After a 14 year career that began with 7 years in a Braves uniform, Martin Prado, at 36 years old, has decided to hang up the cleats. Prado spent his first 7 with the Braves then was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton deal. He was immediately extended by the Diamondbacks for 4/40MM and played 1.5 years in Arizona before being traded to the Yankees for (newly minted Braves Minor Leaguer) Peter O’Brien. In the offseason before the 2015 season, the Yankees dealt Prado to the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi. The Marlins have employed him since, paying Prado 56 MM over the course of 5 years.
The following piece was a comment in our last thread by long-time Braves Journal staple, Alex Remington, and it’s worthy of its own post.
Praising Martin Prado
I think it’s worth saying a few more words about Martin Prado.
Classic sportswriter shorthand has often led to a lazy dichotomy between admirable, gritty, less-talented hard workers and frustrating, lazy, ultratalented stars who try to coast on their genes. It’s usually incorrect — Andruw Jones, who came in for a lot of criticism along the latter lines, worked incredibly hard in the video room, constantly trying to change his stance or his swing to try to address the one insuperable hole in his game, sliders low and away. There’s often a racial dimension to the dichotomy — gritty undersized Craig Counsells and David Ecksteins on the one side, the highest-paid stars in the game on the other.
I come to praise Martin Prado, not to bury him. The thing is, as talented as he was —and he’s an All-Star who made $89 million dollars in his career; he was enormously talented — he embodied the kind of perseverance and work ethic that makes baseball such a joy to watch as a kid. Martin Prado is the exact player that your coach points to when he tells you that you can’t control anything else on the field other than how much you hustle. Martin Prado always, always, hustled. He was a leader in every clubhouse he set foot in because he led by example. He was the captain on some truly wretched Marlins teams, and I have no doubt that he could spend the rest of his life coaching, managing, or scouting if he wants. No one ever expected he would become the success he was, and he earned every bit of it.
Martin Prado, Maximizing a Skillset
He was a tremendously talented ballplayer, of course, but many of his skills are softer. He didn’t have light-tower power, but he had advanced contact and plate discipline skills. Between 2015 and 2019, he had the third-lowest Z-Swing%, the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone he swung at. Joe Mauer was second, Brett Gardner was fourth, and Mookie Betts was tenth. He also had the third-highest Z-Contact%, behind only Ben Revere and Michael Brantley; Mookie Betts was 12th. His swinging-strike rate was sixth-lowest in baseball. Prado knew his swing, and he knew what to swing at.
Martin Prado, an Intelligent Player
He had a high baseball IQ and excellent defensive versatility. In his major league career, he played more than 2000 innings at second base, more than 6000 innings at third base, and 2000 innings in left field, and in 2012, the Braves asked him to spend two weeks at shortstop, despite having spent almost no time there in the majors or minors prior to that. The Braves never asked him to play center field, but he would have done it without complaint if they had.
He signed out of Venezuela at the age of 17, which immediately tells you that he was not a top-tier prospect — those guys all sign at the age of 16 (and frequently have informal agreements in place long beforehand, from Wilson Betemit to Kevin Maitan). He was signed by one of the Braves’ most legendary scouts, Rolando Petit, the man who signed Ronald Acuña, Jr. As Jeff Schultz recounts:
Petit was hired as a Braves scout in 1991 and worked for the next 27 years. He not only signed Acuña, he was either directly responsible or part of a Latin American scouting group responsible for the Braves’ signings of Ozzie Albies, Elvis Andrus, Martin Prado, Julio Teheran, Gregor Blanco, Jose Peraza and others.
Petit was fired in the post-Coppolella purge of Latin American scouting.
Martin Prado, the non-Prospect turn MLB Regular
Martin Prado was far from the prospect radar when he made his debut. In February 2006, John Sickels ranked him at the 15th-best prospect of a very weak system and gave him an overall C+ ranking; Prado got a cup of coffee that year, hit .262/.340/.405 in 49 PA. He still had his rookie eligibility, but Sickels still left him off the 2007 prospect ranking. Prado hit an empty .288/.323/.339 in 62 PA, and it was hard to believe he could be more than a Quad-A backup infielder.
Then came 2008, which felt so unlikely as to seem like a fluke: he played five positions and got 254 plate appearances, and hit .320/.377/.461. He didn’t really have a position because Kelly Johnson was still seen as the second baseman of the future and Chipper was still Chipper, but they can’t bench you when you hit .320. Prado was here to stay. He hit .307 in each of the next two years, made his first and only All-Star team in 2010, and established himself as a first-division starting player.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even get signed when he was 16, and didn’t even get ranked on the prospect list.
Come Home, Prado.
If for whatever reason he gets tired of South Florida, it’d sure be nice to see him come back to Atlanta. I don’t think there’s a player on the roster who wouldn’t benefit from having him around.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this piece, here’s a retro piece on the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves on Martin Prado.