As I’ve said several times since the Matt Olson trade, to get an All-Star caliber talent that is arguably a top-20 player in all of baseball, you have to give up quite a bit. The Braves did just that, sending Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers, Ryan Cusick, and Joey Estes to Oakland for Olson’s services. At first glance, it was an eye-popping haul for the A’s, but after extending Olson for eight years, I couldn’t be more pleased with the trade. Still, I wanted to take a look at what the Braves farm system will miss in 2022 and beyond.
According to some prospect outlets, Pache was the top prospect in the organization, but after a down 2021, I can understand why the Braves were willing to part ways with him. Pache began last season in the majors, where he struggled mightily. A couple of nagging injuries didn’t help his case either, and he was quickly sent back down to Gwinnett. His numbers with the Stripers weren’t nearly as abysmal as they were with the Braves, but he’s still yet to show he can be productive enough offensively in the upper levels of the minors.
Defensively, this is one of the best prospects out there, but until Pache finds some consistency offensively, he’ll never reach his full potential. If I’m Oakland, I’m giddy about his upside, especially since he might not even be the best prospect they acquired in the deal.
According to my own personal rankings, Langeliers was the #1 prospect in the organization, and I didn’t think it was very close. I’m still high on Michael Harris and Drew Waters, but Langeliers is a defensive wizard behind the plate, and his bat flashed a ton of pop in Mississippi last season. In just 92 AA games, he mashed 22 homers, leading to an .836 OPS.
I was sure Langeliers was going to be the catcher of the future for the Braves, and I had him as the most untouchable prospect in the organization. The Athletics should be thrilled to add him to their farm system, but I also think this is a vote of confidence in William Contreras from the Braves. A lot of people figured it would be Contreras that would be moved after struggling in the majors last season. Trading Langeliers suggests the Braves still believe Contreras will be a starting-caliber major-league catcher down the road, and I agree with them.
Contreras was forced into the majors way before he was ready, and he raked after he was sent down to AAA, recording an .873 OPS over 44 games. There’s no questioning that the hit tool is there for this young man, but I do question if he will be able to hold down the position defensively at the next level.
The first two names on this list are the headliners, but the other two shouldn’t be slept on. Cusick was the Braves’ first-round pick in 2021 and a top-ten prospect in the organization. The 6’6″ righty has the potential to be a frontline starter in the future, thanks to his fastball that can reach the high-90s at times. And even if he doesn’t develop into a rotation option, Cusick has plenty of projectability out of the bullpen as well. He’s yet to pitch much professionally, but he’s another exciting prospect the A’s will be adding to their organization. From the Braves’ perspective, however, it makes sense to part ways with him in a win-now move for Olson.
Estes is another player that won’t make his major-league debut for quite some time, but he made noise in the minors this past season for the Augusta Green Jackets—the Braves A-ball affiliate. In 99 innings, Estes posted a 2.91 ERA and 0.96 WHIP to go along with an impressive 11.5 K/9.