When the Atlanta Braves announced they’d move their AAA minor-league club from Richmond to Gwinnett at the end of the 2008 season, it seemed like a brilliant move. Braves fans would get to familiarize themselves with the young talent before they got to the majors.
There was just one problem: the Braves didn’t have any young talent. They’d spent years trading away prospects for big names, but those big names were always worth too much for Atlanta to re-sign. You can see where this process can go if it’s repeated for many years.
Understanding that he’d have to sell off most of the major-league talent to rebuild the franchise, general manager John Hart did just that. When the job was handed to John Coppolella recently, he continued the mission, and on Tuesday, he sent Shelby Miller to Arizona for three young players. Two of those three new Braves – shortstop Dansby Swanson and pitcher Aaron Blair – immediately became two of the franchise’s four highest-rated prospects.
In fact, upon further analysis of MLB.com’s list of the top 30 prospects in the Braves’ farm system, 21 of them weren’t even members of the franchise prior to Nov. 17, 2014 – the day when Hart traded Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals for Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. MLB.com ranks Jenkins as the Braves’ No. 7 prospect, by the way.
Twenty-one of those 30 prospects are pitchers, which probably doesn’t surprise you if you’ve been following the trades. But this is more proof that the franchise’s front office is hellbent on putting together a great pitching staff in a few years, and they’re stockpiling enough arms to ensure that happens, even if a few don’t pan out.
Now, about those nine guys that were Braves before the sell-off began. Of those nine, only two are ranked in the top-10 of MLB.com’s rankings, so not only are the Braves getting strong prospects out of these trades, but their farm system seems to get much, much better virtually every time they make a deal.
None of this means the Braves will be good in 2016, and they might still be mediocre when SunTrust Park opens in 2017. But this was a necessary evil after years of mismanagement, and at least they’re doing this rebuilding thing correctly.
It’s really the only chance they had to be good in the next five to 10 years.
Photo: Screenshot via MLB.comFollow @Sean_Breslin