Braves’ talent on the farm has dried up

 

Pitcher Kenshin Kawakami is the Braves' latest addition over a product from the "farm." (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Pitcher Kenshin Kawakami is the Braves' latest addition -- not from the "farm" system. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Once upon a time, as fairy tales usually begin, the Braves were a baseball team that was home-bred, carefully incubated in the farm system, and nurtured all the way up to the major league level. There they won championships and pennants and played in the World Series, one of which they won. And they left their names scrolled on the walls of the ball park where they played, and in team and league record books. Then something began to change after the season of 2005, and the once-flourishing franchise has been groping ever since.

Now, the Braves’ “farm” system reaches from Venezuela to Japan. Deals are made, faces change, and only this season have they reached deep into their jeans to play a hand in the free agent rat-race. A payroll that once was held around the $80-million level, by order of the McScrooge ownership, has now zoomed to about $97 million. They even splurged $60 million on Derek Lowe, a 35-year-old they niftily lifted from the Dodgers. They traded for Javier Vazquez, an $11-million-a-year pitcher, and then they really hit the high road. They invaded Japan.

Kenshin Kawakami is a good-natured 33-year-old pitcher, and I say that without understanding a word he says. When you hire one Japanese player, you get two Japanese. You must have an interpreter, in this case Daichi Takasue, also most accommodating. Any interview is sort of an Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy act. You ask a question, Daiche asks Kenshin, Kenshin replies, Daiche repeats what he said. Kenshin hits well, as pitchers go, and I asked Daiche if he was a good hitter in Japan. Kenshin smiled shyly and in translation, “He wouldn’t want to say. It would look like he’s bragging.”

When I asked him his view on American umpires, he said (so Daiche said), “the plate seems to be narrower over here,” and illustrated with his hands. It does give us a variety we haven’t had in a Braves clubhouse before.

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So far, the Braves have hovered around .500, but I fear they’ve just about found their level. It’s not the pitching; it’s the run-making. The best prospect of a leadoff man was traded to Detroit, Josh Anderson, a .300 hitter with base-stealing speed and center field experience in the majors. Jordan Schafer probably would have benefited from at least a half-season in triple-A. He’s not a leadoff type. Josh Anderson is, and he’s hitting well in Detroit. There’s a problem at second base right now, but I’m a believer in Kelly Johnson. They’re suffering the loss of Brian McCann, which nobody has figured into the equation. And Chipper Jones can be handled — just don’t pitch to him.

We saw an illustration while the Cardinals were in town of how a bad deal can draw blood over the years. The Braves didn’t simply trade Adam Wainwright to get J.D. Drew for a year, but they also threw in Jason Marquis, now a $9.8-million starter in Colorado. That deal will be haunting this team for years, as will the deal that sent five golden talents to Texas for a season of Mark Teixeira — who, as a Yankee, is currently hitting more than l00 points below Casey Kotchman. Three are on the Rangers roster and a fourth, pitcher Neftali Feliz, may be the best of them all, Bobby Cox said. Right now he’s tuning up on the Oklahoma City farm.

Gone are the rich old farm days that gave us John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Mercker, Stanton, Wohlers, Lemke, Blauser, Chipper … a bumper crop of farm products. Just pick up the phone and call Richmond. Now, it’s just a matter of calling a cab in Lawrenceville — if there’s any help there to be called for.

191 comments Add your comment

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May 2nd, 2009
3:49 pm

Larry

May 2nd, 2009
3:52 pm

Why would anyone be surprised at the trade of Josg Anderson? He has the potential to steal bases, bunt for a single, turn a double into a triple leading to something that is baffling to Bobby Cox–manufacturing a run in a close game!

There’s only one hope for this team with Bobby Cox. Shutout pitching and a solo homer, just like what Glavine and Justice did to give this man his only championship despite given a wealth of talent for 14 years.

NRBQ

May 2nd, 2009
3:55 pm

Gol-danged, con-sarned, new-fangled, whippersnapper Braves!

bluedar

May 2nd, 2009
3:57 pm

Tommy Hanson. Freddie Freeman. Jason Heyward. Jordan Schafer. Brandon Jones. Gorkys Hernandez. Julio Teheran. Cole Rohrbaugh. Kris Medlen. Cody Johnson. Brandon Hicks.

The list goes on and on.

Michael

May 2nd, 2009
4:00 pm

Actually, I disagree. Look at our lineup – McCann, KJ, Escobar, Chipper, Schaefer, and Frenchy were all brought up through the farm system (as were Martin Prado, Brandon Jones, and Jo-Jo Reyes). Hanson will be up soon. While the hitting has been atrocious, this likely has very little to do with the organization the player came up with.

Daniel

May 2nd, 2009
4:01 pm

Furman.. your crazy.

Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Cole Rohrbaugh.. etc etc etc.

We have the 2nd rated farm system in all of baseball right now. Your complaining because we traded away Josh Anderson to give Schafer a chance to play every game? Jordan has the 2nd highest OBP behind Chipper.

Who exactly did we give up to get Derek Lowe? The biggest mistake was trading Salty for Tex, but we will learn from that.

Didnt we trade away a vet in Edgar Renteria to get Jair Jurrjens? I would say that worked out. Give the front office a break. They want to win now, and win later. Chipper isnt getting any younger.

jmart1951

May 2nd, 2009
4:10 pm

The Braves have one of the best farm systems in the major leagues. Go over to Gwinnett and look for yourself. Then take a holiday to Myrtle Beach and while there take in a game. Our farm system is getting ready to explode with talent. The Braves future is bright and Wren appears to be more stingy with our prospects than his predecessor.

IlliniDawg

May 2nd, 2009
4:12 pm

This is what you get when you let a senile pensioner out of his walker so he can write a column for a major newspaper.

JF

May 2nd, 2009
4:14 pm

Mr. Bisher is right…. despite what you’re listing as current players, the fact is the trades he has listed are fact….and if any of you think that giving the five “golden” farm kids away for a one year rental of a selfish player like Tex, or an often injured Drew…then you can’t be helped.

Not having traded those kids away might negate the need for Lowe, KK, or Vasquez to all come here with the big salaries…

My, my….look what’s happening now with McCann needing a seeing eye dog…where is Salty when you need him?…ask Big John the former GM…

Maybe Salty would have been playing first intead of Kothman, and could have slipped behind the plate easily…and Elvis Andrus might well be pushing Escobar….

…and on and on…

Yes folks, Mr. Bisher (remember that, because he earned that respect while most of you were still in dirty diapers)….Mr. Bisher has forgotten more than most of you will ever know….

thanks, Mr. Bisher….

Bill

May 2nd, 2009
4:18 pm

Smoltz a farm product? — oh yes, of Detroit!

braveshater

May 2nd, 2009
4:23 pm

Kelly Jonhnson is a bust. Schaffer will be a decent player, but not a difference maker. Escobar is the only thing resembling a star the Braves have produced since Chipper. I agree with u Furman. I dont know what these clowns are doing. Its not like we’re bringin in Top Notch talent via free agency. we get an over the hill pitcher, one who just gives it up and eats innings, and a Japanese who cant find the strike zone. Where is Manny, or Burnett, or Sabathia, or anybody who would make a difference. How do u spend all this money to be a .500 team, it makes no sense. we could have done that with the talent we have in the farm system. If there isnt a better second baseman than Kelly Johnson in the system, its a JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

uga

May 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

The Braves have a lot of problems, but the farm system isn’t one of them. It’s widely regarded as one of the better farm systems in all of baseball.

Tim

May 2nd, 2009
4:33 pm

Correction….Smoltz did not come out of the Braves farm system, he was in the Detroit system and the Braves stole him in the Doyle Alexander deal. That said, I agree that the Braves have mortgaged their future on bad trades that did not work out, and destroyed the farm system. I fear the Vazquez trade will be another one that is regretted.

jay

May 2nd, 2009
4:36 pm

Its always terrific to get the scenile musings of a geriatric in your morning paper. Nevermind that Baseball America and ESPN both rank our farm talent among their top-five. Nevermind that Furman Bischer is clearly old and out of touch. Let’s just churn out another overwrought piece of journalistic garbage and expect the public to digest it because “it’s Furman!”… THIS is why newspapers are dying.

farmdaddyo

May 2nd, 2009
4:41 pm

Furman Bisher has been writing foolish stuff for decades. Check out the old Bear Bryant stories. The Braves may have traded away some good prospects for Tex but the farm is not empty. There are other writers this paper that don’t agree with the senile one.

John

May 2nd, 2009
4:43 pm

wow, what a horrible article. how about you do some research next time.

payattention

May 2nd, 2009
4:47 pm

people…pay attention…there are two things that are being talked about here, and while i agree with Mr. Bisher most of the time today i dont. The farm system (FS) is not dried up, it has just been sprinkled on other teams (though we do have some great potential talent up and coming). The braves problem is not free agency nor the current FS it has been the three poor trades talked about in this article…though the fact that we have made three poor trades costing us around 15 prospects proves that the FS is not dried up…people wanted the goods that we have, and we still have 12 to 15 potential studs out there. The article should have been titled “Trades that have crippled the Braves”, instead.

Daybed Wagmoe

May 2nd, 2009
4:56 pm

It’s okay everybody — just smile, nod, humor the old man, and go to Dave O’Brien’s blogs for actual news on the Braves and their very promising, very strong farm system.

Randy

May 2nd, 2009
4:56 pm

Due respect Furman, but your head is up your ass if you think the Braves’ farm system has “dried up.” Get real. The Braves have one of the richest farm systems in baseball.

Jim H.

May 2nd, 2009
4:57 pm

Furman, do you even know anything about Atlanta sports anymore? Dude, I respect you but I think its time for you to retire. I was going to go down the list of high rated home grown prospects that the Braves have at or near the major league level, but bluedar and others have pretty much covered it (good job). If there ever was a problem with the farm system it can be argued that the problem existed several years ago, but has been corrected in the past few years. As for the recent dry spell in playoff appearances, that can be attributed to things like — 1) a shrinking payroll that caused us to have to turn loose lots of talent during the last 10 years 2.) The injury bug catching up with us (during the playoff run the Braves were very lucky at avoiding injuries 3.) Our luck just plain evening out. The 14 year division champ run was an anomaly…..things like that just don’t happen very often in pro sports.

I do agree with you however that the Tex trade was an awful trade. I thought it was when they did it and I still think that. Gotta take the good with the bad though. That Jurrjens trade looks pretty dang good, don’t it?

Go back to sleep Mr. Bisher.

MiltonDawg

May 2nd, 2009
5:00 pm

Something needs to change soon. Our offense is sub-par if that. As far as 2B is concerned, anybody good in Gwinnett? I also think the Braves playing for a home crowd with a half empty stadium. Where are the fans in the seats? There is no buzz about them at all. Agreed??

Wilson

May 2nd, 2009
5:04 pm

When 6 of the 8 position players in your Opening Day lineup are out of your farm system, arguing that the team doesn’t develop players and the farm system talent has dried up doesn’t really hold much water. Not to mention the slew of prospects on the horizon who will be competing for major league jobs in the near future.

Josh

May 2nd, 2009
5:13 pm

Bisher you suck! maybe you should actually pay attention every now and then, The Braves have one of the best farm systems in baseball.

Pickens

May 2nd, 2009
5:20 pm

Furman,

You put up stupid story after stupid story. Do you know all of the talent that is about to come up through the braves system? You have no CLUE!!! Please do us a favor and RETIRE!!!

BillH

May 2nd, 2009
5:23 pm

Hey, maybe I’m old too, because (1) Bisher is right (2) the sort of insulting comments made here come from people who wouldn’t be qualified to hold Bisher’s hat.

What’s the deal with being rude? And, if what I’ve experienced in life offers any clue, the people who insult others while anonymous on the Net are usually timid little people who spend the day in real life getting kicked around. So, safe at their keyboards, they take cheap shots. If you said any of that to Bisher’s face – even at his age – he’d throw you out the window and on into the trees.

Disagree all you like with Bisher but, lord a mercy, try to do it in a civil way. Surely your mamas taught you better than this.

Timmy

May 2nd, 2009
5:30 pm

Furman,

I have not read much of your stuff in the past, but I have to ask that you stick to talking about things you know about. The Atlanta Braves farm system is one of the elite systems in baseball. We’re easily top 5, and some would argue us as even having the second best farm system in the game. And that’s before you even realize all the talent we’ve traded away the last couple years. Add the guys we swapped in the Teixiera deal (Feliz, Harrison, Andrus) and we’re easily number one. And another solid prospect in catcher Tyler Flowers, who I really feel will become one of the elite DHs in the game when Thome retires.

Some things about our farm system you should know:

A rival team’s scout said he would trade any player on their major league roster for Jason Heyward. Think about that statement for a second.

Tommy Hanson has had multiple people compare him to Roy Halladay. Halladay is one of the best, if not the best pitchers in the game.

Kris Medlen’s adjustment period to being promoted to AAA this year was him retiring the first 20 batters he faced in order, and facing the minimum through 26.

We have two top 100 prospects who are the youngest and second youngest players at their level, and are more than holding their own in Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward.

Jeff Locke just took a no-no bid into the 7th inning for his second straight start.

Zeke Spruill a kid who was going to Prom this time last year, is pitching in full season ball, and has a 20-1 K-BB ratio. That’s insane. And he wasn’t even our first pick.

I could continue, but it’s not even worth it, because you obviously aren’t paying any attention at all.

anonbeliever

May 2nd, 2009
5:44 pm

How can you be a Kelly Johnson fan???? Do you have an affinity for players who hit sub .100 for a month, then suprisingly become sizzling hot and hit .400 for a stretch only to leave you with a a TERRIBLY INCONSISTENT .250 hitting OUTFIELDER playing 2nd base???
I sure hope there were some breakdowns when it came to scouting of the five players we sent for Teixeira, but if there wern’t John Schurholtz should be fired immediately since we obviously had no intention of keeping Tex any longer than we did… ITS TIME FOR AN OVERHAUL

Josh

May 2nd, 2009
5:45 pm

Furman, in this economy, I’d slash your job first. This is the worst article I have read on this website in awhile.

1. Our farm system is washed up? … quite the opposite… we have a top 3 farm system in Major League Baseball. Just because they aren’t playing 30 minutes away in Gwinnett, I guess you just don’t look past AAA. Read up on Freeman, Heyward, Hanson, Gorkys Hernendez (all top 100 prospects) and Julio Teheran, Jeff Locke, Cole Rohrbaugh, Kris Medlen, Cody Johnson, and Brandon Hicks… and we have the 7th pick in the draft.

2. You are mad the Braves traded Josh Anderson and his “experience” to Detroit? He hasnt had more than 150 ABs in a season and has played 45 games in CF in 3 seasons… Schafer hit .324 in Spring Training with 5 SBs and is the future… Josh Anderson was traded to us for Oscar Villareal… Schafer is a 5 tool player… Anderson is not.

3.You are obviously clueless when it comes to talking about how “poor” our starting pitching is… since our starters are 4th in the NL in ERA.

4. You are going to judge Marquis on the fact he is making $9.8M this season? Try looking at his statistics… he is garbage. A career 4.54 ERA ans was awful for us when we traded him.

robert hughes

May 2nd, 2009
5:47 pm

Furman, you do not have a clue. Terence, the racist is gone. It’s time for you to join him.

Chop Chop

May 2nd, 2009
5:48 pm

Somebody’s got to write a crazily inaccurate column from time to time, folks. We need something to complain (and be completely right) about.

Baracked the vote!

May 2nd, 2009
5:52 pm

Prospects come and go. having 2 prospects in the top 100 is no big deal. every ML team should have at least two. Trading Wainwright, Marquis, Andrus and Neftali Feliz can only be viewed as a mistake since the trades were supposed to bring another WS championship to Atlanta. Finally, Kelly Johnson (from the great farm system) is not a ML 2nd baseman. he butchers the position on a regular basis. and what the heck has Jo-Jo Reyes done?

Timmy

May 2nd, 2009
6:01 pm

This sort of writing is why newspapers aren’t going to make it. And blogs and message boards are slowly going to take over.

Tomahawkmafia

May 2nd, 2009
6:05 pm

What are you thinking Furman? The Braves farmsystem is among the best in baseball? Were you bored and just wanted to write about something that is completely false? If that is the case just write a novel.

Timmy

May 2nd, 2009
6:07 pm

On Kelly, he’s about average for his position defensively, and he’s one of the better offensive second basemen in the game. I’ve found Kelly is a good barometer for figuring out if the person you’re talking to has a clue about baseball. Those who think he’s a good ballplayer normally know what they’re talking about, and those who think he stinks normally don’t. He butchers an easy play now and then it makes his defense look worse than it is, but we makes a lot of tough plays, and gets to a lot of balls that other second basemen don’t get to, and that makes up for it. It’s not like he’s played there his whole life, so the easy mistakes should be expected, and he’s only going to continue to improve as a defender. Offensively, BP projected that he’d be the second best 2B in baseball this year, and I still think that’s very feasible. He’s had some rough luck early on, and everyone’s trying to hang him out to dry.

Mike

May 2nd, 2009
6:14 pm

This is the second article you have written on this topic, and you are grossly false. Baseball Prospectus, a rather distinguished magazine, maybe you have heard of it, ranks the Braves farm system as 5th BEST IN THE MAJORS! Mr. Fischer, your time has come to put down the pen. You are out of touch.

Macon Braves (RIP)

May 2nd, 2009
6:21 pm

Huh??? Was about to ask what the the heck this guy was thinking, then realized it was the 100 year old senile guy that the paper keeps around for Equal Opportunity Employment, so I’ll just move on and read something by someone not out of his gourd.

Rob from SC

May 2nd, 2009
6:22 pm

What the hell is wrong with this guy. Jason Heyward and Tommy Hanson are top 5 prospects in all of baseball. We have Freddie Freeman, Gorkys Hernandez, Kris Medlen, Jeff Locke, Cole Rohborgh. Does this guy even look at Baseball America. DOB set him straight

JD

May 2nd, 2009
6:33 pm

You’d think that when writing about 1 article a week you’d have time to do a little research. How can you say the farm has “dried up”? Are you completely ignoring the potential future stars in Heyward, Freeman, Morton, Rohrbough, Locke, Teheran, among others?

And what’s wrong with Wren going outside the organization for help? Look at the people who were big contributors in the 14 straight division titles: Pendleton (yes, the same inept batting coach we have now), Maddux, Smoltz, McGriff, Sheffield, and Hudson, just to name a few.

I can’t believe something like this was even posted.

BravesFAN885

May 2nd, 2009
6:35 pm

are you retarded? the braves have one of the highest ranked minor systems in the game!!!

MEB

May 2nd, 2009
6:52 pm

Very disappointing article Furman. I cannot believe you actually researched this article. I think a retraction is in order. Bringing in some pitching talent from the Dodgers and from Japan does not provide evidence of a decline in the the talent down of the farm. I’m really looking forward to the next five years of Braves baseball with at ton of home grown talent leading the way.

TROTTINGHOME

May 2nd, 2009
6:52 pm

bisher’s brain dried up

Um, what?

May 2nd, 2009
7:38 pm

If the Braves are so committed to free agents, why the heck can’t they seem to re-sign them when the time comes? Sorry, Bisher, your theory doesn’t wash.

the truth....

May 2nd, 2009
7:38 pm

Mr. Bisher…don’t feel too bad at all the dumb rednecks trashing you…by their rudeness we know they are from this era of selfish ignorant smucks. The only class they know anything about was the GED class they skipped so they could procreate with the girl from the piggly wiggly beside her double wide….

ignorance gone to seed……….

Classless….

BravesAreDone

May 2nd, 2009
8:15 pm

I’m not a believer in Kelly Johnson … never have been. Too streaky.

Shamus Thacker

May 2nd, 2009
8:24 pm

Furman, you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried!

Where the Hell did you get your info?

I don’t care if you’ve been at the AJC for fifty-years, your azz should be fired for incompetence over this piece. It’s downright laughable.

Shamus Thacker

May 2nd, 2009
8:36 pm

It’s AMAZING this thing is still up. LMAO

Dr. Phil

May 2nd, 2009
8:36 pm

I don’t agree that the farm system is broken, but something is seriously wrong. The Braves are not hitting, and their relief pitching is horrible. I have followed Josh Anderson for a couple of years, and I think that it was a big mistake trading him. Schafer is likely to become a great player, but for now, I would take Anderson. I think that .500 is about the best we can hope for this year.

Branch Rickey

May 2nd, 2009
8:37 pm

Half the Braves’ starting eight – Schafer, Kochman. Johnson & whoever is playing in left, might be reserves on a good team. The bullpen SUCKS ! The starting staff came from other organizations. Furman Bisher is CORRECT !

John Radney

May 2nd, 2009
8:37 pm

Yes, sign the old washed up players like Glavin and Ross. Smoltz, to their credit, when North, and didn’t re-sign him. Next gone should be the bily goat you have that
plays third. Hurt or gripping. Dump chippie now. that

Sparky Anderson

May 2nd, 2009
8:43 pm

The Braves’ farm system might be getting better but it sure as hell doesn’t reflect the current major league roster; what a bunch of mediocre players ! Better pray Frank Wren doesn’t loot the farm to get some washed up slugger for firstbase or left.