Restoring the rosters: No. 3 - Atlanta
This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1. No. 30 - Cincinnati No. 29 - Kansas City No. 28 - San Diego No. 27 - Milwaukee No. 26 - Baltimore No. 25 - Chicago (AL) No. 24 - Chicago (NL) No. 23 - Pittsburgh No. 22 - Detroit No. 21 - Tampa Bay No. 20 - New York (NL) No. 19 - Houston No. 18 - Oakland No. 17 - St. Louis No. 16 - Florida No. 15 - San Francisco No. 14 - Texas No. 13 - Cleveland No. 12 - Minnesota No. 11 - Arizona No. 10 - Los Angeles (AL) No. 9 - Toronto No. 8 - Boston No. 7 - Colorado No. 6 - Montreal/Washington No. 5 - New York (AL) No. 4 - Philadelphia Once I put all of these rosters down on paper a month ago and started trying to grade them, it was obvious right away that there was a clear top two. After that, it was really hard to separate the next eight teams making up the rest of the top 10. The Braves initially figured into the middle of that pack. That they ended up at No. 3 was in large part due to a 21-year-old who was shipped off by the team before even making it out of Rookie ball. Rotation Adam Wainwright Tommy Hanson Kevin Millwood Jason Marquis Kenshin Kawakami Bullpen Neftali Feliz Dan Meyer Kris Medlen Joey Devine Zach Miner Joe Nelson Jo-Jo Reyes That 21-year-old is Feliz, of course. He’s allowed five hits and one walk in 22 innings for the Rangers, giving this pen a huge boost. Medlen’s emergence hasn’t hurt either, even if his ERA is suddenly back up again because of some dreadful mishandling from manager Bobby Cox. The rotation is obviously impressive, even with Tom Glavine no longer in the mix. Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate, and Hanson has a 3.07 ERA as a rookie. Even Kawakami has a 3.97 ERA in his 25 starts. He beat out Kyle Davies, Charlie Morton, Reyes and Matt Harrison for the last spot. Jason Schmidt and Chuck James weren’t considered. Lineup SS Yunel Escobar LF Mark DeRosa 3B Chipper Jones C Brian McCann RF Jermaine Dye 1B Adam LaRoche CF Andruw Jones 2B Rafael Furcal Bench INF Martin Prado 1B-OF Garrett Jones OF Jeff Francoeur C Jarrod Saltalamacchia SS Elvis Andrus The lineup is plenty strong and flexible, with only really center field as an area of concern. If Andruw’s body can’t take the pounding these days, then one would have to try Francoeur, Kelly Johnson or Jordan Schafer there. Maybe Jason Heyward next year, though the game’s No. 1 prospect is going to be a right fielder for the Braves. I put Furcal at second base for defense, but he’s been outplayed by Prado this year and Johnson may also be a better option going forward. Or one could sacrifice some defense and go with DeRosa there, opening up left field for the still red-hot Jones or Francoeur. Chipper is the mainstay, of course. He’s the only player on one of the top three teams in these rankings to have won a World Series with the club that drafted him. Summary While it seems like their minor league system hasn’t been as strong in the aughts as it was in the 90’s, the Braves have continued to churn out talent. It’s just too bad so much of it is currently playing in Texas. The Mark Teixeira trade was a huge failure that’s going to handicap the club for years to come. Since their postseason streak ended in 2006, the Braves have won 79, 84 and 72 games. They’re on pace to finish over .500 this year, but they’ve seen their postseason chances drop sharply recently because of their struggles to score runs. Help is on the way in the form of Heyward, first baseman Freddie Freeman and Schafer. The Braves will need to trust their young talent this time, as filling in with veterans just hasn’t worked out very well for them.