Braves executive witnesses fruits of his labor

Ryan has ties to many players in series against D-backs

Braves executive witnesses fruits of his labor

PHOENIX -- Billy Ryan had a unique perspective as the Braves and D-backs played a four-game series at Chase Field this week. Ryan spent four seasons as Arizona's assistant general manager before becoming Atlanta's director of baseball operations.

"It's kind of an interesting place to be," Ryan said. "You have ties to a lot of the players that are playing in the game. It's exciting to see so many of the players who have changed hands between these two teams go up against each other."

Since joining the Braves before the 2015 season, Ryan has played a part in two significant trades made with the D-backs. His tenure in Arizona (2011-14) provided him some familiarity with Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair, who along with Dansby Swanson, were acquired via the blockbuster trade that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona in December.

This seemed like a lopsided deal from the start and it has gotten worse from the D-backs' perspective as Miller has been with Triple-A Reno since producing a 7.14 ERA in 14 starts before the All-Star break. Inciarte has proved to be the dual threat the Braves envisioned, and since reaching the big leagues last week, Swanson has shown why the D-backs took him with the first overall pick in the 2015 Draft. Blair is expected to return to the Majors to start Sunday's game in San Francisco.

"It's ironic that I'm on this trip and most of these guys are in the big leagues now," Ryan said. "It's been a tough year for us, but all three of those guys are a big part of our future moving forward."

Ryan also possessed background information on Touki Toussaint, the highly touted pitching prospect the Braves acquired last year, when they were willing to eat Bronson Arroyo's salary and also send Phil Gosselin to the D-backs.

Toussaint, who was Arizona's first-round pick in 2014, has lowered his ERA from 4.50 to 3.99 as he has allowed one earned run in each of the past four starts for Class A Rome. The 20-year-old right-hander ranks 10th on's list of the Braves' Top 30 prospects.

"He's a kid where it's really starting to click for him," Ryan said. "He was a little spotty last year with up-and-down outings. He's still figuring himself out as a pitcher, but he's a kid with which the sky is the limit. A lot of people think very highly of him. He's got three plus pitches and he's really starting to put it together with Rome."

Before becoming Arizona's assistant general manager at just 30, Ryan spent three seasons (2008-10) working in the Commissioner's office as the senior coordinator of salary and contract administration. He also spent some time with the Rangers as an intern during Braves president of baseball operations John Hart's final season as Texas' general manager.

Ryan has aspirations to eventually become a general manager, but for now he is content to continue working with Hart and general manager John Coppolella to complete the massive rebuilding project that began when he arrived in Atlanta after the 2014 season.

"We'd all love to walk in and win the World Series the first year," Ryan said. "But to be able to walk in and see something from the ground up has been incredibly challenging, incredibly fun at times and hopefully incredibly rewarding. It already is rewarding in that we are already seeing some of the fruits of our labor. The results aren't there yet, but when they do come, it will be incredibly rewarding and exciting."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.