Atlanta Braves Top 5 Prospects for 2009:
1) Jason Heyward 19 Years Old Right Fielder: Heyward can do most baseball skills with ease and that's why he is also in my top 5 in terms of overall prospects. Heyward hit over .315 this season in Rome and Myrtle Beach. He can draw walks, doesn't strike out alot, and has a great arm in right. Right now the only thing Heyward has to refine is in game power which is good but not elite yet. My prediction for 2009 is that Heyward starts to show great game changing power in games. Heyward has a year of .300 hitting with over 20 homeruns while making it to AAA at the end of the season as a 19 year old.
2) Tommy Hanson 22 Years Old Right Hand Pitcher: Tommy Hanson had one of the best Arizona league performances in recent memory. He dominanted a hitters league and looks like a possible future ace. However, I wouldn't give him that lable yet. Hanson throws a great curveball, a good changeup, and recently added a solid slider. His fastball can hit the mid 90's and throws it in the 92-93 range. He also has a two seamer that runs in the high 80's. However, during the season he walked a fair share of hitters and allows a lot of flyballs, which could give him trouble in the majors. To me, if he hits his ceiling he is Chris Carpenter without the arm troubles. If he continues to have issues with flyballs and walks, he could be something like Aaron Harang.
3) Freddie Freeman 19 Years Old First Baseman: Freddie Freeman continues to get overlooked, while Jason Heyward gets all the praise. Freeman actually showed more power in Rome this past season than Heyward, but that's where Freeman's advantage over Heyward ends. Freeman does show potential 30-40 Homerun Power along with a solid average. Freeman is also a solid fielder, though he won't win any gold gloves he isn't Ryan Howard there. The skills Freeman needs to work on in 2009 is drawing more walks and hitting left handers. For 2009, I see some struggles for Freeman in Myrtle Beach, which kills power hitter. However, Freeman will improve some skills next year which will help him in the long run.
4) Jordan Schafer 22 Years Old Center Fielder: Jordan Schafer will have to deal with getting suspended for 50 games the rest of his career. However, it may help prove to people that HGH doesn't help people play the game better. We actually don't know that Schafer ever used HGH. Schafer returned to AA mid way through the season and struggled early making doubters of him. However, in August and September, Schafer caught fire and showed that his season from 2007 wasn't a fluke. Schafer plays a wonderful centerfield with the potential to win 5-8 gold gloves in his career. Schafer also runs well and may indeed steal 15-20 bags a season, but he needs to work on controlling the strikezone. Schafer this year did indeed draw a good amount of walks, but he also struck out once a game. The Braves have an opening in Centerfield but they probably will have Schafer get 200+ AB's in AAA or AA to start the season.
5) Brett DeVall 18 Years Old Left Handed Pitcher: This maybe a surprise to many, but this kid has a lot of upside and could be a #2 or if he developes a plus plus changeup a #1. The Braves drafted him out of high school in 2008 and even got a little bit of work in GCL action, allowing one run in 9.2 IP. DeVall can throw his fastball in the high 80's to low 90's right now but being 6'3 he may have some more velocity in him. DeVall also throws a plus changeup, perhapes the best in the system. DeVall also throws a breaking ball but it's an average at best pitch right now. If DeVall can spin a solid breaking ball and develope his changeup even better, he may indeed become a bigger Cole Hamels one day.