If any of you were wondering why the Dansby Swanson trade was so important … well, here’s why. Sam Dykstra of MiLB, which bills itself as the official site of minor-league baseball, has ranked the Atlanta Braves’ farm system No. 1 in pitchers, which you’d have expected — and No. 11 in position players, which maybe you wouldn’t have.
Before the Swanson boondoggle, the spread would have been much more pronounced. As Dykstra notes, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect (Swanson, duh) isn’t a pitcher. Dykstra’s conclusion: “Overall, the Braves might not have nearly the same depth of position players as pitchers, but those top position players have higher ceilings.”
About the Swanson/Ender Inciarte/Aaron Blair deal: Dave Cameron of FanGraphs rated it the worst trade of the offseason — for the Diamondbacks, whom he says “just got fleeced.” The same Mr. Cameron rates it the best trade of the winter from the other side. His findings:
“Inciarte and Blair for (Shelby) Miller would have been something like a fair swap on its own. Or, separately, maybe the Braves requesting Swanson straight-up for three years of Miller could have been justified as a reasonable asking price, given the risky nature of prospects. But to somehow land all three players in the deal? It’s still remarkable, even a couple of months later.”
(Full disclosure: Cameron isn’t nearly as high on the Andrelton Simmons trade, rating it the seventh-best of the offseason from the Angels’ perspective and calling Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar, whom the Braves landed in return, “a high-risk pitching prospect and an average player in the final year of his contract.” Ah, well. As Sean Connery/007 said in “Thunderball”: You can’t win them all.)
We’ve mentioned before that Keith Law of ESPN Insider rated the Braves’ farm system No. 1 overall. We’ve also quoted Braves general manager John Coppolella as saying, “There are so many young players that we know and love that the mainstream prospect experts haven’t found out about yet.” Well, if I had to guess, I’d say Law has happened on one of those — center fielder Ronald Acuna, whom he rated as the Braves’ No. 13 prospect. Acuna just turned 18 and spent last season, his first as a pro, in rookie ball. Writes Law:
“He’s a lean, athletic kid with great bat control despite a somewhat long, levered swing. He has an above-average arm and plus range in center field with above-average running speed, and the team has toyed with the idea of putting him at shortstop.”
So there. That’s another position player to put alongside Swanson and Ozhaino Albies and Mallex Smith and Austin Riley. Bit by bit, the pitching-heavy farm system is being brought closer to plumb.
Further Braves reading: