Bill Ballew's latest article at Baseball America (sub. req.) discusses the internal options at shortstop that the Atlanta Braves have in Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons. The article ends with this gem of a quote from General Manager Frank Wren, about the hitting the organization has acquired the last two years:
"The last two drafts have given us a lot more depth in our organization," Wren said. "The 2010 draft produced three batting champions in the minor leagues with Drury in the Appalachian League, (Evan) Gattis in the Sally League and Simmons in the Carolina League. Terdoslavich came from that draft, Todd Cunningham has a chance to be an excellent outfielder, Joe Leonard made nice progress in instructional league, and we love Phil Gosselin at second base. Nick Ahmed, another shortstop drafted this year, looked great in instructional league."
There have been some not-so-glowing reviews of the Braves organizational hitting prospects (I'm looking at you Mike Newman), and while there are no more Freddie Freeman's or Jason Heyward's in the system who stand out as sure-fire major leaguers, there are a lot of hitting prospects worth remembering. Three batting titles is nothing to laugh at.
For the last three years there has been a lot of discussion (here and on other Braves blogs) about the change in drafting philosophy by the Braves. They have moved away from high-risk high-reward high school prospects and focused many more of their picks on good-but-boring college prospects. The folks who evaluate prospects, especially on the interwebs, get really excited by players with tools. And none of the names mentioned above really pop with tools (save for Simmons' arm). That's not to say that they are bad prospects, instead they are prospects whose ability is more about the sum of their all around quality parts rather than one great skill. The way the Braves have drafted recently has produced a considerable number of players like this.
The Braves also seem to be ignoring age as part of the quotient for a good prospect. Drafting four year college players will lend itself to older players at each minor league level. Prospect folks don't like older players doing well at lower levels, feeling that age equals experience. But that's not the case with many of our older prospects at lower levels -- think 24-year old A-ball catcher Evan Gattis. His baseball experience is probably that of someone a few years younger.
We'll have to continue to watch and see if this approach is a good one, but so far with three batting titles, it seems to be working okay.