Atlanta Braves: Top Farm System in Baseball


‘Tis the season for projecting and ranking.  ESPN’s Keith Law has his perspective of minor league farm systems out now, and it’s very complimentary of jobs being done in the trenches.

Two years ago, Keith Law put the Atlanta Braves into the 6th slot overall after having been a bottom-five club just 2 years prior.

One year ago, John Coppollella & Co. broke through to the number 1 position.

At that time, Atlanta could boast of having the most players in Law’s Top 100 (tied with 7), plus a couple of others knocking on the door.

A lot has changed in the last year – again.  Some other clubs – the Phillies, Brewers, White Sox, and Yankees notably – have made huge gains in their farms.  Even fans of the lowly Angels are in celebration:  they aren’t the worst any longer!  Okay, 27th, but it’s a start.

But where does this leave the Braves?

Still in the first position, according to Law’s reckoning.

Still Making Deals, Still Adding Strength

It isn’t like Coppy has been sitting around upon his laurels.  It isn’t like Brian Bridges hasn’t been beating bushes.  It isn’t like Gordon Blakeley has been jetting around the Caribbean looking for vacation spots.  This entire organization is energizes to find the best – and that’s happening.

In the last year, Atlanta added several premium players via the draft, many more via the International market, and still more via trade.

Sure:  the watchword that we’ll all be getting sick of by this time next year is “upside”… so I’m getting that out of the way today.  But realize that it only takes a few of those “upside” players to blossom for this organization to really start taking off.

Law is effusive in his praise for the Braves’ system, with remarks about nearly every aspect:

"This torrent of arms has entered the organization from two avenues. General manager John Coppolella has been trading for young pitching at every opportunity, and scouting director Brian Bridges has crushed pitching in his two drafts at the helm.There are players in this system with viable cases to be in the global top 100 but struggle to crack Atlanta’s top 10. They just took Ian Anderson third overall in the draft and he couldn’t even crack their top six.…Coppolella has stayed opportunistic this winter, adding prospects who had fallen out of favor with their organizations, including two of Seattle’s top six prospects."

Weak Spot?

When you emphasize arms above nearly everything else (and I would argue that the club is emphasizing the strengths of what is available), then something else has to give, and that’s the ‘power bat’ route.

Atlanta has already been tweaking things in that realm, though, using “excess” pitching in targeted trades, notably for Travis Demeritte and Alex Jackson in recent weeks and months.  That’s not even counting the athletes brought in from the International ranks, lead by Kevin Maitan.

Those kinds of deal will continue to happen over time as gaps are filled, but even Law suggests that the “up-the-middle” players (middle infielder and pitchers) are his idea of strength, and that’s why Atlanta ranks ahead of the Yankees.

Of note:  Dansby Swanson isn’t even mentioned in Law’s write-up… he still qualifies for inclusion in the ‘farm system’, but that tell me Law isn’t relying on his presence to keep Atlanta high on his list.  In other words, this minor league system has significant staying power.

Some of the Rest

We heard that the Angels are now up to 27th, but I’ll also add this interesting Law quote repeated from HalosHeaven:

"but they still have a long way to go toward respectability, with so many prospects and even fringy guys traded to bolster the major-league club, most recently in the successful deal for Andrelton Simmons."

Reading carefully, that’s Sean Newcomb as a “prospect” and Chris Ellis in the “fringy guy” role, I suppose.  Still, this is one deal that leans to the Angels favor… until and unless Newcomb can break through and hit his spots with regularity.  This will be an important season for him in that regard.

But back to some other rankings:

  • 2nd – Yankees
  • 3rd – Padres
  • 4th – Pirates
  • 5th – Dodgers

Here’s where I pause and express some surprise about the White Sox not being here, but in Law’s world, depth is important and two successful trades does not create depth in the system.

Some others:

  • 11th – Twins
  • 16th – Red Sox.  That’s a long fall (from 3rd a year ago), but they still have a few players remaining.  For now.
  • 21st – Blue Jays
  • 22nd – Nationals
  • 24th – Tigers
  • 25th – Orioles.  The money quote:When you only have one real prospect in your farm system, like the Orioles, you’re not going to rate very highly.”
  • 26th – Royals.

Who’s last?  While I haven’t found a definitive source, it’s almost certainly the Marlins, who just 2 days ago traded away most of what they had left to get Dan Straily from the Reds.

Next: Can You Get There From Here?

Keith Law starts rolling out his Top 100 prospects next week.  Ours is now updated, and Ben will present that… next up today.