By TED CARTER
Reports are that the Atlanta Braves’ new SunTrust Stadium is going to run a zip line beyond the centerfield scoreboard to move fans from one concourse to another.
That would happen in 2017, the inaugural year of the Braves’ new stadium in Cobb County.
But it may seem like a second zip line is running as well, what with Atlanta seeming closer than ever for the prospects the Mississippi Braves will put on the field starting April 7 at Pearl’s Trustmark Park.
The big club is in a hiring mode and would love to see its highly touted farm hands develop quickly enough to make the Braves a winner in their first year at SunTrust. For the prospects that make up what analysts see as the top-rated minor league system in professional baseball, showing the right stuff in Double A Pearl can mean an audition in Atlanta this year for the 2017 Major League roster.
It’s all part of a strategy the Atlanta Braves initiated a couple of years ago, trading off their established name players for young arms and bats they figure can makes the club a contender next year. It was all about sacrificing the present for the future, says John Coppolella, Atlanta general manager.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward,” Coppolella said in a Braves season preview on Fox SportsSouth last weekend.
Representing the step forward are top prospects Dansby Swanson, a 22-year-old Vanderbilt star and first-round draft choice the Braves acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Ozzie Albies, a 19-year-old switch hitter and Curacao native who is rated the 29th top prospect in baseball. Swanson is a shortstop and Albies has played mostly at second. They’ll be trading off positions this year to see which one fits best at each one, the Braves said in last weekend’s preview.
Swanson, Albies and the other prospects from what ESPN evaluator Keith Law says is baseball’s No. 1 minor league system offer Mississippi Braves fans a look this season at the future of the parent club. As longtime Mississippi Braves GM Steve DeSalvo sees it, a season full of treats is ahead for the crowds at Trustmark Park.
“The good news is that almost all of these guys will be right here in Mississippi,” he says.
The Atlanta Braves “really needed to rebuild their minor league system,” DeSalvo says. “It was painful…. The Braves over the years had such an emphasis on trading away a lot of prospects and young players trying to get that quick fix.”
With the scrapping of the quick fix, comes a promise from Atlanta Braves GM Coppolella that the farm hands will get plenty of work in Mississippi and elsewhere in the club’s minor league system. The Braves won’t be bringing the likes of Dansby Swanson and others up “just to fill seats,” he says.
But like Delta Air Lines, the Atlanta Braves will be ready when they are.
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