We need David Norman back for eyes-own assessments of minor leaguers. Very few of my business trips take me to Danville or Myrtle Beach. Nonetheless, some notes of interest from the farm.
The Myrtle Beach Sun News confirms that three Pelicans have been promoted to AA-Mississippi. Top of the class is the Braves offensive version of Tommy Hanson. Jason Heyward is only 19 but was tearing up Carolina League pitching to the tune of 296/369/519. That .519 SLG% stands out considering his home park is notoriously pitcher friendly. Heyward projects to relieve Atlanta of our long Frenchified nightmare in RF come 2011. If he fares well in MS this year he could skip AAA-Gwinnett altogether. He's that good.
Heyward is to Tommy Hanson as Freddie Freeman is to Kris Medlen. Overshadowed and rightly so, Freeman still projects to take over 1B in Atlanta about the same time Casey Kotchman goes free agent (2011.) Freeman posted a better than respectable 302/394/447, again in MB's power-killing Coastal Field.
Pelican closer Thomas Palica gets the call to MS as well. The 21 year old was striking out a man an inning with decent K/BB rates, continuing his solid relief work from last year (in A-Rome.) With that said, he's a minor league closer. Nothing projects until he's striking out a man an inning in AAA, at the least.
Looking down the line at Rome's roster, no one seems to be demanding a shot at replacing Heyward or Freeman at the next level. No announcements have been made aside from the flip-flopping of Matthew Kennelly and Jesus Sucre at catcher. Kennelly tore the cover off the ball in Rome, was promoted to MB where he was completely overmatched. He's on his way back to Rome and Sucre takes his spot on the Pelicans roster. You might see Gerardo Rodriguez promoted to fill Freeman's slot at 1B but there's no "prospect projection" concerning a 21-year old 1B hitting 258/301/475 in A-ball.
The franchise may get creative and have some of this year's draft class skip the Sally altogether. This year marked a notable (and noted) change in draft strategy for the Braves, where they ditched their tradition high-school heavy draft in favor of college and junior college players. In early action, that strategy has succeeded as they have quite a few players killing the ball at Danville.
Most notable is a big ju-co first baseman taken out of Nova Southeastern University (Ft Lauderdale, FL) in the 16th round. Aside from hitting a monstrous 543/575/857 (yeah, that's BA/OBP/SLG) in his first 40 professional plate appearances, the 21 year old South African also replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the jersey-tailor's worst nightmare. Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg. The Braves have a history of promoting across levels with superb talent out of their foriegn rookies league. Yunel Escobar jumped a level after posting a 1200+ OPS there, for example. It wouldn't be shocking if Spanjer-Furstenburg replaced Freeman for the Pelicans. Similarly, 21 year old Adam Milligan (439/500/756 in 41 at bats) is a reasonable replacement for Heyward in the OF.
On a side note, we'd love to see Boog Sciambi and Joe Simpson have to stumble through an inning of Spanjer-Furstenburg at first and Daniel Elorriaga-Matra catching. Make it a DH league so we can fit backup 1B Ryohei Shimabukuro in as well.
Last note: there are whispers that Brooks Conrad, 2B from Gwinnett, is on the verge of a call-up. Not sure who he would replace on the big league roster. He might outhit Diory Hernandez but he doesn't list as a SS. Kelly Johnson is out of options, but a "stress related" DL stint might send him to AAA to straighten out his swing