This week Minor League Report on BravesFTW will be taking at look at the Braves new High-A affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The HIllcats are in third place in their division but have a number of players worth keeping tabs on. Many of their hitters are in the stage between being a potential starter and winding up as a possible fourth outfielder.
Offensively, the most exciting player to watch is Andrelton Simmons. Simmons could have been (and could still end up as) a pitcher in the Braves system but wants to play every day. A terrific defender, Simmons has turned some heads by hitting .315 this year (although he doesn’t have much power or walk much).
Adam Milligan is another player to keep an eye on. He is hitting .281 with nine homers on the year and may be the top outfield prospect in the system. After a great 2009 he struggled in 2010 but has figured things out and is starting to show the promise that once had him ranked high on some prospect lists.
The hitter who has improved his stock the most this season is Joey Terdoslavich. He is second in the league with 11 homeruns (the player who is in first is already 26 years old and probably should have moved beyond the league by now) and is hitting a solid .270. He could take a few more walks but his .848 OPS is terrific.
The Hillcats, who are leading the Carolina League in batting average, have a number of other hitters who were drafted recently and could eventually work their way into prospect status. Phil Gosselin, Todd Cunningham, Barret Kleinknecht, and Joe Leonard are all young and have yet to show us their true ceiling.
While the offense has a lot of potential in Lynchburg, the pitching staff is boring (especially considering the wealth of talent on some of the Braves other farm teams).
Arodys Vizcaino, one of the team’s top prospects, spent the majority of the season at Lynchburg compiling a 2.45 ERA in 40.1 innings with a 3.7 K/BB ratio but has since been promoted to AA.
Chris Masters is having a solid season for the Hillcats with a 3.32 ERA so far. However, he started last season off with a bang before limping through the final months en route to a solid but unspectacular season. Until he proves he can continue to impress throughout a full season, he won’t rise up prospect lists.
Zeke Spruill is another starter with potential to keep an eye on. His overall numbers (4.11 ERA) aren’t great but he has struck out 55 batters (to just 11 walks) and was a second round pick just a few years ago.
One name to watch in the bullpen is Eliecer Cardenas, a high strikeout reliever who has had control issues in the past. So far, he has a 0.84 ERA this year although he is still walking too many batters. The Braves seem to have a number of guys like this in their system, and any one of them could turn into a force if they get their pitches under control.
The Hillcats may have the top prospects that some other teams in the organization have, but their offensive players should be closely followed as one of them might develop better than expected in the coming few years.