The future ace of the Atlanta Braves, Julio Teheran.
Talking Chop ranks the top-25 Braves prospects for 2011. For an introduction and an explanation of how this list was compiled, go here. This is our top five ... pretty damn similar to the Baseball America top-5. In fact, it's exactly the same. That was not planned, and this list was not altered, that just what each of us arrived at on our own. I guess that validates what we're doing.
All of these prospects are going to be studs. If I were handing out stars, they would all be five (out of five, with five being the highest) star prospects. We're talking the best right-handed pitching prospect to come out of the system, maybe ever, apologies to Tommy Hanson and Adam Wainwright. The best left-handed starter since Tom Glavine. The best closer since Mark Wohlers, and maybe the best first base prospect we've ever produced. Oh, and another right-handed pitching prospect as good as Tommy Hanson. This group of five is absolutely ridiculous, and the best part is they're all going to be in the Majors at some point this season. THE FUTURE IS NOW!
Talking Chop will also ask anyone who wants to give it a shot to rank your own top-25 Braves prospects, but not in this post. The rank your own post will be coming up shortly, so wait for that one.
1. Julio Teheran, RHSP
The Skinny: His combination of youth, dominant stuff, and command make him one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and one of the most eagerly anticipated pitching prospects in Braves history.
The Good: He has command of an dominant fastball that tops out at 97 and sits 93-94. His change-up is one of the best in the minors and is a true strike out pitch. At 19 years old he was one of the youngest players in each league he appeared in this season and was still dominant.
The Bad: His curve is still inconsistent and he has a tendency to leave it flat and high in the zone. He occasionally telegraphs his change-up, but it's so good he still managed to get swing-and-miss strikes with it. His small frame and herky-jerky mechanics lead some to believe that injuries and durability could be a problem ... we're nitpicking, this kid is a stud with all the tools he needs.
In a perfect world: Teheran is a perennial All-Star and spends the next decade battling Strausburg for Cy Youngs.
ETA: Late 2011 call-up with a shot to stick in 2012.
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
The Skinny: Started the year slow in Gwinnett as the second youngest player in the International League, and finished in the top five in doubles, runs batted in, bating average, on base percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage before making his major league debut.
The Good: He is young with good contact skills and power to the gaps, which translates into lot of doubles that should eventually turn into homeruns. Doesn't strike out much and plays excellent defense at first base.
The Bad: His gap power may or may not translate into above average home run power at a position where home run power is expected. He could stand to take some more walks.
In a perfect world: He develops the above average power for the position and spends the next decade in Atlanta hitting .300 with 30 HR and collecting gold gloves.
ETA: Now. Barring a complete meltdown he will be Atlanta's starting first baseman in 2011.
3. Randall Delgado, RHSP
The Skinny: Put together a fantastic 2010 season that saw him lead the Carolina League in strikeouts (plus several other categories) before being promoted to Mississippi where he more than held his own as a 20 year old.
The Good: He features a plus fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s and tops out at 96. His curve and change-up both have the potential to be plus pitches. His youth and slender frame lend themselves to more projection as he fills out.
The Bad: His control wavers (4.1 BB/9 in AA) from time to time which takes the edge off his off-speed pitches, which in turns leads to him getting hit harder.
In a perfect world: Delgado overcomes his control problems and he becomes an ace and a workhorse for the next decade, second on the team to only Julio Teheran.
ETA: He could be one of the first young Atlanta pitching prospects to make his Major League debut for the Braves in 2011, now that he is on the 40-man roster. Should see the Majors at some point in 2011.
4. Mike Minor, LHSP
The Skinny: The Braves' top selection in the 2009 draft dominated AA and AAA in 2010 before finishing the season in Atlanta.
The Good: A change back to his preferred mechanics led to increased speed on his fastball. Tight curveball is a well above average pitch and changeup is very solid. Has a great feel for pitching and approaches every batter with a game plan.
The Bad: Wore down as the season went on, but that shouldn't be a problem going forward. It remains to be seen if his increased velocity was a fluke or if it's here to stay.
In a perfect world: Minor becomes a top of the rotation lefty who is just as successful as his former Vanderbilt teammate David Price.
ETA: Now. After ending 2010 in Atlanta's rotation, Minor win the team's fifth starter in 2011 Spring Training.
5. Craig Kimbrel, RHRP
The Skinny: Spent 2010 bouncing between Gwinnett and Atlanta, striking out hitters at record setting levels at both stops before finishing the year under Billy Wagner's tutelage, and as a go-to reliever for Bobby Cox
The Good: His fastball is one of the best in the game right now, topping out at 98 with heavy sink. He has been called a right-handed version of Billy Wagner. His ‘slider' (he calls it a curve) is an above average pitch that is made better by his fastball.
The Bad: With the explosive stuff comes the struggle to harness it. He has made progress controlling his wildness and limiting his walks (especially late in the season in Atlanta) but he still struggles enough that there will be implosions.
In a perfect world: He becomes effectively wild à la Mark Wohlers and is the elite closer the Braves have needed to develop since Smoltz left the role.
ETA: Now. After making the 2010 playoff roster for the Braves, Kimbrel will be given every shot to earn the Braves closer's spot in 2011.