Just a year ago, one would laugh at the notion of the the Braves being in the discussion for boasting the best farm system in baseball. Baseball publications all around had them placed in the lower tier of farm systems in the majors. However, John Hart and John Coppolella have gutted this team for prospects in the past year, and the end result looks grand. Though the team is in rebuild mode right now, there’s no denying that the future looks bright for the Braves. The blockbuster deal that sent Dansby Swanson was the icing on top of the cake. That deal gave the team the “superstar” prospect they needed to elevate their farm system into the discussion for best in baseball.
For starters, the Braves boast 6 prospects included in MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list, (#10 Dansby Swanson, #19 Sean Newcomb, #30 Ozhaino Albies, #61 Aaron Blair, #69 Touki Toussaint, #88 Kolby Allard). Our system also features players that previously appeared on top prospect lists, such as Manny Banuelos, Max Fried, Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims. Needless to say, the key here is depth. Historically, the Braves have developed pitching best. Having this surplus of arms nearly ensures the Braves will have great pitching for years to come, and also gives them great assets going forward. We saw how the Braves brought in bats when they moved Shelby Miller and Alex Wood. The contracts being issued to pitchers is simply out of hand, and not only do the Braves not have to worry about overpaying for production at that position, they gain a ton of leverage on the trade market when teams are desperate for cheap arms. Shelby Miller is a great pitcher, but his contract is what drove up his value and netted us a top prospect.
The Braves’ farm system had already made a name for itself at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Back in July, Keith Law had the system ranked second in baseball. This assessment was likely judged from depth alone. The team had added a ton of talent to the farm, but they still lacked top talent. The team only had one player included in MLB.com’s Top 100, and that was Ozhaino Albies coming in at 25th overall. Now, Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz had not graduated from prospect status at the time, and Jose Peraza was still in the system. Those three can no longer be considered when ranking our farm, but adding the likes of Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis and Aaron Blair have only further improved the system. Not to mention the team added Austin Riley (who I think will eventually become our top prospect), Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and others in the draft.
The Braves’ system is in the conversation alongside the Dodgers and Red Sox for best in baseball. However, they aren’t the best… yet.
Many of our prospects are still in the low levels of the minor leagues developing, and many will improve their stocks in 2016 and beyond. The team also drafts 3rd overall next season, and received the 35th overall pick in the Hector Olivera trade. When looking at our picks from last season, I think it’s clear thus far that the new-look scouting department did a great job. They get a high pick this year, and with the way things are looking currently, they should be drafting pretty high in 2017 as well.
Don’t forget what could be the most important component of our rebuild, though: the international market. It has been heavily rumored that the Braves plan on going all in on the international market in 2016. Last season, the team signed Derian Cruz and Christian Pache during the international spending period, but moved prospects for pool bonuses to avoid spending penalties for 2016. All the more reason to believe that 2016 may be when the team goes all in. The front office has made an effort to shed salary and will likely blow up their international spending pool in what appears to be a special period. According to Keith Law, the Braves already have a “handshake agreement” with Kevin Maitan, who is supposed to be generational talent who has drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera. The class also features another player who many consider to be a future superstar as well: Lorenzo Armenteros. If the Braves could grab both of these guys, this could be the makings of a dynasty, and would easily propel them to top farm system status.
Don’t forget, the team also has a ton of young talent on the major league roster as well. This list includes Mike Foltynewicz, Casey Kelly, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Shae Simmons, Matt Wisler, Freddie Freeman, Jace Peterson and Ender Inciarte. Freeman is the only guy out of this list who is owed real money anytime soon.
The Braves have cost-controlled talent, a great farm, and appear to be big future players on the international market. The best part? The team will have a ton of money to invest in free agents as well. 2016 won’t be the most historic season in franchise history, but it is what is going on behind the scenes that is elevating this team to a future contender. The future is bright for Atlanta, and in a year from today, I predict they own the best farm system in baseball.