Rebuilt Braves Farm System Has More Impact, But More Risk

SEE ALSO: 2014 Trades Kicked Off Rebuild

SEE ALSO: Braves Look To Past For Way Forward

SEE ALSO: Shortstop Dilemma

The Braves have rebuilt their farm system in 18 months as only one of the top 10 prospects in the system was a part of the team in October 2014. But it’s not just the trades that show a different Braves’ plan at work.

A look at how the Braves Top 30 Prospects’ projected future roles and risk shows that the Braves’ farm system this year has more high ceiling, but also more high risk prospects than previous years
Future Role 2016 2015 2014 2013
65 1 0 0 0
60 5 0 2 1
55 6 5 5 4
50 11 12 8 15
45 7 8 14 10
40 0 5 1 0
Risk 2016 2015 2014 2013
Extreme 10 8 3 6
High 15 11 17 18
Medium 5 9 7 6
Low 0 2 1 0

In addition to targeting upside in trade after trade to bulk up a thin farm system, Atlanta is taking it’s higher risk, higher (potential) reward approach to the draft as well.

The Braves didn’t draft poorly before. Most of then-scouting director Tony DeMacio’s drafts from 2010-2014 have produced multiple big leaguers and even a few stars (notably Andrelton Simmons, a second-round pick in 2010). DeMacio’s drafts produced big leaguers Simmons, Alex Wood, Brandon Drury, Todd Cunningham, Phil Gosselin, Joey Terdoslavich, Tommy La Stella and Nick Ahmed with more to come.

But many of those draft prospects were considered safe picks with less upside. When Gilmartin was coming into the 2011 draft, here’s what we wrote: “Gilmartin isn’t flashy, but his total package should take him off the board in the first 50 picks as one of the draft’s safest selections.”

Gilmartin, the Braves’ first-round pick that year, lived up to that report. He made the majors, but he now pitches in the Mets’ bullpen as a successful Rule 5 pick. He was a future big leaguer, but he hasn’t made much impact.

The Braves 2011 second-round pick Ahmed is also a big leaguer, although concerns about his bat which were there pre-draft, have come true as he may never be an everyday regular shortstop. Much of the same can be said about 2010 second-rounder Cunningham or 2013 first-rounder Jason Hursh.

The difference can be seen in the number of high ceiling players in the system now compared to recent years. In the Prospect Handbook each player gets a BA Grade which combines potential future role and the risk involved in reach that future role. This year’s group of Braves prospects has significantly more prospects with high ceilings than those of the previous three seasons. But they also carry more prospects with significant risk.

This year the Braves have one player (Dansby Swanson) who projects as a potential 65 role (perennial all-star), five 60s (top-end first division regulars) and six 55s (first division regulars).

The Braves had not had any 65s in the past three years of Handbooks and only three in those three years who earned projected 60 roles. This year’s Braves Top 30 also has 10 players who carry an extreme risk grade, meaning they are at the upper end of the risk spectrum as well. A big part of that change has come from trades.

Swanson, Aaron Blair, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Max Fried and Ricardo Sanchez are all trade pickups who carry 55 or higher grades for their projected future role. But the Braves’ high-risk 2015 draft plays a big part as well. First-round pick Kolby Allard (60/Extreme) was considered the best high school lefty in his draft class coming into the high school season but he missed almost his entire 2015 season with a back injury.

Supplemental first-round pick Austin Riley (60/Extreme) was considered by many teams to be a better pitching prospect than hitter, but the third baseman showed outstanding power (and plenty of strikeouts) in his pro debut. Supplemental first-round pick Mike Soroka (55/Extreme) was a young (17 at the time of the draft) Canadian righthander with excellent stuff. Second-round catcher Lucas Herbert (55/Extreme) should be at least a solid defensive catcher but he has offensive potential as well.

The top four picks in the Braves’ 2015 draft were all high school players, a riskier demographic in general, but one that gets riskier when you work in injury (Allard), contact concerns (Riley) or the track record of high school catchers (Herbert).

In the five drafts from 2010-2014, the Braves selected four high school players in the first, supplemental first and second round. In 2015, the Braves picked four high school players in the top two rounds. Picking third overall this year, the Braves will likely try to reduce that risk a little bit with their first pick, but expect Atlanta to once again go bold when putting together their total draft.

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