The Atlanta Braves have been working a rebuild based around accumulation of pitching riches for multiple seasons. How are they sporting the best offense in MLB?!
The date was July 31st, 2014. The Atlanta Braves traded away a promising young catching prospect named Victor Caratini for a bench player in Emilio Bonifacio and a lefty reliever in James Russell. Yours truly was a writer with an Atlanta Braves blog site, and when a negative review of the trade went up, the general idea was that the team was focused on getting to the playoffs, and a player so far away (Caratini) was not someone to fret over.
Fast forward two months and change. The Braves suffered through a second-half collapse that left the team at 79-83, a distant 2nd place in the NL East, and 9 games out of the NL Wild Card. The team was in a financial spot where they couldn’t spend to improve the team, and multiple players would be free agents after the 2015 season.
The decision was made at that time to go into a full-fledged rebuild. The first strike of the rebuild was a minor one, trading the 2014 starting second baseman for a minor league pitcher. However, the full rebuild was announced the next day when starting right fielder and former top prospect Jason Heyward was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a young MLB pitcher and a pitching prospect.
When I got upset about the trade of Caratini, it was due to the fact that he was a fairly consensus top 10 prospect in the Atlanta Braves farm system coming into the 2014 season, a farm system that ranked definitely in the bottom 10, and often in the bottom 5 in organizational rankings. The system was barren and needed a major influx of talent for the rebuild to work.
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Now fast forward to Opening Day 2018 – four offseasons of the rebuild complete, and two seasons already being ranked the top overall farm system in the game by Baseball America. The farm system is absolutely loaded with pitching, with 12 Atlanta Braves prospects ranking in top 100 lists this offseason, and 9 of those 12 being pitchers.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to say the least to see the first year of the “positive” years of the process, a season the team will likely see many of those young prospects establish themselves before likely making the first true strike at competing in 2019. The Atlanta Braves have opened the season on fire offensively, fueling a 5-3 start with a team offense that ranks as follows in the major leagues:
- Runs per game: first
- Team batting average: first
- Team on base: first
- Team slugging percentage: third
- Team OPS: second
This is all without the #1 overall prospect in baseball, Ronald Acuna, who should be up in roughly a week from AAA to begin his big league career and will give the offense even more firepower!
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This is all being done on a team built around the depth of its pitching in the organization, so to have the offense be the key positive point is a very exciting thing for Atlanta Braves fans!