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After 10 years, scouting director Roy Clark has been replaced by Tony DeMacio.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.
Print This Post