I thought about putting some type of warning on this article for the die hard Jason Heyward supporters who attack me the second I say his shoe’s untied but I have to call it as I see it. I will be more then fair Heyward fans don’t worry. I’ve also noticed a large support group for Martin Pardo which I think is great. I’m ALL about supporting the players on this team but I have to take a very subjective view point on these 2 players. That view point being that neither of these players are guaranteed to be a part of the franchise’s future.
Jason Heyward has a huge impact on the Braves future. If he were to return to form then he can give us a “3 hole” hitter for the next 10+ seasons. That spot would be signed, sealed and delivered. Right Field would be set for a very long time. A huge relief for the Braves front office. However in order for that to happen we need to get Heyward back on track. Clearly Wren is not completely sold on that being guaranteed to happen as he won’t even guarantee a starting spot for Heyward next season. Those are not my words, those are the words of Frank Wren. Sure if Heyward shows up to Spring Training in full force and starts hitting the baseball all over the field then he’s going to get the spot. And let’s be honest Heyward has to do “less” to get the spot then anyone else. The Braves want Heyward in Right Field but aren’t willing to just give it to him which I completely agree with. If Heyward has a decent to above average spring then the job should be his. If he were to cough up that starting spot next season and fizzle out then the Braves will have a major position to fill in their line up. Leaving a question mark for the team’s front office.
Now we say “if” Prado because there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be here past the end of this month never mind the next 5 or 6 years. Prado is a good player. He’s usually consistent and he brings a lot to the table. His versatility is amazing. When you have a guy who can play almost any position on the diamond then you have a real weapon on your team. However we need to consider this. Prado doesn’t play any of these positions exceptionally well. 2nd base is by far his best position but with Uggla on the roster there’s not going to be any need to play there.
Prado represents some importance to the Braves as Chipper heads towards a milestone in his life that isn’t baseball related. His 40th birthday will be coming in April and it’s time to start considering some real replacements for Chipper. We’ve put this off long enough and I think that we need to decide if Prado is going to be a full time 3rd basemen when Chipper hangs it up. If Wren decides that he is then I’m all for giving him a contract of reasonable proportion. If he’s not their ideal 3rd basement then I think it may be time to part ways with him while we can still extract value.
The Braves have done a very a nice job with developing young talent on the pitchers mound but let’s not forget their efforts in developing position players as well. Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are great talents with loads of potential. We need to get Heyward back on track and hope that Freddie can avoid the sophomore slump. If both of those things happen then we have 2/8 of our position players set in a stone for a very long time. Brian McCann can be added to that list as well, I don’t see him leaving Atlanta. So now we’re up to 3/8 of our starting line up being considered “long term solutions”.
While we’re on the topic of young talent we can bring up names like Tyler Pastornicky and Joe Terdoslavich. Two quality infielders who could fill the long term voids at short stop and 3rd base. Neither of them are obviously ready right now but in 2013 or even 2014 we could be in store for a treat with these two guys.
Nothing in life or baseball is guaranteed but I like that the Braves have stock piled enough talent to potentially last us for many seasons to come. The outcome doesn’t always go as we plan but in just like in life all we can do is put ourselves in a position to succeed and do the best we can. The Braves really have done a great job in doing that.
They key to building any successful franchise is locking pieces in for the long term. It’s very tough to compete for World Championships every year when the players are constantly changing. I feel that the Braves have done a fair amount of musical chairs over the years which may have hurt their chances to compete.
If you were to look back at the 2007 Atlanta Braves Roster there are only 6 players from that team left on the current roster. And I use the word “six” loosely because Matt Diaz left and came back. So some could argue that only 5 have remained for the entire time. Those players being:
1) Chipper Jones
2) Brian McCann
3) Martin Prado
4) Peter Moylan
5) Tim Hudson
6) Matt Diaz
That’s less then 25% of the roster. A fair amount of turnover for a team that is normally competitive. Now if you look at it from this view point. Is Prado guaranteed to be back next year? Going into 2012 this number could shrink.
That’s why I’m excited about the future of this Braves franchise. I really believe we have some key pieces that we should be able to incorporate into our long term plans. And that’s how championships are won.
By: Bob McVinua