Tyler Pastornicky, Braves: There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving young players a chance, and Pastornicky does have some real talent. Scouts like his defense, and the 22-year-old shortstop has stolen 120 bases over the past three seasons in the Jays’ and Braves’ minor league systems. What’s frustrating is Atlanta’s pathological urge to hold the line on salaries, perpetually plopping them into the middle of the pack among major league teams ($87 million payroll in 2011, 15th in MLB). Nothing inherently wrong with controlling costs either, and as one of the few corporate-owned teams left in baseball, perhaps it’s to be expected. But the Braves have seemingly been one player away in each of the past three years, winning 86 games or more each time, but with just one first-round playoff exit to show for it. They could have made a run at Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins in lieu of depending on a rookie, cashed in some of their amazing young pitching depth for a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, done anything to push them closer to an NL East title that should be in play with the Phillies aging and the Marlins and Nationals possibly a year or two away. Instead we get more Braves hara hachi bu, and a starting shortstop with zero power and iffy on-base skills. Pastornicky could pan out. But the Braves could have done better.
I find it interesting that Pastornicky suddenly became a top prospect when the Braves decided they couldn’t afford a veteran shortstop. Remember when Scott Thorman suddenly became the answer at first base?