The Braves had one of their busiest trade deadlines in recent memory, swinging three moves for bullpen help over the last two days of the trade window. Two of those came in the waning hours before the deadline, and every single move involved minor league players. In total the Braves parted with four prospects and Daniel Winkler, in the moves detailed below.
Trade No. 1: Chris Martin for Kolby Allard
Trade No. 2: Mark Melancon for Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler
Trade No. 3: Shane Greene for Joey Wentz and Travis Demeritte
The Braves made their first trade for a rental, and with it parted with the first first-round pick in the John Coppolella era of the franchise. Kolby Allard has been a hot topic with opinions varying across the board, but there’s no doubting the the Rangers got one of the better pitching prospects in their system. The Talking Chop midseason Top 30 list pegged him as Atlanta’s 16th best prospect, but there has been some growing optimism this season. Allard exploded out of the gates after being drafted and was lights out at every level, dominating more advanced competition and reaching all the way to the major leagues as a 20 year old. By this point, however, Allard was not widely seen as a Top 50 prospect anymore as he was surviving on a trio of pitches that had all taken significant steps backward. His fastball was barely getting into the 90’s, his curveball had regressed significantly, and the changeup just never got to the point that was expected and it exposed a lot of Kolby’s flaws. Allard never walked many guys, but he was more control over command and when he was no longer able to get swings and misses with pure stuff it made his location weaknesses extremely prevalent. Allard tumbled down prospect lists and quickly fell out of favor, though there has been a bit of revival this season. Allard’s numbers this season are mostly down from last season, but his fastball has seen a small tick back into the low 90’s and his curveball has progressed enough that it may end up being a major league pitch. There is a lot that Allard needs to do to succeed in Texas, notably needing to reduce his fly balls so he doesn’t get eaten alive by home runs in that park. He’s in a position now where he’s more likely to succeed and be given opportunities to thrive. This is a win for both sides, as the Rangers got a prospect they could use in exchange for a rental piece and the Braves got a relief pitcher that can help them for nothing more than a guy who was never going to be one of the five starters in Atlanta.
Trade number two is a bit more complicated, but not for the players that Atlanta gave up. Dan Winkler was not going to get another chance in Atlanta and Tristan Beck is on the outside looking in, but the financial burden is real and does take some shine off of the deal. That said, we’re here to talk about Tristan Beck and it’s really going to be hard to figure this one out. For Beck this is a homecoming, as a California born kid who went to Stanford he is going to be close to where he grew up. This is also a complicated situation because no one really knows what to make of Beck. Beck was a potential first round pick out of high school, but he was not going to be bought out of the Stanford commitment and after his freshman season seemed to be headed towards being a Top 15 draft pick. That did not happen, as an injury and regression happened and the Braves scooped him up for a nice bargain in the fourth round. Beck never got on the field much for the Braves because of an oblique injury, and when he was on the field he wasn’t very good. At his best, Beck has four average or better pitches that he can command, but this season he hasn’t been that pitcher and it took a toll on most of the prospect status he had left. Beck tumbled to 20th on the Talking Chop midseason list, but that was all speculation for what he could be. If Beck can get back to form and find some of the stuff he had at Stanford, the Giants will have picked up a potential mid rotation starter for a relatively small cost to the franchise. It’s a bit of a lottery pick but the Giants do have something to look forward to. For the Braves, it can’t be seen as a notable loss. Yes, Beck is a real prospect. Yes, he could start in the majors. Right now, however, there are just a lot of better, younger, and healthier options in the system and the likelihood he would get to Atlanta as a starter was extremely slim. Like Allard, this is an opportunity for Beck to go to a much weaker system and get an opportunity to shine.
The final trade is the big one, and if I were making the argument (which I am) I would say the two most significant prospects were in this trade. We’ll start off with the lesser name in Travis Demeritte, but this is not small loss for the Braves system. Talking Chop ranked Demeritte as our 22nd best prospect, but unlike the previous two pitchers he did have a legitimate chance to contribute in Atlanta. The decision here was simple. The Braves did not see Demeritte as valuable enough to waste a 40-man spot on when they have a lot of players they would like to protect from the Rule 5 draft. Atlanta wanted to get value for Demeritte because it’s likely he would have been selected this season, and they got that value in this trade. Demeritte is mashing the ball in Triple-A this season, but as of yet it’s not clear how much of that is Demeritte and how much is the new ball. He has power, he has defensive versatility, and he is probably deserving of a chance in the major leagues but the Braves have a full bench and no time to waste waiting for him to develop. Demeritte’s hit tool hasn’t taken much of a leap this season and that is the ultimate cause for concern as he continues to strike out at a steep rate. At this point he is likely a platoon player at this stage in his career, and with the Braves set all around the infield and with Ronald Acuña Jr. and two elite outfield prospects he won’t be needed that much. With him going to Detroit he may move back to the infield where his value would increase dramatically. A good piece for Detroit, and one the Braves won’t miss much, but definitely not THE piece in this trade.
The sole prospect that has any notable impact on this system is Joey Wentz, and in most trades it would be a tough pill to swallow but for this to be the best prospect the Braves gave up to get Martin, Melancon, and Greene? That’s fantastic. Wentz came in at number 11 on Talking Chop’s midseason list, but he was starting to trend in the right direction as some velocity was coming back and he was getting the results he wanted in Double-A. Wentz was a comp pick back in 2016 at 40th overall, but he was seen as a first round talent and got a significantly overslot deal to play for the Braves. While he is clearly the fourth best right now of that haul of Wentz, Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson, and Bryse Wilson, there is plenty of reason to believe Wentz is a solid rotation piece in the making. He has had ups and downs with his health and his stuff that has made his value fluctuate dramatically, but right now he seems to be in top form and is as healthy as he ever has been in his career. Wentz has a solid average fastball that gets good downhill plane, a curveball that sits right around average and then a changeup that has the potential to be a plus pitch for him. That, combined with above average command makes for a good left handed starter and he’s shown that over the past few starts with 44 strikeouts in his past 36 innings pitched. Wentz never seems to have it all working at once, but he is easily the best bet of any of the traded pieces to carve out a long major league career. He will likely be a Top 10 prospect in the Tigers system and will have plenty of opportunities to stick around with the team. Wentz is still just 21 years old, and once the consistency comes should find himself carving out a nice mid rotation spot. Still, he’s risky with his injury history and another player that is expendable for Atlanta. Wentz is replaceable in the system, and the Braves took a chance to get an above average reliever for two players they could live without and they took it.
What impact does this have on the system as a whole? Honestly, not a whole lot. Alex Anthopoulos managed to improve this team for the next two season without mortgaging the future at all and that has to be commended. The Braves didn’t lose a single guy that we would rank in our Top 10 and none of them have any clear path to making a splash in Atlanta. Finally, the Braves moved from their position of strength and were able to get a complete bullpen makeover for the cost of one borderline 50 FV pitcher (Wentz) and a trio of players that have talent but serious flaws and red flags that prevent them from being reliable pieces. Atlanta may lose one position in those organization rankings that don’t matter at all for what it’s worth, but overall the present got a good bit brighter without a loss of depth or impact talent. The Braves could have made a move for a starter, but there is an obvious gulf in the seller’s evaluation of their player’s talents and that of all the buyers and that prevented anything from happening. Anthopoulos took the safe route, got what he could get in a tough market, and didn’t overpay for a season that isn’t expected to be the Braves peak anyway. Overall you have to commend him for the way he handled the deadline, and you have to be happy for the former Braves farmhands who will all move onto franchise that will give them a much better opportunity to progress.
An update to the Talking Chop list would have Mahki Backstrom as one of the final four prospects, a first baseman whose hitting metrics are insane and he could find himself as the steal of the draft. Tyler Owens is next in line with an electric fastball-slider combination that has torched rookie ball this season. Owens is quickly proving himself to be the top prep arm the Braves picked up. The new 29 would be catcher Logan Brown, a talented lower division college pick that can really hit but needs to make strides with his defense and power production. The last addition will be Kadon Morton, whose early career results aren’t very positive but is more of a raw talent that will have to be developed to reach his tremendous ceiling.