Archive for January, 2016

#149: A Call To Arms

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

With Shelby Miller traded away this winter, the Braves are down to only one really proven starter. Of course, I’m sure Shelby has to be happy moving to a team which has a legitimate chance of allowing for him to improve on his won/loss percentages.

JulioTeheran

Projected number one will be Julio Teheran. Julio has experienced steady growth as a hurler since being promoted to the big club some four years ago. He now has three plus pitches although his slider can be a little cranky, especially with an umpire with a strike zone the size of a postage stamp. Hopefully Tyler Flowers reputation as a good pitch framer will pay dividends for the Braves when paired with the young Panamanian.

Matt Wisler

Matt Wisler

The projected number two looks to be young Matt Wisler. Matt would likely be a number four or five on a contending club but with the rebuilding of the team, he will have to take his lumps as he grows into a real big league pitcher. He has shone he has the ability to be stellar at times but young pitchers always experience problems in their early years building consistency.

Bud Norris

Bud Norris

Bud Norris will fill the roll of seasoned veteran for a very young staff, if he proves he still has something left, I expect him to be used in the three slot. Hopefully, pitching coach Roger McDowell can help him return to the form he showed three years ago and not the guy who has been constantly shelled the past two seasons.

The four and five spots will be up for grabs among a bevy of young arms or possible one of the free agents singed to minor league contracts. Either Jhoulys Chacin or Kyle Kendrick who both have major league experience but are coming off down years due to injuries.

Jhoulys Chacin

Jhoulys Chacin

Jhoulys Chacin was released by the Diamond Backs last fall after coming up through the Rockies organization. While he is somewhat of a longshot to make the team out of spring training, he will certainly get an opportunity to make the staff. He has spent the majority of his career in the minor leagues but performed well last fall for the DBacks when given a chance going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five appearances, four starts. If not used as a started, he has been effective as a right handed reliever.

Kyle Kendrick

Kyle Kendrick

Kyle Kendrick is another right hander who is trying to make a comeback. He has spent the majority of his career with the Phillies before pitching for the Colorado Rockies last season. Again, the Braves signed him more as cheap insurance than as a sure fire back end of the rotation started. He will have an opportunity to make the team if the Braves feel their young prospects need more time in the minors.

Manny Buanuelos and Mike Foltynewics both had off season surgery
this fall. ManBam had bone chips removed from a troublesome elbow and Foltynewics had a more serious procedure which removed part of a rib which was suspected to be causing blood clots to form. Baseball has become a year round sport as far as conditioning is concerned. We will have to wait and see if there are any lingering effects for either of these two pitchers.

Williams Perez

Williams Perez

While Williams Perez will not be at the top of anyone’s fantasy league picks, he has a chance to make this season’s starting staff. While he did not possess blow them away stuff, he was not exactly horrible either. He will be on the bubble to begin the season with Atlanta but he is still pretty young. He is not blessed with a 97 mph fastball but he does have a good idea of how to pitch. He may only serve as a place holder for some of the Braves more highly touted young arms but he will have as good a chance as anyone to make the team as a number five/ long relief pitcher to begin the season.

I will talk about some of the projected relievers on my next post.

 

Gil2

 

#148: Surprisingly, The Grass Appears Just a Little Bit Greener

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil In Mechanicsville

As we get just a little deeper into the hot stove portion of the season, for some reason I am beginning to feel a little more optimistic about the direction the Braves are taking. Not Worlds Series optimistic mind you but .500 plus season optimistic. After all, the Mets have their very good pitching staff back, the Nationals have a new manager who might well at least get a talented team to perform up to their abilities and a Marlins team which should be better just because they are a better team than they showed last season too.

The Phillies are also on the path to rebuild but they still outplayed the Braves last year even with a very substandard pitching staff. No, the Braves look better even with the loss of a very promising young pitcher named Shelby Miller and possible the best defensive shortstop, nay, best defensive player in all baseball in Andrelton Simmons. The latter whom was worth the price of admission just to see him pull off one amazing play after another. Despite the presence of both of these talented youngsters in the line up, the Braves still managed to lose 96 games last season.

Not that such an inglorious fate could not await the 2016 club, it just feels to me the Braves have turned the corner and they did it in record time. It is a model the Marlins have employed repeatedly in the past but without great success, after all, prospect are just that, not tried and true sure fire super stars but even the superstars sometimes flame out with an ill times oblique strain or wrist strain. Every pitcher on the roster seems destined for a visit to Dr. Andrews for some “twinge” in the elbow or shoulder. Truth is, we just never know. The only answer seems to be so overstocked with players that you just overwhelm the opposition with depth.

Just like last season’s World Series winner. The did not have a team which finished number one in any category, just good enough overall to outplay the opposition when the chip were down. So, why do I feel more confident about 2016? First the returnees:

Freeman1GilFreddie Freeman.  I think we were all a little surprised when Fab 5 Freddie mentioned that he finally felt comfortable with the treatment his was getting and no longer thought surgery would be necessary…. Crikey, surgery? Braves held that little bit of info close to the vest didn’t they? I think we all recognized Freddie was not the same player after the All-Star game but wrist are like toes and should never be trifled with. It is where a player’s “pop” comes from. Freddie saves a lot of off line balls from his infielders from going into the dugout but it is his power bat which makes him a star.

 

AJ Perzinski, the ageless one. Signed last season to serve as mentor and back up to the since departed Christian Bethancourt, he put up some really good offensive numbers as well as handle a very young pitching staff with acumen. The most hated man in baseball sure became beloved in Atlanta. Now A.J. isn’t exactly Jonathan LuCroy but I think he will do just fine sharing time with recently reaquired Tyler Flowers. Anyone else remember reading about his exploits in the Arizona Fall League as reported bu Dave O’Brien? Weird how quickly time can fly.

 

MarkakisOutfielder Nick Markakis, Nick turned in a pretty solid performance last season and hopefully his power will return after having the off season to tone up. It is amazing how quickly one can lose muscle mass from inactivity. Nick still turned in impressive numbers where ever he was placed in the batting order in 2015. Unfortunately power was not one of them. The loss of Freeman and the lack of power by Markakis allowed opposing pitchers to play fast and loose with the Braves batting order.

 

TeheranJulio Teheran. With every game last season, you could see Julio mature as a pitcher. His slider improved greatly and he showed a much greater willingness to challenge hitters inside. Maybe he would not be a number one on a lot of teams but he is growing into the role. I expect a very good season from him in 2016.

 

Aybar

Aybar

Now, new acquisitions: I am torn between two of the newest Braves as having the greatest immediate impact, shortstop Erick Aybar who was part of the package acquired from  LA Angels or outfielder Ender Inciarte, acquired as part of the deal which sent arguably the Braves best pitcher Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Aybar is a very good shortstop, not Andrelton Simmons good but not a bad bridge to the next great Atlanta shortstop Ozhaino Albies or last seasons number one overall draft pick Dansby Swanson. Albies hails form the island of Curacao as have former Braves icons Andruw Jones and since traded Simmons. It should be interesting to see him battle it out with Swanson for the job. We might see Albies this season in June but Swanson is the same age. The difference is the young man from Curacao has come up thru the minors where as Swanson played college ball for Vandebilt. My advice is for you folks who can see either of these young men play in the minors to go while you can still afford the price of admission. It’s going to be quite a bit pricier to see the play when they make it to the big leagues.

Inciarte

Inciarte

As far as the value of Aybar verses Inciarte, I think Aybar will have the greatest immediate impact but Inciarte will have the longer run with the Braves. A superior centerfielder defensively and fast kid who can get on base, he could be a spark plug for the 2016 club. Depending on the progress the Braves make this season, Aybar may complete the season or be flipped at the trading deadline for yet more pitching. A lot depends on how well one of the two wunderkind develop early in the season.

The questions for the Braves afield remain at second, third and left field. Yep, that is a pretty big hole to have questions about. The Braves are hoping they did not make a huge mistake in trading away lefty Alex Woods for Cuban Hector Olivera. The Braves have been watching Olivera with the idea he could fill the need as a third baseman but have decided to try and move him to left field. The Braves know he has power but keeping him healthy might be a problem. Plan B seems to be fellow Cuban Adonis Garcia. Adonis has surprising power but is somewhat suspect when it comes to defense. We will have to wait and see how the hot corner works out for the Braves in 2016.

Flowers

Flowers

Tyler Flowers was signed as a free agent to share the catching duties with AJ Pierzynski this season.  Tyler still possesses some power but he has become very adept at framing pitches. The Braves had become very disenchanted with their future star Christian Bethancourt when he failed to show the maturity of taking on the responsibilities of a major league catcher and work  and prepare for every game. Catching was never really considered an offensive position so he could have been forgiven for hitting less that .250 but defensively he was a nightmare. Maybe he will find the answer in the dessert

A couple of other honorable mentions should be free agent signees Gordon Beckham who could platoon with  Jace Peterson at second base or even Emilio Bonifacio if he has anything left in the tank. The Braves are also going to need a back up shortstop so don’t count out seeing Daniel Castro back on the Braves bench.

Okay, enough for this round, We will discuss all the pitching probabilities next time.

………….

In Memoriam

Bobby Dews

Bobby Dews

 

 



%d bloggers like this: