The Atlanta Braves have spent the last few years with one of the more highly regarded farm systems of any team in baseball. It is something the organization has been able to hang its hat on for quite some time.
Thanks to guys like Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman and Mike Minor, the Braves have continually produced quality players obtained in the annual MLB Draft. And while they continue to stockpile talent from outside of the United States -- Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Edward Salcedo are just a few -- a team must draft well if they are working with financial restrictions.
Keith Law of ESPN released his top-30 organizational rankings on Wednesday. The Braves dropped a considerable amount from previous years.
Here is what Law said about the Braves. He had the team ranked No. 16 overall.
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.
Atlanta has changed up their draft philosophy in the last few years, going for the guys who are typically viewed as "safer" bets and the ones who will likely sign for a reasonable amount of money, but as Law mentions, those players typically lack the upside to become a star. This essentially means the team will rely on hitting big through signing international free agents, which is pretty worrisome, especially with most of them coming to the United States extremely raw at the age of 16 or 17.
Most feel the Braves will have at least three players in Law's top-100 rankings -- they'll come out Thursday -- but those three will be pitchers Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino. There is a decent chance shortstop prospect Andrelton Simmons and catching prospect Christian Bethancourt will earn a spot, but neither projects to be impact players at the next level with the bat.
The Braves already have plenty of young talent assembled in the Major Leagues, but the farm system could be in serious jeopardy going forward, especially once guys like Teheran and Delgado graduate to the big leagues. The club simply cannot afford to see their Minor League system dry up in terms of talent.