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Prospect of the Day: Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta Braves

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March 4, 2012; Lakeland, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky (1) fields a ground ball in the game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
March 4, 2012; Lakeland, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky (1) fields a ground ball in the game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Prospect of the Day: Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves open the 2012 season with rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky holding the key position up the middle. Let's take a look at his past, present, and future.

Pastornicky was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round in 2008, from high school in Bradenton, Florida. He stole 57 bases while hitting .270 in his first professional season in A-ball, then was traded to Atlanta midway through the 2010 season as part of the Alex Gonzalez/Yunel Escobar deal. He came into his own in 2011, hitting .299/.345/.414 in 90 games for Double-A Mississippi, followed by a .365/.407/.413 mark in 27 games for Triple-A Gwinnett, combining for 27 steals. Although he hit just .227/.272/.413 in 24 spring training games, the Braves are comfortable with his defense and will be patient with the bat this year.

Pastornicky is a 5-11, 170 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born December 13, 1989. He is the son of former major leaguer Cliff Pastornicky, and his baseball family background shows up in his instincts and feeling for the game. Scouts rate his range and hands as above-average for shortstop. His arm is average, but accurate. On offense, Pastornicky is adept at making contact and doesn't strike out much, but doesn't draw a huge number of walks, lacks distance power, and isn't going to be a slugger. His improved numbers last year could have been a result of a lucky BABIP (batting average on balls in play).

The Braves will be happy if Pastornicky can hit .250 with 15-20 steals and solid defense. At age 22, he is young enough to improve considerably, but expectations for 2012 should be kept reasonable.