Will John Hart’s Strategy of Stockpiling Pitching Pay Off?

Mike Soroka is another pitching investment that looks so far so good for Atlanta.

In just a short period of time, John Hart has given the team a whole new look. Only four players (Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson) remain from the 2014 roster. While the team is far from a playoff contender right now, Hart has seemingly given the Braves a deep farm system overnight while still putting a competitive team on the field. He hit it on right on the head when justifying his actions, “It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees.” The Braves weren’t exactly going to win a ring putting the same roster on the field from 2014, and with Jason Heyward and Justin Upton’s free agency looming, the Braves were fast to make moves. The emphasis on the plethora of moves Hart made? Stockpiling young arms.

Take a look at our top prospect list. Of the 30 prospects that made the list, 19 are pitchers. Of these 19 pitchers, 11 have been acquired from other farm systems in the past year. Where are the bats? Why are the Braves so inclined to receive pitching in all these trades?

The Braves are best at developing starting pitching.

Many thought that the Braves would go in a different direction and pick up some bats in this year’s draft, in which they had 5 of the first 75 picks. Nope. Of their first 14 picks, 12 were pitchers.

This shows just how confident the Braves are in developing quality pitching.

Young, team controlled pitching is one of hottest commodities on the trade market. Let’s face it: every team wants an ace, but sometimes it’s hard to justify paying a starting pitcher big money when they only play one out of five games. Look at how the Reds had to cut ties with Jonny Cueto and Mike Leake because they were foolish enough to give Homer Bailey big time money. Unless you’re the Yankees or the Dodgers, teams have to cut corners financially, and it all starts with low-cost starting pitching. These baseball contracts are absolutely out of control, and it’s all a numbers game.

Last week, the Braves moved Alex Wood, Luis Avilan and Jose Peraza in the trade that saw the team acquire Hector Olivera. Braves fans seem to be in a conundrum. They criticize Hart for not investing in bats and only pitchers, but when he flips one of our starters for an impact bat everybody starts whining. Yes, Jose Peraza was a top prospect in our system. I guarantee you Olivera’s bat would help this lineup a whole lot more than Peraza’s would. Here’s the thing, Jose is great prospect, but we have a serviceable, young second baseman with room to grow and another top prospect that plays second base tearing it up in our farm system. Alex Wood has been a nice pitcher for the Braves, but Manny Banuelos has already emerged as a stronger lefty option for the Braves. With the amount of starting pitching we have, Alex Wood is expendable. We’ve seen signs of regression from him that are hard to ignore. His strikeout numbers have declined, and hitters are hitting .288 this season. Maybe it’s just a down year, but you’re crazy if you tell me that the Braves cannot replicate that production with the amount of arms we have. With the internal options we have at second base and center field, Jose Peraza was expendable. We have options, and we flipped assets for a big time bat that’s on an affordable contract and plays a position in which there are not many great options available on the marketĀ in the foreseeable future.

That’s why I think that Hart’s plan is working. The Braves are not like the Cubs in the sense that they have big time prospects that are ready to step in and hit 30 homers in their rookie seasons. The one thing they do have is unbelievable depth. The advantage to this is that the Braves can trade arms to teams that have difficulty producing quality starters, such as the Rockies. We’re already seeing it pay it’s dividends. Fans are already tearing Hart a new one for this trade, but at the end of the day we have enough pitchers to continue to have a solid starting rotation and we already have enough contact hitters in our lineup. We need a guy to protect Freddie Freeman, and if Olivera can be half the player he was in Cuba, he would offer just that.

Those who complain about Hart only acquiring arms also likely haven’t monitored the international market. Whether it’s a coincidence or not, Hart has made a ton of moves for positional players across the waters. Christian Pache and Derian Cruz were the big gets for 2015, and word around the town is that the Braves plan on going all in during the 2016 signing periods, with rumors of them having a verbal agreement in place with Kevin Maitan, a guy many are already comparing to Miguel Cabrera.

Some don’t like the turnover, but they also probably don’t get the big picture. John Hart has done a fantastic job retooling this team, and he hasn’t even been running the show for a full year yet. He’s definitely a candidate for some Executive of the Year votes. The only move I don’t agree with is extending Fredi Gonzalez, but hopefully they are just letting that idiot run the show while the team is in transition mode. I think what Hart is doing is genius, and all it takes is for one team to bite on a few cheap, young arms for the Braves to have another impact bat land in their laps.

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