Monday, July 29, 2013

Homegrown

Tonight, Brandon Beachy makes his first start for the Atlanta Braves this season.  His arrival is significant for a few reasons.  Notably, the Braves could use a shot in the arm to add to the duo of Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, who have pitched like the class of the Braves.  The Braves could be in for a major lift if Beachy's next two month resemble his first two months last season (13 starts, 2.00 ERA, 3.49 FIP).  If Beachy looks good, the Braves might not even consider going for a starter before the deadline.

But, for the people who spend their time attempting to develop as clear of a scouting report on a player as possible, the arrival of Beachy is a true testament of scouting, player analysis, and player development.  With Beachy in the fold, the Atlanta Braves rotation will include five players who began their professional career with the Braves.

Unlike high draft choices like Minor and Alex Wood or a noteworthy international signing like Teheran, Beachy is the reason why scouts are still around and why player development receives a large budget by the best teams.  In 2008, major league teams drafted 1,504 players in that year's June draft.  Beachy wasn't one of them.  However, after the draft, Beachy received a $20,000 bonus to sign with the Braves, much more than even a 20th rounder.  Clearly, the Braves saw something from the get-go with Beachy, who was rarely used as a pitcher at Indiana Wesleyan University.  Still, the chances that an American undrafted free agent would reach the majors is very low.  And to beat out the seventh overall selection of the 2009 draft (Minor) during spring training in 2011?  No one could have seen that coming.

Beachy is just another shining example of what the Braves system has done in the past few seasons.  While many complain now about the lack of impact potential in the minor league system, when they do, they ignore all of the graduates the minor league system has given the Braves since the beginning of 2010.

2010 - P's Kris Medlen and Jonny Venters; OF Jason Heyward
2011 - P's Beachy, Craig Kimbrel, and Minor; 1B Freddie Freeman
2012 - P's Luis Avilan and Randall Delgado; SS Andrelton Simmons
2013 - P's Teheran and Wood; C Evan Gattis

That doesn't include the pieces the system has developed that have been used in trades.  Any system that graduates 3-4 players a year to the major league squad is due to go through a down period.  But the early returns on the last two draft classes are good with several of those players improving upon their preseason scouting reports.

Paul Maholm is on his way back, but until he does or a trade shakes things up, the rotation is entirely home-grown.  That is a true accomplishment.  If you are down about where the system ranks in minor league rankings, try to understand that the same system has done some amazing things in recent years and if early returns mean anything, the system will bounce back quickly.  In the mean time, the recent graduates will help bridge the gap.

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