Atlanta Braves: One Team Not Following Major League Trend
The Atlanta Braves organization has always been one to either stand out from the crowd and wait for someone to knock their crown off; or it's been one to fly under the radar and not really be recognized as a playoff contender.
The Braves are going into 2011 with some great off-season moves (Dan Uggla in particular), but they're also going into this new season with some unproven rookies.
Atlanta is essentially breaking the rules of a larger market team and sticking with what they know best: the farm system.
In 2010 the Braves went into the season with 1 primary position (Right Field) being filled by a rookie, Jason Heyward and another rookie, Johnny Venters, basically in the bullpen to provide depth. Both of these rookies excelled beyond what the organization had hoped and now they're essential to our 2011 campaign, Venters is now an asset to our bullpen and Heyward is becoming the face of the ball club.
2011 will look a bit different from last season with 2 key positions being filled by rookies: First Base & Closer. The Braves have seen their share of closers & first basemen but they're hoping that these two are different from the rest.
Craig Kimbrel is expected to step right in and take over where Billy Wagner left off. As we all know the closer's role is one of immense pressure, so there's a question of whether or not Kimbrel can handle the pressure (without surrendering too many BBs). But as the Braves have done in the past, they're going to hand the ball, and bat, to a rookie and let them prove themselves.
First base is a position, throughout Major League Baseball, that is being filled with the "bopper" types: Pujols, Fielder, Penã, Howard, and Gonzalez are just a few names that come to mind. The Braves have decided to let Freddie Freeman take over first base and excel, hopefully, as much as we can imagine.
The reason I say that the Braves aren't following the trends we see around Major League Baseball is because they're willing to completely hand over primary positions to highly touted prospects.
The trend around baseball, especially larger market teams, is to buy, sell or trade your way to the biggest names in baseball.
We've seen many examples during this off-season. Just think of the players that have either been involved in big trades or signed as free agents: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Zach Greinke, Cliff Lee.
Rather than give up the farm for Adrian Gonzalez or Zach Greinke; and rather than unload the payroll on Crawford or Werth, the Braves decide to stick with young talent they've been grooming for years.
Although the Braves never seem to make the "sexy" moves like a Boston or New York team, they've been able to solidify their lineup through cheaper trades. The trade for Dan Uggla was one that I never saw coming and especially not a move that would allow us to keep our rising stars like Martin Prado or our young talent like Beachy, Minor, Teheran and Freeman.
But Frank Wren was able to pull it off. He snatched up a 30+ home run hitting second basemen for a utility player and lefty reliever (whom we received in a trade the previous off-season). This can all be tracked back to their ability to keep the farm system intact. Rather than having to go out and buy a first basemen, they look to Freeman. Rather than going out to buy an outfielder, they make a smooth trade for a second baseman and move Prado to left.
I will go ahead and make the bold statement that the Braves are one of the most resourceful teams in baseball, by far.
It still amazes me how the Braves are able to rely on their farm system to get them through. Yes, it would be fantastic to have Ted Turner back to sign the paychecks but it isn't going to happen. Right now the Braves are making their way back to the top of the NL East, and they're bringing loads of talent with them.
I'm sure that some of you will argue that the Marlins, Rays, Jays and other teams have been doing this; but I'm mainly talking about larger market teams. To be a larger market team the Braves are being frugal and relying primarily on their farm system.
What are your thoughts?
How do you think the Braves have faired with a payroll like this?
Do you think that relying on the farm system is a great way of going about this?