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Braves Top-10 Minor League Left Handed Starting Pitching Prospects (1-5)

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After starting 2010 in Mississippi, Mike Minor has a good chance to start 2011 in Atlanta.
After starting 2010 in Mississippi, Mike Minor has a good chance to start 2011 in Atlanta.

1. Mike Minor - B/T: R/L, Born: 12/26/87, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 210 - When the Braves selected Minor with the 7th overall pick in 2009, there was a bit of an outcry, with some suggesting that the team could have done better than selecting a soft-tossing lefty with little upside. Minor did his best to silence his detractors in 2010, as he started off by attacking the soft-tossing tag by striking out 11.3 batters per 9 innings in 87 innings for Mississippi. Overall with the M-Braves he had a 2-6 record, a 4.03 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP, and he got even better after a promotion to Gwinnett where he went 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 0.93 ERA in 33.1 innings. His great work, combined with a season-ending injury to Kris Medlen and Kenshin Kawakami's ineffectiveness, led to a promotion to Atlanta, as he made his Major League deubt on August 9th, just over a year after signing with the organization. Unfortunately, he appeared tired for most of his time with Atlanta. After pitching 124 innings in 2009 between Vanderbilt and Rome, he had already pitched 120 in the Minor Leagues in 2010 when he was called up, and the extra 40 he pitched in August and September appeared to be just a bit too much. Still, he wasn't awful, putting up a 3-2 record, a 5.98 ERA, and a 1.57 WHIP. Minor found extra life on his fastball this year, leading to the increase in strikeouts, stemming from a change in his arm delivery, working at an arm angle the Vanderbilt coaches had prevented him from using. The new angle let his fastball move from the 88 to 91 range up into the 93 to 95 range with much better movement. Coupled with his tight curveball and solid changeup, both of which he is able to pitch with at different speeds, this was a devestating change. Despite logging just 134.1 innings in the Minor League, Minor really has little left to prove on the farm and seems like the best candidate for Atlanta's 5th spot in the rotation. Whether or not his velocity will remain in the mid-90s remains to be seen, but he's certainly a polished, knowledgable pitcher who can live without superior stuff.

2. Carlos Perez - B/T: L/L, Born: 11/20/91, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 195 - After a less than stellar 2009 in the GCL, where he had a 5.28 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in 30.2 innings, very few were excited about Perez's prospects. So the lanky lefty's performance in 2010 came as a surprise to many, as he combined to go 2-1 with a 1.12 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 39 innings between Danville and Rome. But, after just 2 starts for Rome, he was forced onto the shelt and ultimately ended up having surger to correct a fractured right shoulder blade. This injury, which affects the non-throwing shoulder blade, is somewhat common, and Perez should be healthy and ready in time for Spring Training in 2011. His long, wiry frame allows him to sling the ball in the mid-90s, and while his offspeed pitches need work, he has a good feel for pitching and a better than normal idea of what he wants to accomplish on the mound. Because of the injury he'll likely get a late start to next season, probably making his debut with Rome at some point in May, and because he's only pitched 69.2 innings as a professional he will be brought along slowly, but Perez is a real bright spot in the Atlanta organization.

The rest of the list after the jump:

3. Brett Oberholtzer - B/T: L/L, Born: 7/1/89, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 190 - Since being drafted in the 8th round in 2008, Oberholtzer has made steady progress through the system, with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 37.1 innings in the GCL in 2008 and a 2.01 ERA and a .0.78 WHIP in 67 innings for Danville in 2009 before posting a 4.15 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 112.2 innings for Myrtle Beach this season. He missed a month with a leg injury and put up a 1.96 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 23 rehab innings in the GCL. He has a thick, strong body that allows him to push his fastball into the low 90s and he has great command of his breaking pitches, particularly his 12 to 6 curveball. While his numbers with Myrtle Beach aren't overly impressive, the fact that he put up solid numbers despite skipping Low A and working around an injury is very impressive and indicative of the bulldog mentality the Oberholtzer takes to the game. He's as mentally tough as they come and while he'll likely continue to be overlooked by some of the more flashy prospects, he has as good a chance to contribute at the Major League level as anyone.

4. Scott Diamond - B/T: L/L, Born: 7/30/86, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 215 - Diamond has never recieved much of any attention, but all he's done is persevere. After being signed as a non-drafted free agent, the Canadian has compiled a 3.28 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 442.1 innings over 3 seasons. He started 2010 with Mississippi, where he had put up a 3.50 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in 158.2 innings in 2009, and pitched basically the same, with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in 102.1 innings. He actually improved after a promotion to Gwinnett, going 4-1 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 56.1 innings. While his stuff is just barely average, Diamond knows how to pitch, utlilizing every ounce of his ability to his benefit. His big frame allows him to be a workhorse, as he's consistently been one of the top inning-eaters in the organization. Diamond's chances in the Majors depend on his guile and if other players like Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy falter in the 5th spot in the rotation he could be a vialbe option.

5. Steve Kent - B/T: L/L, Born 5/8/89, Ht: 6'0", Wt: 170 - The Braves have made many forays into Australia attempting to mine talent, yet their only success so far has been Damian Moss, who took 8 years to develop and was promptly traded for Russ Ortiz after his rookie season. Kent hopes to change that trend, though he's had his own ups and downs, missing all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He got a late start to 2010 and began the year working out of the bullpen. He was surprisingly effective and as the year went on his innings increased until he eventually started his last 3 appearances. He finished the year with a 0.69 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, and 6.8 K/BB in 39.1 innings. He has very little experience, tossing just 160.2 innings in 5 professional seasons, but used his recovery time to learn more about pitching, leading to his increased effectiveness upon his return. His stuff is just average, so the better he knows how to use it the better his chances of realizing his full potential. He'll look to move up to Lynchburg in 2011, possibly pairing with countryman Matt Kennelly, though his innings will still be closely watched. Predicting Kent's future is nearly impossible, he's so inexperience that he could suddenly take off, but he hasn't been tested enough to really have failed.