Atlanta Braves: Ten Years of Number One Prospects 2001-2010

In an effort to keep the Atlanta Braves close to our hearts and minds during this time, we review their top prospects from each year between 2001-2010, according to Baseball Prospectus.

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Wilson Betemit, Atlanta Braves, 2005 (Photo by Mitchell Layton / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Atlanta Braves fans are certainly excited about the group of prospects in the farm system. Cristian Pache has us all wondering about where his ceiling is and how he'll look when he finally arrives in Cobb County. There are rarely certain bets when assessing prospects in baseball. With that in mind, we take a trip through time and look at how the Braves' number one prospect from each year between 2001-2010 has performed.

We begin with the reign of Wilson Betemit.

2001-2003: Wilson Betemit

Incredibly, Betemit was signed by the Braves at just 14-years-old. Once this came to light, the Braves were fined $100,000 and were banned from scouting Dominican players for half of a year. So, Betemit began playing Rookie Ball at the age of 15-years-old in 1997.

As expected, he struggled through his first two seasons as a young teenager. In 1999, at the age of 17, Betemit began to come into his own. He slashed .320/.383/.463 for Danville.

He was promoted to Low-A in 2000 at the age of 18 where he continued to excel, slashing .331/.393/.457.

In 2001, Wilson Betemit came in as the 35th best prospect in the game according to Baseball Prospectus. 2B Marcus Giles could be found just three spots later. Betemit would work his way up to Double-A in 2001 and even earn a cup of joe in the big leagues, making his debut on September 18, 2001.

2002

Wilson Betemit had worked his way up to the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball, just ahead of players like Carlos Pena, Mark Texiera, and Jake Peavy.

2003

Wilson Betemit again found himself as the highest-rated Braves prospect, but he had dropped to their 31st spot on the list. An honorable mention for Atlanta in the 2003 Top 40 was starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Betemit would end up logging 233 games as an Atlanta Brave and hit a respectable .281 for the team. He contributed to both the 13th and 14th consecutive division titles for the Braves in 2004 and 2005. Betemit was one of 17 rookies to help the Braves make up an 11.5 game deficient in 2005.

Betemit didn't just take up a roster spot that season, he hit .305 in 115 games and made the postseason roster.

He would be traded in 2006 and finished an 11-year career with a .267 batting average and a 104 OPS+. Not too shabby. Thanks for the help in 2005! What a season that was.

2004-2005: Andy Marte

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Andy Marte, Atlanta Braves (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

2004

Andy Marte took the cake as the third-best prospect in Baseball Prospectus' Top 50 of 2004. Our old friend Adam Wainwright cracked the list this year, but he did it as a Cardinal. As an 18-year-old in Class-A Macon, Marte clubbed 21 homers, 105 RBI, and hit .281 in 2002. In 2003, he continued to impress by blasting 16 more homers. Marte had racked up 67 doubles in the previous two seasons heading into the 2004 campaign.

2005

Andy Marte ascended to the top of the prospect list prior to the 2005 season. The Braves actually placed four players inside the top 50 of 2005. Among them were future stalwarts like Brian McCann and Jeff Francouer. Many people had very high hopes for Andy Marte. There was one problem standing in the way of him taking over at the hot corner in Atlanta, his name was Chipper Jones.

The Braves traded Marte to the Red Sox in exchange for Edgar Renteria to address an immediate need at shortstop. The next month, the Indians made their move for Marte. In a seven-player deal, the Indians had received what they thought would be a fixture at third for years to come in Andy Marte.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, Marte never transitioned from minor league star to major league star. He continued to grind the next few years and resurfaced in Arizona. On July 31, 2014, Marte was called up for his first major-league game in four years.

Marte entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter with the game tied 3-3. In his first at-bat since 2010, Marte gave the DBacks a lead with a towering two-run shot to left.

Marte entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter with the game tied 3-3. In his first at-bat since 2010, Marte gave the DBacks a lead with a towering two-run shot to left.

Marte continued pursuing a career in baseball until 2017 when he tragically died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic where he was playing winter league baseball. Marte died on the same day as Royals' pitcher Yordano Ventura, who was also killed an unrelated car accident in the Dominican. Marte was 33.

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2006-2007: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Atlanta Braves (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

2006

Andy Marte would find himself inside the top 10 for a third straight year, however this season he made the list for the Cleveland Indians. His departure gave way to perhaps the most fun name to pronounce in baseball.

Our old friend Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be our lone representative on the list in 2006 as the "Baby Braves" had established themselves in the major leagues the previous season.

2007

"Salty" led another group of Braves prospects in 2007. The franchise didn't appear to have any future stars in their top 10, but with McCann entrenching himself at the big-league level by earning an All-Star appearance in 2006, Salty became a fairly valuable trade piece for the Braves.

Trade him they did. On July 31 of the 2007 season, the former first-rounder was a part of a package sent to the Rangers in exchange for the thunderous bat of Mark Texiera.

Saltalamacchia would go on to play in 12 major-league seasons and won a World Championship with the Red Sox in 2013.

2008: Jordan Schafer

Jason Heyward had begun his ascent through the Braves' minor league system and started the 2008 season as the 36th rated prospect. That wasn't enough to make him our top prospect though as Jordan Schafer claimed the top spot for the Braves and the 17th overall ranking.

Schafer would go on to become a part-time player with very good speed. He stole 103 bags across six major-league seasons and actually transitioned to pitching in 2016. He found a modicum of success in AA-Tulsa as a part of the Dodgers' organization when he appeared in 40.0 innings while racking up 49 strikeouts and posting a 3.15 ERA.

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2009-2010: The Legend of Jason Heyward

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Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

2009

The Braves farm system had come a long way in just a couple of years since the Saltalamacchia days. Jason Heyward led the Braves as the 10th best prospect in the top 100. RHP Tommy Hanson checked in at number 13 and Jordan Schafer rounded out the top 50. The Braves totaled five players in the top 100 with a young Freddie Freeman making his first appearance at number 80.

2010

Depending on which publication you were reading, Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg were interchangeable at the number one spot of the 2010 class. The legend of Heyward was growing by leaps and bounds. He was number two on Baseball Prospectus' Top 100 list. Heyward was accompanied by other young studs that would help lead the Braves to a run of success in the early-2010s. Players such as Julio Teheran (33) Arodys Vizcaino (45), and Freddie Freeman (51) would all soon be contributing to the major league team.

In the spring of 2010, the legend was reaching a fever pitch. The Heyward-Hype Train was about to run off of the tracks. Evidently that spring, he was hitting balls so far that they were bouncing off of the International Space Station and destroying vehicles in the parking lot.

Bobby Cox compared the sound off of his bat to Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle. So, there's no reason to wonder why the crowd was chanting his name in his first-ever major-league at-bat. He didn't disappoint as he clobbered a 2-0 pitch over the right-field wall.

Outside of being arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game, Heyward's bat was no slouch. Between 2010-2013 he was slashing .259/.352/.443. His career OPS+ stood at an incredibly solid 115.  He was coming off of a career season with the bat in which he hit 27 homers and stole 21 bags.

Then, on August 21, 2013, Heyward was struck in the face by a Jonathan Niese fastball and suffered a broken jaw. It was a horrifying moment that left Heyward on the ground for several minutes before walking off while spitting blood. Heyward returned later that season but was limited to just 104 games.

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NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves is helped by John Buck #44 of the New York Mets after getting hit in the face with a pitch from Jonathon Niese #49 in the fifth inning at Citi Field on August 21, 2013 at Citi Field (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Following the 2014 season, Heyward seemed destined for a big contract in free agency and the Braves traded him to the Cardinals. Prior to the 2016 season, Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs.

During his time in Braves uniform, he hit .262/.351/.429 with an OPS+ of 114. He had a very good year for the Cardinals in 2015, hitting .293 with 50 XBH, 23 SB, while winning a Gold Glove for the Red Birds.

Since joining Chicago he has posted an OPS+ of 86.

Next: Chase d'Arnaud reveals what he told Travis about the Braves

Some consider Jason Heyward to be a bust, but of the top 50 prospects from 2010, he has accumulated the third-most WAR behind only Buster Posey and Giancarlo Stanton. Since 2010, no outfielder has more defensive runs saved then Jason Heyward. He will always hold a special plate in the hearts of Braves' fans everywhere.