Archive for October, 2016

#158: Arizona Farm League Prospects Update

 

Gil

by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Braves sent their allotment of six players to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League this month.   The league consist of six teams which are stocked by the 30 major league teams. It was conceived by the major league teams so they would have a way to monitor the progress of their young prospects without them having to leave the country. It also allowed the parent clubs to have tighter control on their prospects playing time as well as their diet and health.

Teams also wanted a winter ball league which would be convenient for both the players and for talent evaluaters. Their games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals, Rangers, D-backs and Rockies. All of these stadiums are within 15 minutes of each other and the climate is conducive to late season baseball.

In all, 180 players are selected to play in the league with each major league holding a position draft to select the players who will play for each team. The players in the Arizona Fall League are good. The 2014 All-Star Game in Minneapolis featured 36 AFL alums. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster, with an incredible 212 All-Stars, 12 MVPs, four Cy Young Award Winners, three World Series MVPs, 66 Silver Sluggers, 58 Golden Gloves, and 25 Rookies of the Year.

dustin-allen-petersonFirst up is Dustin Allen Peterson, a 22 year old outfielder who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for outfielder Justin Upton. Peterson is currently playing left field for the Rafters. Drafted in the second round (50th overall) by the Fathers, he hales from Gilbert, Arizona, so he gets to visit his parents this fall.

Currently ranked as the 18th best prospect in a loaded Atlanta farm system, he batted .282 with 88 RBI and an OPS of .774.  Peterson hit 12 home runs but struck out 100 times in 578 plate appearances. While in the Padres farm system, he played 3rd base but the Braves moved him to the outfield after he was traded and in 2016, he started 5 games in center field and 125 games in left. Evidently, the Braves feel his best path to the show is as a right handed power hitter.

He is still a couple of years away from the big leagues and his fortunes will be tied to his ability or inability to make consistent contact with the ball. While the prevailing Sabermetric wisdom is that strike-outs don’t matter, you still need to hit at least .250 if you are going to play in the major leagues. Currently he is batting .308 in 26 at bats with a double, a triple and 4 strikeouts. I know, that is a very small sample size so take away what you will. He has shown some speed on the base paths but he is 6’2″ and 210 pounds. He still has some growing to do.

travis-demeritte

Next is Travis Demeritte, a former Texas farmhand who was the number one pick (30th overall) for the Rangers in 2013. Travis was acquired from Texas in exchange for right-hander Lucas Harrell and lefty reliever Dario Alvarez. Harrell you might remember was signed off the scrap heap by Atlanta and rehabilitated by the Braves. He actually pitched well for the Rangers before breaking down after two games. Sort of reminds me of the used car that lasts until just after the 30 day warranty expires, but I digress. Travis Demeritte does come with a bit of baggage, serving an 80 game suspension in 2015 for testing positive for a banned substance.

Demeritte is projected as a second baseman and has a bit more power than the prototypical second sacker. The Georgia native out of Winder-Barrow High School has shown the ability to put the ball out of the park but says his goal in the AFL is to make more consistent contact and work on plate discipline.

The Braves current number 9 prospect was actually added to the Braves contingent to Arizona after 19 year old Ozzie Albies broke a bone in is elbow on the final game of the season at Mississippi. It’s my belief that Travis profiles more as a third baseman and will likely play that position at double A Mississippi in 2017 as well as 2nd as Albies advances to Gwinnett.

dylan-moore-braves

The last of this year’s crop I will profile in this blog is Dylan Moore, a 24 year old shortstop, a California native who played college ball at the University of Central Florida. Dylan has only progressed to advanced A ball at Carolina until September 8th when he was assigned to Mississippi this season. Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 7th round of the 2015 draft. He is a bit old to still be considered a top prospect but he is still an interesting case. The Braves evidently have seen some potential in him. Currently he is hitting .368 with two home runs for Salt River. He came to the Braves as part of a three way trade with the Florida Marlins which saw Jeff Francoeur moved to the Fish. Officially, he was acquired for “other cash considerations” specifically International slots going to the Rangers.

Dylan is listed as a shortstop and will likely start the 2017 season as the starting SS for Mississippi but he has also logged time at both second and first base. I suspect he will not be a starting shortstop in Atlanta with phenom Dansby Swanson blocking him but you just never know what the future could hold. After all, one of these guys could be converted to catcher…

gil2

#157: And it’s done…. Bring on 2017

 

Gil       Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Atlanta Braves

Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The lights have finally been turned off at Turner Field but not before the 2016 Atlanta Braves team put a final exclamation point on their wayward 2016 season. Yes, the Braves lost a total of 93 games this season but it is the trajectory of the team which gives hope for the future.

Perhaps we should take just a bit more stock in spring training games as a precursor as to what can be expected of a team’s fortune for the upcoming season. No, I don’t mean a winning record in the respective Grapefruit and Cactus leagues guarantees a World Series berth but it sure has portended the abysmal seasons for the Braves the last two years.

This year’s version of the team lost game after game in Florida and that same losing attitude prevailed for two months, dooming the team of any chance of having a respectable record. The Braves began the season on a pace to lose 116 games. Of course no one really expected Fredi Gonzalez to win a World Series with the collection of misfits he had been saddle with but the team took on a persona of losing. Everyone expected them to lose so lose they did. Even on TV, this team exuded defeat. They were simply playing out the string and it was only April.

When Fredi was released and Brian Snitker was promoted to take his place, no one really expected a big change, after all, he still had the same bunch of players who were going through the motions. The Braves were still woefully short on pitching, even while trading every retread they had rehabilitated for another young long term minor leaguer. Add the fact that Eric Aybar made fans pine for the since traded Andrelton Simmons with Aybar’s deer in the headlights attitude at both the plate and afield. It made fans wonder what John Coppoletta was smoking when he traded away Simba to the Angles.

But something changed, not all at once but the team played a little harder and with more moxie. Youngsters like Mallex Smith brought a spark and Freddie Freeman snapped out of his funk. Ender Inciarte came back from a stint on the DL and the team started playing teams tough. They were still losing but they were playing better and they were in most games right to the end.

The Braves were still playing mix and match with their starting staff and the bullpen had a shuttle service going between the Ted and Cool Ray. Sixteen different pitchers started games for the Braves this season. The bullpen was a disaster in search of a train wreck.

Matt Kemp2

Matt Kemp

But things slowly but surely began to change. Matt Kemp was acquired from the Padres in exchange for persona non grata, Hector Olivera. No one in baseball really gave the trade much notice. The Padres were reducing their liability by sending Kemp off to the East coast. The saber-metric crowd gave a huge ho-hum to the deal as Kemp was thought to be an overpaid has been. Funny how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. With Kemp in the line-up to protect Freeman, Mr Hugs took off. The entire line up started hitting. The defense was making plays, running into walls, diving for balls, throwing players out at the plate and generally playing like their hair was on fire.

The team started playing like they could not lose. A lot of teams 30 games out of first would just pack it in and make plans for October which did not include baseball but the Braves didn’t. If you did not know the Braves record, you would have thought they were the team playing to be in the play-offs and planned to be in the Fall Classic.

So what do we have to look forward to? The Braves are on the precipice of greatness again. Years when only one spot might be available when spring training begins. Back to the Braves way when one rookie was added to the team to break in slowly to the team loaded with talent. Now talent… Maybe this team is not yet blessed with the same level of talent as some other top tier programs but they do have something else, heart. As it stands now, I can hardly wait for spring training to begin.

gil2



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