Big-league Braves? Still the worst. The farm system? Still the best

Commissioner Rob Manfred, left, shakes hands with Ian Anderson, a pitcher from Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, N.Y., after Anderson was drafted No. 3 by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Secaucus, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Another young pitcher: Round 1 pick Ian Anderson.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Unless you work in baseball — or have an awful lot of time on your hands — it’s not easy to know what to make of a team’s farm system. There are so many players on so many levels that it’s nigh-impossible to track, let alone assess, them all. That’s why I lean heavily on analysts like the folks at Baseball America. Or Keith Law of ESPN Insider.

Because he works for ESPN, Law’s opinions regarding minor-league baseball cut the biggest swath in the industry. That’s why it was big news when he rated the Atlanta Braves’ farm system No. 1 back in February. It’s why it’s encouraging news that he still considers it the best chain going. If anything, he seems to like it even more now.

The Braves themselves, it should be said, were tickled that Law and others were rating them No. 1 so early in their rebuild — because they fully believed they’re apt to hold that designation for a good long while. They had five of the top 80 picks in the June draft, and they were confident they’d fare well in the July international signing period.

In a post this week, Law takes note of both sets of acquisitions — the high school pitchers accumulated in June, the signing of Kevin Maitwan, whom Law likens to Miguel Cabrera, earlier this month. He also writes:

“Their system has seen big comebacks from injury from Kolby Allard and Max Fried, and some modest progress from some of the system’s lesser-known bats, including Ronald Acuna (before his injury) and Dustin Peterson. They still lack impact hitters, with their best position-player prospects primarily up-the-middle guys with defensive or positional value but without huge power potential, but there’s so much pitching here that even with a typical attrition rate Atlanta should be able to move some of this surplus to acquire bats.”

The lack-of-power thing continues to bother me, I must admit. But I also see the wisdom of stockpiling pitching, which has forever been the most desired commodity in the game. I continue to believe in this plan and its architects. That said …

The 2016 big-league season has been worse than anybody imagined. The Braves just lost a series to the second-worst team in the National League and continue to hold the worst record in the majors. They remain on pace to lose 106 games, which would match the all-time Atlanta low of 1988.

Freddie Freeman, their one everyday player regarded as a fixture, has 17 home runs and 35 RBIs — meaning he has driven in himself almost as often as he has driven in others. (Of the 49 MLB players with 17+ homers, Freeman is the only one with fewer than 40 RBIs.) Among players with 190 plate appearances, Erick Aybar and A.J. Pierzynski rank third- and seventh-worst according to FanGraphs’ WAR, respectively.

Mallex Smith is hurt. Arodys Vizcaino is hurt. Williams Perez is hurt. Ender Inciarte was hurt and still hasn’t gotten going. Hector Olivera is playing rehab games in the minors while waiting for his suspension for domestic abuse to be lifted. Aaron Blair, considered the pitcher most ready to make the jump to the majors, has yielded 20 earned runs, 33 hits and 13 walks in 22 2/3 innings since being demoted to Gwinnett. Apart from Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, there’s not much to watch.

But I will, I feel sure, get better. (Be hard to get worse, would it not?) Hang in there, folks.

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
tjpsr
tjpsr

I have never seen a baseball team go from decent (Not Championship) and competitive to the absolute worst major league baseball team in captivity in a period of just 18 months, until now. Frank Wren got the ax and then the two fearless leaders who followed him to the big offices, decided to rid themselves of every player that had a Wren stamp of approval on them.

Rebuild the farm system was the cry...and now we as Braves fans are led to believe that the farm system is the best in baseball. If that is a fact...begin bringing them up and let them play. The youngsters down on the farm can't be any worse than the so-called team that takes the field for the Atlanta Braves now.

I have been a Braves fan for a long, long time and I have seen some bad Braves teams, but there was always the hope that the people in charge really knew what they were doing at the time. I no longer have that feeling with this management team. This season in my opinion, is inexcusable for a Major League Baseball Franchise with the proud tradition of the Atlanta Braves.

I will always be a Braves fan...but I am at the point now that I can't watch or listen to this mess.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@tjpsr For the record, the Johns didn't get rid of "every" Frank Wren player.  The best pitcher (Teheran) and the best position player (Freeman) on the team are both Wren guys.  Amazing that nearly 2 full seasons into the Johns' rebuild and an absolute blitzkrieg of trade moves and signings, but the 2 best players are holdovers from the previous guy.  Truly amazing.....

gulfwavesgary
gulfwavesgary

I have made no comments or wasted my time with the Braves since last years disaster. Now it is this years disaster. I see the Braves no closer to being a major league team than last year. Anybody that thinks next years team is going to be any better is delusional. It ain"t going to happen. I think the 2 people on this Braves team to be sent packing is John Hart and Coppy. We have no pitching and no hitting. And this great farm system has produced no one. Thanks for the time. Will not bother wasting any more of my time. Maybe the new stadium will be exciting. This team with current management WILL NOT BE. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Prospects are always suspects & pitchers take the longest learning curve.  None of these kid pitchers who have come up have done much -- you see glimpses but not real results that move you up in the standings

JJAXJR82
JJAXJR82

 Braves haven't come close to a World Series since 2001, I want a World Series not a winning record and a first round exit in the playoffs year over year.  They could not continue down the same path of patchwork, bargain bin free agents year over year while having a few under-performing, overpaid "superstars" on the team.  It provided a winning ball club yes but one and done in the playoffs with an occasional losing season on top of it.  Every big name player that the Braves have let go or traded over the past two years has signed for big money .  The Braves do not have the PR for that and those players have severely under-performed on their new clubs with 20M+ contracts (Heyward, Upton and to a lesser degree McCann and Kimbrel).  All of those were savvy moves that rebuilt the farm system with young pitching and a few key positional players.  Drafting pitching is a lot safer bet then drafting power hitters.  There was no evident Bryce Harper in this year's draft. When all your farm system's top prospects are pitchers, the minor league record does not reflect how good your farm system actual is.  You can lose a lot of games 1 or 2-0 by not scoring runs.  So how do we get players who can score runs, you use those highly coveted pitching prospects to trade for proven major league bats, the power hitter that everyone wants.  It will come, some other team will sell like we sold Heyward and Upton.  It has been a year and a half of "bad baseball", to me it has been 15 years, what is another year or two?  No they will not go to WS next year but they will get better. Patience.

Peachs
Peachs

Nothing duller than bad baseball...

HG3
HG3

Bradley - You have now empirically proved that you know no more about baseball than you do about basketball. You will have been offered a buyout by the AJC before the Braves will be worth a damn and by then, they may well be the Nashville or Charlotte Braves.

jlrhoya
jlrhoya

If our minor league system is so great why do all the teams have only mediocre or losing records?  Gwinnett 42-56, Mississippi 14-12, Carolina 10-15, Rome 12-13?

rallo
rallo

let me guess.....ATL's farm system is used for the braves to profit their wallets or purses, in this ownership's case, instead of building a power and pleasing us bourgeois or is it that they have no TRUMPS???  lol

sci
sci

The "lack of power thing" is the main reason this season has been so awful.  When the management continually values pitching more than hitting instead of seeking balance: well, you reap what you sow.

UnconventionalWisdom
UnconventionalWisdom

Since the Braves' minor league system has a combined W-L record of 190-241, it's hard to believe they have the number one farm system, or even among the top few. To me there only a few explanations: 1. the rankings are worthless;  2. the rankings are based on only the top "prospects" in each parent team's system.  If so, the Braves' supporting players (the non-prospects) must be poor; 3. the minors are for developing players more than about winning.  But all parent teams say this so I would tend to discount this rationale; 4. the Braves' minor league managers must be inferior; 5. the theory that pitching stockpile equals currency to later acquire hitters/position players.  But if their minor league teams are so pitching dominant, why doesn't that bring more wins? 6. Braves' minor leaguers are younger.  But the two rookie league teams, Danville & GCL Braves (made up largely of this year's "great: draft) are a combined 22-27.

khd713
khd713

@UnconventionalWisdom 2, 3, and to a lesser extent, 5. I wouldn't invest too much in the records of minor league teams to begin with, but the farm system rankings are all about the top talent only. I remember back when the big league Braves were the worst team in baseball in the '70s-'80s, but the Richmond Braves tended to be one of the top AAA teams. I don't think minor league records necessarily correlate to the strength of the organization, as it's all about the top talent and not the career minor leaguers and never-will-be's who make up the vast majority of minor league personnel.

Braveschop
Braveschop

I was in Cincinnati yesterday watching the Braves play and I was so proud to see how many people wearing braves shirts and hats.Go Braves 

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth @ATLAquarius When has it been anything other than 2019? How long do you think it should take to groom 19- and 20-year-olds into major league players? As far as I know, the Braves have never set a specific timeline on how long this rebuild will take, but I think it's reasonable to assume five years until we have a consistent lineup in place that can take this team to a World Series. When Kansas City began the same process 9 years ago, they came right out and said, "Bear with us; this is going to take five years." At the time, that announcement received guffaws throughout the sporting press, and the fans didn't like it, but look at what they've accomplished. The Braves probably should have done the same thing, but maybe they are more optimistic. But whether it takes five years or not, you don't have to give up on your team. It will be fun to watch them grow and develop over the coming seasons as new talent takes over and the team starts to get better and better. Just relax and enjoy the ride. It will be worth it.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713  "When has it been anything other than 2019?"  You're kidding, right?

First of all, we were LIED to in Jan 2015 when John Hart said the team would contend last season.  And then there's this from David O'Brien in Feb 2015:

"But Hart and his staff don’t view it as a strip-it-down rebuild, and they insist the Braves aren’t sacrificing a season or two despite many of the offseason moves being aimed more toward building for the long-term rather than immediate future."

So then it was Coppy's turn to LIE to fans this season when he said over and over that this year's team would be more competitive than the 2015 team.  In fact, he probably still says that to this very day to anyone who will still listen to such nonsense.  So at some point, fans are correct to ask some questions about this process like:

1)  Since Hart & Coppy have both said the 2015 & 2016 teams would be competitive -- News Flash, they were NOT -- does that mean they are just really bad at evaluating talent?  And if that's the case, then what do we really have to look forward to in the coming years?

2)  Is the plan to simply tank and acquire the #1 draft pick until MLB steps in and stops it?  The trading deadline action will provide some clues about that.

As I've said before, anyone can trade away an MLB team for a bunch of minor league prospects and rehabs.  There's not much of a trick there.  And these aren't just 19 and 20-yr olds either.  For example, Olivera is 31.

Maybe watching some of the worst baseball ever played in a Braves uniform since the franchise was first named is your idea of "enjoying the ride", and as such, you should already have your season tickets for the next 5 years.  But our time on this Earth is limited.  

2015 was lost.  2016 is lost.  2017 is looking lost.  And now someone is already starting to say in this very blog that 2018 is lost.  My kids don't want to go to Braves games anymore.  The damage wrought by the Johns has already been generational. 

It's troubling that you are so unemotional about what has happened to this franchise in less than 2 full seasons.  If you were watching the Braves in the 70s, then you're no spring chicken.  And yet you have the balls to call those of us who are rightly concerned about this mess "fair-weather fans".....

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@DrTruth @khd713  Wow Dr Truth I do not know what to add to that but I do question this FO's ability to evaluate talent.  And, I do not believe the payroll is going up

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"The 2016 big-league season has been worse than anybody imagined"


Not true (the team is playing marginally BETTER than I expected),  but your points about individual and collective disappointments are valid. I've been following MLB for over five decades. This is a self-inflicted train wreck of epic proportions and the perps have not been fully held accountable. Electing to not compete for multiple seasons is not a strategy fans should be expected to endorse. Effectively, Liberty and JS deconstructed the Braves into what is no more than an expansion team.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@RonMexico

They've already been mediocre and worse for most of their 50 years in ATL--and that's without the current ridiculous "rebuild."

It's pathetic to have so many fans satisfied with mediocrity.

khd713
khd713

@DawgDadII If you want to get back to the World Series and you don't have the resources of the New York Yankees, then what the Braves are doing is the only way to make it happen. I'm sorry you don't like the product on the field this year, but when you think about it, does it really matter if you win 60 games instead of, say, 79 or 83? Does it really matter? I don't think so. I want to win another World Series and be the dominant team we used to be, and the only way to make that happen was to gut big league team and totally overhaul the minor league system. I suspect that in five or six years you might change your tune and look back on the 2016 (and probably 2017, too) season as a worthwhile sacrifice.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713  "I suspect that in five or six years you might change your tune and look back on the 2016 (and probably 2017, too) season as a worthwhile sacrifice."

At this point, there's a 50/50 chance you're wrong.

RonMexico
RonMexico

@DrTruth @khd713 And if they hadn't undertaken the rebuild when they did, there's a 100% chance that the Braves would be mediocre for a decade or longer. 

DrTruth
DrTruth

@RonMexico  How's that?  A 100% probability means you must have some kind of secret proof that nobody else has.  Or do you often go around making wild statements that you can't back up with facts?

DrTruth
DrTruth

@DawgNole   Before the Johns took over, the Braves had only suffered THREE losing seasons in the previous 24 years.  From 2010-2014, they won more games than any other NL team.

What's truly pathetic is the Braves have now lost more games than any other MLB team since the Johns took over.  That's a performance level much lower than mediocrity.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DrTruth @khd713

Actually, there's a 50-1 chance he's wrong, based on the team's history of championships in this city.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@DawgDadII  Gee, what did you expect???  The way they are going they have a good chance of losing 110 games

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@DawgNole @RonMexico  They were not mediocre in the 90's when they did get to 5 WS.  Unfortunately we had a manager who was great in the regular season but had not a clue in the world series but I will take the 1990's again

Gman84
Gman84

Another 2 or 3 years like this and we'll contend for a wild card and the requisite 1 game playoff!!

I can't wait!! This is soooo worth it! Coppy is the man!!

khd713
khd713

@Gman84 You mean like we used to under his predecessors? Great comment, dude. In the future, you might want to consider a different angle to express what a fair-weather fan you are.

Gman84
Gman84

@khd713 @Gman84 Hey, Mrs. Coppy, Spare me the, oh so fresh, 'fair-weather fan' comments. Just shut up and enjoy having the park to yourself. Wear your "I'm the best fan ever" badge of honor proudly. Management depends on discerning fans like you who enjoy paying major league prices for minor league baseball.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@khd713 @Gman84  No fan who would not put up with the way this was done is a fair weather fan -- we have been deceived by the FO with ownership's blessing