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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 29, Chris Masters

29. Chris Masters, LHP
B/T: L/L 2011 Age: 24 Ht: 6'0" Wt: 225
2010: (A-)
27 G, 26 GS, 136 IP, 4.30 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 0.9 HR/9

Chris Masters was drafted by the Braves in the 11th round of the 2009 draft out of Western Carolina University. He made the move to starter for his final year of college, though the innings pitched did not prove to be much of a difference. The ERA rose considerably to 5.59, but his peripherals actually improved aside from home runs allowed, so you could probably attribute much of that to luck. The Braves drafted him with the intention of trying him out of the rotation.

Masters signed early and got 69 innings in Danville, recording a 1.42 ERA with 85 strikeouts to nine walks. Much of the success can be attributed to him being an advanced lefty in rookie league, but the walk rate was worth noting nonetheless. He earned the promotion to A- Rome for all of 2010, where he saw all of his numbers take a hit due to better competition. His strikeout rate dropped by almost three full K's, while his walk rate increased considerably. His home run rate also increased to almost a full homer per nine. It's probably not what Masters or the Braves were hoping for as a 22-year-old in low-A, and it's probably why he remained there all season.

Masters has a stocky body with a strong lower half, which leads me to believe he may be destined for relief. This belief is supported by his stuff. He has a good fastball that touches 92-93, a solid palmball and a decent slider. If he is able to work on the slider and not depend so heavily on the palmball, he could succeed at a faster pace. But if he remains dependent on the off-speed, he could hit a wall in the upper minors. The book is still out on Masters, but he needs to make a move considering he will be 23 during the 2011 season.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) Better Third Pitch 2) Control 3) Promotion to AA
Destination in 2011: Majority, if not all at A+
ETA: Late 2012 or 2013
Ceiling: #3-5 Starter
My Prediction: Long Relief

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.