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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 16, Tyler Pastornicky

16. Tyler Pastornicky, SS
B/T: R/R 2011 Age: 22 Ht: 5'11" Wt: 170
2010: (A+)
77 G, 331 PA, .258/.348/.376, 16 2B, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 24 SB, 39 BB, 49 K
(AA) 38 G, 160 PA, .254/.333/.366, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 11 SB, 16 BB, 22 K

People may not realize that the Yunel Escobar to Toronto trade not only brought to Atlanta a starting shortstop for two years, but also possibly the in-house replacement for him. I'm a sucker for middle infielders who know how to play the game, and Tyler Pastornicky is the definition at 20 years old. Pastornicky was taken by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of high school.

Pastornicky gave Toronto a pretty good idea of what they had in the lower levels in 2009, hitting a combined .269/.331/.342 between A and A+, almost all at A. Zero power from a small middle infielder in his first full season is to be expected, but he still had a .332 wOBA and showed good discipline by walking 42 times. Pastornicky returned to A+ for the Jays in 2010, where he showed better numbers across the board, including power, the second time around. He was shipped to the Braves, and they sent him straight to AA, which was a risky move for a 20-year-old without big bat potential. But Pastornicky showed what kind of hitter he is in the 160 plate appearances, adjusting well enough to maintain a .333 OBP, .338 wOBA and 10% BB%.

Pastornicky continues to show solid BB/K rates as he progresses, including his two best rates in 2010 between A+ and AA. He has a great idea of the zone and shows good bat control, and I project him as a top of the order hitter who will maintain good walk rates. The power shown in A+ is probably what we should expect in his younger years in the upper levels, but it should develop some with age. He will never possess impact power, but he will be able to keep the bat from being knocked out of his hands.

The other half of a smart infielder's game is defense, and Pastornicky's is very good. He has great range and a good arm, and it should always remain the strongest part of his game. Also part of a smart infielder's game is baserunning instincts, which he also has. He rarely runs into outs and has shown the ability to record 40-50 steals with great success rates.

Pastornicky gets on base, shows good discipline, plays good defense and is a smart baserunner. To me, this is the perfect combination for a shortstop or second baseman to have. He isn't flashy or overly gifted at any one thing, but he will be successful as a Major Leaguer. If the Braves are looking to stay cheap, spend elsewhere or just see Pastornicky as capable of filling the spot left by Alex Gonzalez after the 2011 season, I fully expect him to seize the role. A solid year between AA and AAA is necessary for this to happen.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) A Repeat Season In Upper Levels 2) Power 3) Walks
Destination in 2011: Half/Majority at AA; Rest at AAA
ETA: 2012
Ceiling: Starting Shortstop
My Prediction: Starting Shortstop

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