How the Atlanta Braves Built a Model MLB Franchise

THE FIRST TIME Atlanta Braves scouts saw future third baseman Austin Riley, he was throwing. It was the summer of 2014, and former National Checker Sean Rooney was looking for the two-way prospect at the Perfect Game National Showcase.

“He was a good pitcher, 88 to 92 miles per hour, good breaking, good throwing,” Rooney said. “But he immediately stood out as a hitter. The power, the swing, the ease of his actions made him more attractive to me as a position player.”

Later that summer, former scouting director Brian Bridges saw Riley hit a ball out of the complex at a tournament in suburban Atlanta. He, too, was convinced of Riley’s future as a hitter.

At this point, all 30 MLB teams were monitoring Riley. But Bridges and Rooney’s instincts were a minority opinion in the industry. Recollections vary, but as the scouting process entered the final stretch in the spring of 2015, a number of teams had third or fourth round evaluations on him as a pitcher – no more than four were looking at Riley as a pitcher. as a position player. The Braves took advantage.

We know what happened next. Riley is one of the cornerstones of the franchise and also the epitome of how the Braves have become a perennial playoff contender with the second-best record in baseball over the past five seasons. The story of how they got here is one of a series of scouting victories, seemingly minor decisions and personality quirks — along with a little bit of luck — that make up the best group of young talent in baseball.

As the 2024 team prepares for another chance at the playoffs with a 26-14 start to the season, we had conversations with 15 current and former Braves players, coaches, scouts and executives about how from which one of the model franchises of that era was formed. .