Braves Release Brian Barton

brian-bartonAccording to Baseball America, the Braves have released former phenom outfielder Brian Barton.

Barton was considered a great athlete but went undrafted after a strong career at U Miami, as clubs believed he’d make use of his aerospace engineering degree rather than pursue baseball. However, he signed a $100,000 bonus (plus another $100K for schooling) with the Indians, and has been a prodigal nomad ever since.

The Beaneheads like Barton’s plate discipline and ability to get on base — he has a career .398 OBP and a .849 OPS in the minors. Old schoolers like his raw skills — particularly his speed and quick bat — though some of his mechanics look a bit awkward (but then, Hunter Pence looks awkward too). He can catch the ball in the outfield, exhibiting good range, and his arm is about average. His skill set is so impressive, he was a Rule 5 pick by the Cardinals prior to the 2008 season and most recently the Braves gave up righty reliever Blaine Boyer to obtain him.

However, Barton has now been with three different organizations in three years, and at 27 years old has yet to establish himself as a big leaguer. So why should the Mets be interested?

Brian Barton reminds me a lot of where Ben Johnson was at a similar age — but in this case, you don’t have to trade Heath Bell for him. Like Johnson, he has raw, untested skills that suggest he can be a solid defender, baserunning threat, and hit with pop, but is at an age where you hope to be seeing that potential realized. As the Mets gambled that Johnson (and later, Xavier Nady) could be a late bloomer, the same could be said for Barton, who may have been robbed of a year of development due to the Rule 5 process. Since the Mets don’t have much in the way of MLB-ready outfielders, Barton would be an ideal low-risk, high-reward player to audition in Buffalo next year. If he fails, so what? No harm done. I’d rather take a gamble on someone who may yet to tap his potential, rather than, say, Chip Ambres or Emil Brown. Nothing against Ambres nor Brown, but their peaks have passed — we know what they are, while with Barton there may still be something we haven’t seen.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.