It's easy to forget while watching minor league games that developing talent in order to win championships at the major league level is far and away the primary goal of every farm system. Obviously, that plan is working well for the Braves. With Monday night's pasting of the New York Mets and the Phillies loss at Los Angeles, Atlanta's lead in the National League East increased to three games. The Phils, meanwhile, continue to lead the wild-card standings, with both situations boding well for the Braves' chances for playoff spots heading into the season's final month.
As of Tuesday morning, it does not appear there will be any post-season play among the Braves' six minor league clubs. Starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, the Gulf Coast League Braves finished in fifth place in the North Division with a 27-31 mark. In the Appalachian League, Danville, a perennial playoff participant, heads into the final game of the slate down one game to Burlington for the wild-card spot. The D-Braves are in third place with a 33-34 record and are riding a four-game losing string. Burlington has won five straight outings to blow past Danville.
Rome has spent most of the South Atlantic League season in the South Division cellar with a combined record of 57-75. Myrtle Beach is 56-78 ovearall but has challenged for the second-half crown in the Carolina League, currently residing four games behind first-place Winston-Salem. Mississippi has had a stranglehold on fourth place throughout the season while going 59-71. Gwinnett has been steady in second place in the International League's South Division at 69-67. Barring a miracle, the G-Braves will be eliminated for the wild-card spot in the next few days.
On the surface, those numbers do not appear to be anything to get excited about. The reality, however, is quite different. No organization is more dedicated to developing players for the next level than the Braves. Their mission is being accomplished once again this season, with green peas Jason Heyward and Jonny Venters among the strong contenders for National League Rookie of the Year honors. First baseman Freddie Freeman is on the verge of contributing at the game's top level, while shortstop Brandon Hicks and infielder Diory Hernandez have spent time with Bobby Cox's crew this summer.
Individually, several players are putting together strong finishes, a fact that can be noted in that at least one Brave farmhand was named either the pitcher or player of the month in a minor league in August. The amazing righthander Julio Teheran started the award parade by being tabbed Southern League Pitcher of the Week for August 2-8. For the week of August 9-15, Gwinnett first baseman/designated hitter Barbaro Canizares was the player of the week in the International League, while Myrtle Beach shortstop Mycal Jones received player of the week accolades in the Carolina League.
Gwinnett outfielder/second baseman Matt Young was the player of the week in the IL for August 16-22, and Myrtle Beach righthander J.J. Hoover was the Carolina League pitcher of the week for the same stretch. And, as was announced yesterday, Gwinnett's Todd Redmond (pictured) was the pitcher of the week for August 23-30, and Danville's Ryan Delgado was dubbed the Appalachian League player of the week.
In the coming days, I'll look at some of the individual bright spots in the organization, including several of the players mentioned above. In the meantime, don't let the Braves' lack of post-season play in the minor leagues fester. Instead, put that energy toward a National League pennant this September for the big club, which in the big scheme of things is really all that matters in professional baseball.
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On a side note, two former Braves received similar recognition in recent weeks. Deunte Heath, who was released by the Braves in spring training after being charged with soliciting for prostitution, was the pitcher of the week in the Southern League for August 16-22 while twirling for Birmingham. And this past week, 27-year-old Cole Armstrong was named the Southern League hitter of the week, also for the Barons. Armstrong was drafted by Atlanta in 2003 and earned all-star honors in the Appalachian League in 2004 before being selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft after the 2005 campaign.