We continue our series of prospect guru Q&A's with John Sickels of Minor League Ball. I've done a Q&A with John each of the last three years (2007, 2008, and 2009), and every year he has some great insight into the Braves minor league prospects. John publishes his annual Prospect Book every year, and there is still time to grab the 2010 edition if you haven't already pre-ordered it. The book is a great source for learning about the Braves prospects -- there are usually 30 to 40 players per team reviewed -- and it's a great resource to have on hand in case we acquire a prospect from another team.
(A) Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez
(B) Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke
(C) Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino
A: I think I’d pick C. Cabrera has lots of major league experience but is still young, Dunn should be useful in the pen, and Vizcaino has an electric arm. Option A has one good prospect in Flowers, but I don’t like either Lillibridge or Gimore much at this point, and Santos is a long way away. Option B…I’ve never been a big Charlie Morton guy, and neither Gorkys or Locke look like huge impact people to me.
Q: Can Cory Rasmus come back and be a valuable major league prospect? How about Erik Cordier?
A: We need to see Rasmus at a higher level than the Appy League to get a read on that. Cordier seems to have his arm strength back, but his secondary pitches need work and he’s showing the effects of the lost time. I’d rate both as Grade C guys at this point, with some chance to develop.
Q: No longer a prospect, but what does the future hold for Jordan Schafer?
A: He needs to shake the injury rust off and 400 at-bats in Triple-A would be a good idea. I felt he was rushed ahead of schedule even before he got hurt. I don’t think he’ll be a star, but I can see him as an excellent fourth outfielder or an average regular.
Q: What is the biggest strength of the Braves minor league system? The biggest weakness?
A: The biggest strength is depth in pitching at the lower and middle levels. There have Teheran, Delgado, and Vizcaino, and there is also a large group of C+/B- type pitching prospects who could be Grade B or B+ guys a year from now: Zeke Spruill and J.J. Hoover are two favorites of mine The biggest weakness is the lack of hitting talent beyond Heyward and Freeman.