As we continue examining the Braves organization’s future, we move to a position where they have next to zero depth. Good thing they currently have the best first baseman in the game. If you missed either of our previous two installments of this series, click the links below.
Major League Level
When the Braves decided to tear things down following the 2014 season and start from scratch, they knew they had quite the centerpiece to build around. Freddie Freeman has been the face of the franchise for nearly a decade now, and it’s hard to believe his eight-year, $135 million contract is set to come to an end after next season. Now, Liberty Media has shown a tendency to be cheap; however, if there’s one player they should open their wallets for, it’s Freeman, who has been a standout piece for the organization both on and off the field. Buster Olney recently started doing his positional rankings for the 2020 season and coming in as the top first baseman was Freeman. I’m not sure when it will happen, but eventually, an extension must get done, or we might actually see Braves Country riot. On multiple occasions, Freeman has said he wants to finish his career in Atlanta, and the Braves should make that a reality with his next contract. I don’t see how he’s not the first baseman for at least the next five years.
All Other Levels
Typically, I break down the prospects at each level, but because the Braves have Freeman, they haven’t made first base a priority. There’s no single player at the AA or AAA level with a realistic chance of being the starting first baseman in Atlanta over the next five years unless there is an injury. The only prospect in the entire system that even sticks out as a possible option is Bryce Ball, who was drafted in the 24th round last year and recently added to the Braves 60-man taxi squad.
The 6’6″ left-handed bat burst onto the scene in his first stint as a professional ballplayer, hitting 13 homers in just 41 games for the Danville Braves — good for a 1.086 OPS. That success continued in Rome, where Ball hit four more homers with a .337 batting average in 21 games. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see him build off that in the minors this year, but the Braves inclusion of him on their 60-man taxi squad shows what they think about his future. However, as he moves up the ranks, he may need to find another position because Freeman isn’t going anywhere.