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.

Should the Braves call up top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson?

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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

JD

May 10th, 2009
3:21 am

The Braves have the best farm system in baseball! Barack Obama is hope and change! Brawndo has what plants crave, it’s got electrolytes!

jsmtz

May 10th, 2009
9:28 am

Do you even follow the organization? What do you know about the farm system? Blauser was good for one year and then went to the Cubs. Mercker was good for one year as well and then ended up with the Reds and then 5 other teams. Avery and Wholers were good for two each. And, Stanton? He never did anything for the organization. He had more success with the Yankees. Seriously, get your facts straight or quit writing about the Braves. You don’t know what you are talking about.

ozzie

May 10th, 2009
11:04 am

I believe the point is apart from Hanson and perhaps Medlen (which they don’t need now as much as they need power offense) all the help the Braves could summon sits with 18-20 players lower in the system. The odd 18-21yo will come up and stick but it is not the norm.

There is little to no offensive or position player talent in AAA that could right this ship. Gwinnett is struggling as a team. Their OF is sub par etc.

While I am not as down on the prospects as Furman he is correct. The pipeline seems to be log jammed in A and to a degree AA. Gorkys looks good but he is a year away.

Remove Freeman or Heyward from the mix and there is no on from AAA down to A with much game changing offensive talent. They look promising (e.g. Gorkys) but after how Schafer has struggled don’t expect Wren to pull the trigger so easily in ST 2010 (re: very young rookies).

Many people are assuming Heyward starts in LF in April 2010 and Freeman is up later in that year; this may not happen. So in the interim they are wasting millions on over the hill FA and or accepting sub-par play from position players b/c they have no other options.

Put it this way if Infante (who has been great) does down for the season the Braves are sunk unless KJ stops being so bi polar. A bench player should not mean that much to a team.

The Braves rely so much on their bench b/c the usually have little AAA talent ready to go. Not since 2005 when the baby Braves came up have they been a phone call away from AA or AAA ready to go talent.

brent a.

May 10th, 2009
1:25 pm

I hate it when people make comments (in this case Mr. Bisher) like, “no one has factored the loss of McCann into the equation.”

Yes Furman, no one has noticed the absence of McCann. The whole story about his eyes/lasik/contacts/glasses has gone completely ignored by the fans and the mainstream media.

JoeinDE

May 12th, 2009
11:42 am

Cody Johnson is a name that has not been mentioned yet by anyone here as a possible impact position player from our farm system. Here are his numbers from Rome last year.
AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
.252 127 468 62 118 26 1 26 89 40 177 8 3 .307 .479 .786
Compare that to Ryan Howard in A- ball
.280 135 493 56 138 20 6 19 87 66 145 5 4 .367 .460 .827
Johnson has improved his walk rate this year at MB while hitting for more power (and K’s).
.288 30 104 17 30 7 0 11 23 15 41 3 1 .378 .673 1.051
There are also some really good looking starters at Rome
Jacob Thompson – 35 IP, 3 BB, 26K
Ezekial Spruill – 34 IP, 7BB, 30K
Richard Sullivan – 29 IP, 5 BB, 27K
J.J. Hoover – 23 IP, 2 BB, 29K (only 2GS)

Sspruill

May 12th, 2009
9:21 pm

maybe before you say there is no talent in the braves farm system from local breeding you should check the front page of the AJC, my 19-year old little brother IS the next Braves phenom. Right outta Marietta, bitches.

BA

May 14th, 2009
3:46 pm

Who’s pitching on Saturday?

Jay

May 17th, 2009
12:15 pm

I’ve long respected you as a writer, but this piece is a “swiiinngg anna miss.” Our lineup and dugout are filled with products from the farm; with more that will do well in the big currently in Triple A. Just because we’re doing it a little different than a decade ago doesn’t mean its the wrong approach.

j brave

May 18th, 2009
12:29 am

whose worst the braves or there play by what if guys/bobby must go.3ed to 1st double pick,get real..

ATL Fan 1975

May 25th, 2009
10:11 am

The Texiera trade will haunt us for years to come. It will be more noticeable if the “golden 5″ were not playing in Texas (no playoff series victories ever). However, this may change for them this year and when it does the Texiera trade will feel alot worse. Andrus is an electric shortstop at 20 years old (gold glove talent). Salty has dramatically upgraded his defense and has recetnly found his power from both sides of the plate. He is also a vocal leader within the clubhouse. Harrison (except for the first tow starts of the year) has been throwing lights out. Two complete games in his last three and 2.15 ERA. He gets the start today agains the Yanks so lets see what he has. But Perez (still 20yrs old) will make this trade one of the worst in our history! His stuff is electric and he as the potential to be a #1 starter for the next 10 years. The Rangers say they will bring him close to the all star break. As I said, because the Rangers are not the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, etc this trade is still below the radar. But once Texas gets into the playoffs or contends late in the season this trade will be all of the talk…because it will be the “golden 5″ who are largely responsible for a quick turnaround! I hated it from the day it was announced, and its only going to get worse!

steven

May 26th, 2009
7:39 am

Furman- time to retire– besides the fact the braves have pitching depth in the Minors– cf looks deep for years– also they got Kinshen for attendance not because the did not have pitchers in minors–

MontanaBravo

May 26th, 2009
2:46 pm

I don’t even know what to say about a “reporter” who doesn’t know that Merker was obtained from the Reds and Smoltz from the Tigers??? Great research you deserve your paycheck.

erikwb21

May 30th, 2009
1:50 am

Everyone on here that believes the braves are done need to rid themselves of braves memorabilia and never come back!!!!!!!! 14 pennants in a #$%#$%#ing. row!! what other team has done that??? in any sport, without coming remotely close to the highest payroll.. its called good business, you have to make risky decisions. The braves management understand this better than anyone. Think about all the players you have mentioned in trades… the best player is adam wainright and he would have a hard time being our third starter!!!! all of the rest would not crack the line up!! this ought to tell you that management has not failed at all .Yes they have given up some talent but in return have solidified themselves at every position except outfield and to my knowledge they have not traded any outfielders..have they?? or any big bats?? This is the braves game, to stock pile talent in positions where most teams fail to and develop them to be trade bait when they need a player or two to be a contender. The only issue the Braves have is that they have relied on old pitchers to get them to the playoffs!

Rufus

June 3rd, 2009
5:44 pm

The Braves need all the help they can get now, not when it’s hopeless.
They are doomed to failure, if they follow the same pattern as they did last year, and so far this year.
It’s the same thing every year with that organization.
A lack of wanting and a lack of doing, plus a lack of common sense.
Not to insult crowns, but if there were ever a bunch their front office is full of them, plus
the famous Atlanta hitting coach, now there is a really clown, disguise as a hitting coach

Mickey Rooney

June 4th, 2009
4:20 pm

Hey Furm, here are some other things you may have missed besides the strength of the Braves farm system: COLOR television, airplanes, personal computers, the DH, escalators, cordless phones, this world wide web thing, and flushing toilets.

Riles

June 5th, 2009
5:08 pm

Anderson is hitting .260 with a .302 OBP. Hardly hitting well for Detroit. Somebody was not THAT high on him since he has been traded how many times?

The Real Gumby

June 5th, 2009
6:31 pm

AJC headline: Seven stories to read in Sunday’s AJC

Is one of them yours, Furman? Down to only 7 stories, huh? Oh, well, maybe something can be made of Tom Glavine losing all velocity and common sense. Apologize to Tommy and put him to work at the paper. Next week, eight stories.

trey

June 12th, 2009
9:50 pm

You’re a good man, Furman, my dad used to actually work in his I think late teens eary twenties with you. He said you still use the oldfashioned typewriter, instead of the more modern stuff and I have a lot of respect for you.

Bill Donohoo

June 17th, 2009
11:40 am

I am getting a bit tired of the Braves front office getting excited about a trade because the player is already signed for 3 years. I am really not excited about acquiring a CF who was hitting a whopping 250 and getting a first baseman who has no power and hits between 270 and 280. Garret Anderson is a waste, the Angels did not give up on him because he had a another good year in him.
Cox would do well to get on Frenchy about swinging at bad pitches. If Cox is already doing it, then it has not sunk in.Frenchy reminds me of many flash in the pans, good for a couple of years then loses it for some reason.
Kelly Johnson’s streaks are getting old, it seems the Braves were excited about Johnson at year end in 2008, trouble is that is when all the Triple A and Double A pitchers are brought up.
I still say move McCann to first base and save the wear and tear on him. MOve Escobar to CF or RF and get a good fielding SS. In other words what ever the Braves are doing just isn’t working. Shake things up!!!!!!!!!

Meatlake

June 21st, 2009
7:03 am

I beat Bisher…circa 79′

LSU

June 21st, 2009
8:45 pm

Mr. Bisher is right about our farm system being dried up. There’s only a handful of potential top prospects, and none of them except for maybe Schafer are close enough to play in the big leaugues.

dub

June 22nd, 2009
1:36 pm

If and when Bobby Cox put the right line-up out there he might win some games ,but until then he’s not

dub

June 22nd, 2009
1:45 pm

I like to know what wrong with Yunel playing ss.You need to be talking about your 3b,2b,rf can’t hit they way out of a wet paper bag right now. at least Yunel hit witth runner in scores position Chipper piss because he can’t hit when runner is on he need to go while you still can get something for him i recon.

Patrick

June 24th, 2009
1:20 pm

That is quite possibly the worst piece of journalism ever written. You have no idea what heck you are talking about. I am actually dumber from having read that article. Please retire and my god have mercy on your soul you POS “journalist”

Eddie

June 27th, 2009
8:27 am

I say fire Bobby Cox. The Braves have no speed and dont hit and run. Bobby waits for the HR when the Braves dont have any power, he has no imagination anymore.

dub

June 27th, 2009
7:14 pm

Chipper.Chipper;Chip is wash up .Instead of getting rid of Tex it should have been the Chip.Some you keep talking about they r pitching around Chipper, but the last month they been going right at him an he can’t come thur in the cluth. Braves r 0 for 15 with runner in scoreing position & Chipper is o for 5 maybe 6. He need to shut his mouth an just play ball this game has a way of humbling you. Mr Wren when r u going to open your eyes an see what going on ,because Bobby Cox sure don’t.

Braves Fan A

July 3rd, 2009
11:36 am

Mr. Bisher,
I think you’re running out of things to write so you’re spending your time trying to raise some controversial discussion or trying to find some negativity of the Braves.
Here’s the reply to your post, if you come out of your old cave in the last week, you can see that our farm system is doing pretty awesome. (Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen, ever heard of those guys?)
So what if we sign new players ? there’s nothing wrong with that, the result is that we’re winning, and we’re doing that in a very honest way. When we’re hiring player that’s on steroid to win the game, then you can write all your want. And what’s with the discussion about signing Japanese players ? It doesn’t even make any sense. I feel like you don’t like foreign players, well wake up old man, baseball is all over the world and there are better players out there than just in America.
If you can’t find encouraging words to help fans to cheer more for the Braves, then go to Florida, New York, or Philadelphia, they can use you over there.
I have lost a lot of respect for you since you posted the article about Chipper Jones being traded. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of Braves fan.
So with all due respect, if you can’t encourage Braves fan, then either shut up or move to the cities that I listed above.
There I said it, and I’m not sorry

Justin

July 8th, 2009
9:01 am

A few months later, and this article REALLY looks dumb. On the ML roster right now we have no less than 8 starters and 6 or 7 relievers/bench players who came up through the system. We also STILL have some of the best prospects in the game after having called up our 2 best pitchers and trading for McLouth.

To the post that said we will be out of it by July…well, I am pretty sure we are still in it.

Bisher, this article sucks and reeks of senility. Get a clue before you write next time!

josh

July 8th, 2009
3:30 pm

didn’t we trade for smoltz?

Burdell

July 8th, 2009
8:57 pm

Smoltz came up through Detroit’s system. He did pitch a year in Richmond before being promoted, but he was a top prospect before in Detroit’s system, so it’s questionable at best to call him a “product” of the Braves’ farm.

People assume the Tigers got fleeced in the deal, but the other end of that trade, Doyle Alexander, went 9-0 for the Tigers with a 1.53 ERA, which was a major reason the Tigers made it to the AL Championship that year. It was a clear “win now” move that almost paid off.

Rufus

July 14th, 2009
10:20 pm

If the Braves had an ultra talented young player, and he had a free spirit about him, Bobby won’t want him, unless he’s a robot, and won’t show emotion.
The reality is that no matter what players the Braves get, Bobby will find a way blow a lead.
The Braves need to starting over again, beginning with the hitting coach, MANAGER, etc.

mike mangan

July 15th, 2009
9:20 pm

Smoltz actually came in the win now trade with the Tigers for doyle alexander and yes he did win now with great numbers for the motor city maulers after the trade.What an upside Smoltz had after arriving in atlanta are there anymore trades like that available anywhere.Yes we did have another Id trade another Melvin Nieves for another Fred McGriff.How about Kotchman,Canizares,or Kelly Johnson andMedlin for Adrian Gonzales and while were at it swapping Mike Gonzales for Heath Bell in a swap of closers…

DC Bravesfan

July 16th, 2009
7:01 pm

Who the hell cares if you have talent in the farm system, I want talent in the ATL, playing, winning, and winning championships. Not sitting down on the farm.

jwyatt15

July 22nd, 2009
3:45 pm

Write another article or delete this crap! I am so tired of seeing it on the front page. Three months is quite long enough for an unfounded article full of lies. You may want to research some of the “dried up talent” before you do such a lovley piece next time. Here, I’ll help you with your homework sweetie! Look up the names Cody Johnson, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Brandon Hicks, and some guy named Hanson. Good luck, I know you can do it!

PN

July 23rd, 2009
12:36 am

This a beautiful article. It’s an article that I can respond to in a semi-educated manner without even reading the article. All my response required was the author of the article and the title of the article. So the Braves talent on the farm has dried up, huh Furmie? Maybe you shouldn’t tell McCann that, or Chipper, or Yunel, or Prado, heck for the better part of 2 years, Francueor (gag) and KJ (semi-gag). Tommy Hanson wouldn’t be too thrilled with this article. Oh, neither would the #1 and #11 (overall) Baseball America prospects Freeman or Heyward. Medlen may beg to differ too. Oh yeah, what was that guy’s name, Schafer? He disagree too. Am I leaving anyone out? Ohhh yeah! Nate McClouth actually just texted me that Charlie Morton and Gorkyz Hernandez told him to tell me that they disagree as well. I have only nicked the surface.

Furman, you are senile. Go home.

PN

July 23rd, 2009
12:44 am

LOL. After reading the article I had a bowel movement for the first time in 2 days. Thanks Furman! Your articles DO work!

tim

July 23rd, 2009
7:02 pm

The five players we traded for Tex wern’t all “golden” as you put it. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is struggling for playing time in Arlington, and he wasn’t needed here. Matt Harrison in two seasons with Texas has an ERA over 5.5 and this season has an ERA over 6! The organization has enough depth to keep making these trades for big-time players (and STILL be loaded) because we have such a great farm system. Wren knows what he’s doing. It’s not like he ever trades a player at a position we need. All he’s traded of significance are catchers and pitchers. NEITHER OF WHICH WE NEED!

aswingruber

July 24th, 2009
2:59 pm

Smoltz was a product of the Detroit farm system you arse. Couple that with the fact that you say you are “a believer in Kelly Johnson” and it’s clear you have no business writing about the Braves anymore viejo. You are out of touch. Please stop coming around every 3 months to drop a crackpot column on us.

Mike

July 24th, 2009
3:44 pm

Mr. Bisher, I am a real fan but it is time to take this column down. enough is enough.

John Brown

July 25th, 2009
3:15 pm

The Braves have the 4th ranked minor league system in the majors according to ESPN. Without Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar and Tommy Hanson(Braves farm products), the Braves would be nowhere right now. And, for losing Salty in the Tex trade(he’s useless striking out swinging for the fences constantly) we also got Jurjenns from Detroit for a washed up Renteria. So in the end with those 2 trades I’d say Jair is the best player involved by far. Brooks Conrad has contributed as well. A professional would admit he’s wrong, and in this case you clearly are so admit it and people might give you a break.

John Brown

July 25th, 2009
3:21 pm

HEY Bill – Move Escobar to CF???? Are you nuts? Look at Soriano in Chicago. He is awful…..Escobar is one of the best fielding SS in the NL. Are you watching the games? McCann lost weight to take care of his knees. He’ll be fine. Yea move a 4 time All Star to 1st? When he’s what 26? He’s 10x the catcher Piazza was and that didnt work either. Quit armchair GM-ing and leave the professionals to play the postion they can. Or become a Cub fan…They do stupid stuff like the things you suggest. You’d fit right in. Escobar in CF….Probably the dumbest suggestion I have ever heard!!