Sep 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (11) and center fielder Mallex Smith (17) celebrate a victory with teammates against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Nationals 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves having money to spend this off-season – but few places to use it wisely. Instead, the Front Office could get creative and deal from a position of strength. We all know that the organization is loaded with prospects of all varieties but where are the surplus players located?
Today, I completed the exercise of identifying the surplus talent inside the organization to navigate and find a few areas that the Atlanta Braves could use for trades without sacrificing the future of the farm system.
The problem with this exercise is that prospects are just that – the prospects of a forecasted future – and are therefore unpredictable. The player one chooses to keep might become a career Minor Leaguer while the player traded becomes a perennial All-Star.
So, let’s look at the organizational depth chart, shall we? I listed most players who, at current projections, could be useful major league ballplayers at some capacity. Albeit, this is an incomplete list and even being the author, I understand that.
Most of the international prospects are not listed here so just bear with the process. It is not often that they are included in trades at their ages anyway.
For the most part, I worked off of the prospect lists generated by our own Benjamin Chase’s as a reference, extinguishing many of the 16-to-17 year-olds for now…
Just to reiterate: this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but one that should be sufficiently complete for discussion purposes.
In my opinion, organizational surplus doesn’t just mean “Braves have a ton of prospects so they can trade some of them”. As suggested by a title given to MLB’s prospect list, the term “pipeline” rings true here: where there’s a bulge in the pipe ready to burst, that’s where there’s surplus.
But it’s not just the quantity, rather it’s the developmental level as well. If many are on the same developmental level, then VOILA! Surplus.
There’s never enough pitching depth is a theory the Braves might be challenging this year as the Braves could have 30 prospects that were just pitchers in the organization and it’d be a better list than ⅔ of the the entire list for other teams.
There are a few places I see a bulge that the Braves could deal a prospect or 2 and still be okay, especially considering the Braves are aiming to get 2 veteran starting pitchers this off-season.
Frontline LH SP: Fried, Muller, Allard, Wentz. Aside from Fried who could be on the fast track after a recovery from Tommy John surgery, all of these guys are 3 years away from competing for a roster spot on the MLB club and Braves could deal one without risking too much of the future.
Mid-to-Backend RH SP: This is where the real surplus in the entire organization lies, and arguably the Braves could trade 2-3 of these guys and not think twice about it.
The problem here lies in the bleak fact that many of these guys have decreased their stock and are likely no more than throw-ins in a bigger trade with better chips.
Everyone that follows closely knows that the Braves organization is built on pitching. However, there’s still a few places where the pipeline is bulging a bit in the position player department and the Braves could make a few guys available.
Catching– Braves have an interesting catching core in that their catchers in the bigs who weren’t seen as valuable commodities have increased their values, yet the catching prospects on the farm who were seen to have good potential have all but destroyed their values.
There could be a few moves made here, but I’d look more at the Braves moving one of Recker or Flowers before moving a Minor Leaguer with limited trade value.
While the Braves were rumored to be looking for a 3B, the play of Adonis Garcia has, for now, quashed that idea.
However, if they do decided to upgrade, any of these could be made available with Rio and Adonis having a bit of independent value and the rest likely having little to no value.
The Outfield– At the top end of the Braves outfield, there’s a surplus in Kemp, Inciarte, Markakis, and Mallex that’s been discussed. However, throwing Dustin Peterson (who likely starts at AAA) into that conversation and it gets even thicker.
The rest of the list has some exciting names but none seem to be blocking the development of others and since we’re talking about 3 positions at each level, I don’t really see another serious bulge in the pipe.
A Final Thought: Reliever Surplus
While I didn’t dive into the organizational relief prospects as most failed starting pitchers are the players that end up being Major League relief pitchers, the Braves do have a plethora of bullpen guys that could be considered surplus and therefore could be part of bigger deals.
Sep 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Anthony Recker (20) hits a two RBI single in the fifth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Looking through the MLB or prospect pipeline, one can see that the Braves have a few places where they can trade for MLB-ready players. The following is that breakdown: