The Atlanta Braves announced on Monday that Alex Anthopoulos has been hired as the team's new general manager.
He is taking over a team in turmoil. The Braves are still awaiting the results of an investigation that could yield significant penalties including players being declared free agents.
But he's also stepping into one of the best situations a new GM could ever inherit. The team Anthopoulos is taking over has one of the best farm systems in baseball and is getting ready to enter year three of a tear-down/rebuild. The Braves also have just moved into a new ballpark that gives them new revenue streams to make up for a well-below-market local television deal.
No matter what penalties the Braves are handed, Anthopoulos is inheriting an organization that isn't all that far from potential big league success. With Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, the team has a pair of lineup cornerstones in Atlanta. The team also has one of the best prospects in baseball in 2017 Minor League Player of the Year Ronald Acuna. And the team has outstanding depth of pitching prospects.
And that's why it makes sense to hire Anthopoulos. When he was in Toronto, his regime did an excellent job of identifying and developing young pitching, which is exactly what Atlanta needs to do now.
Right now the Braves have the deepest group of pitching prospects in baseball. The Braves Top 10 Prospects list and the Top 30 that will be in our Baseball America Prospect Handbook will be filled with pitching prospects of all sizes and shapes.
Atlanta has Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Lucas Sims slated to head to spring training battling for spots in the big league starting rotation. A.J. Minter should fit comfortably in the big league bullpen as well.
Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard aren't far behind and Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Ian Anderson, Bryse Wilson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, Ricardo Sanchez, Freddy Tarnok, Patrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, Yefri Del Rosario and a number of others on the rise as well.
Not all of them will pan out. Some of the pitching prospects will get hurt. Some won't develop as expected. But all of them have trade value, and it will be up to Anthopoulos' front office to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to trade.
When Anthopoulos was promoted to the Blue Jays general manager role in October 2009, he made a point of spending money to beef up the Blue Jays scouting departments.
That paid off as under his leadership, few teams did a better job of drafting and developing pitching than Anthopoulos' Blue Jays. In 2010, the Blue Jays drafted and signed Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Sam Dyson and Sean Nolin. The Blue Jays followed that up in 2011 by drafting Joe Musgrove, Daniel Norris and Anthony DeSclafani. The 2012 draft saw the Blue Jays land Marcus Stroman. The 2013 draft brought them Kendall Graveman and they added Jeff Hoffman in the 2014 draft.
From 2010-2014, the Blue Jays drafted and signed nine pitchers who have made more than 20 starts in 2016-2017.
Now some of them did develop elsewhere because Anthopoulos was very aggressive on the trading market. Early in his career, he made some very bad trades, as Toronto traded away Syndergaard, DeSclafani and Musgrove when the team was further from the playoffs than Anthopoulos' front office believed.
But he appeared to learn from his mistakes. From 2013 on, there were very few trades Anthopoulos' Blue Jays would like to have back. His Josh Donaldson trade ranks as one of the heists of the decade. He turned Franklin Barreto, Nolin, Graveman and Brett Lawrie into Donaldson.
Anthopoulos also turned Anthony Gose into Devon Travis in a prospect challenge trade. The Tigers may get some return eventually out of Daniel Norris, but Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt is a small return for David Price. Adam Lind for Marco Estrada also proved to be a great trade for the Blue Jays.
Over the next 18 months, Anthopoulos is going to have to make many more trades if Atlanta is going to go from rebuilding to contending. It's a tough challenge, but a new GM would much rather step into this situation than one where the farm system is bare.