There is a joke among many Atlanta Braves fans that the Kansas City Royals are where we send our players when we're done with them. Indeed seven former Braves have graced the Royals 25-man roster this season, and last season they were blessed with ten former Braves. If a Braves prospect is released, one can be pretty sure that he'll end up getting signed by the Royals. But lately this trend has been reversed.
The Braves have made some swift moves to sign former Royals pitchers. The highlight of this movement is Juan Abreu, who the Royals accidentally let go a year ago, and the Braves jumped right in and signed him. He now represents significant bullpen depth for the Braves at Gwinnett, as he continues to put up excellent numbers. The odds are that we'll see him in Atlanta at some point this season, and his power arm will be welcomed addition to the Atlanta pen.
But Atlanta has signed a few more ex-Royals pitchers this year. The wonderfully named Rowdy Hardy is a soft-tossing worm-balling lefty reliever the Braves signed after the Royals released him this off-season. He pitched decently at double-A Mississippi, earning a promotion to Gwinnett, where he has continued his good work out of the pen. At 28 years old, he's no prospect, but as they say, "some players just take longer to figure it out." He doesn't even approach 90mph on the gun, but with good off-speed stuff and control, the undrafted Hardy has been able to have some success throughout the years.
Another left-handed relief pitcher following Hardy from double-A to triple-A is Ben Swaggerty. He asked for and was granted his release this spring by K.C. The Braves signed him and put him at double-A, where he posted a 15.4 K/9 rate. Swaggerty's trademark throughout his minor league career has been his high K/9 rate (10.6 K/9 in five seasons). Like Hardy, Swaggerty is currently 28 years old and was undrafted out of college, but he can run the ball up into the low-90's.
The Braves also picked up relief pitcher Steven Shell, who was released from the Royals earlier this season. This 28 year old (trend, anyone?) has bounced around between a bunch of different organizations the last few years, and even spent most of 2008 in the Majors with the Nationals. He's a former third-round pick by the Angels from way back in 2001 (again, he's 28).
Add longtime Braves prospect, but one-time Royals prospect Erik Cordier to this list, and that's five former Royals pitchers on the Gwinnett Braves pitching staff. Most of these guys will not see the Majors with Atlanta, but they do represent some decent bullpen depth. Strange though, how just about all the bullpen depth for the Braves at triple-A are former Royals (add in super-utilityman Ed Lucas as another former Royals farm hand currently at Gwinnett).