Braves keep stockpiling young pitchers

Don't stop Braves. Keep stockpiling the young pitchers! These draft picks from last month will soon be joined by more new Braves pitchers.

Yes, the Braves got two more pitchers Friday night. Young pitchers. Arms for the future. Prospects.

It’s understandable for some fans to say, “When are they going to start getting some hitters?” I know. The Braves do need hitting prospects. It’s not like they have a lot of young potential Freddie Freemans in the farm system now.

But for now, the Braves are doing exactly what they need to do – acquire young pitching prospects.

I can’t say it enough. This is the right way to rebuild this franchise. Uh oh, I just used the word that has been avoided for almost 10 months. But look, now that we’ve seen all these trades and will see more in the next six days, let’s go ahead and call this what it is.

The Braves are rebuilding a broken organization. Last year at this time the major league team was a mess, and the farm system was embarrassing. Okay, so the major league team is a different kind of mess now, but look at what is happening with this farm system.

It’s a Braves system again. It’s stocked full of pitchers, from the trades made by John Hart and John Coppolella and the draft led by Roy Clark and Brian Bridges. And they are not finished.

Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson went Friday night. There are others who will be next. It’s not a matter of if, but just when the trades will happen. Jim Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Chris Johnson (please someone be stupid enough to take Chris Johnson off their hands), Jonny Gomes and perhaps Cameron Maybin could be next.

And if the Braves are smart, they’ll continue to stockpile pitchers. Keep getting more arms. Maybe sprinkle a hitter or two in there, but don’t stop getting pitchers.

Here’s why I write this. Next Friday night we will know what the major league team looks like for the rest of the season. It’s not going to be pretty. This team is going to struggle for the final two months of the season. But here’s the silver lining. If the big league team struggles, they may just be bad enough to guarantee a top 10 pick in next June’s amateur draft.

Why does that matter? Well, if the Braves decide to sign a big-time free agent this winter, they would not have to give up the first round pick if they finish with one of the 10 worst records in the game. And with all the money coming off the books after this year, they could target a big-time free agent.

But also on August 1, we will be able to say that there are five weeks left in the minor league season and two months left in the big league season. That gives the front office plenty of time to fully evaluate the pitchers for the rest of the season.

Then, if I’m Hart and Coppolella, I invite a number of scouts to Atlanta for a pitcher’s conference. I have Fredi Gonzalez and Roger McDowell and every manager and pitching coach from each minor league affiliate. I have my top scouts who have seen the pitchers in Atlanta and on the farm also come in for the meeting.

Here are some of the questions that should be asked.

1. Which of the starters who pitched for Atlanta in 2015 should be part of the 2016 rotation?
2. Which of the Atlanta starters would you trade and why?
3. Which minor league starter is close and could contribute in 2016?
4. Which minor league starting pitchers have the highest upside?
5. Which minor league pitchers could become good trade bait – pitchers that will have value but who we will be comfortable giving up in a trade?
6. Who is in your 2017 Atlanta rotation?
7. Who is in your 2019 Atlanta rotation?
8. Which minor league pitcher do you just not like?
9. Which minor league starter that has struggled could turn it around?
10. Which minor league reliever could become a starting pitching prospect?

Every minor league starter should be scrutinized by everyone in the room. Then after hundreds of opinions are floated in the room full of scouts and coaches, Hart and Coppolella can determine how strong their pitching depth really is and who can be used for potential trades.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when this meeting happens. And believe me, it will likely happen right after the season is over in early October.

These decisions will determine who is used to get the hitters that the Braves desperately need. They are accumulating pitching depth so that at some point, most likely this winter, there will be trades to get the players that will fill the lineup in 2016 and beyond.

Plus, if the Braves have a top 10 draft pick next June, it could be a hitter. That would be a high-upside bat that could be ready in 2018 or 2019, even sooner if it’s a college hitter. And don’t forget, the international stars that were signed earlier this month and the rumored international stars that might be signed next July. They are position prospects and will make the highly-ranked Atlanta farm system undoubtedly be ranked even higher by most analysts.

The equation is simple. Get as many pitchers as possible. Then decide which pitchers to trade and then target the position players (like third basemen and left fielders) that could be traded for pitchers. This will continue the process of getting the Braves where the front office wants it to be – back at the top in talent and hopefully in place to have consistent success.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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