A year ago at this time, the Braves had the best farm system in all of baseball. This year, they come in at No. 2. That might not seem like that big of a difference, but boy, have things changed.• MLB's Top 10 farm systems | Braves Top 30 Prospects
A year ago at this time, the Braves had the best farm system in all of baseball. This year, they come in at No. 2. That might not seem like that big of a difference, but boy, have things changed.
• MLB's Top 10 farm systems | Braves Top 30 Prospects list
A lengthy investigation by Major League Baseball uncovered several rules violations in the international market. As a result, general manager John Coppolella was forced out and banned from baseball, while international scouting director Gordon Blakeley was fired and executive John Hart stepped down. The Braves will be severely limited in how they will be able to operate in the international market for years to come.
:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::
That was far from the only personnel the organization lost. A total of 12 prospects, the most notable being infielder Kevin Maitan, were declared free agents.
Now it's time for the good news. Many systems would be in tatters if forced to part with 12 prospects. That's not the case with the Braves. Even with the penalties, they boast one of the deepest, and most exciting, farm systems in all of baseball.
It starts at the very top with Ronald Acuna Jr., who took the Minor Leagues by storm in 2017, playing his way from the Class A Advanced Florida State League all the way to Triple-A while putting up a 20-40 season to earn MLB Pipeline Hitter of the Year honors, then winning the Arizona Fall League MVP to cap things off, all as a teenager.
:: Top 10 Farm Systems ::
Acuna is just one of eight Braves prospects on the Top 100, a number that leads all of baseball. Outside of third baseman Austin Riley, No. 8 on the list, the rest are all pitchers and it's easy to argue that Atlanta's crop of young arms are unmatched. They've gotten these top pitchers via the Draft (Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson and Kolby Allard) and via trade (Luiz Gohara and Max Fried).
And that's far from all. There are prospects right behind this group who could work their way onto the Top 100 as the 2018 season gets going and it would have been easy to go deeper than 30 in this system.
The plan was to rebuild and return the Braves eventually to the top of the National League East, a perch they last saw in 2013. There was actual small improvement in terms of wins and losses from 2016 to 2017 as some of the farm system started reaching Atlanta. There's a lot more on the way, with Acuna and several of the others from this ridiculous top 10 primed to contribute at some point in 2018.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.
Jump: William Contreras (2017: NR | 2018: 18)
Fall: Travis Demerittte, 2B/3B (2017: 10 | 2018: 21)
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 -- Ronald Acuna
Power: 65 -- Acuna
Run: 70 -- Cristian Pache (Acuna, Deian Cruz, Anfernee Seymour)
Arm: 60 -- Acuna (Austin Riley, Pache, Drew Waters)
Defense: 70 -- Pache
Fastball: 70 -- Luiz Gohara
Curveball: 60 -- Max Fried (Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint)
Slider: 60 -- Gohara (Thomas Burrows)
Changeup: 60 -- Kolby Allard
Control: 60 -- Mike Soroka
How they were built
Breakdown by ETA
Breakdown by position
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.