Braves need to restock farm system depleted by big-league success

They’ll add prospects in MLB draft this weekend
Braves right-hander Spencer Strider is among several of the team's draft picks who were instant hits in the majors. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Braves right-hander Spencer Strider is among several of the team's draft picks who were instant hits in the majors. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The expert consensus is that the Braves have the worst farm system among major league teams. That would be a problem if they also had a bad major-league team. The Braves have been a great major league team over multiple years, with prospects either directly filling needs or doing so as outgoing trade assets.

That’s a great position for the Braves. The only thing better is maintaining a strong farm system while also fielding a major league team that wins consistently. That’s very difficult to pull off. The Dodgers have done it in recent years, but that’s likely to change as they cut back on payroll and tap into their rich farm system for replacements.

The Braves will need to do something similar someday. It’s hard to see that now. They are a young team with nearly all their best players signed to long-term contracts. What to get the big-league team that seemingly has it all for years to come? We’ll find out when the Braves begin making their selections in the MLB draft Sunday.

The Braves own the No. 24 overall pick and three others among the top 100. They could use more position player prospects in the system. Some of the better ones in this draft play shortstop for area teams: Colin Houck (Parkview), Tai Peete (Trinity Christian) and Antonio Anderson (North Atlanta). placed 61 other position players among the top 100 prospects in the draft, including 18 of the top 25.

The Braves had good position player prospects in the system when they hired Alex Anthopoulos as general manager. As those players became good major leaguers, Anthopoulos invested heavily in pitchers in the draft. Now the Braves don’t have many position players ranked among their top prospects.

That comes with some caveats. Anthopoulos sometimes mentions one of them. The rankings by outsiders reflect the accumulated opinions of experts, but internal opinions on Braves prospects may be different. For one recent example, Braves right-hander Spencer Strider wasn’t on many top prospect lists before he became an instant star in 2022.

Timing is another thing to consider with draft strategy. The Braves won’t be needing many position players in the foreseeable future. They just had six selected for the All-Star game, and all of them are under contractual control through at least the 2026 season. The Braves can keep five of them through 2027, should they choose.

Shortstop is one position that’s not set for the long term. Orlando Arcia is having a great season, but it’s an outlier among his eight in the big leagues. Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake are splitting time at shortstop at Triple-A Gwinnett. Grissom is weak in the field at shortstop, and Shewmake hasn’t hit much above the Single-A level.

The Braves have an opening in left field. There don’t seem to be any sure-fire prospects ready to take over once they move on from Eddie Rosario. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, but even just from a quantity perspective, there aren’t many outfielders in the upper levels of the Braves’ system.

So, maybe the Braves select a position player with one of their top draft picks. Over the winter they used the bulk of their international signing bonus money on three outfielders: Luis Guanipa, John Carlos Monteverde and John Estevez. They are all 17 years old, though, so it will be a while before they are ready for the big leagues, assuming they make it.

There’s a good chance the Braves will continue investing in pitchers. They still need more of them. As a rule, all major league teams always need more arms. They get hurt often. They don’t pan out frequently. There are multiple bullpen slots to fill.

And pitcher is the one position where the Braves aren’t stacked with proven young pitchers under long-term contractual control. Strider and Bryce Elder are pretty much the only ones who fit that bill. Both players haven’t been in the majors long, but they’ve already shown enough to conclude they are here to stay (and Strider already signed a long-term contract).

There are still questions about the young Braves pitchers at or near the major-league level: AJ Smith-Sawver, Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster and Ian Anderson. Kyle Wright’s career resurgence has been derailed by injuries. Anderson’s star was dimming before he had elbow surgery in April.

The Braves may need to fill rotation spots relatively soon. Lefty Max Fried is eligible to become a free agent after next season. Charlie Morton, 39, has a club option for 2024. If those players depart and the Braves fill their spots with homegrown pitchers, then those pitchers will have to be replaced in the pipeline. On and on it goes.

That’s why major league teams always are trying to grow their farms. One of the best things Anthopoulos did early in his tenure was resist the urge to trade his best prospects for major-league talent when the Braves started winning sooner than expected. He built on that talent by drafting a lot of pitchers and supplemented the major league roster with some smart signings and trades.

The result is five consecutive National League East titles and a World Series championship. The Braves did it with young, homegrown stars Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris II. They sent away good prospects to acquire Matt Olson and Sean Murphy.

The trophy case is full. The farm is depleted. The Braves will continue restocking it this weekend.

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