Atlanta Braves A-Ball Pitching Staffs
The Braves are well-known for their concentration on pitching development. They've collected another intriguing group of arms at the lower levels of their system. Here is a look at pitchers who are likely to see action for Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina League) and Class A Rome (South Atlantic League) in 2010.
Let's play farm director.
Obviously we don't know exactly where pitchers are going to be assigned, but we can take some educated guesses. This also assumes that everyone is healthy heading into April.
Candidates for Myrtle Beach Pitching Staff
Dimaster Delgado, LHP: From Panama, turns 21 in March, posted a 3.61 ERA with a 104/26 K/BB in 100 innings for Rome last year. His stuff is mediocre but he throws strikes. Likely destined for the bullpen in the long run, could be a spot starter or long reliever at Myrtle Beach. My guess is that he'll continue to pitch well in A-ball but that Double-A will be a rougher challenge.
Randall Delgado, RHP: Just turned 20, another guy from Panama, 4.35 ERA with a 141/49 K/BB in 124 innings last year for Rome. Has very good stuff, and he pitched better than the ERA indicated last year, as his 3.20 FIP shows. Strong Grade B prospect and could have a true breakthrough this year.
David Francis, RHP: Francis didn't fully live up to expectations last year. The 22 year old was a 12th round pick from Walters State CC in '08 and I thought he was a big breakthrough guy, but he put up just so-so numbers at Rome and got knocked around due to control problems in four starts for Myrtle Beach. He'll try again at that level in '10, but he could be destined for relief work.
Ty'Relle Harris, RHP: This University of Tennessee product is already 23, drafted last year in the 19th round. He has a 90 MPH fastball and a good slider, and performed well in brief action for Rome. I'd move him up to the MB bullpen given his age, where he'd pitch short relief and maybe pick up some saves.
J.J. Hoover, RHP: Hoover posted a 148/25 K/BB with a 3.35 ERA for Rome last year. He'll move up to MB in '10 and help anchor the rotation with sharp control of his 90-92 MPH heater and slider, curveball, changeup arsenal. If he pitches well in the first half, I'd move him up to Double-A in the second half. I like him a lot.
Chris Masters, LHP: An 11th round pick out of Western Carolina last year, Masters posted an 85/9 K/BB in 70 innings for Danville in the Appy League. He might end up getting assigned to Rome, but given his age (22) and exceptional command I would be willing to give him a shot in the MB rotation right away. His stuff is decent but not spectacular, but his command was terrific in his first pro look and the lower levels aren't likely to be much of a challenge for him.
Mike Minor, LHP: Minor looked terrific in four starts for Rome last year after signing out of Vanderbilt, but got knocked around a bit in the Arizona Fall League when his command within the strike zone slipped.. There has been talk of him beginning the season in Double-A but if I were running things, I'd send him to MB to begin '10, with the idea of promoting him to Double-A after eight or ten starts (assuming he pitches well). Yes, my philosophy regarding pitcher development is conservative and cautious, but I'd rather push a guy too slowly than push him too quickly.
Angelo Paulino, RHP: A 23 year old Dominican signed in 2006, Paulino posted a 2.67 ERA with a 79/27 K/BB ratio in 64 innings for Rome last year, working out of the bullpen. He'll fill in a similar role at MB, and if he continues to post impressive K/IP and H/IP marks he's a relief sleeper going forward.
Zeke Spruill, RHP: Just 20 years old, Spruill had a solid year for Rome last year (3.03, 95/24 K/BB in 116 innings, 120 hits) though he hasn't thrown as hard as he did in high school. His command is sharp though, and he's ready to take the plunge at MB. Remains very projectable.
ROTATION: Minor, Hoover, Spruill, R. Delgado, Masters
BULLPEN: D. Delgado, Francis, Harris, Paulino.
The roles on this staff seem pretty clear-cut, with D. Delgado starting off in relief but moving into the rotation when/if Minor and Hoover move up to Double-A.
Candidates for Rome Pitching Staff
Thomas Berryhill, RHP: 22 year old with a 92-95 MPH fastball and college experience as a closer, Berryhill should anchor the Rome bullpen with a mid-season promotion to MB possible if he pitches well. His secondary pitches and overall command need work, so for this reason I'd start him at the lower level.
Caleb Brewer, RHP: Candidate for rotation, the 21 year old Brewer was just in the GCL last year recovering after missing all of '08 with a hip injury, but he needs to move ahead in '10 and a jump up to full-season ball seems reasonable to me. Picks up strikeouts (63 in 45 innings last year) and is tough to hit (20 hits), but he walks too many guys (31) and refining his command is necessary. He needs innings to do that, hence his spot in the theoretical Rome rotation, although Tyler Stovall (see below) needs innings too.
Brett DeVall, LHP: A classic projectable southpaw, DeVall made 10 starts at Rome last year with moderate success (3.52 ERA, 41/14 K/BB in 54 innings) before going down with elbow and forearm problems. Assuming he's healthy, I'd send him back to Rome for another 10 starts minimum, to build his stamina back up in a familiar environment He's still just 20, so a return engagement to the Sally League remains age-appropriate.
David Hale, RHP: Drafted in the third round out of Princeton last year, the 22 year old Hale has a hot fastball but inconsistent secondary pitches and seems better-suited for relief work than starting. I'd groom him as a closer, and would use him in that role for Rome, with a mid-season promotion to MB on the table if he pitches well.
Robinson Lopez, RHP: Lopez was in the Gulf Coast League last year and pitched great, with a 1.29 ERA and a 42/12 K/BB in 49 innings. He turns 19 in March and isn't guaranteed a spot in full-season ball to begin the year: he may start off in extended spring and report to Danville in June. But for our purposes here we will assign him to a long relief role at Rome, with a promotion to the rotation on tap should one of the starters get injured or promoted to higher level. Lopez has a 90-94 MPH and his secondary stuff is promising, if inconsistent.
Brett Oberholtzer, LHP: Oberholzter turns 21 in July and was very successful last year in the Appy League (1.89 ERA, 62/7 K/BB in 76 innings, 51 hits). A finesse lefty, he would make a nice complement to the younger fireballers like Teheran and Vizcaino in the rotation. He would be a candidate for promotion to MB by mid-season assuming he pitches well.
Cory Rasmus, RHP: Injuries almost ruined Rasmus' career before it got started, but he came back last year and pitched well in the Appy League (3.48 ERA, 57/28 K/BB in 52 innings, 34 hits). He doesn't throw as hard as he once did, and isn't as good of a prospect at this point as the other rotation candidates. I'd use him in long relief with a rotation spot possible when other guys get hurt or move up. He's still just 22.
Tyler Stovall, LHP: Stovall picks up strikeouts (57 in 52 innings for Danville last year) but walks just as many as he whiffs (56). He somehow managed a 3.12 ERA, but that won't last unless the walks come down. The stuff is here, and like Caleb Brewer he needs innings to iron out his flaws. Perhaps he could be used in a dual role with Brewer, alternating starting and relief assignments. 20 years old.
Julio Teheran, RHP: Teheran made seven starts last year at Rome with spotty results (4.78 ERA, 28/11 K/BB in 38 innings, 42 hits), but he's got an outstanding arm. He's only 19, and as far as I'm concerned he needs a full-season at Rome, given that his performance hasn't quite matched his press clippings at times. He would be the Opening Day starter for me.
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: Another 19 year old with a terrific arm, Vizcaino's ceiling is right there with Teheran's but he's had more success so far as a pro. Like Teheran, I think he needs a full year at Rome, although since his past track record is better I might be inclined to promote him more readily if he pitches well. That's a hell of a one-two punch in the first two rotation spots.
ROTATION: Teheran, Vizcaino, Oberholtzer, DeVall, Brewer or Stovall
BULLPEN: Berryhill, Hale, Lopez, Rasmus, Stovall or Brewer.
The roles look less defined on this staff once you get past the obvious assignments, with Lopez, Rasmus, Stovall, and Brewer all worthy of time in the rotation but with only two spots to share behind the top four.
Overall, the A-ball level looks very impressive in terms of pitching depth for the Braves. And these are just the obvious names that show up on prospect lists; there are other organization arms that could slot in, too. The bottom line is that both Myrtle Beach and Rome should have pitching staffs composed entirely of pitchers with major league potential, without much filler fodder.