Name – Position – 2009 team – Bats – Throws - Opening Day Age
1) JASON HEYWARD – RF – Myrtle Beach – B:L – T:L – 19 years old
The former Henry County star showed the Braves why he is the future of the franchise with a tremendous big league camp. A legit five-tool player, Heyward will start in the Carolina League, but an Andruw Jones-like jump to the majors is not out of the question.
2) TOMMY HANSON – RHP – Gwinnett – B:R – T:R – 22 years old
Arguably the best right-handed pitching prospect in the game, Hanson had a great spring training. If not for a crowded rotation, Hanson could be the fifth starter right now. For now he'll go to Triple-A and simply wait his turn. When he gets the call, he'll contribute.
3) JORDAN SCHAFER – CF – Atlanta – B:L – T:L – 22 years old
When he was drafted in the 2005 draft, the Braves compared Schafer to a young Mark Kotsay. Schafer will make regular outstanding plays in center and show off an above-average arm. He might struggle at times at the plate, but Schafer will provide energy.
4) FREDDIE FREEMAN – 1B – Myrtle Beach – B:L – T:L – 19 years old
Think Ryan Klesko with even more power, better defensive skills at first base, but even less speed. Freeman and Heyward are quite a pair. They are best friends, and both showed the Braves why they are the future power hitters of the Atlanta lineup.
5) COLE ROHRBOUGH – LHP – Myrtle Beach – B: L – T:L – 21 years old
An ankle injury sidetracked Rohrbough's 2008 season, but surgery in the offseason has the impressive lefty ready for a comeback. Rohrbough has the highest upside of any pitching prospect not named Hanson, but he must stay healthy in 2009 to show results.
6) JULIO TEHERAN – RHP – Rome – B:R – T:R – 18 years old
Teheran had some shoulder issues last year in rookie ball, but he's back and slated to go to Rome. Teheran's velocity is down a bit, but the Braves believe he'll be able to become a more complete pitcher without having to overpower hitters with his fastball.
7) BRANDON HICKS – SS – Mississippi – B:R – T:R – 23 years old
Bobby Cox saw Hicks in big league camp and said he could play defensively in the majors right now. So his defense is not a problem. But Hicks must cut down on his strikeouts this season to make his power potential even more impressive.
8) KRIS MEDLEN – RHP – Gwinnett – B:S – T:R – 23 years old
Originally an infielder in junior college, the Braves loved Medlen when he'd come in to save games. So they drafted him as reliever and the results have been great. He's got three big league pitches, so expect to see Medlen in the Atlanta pen this summer.
9) GORKYS HERNANDEZ – CF – Mississippi – B:R – T:R – 21 years old
Acquired from Detroit in the Edgar Renteria trade in October of 2007, Hernandez struggled with injuries last season. He has above-average speed, along with solid defensive skills. Now Hernandez is stuck behind Schafer, so he might be trade bait.
10) JEFF LOCKE – LHP- Myrtle Beach – B:L – T:L – 21 years old
The lefty was mentioned in trade rumors this offseason as the Braves went after Jake Peavy. That showed how Locke is viewed, despite his lackluster season last year in Rome. The Braves still love his potential, and he'll start out in the Carolina League.
BRAVES AFFILIATES: (AAA) Gwinnett, (AA) Mississippi, (High-A) Myrtle Beach, (Low-A) Rome
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.