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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 15, Brett Oberholtzer

15. Brett Oberholtzer, LHP
B/T: L/L 2011 Age: 22 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 190
2010: (A-)
4 GS, 23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 5 BB, 19 K, 1 HR
(A+) 22 G, 18 GS, 112.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.4 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, 0.6 HR/9

Brett Oberholtzer can be a bit of a brewing debate as to what his ranking should be. People will see his bland stuff and low ceiling as something that should prevent a high ranking, but others will see a smart pitcher and low walk rate as a sign of sure success in the Majors. Oberholtzer is pretty much in the middle for me, but I do believe he has what it takes to succeed in the upper levels.

Oberholtzer was taken by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2008 draft out of junior college. He spent two seasons in rookie ball at the ages of 18 and 19, showing great control but not much ability to record strikeouts. 2010 was his first full season, throwing 135.2 combined innings between A- Rome and A+ Myrtle Beach, almost all at A+. He continued his great walk and home run rates, but the best part was an increase in strikeouts to a solid 8.5 K/9 at A+. As expected, his ERA was much higher than his true performance, as a FIP of 2.69 shows. The Braves already knew they had a good lefty in Oberholtzer, but last season gave them a true idea of what they had.

Oberholtzer's innings were limited by a leg injury, but he is known to be strong and durable as a starter. He throws a fastball that ranges from high-80s to low-90s, and it relies heavily on movement. He also has a solid curve, part of an above average starting pitcher's arsenal. He has a strong pitcher's intelligence and knows how to pitch in his favor. Nothing screams "ace," but that's not what we're looking for from Oberholtzer. If he can continue to get good movement, keep the ball in the park and get some strikeouts on his curve, he will move up.

Oberholtzer will be 22 during the jump to AA in 2011, so he's right on schedule. A left-handed starter's true test comes in AA perhaps more than any other player, so this year will be a big one for him. If he can continue what he did in the lower levels the past couple seasons, there's no reason he won't be contending for a rotation spot by 2012. The ceiling isn't high, but the chances of him being a valuable member of a Major League rotation are high.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) AA Jump 2) Strikeouts 3) Innings Pitched
Destination in 2011: All at AA
ETA: 2012
Ceiling: #3-5 Starter, 200 IP
My Prediction: #4-5 Starter

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