Heyward tops list of AFL-bound prospects

Heyward tops list of AFL-bound prospects

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward has already been considered one of the game's top overall prospects and the Braves' Minor League outfielder will have the opportunity to further strengthen his status when he participates in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Heyward, who was named Baseball America's top prospect at this year's midseason, will be joined in Arizona with his close friend Freddie Freeman, who is recognized as Atlanta's first baseman of the future.

Other Braves participating in this year's AFL include right-handed pitchers Lee Hyde, Jeff Lyman and Craig Kimbrel; left-handed pitcher Mike Minor; and shortstop Brandon Hicks.

All of the Braves prospects will play for the Peoria Saguaros club, which will be managed by former Major League third baseman David Bell.

The 18th annual Arizona Fall League season begins on Oct. 13 and runs through Nov. 19 with the Rising Stars game on Nov. 7 and the Championship game set for Nov. 21. Every game can be followed live on Gameday on MLB.com and MLBFallBall.com.

During the 92 combined games he's played for Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi this year, Heyward has hit .315 with 17 homers and a .959 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). The 20-year-old outfielder could find his way to the Majors at some point during the 2010 season.

In the 111 combined games he's played with Myrtle Beach and Mississippi this year, Freeman has hit .282 with eight homers and a .771 OPS. He is currently sidelined with a bruised left hand that he incurred while getting jammed with inside pitches on numerous occasions throughout this season.

Kimbrel, a 21-year-old right-handed reliever, has issued 41 walks in the 55 1/3 innings that he's pitched this season. But while also registering 96 strikeouts, the powerful right-hander has also proven why some believe he has the potential to serve as a closer at the Major League level.

Hicks, who has been described by Braves manager Bobby Cox as a shortstop who already possesses the defensive skills to play in the Majors, has continued to struggle offensively. In 116 games with Mississippi, he has hit .227 and struck out 119 times.

Minor, the club's top selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft, will serve as part of Peoria's starting rotation. The 21-year-old left-hander out of Vanderbilt made his professional debut with Class A Rome last week and is slated to make two more starts with that club before participating in the instructional league.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.