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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 20, Benino Pruneda

20. Benino Pruneda, RHP
B/T: R/R 2011 Age: 22 Ht: 5'9" Wt: 170
2010: (A+)
20 G, 30 IP, 2.70 ERA, 4.2 BB/9, 13.2 K/9, 0 HR/9
(AA) 25 G, 34.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, 6 BB/9, 12.7 K/9, 0.5 HR/9

First of all, Benino Pruneda ranks several spots higher than Juan Abreu because Pruneda has been able to sustain his strikeout rates as he progresses. Pruneda was taken in the 31st round of the 2007 draft by the Braves out of Jacinto Junior College in Texas. He was drafted as a straight reliever due to size, but his arm has carried him to the upper levels.

Pruneda did well in his first two pro seasons, but he hit a snag at A+ Myrtle Beach in 2009, recording a 5.47 ERA. However, a 3.75 FIP and 11.3 K/9 proved it wasn't as bad as the ERA shows. He did walk 5.6 per nine, but that is part of his game and should be expected. Still, Pruneda was held back at Myrtle Beach to begin 2010, and a better ERA and BB/9 pushed him to AA fairly quickly. He pitched the second half at AA Mississippi, where his BB/9 went back up to six, but his ERA and K/9 held firm for the AA jump. It's enough to put him in AAA to begin 2011.

Pruneda is tiny and is another natural arm, relying on torque and natural arm strength. He gets by on his fastball that sits in the upper-90s and can touch 100, but the rest is average. He's a flamethrower who punches out Minor League batters with a plus fastball, but it doesn't necessarily correlate to Major League success. Like Abreu, if he could develop a good secondary offering he would be a top 10-15 prospect, but it is not there.

At 22 years old in 2011, Pruneda will be on schedule for a college reliever at AAA, and at this point you pretty much know what you have. He will always suffer from control problems, and it may harm him greatly in the Majors, but his arm alone will get him there and give him a shot. Very good home run rates, and low FIPs, could keep him around long-term, but control could prevent him from being a late-innings option.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) Control 2) Good Full Season at AAA 3) MLB Debut
Destination in 2011: All at AAA; cup of coffee in Majors unless injuries call for it earlier
ETA: 2011
Ceiling: Late Innings Reliever
My Prediction: Middle Relief; Brief Stint in Late Innings

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