The newest generation of the Atlanta Braves is a tribute to the dominant teams of the 1990s. A class that is heavy in pitching prospects, the Braves are poised to put out a rotation of young talent for years to come. However, with home grown heroes from Chipper Jones to Jason Heyward, the Braves want to remind the MLB of their organization’s ability to develop all kinds of talent. If the players develop as expected, the Braves could be looking at multiple pennants starting in 2015. Look at the talent competeing for the infield slots: Tyler Pastornicky (22), Andrelton Simmons (22), Joey Terdoslavich (23) and, now, Edward Salcedo (21).
The 6′-3″, 205-pound, Dominican Republic native is starting at third base this season for the Lynchburg Hillcats — the Braves Hi-A affiliate — after spending 2011 with the Rome Braves. Just in his third season of professional baseball, Salcedo has been through ups and downs early on in his career. Originally, Salcedo agreed to sign a contract back in 2007 with the Cleveland Indians for $2.7 million dollars. Due to concerns about the legitimacy of his age, the United States government launched an investigation into Salcedo’s background. Speaking through his translator, and teammate up-and-coming first baseman Chris Garcia, Salcedo laments, “It was a frustrating time. I was just 16, and I didn’t know how to confront it.”
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Switching representation also delayed his entrance into professional baseball in America. It was around this time that Salcedo considered going to Japan or Mexico to start his professional career.
Finally, in 2010, Salcedo was granted permission to sign with a major league team. Despite the delays, excitement of Salcedo coming was prevalent among several clubs. Rumors swirled of potential landing spots with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners leading the charge. Eventually, he signed with the Braves for a club-record bonus of $1.6 million dollars. The excitement was felt throughout the organization. “This is a significant signing for us,” Braves international scouting director Johnny Almaraz said in a press release. “We feel that Edward is one of this year’s (2010) most talented prospects. He has outstanding makeup and the combination of his fielding and hitting ability make him one of the top international players we’ve seen in a while.”
Salcedo did not disappoint during his first test, and the Braves deserve a great amount of credit, in addition to Salcedo’s talent. The Braves eased Salcedo into his professional career by keep him in his native land and assigning him to the Dominican Summer League (DSL). In 23 games for the DSL Braves, Salcedo showcased the smooth stroke that had the Braves willing to spend a record dollar amount for an international prospect. Salcedo’s 22 hits, seven extra base hits and eight stolen bases in his first 23 professional games were enough to get him promoted to the Lo-A Rome Braves.
The transition, however, wasn’t as seamless as Salcedo had hoped. In 54 games, he hit just .197 while striking out 56 times. He also made too many errors, 28, in his first stint with Rome. Despite the struggles, Baseball America saw enough out of Salcedo to rank him the 16th best prospect in the organization.
The 2012 season has been met with much anticipation of what the youngster could bring to the table. Questions loomed about his ability to play the shortstop position. Add in a jam at the position of young talent, and the Braves decided to move him to third. The errors continued to rack up in 2011, 40 in 100 games, but not because of a poor glove. Salcedo’s agility and excellent arm-strength make him an asset at the hot corner. Forcing plays is the weakness in Salcedo’s defense.
In the batter’s box, Salcedo has shown tremendous improvement in his strike zone knowledge and approach at the plate, according to Baseball America’s scouts. His raw ability is starting to combine with his hard work and professionalism. His above-average power and gap-to-gap approach at the plate is drastically improving and scouts are anticipating a quick rise through the minors. In just a year’s time, Salcedo has jumped 10 spots to the sixth overall prospect in the Braves organization, which is littered in talent on the left side of the infield.
With the talent pool deep at third base and shortstop, Salcedo’s future position — and rise to the majors — will rely heavily on his performance this season. All signs indicate that Salcedo is as poised on the field as he his off. The personal adversity hasn’t dissuaded him from his dream of playing in the big leagues. Salcedo reflects, “The whole time I turned to my family. We are very close and I still talk to them when I need them, but I never wanted to quit even when I was frustrated.”
The talent Salcedo possesses is evident early in the 2012 season, but it’s his intangibles that set him apart. Perseverance, work ethic and a desire to become the best player in every facet of the game is exactly what Braves fans can look forward to for years to come.