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John Sickels' Column: The First of Many

John Sickels

John Sickels writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Atlanta Braves have been well-known for the development of pitching prospects for two decades, and the organization has another strong group on the way up. Letís take a look at the next wave of young pitching that will grace Turner Field over the next couple of years. Keep in mind that pitching prospects have a high attrition rate, with injuries an ever-present menace. This makes it all the more critical for organizations to gather as many pitching prospects as they can. If you have five good pitching prospects, youíre doing very, very well if two of them pan out.

(Author's note: This is organized alphabetically.)

Brandon Beachy, RHP: Beachyís improbable rise from undrafted free agent out of Indiana Wesleyan to major league starter was one of the highlights of the Braves' system in 2010. Using sharp command of his 90-92 MPH fastball, good curveball, and decent changeup, he posted a 1.73 ERA with a 148:28 K:BB in 119 innings in Double-A and Triple-A, then held his own in three major league starts. Scouts see him as a possible fourth starter or a very solid reliever, and while heís not likely to improve much beyond where he currently is at age 24, he should prove at least useful. ETA: 2011

Randall Delgado, RHP: Signed out of Panama in 2006, Delgado posted a 2.76 ERA with a 120:32 K:BB in 117 innings in High-A, followed by a 4.74 ERA with a 42:20 K:BB in 44 innings in Double-A. Although his control slipped at the higher level, heís just 20 years old and overall he held his own considering his experience level. His stuff is quite good: 90-93 MPH fastball that can get up to 95-96 on his best days, along with a very good curveball and a changeup that is quite good for his age. The combination of power and precision that he showed before his promotion makes it easy to project him with the ceiling of a No. 2 starter if all goes well. ETA: 2012

Scott Diamond, LHP: Another undrafted free agent, this 24-year-old lefty is from the University of Binghamton. Diamond has an average fastball in the upper-80s, but gets sinking action on the pitch and mixes it well with a good curveball and slider. He posted a 3.46 ERA with a 123:54 K:BB in 159 innings this year between Double-A and Triple-A, with a 1.77 GO:AO ratio. Like Beachy, heís efficient and throws strikes, and while he isnít overpowering, he has enough stuff to be effective when his command is on. He projects as a fifth starter or long relief option. ETA: 2011

Michael Dunn, LHP: Acquired from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez trade, the 25-year-old Dunn posted a 1.52 ERA with a 64:25 K:BB in 47 Triple-A innings, followed by a 1.89 ERA with a 27:17 K:BB in 19 major league innings. He needs to sharpen up his command, but his fastball hits the mid-90s and his slider can be nasty. He should take a prominent role in the Atlanta bullpen in 2011. ETA: 2011.

J.J. Hoover, RHP: Drafted in the 10th round in 2008 from Calhoun Community College, Hoover went 14-7 with a 3.29 ERA this year with a 154:50 K:BB in 153 innings between High-A and Double-A, allowing 141 hits. He was especially overpowering late, fanning 34 in 20.2 Double-A innings. The 23-year-old Hoover works with a low 90s fastball, and his curveball, slider, and changeup are all solid offerings. He has the body of a workhorse to go with decent command, and projects as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter if all goes well. ETA: late 2011.

Steven Kent, LHP: A sleeper prospect, Kent missed all of 2009 with injuries but was healthy and very effective last season, posting a 0.69 ERA with a 54:8 K:BB in 39 innings in Low-A. He started three games at the end of the season with excellent results: zero runs in 12 innings, with a 12:2 K:BB. Just 21 years old, Kent has a low-90s fastball and an effective breaking ball with sharp control. Keep a close eye on him. He was signed out of Australia back in 2005. ETA: 2013

Craig Kimbrel, RHP: A third-round pick from Wallace State Community College in 2008, Kimbrel has mid-90s heat to go with a nasty breaking ball, giving him the arsenal of a classic major league closer. Just 22 years old, he posted a 1.62 ERA with an 83:35 K:BB in 56 innings in Triple-A, saving 23 games, then fanned an incredible 40 men in 20.2 major league innings, along with a 0.44 ERA. He walks a lot of people, but his stuff is so good that he performs well even with control issues. ETA: 2011.

Mike Minor, LHP: Drafted in the first round out of Vanderbilt in 2009, Minor boosted his velocity well into the 90s this year thanks to some mechanical adjustments. Mixing the improved velocity with his excellent changeup and solid breaking ball resulted in a breakout season for the 22-year-old southpaw. He posted a 4.03 ERA in Double-A but with a 109:34 K:BB in 87 innings. After a 4-1, 1.89 ERA with a 37:12 K:BB in 33 Triple-A innings, he went 3-2 in the majors. His ERA was high at 5.98, but he posted a fine 43:11 K:BB in 41 innings. He should be in the Atlanta rotation to begin 2011 and with his improved velocity he could be a No. 2 starter with a few more refinements. ETA: 2011.

Carlos Perez, LHP: This 18-year-old lefty was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. Armed with a low-90s sinker and a promising curveball, he has some command issues right now and walked 14 in 32 innings in the Appalachian League, although he also fanned 27 and posted a minuscule 1.13 ERA. He picks up lots of ground balls, and many scouts expect him to take a big step forward in 2011. His season ended early after two starts in Low-A due to a rib fracture, but it shouldnít be a long-term problem. ETA: 2014.

Julio Teheran, RHP: Just 19 years old, Teheran made his mark at two levels this year, posting a 1.14 ERA with a 45:10 K:BB in 39 innings in Low-A, a 2.98 ERA with a 76:13 K:BB in 63 innings in High-A, and a 3.38 ERA with a 38:17 K:BB in 40 innings in Double-A. His command slipped a hair at the highest level, but he was very young for the league. His stuff is excellent: 92-95 MPH fastball, above average curveball, above average changeup. If he continues his current pace of development, he can be a genuine No. 1 starter. ETA: 2012.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: Acquired from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal, Vizcaino was in the midst of an excellent season when he hurt his elbow. He appeared healthy at the end of the season and is expected back at full strength in 2011. The 19-year-old has a 92-95 MPH fastball and a very good breaking ball, and showed improvement with his changeup this year, resulting in a 2.74 ERA and a 79:12 K:BB in 85 innings between Low-A and High-A. If his elbow holds up, heís not far behind Teheran in terms of potential. ETA: 2013.

OTHERS TO TRACK: Juan Abreu, RHP; Paul Clemens, RHP; Erik Cordier, RHP; Dave Filak, RHP; Brett Oberholzter, LHP; Benino Pruneda, RHP; Zeke Spruill, RHP.