The Braves won their first division title this year since 2013 while maintaining a treasure trove of prospects, including several who impacted the major league team.
Yet in the year since Atlanta’s front office underwent a major upheaval following the lifetime ban of general manager John Coppolella, the Braves made numerous changes to their player development system. The changes surprised some observers given that the organization once prided itself on its continuity of staff.
The first change occurred prior to the 2018 season when field coordinator Dave Trembley had his farm director responsibilities stripped and given to Dom Chiti. In his three years handling both roles, Trembley’s old-school approach centered on discipline and fundamentals that instilled “the Braves’ way” both on and off the field. Disappointed and dissatisfied with his loss of responsibility, Trembley resigned in August.
More changes have followed since the end of the season. Rocket Wheeler, who managed low Class A Rome in 2018, was let go following his 16th campaign in the organization and his 26th as a minor league manager. Wheeler was a minor league on-field adviser in 2017 before resuming his managing career and guiding Rome to the first-half title in the South Atlantic League this season.
Like Trembley, Wheeler was known for his firm and disciplined approach to player development.
Luis Salazar, who managed high Class A Florida in 2018, also was fired. An eight-year member of the organization, Salazar has coached and managed in the minors for more than 20 seasons, including two as manager of Double-A Mississippi. He guided teams to three straight high Class A Carolina League playoff appearances from 2012-14.
The most surprising dismissal was Randy Ingle, who was an on-field adviser in the low minors in 2018, his 41st in the organization. One of the most respected teachers in the system, Ingle spent 26 seasons as a skipper with the Braves, earning five Bobby Cox manager of the year awards, the most recent coming in 2016 when he led Rome to the SAL title.
The upheaval also has affected the Braves-owned minor league affiliates. Days before the start of the regular season, Mississippi general manager Steve DeSalvo abruptly retired. DeSalvo joined the Atlanta organization in 1987 and guided the Greenville franchise prior to overseeing the team’s move to Pearl, Miss., in 2004.
In mid-September, Triple-A Gwinnett GM North Johnson and assistant GM Shari Massengill resigned. Johnson and Massengill had worked together with the G-Braves for eight years. This past season was Johnson’s 41st as a minor league executive. Massengill, who spent 13 seasons at high Class A Kinston prior to joining Gwinnett, earned Carolina League executive of the year honors and was the Rawlings woman of the year in 2007.