John Sickels has released his list of the top-50 hitting prospects and his list of the top-50 pitching prospects in the minor leagues. The list is part of what you get when you order his 2008 Prospect Book, a book I highly recommend if you are interested in minor league players. You can still order a copy over at his site.
Last year the top Braves minor leaguer on his list was Elvis Andrus, who came in at number 27, followed closely by Eric Campbell at 30 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia at 34. On the top-50 pitching list from last year our top minor league pitcher was Matt Harrison at number 41, with Joey Devine just making the list at 48.
This year the top Braves hitter once again came in at number 27. Jason Heyward ranks as that top Braves minor league hitter with Jordan Schafer following right behind him at number 28. Brandon Jones also made the list at number 31, and rounding out the top-50 is Brent Lillibridge at number 50. The only Braves minor league pitcher on the list was Tommy Hanson at number 31.
Only two of the prospects we traded away made the lists this year. Elvis Andrus ranked at number 22 on the hitters list and Matt Harrison came in at 28 on the pitchers list.
I like these all-MiLB lists since they show us where our prospects rank in comparison with the rest of the young players in the minors. Both Heyward and Schafer make strong debuts in the middle of the list, especially Heyward who was the third highest hitter listed from last year's draft, after only 12 games of minor league baseball.
These lists also show the real strength of our minor leagues, which currently resides with our hitting prospects. I suspect that the young pitchers will begin to take back their place as the organizational strength in the next couple of years when guys like Rohrbough, Locke, Evarts and others matriculate to the higher minor leagues.
If nothing else, this list should reassure many Braves fans that we still have plenty of good young talent in our minor leagues, despite trading away what seems like an entire starting lineup of minor leaguers.