Glass half full: It's a real testament to the Braves scouting and player development group that we can trade away so many top prospects and still have a farm system chock full of talented players.
Glass half empty: The fear of all this trading, especially the Teixeira trade, is that our system will become depleted of major league caliber talent much like the Yankees system did several years ago after they made a flurry of trades for several years in a row.
I don't think anyone is quite certain what will become of the Braves ability to graduate prospects to the major leagues. Both views of the minor league system seem to be valid ones, and only time will tell which one is right. I was trying to figure out how to introduce the topic of "traded prospects," and while I was doing the research I came across the 2003 draft class, which we have used almost exclusively in trades:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C - 1st round (centerpiece of the Teixeira trade)
Luis Atilano, RHP - 1st round (part of the Daryle Ward trade last year)
Matt Harrison, LHP - 3rd round (part of the Teixeira trade)
Jamie Romak, OF - 4th round (part of the LaRoche/Gonzalez trade)
Sean White, RHP - 8th round (lost to Seattle in the Rule 5 draft)
The only remaining "prospects" or contributors from that class are Jo-Jo Reyes (2nd round) and Brandon Jones (24th round), who was a draft and follow signing.
How should we rank traded prospects? Do we go by what their status was at the time they were traded, or do we use their current status as prospects? I think the best way is to take their current status, but keep in mind what their status was when they were traded - a little bit of both. Some of these guys aren't really "prospects" anymore, but they were when they were traded (within the last three years), so I'm including them on the list.
1 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C - 1st round (centerpiece of the Teixeira trade): We'll miss him, but there really wasn't any room for him at catcher and we apparently didn't want to wait for him to learn first base. But he will be a good major league if not a great major leaguer.
2 Elvis Andruw, SS - International signing (part of the Teixeira trade): Extremely young still, so it's uncertain what kind of player he will be (Derek Jeter or Wilson Betemit). But in a system stocked with shortstop talent at many different levels, and two talented shortstops already in the majors, it was an easy move to include him in the trade, and likely not miss him once he's gone.
3 Matt Harrison, LHP - 3rd round (part of the Teixeira trade): I liked Harrison as a prospect, as did many others, but the Braves seemed to think more of Jo-Jo Reyes (and even Dan Smith). Harrison doesn't really have an out pitch, so that may be why they chose to let him go. Still, I think we'll miss him. After he recovers from arm trouble suffered around the time of the trade he'll get back into that top prospect form and should project as a solid middle of the rotation major league starter.
4 Neftali Feliz, RHP - International signing (part of the Teixeira trade): Neftali, we hardly knew ye. He can bring it at 100 mph - a Latin fireballer who could be a great bullpen anchor or a top of the rotation power pitcher (a la the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez). He's still young, so it's hard to tell just how good he'll be, but this one might hurt a few years from now.
5 Max Ramirez, C - International signing (traded for Bob Wickman last year): Interestingly, he was traded by Cleveland to the Rangers (they just love our prospects) in the Kenny Lofton deal at the deadline this year. He's still a solid young hitter, and he's becoming a better catcher, but he profiles as more of a DH type hitter in the majors. Again, we had the depth in our minors at the catcher position to trade him.
6 Andy Marte, 3B - International signing (traded for Edgar Renteria in 2005): What the heck happened to this guy! He has just been unable to hit major league pitching. Of course, Cleveland has not been too patient with him, and has chosen to play someone else at third base rather than let Marte develop (but their a game away from the World Series, so they made the right move). We seem to have gotten a real good deal here, as Renteria has meant a lot to us the last two years.
7 Will Startup, LHP - 5th round (part of the Royce Ring trade): I already miss him. Will was a good reliever and a great person (good teammate), so he will be missed. He didn't have that much success getting lefties out, and Ring did, so that was the real reason for the trade. Ring throws harder than Startup too, so that should benefit the Braves next year.
8 Beau Jones, LHP - 1st round (part of the Teixeira trade): He's still a young power arm who did well while repeating low-A this year. The 2006 draft and all the talented young lefties made Jones expendable, and who knows how he will develop. We might miss him a couple years down the road.
9 Roman Colon, RHP - International signing (part of the Kyle Farnsworth traded in 2005): He was a kid with a lot of talent, but was never able to tap into it in Detroit. What he did tap into was a bit of instability which resulted in an altercation with a fellow teammate that landed another teammate in the hospital. Detroit shipped him off to Kansas City late this year. Who knows if things would have gone differently with Colon if he had stayed in a Braves uniform, but we likely won't miss him.
10 Jamie Romak, OF - 4th round (part of the LaRoche/Gonzalez trade): He's a middle-tier outfield prospect with decent pop and good defense. He doesn't really stand out from many other middle-tier prospects, so we likely won't miss him.
The Teixeira trade was amazing in that it included so many prospects, and so many first round prospects. Not only was Salty a first rounder, but left-hander Beau Jones was a first round pick in 2005. If Teixeira leads us to a World Series victory next year, then it's worth it, anything short of that may be a hard pill to swallow in a few years when most of these prospects will likely graduate to the majors.
Monday I'll kick off the top-10 "current" Braves prospects!!!