Braves land five on top prospect list

Atlanta has five players among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects and one of them isn't even Tyler Pastornicky, the 22-year-old rookie being handed the shortstop job going into spring training.

That shows how stocked the Braves pipeline continues to be even after producing multiple rookie of the year candidates the past three seasons.

Reigning National League rookie winner Craig Kimbrel, 2011 runner-up Fredie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Jonny Venters and Tommy Hanson all passed through Gwinnett on the way to Atlanta.

Like Pastornicky, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino all played with the G-Braves last season. Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethancourt could make it to Gwinnett sometime this season after likely starting in Class AA.

Teheran, the International League pitcher of the year after going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA for the G-Braves last season, is No. 4 on the MLB.com list behind Tampa Bay left-hander Matt Moore, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

The only teams with more MLB.com Top 100 prospects than the Braves are the Rays, Padres and Athletics, each with six.

The 20-year-old Teheran, who made three starts for Atlanta last season, will be battling with Delgado and Mike Minor for a spot in the Braves rotation during spring training.

Delgado, 21, is ranked No. 42 on the MLB.com prospect list, with Vizcaino just ahead of him at No. 36. Vizcaino, 21, moved to the bullpen with Gwinnett last season and will compete for a relief spot in Atlanta this spring.

Shortstop Simmons and catcher Bethancourt are the top coming attractions in Gwinnett and Atlanta. Both played last season at Class A Advanced Lynchburg and will likely start 2012 at Mississippi.

Like Delgado, Vizaino and Pastornicky in 2011, Simmons and Bethancourt could be bumped up to Class AAA by midseason. Simmons, 22, is No. 65 in the MLB.com rankings and Bethancourt, 20, is No. 91.

Simmons won the Carolina League batting title with a .311 average last season and Bethancourt hit .306 with five homers in 72 at-bats during the Arizona Fall League.

No matter where any of the top Braves prospects start the 2012 season, they will all be on display at Coolray Field on April 3 during an Atlanta exhibition game against the team's future stars to conclude spring training. The game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

The G-Braves open their fourth International League season at Durham on April 5. Atlanta opens its National League season that day in New York against the Mets.

Richardson suspended 50 games

Now we know the rest of the story when it comes to the Braves' release of Gwinnett reliever Dustin Richardson. The left-hander must serve a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for an amphetamine and a variety of other banned substances.

Richardson posted a 6.00 ERA in 23 games with the G-Braves last season after Atlanta claimed him off waivers from Florida. He struck out 29 in 30 innings, but walked 22 while posting a 1-0 record and no saves.

Richardson, 27, had been 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA and two saves in 23 games with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League before being claimed. He had 35 strikeouts and 20 walks in 32 innings for New Orleans.

Richardson was a fifth-round draft choice by the Red Sox out of Texas Tech in 2006 and made 29 appearances for Boston before being traded to Florida prior to last season.

Autograph signing in Snellville

The Atlanta Braves Country Caravan kicks off today, with the first autograph stop in Snellville at Academy Sports + Outdoors on Scenic Highway.

Scheduled to sign from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. are pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Eric O'Flaherty, outfielder Eric Hinske and coaches Terry Snitker and Terry Pendleton. Snitker and Pendleton are Snellville residents.