curious to see how long it takes for his stuff and his strenght to return. 2011 may be a bit of a wash for Delgado as he's trying to get back into the swing of things, but if he can stay healthy he's defninitely someone to look out for in 2012.
7. Jose Ortegano - B/T: L/L, Born: 8/5/87, Ht: 6'1", Wt: 175 - Ortegano showed a ton of promise in 2009, starting the year with Myrtle Beach, where he went 4-5 with a 3.49 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 69.2 innings, and was just as solid after a promotion to Mississippi, where he was 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 47.2 innings. He earned stop on Atlanta's 40-man roster and seemed ready to pitch in the Majors at some point in 2010, but things never seemed to go right for him. Off-season shoulder tightness forced him to miss all of Spring Training, so he began the year back with Myrtle Beach, effectively using the Carolina League as his Grapefruit League. He went 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP in 28 innings, though the results didn't matter as much as the fact that he was healthy. After a promotion to Gwinnett he started out hot, with a 2-0 record, 2.08 ERA, and a 1.04 ERA in his first three starts, but stumbled from then on, finishing with a 3-11 record, a 6.20 ERA, and a 1.61 WHIP in 103 innings. Ortegano's best pitch is an above average changeup that he couples with a curve that becomes increasingly less effective and more sloppy as he gets deeper in a game. As a starter, his fastball sits between 90 and 92 with little movement, but when he's working in smaller stints he can touch 97 and the ball moves better, indicating that a switch to the bullpen might improve his chances of making it in the Major Leagues. He's similar to Jonny Venters, who seemed to get knocked around as a starter but dominated out of the bullpen. Ortegano will return to Gwinnett in 2011 trying to see if he can regain his 2009 form and find his way onto Atlanta's pitching staff.
The rest of the list after the jump:
8. Brett DeVall - B/T: R/L, Born: 1/8/90, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 215 - DeVall's career has been waylaid by injury. In 2009, his first full season was cut short by a shoulder injury (which required offseason surgery); he was limited to just 53.2 innings, tallying a 3.52 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He got a late start to 2010 as he recovered from that surgery, working slow and increasing his innings gradually over the year. He showed flashes of pure brilliance, though he often allowed too many baserunners, finishing overall with a 4.39 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in 106.2 innings. He was forced to end his season in mid-August with soreness in his pitching elbow. It turned out that he required Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2011 season. DeVall has an incredibly strong, thick body that he uses to generate a ton of torque, and while none of his pitches are above average, he knows how to pitch and gets more out of his ability than most pitchers. It's hard to say he's durable with all the injuries he's piled up, but he does have a body made to eat innings. He'll spend all of next season working on getting back to full strength and hopefully will be ready to show what he can do, unencumbered by injury, soreness, or recovery, in 2012.
9. Ronan Pacheco - B/T: L/L, Born: 7/29/88, Ht: 6'6", Wt: 170 - Pacheco has yet to have a breakout season, but he has as much talent as any of the Braves' young hurlers. This year for Danville, he was 4-6 with a 5.62 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP, and 9.2 K/9 in 57.2 innings. His 6'6" stature allows for great leverage on his low 90s fastball, which he couples with a tight slider and an average changeup, but his skinny frame means he tends to wear down as the game goes on. He also has a lot to learn about how to pitch instead of just throwing, but he's made great strides in his time with the organization. Pacheco will head to Rome to start 2011 as a 22 year old, which makes him old for a prospect, but with his immense physical tools he could put it all together and take off at any time.
T10. Chris Masters - B/T: L/L, Born: 10/1/87, Ht: 6'0", Wt: 225 - After a fantastic season for Danville in 2009, where he had a 1.42 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, and 9.4 K/BB in 69.2 innings, there was a lot of hope for Masters' future and it seemed like he was poised to capitolize on that hope as he began 2010 for Rome by going 1-3 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 65.1 innings before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, things turned around dramatically, as he put up a 2-8 record, 6.50 ERA, and a 1.73 WHIP in 70.2 innings after the break, finishing with a 3-11 record, 4.30 ERA, and a 1.37 ERA in 136 innings overall. The total numbers are decent, but when you consider the drastic split in his first and second half, and that he was 22, which is a bit old for Low A ball, his future prospects aren't as exciting as they once were. Masters has an below average fastball and instead relies on a beavy of breaking pitches, highlighted by his palmball which, when the pitch is on, completely baffles hitters. While his body leaves absolutely no room for projection, it is strong and durable, allowing him to go deep into games when the results allow it. He'll move up to Lynchburg in 2011 and even if he falters again as a starter all indications are that he would be fantastic as a situational lefty, coming in and throwing junk to mess with te timing of lefty sluggers.
T10. Andy Otero - B/T: L/L, Born: 6/3/92, Ht: 5'9", Wt: 160 - For the latter half of 2009 Oter was like a unicorn, a mythical, awe-inspiring sight that very few, if any, had actually laid eyes on. Working as a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League, the tiny southpaw put up some video game like numbers, finishing with a 6-1 record, a 0.84 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and 13.1 K/9 in 64 innings. He was poised to make a splash in the US in 2010, but before he could play his first game in the GCL he felt numbness in his throwing elbow. That numbness caused him to miss the entire season and undergo surgery to transpose the ulnar collateral ligament, a surprisingly common surgery. Otero has drawn comparisons to Mike Hampton for his diminutive size and athleticism, and unfortunately now for is injury history. While his fastball is just average, his curveball is a plus plus pitch that has been described as unhittable numerous times. While he has a lot to learn about pitching and a long road to recovery, Otero is as exciting an arm as there is the the Braves organization. He should be healthy in 2011 and he'll have only just turned 19 when the GCL season starts in June.
Tomorrow we'll have the rest of the top-10.