By WES BLAKEY
KENNESAW, Ga. – It is no secret that the Atlanta Braves had a rough go at last season finishing with just 67 wins and placing fourth in the National League East. This year has not started out much better as the Braves are already 10.5 games out of first place with a record of 4-17.
However, the future of the organization remains bright. The Braves were not expected to be a very competitive team this year as they just traded away all of their best talent and some fan favorites.
President of baseball operations John Hart and General Manager John Coppolella were not making these trades just to be making them. They managed to bring in top prospects from other organizations around the league.
The Baby Braves 2.0
All of the trades the Braves front office have made were meant to help the future of the Major League ballclub. The Braves traded their best pitcher from 2015, Shelby Miller, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but got an excellent return.
Coming over from Arizona was one of their top pitching prospects, Aaron Blair, who has already made an impressive major league debut; Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall draft pick from 2015, and Ender Inciarte, the Braves’ leadoff hitter and center fielder.
The Braves traded the best defensive shortstop in the game, Andrelton Simmons, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for their top two pitching prospects, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis. The current shortstop for the Braves, Erick Aybar, also came over in that trade.
“It was exciting during spring training to see so much great talent running around, and just to be a part of an organization with such a bright future is a great honor,” said Ellis, the Braves newcomer and former Ole Miss pitcher.
The hope is that these young prospects new to the organization progress as players together, win in the minor leagues together, and become be a force to be reckoned with in The Show together.
Senior baseball writer for ESPN.com and ESPN Scouts, Inc., Keith Law, has ranked the Braves farm system as No. 1. The past two years has put the Braves in this position as they were dead last before the rebuilding process had begun.
Fredi Gonzalez’s Thoughts on the Future
“I’m excited,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “We’ve got a good team, and I think that some of our younger players that we’ve acquired through trades and also in the draft are closer to the major league level than they were last year.”
According to Gonzalez, the best recipe for success in the Major Leagues is pitching. An organization can never have enough pitching.
“I think 97 percent of our draft picks last year were pitchers,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also stressed the importance of growing the players through your own system, as Major League Baseball spent almost half a billion dollars this past offseason on signing free agent pitchers such as Zack Greinke, David Price and Jordan Zimmermann.
“As for this year, I think the fans can expect a team that’s going to compete, going to go out there and play with their hair on fire with a lot of energy and hopefully be better than last year’s team,” Gonzalez said.
Ellis said all of the good players around him serve as motivation for him.
“There’s so many good players that people are constantly getting moved around so you really never know what level you’re going to get moved to,” said Ellis.
With the Braves off to a rough start to 2016, they may keep sending players up and down to get a glimpse of what they can do at the major league level. Therefore, everyone must be ready for their chance.
“Being a part of an organization that has been ranked as having the number one farm system in the league puts a little pressure on you because you never know when someone will come up and take your spot, but it’s always a good thing to have competition,” said Ellis.
Ellis is currently in the starting rotation for double-A Mississippi where he is off to a good start, striking out 17 batters in 23.1 innings pitched. He has started four games and holds a record of 2-0 with an ERA of 1.16.
The Baby Braves 2.0 hope to make an impact with the big league club sooner rather than later. They are all putting in the work and effort to transform their raw talent into solid Major League Baseball caliber talent.