Q: Which young player package will be better in the long run? Which group would you prefer?
(A) Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez
(B) Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke
(C) Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino
A: Give me the first group, mainly because of Flowers. Lillibridge is a decent role player, but really a 4A guy. Gilmore is not a prospect in my opinion, and Rodriguez throws hard but has not made much progress along the organizational ladder. Flowers is a big-time bat and a likely first baseman who could fill at catcher. The second group is mainly about Morton, who is a decent starter for a non-championship club. Hernandez will hit his ceiling pretty soon, and Locke has not shown enough consistency to be considered a guy to work around. Cabrera is overrated because he was a Yankee, Dunn is decent but not a long-term answer, and Vizcaino is a potential stud but has a long way to go before he reaches the big leagues.
Q: Despite a safe above-slot pick of Mike Minor, how would you rank the Braves 2009 draft when compared against Braves' drafts of previous years? Did they focus too much on college and JuCo players while abandoning their usual draft sytle of selecting a lot of high school talent?
A: I believe they fell in love with the juco approach in 2008, when they did very well, and went a little overboard last year. I don't see a lot of impact potential with the 2009 class, which proved to be Roy Clark's last with the Braves. Clark did an amazing job as scouting director and had several of the best draft classes in Atlanta history. Unfortunately, 2009 does not appear to be one of them. I believe he was limited because of the budget as well as some other things that were taking place behind closed doors that contributed to his departure. Mycal Jones and a few others could prove to be interesting, but I don't see this class as being a big-time contributor to the organization's depth.
Q: How will the new Braves Director of Scouting, Tony DeMacio, affect the team's draft philosophy and style in the coming years?
A: I think it will depend in part of what's available, but I would expect there to be some significant changes. The Braves had several scout teams throughout the country under Roy Clark in order to get a better look at potential draft picks but those have been eliminated since Clark's departure. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Braves draft more players from four-year colleges. With the removal of the draft-and-follow process a few years ago, Clark opted for more junior college players over the past two years. Again, this is all conjecture, but I believe DeMacio will have a somewhat different style than Clark, even though they both are disciples of Paul Snyder.
Q: Does Jo-Jo Reyes still have a future as a major leaguer? Can he bounce back and become a big league starter? Is his future with the Braves, or have they lost confidence in him?
A: It seems to me that the Braves have lost confidence in Reyes. I know I have. His situation reminds me of Horacio Ramirez, who has bounced around as a fringe big leaguer since leaving the Braves. Yes, there is a dearth of pitching at the major leagues, but part of the reason for that is guys like Reyes and Ramirez who fail to live up to expectations. Suffice it to say that if Reyes is going to contribute long-term with the Braves, he has to get started with a strong spring.
Q: What is the biggest strength of the Braves minor league system? The biggest weakness?
A: Without a doubt the strength of the Braves' system is a plethora of left-handed pitchers. I'm suggesting they are all major league pitchers, but Roy Clark used Paul Snyder's tried-and-true approach during his final few drafts of, "when in doubt, take a lefty." The pitching from both a right-handed and left-handed standpoint remains very strong. The weakness is the lack of depth among position players, particularly at shortstop and third base. The latter could prove crucial with Chipper Jones heading toward the finish line.
Many thanks to Bill Ballew for once again giving some great answers to my questions.