Atlanta back on top with the best farm system in the sport

It's been a while, but the Braves are once again regarded by one respected analyst as having the best farm system in baseball.

The news that ESPN has ranked Atlanta’s farm system as the best in baseball is significant. Like him or hate him, Keith Law knows his stuff. He is very knowledgeable about the 30 baseball farm systems, so for him to say the Braves have the best means a whole heck of a lot.

Think about this. When John Hart and John Coppolella took over the front office in October, 2014, the farm system was in shambles. Yes, shambles. Most had it in the bottom five in baseball. There was just not enough talent. As Law pointed out, bad drafts and questionable development had left Atlanta’s system far below the norm created by this organization three decades ago.

The best prospects (as rated by Baseball America) going into 2015 were Jose Peraza, Lucas Sims and Christian Bethancourt. Two of those three have been traded, and while Sims did well last year and took a big step forward he’s not even in Atlanta’s top 10 list now.

In fact, just this week Baseball America re-ranked Atlanta’s top 10 prospects, since the trades made by Coppolella in November and December drastically changed the look of the list. Here is how BA ranked Atlanta’s prospects as we approach spring training:

1. Dansby Swanson
2. Sean Newcomb
3. Aaron Blair
4. Hector Olivera
5. Kolby Allard
6. Ozzie Albies
7. Touki Toussaint
8. Austin Riley
9. Max Fried
10. Mallex Smith

Of those 10 players, seven were traded for and two others were drafted last June. So only one player – Ozzie Albies – was even in the farm system when Hart & Coppy took over for Frank Wren.

No longer is Jason Hursh considered a top prospect. He was number four on BA’s list prior to 2015. Now, Hursh is not likely even in the Top 30. That shows you how strong Atlanta’s prospect list has become with all the additions through trades and the draft.

But another reason Atlanta’s system is so strong is the players on the list from 11-20. Now without ranking them, some of the players that would fit on that list include Sims, Mike Soroka, Ricardo Sanchez, John Gant, Chris Ellis, Tyrell Jenkins, Braxton Davidson and Rio Ruiz. That list is perhaps even better than the Top 10 list the Braves not so long ago.

To have that depth, with that many legit prospects, is another sign of strength in the farm system.

While not to get too far ahead, it’s fun to think about what Atlanta’s top prospect list will look like a year from now. The Braves are reportedly in on several top international prospects, including the projected best player available Kevin Maitan. Also, the team has the third pick in the draft this June.

So chances are, even with some current prospects likely to graduate, the Braves could be in contention to be the top farm system in the game once again prior to entering Sun Trust Park in 2017.

Along with Coppolella, who has been behind most of the trades the new front office has orchestrated, credit should be given to scouting director Brian Bridges and special assistants to the GM Roy Clark and Gordon Blakeley for helping increase the talent level in Atlanta’s farm system.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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