How the Braves built arguably baseball's best offense around Freddie Freeman

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It began with Freddie Freeman. Literally.

Spin the clock back to 2013. Freeman had completed his third season as the Atlanta Braves‘ everyday first baseman, taking over at age 21 after a cup of coffee in the majors near the end of 2010. During those first three years, the Braves won 89, 94 and 96 games, respectively, but added only a single postseason victory to that total during that span. They started strong in 2014 as well, but collapsed, largely because of a lack of organizational depth.

Worse, they had strayed from the Braves’ old formula of building their roster on homegrown talent and depth, particularly on the pitching side. To keep their upper-middle-class level of success going, they would have to spend on free agents at a time when their budget already was pretty well strained. The once-vaunted minor league system ranked 26th in Baseball America’s 2014 preseason rankings. It was crossroads time.

Taking stock of all this, Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz prodded the organization to chart a new course. Well, actually, it was the old course, the one he followed in the early ’90s while building an Atlanta dynasty that lasted for

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