Top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and veteran Kenshin Kawakami are among 20 non-roster invitees to Braves spring training, the team announced Wednesday.
Teheran, who just turned 20 last week, is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect and has recently been ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball by several publications. Arodys Vizcaino, another highly rated right-handed prospect, is also among the non-roster invitees.
The Braves are still trying to trade Kawakami, who went 1-10 with a 5.15 ERA last season, lost his spot in the starting rotation, and was removed from the 40-man roster after the season. He’s owed about $6.7 million in the final year of his contract.
Others invitees included left-handed pitchers Yohan Flande and Brett Oberholtzer; right-handers Michael Broadway, Rodrigo Lopez and Jay Sborz; catchers Christian Bethancourt, J.C. Boscan, Wilkin Castillo, Braeden Schlehuber and Jesus Sucre; infielders Shawn Bowman, Ed Lucas and Tyler Pastornicky, and outfielders Brent Clevlen, Jose Constanza, Mycal Jones and Wilkin Ramirez.
Some on the list were signed as six-year minor league free agents earlier in the offseason, including Lucas, who could compete for a roster spot as a utility man.
Bethancourt is another bright prospect who’ll need more minor league seasoning. The Braves always invite a handful of extra catchers for the early part of spring training when there are a multitude of pitchers in camp.
None on the list figures to draw more attention early in camp than Teheran, who went 9-8 with a 2.59 ERA in 24 starts at three minor-league levels last season, and had 159 strikeouts with 40 walks in 142-2/3 innings.
Projected as a future staff ace, the Braves would like Teheran to spend another season in the minors. Braves general manager Frank Wren has mentioned the possibility of Teheran pitching in the majors as soon as the 2011 season, but probably only if the Braves had a rash of injuries at the big-league level.
Teheran’s only experience in the high minors was seven starts at Double-A Mississippi late last season. He was 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in those games, allowing 29 hits and 17 walks with 38 strikeouts in 40 innings.