Archive for February, 2015

#139: New faces for 2015 and beyond, Part IV

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

By Gil in Mechanicsville

In early January, John Hart made two moves to shore up his outfield, the first was to sign right handed hitter Jonny Gomes to a one year contract for $4 million in 2015 with a $3 million vesting option for 2016. If the option does not automatically vest, it will become a team option.
Gomes, 34, has a career slash line of .277/ .376/ .485 against southpaws. Likely, Jonny will be used in a platoon in left field in a combination with either former Yankee outfielder Zoilo Almont or waiver pick up Eury Perez. Gomes has been referred to as being someone who plays like “his hair is on fire”. One thing is certain, no one will accuse this latest edition of the Braves of sleepwalking through games. Perhaps the biggest question will be Jonny’s ability to adapt to the proposed rules that the batter keeps one foot in the batter’s box at all times. Methinks he will need his entire time in spring training trying to overcome his current OCD routine of stepping out after each pitch. Maybe the Braves can start by finding him a batting helmet with a chin strap.

Until the sudden arrival Eury Perez, it was assumed the switch hitting Zoilo Almont would serve in a platoon role with Gomes with Zoilo getting the lion’s share of playing time facing right handed hurlers. The 26 year old Dominican has a career slash line of .268/ .330/ .433 and an OPS of.763. Zoilo however will likely have to now beat out Perez who fell into the Braves’ lap after being dropped off the Yankee’s 40 man roster to make room for Steven Drew.

Since the Braves appear to have lost faith in Todd Cunningham as a legitimate option in center, Perez rockets up the charts to B.J.’s backup and the out-of-options outfielder will have every opportunity to win a spot this spring on a wide-open roster. On a team that might have to steal a lot of bases to press the issue, Perez could have some value both off the bench and, if BJ struggles, he could steal some time from the high-priced outfielder. Perez probably won’t be much more than a fourth outfielder. On a good team, he’d be in AAA. On a bad team…well, he starts to looks a lot better than he really is.

Perez was originally signed as a undrafted free agent by the Washington Nationals in 2007, he was picked up by the Yankees off waivers last September when the Nats dropped him off their 40 man roster. At least the Braves are not waiting until the end of spring training to fill out their outfield like they did in the 70’s.


#138, New faces for 2015 and beyond, Part III

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

By Gil in Mechanicsville

Another addition to the 2015 Atlanta Braves roster is catcher A.J. Pierzynski. While is was originally thought by many fans in Atlanta that A.J. Would be the mentor to Christian Bethencourt and the primary back-up for the young Panamanian with fan favorite and home run threat Evan Gattis moving to the outfield. The idea was that Evan might still play behind the plate and allow for some depth at the backstop position. Every team needs an emergency third catcher, right? Well, that plan went out the window with not only the trade of Justin Upton to San Diego but with the trade of Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros for three prospects.

The 39 year old Pierzynski was signed to a one year deal for $2 million dollars plus a possible additional $700,000 in incentives. A.J., aka, the most hated man in the Major League Baseball is a 17 year veteran of the majors. Certainly enough time to rub more than a few teammates and opponents alike the wrong way. I get the feeling the reputation has been earned by a perchance to speak the un-varnished truth no matter who’s toes are stepped upon. With the addition of Pierzynski, of whom the character, Jack Parkman, of the baseball comedy films Major Leagues I & II may well have been based upon, and outfielder Jonny Gomes, things should be interesting in the Braves club house this season.

Anthony John Pierzynski is listed as being 6′-3” weighing 235 pounds bats left and throws right. Amazingly, his career stats both as a major and a minor leaguer are remarkably similar. In his 17 seasons in the bigs, he has amassed a career line of .281/ .320/ .424 with a career OPS of .744. Perhaps his best years were with the White Sox with whom he earned a World Series ring in 2005 but he has been very consistent through-out his big league career. Defensively, Pierzynski has thrown out just 24% of potential base stealers. The league average is 28% so the Braves are not employing him for his prowess with the leather but for his cumulative knowledge of the game and his winning attitude. I have no doubt he will push Christian to play at a high level. In addition, the veteran will likely be used as a left handed bat off the bench on occasion. While not known as a homerun hitter, he does have some power. Not Evan Gattis power but he can get the ball in the stands.

One thing for sure, he should be beneficial in tutoring young Bethancourt on how to prepare for games by going over pre-game scouting reports and establishing a game plan for that day’s pitcher and not just phone it in. To not play the game at full bore will gain the wrath of the most hated man in baseball.

#137: New faces for 2015 and beyond, Part II

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

By Gil in Mechanicsville

Aside from the J-Hey for Shelby Miller trade, John Hart opted to sign free agent Nick Markakis, late of the Baltimore Orioles to a four year $44 million dollar deal. Markakis, while not exactly Jason Heyward, he is a good replacement. Perhaps the fact he has been plagued with injuries in the past and was diagnosed with herniated disc scared some other teams away from taking a chance on the 32 year old outfielder. Off season surgery was performed on his neck and by all accounts it was considered a successful procedure.

Markakis has a career line of .290/ .358/ .435. This is despite of a career low of .271 in 2013 following three surgeries in 2012 for a sports hernia, repair to a broken hamate bone in his right wrist and surgery to repair a broken left thumb. The Orioles declined to offer Markakis a qualifying offer this off season which allowed the Braves to sign him without having to give up a compensatory draft pick.
Nick has also acquired a pair of Gold Gloves while playing right field for the O’s. While not as expensive as Heyward was likely to become, he is a adequate place holder to roam the outfield for the Bravos.

Nick’s best position in the line up is the two hole but with the Braves currently lacking a pro typical lead off hitter, I expect Markais will replace Heyward in that position as well. Markais is not blessed with the speed of Jason Heyward but likely Nick will be on base with a greater frequency than J-Hey ever has. Of course it is hard to say good bye to a player like Heyward who was a fan favorite and grew up in the Braves system. That said, I expect Jason to prosper in St. Louis. Cardinal fans are some of the best in all of major league baseball in their knowledge of the game and appreciation for a player who gives 100%. Expect him to garner enough fan votes to appear in quite a few All-Star games in the future.

I think I can speak for most Braves fans that we knew the Braves were likely to trade Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this off season because of Atlanta’s need to replace two thirds of their starting rotation and the need to restock their minor league system. In addition, with the reality of not believing they would be able to afford to re-sign either Heyward or Upton after this season, they would be traded. The real shock perhaps was trading away Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros. This represented the dismissal of all the Braves’ power potential aside from Fredi Freeman. Perhaps the player who will miss the protection of either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis.

The 2015 edition of the Atlanta Braves will have to be one which relies on ABC baseball much more than the three run homer. For sure, with all the good pitching currently in the NL East, it will be interesting to see if the Braves can compete.

Another addition to the Braves is 2B/3B Alberto Callaspo, a 30 year old from Maracay, Venzeuela. He is listed as 5′-9” 215 pounds. That is a bit on the stocky side but the Braves were advised he had employed a personal trainer this off season to assist in keeping the weight off. Callaspo is another of the Braves one year signings and is expected to be a place holder for young phenom Jose Peraza who is expected to make his major league debut no later than 2016. Most likely, Callaspo will be given the chance to hold down the 2nd base position but do not be surprised to see young Peraza after June of this season.

Callaspo has spent the majority of his career in the American League and has a career line of
.267/ .330/ .370 and an OPS of .700. Last season was Callaspo’s worse but much of it has been attributed to his being over weight. He is a switch hitter and projected to bat second in this season’s line-up. However, with young players like Peraza or Jace Peterson might push Callaspo to the bench or down to triple A to get into shape. Clearly, the expectation for the Braves is for Alberto to be worth the $3 million they have invested in him this season. The expectations for Callaspo is prove he can still play at the major league level.

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