Part one of the Talking Chop Atlanta Braves mid-season top-25 prospects begins today with numbers 11 through 25. The top-10 will be posted tomorrow, at which time we encourage all commenters to post their own top-25 list. (Current year stats for each player appear after that player's review. Stats are through games of the 12th of July.)
11. J.J. Hoover, RHP
A pessimistic way to describe Hoover is that he's so solid he's boring. It's true, there isn't a lot of flash to his game, he has an average low 90s fastball and his secondary pitches are all solid and effective, but not overpowering, still, he's consistently gotten the job done. His big frame allows him to be a workhorse. He's having the best season of his career at AA, though he was knocked around in a pair of spot starts in AAA. The Braves have recently converted him to relief, a position he's likely to be incredibly valuable at as a Major Leauger, and he's giving credence to that by dominating out of the pen so far. With the move to the pen, there's a chance he could end up in Atlanta before the end of this season, and because he's so solid and consistent he's one of the best bets on this list to have success as a Major Leaguer.
12. Zeke Spruill, RHP
The tall skinny right-hander has had a great year so far. He bounced back from his wall punching indecent last year, and has been one of the best pitchers at Lynchburg. His ERA and BAA are some of the best in the organization, and have gotten better as the year has gone on. While he can strike people out he's become more of a pitch to contact guy with a good ground ball rate, and a pleasantly low walk rate. Spruill still has room on his lanky frame to add muscle over the off-season. He should get the bump up to Mississippi at some point this year.
13. Cory Gearrin, RHP
After leading Gwinnett in appearances last season, the sidearming righty returned there to start this year, and improved on his already good numbers. Injuries in Atlanta led to his first chance in the Majors. He pitched well, though a bit of roster shuffling left him back in AAA. He's back in Atlanta and seems to have locked down a spot in the bullpen, though a poor performance the Sunday before the All-Star break doubled his ERA. Because of his delivery style, all of his pitches have ridiculous side-to-side break and he's a groundball machine. As this season wears on he's likely to assume the ground ball specialist that Peter Moylan's injured back has left vacant, and there's a chance he could take that spot permanently if the Australian becomes too expensive through arbitration.
14. Mycal Jones, CF
The organization spent the last year moving Jones from shortstop to second base to center field. This year has been kind of a lost year for Jones, as he missed time early with an injury, and then during the season because of a suspension. Until recently he's kept his approach to the plate a good one, drawing plenty of walks despite a low batting average. He has good speed and a quick bat that should produce good doubles power, but he needs to settle in and have a stand out season, and so far that hasn't happened.
15. Andrelton Simmons, SS
When the Braves drafted Simmons, they wanted him as a pitcher, but they were only able to bring him into the fold by allowing him to first take a crack at playing shortstop. So far, so good, as he was Danville's Co-MVP last season and a Carolina League All-Star this season. Defensively he's Major League quality right now, with the speed to get to most any ball hit his way and an absolute howitzer for an arm. As a hitter, he's been adept at making contact, though he doesn't have any power, and while he doesn't strike out much, he also rarely walks. Because of his skinny frame, there's a question about whether or not he'll be able to drive at the higher levels, so next season at AA will be a true test for him. If he can develop enough as a hitter to put up something close to a .700 OPS as a Major Leaguer, his defense will make him a valuable asset. If he can't, well, he has a 95 MPH fastball to fall back on.
16. Adam Milligan, OF
Milligan is one of the most frustrating players in the organization. When healthy, he's a slugging machine, crashing balls both off and over the wall. Unfortunately, he's rarely been healthy. He missed his first season in 2008 with a knee injury, which led to a late start in 2009 that didn't stop him from decimating three levels of play. He started 2010 at Myrtle Beach hoping to have a full, healthy season, but severely injured his shoulder diving for a ball, which caused him to miss the season from May on. He returned to High A with Lynchburg this season and while he's continued to show he can be a dominant power hitter in the middle of the lineup, he's also continued to show that he's susceptible to injuries, missing large chunks of time with various ailments. Milligan's biggest opposition is his own body, if he can find a way to stay healthy he's got the kind of premiere bat teams covet. He will have to cut down on his strikeouts as he moves up the ladder, but some of those can be attributed to trying to hard to make up for lost time in a single at bat. Defensively he's average at best, unlikely to hurt you, but also unlikely to add much positive on that side of the ball. If he could put together a full healthy season, Milligan would rocket toward the top of this list, but that's been a huge if for him so far.
17. Joe Terdoslovich, 1B/OF
At 6'0", 200 pounds, Terdoslavich isn't that big of a guy, but he's shown a ton of power, hitting 44 extra base hits already this season. He can fall into the habit of taking an all-or-nothing swing, but overall he's a solid hitter, and if he can show that kind of power up the ladder his walk totals will increase. A real plus is that he hasn't show a propensity for strikeouts so far in his career. Defensively, he began as a third baseman but was far from adequate there, forcing a move across the diamond. He's average at best at first base, though he tends to have a stiff mitt. An eventual move to left field might be best, as it would lessen his defensive impact while allowing his bat to shine. He'll finish out his first full season with Lynchburg, before moving up to Mississippi next season, where hopefully he'll continue to show the kind of double and over the fence power he's shown this season.
18. Dimasther Delgado, LHP
The Braves were excited enough about Delgado's potential to skip him from the GCL to Rome for the 2009 season, where he had an up and down year with mostly positive reports. He was set to take a second crack at that level in 2010 before an offseason automobile accident broke his left leg, causing him to miss the entire year. He was good enough in Spring Training this season that the team moved him up to Lynchburg and, despite the rust, he's held his own and shown the flashes of skill he had before the missed time. None of his pitches -- a fastball, curveball, and changeup -- are plus pitches, but he knows how to use them, utilizing an extreme overhand delivery to get maximum leverage and movement. For him, the rest of this year is about building up innings and getting back to full strength and he'll likely head back to Lynchburg to start 2012, where a hot start could lead to a quick promotion.
19. Brandon Drury, 3B
After being drafted in the 13th round last season, Drury struggled as a 17 year old in the Gulf Coast League, but this season, he's more than holding his own as the youngest player on Danville's roster. He's often referred to as a "baseball rat", though Oregon's climate didn't give him much of a chance to play regularly as an amateur. He's certainly aggressive at the plate, though patience is a tool that can be learned as he moves up the ladder. He wasn't athletic enough to play shortstop at a pro, and he's more than solid at the hot corner. Drury is one of the youngest players in the system and could turn out to be a steal. For him, the goal is to learn and improve with each successive year, to refine his natural skill, and if he becomes a Major League it will be a major coup for the Braves scouting department.
20. Andy Otero, LHP
In 2009, Otero put up video game numbers as a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League, so there was a lot of excitement for his US debut last season. Unfortunately, he was forced to have transpositional ligament surgery on his pitching elbow, which caused him to miss the entire year. He's back to full strength this season, though the rust is showing as he's allowing a lot of hits and runs. But, he's also putting up the good strikeout totals and low walk totals he did a few years ago, a good indication that he'll return to form once he's a little further removed from the surgery. Physically, he's drawn comparisons to Mike Hampton, both for his height and extreme athleticism, though ironically not for his injury history. On the mound, he won't impress you with his fastball, which sits in the high 80s, but he uses it effectively to set up an unhittable 12-6 curveball. He'll use the rest of this season to get back into pitching shape and hopefully break camp next season with Rome.
21. Todd Cunningham, OF
Injuries have cost Cunningham some time this year, so I'm not sure if we've seen a true representation of what he can do. A very slow start stunts his overall season stats, but he caught on fire in May before getting hurt. He might be like a high-ceiling version of Cory Harrilchak, though neither player has hit for much power. Cunningham should find more power in his bat, but he may move slower than previously expected, as he is taking more time to adjust to pro ball.
22. Billy Bullock, RHP
He becomes a bit of a forgotten prospect for two reasons, he's only been in the Braves system for a few months, and a quick glance at his ERA doesn't look too impressive. Bullock was acquired from the Twins in exchange for Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond at the end of spring training this year. While the 4.89 ERA is not impressive, the 49 strikeouts in 35 innings are, as well as the .218 opponents average. Like other Braves relievers Bullock must control his walks, but the 6'6" prospect has the power arm to be a quality Major League relief pitcher in the very near future.
23. Juan Abreu, RHP
Many were shocked when the Braves signed Abreu as a Minor League free agent before the 2010 season and added him to their 40 man roster. Little in his career with the Royals would have suggested he could become a Major League pitcher, but the Braves were rewarded nicely as he had a fine year with Mississippi. He moved up to AAA this season, and has been even better, striking out hitter after hitter while working as a set-up man. He can light up the radar gun, hitting the high 90s with ease, though the Braves have taught him to back off his pitches, a strategy that has led to improved control. His secondary stuff is average at best, but with his fastball they're more than enough. It's surprising it hasn't happened already, but he should get a chance to show his ability in Atlanta at some point this year, and he'll go into Spring Training in 2012 with a great chance at earning a spot in the bullpen.
24. J.R. Graham, RHP
The only player Talking Chop ranks in it's mid-season list from the 2011 draft class. Graham is one of many relievers the Braves selected this year, but he stands out because of his high velocity, good projection, and resemblance to the Braves current closer. He's an undersized guy, and rough around the edges, but the Braves are adept at turning raw ability like his into a Major League product. He'll need to develop a good secondary pitch, but his slider is promising, and the Braves should be able to teach him how to throw a good change-up that can compliment his high-90s fastball.
25. David Rohm, OF
After being selected in the 9th round last year, Rohm tore up the GCL before moving up to Danville and holding his own until a broken foot ended his season. This year, he started slowly, but has gotten better with each month, showing more and more of the potential the team sees in him. He hasn't shown the kind of power you'd expect from a player with at 6'3", 215 pound frame, but he has a solid swing and there's every reason to believe he'll be able to tap into his strength eventually. He's a solid defender who's more than capable of handling right field. Hopefully he can continue to improve this season, and really break out next year at Lynchburg.
The rest of the top Braves prospects will be posted tomorrow.