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Top Ten Prospects: Atlanta Braves
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Bill Ballew
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Atlanta didn't plan on relying on so much youth heading into 2005. At the start of the season, the likes of outfielder Jeff Francoeur, catcher Brian McCann and reliever Blaine Boyer were at Double-A Mississippi and appeared to be at least a year away from the big leagues. Others, including righthander Kyle Davies and outfielders Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson, were looked upon as complementary parts. Injuries and poor performances, however, forced general manager John Schuerholz to consider a different route, beginning on Memorial Day weekend.
In addition to promoting from within, Schuerholz used the Braves system to acquire veterans. The most prominent deal took place right after the 2004 Winter Meetings, when Atlanta got Tim Hudson for prized lefthander Dan Meyer and big leaguers Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas. Schuerholz grabbed hard-throwing Jorge Sosa from the Devil Rays for utility infielder Nick Green during spring training.
Shipping righthanders Roman Colon and Zach Miner to Detroit for Kyle Farnsworth prior to the trading deadline bolstered the bullpen, and looked like a steal when Farnsworth posted a 1.98 ERA and 10 saves over the final two months.
While all the comings and goings forced the Braves to make more than 100 roster moves at Triple-A Richmond alone, additional talent continued to enter the system. The Braves had yet another promising draft under the guidance of scouting director Roy Clark despite signing only two players taken after the 13th round. First-round righthander Joey Devine reached the major leagues in a hurry and second-round shortstop Yunel Escobar attracted raves for his bat and glove. Lefty Beau Jones (supplemental first round), righty Jeff Lyman (second) and outfielder Jordan Schafer (third) all ranked among the top 20 prospects in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
What's more, Atlanta signed six draft-and-follow selections from 2004. The team also came to terms with a couple of significant foreign standouts, Venezuelan shortstop Elvis Andrus and Australian lefthander Steve Kent. Kent paid his own way to Atlanta to try out before signing for $280,000.
Even with all the big league promotions, the Braves maintain depth at several positions. They're loaded at catcher, shortstop and third base after they deemed all three spots major weaknesses earlier in the decade. While positions players stand out the most in the system, Atlanta also has quality pitching, its calling card for years.
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