Braves trio follows Heyward on Top 50 list
Teheran, Freeman, Minor among first 21 prospects in 2011
ATLANTA -- With Jason Heyward, the Braves have one of the game's top young players. But talent evaluators have determined that Heyward stands as just one of the reasons the Braves have positioned themselves for a very bright future.
Three Atlanta players -- right-handed pitcher Julio Teheran, first baseman Freddie Freeman and left-handed pitcher Mike Minor -- are listed within the first 21 spots on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect list this year. Teheran leads this trio in the 10th spot. Freeman holds the 17th position, four spots ahead of Minor.
With Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado, the Braves possess three of the game's top young pitching prospects. In fact, some talent evaluators have said there isn't a lot that separates the potential possessed by the three hurlers.
But Teheran has continued to gain more widespread hype than the other two highly promising pitching prospects. MLB.com ranks him as the game's second-best right-handed pitching prospect.
While going 9-8 with a 2.59 ERA in 24 combined starts for three Minor League affiliates in 2010, Teheran continued to succeed as the degree of difficulty increased. He started the season by going 2-2 with a 1.14 ERA in seven starts for Class A Rome.
After toying with the South Atlantic League competition, Teheran found similar success at the Class A Advanced level. He posted a 2.98 ERA and limited opponents to a .233 batting average in 10 starts for Myrtle Beach.
Teheran capped his impressive campaign by posting a 3.38 ERA and limiting opponents to a .204 batting average for Double-A Mississippi. At 19 years old, he handled the Southern League competition in a manner that provided him further reason to believe he would be ready if he got a call to the Majors this summer.
"That's my goal -- to be in the big leagues this year -- but I'm not desperate to be here," Teheran said, with Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez serving as an interpreter.
After being listed as the top prospect by MLB.com and multiple other media outlets last year, Heyward lived up to tremendous expectations and introduced himself to the Major League level in impressive fashion. His good friend Freeman got a taste of the Majors in September. But this will be the year that the talented first baseman gets to truly prove why he has been surrounded by so much hype during his Minor League career.
When the Braves revealed Freeman would begin the 2010 season at the Triple-A level, there was at least some reason to question whether they were rushing his development. Still just 20 years old, he had played only 41 games above the Class A Advanced level.
But it didn't take Freeman long to prove that Atlanta made a wise decision. After hitting .319 with 18 homers and an .898 OPS for Triple-A Gwinnett, he was named the International League's Rookie of the Year.
While compiling the first 24 at-bats of his Major League career in September, Freeman used his lone at-bat against two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay to notch his first career home run.
Having overcome a thumb ailment that limited him to five games in the Arizona Fall League, Freeman is now preparing for his chance to serve as Atlanta's starting first baseman. MLB.com ranks him as the game's second-best first-base prospect.
With his cerebral approach and mature mound presence, Minor has silenced some of those who criticized the Braves when they took him with the seventh overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
After simply getting his feet wet with 14 innings for Class A Rome during the 2009 season, Minor successfully battled through the challenges he encountered while completing his first full professional season this past summer.
While going 2-6 with a 4.03 ERA during the 15 starts he made for Double-A Mississippi this year, Minor battled some inconsistencies with his curveball and defensive support. Still, he proved quite impressive with the 109 strikeouts he compiled in 87 innings for Mississippi.
The Braves were impressed enough to promote him to Gwinnett, where he made six starts and went 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA. He made his jump to the Majors in August, when Kris Medlen learned he needed to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Minor showed flashes of promise when he first arrived at the big league level. He matched an Atlanta rookie record with 12 strikeouts in an Aug. 22 win over the Cubs. But fatigue seemed to play a significant role in September, when he posted a 9.37 ERA in four starts.
Minor, who is ranked as MLB.com's fourth-best left-handed pitching prospect, and Brandon Beachy stand as the top candidates to begin this upcoming season as Atlanta's fifth starter.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.