With the 2016 Braves continuing to struggle, the fans are looking towards the future. They await the new season, they await the new SunTrust Park, and, more eagerly (or should I say impatiently), they await the arrival of the Braves’ two top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies.
The argument for promoting these two ballplayers is based on sound logic. The current team is historically bad. The two players appear to almost be major league ready. Why not let the fans get a sneak peak at what all this struggling is leading towards and improve the current team at the same time?
I can understand why many fans feel this way, and the side of me that is a fan is fully onboard with them. Dansby Swanson is currently batting .313 with 4 homers, 21 RBIs, and 9 stolen bases down in the minors so far, and meanwhile Ozzie Albies is already in Triple-A Gwinnett as a 19 year old (over 5 years younger than the average player at that level ) and is batting .312 with 3 homers and 2 triples across two levels this season. They certainly are not far away from being able to produce at the big league level.
So why shouldn’t the Atlanta Braves’ front office promote their top prospects?
The answer is actually rather simple…
Major league service time is a tricky, frustrating, confusing part of professional baseball that should be adjusted in the future. But for now, I can best explain the concept as so: when a player is called up it begins their service time clock and once a player has elapsed 6 years of major league service time, they then qualify for free agency.
You’ll see front offices manipulating the service time rules in their favor every season, delaying prospects who are likely prepared for the big leagues and waiting to call them up so that will extend their time with the club.
The current system is not fair to the players and casts a negative light on baseball front offices, even though it’s a necessary evil that they must cope with and use to their advantage as best they can (under the current rules).
Waiting until midway through the 2017 season will allow the Atlanta Braves to control their top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies until after the 2023 season, instead of controlling them just through the 2022 season.
The difference of just one season may not seem like much on paper, but when you consider the Braves window to compete, it could be all the difference they need to make the delay worthwhile.
The 2017 Atlanta Braves will not be serious competitors with or without these two top prospects on the opening day roster. In fact, the Braves likely won’t be competing for the World Series again until at least 2019 or later, with most of their top prospects being several years away, including the potential arrival of this year’s upcoming international signings and draft picks, something that we profiled in much greater detail and depth here: “When Will The Atlanta Braves Compete Again? ”
So this extra time tacked onto their window of opportunity could prove to be the difference in the Braves winning it all in 2023…or potentially having Dansby Swanson and/or Ozzie Albies leave the team in free agency after the 2022 season.
The Braves front office will likely say that they are not going to hold the players back from making the jump to the big leagues, and that is exactly what they should say. However, the fans should not expect to see their much awaited middle infield tandem until midway through the 2017 season.
I understand this may cause slightly more pain in the now, Braves fans, but it will all be worth it when you have an entire extra season of watching these two future stars up the middle.