There is no hope for immediate improvement in Atlanta, but there is one strength in the farm system: pitching. Smoltz, Tommy Greene and Derek Lilliquist—all at Triple A Richmond—and Class A lefthander Kent Mercker are considered top prospects by other organizations. Cox has been emphasizing pitching so much that the last three June first-rounders—Lilliquist, Mercker and Steve Avery—have been lefthanded pitchers.
"From what I see and hear, people think they're getting a good collection of talent there," says Milwaukee Brewers general manager Harry Dalton. "Our people think they could be one or two years away, but it could take a little longer. They have to stay with it." As long as the decisions are left to Cox, they will.