Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Atlanta

Once a powerhouse in developing young talent – especially pitchers – the organization slipped a bit in the player development game in the early-to-mid-2000s. You can now argue that the organization is back on track, and focusing on quality, rather than quantity – and that it’s diversified its portfolio.

Tommy Hanson, currently in the Braves starting rotation, is just 23 and entering his sophomore season in the big leaguers. The right-hander burst onto the scene in ’09 by posting a 3.50 FIP and allowing just 105 hits in 127.2 innings of work. The club will also feature an early Rookie of the Year favorite in right-fielder Jason Heyward. The prospect put on an epic display this spring and his size, tools, and statistics suggest he could become a massive star in a hurry. I’m tempted to invoke the name of Albert Pujols… but I won’t.

The club has some other young players helping out at the MLB level, too, including second baseman Martin Prado, catcher Brian McCann, shortstop Yunel Escobar, outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitcher Jair Jurrjens. It’s a good, young core to build around. The organization’s Top 10 prospect list also includes promising names like first baseman Freddie Freeman, catcher Christian Bethancourt, and pitchers Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and Craig Kimbrel.

The club’s mid-2000s stumble was partially due to poor drafting choices with the likes of Macay McBride, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Atilano, Eric Campbell, Joey Devine, and Cody Johnson. Top international prospects like Wilson Betemit and Andy Marte also failed to develop. Pitcher Adam Wainwright was in Cy Young consideration last year, but he did not blossom until entering the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

While employing a win-now attitude, the club has sacrificed a lot of young talent over the past few seasons, including pitcher Neftali Feliz, shortstop Elvis Andrus, as well as catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Tyler Flowers.

There was a small shift in draft philosophy in 2009 as the club took two college players with its only two selections in the first three rounds, including first rounder Mike Minor. Those were the first four-year college selections that the club had made in the first three rounds of the amateur draft in three years – unless you count reliever Joshua Fields in ’07, whom the club failed to sign.

After 10 years, scouting director Roy Clark has been replaced by Tony DeMacio. It will be interesting to see what direction the club takes with the 2010 amateur draft. The organization punted its first-round selection for veteran reliever Billy Wagner, but it has a supplemental first round pick and an extra second rounder for the loss of Mike Gonzalez. Whoever ends up getting selected will be overseen by Kurt Kemp, who enters his third season as director of player development.

It’s actually kind of scary to think about what this club would be capable of in three to five years if it had a lineup including Flowers, McCann, Freeman, Escobar, Andrus, and Heyward, as well as a staff led by Hanson and Feliz. Even without that day dreaming, the organization still has a pretty promising future, especially if it can re-focus its efforts in the amateur market.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

14 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Atlanta”

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  1. Steve C says:

    This team would be scary if they never went after Teixeira.

    Thank you Tango for teaching me how to spell that.

    “Old MacDonald had a farm “ei”, “ei”, “a”

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  2. Andrew says:

    Don’t forget recent international signing Scaledo. An 18 year old Dominican who could be Chipper’s long term replacement at third.

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  3. Joe says:

    In all due fairness, trading Saltalamacchia and Flowers were necessary, since they’re blocked by McCann anyway. Salty hasn’t done a thing at the majors, and Flowers resulted in Javier Vazquez, who had an absolutely fantastic season for the Braves…who was then shipped to New York for Aroyds Vizcaino (top 5 prospect in the org), and the aforementioned Melky Cabrera

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    • Bronnt says:

      Agreed. It’s hard to fault the Braves for moving those two, since McCann is basically the second best catcher in the big leagues and still young. The only value those two had were as trade chips, and the Braves utilized them. The Teixeira deal spent a lot of talent, but everyone knew that the Braves were going to shop Saltalamacchia. In retrospect, he hasn’t done anything significant, so not too bad.

      Flowers actually was a good deal. He was traded basically straight-up for Vazquez, and the Braves got an excellent year from Vazquez before flipping him for Arodys Vizcaino. Flowers was a top ten prospect in the organization at the time, and Vizcaino is top 5, so they extracted a good deal of value from that trade.

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  4. Ivdown says:

    Wow. And STILL no Mariners.

    This list has no credibility.

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  5. I gotta agree with one of the posts above, I’m coming from the perspective of a New York Mets fan, so I may be a little biased but the moves involving Flowers I think have ultimately benefited the Braves organization and obviously Vasquez has not had the kind of impact in New York that he did in Atlanta, so I think you guys are on the ups in regards to this one.

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  6. John says:

    The only prospect I miss from the trades from the past few years is Feliz. All of the others the Braves have a just as good or better player at the position already.

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    • Temo says:

      Indeed, that trade remains overrated in terms of impact on the Braves. Doubly so if Feliz continues to be unable to make it as a SP (he’s still very young, so too soon to say for sure that he’s a RP for life).

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    • Bronnt says:

      In a few years, the Braves will probably wish they had Andrus as well so they could move Yunel Escobar to third base. Escobar is basically average, defensively, but Andrus is elite.

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      • Gaston says:

        True, but they did just sign Salcedo, who might be able to replace Yunel at short. I was surprised the Salcedo signing wasn’t mentioned, and to tell the truth I was a little disappointed with this article. Mainly because of two paragraphs talking about a trade that really wasn’t that bad.

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      • Temo says:

        Basically every other metric out there that measures defense (other than UZR) says Yunel is a top 5 defensive SS last year.

        I think he was 6th in the fielding bible awards. With the way he hits, there’s no reason to ever move him from SS.

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  7. I’m very grateful for the good information I read every time in your blog.

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