How the Atlanta Braves have built a model MLB franchise

Led by homegrown stars such as Austin Riley, manager Brian Snitker and the Braves front office have created a formula they believe could result in a possible dynasty. Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

THE FIRST TIME Atlanta Braves scouts saw future star third baseman Austin Riley, he was pitching. It was summer 2014, and former national cross-checker Sean Rooney was scouting the two-way prospect at the Perfect Game National Showcase.

"He was a good pitcher, 88-92 miles per hour, good breaking ball, good delivery," Rooney said. "But he immediately stood out more as a hitter to me. The power, the swing, the ease of his actions made him more appealing 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 the suburbs of Atlanta. He, too, was sold on Riley's future as a hitter.

By that point, all 30 MLB teams were scouting Riley. But Bridges' and Rooney's instincts were a minority opinion in the industry. Recollections vary, but as the scouting process came into the homestretch in spring 2015, there were a number of teams with third- or fourth-round evaluations on him as a pitcher -- no more than four were scouting Riley 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 became a perennial postseason contender with the second-best record in baseball over the past five-plus seasons. The story of how they got here is about a series of scouting victories, seemingly small decisions and personality quirks -- along with a little luck -- that adds up to baseball's best group of young talent.

With the 2024 squad gearing up for another shot at playoff success with a 26-14 start to the season, we had conversations with 15 current and former Braves players, coaches, scouts and execs about how one of the model franchises of this era came together.