avoid the lightning

Atlanta Braves Snap Back by Kumtie/WalterThe grand plan for the Braves is clearly afoot, and you just witnessed a few days ago the hard reality and danger of that plan.

The Braves traded Christian Bethancort to the Padres, who appear to be the answer to the Cobb County Braves by becoming the San Diego Braves, for two prospects, pitcher Casey Kelly and catcher Ricardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is considered a defense first, hit later, catcher (uh-oh) and Kelly looked to be a genuine talent until, uh, Tommy John surgery.

This is not to say the trade will not work out, but there is a quiet issue here that speaks volumes if one listens.

Remember two years ago? Bethancort was the “can’t miss” prospect; the kid with a huge ceiling; the guy with “all the tools.”

The Braves called him up and gave him the job, and to say he was a bust is not an overstatement. It may be they called him up too soon, gave him a job he wasn’t ready for, if not physically, then mentally. Maybe he didn’t help himself by thinking the job was his so he didn’t dedicate himself to the work necessary to succeed.

What you had was a great young, can’t miss, prospect the Braves management was certain was the long-term answer to the catcher position.

Sound familiar? All the young talent the Braves have acquired is being ballyhooed as the foundation for great success in a few years. The Braves now reportedly have the best farm system in the major leagues. Yeah.

But what you have is a lot of young talent that has yet to prove they are major league players. The Braves traded away proven talent, from a team that did not need to be dismantled, but that needed a few pieces to be a real contender.

Instead, we are waiting on the flop card. This trade demonstrates how easy it is to overestimate talent, how easy it is to miss on a “can’t miss” prospect.

It may be that Bethancort needed a change of scenery and under new guidance he may emerge as the player many predicted he would be. The kid is only 23 and who knows what he might be at 25.

For now, all the “can’t miss” prospects the Braves are banking on are not ready for the major leagues. Yes, first pick in the draft and high first round picks look to be future players, but it’s a crap shoot and there are a lot of used car salesmen who turned into AAA-plus players but could never succeed in the major leagues. We have to hope that is not the case with the latest batch of talent the Braves have brought in, but when you roll the dice snake-eyes is always a possibility.

Add the fact the Braves seem to have given up on Bethancort so quickly does not instill confidence in the folks supposedly honing the skills of minor league players to get them ready for the majors.

Maybe Bethancort did not help his own cause, but for the management of an organization pumping out its chest about all the “can’t miss” young talent it has acquired to cashier a player who was in that very category two years ago gives one pause for thought.

Chasing rainbows is wonderful, as long as you don’t get struck by lightning in the process.

Atlanta Braves Snap Back by Kumtie/Walter’s Clothing via Global Good Group’s flickr and used under a Creative Commons license (and promotional/fair use).

Ric Latarski

Ric Latarski has written for a variety of publications in the Atlanta area, was a stringer for Time Magazine, did commentary for Georgia Public Radio and wrote the guidebook, Atlanta: 101 Great Choices. He now writes fiction and recently completed his first novel.