Off Day Thoughts–State of the Rebuild

So what do we know about the success of the Braves’ rebuild so far?

Nothing. Well, not nothing. We know that the Hector Olivera trade was an unmitigated disaster. We know that the Braves weren’t really competitive in the year they moved into the new ballpark. We know that the decision four years ago to offer a long term deal to Freddie Freeman, but not to Jason Heyward, was brilliant. Freddie has turned into one of the top 3 or 4 hitters in baseball—and as much as I like Jason, he is not.

We also know that the Braves’ farm system is ranked as the best in baseball by most folks who rate such things. The idea is that, very soon, this wave of young talent will turn the Braves into perennial contenders for the division title and yield some October successes along the way.

Is that likely to happen? We don’t know. We do know that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, and that prospects generally will break your heart. But some of them will likely turn into quality major leaguers, right? Even if TNSTASPP, surely 12-15 highly regarded pitching prospects will turn into at least 3-5 quality major league pitchers, right? That’s the bet that Coppy and the FO have made.

I’m no scout, and I have no way of knowing whether Acuna really is the second coming of Mike Trout (or even Andruw Jones), or whether Swanson and Albies will become Trammell and Whitaker, or whether some combination of Newcomb, Sims, Allard, Soroka, Wright, Fried, Weigel, Anderson, Wentz, and Wilson will become Glavine, Smoltz and Avery (and which of those will become Mike Stanton and Mark Wohlers).

I have been a Braves fan from the start, and I know their history. The team was terrible in the late 80’s (worse than the current Braves), but we all know what happened beginning in 1991. The franchise had a great run of prospects who panned out. Glavine, Smoltz, and Chipper became hall of famers; Andruw (HOF worthy himself), Avery, Lopez, Klesko, Blauser, Lemke, Stanton and Millwood all became quality big leaguers. Of course they filled in with established stars as needed—Pendleton, Maddux, McGriff, and later, Neagle, Grissom and Galarraga. The team was good to excellent for 15 years running. That’s the model the current FO has in mind. Scheuerholz and Cox masterminded it in Atlanta, and Hart led something very similar in Cleveland at the same time.

The problem is, I remember the late 70’s and early 80’s as well. The team was just as bad in the late 70’s as they were in the late 80’s. But there was hope. Kids like Dale Murphy and Glenn Hubbard were called up in the late 70’s and looked pretty good. Bob Horner was drafted #1 overall in 1978 and instantly became a starter and a star. By 1982, these kids (including also Rafael Ramirez and Bruce Benedict) combined with veterans Chris Chambliss and Claudell Washington to win the second division title in Braves history. Even better, the future looked secure. On the farm were can’t miss prospects Brad Komminsk, Gerald Perry, Brett Butler, and Brook Jacoby. The foundation was laid for a dynasty.
The Braves were in it to the end in 1983, but lost out to the Dodgers. 1984 was a disappointment. By 1985 the Braves were once again the worst team in the league.

What happened? Horner could not avoid injury, Komminsk (the most highly regarded of all the prospects) was a complete bust, Gerald Perry was never very good, and the two who did go on to long and productive careers, Butler and Jacoby, were given away for the shell of a pitcher that was Len Barker. Murph was great, but even he had a precipitous and early decline. And oh yes, they never did develop any quality pitchers.

So, what do we learn from this about the future of the Braves’ rebuild? Nothing. Sometimes prospects work out, and sometimes they don’t.

I’m not trying to rekindle the argument about whether the rebuild was necessary, or to relitigate each of the moves. I do insist that it will take patience, and probably 2-4 years of it, to know whether a significant number of this crop of prospects will pan out. Most of them are 20 and under, and most have two years or less pro experience. I for one am ready to see more of the kids. Markakis, Kemp, Phillips, and Dickey have all made some positive contributions, but they are not the future. Let’s see what we have in these prospects.

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36 thoughts on “Off Day Thoughts–State of the Rebuild”

  1. I’ll try to read this tomorrow. But after watching the video and reading the writeup at the previous threads post #11, I’m too depressed to read a writeup called “State of the rebuild?”

  2. I’m with you on Andrelton, John R. He’s the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen, and I saw a lot of Ozzie Smith. That trade was not as bad as Olivera, but in some ways more discouraging. You hate to let go a generational talent like Simba. And selfishly, seeing regular Simmons highlights would have made the misery of the last couple of years more tolerable.

  3. Thanks for a terrific and honest writeup. That many good pitching prospects likely will provide us a decent pitching staff. But aside from Acuna, there are few position players in the pipeline who will likely make an impact with the Braves. Will the FO now turn to solid hitting prospects?

  4. @6
    Dansby, Albies, Minter, Sims, Newk all promoted to MLB. Some finding immediate success, others adjusting, some still struggling.

    Acuna- 19 y/o: .913 OPS for year, 1.006 OPS at AAA. Arguably best prospect in baseball.
    Gohara- 20 y/o 2.69 ERA across 3 levels
    Soroka- 19 y/o: 2.92 ERA at AA through 141 innings
    Rio- up to a .790 OPS at AAA and killing it the last month
    Riley- 20 y/o up to an .838 OPS at AA, and absolutely on fire 2nd half
    Allard- 19 y/o 3.51 ERA at AA
    Touki- 21 y/o and is flat out dominating AA hitters since promotion.
    Bryse W- 19 y/o 2.93 ERA at low-A
    Ian- 19 y/o 3.14 ERA at low-A
    Wentz- 19 y/o 2.51 ERA at low-A

    I’ll stop there, but there’s dozens more success stories in the minors. How can anyone think the state of the rebuild isn’t good? Seriously…what do you want to see?

    Also, I think the TNSTAAPP has been debunked a bit in the last few years as there are so many eyes on these players that the common denominator of dud or stud seems to be winning out.

  5. What I want to see is the truck backed up to the door and Cakes, Kemp, BP and JJ sent packing. Unrealistic I confess, but I’m ready for out with the old and in with the new.

    Then again, I think the rebuild’s working well, so what do I know?

  6. Great write up, it’s spot on. However, to the contrary, I want our prospects to be ready. I don’t want them to be rushed.

    The Braves did the right thing this year. Sensing that the league was weak, acquiring Dickey, Colon, Garcia et al was a 1 in a 100 shot to compete. It didn’t work out but at least they were trying.

    The state of the rebuild is good. We may be set at most of field positions. Pitching, who knows? But the odds are that at least 1 or 2 of the big list of medium to high upside pitchers will stick. The off season will be interesting too. I see Matt Adams, Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp being on the block.

    I give the front office kudos. Quantity is a quality as they say and they have resisted the temptation so far, to repeat a mistake the magnitude of the Barker trade.

  7. AJ Minter, post debut.

    ‘I don’t want to be a Major League Pitcher.
    I want to be a dominant Major League Pitcher.’

    Don’t we all.

  8. The 80s Braves were seriously hampered by Ted, who often inserted himself into baseball ops decisions with terrible consequences. The Barker trade is, if I recall correctly, an example. They only improved when he pulled back and left the baseball decisions to Cox and Schuerholz.

  9. Austin Riley has been on fire at the plate, but unfortunately he has been a butcher in the field. As of a few days ago he had a .902 fielding percentage. Obviously he will have to improve on that or move to the outfield.

  10. @15
    Not sure where you’re getting the info, but his fielding % is .946, pretty doggone good for a 3B and way up from last year’s .910.

    I think you were looking at his AA numbers only, not his whole body of work this year.

  11. I’m tfloyd’s son and we do a weekly Braves podcast called The Channel 17 Podcast. I wanted to put this week’s in the comments, because we used this post as a jumping off point for a deeper conversation on rebuilds. So if you want to hear more thoughts on this rebuild, why Brad Komminsk failed, or why we’ll need the future Mark Lemkes and Melvin Nieveses for this team, you can listen here: (Also on iTunes and Stitcher.)

    http://productiveleisurenetwork.com/channel17podcast/2017/8/25/episode-61-august-25-2017

  12. I do think that people dismiss the need for the future Mark Lemkes and Melvin Nieveses by saying “they don’t move the needle”, but I’ve been interested in that component of the rebuild. I’ll have to give that podcast a listen.

  13. We’ve had Mark Lemkes and Melvin Nieveses on pretty much every Braves team I’ve ever watched.

    We’re lacking in the Chipper Jones / Greg Maddux / John Smoltz / Dave Justice / Andruw Jones department at the moment.

    Start getting excited when our new corner OF is in place, and when it looks like we have a couple of pitchers that can get through 4 innings without throwing 100 pitches.

  14. @20

    There are probably a dozen prospects with the upside of the players you’ve mentioned and about $40M in player payroll available for a Maddux. You cray.

    With that said, I do remain a little skeptical on developing an ace within the next couple years. So if we don’t find that in trade or FA, then yes, I do agree that the lack of Maddux is a problem.

  15. @20–krussell is right; this rebuild will only be successful if we get a handful of stars (e.g., Glavine, Justice, Gant, Avery, etc.). As of now we can’t count on anyone to be in that category. But at least we do have a good many who have that potential, especially pitchers.
    The problem with the 80’s rebuild was a lack of depth. When the handful that folks counted on the be stars didn’t pan out or were traded away, they had nothing left. The 90’s rebuild had a lot more depth in prospects. And a pretty high percentage of those panned out. Depth allowed us to turn Melvin Nieves into Fred McGriff, and still have many good prospects left.
    It does seem that the current rebuild has a lot of depth. I’m not so sure a dozen have the upside of Chipper, Maddox, Andrew, etc., but there really are a lot of “A” grades in the bunch. That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic.
    Even so, I fully recognize is no guarantee as to any of them.

  16. I’m not saying we won’t get a couple stars out of all these prospects. Acuna might be Andruw Jones. Surely one or two of these pitchers will be good eventually. But…it’s extremely unlikely that the depth of the late 80’s early 90’s farm will ever be matched. After Acuna I’m not even sure we have any other position players that are locks to be MLB starters, let alone multi-year stars.

    And the 90’s team spent money. A lot of it. The jury is still out on this bunch.

  17. Rhys Hoskins for Philadelphia…just hit a homer in his sixth straight game. He has nine total since he was called up on August 10. So the Phillies’ rebuild is coming along with some lumber…

  18. Timo, glad to see you made it. I thought I had read where your flight wasn’t going to get in on time for Friday’s game? You must have gotten that sorted out. What’s your impression on the ballpark so far?

  19. @29 I know, I changed my flight since I couldn’t make the Sunday game. I enjoy the place. Staying at a hotel nearby, I checked the battery out at 5 pm and it was already very busy and people in line to get in. The concept seems to work. It’s a little awkward to move around inside, just very tight space in some places but really am enjoying the experience. For me, so much better than the Ted.

  20. @26 – For all the problems he may have caused in the ’80’s, the biggest difference between the Braves of the ’90’s and the Braves of today was Ted Turner.

  21. Great game. Julio was terrific. Albies is fun to watch. Pretty full house and good atmosphere. Thoroughly enjoyable. Go Braves.

  22. David O’Brien‏Verified account
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    #Braves rookie Albies was 8-for-47 (.170) in first 14 games. He’s 11-for-30 (.367) in his past nine.

    8:05 PM – 25 Aug 2017

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