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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, 2005.
The Braves have continued to add significant players from their system, including Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles and two-time Minor League Player of the Year Andruw Jones. Last season included yet another infusion of youth, headed by Adam LaRoche and unexpected contributions from Nick Green and Charles Thomas.
Not only has Atlanta incorporated its minor leaguers into its big league club, but it also has used them in trades. Key performers such as Johnny Estrada, Mike Hampton and Chris Reitsma were acquired for minor leaguers, and general manager John Schuerholz has really been aggressive trading prospects this offseason, acquiring two 2004 all-stars for his pitching staff.
Schuerholz included the Braves' top pitching prospect, righthander Jose Capellan, in a Winter Meetings deal that brought closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee and allowed John Smoltz to return to the starting rotation. Five days later, Atlanta won the Tim Hudson sweepstakes with a package of Dan Meyer (one of the top lefties in the minors), Juan Cruz (acquired in March for prospects) and Thomas. The previous offseason, Schuerholz sacrificed righty Adam Wainwright, then the best arm in the system, to get J.D. Drew from St. Louis.
Even after those deals, the Braves still have plenty of high-end talent. They believe they haven't had such a deep pool of position prospects since the early 1990s. Pitching, as always, remains a strength from top to bottom. The organizationís depth is a testament to both exhaustive scouting and structured coaching and instruction that is taught in a consistent manner from the bottom of the farm system up to the major league level.
Atlanta continues to focus as much on makeup as it does on tools. The returns are undeniable, as the Braves' run of success means they haven't drafted higher than 21st overall since 1992. They didn't make their first draft pick until No. 71 in 2004. Yet scouting director Roy Clark and his staff continue to find talent.
More new faces are on the way in 2005. The big league roster should include infielder Wilson Betemit, righthander Roman Colon and outfielder Ryan Langerhans in reserve roles after they all received cups of coffee last summer. By 2007, the lineup could contain four more homegrown players: outfielder Jeff Francoeur, shortstop Luis Hernandez, third baseman Andy Marte and catcher Brad McCann. Righty Kyle Davies is on track to crack the rotation by that point.
In other words, the more things change in Atlanta, the more they stay the same.
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