The Braves will have a solid rotation in High-A Lynchburg for the new affiliation there. It’ll be led by Arodys Vizcaino, whose future is probably in the bullpen, but he’ll get innings as a starter for now. Vizcaino touched 101 mph in a relief role in big league camp last month.
Dimaster Delgado is back after missing last season due to a horrible traffic accident in the winter of 2010. Delgado had a great spring training. The Braves will watch his innings, since he did miss all of last year. But they want to see if he’s returned to his prospect status after a solid March.
Zeke Spruill was wowing coaches late in spring training with some solid work. Some believe it was the best they’ve seen from Spruill, who has battled off the field issues at times with the Braves. But there is no doubt the organization still has faith in Spruill, who has learned to grow up and mature with more time in pro ball.
Willie Kempf was a 27th round draft pick last year out of Baylor. He impressed the Braves last year in Danville and Rome, and the Braves feel he is ready for the higher level of the Carolina League. Cory Rasmus will round out the rotation. Rasmus’s shoulder is healthy, and after a solid 2010 season the Braves hope he’ll continue his development with another good campaign.
The bullpen will probably not have a set closer. It will include Eliecer Cardenas, Yeliar Castro, Jason Lowey, Andrew Wilson, Matt Crim, Chris Masters and Chad Rodgers.
David Hale will be the long man, meaning he’ll get significant innings. The Braves will probably let him come in for Delgado, since they are monitoring Delgado’s innings. Hale was much better as a reliever (2.16 ERA) than as a starter (9.00 in seven games) last season. Hale has been very clear that he prefers to come out of the bullpen, so the Braves will see what he can do in that role.
Braeden Schlehuber and Cory Brownsten will be the catches in Lynchburg. Schlehuber has struggled at the plate, but he’s a solid receiver. Brownsten did well in rookie ball after being drafted last June.
Joe Terdoslavich will get the majority of playing time at first base for the Hillcats. Riann Spanjer-Furstenburg will also play first base and be the designated hitter. Matt Weaver is expected to get time all over the field as the super sub.
Three drafts picks from last June will man three spots in the Lynchburg infield. Phil Gosselin will play second base. He hit .294 in 57 games for Rome last season after being drafted out of Virginia. Andrelton Simmons, who was believed to be the top defensive infielder in last June’s draft, will play short. He had a great spring and showed off some offensive ability. Simmons could lead the Carolina League in infield hits with his solid spring.
And Joe Leonard, drafted out of Pittsburgh, will play third base. Leonard hit .268 with three home runs and 19 RBI in 29 games for Rome last summer.
Adam Milligan is back after missing most of last season with shoulder issues. Todd Cunningham will play center, with Robby Hefflinger and L.V. Ware in right field. The Braves are particularly anxious to see what Milligan and Cunningham will do this season.
Thomas Berryhill is on the Lynchburg disabled list. He’s had some elbow issues in spring training, so the Braves are monitoring his progress in Orlando for now. Cole Rohrbough is also in Orlando, coming back from shoulder surgery. He could miss several months in his recovery.
Now to Rome where Carlos Perez will headline the rotation. Perez was named the best prospect in the Appalachian League last season. He missed some time late last season with a broken rib, but Perez had a healthy spring. The Braves believe he could join Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino and make the ‘big 3’ the ‘big 4.’
Dave Filak, a high draft pick last June, will also be in the Rome rotation. He had a great spring. He’ll be joined by Caleb Brewer, who is finally healthy after a string of non-arm injuries, Steve Kent, Ryan Weber and Ronan Pacheco.
The Rome bullpen will include Wes Alsup, Danilo Alvarez, Tyler Hess, Kyle Mertins, Chasen Shreve, Blaine Sims and Tyler Stovall. There is no set closer, so the Braves will allow several to get save chances.
Christian Bethancourt returns to Rome to start the season as the catcher. The Braves want to see a little more progress out of Bethancourt before he is promoted to Lynchburg. Jace Whitmer will be the backup.
Barrett Kleinknecht will be the starter at first base. He hit .301 at Danville last year with five home runs and 35 RBI. Jakob Dalfonso will play first and third, while Chris Ahearn can play second and short.
The Braves will have three interesting infield prospects move around a lot this season. For the first sixteen days of the season, the Braves will go with Elmer Reyes at second base, Matt Lipka at short and Edward Salcedo at third base.
Then they’ll re-evaluate to see what the next rotation will be for the three players. Reyes will also play short and third, with Lipka also playing second base, and Salcedo playing short and maybe even some at second base. All three are ‘natural’ shortstops, and coaches raved this spring about how smooth Reyes is at short.
The Braves will have David Rohm in left, Kyle Rose in center and Juan Flores in right field. Keenan Wiley will be the swing guy and play all three positions.
Atlanta will also eventually get Hilton Richardson to Lynchburg or Rome. He was signed last week after being released by the Royals’ organization. Richardson has great speed, but he’s failed to hit a lot so far in his career.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and The Atlanta Baseball Talk Show. Shanks writes columns for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.