The Braves' hitting depth on the farm is slim across the board but in 2010 1B was one of the bright spots for the farm system based solely on the performance of one man. There isn't much depth here, much like the rest of the non-pitching spots of the diamond, but hopefully because of the man at the top of the list the Braves won't need much depth for the next 5 years.
1. Freddie Freeman – B/T: L/R, Born: 09/12/1989, Ht: 6'5" Wt: 225 – At this point everyone knows about Freddie Freeman. He was the 'Salt' to Jason Heyward's 'Pepper' from the time they were drafted in 2007 until this year when Heyward was promoted to the majors and Freddie was sent to AAA to reestablish his prospect status after a rough showing at Mississippi in 2009. Coming into 2010 a lot of people had a lot of questions about what to expect from Freddie. His showing in AA was disappointing but it could be attributed to an injured wrist. But how much was the wrist and how much was him being overmatched? In 2010 he did everything he could to put all questions to rest. He played the entire year as the second youngest player in the league and finished in the top 5 in Avg, OBP, OPS, 2B, RBI and a myriad of other offensive categories. If you prefer advanced metrics he posted a .202 ISOP and a .382 wOBA. He also sustained a .360 BABIP which some would say accounts for his excellent numbers, but a closer look reveals two things. First that .360 is in line with his career BABIPs of .351 and .343 in Rome and Myrtle Beach. Secondly, that number is also supported by a crazy high line drive rate at 26%. There wasn't much negative to say about Freeman but some will point to his 8.3% walk rate isn't incredibly impressive though he has kept that number fairly static as he moved up the ladder. Most questions about his future revolve around his power output. Will his swing limit him to being a 20-25 HR guy or will all those doubles turn him into a 30-35 HR guy? If you consider his numbers like age relative to league, doubles and the poor offensive environments he has played in future added power seems likely though his detractors point more to his swing path than his production. If he develops just average power for the position his defense will make him an above average asset at the position maybe even next year. Barring a complete collapse of his skills expect to see Freddie Freeman manning 1B in Atlanta in 2010 and for the next half decade alongside his Pepper, Jason Heyward.
2. Edison Sanchez – B/T: R/R, Born: 11/01/1990, Ht: 6'4" Wt: 195 – Edison Sanchez being the Braves' 2nd best 1B prospect is more a product of the lack of depth the Braves have at the position than of Sanchez's true talent. While he may not be a star prospect, Edison may be the biggest sleeper in the Braves' system. He was Braves' DSL player of the year in 2009 after posting a .900 OPS with an elite walk rate ( 16.7%) and a K rate worth keeping an eye on (20.6%). In 2010 he made the transition to the United States via the GCL and had was having a fine season until he ran into an injury in July which caused him to miss about half of the season. Before his injury Sanchez was having another excellent year posting a walk rate above 20% and a wOBA above .400 in just over 50PA. He returned in August from the injury but never got back on track posting a .383 OPS in 11 games in with just 1 XBH. When he has been healthy Sanchez has shown the ability to take tons of walks, hit for good power and strike out a lot. He is still young and could develop in a lot of directions, but he has some very interesting skills and has played both 1B and 3B so far (no report on the defense there). He will spend all of 2011 as a 20 year and will most likely start in Danville, though the Braves have not been shy about pushing young players to Rome in recent seasons.
3. Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg – B/T: R/R, Born: 02/08/1988, Ht: 6'2" Wt: 235 – Better known to most Talking Chop readers as RSF, he spent all of 2010 at Rome after demolishing the Appalachian League in his professional debut in 2009. In 2010 RSF broke his hand the first week of the season and missed nearly 3 months recovering from it. When he did return he never really got it going and in fact his performance deteriorated as the season wore on ending with a .603 OPS in August. It is very difficult to make a judgment on his year because of how difficult hand injuries are to come back from. What he does bring to the table most days doesn't blow you out of the water. He has solid but unspectacular tools across the board with good contact ability, an OK walk rate and below average power for the position. He did post an extreme Home/Road split for the year with .806/.585 OPSs respectively. There may be some hope yet for Riaan, but 2011 will be a make or break year for him. The Braves will probably push him to Myrtle Beach due to his age and younger players moving up behind him.