After the run of championships came to an end a few seasons ago for the Atlanta Braves, one of the main reasons was due to a once rich farm system full of prospects suddenly drying up. A well run franchise like this can’t be held down for too long and this is showing true as the Braves day of rebirth is very near. Normally overloaded with pitching, we have seen a definite change as the Braves system is now full of offensive weapons for the first time in years. While the Braves are attempting to fix the lack of pitching on their roster through trades this off season they know full well the fantastic group of position players waiting in the wings. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five prospects in the Atlanta Braves system:
1.) Jason Heyward
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #1
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 220
Scouting Report: Talented young outfielder has harnessed very strong plate discipline with huge power potential thanks to a strong and athletic build. With potential plus power (despite lower than expected power numbers in 2008), looks to be a 30+ home run hitter for Atlanta. Has the tools to be a star in the Majors and will shoot through the Atlanta system fairly quickly. My analysis last year was that he could possibly slide over to first base with Jeff Francoeur currently in right but with Francoeur’s struggles last season I don’t see that being on their minds any longer. This is especially the case since Heyward is a good outfielder with an above-average arm and decent speed. Everything you ever hear about him is what a good attitude he has which is great to hear about a talent like him.
2.) Frederick Freeman
Position: First Base | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: NR
Bats: Left | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 220
Scouting Report: Nobody was sure what to expect from Freddie Freeman in his first full season of pro ball in 2008 considering he was only 18 years old. But after a good first half of the season he exploded in the second half posting a line of .349/.418/.562. This got scouts (including myself) to sit up and take extra notice as most kids his age experience growing pains in their first year. Freeman’s maturity and discipline help with his outstanding pitch recognition and selection at the plate. Because of this he should be able to hit for a high average in large part due to his ability to drive the ball. He will be able to hold his own in the middle of the Braves lineup someday as a run producer. Also is a good defensive first baseman which makes him all the more valuable. With how good he has proven to be at such a young age he has set quite a high ceiling for himself which is exciting if you are a Braves fan.
3.) Tommy Hanson
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #5
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 210
Scouting Report: The Braves are hoping this tall, lanky right hander turns out to be their future ace. Hanson has a plus-fastball with good movement in the mid-90’s, a solid change, and a “knee-buckling” curve that is one of the best in the game today to top things off. He has a very commanding presence on the mound which when coupled with the ability to throw all his pitches for strikes makes him very difficult to hit. I have seen some places that he may be given a chance to close first but I don’t see this happening considering he is looked at as a ace in the making and the Braves value starting pitching too much to do that.
4.) Jordan Schafer
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #2
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190
Scouting Report: Schafer is yet another solid young outfield prospect in the Braves system. He possess the ability to hit for both average and power and the ball seems to just jump off his bat. While he does have a few mechanical issues in his swing (pulls the ball too much and slower bat speed based on his approach) it isn’t anything that can’t be tinkered with as he moves through the ranks. Has an above average arm and a pretty good outfielder. Looks to be a very serious threat offensively for the Braves in their future lineup. The problem lies in the dark shadow Schafer has cast on himself after serving a 50 game suspension for using HGH last April. Many people, like myself, were very high on this kid but once the label of “cheater” is permanently stained on you it takes a lot to make things right again even after owning up to your mistakes. He still has a bright future ahead of him either with the Braves or used as trade bait as has been rumored lately.
5.) Gorkys Hernandez
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: NR
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 175
Scouting Report: Many may wonder why I have Hernandez cracking the top five after a disappointing 2008 campaign. I personally still see the kid who dominated the GCL in his first pro season with his sharp bat, blazing speed and stellar glove in center. While his bat slowed a little last season his base stealing ability is still there as is his glove. With these two skills as his meal ticket for the future I still see him turning it around offensively (hopefully with a little more power) to warrant a spot in the Braves outfield between Schafer and Heyward.
2008 Rankings: (1) Jason Heyward, (2) Jordan Schafer, (3) Brandon Jones, (4) Jair Jurrjens, (5) Tommy Hanson
By Matthew Whipps
“The Diamond Cutter“
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
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