Braves NRI In-Depth: Zeke Spruill

Zeke Spruill will look to build on his promising 2011 by starting 2012 back in AA Mississippi's rotation.

The Braves have always thought highly of Zeke Spruill's talent. They selected him in the second round of the 2008 out of high school, and he quickly showed his potential with an All-Star season for Rome in 2009. Unfortunately, he also showed his youth and immaturity, as he earned a month-long demotion to the Gulf Coast League that season for repeatedly breaking team rules. Things got worse in 2010, as he not only pitched poorly, but missed half of the season after breaking his hand punching a wall in frustration. Fortunately, Spruill turned himself around and contributed a fine 2011 season, that saw him post a 3.19 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 129.2 innings for High A Lynchburg, then follow that with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 45 innings with AA Mississippi. He also showed off his durability, tossing 6 complete games during the season and averaging over 6 innings per start.

Spruill's stuff is only average, a low 90s fastball paired with a changeup and a slider, but he makes the most of it with a bulldog mentality, attacking the hitters, forcing them to put the ball in play, allowing his defense to work behind him. With his immaturity issues seemingly, hopefully, behind him, Spruill was able to re-establish himself as one of Atlanta's most solid prospects, as he is easy to project either as an innings eating back of the rotation starter or a more than solid bullpen contributor.

This is his first invitation to Major League Spring Training, and while he'll begin 2012 back in Mississippi's rotation with a number of talented young pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart, Spruill can do a lot for his career by making a good impression during camp. He's likely to end up with AAA Gwinnett before the season is over, and under the right set of circumstances, he could see time on Atlanta's roster.

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