The plan was to stockpile talent and then parlay that talent into a superior major league team. That mission is nearly complete, but that pipeline? It doesn’t have an infinite length.
We were told that the Atlanta Braves wanted to keep a full pipe of prospect flowing to the majors over perhaps a decade or more. Unfortunately, the machinery fueling that plan had a couple of bad gears that can’t be fixed for a while.
We’re all sitting here on January 7th, awaiting The Other Moves that are necessary to complete this team for 2019 – moves that should put the Braves into a position to compete well into October. But let’s pause to think about how trades might have to consider much more than today’s team.
We hear a lot that prospects are ‘suspects’ until they are shown to be reliable major league contributors… so the idea of tight-fistedly hanging onto them is often a terrible idea.
The Braves… might have to consider this, though.
We’ve been talking a bit this past weekend of the BaseballAmerica podcast in which the Braves’ farm system was discussed at length by Kyle Glaser and J.J. Cooper. Both here and in a recent online chat session, they had raised the point that while Atlanta’s farm system is certainly still a Top 3 organization at this point, they could be in the Bottom 5 or 10 as soon as 2021.
Here’s the discussion from that chat session (December 3rd). This is excepted for brevity, but is still necessarily lengthy:
Q: Dave (Grayson, ga): …[S]hould Braves fans be concerned about the state of the farm system in the lower levels? Danville and the GCL/DSL teams look pretty bad and seems like they’ll remain that way until the international penalties are over. …
A: J.J. Cooper: Absolutely. … Long term, this will be an issue, but it is one that a team with tons of young, cost-controlled big leaguers can handle. … Last year the Braves were extremely talented in the Top 10 and extremely talented from 21-30 and beyond on their Top 30. That is no longer the case.
The farm system is still one of the best in baseball because of the extremely enviable depth of close-to-the-big-league pitchers. And they have a number of excellent position prospects in the Top 10.
But this system has major holes now and the 21-30 range of the system is significantly thinner than last year. It’s good that the team has youth in the middle infield at the big league level because it’s very lacking in middle infield prospects in the minors.
The team doesn’t have many corner infield/outfield bats either. But most importantly, the lower levels of the minors are now thin and they will likely only get thinner as the international sanctions (and the players they lost to penalty) continue to impact them for a couple of years to come.