Braves' Pastornicky enhances value in AFL
Infielder to play in Rising Stars Game, could rise to big club
ATLANTA -- A Major League scout recently described Tyler Pastornicky as "one of those hard-nosed players that you just enjoy to watch."
After having the opportunity to watch Pastornicky the past few weeks, the Arizona Fall League officials enjoyed the young infielder's talents enough to make him the lone Braves representative in the Rising Stars Game, which will be aired Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network.
"We like him a lot," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He's a young guy. He was only 20 years old playing in Double-A. He can play short, he runs and he's a pretty good-looking hitter."
Still a little more than a month shy of his 21st birthday, Pastornicky has proven that he was much more than simply a throw-in in the five-player trade the Braves orchestrated with the Blue Jays during the All-Star break. The deal was highlighted with the swapping of shortstops Yunel Escobar and Alex Gonzalez.
But as the Braves begin preparing for the 2011 season, they realize that the value of this trade could soon be enriched by Pastornicky's arrival in Atlanta.
Pastornicky has hit .302 (13-for-43) in 12 games with the Phoenix Desert Dogs. That offensive success, combined with the versatility he has shown while playing second base in Arizona, has heightened the encouragement the Braves gained when they opted to elevate him to the Double-A level after acquiring him from the Blue Jays in July.
"He's continued to play well and do what he did after we acquired him," Wren said. "He has middle-infield skills, speed and a good swing. There's a lot to like about him."
In 115 combined games with Toronto's Class A Advanced club in Dunedin and the Braves' Double-A Mississippi affiliate, Pastornicky hit .257 and was successful on 35 of his 44 stolen-base attempts. The midseason jump didn't appear to faze the young shortstop, whose father, Cliff, enjoyed a brief stint in the Majors before becoming a scout and coach for multiple organizations.
While playing 38 games for Mississippi, Pastornicky hit .254, compiled a .699 OPS and stole 11 of 13 bases.
A fifth-round selection by Toronto in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Pastornicky might not be ready to begin next season in the Majors. But Wren thinks the young prospect could soon find a role in Atlanta.
"We'll just continue to watch him play and evaluate," Wren said. "We're very happy with what we've seen."
The Braves are also happy with the production Cory Harrilchak has provided in Arizona. The young outfielder, who turned 23 on Oct. 27, has hit .360 with three homers in 15 games for the Desert Dogs.
Cory Gearin has also improved his stock, posting a 2.92 ERA and recording nine strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings for the Desert Dogs. The 24-year-old right-handed reliever used his sidearm delivery to post a 3.36 ERA in 52 appearances with Triple-A Gwinnett this past season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.