A lot has been made about the quantity and quality of prospects we traded at this year's deadline. I thought it would be a good idea to keep some of the spotlight on the minors and see if our system is already starting to recover. First up is a look as a couple of shortstops. At Baseball Prospectus, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein ranked Braves triple-A shortstop Brent Lillibridge as the fourth-best shortstop prospect in the minors:
It will be interesting to see if, how, and where the Braves make room for him in the off-season. If he is indeed a "very good defensive shortstop" it may shock some if they pull the opposite-of-Kelly-Johnson and move Lillibridge from the infield to the outfield. Center field, which is where he is rumored to be headed if Andruw leaves, is a difficult position to play, but with his "plus-plus" speed he may be able to make a smooth transition athletically. Beyond just the speed needed for the position, there is a lot of recognition of how pitches are hit off the bat that can only be learned through experience. While an error at second base may lead to an extra base for the batter/runner, and error in center can be a multi-base mistake. So if he does make a transition to the outfield, I wouldn't expect it to be a fast one.
As for our recently traded young shortstop phenom, Elvis Andrus, this is what Goldstein had to say about ranking him as the ninth best shortstop prospect in the minors:
No, we're not exactly checking in on a guy that is "our" prospect anymore, but I think this report helps to illustrate why it may have been easier for us to part with Elvis. I can see him taking a very similar path to the majors that Wilson Betemit took - there seems to be a lot of similarities between the two players, especially in the hype. I wonder if that's another reason that the Braves agreed to part with Andrus.
Another reason Elvis may have been more expendable were the excellent debuts of two of this year's draft picks, infielders Brandon Hicks (.969 OPS) and Travis Jones (.876 OPS), who have both shown an already polished approach at Rome this year. The other player in the system who may have made Elvis more expendable is Diory Hernandez (.305/.365/.414), who has finally emerged as a player who may have some major league potential. He has performed well this year at Mississippi, and would likely move up if Lillibridge made the majors.
With guys like Lillibridge and Hicks in the system, we should be solid at short for the foreseeable future. And with a guy like Yunel Escobar already showing what he can do on a major league level, we should be solid even it Renteria is traded.