Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: The Braves are rich with pitching, but their positional talent lags well behind.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Julio Teheran, RHP
2. Randall Delgado, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Christian Bethancourt, C
5. Andrelton Simmons, SS
6. Tyler Pastornicky, SS
7. Sean Gilmartin, LHP
8. Edward Salcedo, 3B
9. Matt Lipka, OF
10. Zeke Spruill, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. J.R. Graham, RHP

Nine More:
12. Nick Ahmed, SS: This second-round pick is a competitive grinder with a good approach, but scouts wonder if he can stay on the left side.
13. J.J. Hoover, RHP: Hoover could reach the big leagues this year. His ceiling is a seventh or eighth inning role.
14. Joe Terdoslavich, 1B/3B: He has a chance to boost his stock if he can stick at third, but it's a long shot.
15. Kyle Kubitza, 3B: Kubitza has all the tools to play third base in the big leagues, but his power and defense remain well below what they could be.
16. Brandon Drury, 3B: Drury boasts an impressive bat, but his free-swinging ways could get exposed as he moves up.
17. Carlos Perez, LHP: The lefty tantalizes with talent but frustrates with inconsistency.
18. Adam Milligan, OF: He can really hit, but can't stay on the field due to constant injuries.
19. Todd Cunningham, OF: This 2010 second-rounder has tools, but he disappointed in his full-season debut.
20. Billy Bullock, RHP: A power arm with the stuff of a set-up man, Bullock needs to throw more strikes.

1. Julio Teheran, RHP
: 1/27/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia
2011 Stats: 2.55 ERA (144.2-123-48-122) at Triple-A (25 G). 5.03 ERA (19.2-21-8-10) at MLB (5 G)
Tools Profile: Above-average stuff and command.

Year in Review: Ranked among the top pitching prospects in the game, Teheran dominated at times at Triple-A but struggled in his brief big league showing.
The Good: Teheran's combination of polish and stuff gives him easy star potential. He has an easy delivery and sits at 92-94 mph with an explosive fastball that touches 96 and plays up due to his ability to locate. He has a changeup that is now plus and could be a plus-plus monster as he ages. His game is remarkably mature for a 21-year-old; he mixed his pitches well and has outstanding poise.
The Bad: Teheran will flash a plus curveball, but it remains an inconsistent pitch, and his inability to command it led to his big league struggles. He scuffled in the minors following his return and seemed to lose focus at times.
Ephemera: Teheran pitched 21 fifth innings for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2011, allowing just one earned run.
Perfect World Projection: Impact-level front line starter.
Fantasy Impact: Teheran is worth drafting now, but keep in mind that he could be six-to-eight years away from peaking.
Path to the Big Leagues: A crowded picture at the big league level means Teheran will begin the year back at Triple-A. At his age, there is no reason to rush him.
ETA: Late 2012.

2. Randall Delgado, RHP
: 9/19/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Panama
2011 Stats: 3.84 ERA (117.1-116-46-110) at Double-A (21 G). 4.15 ERA (21.2-19-11-25) at Triple-A (4 G). 2.83 ERA (35-29-14-18) at MLB (7 G)
Tools Profile: Power arm that lacks a breaking ball.

Year in Review: While he lacks Teheran's ceiling, Delgado outpitched him in the big leagues.
The Good: One scout classified Delgado as a bigger version of Jair Jurrjens with more velocity and less command. He throws strikes with a 91-94 mph fastball that can touch 97 when he rears back for more. His best secondary pitch is an average-to-plus changeup with solid depth.
The Bad: Delgado's curveball could use more spin, and he rarely threw it while in the big leagues. He's a bit of a pie-thrower who can be guilty of pushing his pitches at times.
Ephemera: Delgado should love interleague games in American League parks, as he's 2-for-41 at the plate in his career.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter with some star potential.
Fantasy Impact: While he'll never be a top pick, Delagado should have value for his consistency and ability to contribute across all categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Delgado will join Teheran in the Triple-A rotation, where they will battle with each other to be the first recalled should the need arise.
ETA: Late 2012.

3. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
: 11/13/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 2.45 ERA (40.1-31-10-37) at High-A (9 G). 3.81 ERA (49.2-44-18-55) at Double-A (11 G). 1.29 ERA (7-7-0-8) at Triple-A (6 G). 4.67 ERA (17.1-16-9-17) at MLB (17 G)
Tools Profile: Power stuff in a small package.

Year in Review: The Dominican righty was pitching well in Double-A before being moved to the bullpen in order to assist the major league club.
The Good: Vizcaino has the best fastball in the system. In general, it sits in the low-to-mid 90s but averaged 96 mph out of the bullpen while touching 98. His low-80s power breaking ball is a swing-and-miss offering, and he has some feel for a changeup.
The Bad: There is some effort in Vizcaino’s delivery, which does not necessarily make him wild but does affect his command of the strike zone. With his size, injury history, and below-average changeup, some scouts would like to see his move to the bullpen become a permanent one.
Ephemera: During Vizcaino's nine starts for High-A Lynchburg in 2011, he did not allow a run in the fourth, fifth, or seventh innings and had a 3.76 ERA in all other frames.
Perfect World Projection: Vizcaino has star potential as either a starter or a reliever. The Braves have a tough decision to make, as he's already close to being the latter, while he still needs work to succeed as the former.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll provide strikeouts in either role, but he won't get saves in Atlanta anytime soon.
Path to the Big Leagues: Vizcaino's future will be addressed this spring, but considering the Braves depth in starting pitching, there is a good chance the team chooses to reap the more immediate rewards while keeping the option of starting him open.
ETA: 2012

4. Christian Bethancourt, C
: 9/2/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Panama
2011 Stats: .303/.323/.430 at Low-A (54 G). .271/.277/.325 at High-A (45 G)
Tools Profile: Outstanding defense with the potential to contribute with the bat.

Year in Review: The Panamanian improved with the bat, putting on a show in the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Any discussion of Bethancourt begins with his defense. He's an athletic defender with great hands and arguably the best arm in the minor leagues, one scout reporting nearly unheard-of pop times under 1.7 seconds. He has a good feel for contact at the plate and began to drive balls more consistently towards the end of the year.
The Bad: Bethancourt's over-aggressive approach at the plate leads to many quick at-bats and easy outs. He still drives the ball far more consistently in batting practice than in games, and some scouts wonder if he'll ever do enough with the bat to hit higher than seventh in a big league lineup.
Ephemera: While Bethancourt hit five home runs in 99 regular season games, he matched that total in just 17 Arizona Fall League contests.
Perfect World Projection: Plus-plus defender and solid offensive contributor.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll be much more valuable in simulation leagues than pure fantasy.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bethancourt's showing in the Arizona Fall League gave Atlanta more confidence that he can begin the year at Double-A Mississippi. With Brian McCann signed through 2013, his timetable could line up perfectly with future needs.
ETA: 2014

5. Andrelton Simmons, SS
: 9/4/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010, Western Oklahoma State Community College
2011 Stats: .311/.351/.408 at High-A (131 G)
Tools Profile: Great defense and just enough bat to make it valuable.

Year in Review: The second-round pick was as good as advertised defensively and a pleasant surprise at the plate.
The Good: Simmons has the potential to be a special defender. He has outstanding instincts, above-average range, soft hands, and one of the strongest infield arms in the minors. He's capable of highlight reel plays but also has excellent fundamentals. He deployed a simplified swing as a pro and laces line drives to all fields while rarely striking out. He's a plus runner.
The Bad: Simmons does little offensively other than show the potential to hit for average. He has well below-average power with little projection and needs to develop better plate discipline. He needs to slow the game down, as he can get out of control both in the field and on the basepaths.
Ephemera: There have been 23 players drafted out of Western Oklahoma State. None have reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday shortstop with Gold Glove possibilities and a decent, but empty, batting average.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll be worth more in the real world because of the glove, but he should provide some stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Simmons will begin the year at Double-A Mississippi and could be close to the big leagues if he keeps hitting.
ETA: 2014.

6. Tyler Pastornicky, SS
: 12/13/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2008, The Pendleton School (FL)
2011 Stats: .299/.345/.414 at Double-A (90 G). .365/.407/.413 at Triple-A (27 G)
Tools Profile: Few weaknesses, but no real strengths either.

Year in Review: Acquired from the Blue Jays in the Yunel Escobar deal, Pastornicky hit in Double-A, hit more in Triple-A, and lined himself up for a big league job in 2012.
The Good: Pastornicky is a baseball rat who gets the most from a small package. His best tool is plus speed that could lead to 20-plus stolen bases in the big leagues and gives him enough range to play on the left side of the infield. His quick bat and excellent hand-eye coordination leads to consistent contact, and scouts believe in his ability to hit for average.
The Bad: Like Simmons, Pastornicky doesn't do much around his line-drive bat. He'll never be a power hitter and lacks the on-base ability to work at the top of the order. His arm is merely average, which makes plays to his right difficult at times.
Ephemera: When batting from the sixth through ninth innings for Triple-A Gwinnett, Pastornicky hit an even .500 (20-for-40).
Perfect World Projection: Solid but unspectacular everyday shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll provide a decent number of stolen bases, but that's about it.
Path to the Big Leagues: Barring a spring training disaster, Pastornicky will be the Braves’ everyday shortstop in Atlanta.
ETA: 2012.

7. Sean Gilmartin, LHP
: 5/8/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Florida State University
2011 Stats: 9.00 ERA (2-3-0-1) at Rookie (1 G). 2.53 ERA (21.1-18-2-30) at Low-A (5 G)
Tools Profile: Low on stuff but high on polish.

Year in Review: Gilmartin put up outstanding numbers in the tough ACC, going 12-2 with a 2.09 ERA and getting drafted near the end of the first round.
The Good: Gilmartin's game is all about location and sequencing. He has the polish of a big league veteran, which allowed his upper-80s fastball to play up. He can add cutting action to the pitch and hit his spots at will. Once hitters get a feel for Gilmarten, he'll work in an above-average changeup to keep them off balance, and he has a decent slider.
The Bad: Gilmartin doesn't have the stuff to dominate professional hitters, so his margin for error will always be low. His fastball can lack vertical action, and he gives up a lot of fly balls. He's an is-what-he-is talent with little projection.
Ephemera: Gilmartin was a 31st-round pick in 2008 out of Crespi High in California, the same school that produced Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe and, more famously, Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash (who dropped out).
Perfect World Projection: Number-four starter, but his floor is arguably a number-five.
Fantasy Impact: It’s very limited.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gilmartin could begin the year as high as Double-A but is more likely to get his feet wet in the Carolina League first.  He should not need much time in the minors.
ETA: Late 2013.

8. Edward Salcedo, 3B
: 7/30/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .248/.315/.396 at Low-A (132 G)
Tools Profile: More projection than reality, but unquestioned upside.

Year in Review: The Dominican began to scratch the surface in terms of translating his athleticism into skills in 2011.
The Good: Salcedo has all of the tools to be a big league third baseman. He plus raw power and was more comfortable at the plate in 2011 as he began to watch for pitches to drive and turned on balls more frequently. He's a good athlete and an average runner with good instincts and a plus arm.
The Bad: Salcedo remains quite raw. He's still susceptible to good breaking balls and needs to improve his defensive fundamentals, especially his footwork. With nearly every aspect of his game needing refinement, it's fair to question his upside.
Ephemera: Salcedo hit just .192/.242/.258 in 129 plate appearances when leading off an inning for Low-A Rome in 2011 but hit .265 with a slugging percentage of .451 in all other at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: Prototypical third baseman who bats fifth or sixth in the lineup.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll give you power for sure, but he might disappoint in other categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Salcedo will move up to High-A Lynchburg in 2012, and some feel he has breakout potential.
ETA: 2015

9. Matt Lipka, OF
: 4/15/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2010, McKinney HS (TX)
2011 Stats: .247/.305/.304 at Low-A (127 G)
Tools Profile: They remain outstanding.

Year in Review: The first-round pick did little in his full-season debut.
The Good: Lipka is an impressive athlete. He's a 65-70 runner with well above-average arm strength. While he hit just one home run in 2011, scouts feel he has the potential to hit 10-plus home runs annually as he matures due to his quality contact skills and strong wrists. He was moved to center field in instructs, and early returns were positive.
The Bad: Lipka still has a long way to go offensively. He has too much plate coverage for his own good and generated plenty of weak contact when swinging at pitches he should have let go by. He's yet to translate his speed into base-stealing ability and needs to improve his jumps and reads on the basepaths and in the outfield.
Ephemera: Lipka got both his on-base and slugging percentage over .300 in the last days of the season, going 10-for-22 in his last five games.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have to hit for average to get to the big leagues, but he has the speed to steal plenty of bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Braves hope that Lipka's move to the outfield will allow the bat to come alive. He'll begin the year at High-A.
ETA: 2015

10. Zeke Spruill, RHP
: 9/11/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/184
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, Kell HS (GA)
2011 Stats: 3.19 ERA (129.2-108-23-92) at High-A (20 G). 3.20 ERA (45-45-17-16) at Double-A (7 G)
Tools Profile: Plus sinker and command.

Year in Review: This slow-developing righty finally began to pitch up to his potential this past season.
The Good: Spruill's fastball doesn't light up radar guns, but it has average-to-plus velocity at 89-93 mph and is more notable for the heavy sink that generates plenty of groundballs. Beyond the movement on the pitch, he fills the strike zone with it, allowing it to set-up an average slider/changeup combination.
The Bad: Spruill's secondary pitches need work, which will be crucial to his success given that his overreliance on the sinker led to a low strikeout rate at Double-A.
Ephemera: Spruill did not face any bases-loaded situations in his 20 starts for High-A Lynchburg, and batters facing him in that situation at Double-A went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four starter.
Fantasy Impact: He won’t be a star or a strikeout pitcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: After struggling there at the end of the season, Spruill will try to conquer Double-A hitters to begin the 2012 season. As the Braves are rich in starting pitching, he could be a trade chip down the road.
ETA: 2014.

11. J.R. Graham, RHP
: 1/14/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2011, Santa Clara University
2011 Stats: 1.72 ERA (57.2-52-13-52) at Rookie (13 G)
Tools Profile: Little guy, very big stuff.

Year in Review: The fourth-round pick looked to be worth much more than that following his brief pro debut.
The Good: Graham has the potential to jump up prospect lists in 2012. His low-90s fastball features late, heavy sink, and he can touch 97 with the pitch when he needs some extra heat. His hard curveball has plus potential, and he has some feel for a changeup.
The Bad: Graham is neither big nor physical, so he'll need to prove he can handle the workload of a starter. His changeup needs to be refined and often comes in too firm.
Ephemera: The fourth-round was good to the Braves in the 1980s. They found both David Justice (1985) and Ron Gant (1983) in that round. In 1982, they selected Livermore High School lefty Randy Johnson, but he elected to go to college.
Perfect World Projection: Graham's projections are wide-ranging. He could be anything from a number-three starter or better to a late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: His career could go in many directions.
Path to the Big Leagues: Graham could prove to be a draft steal. The Braves will use this spring to determine at which A-level club he begins the season.
ETA: 2014.

The Sleeper: While he struggled in a season that included injuries and some off-the-field issues, Mycal Jones remains a toolsy athlete with super-sub possibilities down the road.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Tommy Hanson, RHP

2. Jason Heyward, OF
3. Craig Kimbrel, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. Freddie Freeman, 1B
6. Brandon Beachy, RHP
7. Mike Minor, LHP
8. Randall Delgado, RHP
9. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
10. Christian Bethancourt, C

Hanson struck out over a batter per inning before getting hurt last year, and 2012 could be a coming out party. Heyward played through an injury in 2011, but the onus is on him to adjust to the adjustments that have been made against him. The superstar potential remains. Kimbrel could be the best closer in baseball soon and is already among the best in the game. Freeman had a very good rookie season and should get better, but some scouts see his ceiling as above-average, as opposed to star. The general industry thought on Beachy is that he's good but not as good as his 2011 season, and regression is a good assumption. Minor will get every opportunity to win the final spot in the Atlanta rotation this spring and should end up as an innings-eating mainstay.

Summary: The Braves system remains pitching-heavy and somewhat shallow, but their under-25 list more than makes up for the shortcomings. Their ability to sign and develop their own stars remains crucial to their future, budgetary limits having crippled them in the free agent market.

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A lot of times small-ish pitchers have questions about their durability ("this guy looks like a future relief pitcher"). Julio Teheran doesn't seem to have those. Is he big enough at 6'2" 175, or is he simply that good?
I believe it has to do with the change up effect. A guy without a change up = future reliever, and if you reverse it, a guy with a potential monster change up can be a starter even with a sub-par fastball(see Shaun Marcum)
Pretty interesting to see that the top-4 are all int'l free agents (although Vizcaino was traded for). The Yankees the only other team with that kind of breadth of 4 and 5 star int'l free agent prospects?
I see Delgado is a five star prospect, but his writeup does not sound like one. Am I missing something here?
Agree with your assessment; since when are #3 starters five star prospects?

"star potential" and "consistency" maybe?
Pretty sure we had the exact same debate about Mike Minor last year, and the answer was that if the player was pretty much major league ready, and his floor was, say, a #4 major league starter, then 5 stars were entirely appropriate. I think those of us who play fantasy a lot sometimes forget how valuable a competent, cost-controlled number three starter who throws 200 innings a year is to a MLB club.
I have heard some knocks on Delgado's command, but... If you take a look at his Pitch/fx verse lefties, you'll see that he only threw 1 changeup on the inner half of the plate in his MLB stint and his fastballs are very clustered on the outer half as well. I watched one AB last year where he located three 94 mph fastballs on the black on the lower outer corner of the zone. I see his command as above-average to plus w/ his fastball/change. He seems fairly dependent on command and changing speeds though because his fastball is fairly straight and the curve isn't fully developed yet. If the curve does develop, I think he'll live up to the 5 star label.
Kevin, why Kimbrel over Teheran? Are you hedging Teheran's flame-out potential?
The best Top 10 under 25 in the league? It would be very interesting to see how each team's under 25 list ranks.
Totally agree.
This makes me it easy to see why KG gets so many questions about "why isn't player 'x' higher?"

If you were just a Braves fan, and just read the write-ups from their outlets, you'd be sure Bathancourt was a 4-star. But KG doesn't say anything here that isn't true. I just think its an interesting case of context meaning everything.