At the start of the 2011 season, MLB.com unveiled Top 10 Prospect lists for all 30 Major League organizations on Prospect Watch. Over the course of the season, those lists changed due to graduations to the big leagues, trades and performances. With the season completed, MLB.com will review how the prospects on those lists fared in 2011.
Brian McCann is the man responsible for guiding all of Atlanta's young arms, and the six-time All-Star isn't going anywhere soon, given that he'll be just 28 on Opening Day in 2012. That should give young catcher Christian Bethancourt all the time he needs to develop in the Minor Leagues.
And Bethancourt, who just turned 20 years old in September, isn't in a rush. The youngster split time between Class A Rome and Class A Lynchburg and wrapped up his season with a tour of the Arizona Fall League, where he was able to compete against upper-level pitchers.
"Let me tell you something: When you sign a contract to become a professional baseball player, you are automatically a professional, but there are still a lot of things you have to learn," he said. "I'm learning that here. There are some Double-A guys, some Triple-A guys and some that have played in the Major Leagues. It's been a great experience for a person like me, who was at Class A."
Bethancourt has never walked more than 20 times in a season, and most of his extra-base power manifests in doubles at this early stage of his career. The Panama native threw out 47 percent of attempted basestealers for Class A Lynchburg, the best rate of his career.
"I'm learning about the consistency of the game," he said. "Some days are up and some days are down, but I'm learning about the responsibility that comes with this job, the focus that it takes. Maybe these are not the things people notice in the stands, but they are really important."
Bethancourt is likely a season or two away from the Major Leagues, and that's if he can progress without injury or attrition at the higher levels of the Minors. The Braves can afford to let him blossom, and even with McCann in the way, Bethancourt is inspired to take the next few steps.
"Of course, my goal is to make it to the Major Leagues as soon as I can," said Bethancourt, a .271 hitter in the Minors. "I hope it's with the Atlanta Braves. But I've always said, and I think every player thinks that it does not matter for which team you get to the big leagues, it's just that you make it."
Braves top 10 prospects
A look at how the Braves' Top 10 Prospects list looked at the beginning and end of the 2011 season:
Julio Teheran, RHP
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Mike Minor, LHP
Craig Kimbrel, RHP
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Randall Delgado, RHP
Edward Salcedo, 3B
Carlos Perez, LHP
Christian Bethancourt, C
Tyler Pastornicky, SS
Matt Lipka, SS
Andrelton Simmons, SS
Brandon Beachy, RHP
Zeke Spruill, RHP
Players in bold were removed from the list after reaching the rookie eligibility threshold.
Top 10 review
The Braves may have fallen short of making the postseason by just one game, but all one has to do is take a look at the organization's list of top prospects at season's end to know there should be more good times coming.
Two of the members of the preseason Top 10 list, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, finished first and second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Two others -- Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy -- both made solid-to-large contributions to Atlanta's rotation.
But as impressive as that list is, it's the three young guns at the top of the postseason top 10 -- all of whom made their Major League debuts at some point in 2011 -- that should have Braves fans truly excited about the future. Julio Teheran is the future ace, and he may have been the one who made the smallest splash in Atlanta, making five appearances and throwing just under 20 innings.
Arodys Vizcaino has a future as a top-notch starter, but looked very comfortable in a relief role, should the Braves need that in the short term. And Randall Delgado provided perhaps the biggest lift, making seven starts down the stretch and posting a 2.83 ERA during a playoff run.
On Opening Day in 2012, Delgado will be the oldest of the trio at age 22.
Organizational Player of the Year
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Matt Lipka, SS: It was thought the Braves' top pick from 2010 would lead the system in stolen bases and be among the leaders in batting average. The steals prediction was on the money with Lipka's 28 leading the organization, but his .247 average fell a bit short of the leaderboard.
Teheran, RHP: Let's see: Pitch his way to Triple-A: check (The original prediction was he'd start in Double-A, but he was too good in Spring Training.). Earn a September callup: check. OK, that happened with two starts in May, but you get the point. This prediction was spot on.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Tyler Pastornicky, SS: We just picked the wrong young shortstop. In his first full season with the Braves, Pastornicky won the system's batting title (.314). He hit .365 after a promotion to Triple-A and finished second in the organization with 27 steals.
Teheran: He topped the system in wins with 15 and ERA at 2.55. He was fourth in strikeouts with 122. At age 20, Triple-A hitters hit just .231 against him.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.