ESPN’s Law ranks the Braves’ farm system pretty darn low

That's Mike Minor in the middle. Keith Law wasn't high on him, either. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Keith Law wasn't so high on Mike Minor (middle), either. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Because the Braves take pride in their farm system, Keith Law’s latest appraisal isn’t apt to get the save-print-and-frame treatment at 755 Hank Aaron Drive. Writing for ESPN Insiders, Law ranks the Braves’ minor-leaguers as baseball’s 16th-best.

Law’s take on the Braves (link requires registration):

They have reaped as little from the draft the past two years as anyone, taking low-ceiling college guys with early picks, staying at or under MLB’s bonus recommendations and having less luck on the international market. It’s telling that the major question on every position-player prospect in their top 10 is whether he’ll hit.

This represents a sharp falloff. Law had the Braves third in his organizational rankings last winter. In 2010, he placed them fifth. (That was the year he tabbed Jason Heyward as the No. 1 overall prospect.) That said …

Over the past two seasons, the Braves have produced one National League rookie of the year (Craig Kimbrel in 2011) and two runners-up (Heyward in 2010, Freddie Freeman last season). It would be difficult for any team — alliteration alert! — to sustain such a spree of sudden splashes.

Still, you’d think that the Braves’ glut of young pitching — Baseball America lists five pitchers among the organization’s top eight prospects — would leave the Braves higher than 16th, which is mathematically in the lower half of all MLB clubs. But Law’s point about hitting, or the lack thereof, is telling. Of the non-pitchers among Baseball America’s Braves top 10, none are outfielders. (Four infielders, one catcher.)

Oh, and one thing more: Law has been hammering on the Braves’ drafts for a while now. He hated it when they took Mike Minor with the No. 7 overall pick in 2009, and apparently he wasn’t enthused about the subsequent drafts, either. All of which makes me wonder what he’d have made of the Hawks under Billy Knight.

By Mark Bradley

212 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

February 9th, 2012
10:07 am

Rob

February 9th, 2012
10:12 am

We’ve graduated enough people in the last few years that this makes sense. I’d probably put us a little higher, but he’s right about us not having a single bat in the system who is guaranteed to stick in the MLB. Just having ridiculous pitching isn’t enough.

Aaron

February 9th, 2012
10:12 am

In his defense, all the major prospects the braves have are no longer prospects.

Heyward, Minor, Beachy, Freeman.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:15 am

again, they have lots of pitching and yet they keep drafting pitching.

No one in the organization seems to want to admit that they collectively suck behind the plate from the pro club to A ball.

They don’t seem to be able to find slugging anywhere.

Just Asking

February 9th, 2012
10:16 am

Mark, where do you rank them? Is that for the farm system as a whole or are there bright pots at AA or AAA?

BAMA dude

February 9th, 2012
10:17 am

So Law prefers the high risk/high reward draft picks over the safer bets that are more likely to bring returns sooner in the form of production or trade value. Good for him. I’d say a good mix is required, personally, and if I’m laying out first round money then risk management would certainly come into play.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:17 am

Teheran’s a bigger prospect than either Minor or Beachy. Just FYI.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:17 am

And kudos, NC Dawg.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:20 am

What it kind of tells you is that they expect to lose some good young pitchers so they are drafting guys closer to the majors so that they’ll hopefully be ready when they lose JJ, Hanson, Hudson etc. and they’ll still be able to compete, even though they’ll STILL be one of the worst hitting teams in the NL.

Jay Puskenalis

February 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Who is this guy Law? Never heard of him. Guess he doesn’t have much clout as a scribe wannabee. Sound bush to me, meat.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:21 am

We should stipulate: Pitching is the most important commodity in baseball. You can win a World Series with a team that hits .250 in a season. The Braves know. They did it in 1995.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:23 am

Keith Law, we should also stipulate, is one of the most recognized names when it comes to rating baseball prospects.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 9th, 2012
10:23 am

Drafting pitching is a good strategy since so many other teams have a hard time developing it, but that should be followed up by trading excess pitching for good hitters who can plug holes in the lineup.

Nebraska Brave

February 9th, 2012
10:24 am

hard to fathom that the Braves would drop that far in one year. Especially when the did relatively little during the trade deadline last year and even less this off season.

Michael

February 9th, 2012
10:25 am

1995 was a long time ago Mark. I think the game has changed since then. You’ve got to get people on and get them in now. It’s not enough to put all of the pressure on the arms to keep you in it, as we saw last year. When the arms gave out, there wasn’t anything left to keep the team going.

KornDawg

February 9th, 2012
10:27 am

So, what you’re saying is, when it comes to prospect evaluation, Keith’s word is Law?

Steve

February 9th, 2012
10:28 am

Braves will just get better and better each year while the Phillies get older and older. The future looks bright.

Big Crimson 75

February 9th, 2012
10:29 am

I think our Farm System is A-OK….We finished 1 – 2 in the ROY race last year!!
Hanson, Freeman, Kimbrel, Venters, Prado, Heyward, Beachy…………
Plus, we have a wealth of Pitching prospects.
Developing players is not the Braves biggest problem.

T-Bone

February 9th, 2012
10:29 am

MB, certainly pitching is a most important commodity, and yes the Braves won it all in 95 hitting .250. But pitching was the hallmark for all of those 90s — early 2000s teams and yet we still only won one WS.

Hankie Aron

February 9th, 2012
10:30 am

I”m with Najeh Davenpoop on this. You gotta trade some of the excess pitching which is why I’m not sure why Wren wasn’t able to trade some of the pitching this past winter.

Big Crimson 75

February 9th, 2012
10:30 am

Question I have……. Is Jayson Heyward gonna MAN-UP this year or what?

Hankie Aron

February 9th, 2012
10:34 am

I can understand not trading JJ or Hanson because of injury concerns but not trading even one of the younger pitchers (Mike Minor? Brandon Beachy?) to get a good outfield bat?. I wouldn’t trade Teheran or Vizcaino, certainly can understand that one.

jarvis

February 9th, 2012
10:34 am

MB, you speak of 1995 like it was yesterday….17 years my friend.

.

February 9th, 2012
10:35 am

Who is Keith Law??? Where has he been hiding? Never heard of him. What are his credentials? Was he a former Director of Scouting or or GM of a previous World Champion? Seriously, never heard of the guy.

jarvis

February 9th, 2012
10:35 am

That said, you point stands. Giants team two years ago was nuttin’ but pitching.
Maybe that would have been a more relevant example of your point.

gcs

February 9th, 2012
10:37 am

The reason they are so low is because all the Braves have is pitching. There are not too many position player prospects.
.

Mike

February 9th, 2012
10:39 am

The only question is hitting? Uh… Then how come we had 3 minor leaguers win their respective batting titles and J-Terd broke a Coastal League record for doubles. Whatever Mr. Law is smoking he better share.

Ralph

February 9th, 2012
10:39 am

I agree with the strategy of drafting pitchers, you can always trade pitchers for an established hitter, problem is the braves can’t afford to pay a established hitter so we continue to stockpile pitchers.

JoeFan

February 9th, 2012
10:40 am

Appears that the Braves scouting system is to blame if they they can’t identify quality position players with offensive capability out of all the draft choices they have available each year.

lanier

February 9th, 2012
10:42 am

so Mark why have the Braves been unable to develop young hitters?

Savvy

February 9th, 2012
10:42 am

Umm, 2010 SF Giants won with pitching. Worst hitting team (during the season) to make the playoffs.

Big Crimson 75

February 9th, 2012
10:42 am

….yeah I like drafting pitchers too, as long as they are not named Joey Devine!

tana

February 9th, 2012
10:44 am

Law does not count players who have lost their Rookie eligibility though. So Heyward, Kimbrel, Freeman all no longer count. And they were major factors added to the previous years. And I agree with him that our position players have big ?. If they continue to progress the way they are projected to then we will move up no doubt. But right now Pastornicky, Simmons, Bethancourt, Salcedo, Terdoslavich, and outfielders are developing….not much more than developing.

Hankie Aron

February 9th, 2012
10:44 am

I just know that if our guys don’t rebound with better years, Wren will have some “splaining” to do. Heyward will have to revert back to early 2010 form, Uggla has to play both halves of the season, Prado back to some semblance of his All-Star days. At least a little offense from Pastornicky maybe?. These guys are going to have to hit .250-.260 as a team and get strong pitching again because the rest of the East sans the Mets have gotten better. I mean look at what the Nationals and Marlins added.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:47 am

It is possible to pitch your way to a championship. It is not possible to hit your way there.

Ideally, you’d like to do both. But if you can only have one, it’s an easy choice.

CT Braves Fan

February 9th, 2012
10:48 am

It’s all white noise, just like the chatter on college football recruiting. I seem to recall all sorts of hype for guys like Brad Kominsk (”he’ll be worth 10 Dale Murhphys” LOL), Derek Lilliquist, etc…and the guy who was going to replace Chipper–his name is escaping me–he’s basically been a journeyman…anyway, as other posters have pointed out, all of the best prospects from recent years will be on the big team this year so of course the system will take a downgrade.

Hankie Aron

February 9th, 2012
10:48 am

I would feel better if we could have gotten a decent hitting outfielder like Josh Willingham or maybe Michael Cuddyer. That might soften the blow in case Heyward isn’t the same player he was before the thumb and the shoulder injuries.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:49 am

I’d also suggest that the Braves didn’t collapse in 2011 because they stopped hitting. They never really started hitting, and still they had the fourth-best record in baseball in late August. They collapsed because Hanson and Jurrjens got hurt and the bullpen — which had been stellar — finally wobbled.

Hankie Aron

February 9th, 2012
10:50 am

It just doens’t bode well for the Braves if in June we’re in third place and can’t hit anymore than last year.

CT Braves Fan

February 9th, 2012
10:51 am

Wes Helms! That’s who I was thinking of. Another over-hyped prospect.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:51 am

Indeed, but if you pitch your way there, most nights the club is going to be incredibly frustrating to watch if not incredibly boring.

1 run down will feel like 10. That was the 2011 Braves club.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:52 am

In my view, the Braves have played this offseason correctly. If Heyward and Prado and Uggla return to form, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, they can still go trade some of that young pitching for a hitter. But there was no need to part with those young pitchers until the Braves see what’s what.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:52 am

No one wants to pay to see guys lead the league in grounding into inning ending double plays with RISP.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
10:52 am

I don’t know that Wes Helms was ever a major prospect. He certainly wasn’t a Komminsk or a Freeman or even a Wilson Betemit.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:53 am

You are right though Mark, they have played this as well as they could have really.

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:58 am

The problem could be that because this team has been so dreadful in the outfield for so long, they have put too much on guys like Francouer and Heyward to be saviors of the lineup.

Prado is an infielder for gosh sakes. This team does not value outfield production in the least. They simply aren’t interested in finding, drafting or paying for guys in the outfield who are interesting to watch.

How many teams have a catcher as essentially the best slugger in the lineup? 2nd basemen next?

We get NOTHING out of the outfield, and that’s been the case for years and years. When they won the WS in 1995, much better outfield than this one.

CT Braves Fan

February 9th, 2012
10:59 am

Mark, knowing what we know now–that they would only get to one more WS (in ‘99)–would you still make the trades in ‘97 that unloaded Justice and Dye and cleared salary to keep Maddux and Glavine? (maybe just keeping one of them instead?)

PMC

February 9th, 2012
10:59 am

It is very similar to Billy Knight when he WOULDN’T get a center and he refused to go get a point guard.

McClouth was the Speedy Claxton of center field.

Mark Bradley

February 9th, 2012
11:02 am

They only got to one more World Series — but they won nine more division titles. And I’m of the opinion that getting to the playoffs is a big deal: You can’t win the World Series if you’re not in the postseason.

Ask the Cardinals about that.

hawesg

February 9th, 2012
11:03 am

We passed on some good talent when we took Minor. Shelby Miller, Dan Wheeler, but the big one for me was Mike Trout. It would be awfully nice to have him in CF this year and for a while after.