Archive for the 'Atlanta Braves' Category

205: Youth Springs Eternal

By Gil ‘N Mechanicsville 2/20/23

Each season 30 MLB teams reset and aim for the ultimate prize of winning the World Series. Of the 30, perhaps 1/3 have it as a realistic goal, after all, 162 games plus is a long season and as always, it is not who you play but when you play them. Something which will help in evaluating the pretenders verses the contenders is every team will play the same opponents over the course of the season. The caveat is again, not who you play but when you play them. That said, it is still, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

All position players need to let their respective clubs they are ready to show up Tuesday morning. The most conspicuous for their absence for the Braves is Marcel Ozuna. Perhaps he is just waiting to find out if he has been traded to the Pirates so he knows which camp to report to. NOTE: As I continue to pen this blog post, I have learned that Marcel has indeed shown up and says he is in the best shape of his life and is ready to play left field.

From all reports, it appears the starting short stop job is Vaughn Grissom’s to lose. I am pretty sure the Braves resident shortstop in waiting, Braden Shewmake, is hoping for a trade to a team that will allow him to play beyond the Triple A level. From what I understand, it is his bat which is holding him back. I am sure he was a little envious of Grissom getting 3 weeks of one on one time with Wash this winter. On that note, I read Elvis Andrus has signed a one year $3 million contract to return to the White Sox to play second base. Well,, another piece off the board.

Lots of arms showing up in camp so far. Looks like the Braves bullpen line-up is going to be tough to crack. May the best arms win. I think it will be interesting to watch at how the no shift rule and the pitch clock will effect the pitchers this season. Look for the batting averages of lefty hitters to rise this season. The only new rule I worry about is the two throw over rule for pitchers trying to hold runners on base. There are going to be players who try to coax a balk from the pitchers. The pitch clock should also take away the pitcher’s ability to disrupt the would be base stealer’s timing. That said, it is still better than having to deal with some human rain delay relievers who make the game boring.

The one nice thing about spring training is getting familiar with new players. The Braves really beat the bushes this off season looking for someone who was cheap that could actually take hold of the left field job. My view is that if one of these guys can actually fill the void, the Braves won’t feel too bad about cutting ties with the afore mentioned Ozuna. Marcel’s salary is sunk cost. The payroll is going to be the same no matter who is in left field, having a guy out there who is only making a couple of million dollars (notice how flippant I refer to a million dollars like it’s lunch money) is a lot easier

Anywho, there will be a lot of interviews and opines about the happenings in North Port over the next few weeks. Let us all pray no one develops an injury or the dreaded yips. Lots of time to wail and moan over lost opportunities. We are at the beginning of the beginning. GO BARVES! 😉


204: What Has Been Happening With the Braves Since October.

by Gil Elliott

AKA Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

As 2022 comes to a close, it might be appropriate to reflect on what has happened with the Braves since they exited from the playoffs in October. To be sure, there have been both highs and lows on the personnel front. Early on, the first move was to trade minor league RHP Dylan Spain to Colorado for right fielder Sam Hilliard. Hilliard is a light hitting outfielder with power who bats and throws right. Not sure what he brings to the team other than depth to compete for the 5th outfielder spot.

Next was Jake Odorizzi and cash (he was owed $10 million for 2023) to the Texas Rangers for prodigal son Kolby Allard, a lefty pitcher. Look for Allard to vie for the fifth starter spot or long relief spot this spring. In my opinion, he can’t be as underwhelming as Odorizzi was for the Braves. Prediction, Allard will start in Gwinnett unless he wows the staff this spring.

On November 11th, the following players elected free agency: RHP Kenley Jensen (who has since signed with Boston), Jesse Chavez (signed a minor league deal with the Braves), Dansby Swanson (signed for 7 years, $177 million with the Cubs), Luke Jackson (rehabbing from Tommy John), Adam Duvall (rehabbing from wrist surgery), Darren O’Day (unsigned), Robbie Grossman (unsigned) and Ehire Adrianza (who has signed a minor league contract with the Braves). The Braves signed 32 Y/O free agent RHP Nick Anderson. Anderson has not pitched for two years after undergoing elbow surgery for a torn UCL but was very effective for the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the injury. He signed a split major/minor league deal and is viewed as a bullpen depth acquisition.

On November The Braves then acquired RHP Dennis Santana from the Texas Rangers for cash. Santana is a 27 year old from the Dominican who has some speed in his arm. Look for him to compete for a spot in the bullpen. The Cubs claimed minor league third baseman Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Braves, RHP William Woods was claimed by the New York Mets.

On November 18th Alan Rangel, Brooks Wilson, Silvino Bracho, Guillermo Heredia and Stephan Jackson all elected free agency after being designated for assignment. Rangel and Wilson signed minor league contracts with the Braves on the 22nd. On the 24th the Braves signed free agent Styven Francisco (an 18 year old right handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic) he was assigned to the Dominican Summer League.

On December 5th, the Braves signed free agents Joe Hudson , a catcher in the Reds organization to a minor league contract and AA 3rd baseman Hudson Potts, a 24 Y/O, 6′-3″, 205 lb righty who was originally drafted by the Padres.

On December 7th, the Braves were involved in a three way trade with the Brewers and the A’s which sent Catcher/DH William Contreras to the Brewers and RHP Freddy Tarnok, LHP Kyle Muller, C Manny Pina, RHP Royber Salinas and 2B Esteury Ruiz to Oakland. for catcher Sean Murphy. Murphy subsequently signed a 6 year $77 million extension with the Braves. While the Braves gave up a lot for Murphy, Sean is rated only behind the Philly catcher JT Realmuto for talent in MLB.

On the 13th LHP Yansel Marine another young latin free agent was signed to a minor league contract. On the 16th the Braves acquired SS Hoy Park from the Red Sox for a player to be named. On the 29th Park was DNF by the Braves to clear roster space. On the 19th the Braves signed outfielder Jordan Luplow late of the Diamondbacks as a free agent. On the 23rd, the Baltimore Orioles traded 1B Lewin Diaz to Atlanta,

December 26 RHP Jackson Stephens signed a one year split major/minor league deal with the Braves. On the 28th the Braves traded SS Caeb Durbin and RHP Indigo Diaz to the New York Yankees for LHP Lucus Luetge. Lutege is a 35 year old who pitched 57 1/3 innings out of the pen for the Yankees last season with a 4-4 record and a 2.57 ERA. On the 28th newly acquired 1B Lewin Diaz was DFA.

So, biggest loss was SS Dansby Swanson, biggest gain was C Sean Murphy. Biggest needs, a short stop and a left fielder. The Braves have added an assortment of each but the expectation is there are still trades/ free agents to be signed. In the interim the Braves may decide to go with rookie Vaughn Grissom, who has been working with third base coach Ron Washington, at short or start utility man Orland Arcia. I would not be surprised to see Alex Anthopoulos make another deal but at this point I think he will wait until after spring training to make a big move on the position. As for the outfield, the Braves still have Ozuna (cough), Eddie Rosario, Hillard and Luplow to compete for the job. One thing to remember, the bat plays…

203: Tagged Out at the Plate; Now What?

By: Vox O’Reasoñ

Northeast GA (God’s Country) – In case you missed it, and I doubt anyone reading this did, the Braves went quietly last Saturday in the National League Division Series, falling to the Phillies in four games and capping what was a very weird season from it’s very beginning.

First, said beginning was late thanks to the seemingly perpetual inability of Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Players Association to ever agree on anything. Such was the severity of the labor dispute that all of the preseason roster work was disrupted until a mere couple of days before a delayed start to Spring Training and an abbreviated camp. Second, once the roster building resumed, the one sure thing we all felt was a slam dunk turned into a slammed door as team stalwart Freddie Freeman and his camp turned the late negotiations into a high stakes game of poker at which time Braves GM Alex Anthopolous called their bluff and opted for a game with better odds in trading for Matt Olson instead… and that’s how the season began.

The Braves also commenced without superstar Ronald Acuña, Jr. who was still rehabbing a reconstructed knee, something that would continue to be an aggravation after he returned in late April and throughout the hastened campaign

One-third of the fabled Night Shift didn’t even make it out of camp as Luke Jackson required Tommy John surgery to his pitching elbow barely after reporting to North Port. Another third of the feared trio, Tyler Matzek, would suffer most of the season from shoulder discomfort and later himself would undergo TJ surgery right as the post-season started. And the final member of the group, Will Smith, was so bad in 2022 that he was traded away mid-season for an equally bad starting pitcher in Jake Odorizzi.

They lost returning hero Eddie Rosario to an eye condition just after the season started in April, and Eddie never really hit his 2022 stride upon his mid-season return. Backup catcher and free agent signee Manny Piña broke his wrist in May and was never seen again. They lost infield sparkplug Ozzie Albies to a broken foot in June, only to lose him again for rest of the season to a broken finger less than 24 hours after he had made it back to the active roster.

They lost another OF in Adam Duvall to a season ending wrist injury in July, just after he had started to hit again after returning to his more natural corner OF spot after holding down CF for the first couple of months. He seems to have been forgotten as the season carried on, but he was a very necessary member of this team to start the year, and he’s likely played his last game in an Atlanta uni.

Maybe the worst injury of the whole season happened in the regular season’s final week when sensational rookie Spencer Strider incurred an oblique strain, which would have dire playoff consequences a mere couple of weeks later.

But there were also some very inspiring surprises. Young catcher William Contreras replaced Piña on the roster and became an All-Star. Young CF Michael Harris II was called up from AA Mississippi to shore up the OF defense, and batted his way into NL ROY contention with an exceptional offensive season to go along with his Gold Glove caliber defense. The aforementioned Strider had a year to remember as he set several rookie pitching records and cemented himself as the co-favorite for NL ROY with teammate Harris. Young IF Vaughn Grissom gave us a glimpse of the promise he brings to an already young roster. Max Fried took firm grasp of the team’s “ace” mantle, even being called “the best LH starting pitcher in the NL” by Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts. Kyle Wright led the league in W’s and became the team’s first 20-game-winner since Russ Ortiz. 3B Austin Riley played like an MVP for the vast majority of the season. Dansby Swanson became the team’s new Sheriff and played like his hair was on fire every time he stepped between the white lines. And polarizing 1B Matt Olson overcame a late season slump to finish with a very solid year while stepping into a pair of somewhat impossible shoes to fill.

I know I failed to mention other players and other occurrences, but I’ve spent enough characters and words on what was. It’s time to turn our attention to what’s to come.

Interestingly, the 2022-2023 offseason will be somewhat unique for the Braves, and indeed for most teams. While most teams have a General Manager or a President of Baseball Operations, the Braves instead employ a magician. Anthopolous has somehow managed to already wrap up the vast majority of the team’s core for multiple years ahead. Along with the previous deals he had in place with Acuña and Albies, he managed to acquire and then lock up new 1B Olson. He rewarded the mighty Riley with a new deal, then inked both co-ROY candidates to lengthy pacts. He even traded a couple of spare parts to the Angels for closer Rafael Iglesias, who is also under contract for the next few years. Thus, there isn’t really too much heavy lifting to still be done.

So exactly what is left?

Well, the most glaring task ahead for The Great Alex is bringing back Sheriff Swanson. Dansby has gone through a lot in his time here in Atlanta, and has overcome a truncated development period, injuries, and hometown pressures to finally justify being the #1 pick in the draft. He is now easily in the upper echelon of SS in the league just as he begins his first foray into free agency. Jon Heyman reported back in August that the Braves and Dansby had already had discussions on a new long term deal, but nothing became of that. Both Alex and Dansby have expressed the dreaded “mutual interest in returning”, which I suppose is better than no interest. But we here in Braves Country have learned not to take “mutual interest in returning” to mean a deal is imminent. We learned it the hard way. So this is job #1 for Alex, and nothing… repeat NOTHING is taken for granted.

Second, the old axiom always rings true. You can never have too much starting pitching. While the team has Fried, Wright, Strider, and grizzled veteran Charlie Morton back for 2023, the last spot in the rotation is up for grabs. Alex can go one of several ways with this slot. He can leave it up for competition among youngsters Bryce Elder, Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, and the ever hopeful Mike Soroka. There’s also Odorizzi, but I am loathe to consider him a serious contender. Each of those candidates carries a big question mark. Alex could seek out a FA pitcher like Jacob deGrom, who grew up being a Braves fan and is reported to have interest in coming here. But can Alex afford something like that and afford Dansby too? The Braves ranked 8th in payroll in 2022 with a payroll around $188M after chairman Terry McGuirk’s earlier assertion that the Braves wanted to have a top-10 payroll. AJC beat writer Justin Toscano has recently quoted McGuirk saying “My goal now is to get to be a top-5 (payroll team).” If the Braves want to afford both, they can afford both. But Alex’s tendency over the years has not been to spend heavy on pitchers in FA, but to trade for them instead. And while the pipeline was depleted last season in trades for Olson and Raisel Iglesias, there is still ample talent available to use. While his stock has dropped, Anderson could be dealt if he’s no longer in the long term plans. Muller, whom I see more as a reliever for this team, has good value. SP/RP Freddy Tarnok has value. And of course, the elephant in the room… young hitter Grissom has great value. If Dansby is resigned, then shopping Grissom for starting pitching should at least be considered. If Dansby is not resigned, then perhaps this is the year Alex makes a big splash in the FA pitching market, eh Mr. deGrom? Likeliest scenario: Elder wins the job. But don’t discount the tenacity of Soroka. I won’t count that guy out until he physically cannot compete anymore.

We need to note that Fried is entering his final year of arbitration. If anyone deserves to be locked up long term, it’s Maxie. I’d like to see a deal get done, but maybe Max wants to dip his toe into the FA waters. Who knows? I suppose since he’s still under team control for at least 2023, he shouldn’t be considered a high priority. But he should still be considered.

The acquisition of Iglesias probably signals the departure of Kenley Jansen to FA, but one never knows. When Jansen’s cutter is on, he’s one of the best in the game. And Alex has said on the record that he’d like to bring Kenley back. Still, Iglesias is more likely the closer of the future. “Sliderman” Jackson, who was a hero in 2021, is throwing again in his rehab from TJ, but he’s also a FA. Will he be back? Will Matzek, who is a possible non-tender candidate? Closer is settled, but the other late inning spots are not. Alex will have to address the pen again.

As for the regular lineup, it’s close to being set for some time to come, with the possible exception of SS as has been noted. What about LF? I know that Rosario is still under contract for 2022, but which Eddie will we see? The 2021 playoff hero or the 2022 shadow of his former self? There is no young heir apparent unless Grissom is converted to LF, which could be the best thing for his long term prospects and for the Braves. Contreras was an All-Star at DH, but can the Braves hope to pull off that double duty stunt again? Personally, I don’t see why not. And maybe… just maybe Marcell Ozuna will take his off-season seriously and come back to the team in 2023 as a viable hitter once again.

The bench? Meh… GM’s annually rebuild their benches, so this is just a part of the process. We know Contreras will be there. Orlando Arcia is probably there as well. MLBTR projects Guillermo Heredia to make $1.1M in arb. Will the Braves pay that much for a late game defensive replacement and sword handler? I’m thinking he’s a strong non-tender candidate so a backup for CF will be needed. What about old friend Jason Heyward? Since the Cubs have already given him his walking papers, he would only cost the league minimum to come be a veteran presence and strong mentor to our young players, including fellow Henry County native Harris. I think he brings more to the table than Heredia at least.

Finally, since we’ve brought up the topic of arb, the Braves currently have 6 players eligible. We’ve noted Fried, Matzek, and Heredia already. They also must make decisions on A.J. Minter, Soroka, and reliever Silvino Bracho. A.J. is a lock and a candidate for at least a 2-year of not 3-year deal. I think Soroka will be back on a 1-year deal. Bracho is merely system depth and could easily be non-tendered if they need the 40-man roster spot, but he would also likely be cheap enough to keep around if they so chose, so who knows?

All of this roster wrangling will take place with the knowledge of several rule changes ahead for 2023, including a pitch timer, defensive shift limits, and bigger bases. Yes, the team is now idle for a short while, but the front office is just getting warmed up. Braves organizational meetings will be happening very soon, followed by the Baseball Owners Meetings, and then the real in-person Baseball Winter Meetings (Dec. 4-7). So there’s no time to rest, Alex. Get that magic wand back out and get to work. We’ve got to get ready to battle the Mets and Phillies for the NL East in 2023, and there’s no time to waste.

202: Rounding Third and Heading for Home

by Gil in Mechanicsville

The Braves have completed 75% of the regular season at this posting and currently stand 3 1/2 games behind the first place Mets. While is appears the Atlanta nine are comfortable ahead in the Wild Card, more is at stake besides bragging rights and a spot in the play-offs. A first round bye is a huge advantage in the pursuit of a year’s spot in the World Series. Being able to get a little extra rest for your starting rotation plus being able to align the starters to an advantages position along with the elimination of “travel days” means a team will be less able to rely on just two front line starters.

The Braves have been blessed by the addition of Mike Harris II performing to a high level. Since his insertion in the line up as the everyday centerfielder, the Braves have turned their season around. It goes to show that talent has a way of rising to the top. Of course while the loss of Adam Duvall had negative effect on the Braves offense, they have been able to overcome that loss with balance up and down the line up. Seldom have we seen a line up that equally distributes both speed and power as well and pline baseball smart throughout the batting order.

With Ronald Acuna Jr. returning to his pre injury prowess and Dansby Swanson hitting like the season veteran he is, the loss of Ozzie Albies is less devastating than it might otherwise have been. Not saying he hasn’t been missed but the Braves are balanced enough that even without him in the everyday lineup, players like Arcia and newcomer Vaughn Grissom have made his absence much less acute.

It now appears Ozzie will soon be back with the club leading to the good problem of what to do with Grissom upon Albies return. I suspect the problem won’t be too burdensome with the ability to expand the roster in September. Austin Riley continues on his MVP trajectory this season with gold glove defense and Judgian power, likewise, Matt Olsen’s homeruns and clutch hitting has made the loss of fan favorite Freddie Freeman much less traumatic than it could have been.

Travis d’Arnaud sharing time with finally arrived William Contras has given the Braves a prodigious and steady presence behind the plate as well as a hitting tandem unequaled at the bat. Eddie Rosario has returned to his 2021 level of play following eye surgery. He has become a solid outfielder and lefty hitter in a right handed heavy batting order. New addition Robbie Grossman looks to have regained his 2019 form as a switch hitter with the sharp eye Kevin Seitzer spotting a flaw in his left handed approach.

Top to bottom this year’s team looks even more talented than last season’s World Series champs. Now if the can just continue to put pressure on the Mets in pursuit of first place in the NL East, the 2022 Braves might just pull off a repeat as World Series winners.

201: Okay, Now What?

By Gil ‘N Mechanicsville


The Braves are hovering just below .500 after a little over 1/4 of the season has been played. To say it has been a classic case of under achievement is obvious. The trio of players who meant so much to the World Champion Braves are no longer a factor. Eddie Rosario in on the injure list following eye surgery, (we knew something was wrong by the way he swung at phantom strikes and played in the outfield). Jorge Soler signed a 3 year deal with the Marlins and Joc “Pearls” Peterson has gone home to San Francisco. The other huge hole has been the absence of Freddie Freeman who would be a favorite for NL MVP if not being over shadowed a bit by teammate Mookie Betts.

To replace those players, Marcel Ozuna has returned to act as DH and place holder in left field. I doubt Marcel’s defense will ever again be considered for a Gold Glove. While his offense has improved somewhat, it is not what anyone would consider to be elite. Acuna Jr. has returned but he is not yet the 5 tool player he was before his ACL injury. He still misjudges balls hit to the outfield and his timing is still a bit off at the plate. He also sometimes lets his brain write a check his legs can’t cash. Too many base running blunders are still occurring for my taste.

The recent call up of Mike Harris II at least gives Atlanta a true centerfielder but I don’t expect his bat to play quite yet. As talented as he is, there is a reason rookies don’t win batting titles. He does have potential and his defense is worth at least one RBI a game in my opinion. The rea elephant in the room for me is the absence of Freddie Freeman both on the field and in the locker room. While we are not privy to what goes on behind closed doors, the sloppy play of the Braves indicates to me that has been a lack of accountability for mental errors committed this year in the field and on the base paths. His replacement, Matt Olson, began the season like a house afire but he has since cooled off. the most concerning thing to me has been his suspect fielding at first base. Too many unforce errors remind me of Adam LaRoche and his ADHD moments. Olson does remind me a lot of former Cubs and Diamondback first baseman Mark Grace, similar line drive double hitter.

There have been some bright spots. The emergence of William Contreras as a hitter and fireballer Spencer Strider on the mound. Dansby Swanson has been solid in the field and looks to have solved his hitting woes that have plagued him the first two months of the season. Ozzie Albies also has been better in the box of late by not trying to hit every ball 500 feet. The “new” ball has had a lot to do with it methinks. Balls that were not hit so well last season were still going out but this season they have died on the warning track.

Austin Riley has gone through a bit of a slump also but hopefully he has regained his timing at the plate. His last ten games have shown a return to his his 2021 prowess at the plate. He defense continues to impress at the hot corner. While I doubt he will be able to usurp Noland Arenado as the league’s premier third baseman, he is certainly top five in that category. Now, if we can just get Adam Duval back on track. He has been a huge disappointment at the plate this season. We can all appreciate him having to play out of position in centerfield this season but way too many o-fers have shown up in the box score for him so far.

I guess the real head scratcher has been so few complete ball games put together by the Bravos to date. They have wat too much talent to lose as many games as they have. To be honest, they have played like a bunch of prima donnas. They think because they have won the World Series, other teams should be intermediated and roll over for them. It is not happening. The other day Jeff Francour opined the team needed an “A**hole”. Well, they do. A Freddie or a Chipper to get on someone who needs to get their act together and always give their best effort even when they don’t feel like it.

So what next? Play like you care… Yes, there will always be games you should have won but lost and game you should have lost but won but you need to win the game you are suppose to win. Get your mind in the game, pay attention. Don’t lose track of the number of outs. Don’t rely on the umpire to get the calls right. Understand you don’t always have to hit a three run homer when a single will do.

200: On The Precipice

by Kenny Sirmans AKA Voice of Raisins


As of the time of this writing, the lockout has just ended and the Free Agency Frenzy is just beginning. Teams have 3 days to get their players into camp, assuming they even know as of yet who those players are going to be. For the Braves, there is still a lot of work to be done.

A lot.

Priority #1: Get Freddie Freeman inked. Period. No putzing around. Get it done and make him happy.

Priority #2: Find at least 1 more OF. As this roster currently sits, the only OF’s are Adam Duvall, Marcell Ozuna, and Guillermo Heredia. Duvall doesn’t hit lefties well, Ozuna doesn’t field well, and Heredia is not a starter. We all want Ronald Acuña, Jr. to be healthy, but the reality is that he’s probably not going to be able to contribute until closer to May or even June. Cristian Pache will have another opportunity to make the team and has a realistic shot at it if he can impress in the abbreviated spring training. Even if he makes it though, the entirety of the group I just mentioned are all right handed. Not a lefty in the bunch. In fact, if we get Freddie back on board, he’s the only true lefty in the entire lineup.

Priority #3: Find a LH bat, or even two, to balance the lineup a little. This actually ties into the previous priority. We need a LH power bat for the OF. It’s that simple. Finding one we can afford is not that simple. I think we need to find that guy via trade. And if he’s got value, we’ll have to part with value. It may be time to finally stop hugging some of these prized prospects and use their prospect capital while the value is still there. Some of the guys, like Drew Waters and Kyle Muller, have lost their sheen. William Contreras has been leapfrogged by Shae Langeliers. We need to extract their value while before it dwindles.

Priority #4: Find some quality for the bench. Granted, this is something that can be done as spring unfolds and other rosters are fine tuned. But it still must be done. We have Manny Piña at backup catcher, Orlando Arcia as the projected utilityman, and the aforementioned Heredia. Again… all are RH bats. That cannot remain.

Priority #5: This team could use another starting pitcher, preferably the proverbial veteran innings eater. I’m just not sure there will be any money left over from Freddie’s haul and whatever OF is obtained to pay anyone else. We do have youngsters that can backfill behind Charlie Morton (assuming he’s 100% healthy), Max Fried, and Ian Anderson. I believe Kyle Wright proved during the World Series that he can be a bona fide ML starter. And Tucker Davidson showed some moments last season when he was healthy. Kyle Muller did as well. There are candidates, but ideally you’d like another vet. Still, this one is at the bottom of the list. Oh… and as for Mike Soroka, I’d love for him to make it all the way back. But even if he does, it won’t be before mid-season. I think you have to consider anything you get from him this year as a bonus.

Those are the things that must be done before April 7. I’m hoping that Freddie is already back in the fold before this is even published. I’ll be refreshing Twitter a lot today.

A lot.

199: Caught on the Horns of a Delimma

By Kenny Sirmans: aka VOR

Speaking of reality…

IMO, the Freddie Freeman situation is not the most pressing issue this team faces going into 2022. In all honesty, there are ways to address 1B other than Freddie even if we don’t want to admit it. There are answers even if some are not as popular as others. We know that Alex did reach out to Oakland regarding Matt Olson prior to the lockout. That could certainly just be due diligence, but in a lockout world, its big news.

But that’s NOT the team’s most pressing issue.

Marcell Ozuna is.

Ozuna is still owed the balance of the 4 yr / $65M deal he signed with the Braves prior to last season and prior to the domestic issues that turned our big money Free Agent into a team albatross. Yes, I agree that as long as he completes his required services handed down by the court in his particular legal case, he has “paid his debt” and should be able to move on. But it’s really not that simple, is it? It’s just not that black and white. Regardless of his legal status, there will be a cloud that follows him wherever he goes. And that cloud is darker in Atlanta where the deed went down. The wound is fresh here, and this fan doesn’t see it healing very easily especially in a time of #metoo. It’s a personnel decision that is especially difficult for Alex given the annual salary restraints the team faces. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to understand that the team cannot afford to just eat the remainder of Ozuna’s salary to simply release him. Even if a trade partner could be dug up, it would take a pretty good prospect attached to even pique anyone’s interest, and would also require paying a portion of the remaining $$ amount of his Ozuna’s deal. Basically, the better the prospect, the less the percentage must be paid. But unless Alex has a rabbit up his sleeve, some significant amount will still become dead money.

And thus the great debate. You have to pay the man. Can you overlook it all and just let him earn his paychecks?

For those keeping up with the baseball side of it, Ozuna appears to be back on top of his game. His Dominican Winter League team just won their league championship and Ozuna was a big part of their success. In fact, he was the championship series MVP. MLBTR: In the final game, he was 2-3 with a 3-run homer and a walk. Overall during the series he hit .333 with 3 home runs, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI as part of his Series Finale MVP performance. And over 21 regular season games, he slashed .317/.389/.519 with 4 HR, 10 BBs, and 13 Ks. There is nothing wrong with his bat.

So just when you start to think, maybe if he can quietly step back into the lineup and keep his nose clean, we can make it work for 3 more years, this pops up…

Yes, I hope that Alex can take care of Freddie Freeman as soon as this lockout crap is over. But that will be a walk in the park compared to solving the Marcell Ozuna puzzle. This one has no good answers. None.

198: What’s Next?

by Kenny Sirmans

Cristian Pache , do they run with him in CF

I believe that is exactly what you’ll see. He does have offensive potential, but his greatest asset is his Gold Glove caliber defense. We all know how valuable great defense up the middle is. And you touched on it perfectly… the presence of the DH lets you go with him in the 9 hole.

I, too, would like to see Jorge Soler brought back. I’d also like to see Eddie Rosario come back. I fear Eddie will be priced out of our market. But he has great AB’s every time up. A big question, of course, is when will Ronnie return? I don’t expect to see him until at least May, and more likely June. But I won’t put anything past him. Still you have to have someone out there in RF until he gets back.

I know Guillermo Heredia is still under team control (Arb 2) for 2022, so he may get alot of starts awaiting Ronnie’s return.

Two big things have to happen before the Braves can determine who (and more specifically how) they will fill the OF vacancies. #1, they must re-sign Freddie Freeman. That will eat up a chunk of change in the bank account. #2, they must determine what to do with Marcell Ozuna. Like it or not, he’s probably going to be on this team at some point in 2022. He’ll most likely serve a 30-60 day suspension to open the season, But the Braves are pretty powerless to send him away. Even of the dump him somewhere else, they’ll almost certainly have to pay a large portion of his remaining deal. No… the most prudent move is to just keep hi and his still potent bat as the DH.

I think the most likely OF to return is Adam Duvall. Both Rosario and Soler will have multiple bidders driving up the price. Adam will undoubtedly have interest as well, but he fits best on the Atlanta Braves. And he knows that as much as the team knows that. So the go-to OF next season once everyone returns is likely Duvall-Pache-Acuña, with Ozuna as DH and Heredia as 4th OF. That’s still a pretty good OF.

Wild Card: Drew Waters.

Yes, he hit only .240 at AAA. But let me remind you that Duvall only hit .228, and still led the league in RBI.

I don’t think the team would go with 2 rookies in the same OF, but finances will certainly come into play and a rookie salary might let you re-sign Freddie and still have some $$ left over to flesh out the bench. Who knows? I suppose we’ll see what he does in Spring. I think they’ll at least have an open mind depending on his performance in Spring.

197: And Now We Dance

by Gil Elliott

Mechanicsville VA

One has to wonder if Alex Anthopoulos did indeed make that trip to the crossroads for that deal with the devil. The remade outfield has sparked a resurgence in the offense led by a re-born Jorge Solar and a guy who should not have been set free to begin with in Adam Duvall. Timely hitting and power by Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario has been a boost too and has softened the blow of losing all world outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.

A team which could not seem to get out of its own way suddenly put it all together after the All-Star break and ran down every obstacle to take a lead in the NL East which they never relinquished.

So the Braves begin their quest to get to and win a World Series title today. Are the Braves good enough and deep enough to do it all? Yes but as we all have seen in the past, the baseball gods are a fickle bunch. You just never know when something strange will jump up and bite you in the butt. I suppose the best thing that could happen with this team is no one gets hurt and the umpires remain anonymous.

196:Down at the Crossroads

July 16, 2021

Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

The old folk lore has it that Delta Blues icon Robert Johnson Jr. went down to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil in order for him to become great blues guitarist. Perhaps the Braves have come to that same crossroads. I am not saying Alex Anthopoulos has to make such a trade but we already know Liberty Media is a godless entity so there is that. For sure 2021 has been a season fraught with peril. The loss of outfielder, “The Devil Made Me Do It” Marcel Ozuna. The absence of Silver Slugger Travis d’Arnaud, who was all thumb early in the season also to put a serious dent in the batting order. The failure of Mike Soroka to quickly recover for his Achilles injury first to rejection of the sutures used to secure the tendon and lastly for repair to simply fail while walking into the dugout hampered the Brave return to full strength in their rotation.

A brief fit of rage waylaid emerging star Huscar Ynoa when he vented his frustration with disappointing outing by punching a wooden bench with his pitching hand and breaking two bones. Didn’t he ever see the advice Kevin Costner gave to Tim Robbins in “Bull Durham”? Note to Alex: put a punching bag in the tunnel for such occasions.

Of course the team was a bit snake bit before the start of the season with owners Liberty Media playing the tight wad and preventing Anthopoulos the financial flexibility to sign Mark Melancon and Darren O’Day for the 2021 season. Melancon was not a strikeout king like Craig Kimbrel but he has been very effective in closing games for the San Diego Padres going 27-3 in save opportunities this season. That is Just a tad bit better than the entire Braves staff this year who have a perchance for blowing leads it seems.

I won’t mention Shane Green any further than to say, WHAT”S UP WITH HIM?

Perhaps all of the maladies which have befalling the Braves this season is bad Karma for not signing Freddie Freeman to a long term contract over the winter. It is my personal opinion that the failure to do so put the amiable first baseman into a slump at the plate which lasted for much of the first half of the season. Combined with the loss of Ozuna and d’Arnaud and the failure to launch with rookie centerfielder Christian Pachae, the Braves offense has pretty much been Acuna and Ozzie Albies with an occasional contribution from Austin Riley.

The replacements thrown into the breach are quad A players who can provide a temporary stop gap and even give some great effort but there is a good reason as to why they are not really everyday players, they are easily exposed. Having to use bench players regularly does two things, 1. they are never as good as the people they are replacing and 2. it weakens your bench.

No one would ever count on a starting outfield consisting of the like of Guillermo Heredia  , Abraham Almonte  and Ehire Adrianza to anchor a championship contending team. That is what the Braves had after Acuna’s season injury to his ACL last Friday in Miami. That is more like what the Pirates or Orioles would go to battle with.

Not saying the aforementioned are bad players, it is just the are more like the type of players you would call upon for bench support. Even Dansby Swanson’s woeful plate appearance could be overlooked if he was surrounded by an offense which could be counted on to come thru in the clutch but with him hitting 5th or 6th in the order, opposing pitchers can relax once they are past the first four batters. Something they could not do last season. I will forego the usual Swiss cheese analogies when describing this season’s line up but folks, YOU KNOW…

I have not even mentioned the Braves current bullpen woes but that won’t settle down until the starting staff solidifies. Opposing teams lick their chops when watching pitchers warming up to come in for the 6th inning. The have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads as opportunities to fatten their batting averages abound.

Alec Anthopoulos was dealt a short hand in the pre-season by Liberty Media and Brian Snitker will get much of the blame for all the shortcomings of this team but he can only drive the horses he is given. I’m sure he feels he is in a quandary every time he has to make a pitching change. I could write a tome on the disappointments of Tyler Matzek, Shane Green, Chris Martin, A J Minter, Will Smith, Edgar Santana and recently sent down Sean Newcomb and Jacob Webb. If feels strange to say the only reliable pitcher coming out of the pen these days is Luke Jackson.

This week AA made a trade with the Cubs picking up lefty hitter Joc Pederson who will sub for Acuna, no, not idea but at least an effort to shore up the outfield. Sadly, there is still much that is needed to be done. While it is too early to give up on this team, they have yet to break past the .500 mark this season. The schedule for the Braves gets hard for the three weeks post All-star break with the Padres, the Dodgers and the Mets on the menu. Were it not for the Mets getting off to such a rocky start, I am sure the Braves brain trust would have thrown in the towel by now but there is still and opportunity for them to break through but frankly, I would be very surprised to see it happening at this point.

The only positive I see with the upcoming schedule is the Braves often play up to their competition.

195:Brave New World 2021

By: Vox O’Reasoñ

Feb 28, 2012

Jefferson, GA – Spring Training 2021 is now fully underway in CoolToday Park, the Atlanta Braves cool new training facility in North Port, FL. In fact, as of the time I type this, the Braves are less than 24 hours away from their first spring game of the new season. And so as we turn the page to another new chapter in the history of our beloved franchise, I think it’s fair to ask some necessary questions about the latest version of the team… or Braves V.2021.

When last we wrote a lead topic for the ol’ B&S, back around the turn of the yearly calendar, we made a lot of noise over the fact that there were still several holes on the team. As has become his norm, GM Alex Anthopoulos got out of the gate quickly to address the lack of depth and lack of experience in our rotation by signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly… the former whom has become the type of vaunted savvy veteran hurler every contending team needs, and the latter trying to come back from injury that has slowed him over recent years. Both of these signings appear to be pretty spot on and have been widely hailed as solid acquisitions for this ballclub. Obviously time will tell the whole story here, but this fan and part time writer tends to agree. Then, after those quick pickups happened nothing else followed. Alex was loudly quiet for weeks as all the other teams around us got better and better.

We here at the ol’ B&S continuously beat the poor old dead horse over and over again that the pitching looked solid but that we still had too many holes in the lineup and bench. So let’s revisit that assessment again and see if any of those holes still remain heading into spring game #1, shall we? Here’s the way we described it a mere month ago…

Acuña, RF (R)

Ozzie, 2B (S)
Freddie, 1B (L)
d’Arnaud, C (R)
Riley, 3B (R)
Swanson, SS (R)
Pache, CF (R)


Camargo, IF (S)
Ender “Hole” Inciarte, OF (L)

Then, after what seemed to be the entire Hot Stove Season, Alex finally tossed another log on the fire and made a big time move by bringing Marcell “Big Bear” Ozuna back to Atlanta to mix it up for another 4 years. And TBH, that was the only really big arrow Alex pulled out of his quiver, largely because he was given a pretty cheap quiver by ownership with a greatly limited arsenal of ammo. But the arrow he did shoot was a good one, and it shot true and straight. And it had a fairly nice ripple effect on the rest of the lineup. And after Alex scattershot a few lesser arrows and grabbed some guys off waivers, signed some on minor league deals, etc., we fans now know what we’re heading into the season with, and it looks something like this…

Acuña, RF (R)

Ozzie, 2B (S)
Freddie, 1B (L)
Ozuna, LF (R)
d’Arnaud, C (R)
Riley, 3B (R)
Swanson, SS (R)
Pache, CF (R)

Alex Jackson or William Contreras, C (open competition)
Jake Lamb, 3B/1B (L)

Camargo, IF (S)

Bench #4

Bench #5

And there will be plenty of competition for the last 2 spots on the bench, where OF Ender Inciarte cannot be assured that he’ll have a job even if he does come with a $8M commitment, and OF Guillermo Heredia will have to show he can hit consistently. The biggest push will come from veteran hitter Jason Kipnis, a 2B by trade that has enough experience in the OF to be a useful bench piece. And there has to be at least one guy in the whole mix that can play SS, meaning IF Ehire Adrianza should get a good long look. Some of the other contenders for those last spots are OF Phillip Ervin, OF Abraham Almonte, and 3B/1B Pablo Sandoval. Minor leaguer Braden Shewmake, my dark horse candidate, should not be taken too lightly here as he adds a ton of positional versatility and an advanced bat for his pro experience. He may need a tad more seasoning down at AAA, but he’ll almost certainly get his cup of major league coffee sometime this season.

The way this fan sees it, the Braves have put together a contending team again for 2021, and should continue their reign atop the NL East as long as they can stay healthy, because past the starting group there are still some question marks. Three major questions I see for the 2021 season are: 1) Will Austin Riley take the next step in his development and show the type of consistency expected from an everyday starter? 2) Will Dansby Swanson repeat his 60 game success from 2020 over a full 2021 season? 3) Will Cristian Pache carry his 2020 post-season success into 2021 and cement his place in CF? Those are the keys to me for the overall success of this lineup. Otherwise we have an All-Star group atop it in Ronnie, Ozzie, Freddie, Marcell, and Td’A that will have any and every pitcher in MLB nervous when toeing the rubber against our home team all season long.

This should be a fun ride, folks. Let’s enjoy it.

194: Another Trade Proposal

Vox O’ReasoñJanuary 8, 2021 at 9:32 am

How can the Braves respond to the Mets recent acquisition of Mike Lindor from Cleveland ?

Well, the most obvious answer is to sign the top remaining offensive FA on the market. But the word is that George Springer has already turned down 5 yrs/$150M from TOR and is seeking closer to $200M. Even in the best of times, I do not believe that the Braves organization is going to pay $30M, 20% of their total payroll, for one player in 2021, especially when a Freddie extension is on the horizon. It’s just not in their DNA.

So what can they do? I’m glad you asked…

The Braves finished the 2020 season with a payroll of about $158M (in 162 game terms). Their current estimated payroll, as constituted right now this morning, is about $120M. We have no way of knowing what the threshold is. There are arguments going both ways. For the sake of this proposal, I’m going to go with the same figure with which they ended 2020 being $158M.

First, I make the trade for Kris Bryant. CHC needs to trade him, even if publicly they say they don’t. They really do need to make the trade. Because he comes with just 1 year remaining on his deal, and is a Scott Boras client, it’s essentially gaining his services for 1 year… a year in which he needs to rebuild value for his FA run. Sound familiar? It falls into the same pattern we’ve had with Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna. Only this time we have to give up trade equity to make it happen. Follow me all the way through before you start picking my proposal apart. In modern day deals, it’s not uncommon to trade away a top prospect alongside a bad contract. That’s where we stand with Ender Inciarte. At some point, the Braves are going to have to start using some of their prospect equity or said prospects are going to wither on the vine. I say they need to do it now. I propose packaging top pitching prospect Kyle Muller with Ender Inciarte and throw in Sean Newcomb for Bryant. (The Cubs need a CF, BTW.) Lose Ender ($9M) and Newcomb (pre-arb, likely +/-$1M) and add Bryant ($19M), net addition = $9M.

Second, sign Michael Brantley. MLBTR estimates 2 yrs/$24M. I’ll go with 2 yrs/$26M because the recent FA signings are slightly higher than their estimates. He becomes your starting LF and part-time DH. With Bryant and Austin Riley, they combine to give you a rotation for 3B, LF and DH, keeping veteran legs fresh through October. And in the instance that there is no DH, then you have strengthened the bench for 2021 with Riley who can spot start for both Bryant and Brantley. Plus, Brantley gives you a LH bat and high OBP that is sorely missing from the current batting order. Top 5 in the order is Acuña, Ozzie, Freddie, Bryant, Brantley. Follow that with d’Arnaud, Dansby and Pache. Pretty stout. If you have the DH, then Riley gets slotted in after d’Arnaud. Not too shabby, IMO. Net addition = $13M.

Sign Jason Castro as backup catcher. He made $6.85M in 2021, and would probably look for at least a 2 year guaranteed deal for about the same. I say 2 yrs/$14M. He gives you a good LH compliment to Td’A and can capably catch enough games that we won’t burn out our starter by September. He is also the veteran backup to 2022 starter William Contreras, but I digress. Net addition = $7M.

Thus far, we’ve only added $29M to the payroll, still $9M less than we ended 2020. I can still afford to go out and get a real 4th OF… and maybe more.

How about reunite with veteran Nick Markakis for 1 yr/$2M (last year’s contract)? Then reunite with Mark Melancon for 1 yr/$4M (MLBTR projection). Bench is better (Markakis > Almonte), bullpen is better (Melancon > Luke Jackson). Net addition = $6M.

We’re still $3M under last year’s final payroll number and we have a lineup that can play with any in MLB.

#193: Now What?

Vox O’Reason

Obviously there are a lot of moving parts to putting together a 2021 roster. There is the obvious question of budget, but also the remaining MLB mandates with regard to the DH and to roster size.

I imagine if things go back toward “normal”, there will not be an increased roster, but that really only means 2 less pitchers, right? 

At any rate, I think we can figure out most of the 2021 roster without concerning ourselves too closely with the rest of it. After all, we have a young and deep roster that only requires a couple of additions.

Here is my very early projection of the roster, with just a few of remaining highlighted questions:

Ronnie, RF (R)
MVFree, 1B (L)
??, DH [if there is one]
d’Arnaud, C (R)
Ozzie, 2B (S)
Dans, SS (R)
Duvall, LF (R)
Riley, 3B (R)
Pache, CF (R)

See the problem here? I feel like I keep harping on this, but there is a decided lack of LH bats here. And should Ozuna come back to be the DH, it’s only magnified. Seriously, I don’t think this works as is. And the only real place you can tweak that is in LF. So I am a little curious to see haw that’s addressed.

If there’s no DH, then I like Ozzie back in the 2 hole and Freddie at 3 with d’Arnaud still behind him at cleanup. Otherwise, Ronnie, Freddie, Marcell and Travis were a beastly 1-4. Why mess with that formula?

Now, the rotation:
… or a FA veteran instead?

I believe Wright did enough at the end of the season to have an advantage for a spot, and I think Wilson also showed he’s capable. But I do not think either should be considered a lock, rather each still has to earn a spot. And if that competition involves one or more additional veterans, then amen and amen. The more the merrier.

Smith (L) – closer
Martin (R) – closer
Minter (L)
O’Day (R)
Matzek (L)
Webb (R)

First, I believe the concept of the “9th inning closer” is fading away. The playoffs are proving that you better have more than one guy that can come in and get outs when the game’s on the line. Our own NLCS showed that games are won and lost in innings other than the 9th. That said, I believe these 6 I listed are very talented locks for the pen. And I think the other 2 spots will simply be a competition among returners Jackson (R), and Dayton (L) along with a handful of internal candidates. And once again, there will also be some other FA veterans in camp trying to earn jobs. And if Wilson doesn’t make the rotation, he’s gotta be a lock in the pen, right? Overall, the bullpen is likely the least concerning part of the team.

And finally, the bench:
William Contreras, C (R)
Ender, OF (L) —gotta pay him… he probably makes the roster
LH compliment to Duvall, OF (L)
Charlie Culberson, Util (R), maybe?
Better have another LH bench bat other than Ender. He’s gonna give you nothing offensively.

There is work to be done here. There always is.

So there’s a quick glance at a viable 26 man roster for the 2021 Braves. Gotta figure out DH or no DH, then acquire a LH bat for either DH or to platoon with Duvall. Need a veteran (or 2) to compete for a rotation spot. Need to flesh out the bench.

Pretty much sums it up.


Vox O’Reason

What do we know?Today as I sit here tapping these keys, the Braves have are on a scheduled off day right after they hit the halfway point of this 2020 pseudo-season, a truncated 60 game sample-sized version not to be confused with the real thing.

Or can it? It’s real enough that at some point a champion will still be crowned. It’s real enough that players are still going out and displaying some might impressive performances on any given night. The question has been raised by Chris, “Can this team really pull this off and win the east?” In a typical season we’d look at 30 games as a still somewhat small sample size. But this season is anything but typical, so we can only draw our conclusions on what we’ve seen already. And based on what I’ve seen, I absolutely believe the Braves can pull this off and win the East.

First, they currently sit (at the time of this writing) at 18-12 and firmly in 1st place in the NL East, 2 games ahead of the Marlins (or a reasonable facsimile of the Marlins) who haven’t actually played a half season yet. The 3rd place Phillies have a bullpen with more leaks than the White House. The 4th place Mets are… well, the Mets, and the last place Nats have yet to find a groove and have lost Steven Strasburg for the season to an office malady.

Let’s look at how we’ve arrived at this point. We lost 2 of our veteran starting pitchers before the season even started when Felix Hernandez opted out due to COVID and Cole Hamels couldn’t get his arm to cooperate. Then our ace Mike Soroka ruptured his Achilles tendon in his 3rd start of the year. The mercurial Mike Foltynewicz couldn’t throw the ball through a wet paper bag and was DFA’d, passed over by the other 29 teams, and assigned to Gwinnett. Young hopeful Kyle Wright couldn’t find the strike zone, and his replacement Touki Toussaint couldn’t find it either. We were left with Max Fried and little else. Did anyone have Robbie Erlin on their dance card this season? Until Ian Anderson tossed 6 innings in his ML debut just yesterday, no other Braves starter had even qualified for a decision. It’s been that scarce.

On the position side of things, Freddie Freeman got a late start as he battled with the new “C-word” during camp, and Nick Markakis was so freaked out over it he opted out of playing altogether. Of course, Nick did return to the team midway through the first half only to be ironically quarantined away from his peers again after being exposed to a C-19 positive person.

Both of our starting catchers were quarantined for the first week or so of the season forcing Snit to go with 2 completely unproven battery mates for his young and ever changing staff. Spark plug Ozzie Albies dealt with wrist soreness late in camp that carried over into the start of the season and had to go on the IL after just 11 games because of it. There is word that he’s still out there somewhere, trying to get back home… like ET, just different. But we’ve not seen hide nor tightly bunned hair of him in quite a while. There is recent word that he’s improving and will be back soon. That’s a good word.

Speaking of balky wrists, our local superstar Ronald Acuña, Jr. has just returned from missing 10 games himself. All in all, if not for Dansby Swanson and Marcell Ozuna, this team might have had very little offensive firepower. But those guys have more than stepped up along with newcomer Travis d’Arnaud, a resurgent Adam Duvall, and the rest of the team to propel us to the point where we now stand.We’re getting very close to having our projected everyday lineup healthy again.

So what’s ahead? Our 2 longest road trips are already over. Of our 30 remaining games, we go to Philadelphia and Boston for a short 6 gamer before coming home for 7. Then we hit the road for 4 in DC, then 3 each in Baltimore and Flushing before coming home for the final 7 game stretch run. Also, we’ve already played our games against the beasts of the AL East, the Yankees and Rays, and we’ve split both series. That’s a big positive because we won’t see the likes of them again unless it’s in the World Series. We also won the Jays series 2-1. The ones left are the sliding Orioles (14-16) and the abysmal Red Sox (10-21). Within our own division, only the young and unknown Marlins have a winning record (14-12) and their schedule is still incomplete. The Phils (12-14) are also short on finishes. The Mets (13-16) and Nats (11-17) complete the list of our 2nd half combatants.

There are still a handful of questions that have to be answered by our own home team. When will Ozzie be back? Will Austin Riley ever hit the ball consistently enough for his power to make a difference? Can Ian Anderson give us a few more starts that are anything close to his debut? Will Cole Hamels be back in time to make a difference? Can our stellar bullpen continue to stymie the opposition or will they be worn down by all the short outings from our rotation? And will Thoppy be able to bring in another pitcher to help provide a few more innings from the starting group? Those are all valid questions that will have to unfold before we can answer them.

But to be honest, I don’t think I need to know that to know this: I absolutely believe the Braves can pull this off and win the East.

#191: MLB 2020: The Season Made-For-TV

Vox O’Reason

Baseball continues to work on ways to open for games in an effort to retain as much of their TV revenue as possible. And before this post gets any further down the paragraph, let’s be clear about something. Do not fool yourselves; this is not about fans, this is not about tradition, this is not about players. This is about TV contracts… and rightfully so. TV revenue is the lifeblood of MLB in the modern era. If we want to see this game we love keep moving forward in the form that we are currently enjoying, we should all want to see the TV money continue flowing in. Every power-plant has a primary engine that makes everything else turn, and with baseball it’s the TV revenue. This season, if there is one, will be made-for-TV. Disclaimer: No fans will be harmed in the making of this season.

So that point accepted, how can baseball get going and get in as many games as possible while still keeping one eye glancing in the periphery toward player health and safety?

The talking suits at MLB are quick to point out that the schemes being considered “are not plans”. In fact, they are adamant that these are simply “ideas” that are constantly evolving. So in that vein, lets lay out the “ideas” as we have come to understand them.

Idea A was to play all the games in Arizona in the 10 Phoenix-area spring training ballparks, plus Chase Field. This would minimize travel, and theoretically exposure for players, since all 11 of those venues are within a 40-minute drive at maximum. But that <strike>plan</strike>, er… *idea* was fraught with many logistical hurdles. How do 30 teams play 15 match-ups in just 11 parks on a revamped schedule that needs to maximize the number of games in a condensed schedule? And how do you house 30 teams in 11 locations that were not designed to include dormitories?

That gave birth to Idea B, which was to split the league onto both coasts and let teams utilize their own spring training facilities in both ARI and FLA, plus the home parks for the D’backs, Rays and Marlins. This would result in defacto Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues for the regular season, with some configuration of league winners and runners up coming together for playoffs late in the year. Since both ARI and FLA have relatively mild fall and winter months, you could actually run games into October and November without game temps resembling Chicago and Denver in March. But as with Idea A, Idea B also has hurdles. Two leagues split into 15 team segments results in an odd team for each that would have to sit out every day on both sides. And the parks in FLA are a little more spread out with most team sites up and down the Gulf coast, with a handful across the state on the Atlantic coast. And of course, there is the infamous FLA weather.

The new idea being floated calls for a 3rd “hub” to be employed, that being in Texas. Yes, the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues would be joined by the… Longhorn League? Cowboy League? Oil Rig League? But I digress… Back on point, Idea C would split the league into three 10 team divisions that would use Phoenix (ARI), Arlington (TEX) with its surrounding area, and the gulf coast of FLA (plus Miami) as their “hubs”, with the divisions being distributed according to geography, and with some configuration of league winners and runners up coming together for playoffs late in the year. In other words, the 10 eastern-most teams would play in FLA, 10 western-most teams would play in ARI, and the rest would gather in TEX. This scheme would seem the most workable since it would put less of a logistical strain on each hub, would employ 3 even number subsets allowing all teams to have a match-up each day, and also reduce the chances of a single weather system wiping out half the possible games for an entire day or more.

I’ll be honest… for me personally, I realize that any type of season carried out in 2020 will be a strange metamorphosis of the typical season I’m familiar with. It’s simply not going to resemble anything I have come to know as “normal”. So that said, I’m open to and accepting of something that is fresh and entertaining. And I’m open to and accepting of things that are very non-traditional, given the circumstances. Certainly we’ll see a universal DH for this season. Likely, we’ll see creative uses of pitching staffs, including 6-man rotations, “openers”, etc. And since there will be more games played and less off-days, there will likely be expanded rosters with more players getting into the games, including some guys that might have opened the year on a minor league roster in a normal year. This is even more important given that minor league seasons are likely done for the year. All that together will make for a very unique season. And I’ll be perfectly happy with whatever form it takes if it gets the season rolling. The only thing harder to find in 2020 than toilet paper is live sports. I’m paying for Hulu Live for no other reason than live sports. For the last 2 months, that’s been the equivalent of tossing away $50 like an empty bottle of hand sanitizer. I need to get something for my hard earned cash. I’ll even watch live bowling if they’ll get something going. But again, I digress…

So for the Braves, what does this mean?

Well, a quick geographical survey would suggest that the Braves would play in a Grapefruit League that would consist of the Braves, Rays, Marlins, O’s, Nats, Phillies, Bosox, both NY teams, and the Jays. That would be really tough, but would also be really fun.

And our Braves are actually constructed quite well to play under the proposed modified rules. We have our DH in Marcell Ozuna. We have youth, depth and versatility to deal with double-headers and limited off days. We have 7 capable starting pitchers vying for 5 rotation spots, so expanding to 6 is easier than for most. We have the depth in our bullpen to cover 4 innings without hitting the panic button. And we have the talent at the top of our minor league system to fill the additional roster spots without skipping a beat.

Yep, this fan is ready to see 2020 begin to take form. It’s appointment TV.

#190: Hope Springs Eternal – Again


By the time this is posted, the pitchers and catchers will have likely reported to the Braves new spring training home in North Port, Florida. It is again that time of year for the players to shake off any rust which may have accumulated but with year round training programs employed by players today, little rust is expected.

The biggest stories going in this spring will be the losses of Josh Donaldson’s presence, and the absence of his bat and glove. The hope is the combination of Johan Camargo and Austin Riley at third will be potent enough to at least occasionally say “What Rain”?

Johan Camargo

Johan has worked hard during the off season to cut down on the bulk and increase the tone of his body in hopes of recapturing his agility afield. Who knows what caused him to fall in such a funk after being regulated to a bench role but he looked awful and played poorly both with his glove and his bat. It was only after his short stint in Gwinnett that his bat returned to play. That at least can give us some hope.

Austin Riley

Riley was the second coming of Roy Hobbs when he was first promoted but as soon as the book was out on him, his hitting dropped off and at times he looked completely lost. The thing every rookie goes thru is discovering when pitchers make adjustments, it is up to him to do the same. In an interview with Dave O’Brien he has indicated that he has worked on his pitch recognition. He is a young kid so I have hope he will return to his deep ball hitting prowess early in the season. The extra player allotted this season should open a spot for him on the roster.


The pick up of Marcell Ozuna for one year may or may not work out. We will have to see if his hitting philosophy adapts to the Braves hitting coaches and he can get past the urge to upper cut the ball. He is big and strong and doesn’t need to depend on tricks to hit home runs. To me, the only real question mark is the health of his right shoulder. If it hasn’t healed sufficiently, we will see a lot of teams run on him to take an extra base on balls hit to left.

Enders Incarte


Another question mark is if Ender Inciarte’s hamstrings will hold up. Any blip on the radar by Ender and he may find himself Wally Pipped and swapping places Cristian Pache’ in Triple A. Ender may still be in line as part of a trade package to make room on the 40 man roster.


The pen looks solid and it should be fun to watch Felix Hernandez try to earn a spot in the starting five against Sean Newcomb. Throw in highly touted prospect Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint will make it fun to watch how they perform this spring. At least the Atlanta area folks will get a chance to see how they perform with 8 games schedule for TV this spring.

So kick back and watch the show, a new story everyday and remember, nothing happens in a vacuum. The rest of the NL East will still be looking to dethrone the Braves from the in season championship and the Braves will be playing with a chip on their shoulder thinking they missed their chance last year.

#189: Hot Stove Time! Light ‘Er Up!

Vox O’Reason


I’m beginning to form the opinion that there is an event to happen in the Braves organization that will be a direct cause/effect reality. I am beginning to form the opinion that if the Braves re-sign Josh Donaldson (and make no mistake, it will have to be for at least 3 years at big money), they will use Austin Riley in a trade to fill another need.

As you all know, I obsess over these things and read way too much from way too many sources. But this revelation seems to be an undercurrent everywhere I look. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense and the more I believe it.

Austin Riley

The Braves have 4 major holes to fill before they start to feel the warmth of the the Fla Gulf Coast sun: they must add at least 1 and more realistically 2 starters, 1 of which must be of the top-of-the-rotation variety; they must fill the hole at 3B; they must fill the hole at catcher; they must fill the hole in LF. Now that’s not to say there aren’t other areas that can’t be improved or augmented, but those core 4 items must be specifically addressed if the Braves intend to not only repeat as NL East champs, but actually progress far enough to play for the NL pennant.

And the Braves are not a team that is going to stroll into the off-season with the checkbook open, reeling in Free Agents like bass in a stocked pond. That’s not to say they won’t break off a guy… maybe even 2. But 2 guys can’t fill 4 holes. There will be trades made.

And somebody of quality has to be included.

Maybe AA signs 2 top pitchers after seeing what actually makes it to the World Series, and leaves 3B for Riley to grow into. Maybe he signs his pitcher and catcher. Maybe he surprises everyone and signs a power bat for LF.

Or maybe he spends big on 3B. At that point, can he afford to hold onto Riley when other teams might supply us with a catcher or pitcher for a good 3B prospect? I don’t think he can.

I am of the opinion that Josh Donaldson and Austin Riley will not be on the same team in 2020. The Braves simply cannot afford that luxury.

What say you? And whom would you rather have over the next 3 years?

A few notes on an otherwise boring Monday…

After reinstating all the players on the 60-day IL, as is required 5 days after the World Series ends, the Braves 40-man roster currently sits at 32. Since there is a need to protect a handful of eligible prospects from this year’s Rule 5 draft, this is good news. But given that we must also add a few players to round out the major league roster, there will be some tough decisions that have to be made. And the deadline to make these decisions is Nov. 20, just 8 days away.

First, there is a whopping 25 Rule 5 eligible players in the Braves minor league system this year. I’m not sure how this ranks with other teams, but it doesn’t really matter. That’s a lot. And there will surely be some players that do not get protected that we will lose.

Among those who will surely get added to the 40-man roster in the next week are:

T Davidson



Cristian Pache. This one is obvious…. a no-brainer. Also no-brainers are pitchers Tucker Davidson, Jasseel De La Cruz, and Thomas Burrows. Another player who should require no debate is catcher William Contreras.



Wm Contreras

T Burrows

J de la Cruz

Now if you’re keeping count, that’s 5 players. Remember, we started with just 8 open slots in total. And while you have to keep one eye open to the fact that any Free Agent you sign to a major league deal is going to require a spot, that should not dominate this process yet. After all, for every FA you sign, you can use a corresponding move to bump someone off the bottom of the list. For instance, if we sign a catcher, Alex Jackson is likely placed on waivers. (Speaking of catchers, John Ryan Murphy will not remain on the 40-man roster very long himself. But with only 3 catchers on the roster as it’s currently assembled, AA cannot just cut him loose yet. Or perhaps Murphy’s fate is sealed once Contreras is added. That is possible. But I digress…)



Anyway, there are a still a couple of players who will almost certainly be selected if not protected. Those include pitchers Philip Pfeifer and Corbin Clouse. I think one or both of them are easy goners if left unprotected.

Other players of note that are eligible: P Josh Graham and SS Ray-Patrick Didder. I doubt either of them would be drafted since they would have to remain on the drafting team’s active roster for the entirety of the 2020 season. But a guy like Didder could be taken by some team in need of a versatile and speedy defender.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say they do protect the “no-brainer 5” I listed above, and cut loose JRM… leaving them with a little flexibility even after the 5 additions. But to add more than 5 is asking alot. How much do they like Pfeifer and Clouse? We’ll see in the next week.

Of course, I could be totally wrong about all of it. It wouldn’t be the first time.

More randomness because I am bored…

2019 playoff teams and their 2019 Opening Day payroll ranking:

#5 Nationals = $197,287,505 (World Series, champs)
#7 Astros = $188,624,429 (World Series)
#2 Yankees = $226,718,875 (ALCS)
#12 Cardinals = $168,097,083 (NLCS)
#4 Dodgers = $198,063,010 (NLDS)
#16 Braves = $138,401,048 (NLDS)
#17 Twins = $134,935,267 (ALDS)
#28 Rays = $88,817,567 (ALDS)

If the Braves want to elevate their season ending position, they might want to consider elevating their payroll position.

Just sayin’…









#188: Now What?

Vox O’Reason

Mostly thawed, and looking ahead at what the needs are for this ballclub going into 2020. This is a young team with a great core intact, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much to have to fill in, but that’s not necessarily correct. There are some major holes in this lineup and pitching staff that must be filled.

First, let’s not forget that the team has a whopping 10 members of the final 25 man roster that is entering FA. That does include the retiring Brian McCann. Aside from those 10, there are 3 more for whom the team holds a team option, and another where there is a mutual option. That’s a major portion of the 25 man roster.

Looking more deeply, the biggest spots we will have to fill are 3B, starting pitching, and catching. We’ll also need at least 1 OF and maybe 2. Our bench will take a slight hit, but most of our bench will return.

J Donaldson


Bullet point #1: Will the Braves bring back Josh Donaldson? Published reports say there is mutual interest, and recent quotes from both sides seem to bear that out. But he will be expensive, and will likely require a 3 year commitment. While I personally believe he’s worth that, there is more to this equation which I will address next.


Dallas Keuchel

Bullet point #2: When the Braves took a flyer on Dallas Keuchel, I thought it was the perfect move for the team. Looking back, I still believe it was a good move for both the Braves and for DK. But the Braves wanted him for one main purpose. Help carry a young staff into the postseason, and will the big postseason games. We can check off the first box, but not the second. And I think that’s significant. I cannot see a scenario where he returns to the Braves for another stint. That creates a huge void in the starting rotation that must be filled. The team once again will be seeking a veteran presence for their young staff. If you think Julio is that guy, I respectfully disagree. I expect (I at least hope) that the team will decline Julio’s 2020 option and let him go elsewhere. That leaves us with defacto team ace Mike Soroka and up-and-down Mike Folty– as the only established starters for 2020. I believe Max Fried has also earned a spot, or at least he should have one to lose. But that’s just 3 of the necessary 5, not counting any depth we want to keep.

Matt Joyce

Bullet point #3: The bench will really only lose Matt Joyce, who is a FA and could sign elsewhere to start or at least platoon. Could he re-sign here? I suppose it’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it. Rafael Ortega did a nice job in his opportunities, and is more versatile in the OF. He’s cheap, too. With Charlie, Johan, and Duvall all expected back, the bench should be fine. It needs to be noted that Billy Hamilton has a mutual option included in his contract, so there is at least a small chance he could return. But at $7.5M, it’s not likely.


Nick Markakis

Bullet point #4: Nick Markakis has very likely played his last game for the Braves. The team holds an option on him for 2020, but his disappearing act in October probably sealed his exit. I appreciate all that he has done for the team for the last 5 years, but it’s time for someone else to fill his spot.

Bullet point #5: Catching. Needs no explanation.


Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon

Bullet point #6: The bullpen. Mark Melancon will be back. Personally I think that’s a good thing. Shane Greene will also return. That’s a pretty strong back end returning. We should also return a healthy Jacob Webb, who was as good as we had in the pen before he got hurt. Losing Josh Tomlin (FA) will hurt a bit, but the fact is that pitchers like him are a dime a dozen, and most easily picked up just like he was… late in spring training. I can see that happening again in 2020.

So what does that all mean?

This is what this fan sees as the roadmap for the front office starting right now. Job #1 for AA and staff is to decide if they want to pour their big money into bringing back Josh Donaldson or a starting pitcher. I don’t think they can do both. The kind of pitcher we need will cost alot. I think AA needs to be in the Gerrit Cole derby, but that would eliminate any possibility of paying JD also. So the question must be asked and answered; Do we spend big on JDon, or on a pseudo-ace type pitcher? What say you find Stuffians on that one? There is just over $56M committed for 2020, so there will be money to spend. It won’t be of the Yankees proportion, but there is funding for some significant deals.

For me personally, I would love to see JD come back. I think he was perfect for this team and lineup this year. But if I have to choose… I’m choosing pitching. Austin Riley obviously has some work to do, but we’ve seen the potential he has. We can more easily address the 3B void from within over starting pitching. You cannot just grow an ace pitcher. Those take time to develop. And as we’ve witnessed painfully just this week, pitching is the key to postseason success.

We still don’t have an ace. Soroka is emerging, but he’s still just 22. And even at that, if you want to win, especially in the postseason, you better have a strong 1-2 punch. I want to see Cole/Soroka at the top of my rotation. And to be honest, I’d still take MadBum over a JDon reunion. MadBum would be a great fit, especially since he’s a lefty. He also won’t cost as much as Cole. Zack Wheeler? That’s a tough one. He’s gonna cost ya good bit, and has a history of not staying healthy. He falls on my list because of that. Still, when healthy, he’s a good one. I’m not looking at any other pitchers in FA. My standards are high. Caveat: If Steven Strasburg opts out of his deal, which he can do, he becomes my #1 target. I go after him hard and I pay him. I like him that much. Plus if we sign him away from the Nats, we don’t have to hit against him.

In the OF, Ender is still under contract even though he’s easy to forget about. His trade value is low, so I doubt he goes anywhere before the season. And his eventual replacement, Cristian Pache, is more likely to be a mid-season callup over making the team out of spring. But you still need a LF, so you can either address it in FA or via trade. But be careful, the trade capital is starting to run thin, and we need what we have to use in filling the biggest lineup void which I will mention shortly. If you address LF in FA, then it’ll not be Marcell Ozuna as he’ll come with a hefty price tag. I think we spend all our big money on pitching. We’ll need someone on a short deal anyway as Drew Waters will be coming up in another year if not sooner. A guy like Corey Dickerson might be a good fit. He bats LH and has plenty of power. He’d fit nicely into the lower part of the lineup where Mac and Flowers typically bat.

Speaking of Mac and Flowers…


Brian McCann

This is where I think the Braves front office really has to do their work this offseason. It’s time to address the catching position with more than spit and duct tape. Mac is retiring and Flow is here only if the Braves pick up the team option. Thoppy needs to use what remaining prospect capital he has to get a catcher. And I’m not talking about a middling catcher to split time with Flow. I’m talking about a long term answer to start 120 games. It’ll cost him either Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson, and maybe Drew Waters too. But you have to give quality to get quality. You can afford to give up the pitchers if you sign an ace. Untouchable Ian Anderson will also be ready soon, so the rotation will not need the minor league influx as much as we have needed it in recent years. We need pitching depth now more than a steady stream… but I digress. Back on topic, what catching answers might be available? Honestly, I have no idea. But that’s what Thoppy and Co. get paid the big bucks for, right?

So to capsulize: Sign a veteran pseudo-ace starting pitcher, add a LF, trade for a cornerstone catcher, fill in the gaps.

Easy right?

One note: I did not take into account the pre-arb and arb raises for guys who fall into that category when I noted the Braves 2020 salary commitment at just over $56M. RosterResource estimates the total payroll before any new additions to be in the neighborhood of $73M. Still, that leaves alot of flexibility to add quality players to this team for 2020.

#187: The Home Stretch

Mechanicsville, VA

04 Sept 2019

It is finally September and the Braves go into the home stretch with a slim 5 1/2 game lead over the pesky and tenacious gNats. I will be the first to admit that after the pre-season flourish of acquisitions by the Phillies, Mets and Nationals, I had picked the Braves to finish the season in 2nd place in the division behind Philadelphia. The current standings should give everyone a good understanding of why I am not very good at picking winners and losers.

As it stands, the Braves continue to hold serve over the Nationals who apparently were recharged by Max Scherzer’s “black eye” game. Since that game the Nationals have been on a tear and have refused to lose. Still, the Braves have kept the Nats at arm’s length by winning at a nice clip too. Can the Braves continue to keep the Nations playing for a wild card spot and not the division crown? September will tell the tale. The two teams have 7 head to head games in September, four in Atlanta and three in DC. The Braves also have seven games left with the fading Phillies and three in New York with the Mets to end the season.

By trailing the first place Braves by 5-1/2 games, the burden is clearly on the Nationals. The Braves are in a position to run out the clock on the season but methinks los Bravos will not be content to simply play out the string. I believe they truly want to make a statement that they are the “Beast of the East” and all play-offs once again go through Atlanta. The Nationals, in addition to seven games left with the Braves have three with the Mets and four with Philadelphia. Both of those series are at home for the Nats but they also have to face the Twins, the Cardinals and the Indians. The Braves remaining foes include games against White Sox, the Royals and the Blue Jays.

While the games are not played on paper, the Braves do appear to have the easier path to the NL East title. As good as the Nationals are playing right now, they were horrible in April and May once again proving that while you cannot win a title at the beginning of the season, you can certainly lose one.

Billy Hamilton

Francisco Cervelli

Adeiny Hechavarria

Now a word about the addition of Adeiny Hechavarria, Francisco Cervelli and Billy Hamilton. All those bad thoughts I had about Alex Anthopoulos I here-by rescind. Three players who were discarded by their former teams were claimed of waivers by the Braves and it was as if AA was able to wave a magic wand which sparked new life into a tired team. All three have had a role in sparking victories over the Mets and the Blue Jays. The trades for three bullpen arms at the trading deadline has also borne fruit with Martin, Green and Mark Melancon all contributing to shoring up a sagging and spotty relief corps.

So as we head down the home stretch with only the Nationals in a position to challenge the good guys, I am not counting our chickens quite yet but I do like the Braves’ chances to defend the flag.

#186: The Second Half Begins

Vox O’Reason

July 12, 2019

Well, the unofficial second half begins tonight and the Braves are certainly in the catbird seat as they sit on a 6 game lead over the rival Nats in the surprising NL East. But a lot can change over the next 3 weeks as the season’s sole trade deadline looms on July 31. Now that the All-Star break is over, the front office action should begin to heat up all across the baseball landscape. Of course, we all know that the real frenzy won’t occur until the last 72 hours as all sellers will hold out for the best deal in the last days unless blown away by an over pay early.


Mike Soroka
Dallas Keuchel

A-Train has his radar firmly fixed on pitching as the Braves already have a a potent and deep lineup, and arguably the best bench in baseball. At the same time, the rotation is still in flux and is rife with question marks despite the recent addition of Dallas Keuchel. And God bless young All-Star Mike Soroka.

So who is available? Well, we’ve all heard the Madison Bumgarner rumors since the offseason. And while I believe there are still some pros with MadBum, he’s a 2nd half rental that will still carry a hefty prospect cost.

Zach Wheeler

Zack Wheeler is also churning through the rumor mill. Alex went after him last season, but he’s now also a half season rental, on a division rival, and the prospect cost would be heftier than MadBum. Said mill is also churning out the obligatory Marcus Stroman connection, and a hot rumor yesterday morning said the Jays and Braves were in discussions. That was subsequently denied by both sides though. Still… he is a pretty good “fit” and has a long connection with his former GM. The hot young name, and the latest to be directly tied to Los Bravos, is Detroit youngster Matthew Boyd. My fear with him is that he’s their latest version of Michael Fulmer and they will try to extract a premium return while his value is at its peak.

And what of Michael Fulmer today..?

My money is on the guy we haven’t heard of yet. It’s AA’s modus operandi.

Zach Greinke

Name to not sleep on: Zack Greinke. Once again an All-Star, the enigmatic Greinke is a major salary drag on the non-contending Snakes. A connection here might be a way for Thoppy to lessen the acquisition cost in prospects and utilize some of the club’s infamous “financial flexibility”. The more money he is willing to cover, the less prospect capital would go the other way.

Anthony Swarzak

A quick glance at the bullpen might give cause to place it as a priority over the rotation, but the reality is that since the arrival of Anthony Swarzak from Seattle, the Braves bullpen has been among the best in baseball. That’s a little misleading, though, as most bullpens in baseball have alot of needs and the Braves are no different. Luke Jackson is “getting by” as the defacto closer, but he’s no closer. And the Braves still need a guy they can count on to slam the door in the 9th.

Possibilities? The Giants’ Will Smith is the biggest available name, but will also be the subject of the biggest bidding war. The Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez has been mentioned, but I’m not sure the Bucs view themselves as sellers. The guy that seemingly makes the most sense is the Jays’ Ken Giles, a former top closer having a strong comeback year. He is a good fit in a similar vein to his teammate Stroman. One possible name to watch for is SD’s Kirby Yates. He’s a pretty good veteran closer signed only through 2020 on a team that is not poised to overtake the mighty Dodgers anytime soon. They’d be foolish not to listen to offers on him.

As much as we will begin to hear the beloved local ballclub connected to a myriad of names over the next 29 days, I defer to a quote from our new Homeboy Upstairs himself, who says (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you’ve heard us connected in a rumor, then you can pretty much count it out.” He runs the tightest front office among fellow GM’s, and any accurate rumor would have to come from the other side.

Still… it ought to be fun trying to keep up. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. 😀


#185: Half-way Home, Let’s Hope We Are Not Caught In A Rundown.

Gil from Mechanicsville

27 Jun 2019


The Braves have completed the first half of the 2019 season and somewhat surprisingly, they are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies who are maintaining the second slot.

The Washington Nationals have hit a soft spot in their schedule and are making a push towards the top but are one game under 500 and sit 7-1/2 games behind the 1st place Braves.

The Mets have taken a nose dive towards the cellar and look to vie with the Marlins for last place in the division. So, there is still a long way to go in the season and as we all know, any team is only one major injury away from having to cash it in for the season. That is, any team not named the Yankees or the Dodgers who are so deep they appear able to withstand just about anything other than a plane crash.

The Braves are currently in the middle of a 10 game road trip. They took two out of three from the Nats and split a four game series with the Cubs in Chicago. Perhaps more importantly, they have won the season series with the Cubs 5 game to 2. This could be important if the Cubbies manage to win the NL Central.

The Braves are now on their way to New York for three game date with the struggling Mets before heading home to finish up the first half prior to the All-star break. They will play 3 games against the Phillies and 3 with the Marlins.

That means the Braves have 9 games before they take a much deserved break. By tomorrow, we will learn which of the Bravos will be playing in Cleveland. I am pretty sure the Braves will be well represented, let’s hope none get hurt.

NL Standings as of 27 June 2019:

National League – East
Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves 48 34 .585 0 24-17 24-17 445 400 45 16-11 44-32
Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies 43 38 .531 4.5 27-17 16-21 391 387 4 20-17 38-35
Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals 39 40 .494 7.5 21-19 18-21 396 383 13 21-17 36-39
New York Mets
New York Mets 37 45 .451 11 20-14 17-31 390 423 -33 19-19 33-42
Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins 30 48 .385 16 13-27 17-21 273 350 -77 12-24 25-44
National League – Central
Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs 44 37 .543 0 29-16 15-21 411 348 63 13-11 37-31
Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers 43 38 .531 1 25-17 18-21 399 405 -6 20-12 40-31
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals 40 39 .506 3 24-18 16-21 358 349 9 15-17 36-33
Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates 38 41 .481 5 17-19 21-22 371 425 -54 12-14 28-37
Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds 36 42 .462 6.5 19-17 17-25 336 296 40 13-19 30-35
National League – West
  • 1
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Los Angeles Dodgers 55 27 .671 0 34-9 21-18 425 300 125 24-10 54-24
    Colorado Rockies
    Colorado Rockies 42 38 .525 12 22-15 20-23 444 424 20 18-16 35-34
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    Arizona Diamondbacks 41 41 .500 14 17-22 24-19 423 376 47 14-25 32-37
    San Diego Padres
    San Diego Padres 40 40 .500 14 21-20 19-20 361 388 -27 16-17 33-37
    San Francisco Giants
    San Francisco Giants 34 45 .430 19.5 16-23 18-22 306 399 -93 18-22 28-38


#184: Sorting Through Fact &Fiction

Vox O’Reason

22 April 2019
Northeast, GA  (God’s country)



As we sit here on this beautiful Monday following Easter, the Braves are only 21 games into their 162 game schedule, yet seemingly the sky has already begun falling all over the city of Atlanta.

[DISCLAIMER: While some may perceive I’m throwing shade at a lot of fans here on the ol’ B&S and elsewhere, I am including myself right in the middle of the criticism.]

Yes, even though the NL East is universally perceived as the toughest in MLB this season, as is evidenced by the fact that as of today only 1.5 games separate the division leader from 4th place, and even though the Braves are currently just 1 game behind the division leader, the prevailing thought is that this team is incomplete and sputtering. And just about every pointing finger is directed at the bullpen.

Yes, the bullpen has been bad at times. It has also been good at times, but let’s face it… the bad always seems to be magnified more than the good. And I believe that’s especially true here in Atlanta where we went onto this past off season knowing we needed to address the bullpen.

Then we entered into the new season with very little change. In fact, we didn’t add anyone from outside the organization at all until we picked up Josh Tomlin from the proverbial scrap heap. We certainly didn’t make any headlines by signing any one of a number of top names available on the Free Agent market. And if we’re really honest, that’s what everyone is most upset about, right? The Braves didn’t spend any money on the bullpen. In fact, that narrative has been sharpened a bit more to say that the Braves promised to spend money, have money to spend, yet didn’t spend a dime on the bullpen. Am I right? I’m guilty. I admit it.

But perhaps it’s not quite that easy. Oh, I know it’s always easy to spend someone else’s money. But is it always the right answer? I’ve done a little digging this morning, and have discovered something fairly interesting. So hang in here with me while I go down the lost of top relievers that were available this past off-season, according to MLBTR. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the relievers in their Top 50 Free Agent list, along with the contracts they signed and the results the teams are getting for their stacks of dollars:

#5  Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned despite the cries of most of Braves Nation, and maybe the other twenty-nine fan-bases, as well, because so far, all thirty teams have passed on his demands.


#17 Jeurys Familia signed with the Mets for 3 yrs/$30M. He has appeared in 10 games, has a 5.59 ERA, and a 1.966 WHIP. He’s also become a favorite target of the NY newspapers.



#18  Zach Britton signed with the Yankees for 3yrs/$39M, has appeared in 10 games, and has a 2.89 ERA with a 1.393 WHIP. This is a signing that seems to be working out OK for the Yankees, who have Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Adam Ottavino taking most of the high leverage innings. I say “OK”. Not great, but OK.



#19  David Robertson signed with the Phillies for 2ys/$23M. He’s appeared in 7 games, has a 5.40 ERA with a 2.100 WHIP. Not very good. He has also spent ten days on the IL with a sore elbow.




#21  Adam Ottavino signed with the Yankees for 3yrs/$27M. He’s appeared in 10 games, has a 3.27 ERA and a 1.455 WHIP. He gave up 2 home runs yesterday, turning a 5-2 lead into a 6-5 deficit. Another “OK” signing.



#24  Andrew Miller signed with the Cardinals for 2yrs/$25M. In 11 games he has a 7.04 ERA and a 2.087 WHIP. I’m no professional pitching coach, but I don’t think a 7.04 ERA is very good. To the contrary, one of our favorite whipping boys, Jesse Biddle, actually has a respectable 2.38 ERA.

#25  Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers for 3yrs/$25M. He’s appeared in 9 games, has a 9.90 ERA, and a 1.900 WHIP. And, he’s already blown three save chances.



#26  Kelvin Herrera signed with the White Sox for 2yrs/$18M. He’s appeared in ten games, as a 1.86 ERA and a 0.828 WHIP. He has easily been the best of this whole bunch. This one was a good deal.


#34  Joakim Soria signed with the A’s for 2 yrs/$15M. He has appeared in twelve games, has a 7.84 ERA, and a 1.839 WHIP. Yowser. Ugly!



#37  Cody Allen signed with the Angels for 1yr/$8.5M. He’s appeared in nine games, has a 6.14 ERA, with a 1.636 WHIP. This is the guy the writers at MLBTR projected would sign with the Braves. I’m glad he didn’t.


#40  Bud Norris signed a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays. He was eventually released and almost signed by the Nats….except he wasn’t. I hear Uber needs drivers.



#41  Brad Brach signed with the Cubs for 1yr/4.35M. The former Brave has appeared in eight games, has a 4..50 ERA and a 2.125 WHIP. Five current Braves relievers have a better ERA, and a 6th misses by just 0.20.  All eight have a better WHIP.


#44  Jesse Chavez signed with the Rangers for 2yrs/$8M. The 35-year-old has appeared in ten games, has a 9.31 ERA with a 1.759 WHIP. That’s pretty close to the same numbers for Chad Sobotka who is still a kid and time to continue developing.



So, what exactly is the point of this exercise?

The point is that this fan is now quite happy that his GM didn’t go out and throw money at one or more of these relievers hoping to “fix” the bullpen, because only one of these twelve signings appears to actually be earning his contract.

Naturally, I had the benefit of hindsight to make these judgments. GMs don’t have that same luxury. They live or die by making assessments and hoping for the best.

Relievers are the one segment of the team that you simply can never predict, as is evidenced by those relievers above. Perhaps if we give our own group of pitchers more than just 21 games out of 162, we might see some improvement.  At worst, we’ll see a better picture of exactly what we have and what we need.  Then we can look at those needs with a better perspective and address them with more options than just throwing money at them.



#183: Still, So Many Questions


Gil Elliott

Bryce Harper

With a little under two weeks before the Braves begin their defense of their National League East title, there are several very huge question marks for this team. Every team not named the Marlins appears to have improved during the off-season with big ticket additions via both trades and signing free agents. I am not sure who won the off season but both Phillie and New York both potentially look to be beasts and the Nats did not really hurt themselves by not retaining Bryce Harper. While Harper is recognized as a talent, his appearance of not always trying very hard all the time can be demoralizing to a team.


Josh Donaldson

So, wither the Braves. The acquisition of “The Bringer of Rain”, Josh Donaldson, was the Braves only big ticket signing this winter. The Braves other significant signings were bringing back Nick Markakis and home town favorite Brian McCann. Both may well work out to be solid additions but they gave the appearance of someone searching the thrift stores for treasure. Sure, you can pick up some real gems that someone else did not know they were valuable but it is a very rare occurrence. In other words, not everyone feels the need to clip coupons.

Two of the Braves recognized needs this winter were:
A) a front line starter to lead the staff of promising youngsters and
B) a solid vet to add to the relief corps.


Craig Kimbrel

Well, as of this writing, neither of those two positions were filled. Not surprisingly, there still two players who would fill those needs are still available as free agents. There is no question that “Dirty” Craig Kimbrel would be a very significant addition to the back end of the bull pen. The only real hangup appears to be the loss of a high value draft pick but let’s be realistic, the loss of a draft pick would probably not be felt for 5 or 6 years.


Dallas Keuchel

The same goes for Dallas Keuchel. No, he is not the same level as a Jacob DeGrome or Max Scherzer but he is a proven innings eater on a team that is desperately short on that commodity. Again, I don’t think the dollar amount for Keuchel is prohibitive but having to give up a draft pick seems to be a sticking point. Now, as it stands, we are so late into spring training neither pitcher would likely be able to join the team as they ramp up to being ready to go.


So Braves fans, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope this opine becomes completely irrelevant by March 28th.


#182: So What Is The Winning Formula?

Vox O’Reason

Sitting here in God’s country in the foothills of the beautiful North Georgia mountains, it’s awful easy to speculate as to whom I want to see the Braves sign or trade for. After all, I’m spending someone else’s money and prospect capital, right? Who doesn’t want a job where they get to have all the fun with no accountability?

As this year’s Hot Stove season winds down to a just couple of weeks remaining, I can look back at all the players I’ve wished for. From Madison Bumgarner to JT Realmuto to Corey Kluber to Andrew McCutchen to Ryan Haniger to David Peralta to Sonny Gray to Bryce and Manny, etc., there really are a lot of players at a lot of positions. It would look like the Braves had a lot of needs to fill, even though it was really just a brief list…

Needs: catcher, outfielder
Wants: starting pitcher, reliever, bench

Nick Markakis

Brian McCann

In reality, our new buddy Alex Anthopolous has addressed our needs, to arguable degrees. He brought home our old friend Brian McCann. And while I cannot think of a better teacher and mentor for our young pitchers, I also cannot with full sincerity say he and Tyler Flowers together can handle 162 games behind the plate. I just can’t. AA also brought back Nick Markakis, an integral piece of last year’s success story, but not a sexy or well received signing. In fact, it was divisive at best. But the fact remains, he addressed the “needs”. Fancred’s Jon Heyman even said, “After signing Markakis, Braves have very solid team and no obvious flaws.”

That’s the equivalent of being told your blind date is really smart and has a great personality.

But let’s get real here. The goal of every GM should be to put together a team that can contend for and win a World Series. Yes, I know we’ve just emerged from a rebuild where there were a few seasons that we were simply not going to contend.

I still feel the residual sting from those years. But a GM still *wants* the team to succeed. And when a team is in position to contend, that GM wants to put together the winning formula to make it happen.

Ah… and that’s the rub isn’t it? Exactly what is the winning formula? Obviously, if I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting in my office, I’d be in a executive office somewhere. But here’s what I can do. I can look back at several World Series winners and see what they have in common. What is it that binds them all together?

Looking back at the last 10 World Series winners, I found the following…

2018 Red Sox: Starting pitchers Chris Sale and David Price, relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.

2017 Astros: Starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, Jr., who got injured and was replaced by Justin Verlander, relievers Ken Giles and Chris Devenski.

2016 Cubs: Starters Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, relievers Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman.

2015 Royals: Starters Danny Duffy and Edison Volquez, relievers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera.

2014 Giants: Starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum, relievers Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt.

2013 Red Sox: Starters Jon Lester and John Lackey, relievers Koji Uehera and Andrew Miller.

2012 Giants: Starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum, relievers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo.

2011 Cardinals: Starters Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, relievers Fernando Salas and Jason Motte.

2010 Giants: Starters Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, relievers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo.

2009 Yankees: CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, relievers Mariano Rivera and Phil Hughes.

Are we seeing the pattern here?

Obviously all of those teams had potent hitters in their lineups. And so do the Braves. I don’t need to regurgitate our lineup here. But if we want to put a winning team on the field, one that can not only dance during the regular season, but succeed in October especially, we better have a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation and we better have some shut down capability at the back end of the bullpen. Period. Those qualities are simply not negotiable.

Close your eyes and remember Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers, Rafael Soriano, etc. Fits the pattern, doesn’t it?

So I say all that to say this, on January 28 as the Braves appear to still be chasing Miami’s catcher. Abandon the hunt. Pull back the dogs and turn that attention toward Cleveland and go get Corey Kluber. The same prospect package that would bring back the All-Star catcher will certainly bring back the All-Star pitcher. Get him. And then go sign Craig Kimbrel. The prospect capital is there and the money is there; just go spend it.



Then maybe next year I can add to the above list “2019 Braves: Corey Kluber and Mike Foltynewicz, relievers Craig Kimbrel and AJ Minter.”





#181: Baby It’s Cold Outside


Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

As we trudge into winter, Braves fans everywhere, but most particularly here in Stuffville, are hoping that the hot stove will heat up during MLB’s winter meetings in California this week. The Braves spent $25 million dollars on two players, 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Brian McCann, but really only added to their bench with the signings. That is, it allows the Braves to move erstwhile 3rd baseman Johan Camargo to serve as a super sub, the role most in the Braves front office envisioned for the young Panamanian to begin with.


Donaldson inked a one year deal with the Braves which allows the Braves to further evaluate their now number one prospect, Austin Riley, as their future 3rd baseman. Riley who is only 21 years old has shown the propensity for big power and has steadily improved his defense since his being drafted 41st over all in 2015 by the Braves. There is no way to know if Riley will indeed ever play in the majors as a Brave or if he will be included as part of a package for a number one starter or possibly for Marlins catcher J T Realmuto.

So, with that in mind, we should bear in mind the Braves primary needs going into the off season were: A) A front line ace to lead the young Braves pitching staff; B) An outfielder to replace free agent Nick Markakis; C) Bullpen help (either a closer or set up man); and D) Bench help/ power bat to protect Freddie Freeman in the line up.

Brian McCann

So far, the Braves have made several moves around the periphery with McCann, who while it is a feel good story in his return to Atlanta, is questionable as to how much he can add to the Braves line up as a catcher who can catch a fair number of games in tandem with Tyler Flowers.

The Nationals made a major acquisition in signing free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin who will be slotted as the number three starter in their solid starting pitching staff and the Mets made a major trade to acquire shut down closer Edwin Diaz and aging 2nd baseman Robinson Cano from the Seattle Mariners. There should be no question that both moves have made the NL East a much stronger division. To be sure, the path to winning the divisional pennant will be a tough one foe every team.

So, as we wait and watch for the Braves to make the moves necessary to shore up the team and plot a course to repeat as NL east champions, we all should remember the games still have to be played and while it is nice to compare stats, we can point to the Nationals epic fail in 2018 despite having the best team on paper by far.



#180: ARMS!

by Gordon Lawrence


Arms, arms, arms……..


FOLTYNEWICZ was exposed by L.A.’s hitters. He stepped up a notch this season, but needs two more to become a #1. I really don’t see him as such going forward.

At this point, he’s ultimately a #2 to my mind. Not enough patience yet. Not getting the calls so, he hurls a fat one, and “boom,” rocket over the fence. Still getting frustrated by calls when the pitch is an excellent borderline one, but the ump calls a ball. Hasn’t learned to adjust to what the ump is calling in that particular game. Very important consideration to becoming a seasoned pitcher.

NEWCOMB should hold a slot. He should improve as he learns how to pitch. Takes time, several years as a starter.

Anibal Sanchez

Kevin Gausman

I liked GAUSMAN and SANCHEZ well enough to bring back to spring training to compete, but I wouldn’t automatically grant either of them a slot.

I really have had my fill of TEHERAN. Hopefully, we have enough qualified candidates after spring training to trade him.

Mike Soroka

I consider the shoulder malady to SOROKA the most egregious arm injury this season. He would have been a rising star in the pitching corps this year in my estimation, and I believe in the minds of all the bloggers here as well. Frankly, I think his injury to be a very serious one.   More serious than has be advertised by the organization to this point. I have feared it might actually be career ending. I’m wrong, right?

Touki Toussaint

TOUKI TOUSSAINT will grab the #4 slot out of spring training. I really liked what i saw of him in the post-season. I think the kid’s really got a future with ATLANTA.

Luiz Gohara

If LUIZ GOHARA finally takes his conditioning seriously, he could become a force in the starting rotation. Hopefully, personal family distractions are behind him at this point. I really hope the 2018 season made an impression on his mind, and he approaches 2019 with a will to excel.

Kyle Wright

KYLE WRIGHT appears poised for his first serious look at the 25-man this spring and a/the #5 slot.


Bryse Wilson

I really like BRYSE WILSON as a AAA/ATL floater in 2019. He’s a bulldog with the will to succeed.

Patrick Weigel

Darren O’Day

When thinking of bullpen holes to be patched for 2019, DARREN O’DAY and PATRICK WEIGEL come to mind as two potential candidates for the BRAVES. Spring training should show us where we stand with them.

Who should find a place in the 2019 bullpen?

AJ Minter

The whole danged place is such a MASH unit of maladies, and ineptitude, RH A.J. MINTER appears as the only rock-solid carryover to my mind, and he’s still getting OJT learning to pitch and not just throw. Back-end member.

VIZCAINO if he can stay healthy for the back-end as well. Big if.

I somehow see MAX FRIED in the pen for long-relief. Call me crazy.

SAM FREEMAN was overused and exposed, but used judiciously, he is effective.



Max Fried

Sam Freeman

Jesse Biddle

Johnny Venters







Anyway, my two and 1/2 cents at this point.





Gordon Lawrence

#179: The Season Through Our Eyes


Thought you might enjoy seeing our own comments through the season….


22 Feb 2018, VOR wrote:

“I want the Braves to win this year. I really do. But I want them to win over the next 10      years too. Blowing a big wad in 2018 won’t give our young pitchers the experience they  need, and it won’t guarantee us even a division title this year. But it will slow down the final lap of the long rebuild.

The smart executive will allow Nick Markakis to play out his deal this year and take what you get from     him in RF. He will keep Ronald Acuna in AAA for April before starting his ML clock. He will allow his young pitchers to learn in the fire and take the hits this year. He’ll watch the team struggle again in 2018.

But in 2019, he’ll have young stud pitchers with real ML experience. He’ll have a budding star in the OF to go along with an established gold-glover. And he’ll have an opening, but he’ll also have means to fill out his young and talented roster with a that one complimentary player that will make the difference.”

1 Mar 2018, VOR wrote:

“Bullpen candidate Luke Jackson should be thanking his lucky stars that he at least got 1 out this spring. That’s all he’s gotten, but at least he did get one. His line this spring looks like this: 0.1 IP, 108.00 ERA, 3 H, 5 R (4 ER), 2 BB, 0 K”

7 Mar 2018, CJones was quoted:

“The young pups are announcing their presence with authority. Exciting to see them gaining confidence. Won’t be long Atlanta.”

7 Mar2018, Ber wrote:

“…lets say all the stars align, other good teams stink, and 84-78 gets you into a 1 game playoff, is it worth retarding someone’s chance to prove themselves?
I was of course like everyone else wanting to send Nick M packing, but you know…you need some vets, especially in this day and age to show a team full of millennials how the game should be played, and when to have some guts, which we now know he does, in spades…”

12 Mar 201, Gil wrote:

“I have opined before that the Braves will make their move in the market next season and strangely, their needs may be less than we think at this point. We know Kakes will be gone as well as one or both catchers.”

14 Mar 2018, Gil wrote:

“So, just who is a lock at this point and who is on the bubble?

Position players who are locks barring injuries: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Flowers, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis. Also Johan Camargo (either 3rd base or super utility) Charlie Culberson (utility, Swanson body double)

On the bubble are Preston Tucker, Lane Adams, Danny Santana and new comer Ezequiel Carrera.

Likely to get cut, traded or sent down are Chris Steward, Rio Ruiz, Christian Colon, Dustin Peterson and Schempf.

I did not list Acuna but I just don’t see him making the team until mid April due to financial considerations. Everyone knows he will be in Atlanta sooner than later but money is money and I don’t see the Braves front office throwing away a year of control over two weeks.”

16 Mar 2018, Gil wrote:

“Braves sign Anibel Sanchez to a minor league contract and invites to spring training… Okay.. why not? Not a huge risk and you just never know what tweek will fix a pitcher. That and pretty easy to flip/DFA. Almost like hiring day labor.”

21 Mar 2018, VOR wrote:

“We will open the season with Julio, Folty, McCarthy, Newk and eventually Sanchez/Kazmir/Gohara. But let’s just go ahead and call it Gohara because it’ll be his as soon as he’s healthy.

Then at mid-season, I predict McCarthy is gone and Soroka is promoted. The rotation then looks like Julio, Folty, Newk, Gohara, Soroka.

BUT…Max Fried is close himself, not to mention Kolby Allard. Those are the pitchers that are realistic for 2018. Allard might hold off until 2019, but Fried is close now.”

23 Mar 2018, VOR wrote:

“Maybe this comment is a bit premature, but where will Ronald Acuna fit into this batting order? As a righty, he can fit seemless behind (or in front of) Freddie. But do you want to place him there right away? That’s a pretty heavy pressure spot in the lineup.

Maybe initially he bats behind Markakis at #6. But at some point you have to move him up. And to be honest, I think he plays better at 3 than Freddie. He’s a 5-tooler, and his speed would keep the lineup burning behind Ender and Ozzie.

SO while the above is a fair representation of Opening Day 2017, my lineup in 2018 would start with:
Ozzie, 2B (S)
Ender, CF (L)
Acuna, RF (R)
Freddie, 1B (L)
Austin Riley, 3B (R)

.. with a mystery LF and C slotting into the bottom of the order with Dansby.”

25 Mar 2018, Ber wrote:

The Braves have signed outfielder Peter Bourjos to a major league deal worth $1MM, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports. 🙄
How exciting….really shrewd move Thoppy. No wonder you won so many division titles in the AL east…
really? A major league deal? really???? well, he hit .223 last year (.241 career BA) with a robust .272 OBP. but Ber, he has speed, he can steal a base or two. No, no really. 16 steals the last 3 seasons, caught 16 times.
so, no power, speed, but can’t steal, can’t hit, can’t walk. Can play some D. Ok….can’t Lane Adams do all of that? Or Santana? makes no sense….”

26 Mar 2018, VOR wrote:

“Here are the certainties:

Rotation: Julio, Folty, McCarthy, Newk

Bullpen: Viz, AJ, JoseRam, Sam Freeman, Peter Moylan, Dan Winkler (2 spots remaining)

Lineup: Ender, Ozzie, Freddie, Kakes, Flow, Tucker, Dansby, Rio

Bench: Zuk, Culberson, Bourjos, Flaherty (1 spot remaining)

I’m guessing Anibal Sanchez will make the team as the #5 starter, but could pitch at AAA until the 5th starter is needed. Rex Brothers seems to be the leader to win the 7th bullpen spot. But who will the long reliever be? Would they go ahead and add Sanchez now as the long reliever, with hopes that Gohara will be ready by late April? No clear answers here yet. Had one of the youngsters – Sims, Wisler, Blair – made a positive impression, he would have seized that long relief role. None did.

And that last bench spot… Lane Adams? Chris Stewart?”

10 April 2018, VOR wrote:

“So as to lineup configuration, I once again have to ask Freddie Freeman to give up his favored 3rd spot and be my cleanup hitter. And I’ve got numbers to back me up.

In 2017, he was clearly the team’s top RBI producer if you extrapolate his numbers out to 162 games. He was just 5 behind team leader Nick Markakis even though he played in only 115 games. He also lead the team in OPS (on base percentage + slugging) by a wide margin ->.989 to .823.

And the stats show that the cleanup hitter comes to bat with runners on base over half the time, more than any other spot in the lineup. That’s where I want Freddie.

So I want my high OBP guys – Ender, Ozzie, Acuna – on base ahead of Freddie, and I want Freddie driving them in. If I can get a guy like Cutch to protect Freddie at #5, or even young Austin Riley when he grows into that role, I’ve really got something going at the top and middle of the order. Follow that with a resurgent Dansby Swanson and a catcher that can at least hold his own and our lineup becomes quite formidable.

There are exciting times to come.”

23 April 2018, VOR wrote:

“This is the “go to” lineup we could see very soon:

Ender, CF (L)
Ozzie, 2B (S)
Freddie, 1B (L)
Bautista, 3B (R)
Kakes, RF (L)
Flowzuki, C (R)
Acuna, LF (R)
Dans, SS (R)”

25 April 2018, Ber wrote:

“Hey it actually maybe be Preston Tucker that either gets traded or released which would be a first the guy leading the team in RBIs but he can’t really play Centerfield can he?”

4 Jun 2018, VOR wrote:

“I am glad we decided to keep “Walk Off Charlie” over Joey Bats…”

26 June 2018, Gil wrote:

“So, the Rays defeat the Nits 1 zip, third straight loss for Schurzer… who would have thunk it? Baseball is weird alright. So, the Nits fall another 1/2 game behind the Braves and the Frillies face the Yankees again tonight prior to the boys from DC coming in to the City of Brotherly Love for a four game set.

The best scenario? Phils lose tonight and then split the series with Washington while the Braves win the next seven in a row… yeah, that’ll do it…”

28 June 2018, VOR wrote:

“Now I’m looking at our rotation and thinking:

#1, Julio Teheran, just came off the DL for shoulder soreness.
#2, Folty, just came off the DL for triceps tightness
#3, Newk, thank God for Newk
#4, Anibal Sanchez, just left a game early with calf cramps; been on the DL already for leg problems
#5, Matt Wisler, cannot even express on a family friendly forum what I want to say about typing his name here”

30 June 2018, Ber wrote:

“I think my views on Anibel have changed….did you all get to catch the early part of the game? He was working on/with Julio T basically every inning. Julio looked terrible in the 1st, walking 2. Fastball was 91-92..and just looked like it was going to be a long night. seemed from the camera on the two of them all the time, Anabel talking to him, showing him how to turn more in his windup, showing where he was finishing up after a pitch….Julio was paying attention….and he did go 6 innings without giving up a run. Not sure why Julio has lost some off his fastball, I am sure he’d like to have 95 MPH every start, but if anyone can show him how to survive without a great fastball, it’s A Sanchez. And no doubt the younger players see Julio , the grizzled vet of 26 listening, they will listen too. so perhaps it would be better to keep him, as long as he pitches well, if he’s helping a bunch of guys not even old enough to drink….”

30 June 2018, Gil wrote:

“After a month long stretch of what could be described as malaise, the Braves pitching staff appears to have found itself and the offense has reawakened.

Fried looked absolutely stellar tonight.

The Braves bats are booming.”

2 July 2018, VOR wrote:

“I think we’ve said it time and time again, Luke Jackson and Matt Wisler are not major league pitchers, Sam Freeman has lost his 2017 mojo, and Pete Moylan is way past his prime. That’s 4 out of the 8 relievers. Half of the bullpen. HALF.

Folks, we cannot make a real concerted push into October with half a major league bullpen.”

2 July 2018, VOR posted from Gabe Burns:

“In St. Louis series:

Starters ERA: 0.00
Bullpen ERA: 9.64″

3 July 2018, Gil wrote:

“Watch the Braves bullpen come in is like Chinese water torture.. Walks, base runners etc. I wonder if Snit buys Malox by the case?”

3 July 2018, VOR wrote:

“Well, our bullpen actually did an amazing job last night. Of course, there was no Matt Wisler, no Pete Moylan, and Luke Jackson did not enter the arena. Sam Freeman did pitch… and of course walked the first couple of batters he faced. But a well turned double play bailed him out.

Credit where credit is due:

Dan Winkler did not have a clean inning, but he also did not panic. And he missed a few bats.

Jesse Biddle has ice water in his veins and some wicked pitches. That 10th inning was something else.

AJ Minter is getting quite comfortable as closer. You can truly see him growing into the role.”

3 July 2018, Gil wrote:

“Yep, at least this team is not a one trick pony. You really don’t know who will be the guy who will deliver the big hit. It is fun trying to guess though.

The key is still the bullpen though.”

31 July 2018, VOR wrote:

“So how impactful was the deal for Adam Duvall, who will now platoon with Ender, playing LF against LH pitchers with RAJ sliding over to CF?

DOB sums it nicely: He’s hit as many homers as Freddie Freeman or Kris Bryant over past three seasons and has 2nd-most Defensive Runs Saved this season among LFs

Of course he strikes out alot too. He is a classic power bat. But he’s just 2 years removed from being an All-Star with a 31 HR season.”

31 July 2018, VOR wrote:

“The O’s Kevin Gaussman would be a decent alternative if the price on Archer is just prohibitive. They are reportedly “closing In” on another deal.”

31 July 2018, VOR wrote:

“Rotation will now be Julio, Folty, Anibal, Newk, and Gausman, whose last start for the O’s was Saturday.”

3 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“New dates for possible future consideration for countdowns (courtesy of young Gabe Burns):
*NL Wild Card game will be Tuesday, Oct. 2
*NLDS begins Thursday, Oct. 4.

I believe these dates will be relevant for Braves fans this year. 😀”

3 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“I think the team is very focused now, the trades made by Thoppy appear to have allowed the Braves to hit the re-set button. They cannot worry about what the Phillies and the Nats do, they have to only control their own destiny.”

4 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“Wasn’t Anibal magnificent last night? The guy is a master.”

6 Aug 2018, VOR posts:

“In a pennant race, a good ‘pen goes a long way.@Braves relievers were insanely good as they earn Bullpen of the Week honors: 

8 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“Sean Newcomb is becoming the pitcher we have been looking for. He is emerging as a real 1 or 2… right along with Folty. With maturity, Newk is gaining control of his fastball and using it effectively. It’s a good lesson in patience and not judging a pitcher too quickly (cough Kolby Allard) as Sean is now panning out to be exactly what the scouting reports predicted.”

8 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“Upon further review…. The Braves have assembled a pretty nice ball club haven’t they? Not exactly the 2018 Boston Red Sox but they can hang with anyone. It all comes down to timely hitting and stout pitching.”

9 Aug 2018, Ber wrote:

“How about Charlie Culberson? I have to say, I was way wrong about him…I truly couldn’t figure out why he was picked up”

9 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“And what of Luke Jackson? Wow, that was a huge strike out last night. Could it be he is finally putting it all together?”

9 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“So, the Braves are 10-8 now since the All-star break, not exceptional but not terrible when you think of how poorly the Braves have played in years past to start the second half. The Braves go home to face the resurgent Brewers and the Nits fly to ChiTown to face the always tough Cubbies. Meanwhile, the Fightns’ move on to San Diego.

Just win Braves, you hold your own destiny in your hands…”

10 Aug 2018, Ber wrote:

“What a game pitched by Gausman! One of the best games pitched by a brave all year….he looked…smoother to me than the first start”

13 Aug 2018, Gil wrote:

“Good morning all. Big day ahead for the Braves. The premier of Touki Toussaint this afternoon against the fish and then in the night cap, Foltynewicz toes the rubber. An opportunity to add to their lead over both the Phils and the Nats.”

13 Aug 2018 Gil wrote:

“What a really nice debut for Toussaint. I am much more impressed with his stuff than Allard. Don’t get me wrong, Allard is a nice kid with a bright future but Toussaint has “stuff”… And perhaps his most impressive play was covering the first base bag to complete the DP in the 6th.

Ronald Acuna had a day…. Just rocking it right now. I think he is finally getting comfortable.”

14 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“So while the Braves continue with 2 more against the Minnows, the Phillies open a 2-game series with the mighty Red Sox.

I can’t help but grin just a little.”

20 Aug, 2018, Gil wrote:

“Now it’s on to Pittsburg. Amazingly, the Braves are still in first place, even after getting swept 4 games. So there is that.”

21 Aug, 2018, Gil wrote:

“It is still anyone’s pennant to win in the NL East. No one has run away with it but the Nats are a demoralize bunch. The next three days will be a tell as far as the Frillies and Nits go.

And who expected the Mets and the Marlins to help out the Braves so much?”

23 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“And that’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen Julio pitch, and I’ve seen him pitch alot over the years. He used his breaking pitch more last night than ever before. One has to wonder if the Gas Man has been in his ear.”

28 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“Our boys in blue wake up to a 3.5 game lead today beholding to our broken brothers on the beltway.


29 Aug 2018, VOR wrote:

“The Braves wake up today to a 4.5 game lead.”

2 Sept 2018, Gil wrote:

“Pretty impressive turn around for the Bravos this weekend. Julio continues to amaze me. Acuna continues to amaze everyone….”

5 Sep 2018, VOR wrote:

“Last night as I was watching a part of the game, it struck me that Johan Camargo has actually become a pretty important part of this 2018 team. Not only is he an incredible fielder at 3B, he’s 3rd in AVG, 3rd in OBP, and 4th in SLG. Also, believe it or not, he’s 4th in HR and 3rd in RBI.”

9 Sep 2018, Gil wrote:

“Shame on me for doubting this team… 6 runs in the ninth to cover up Luke Jackson’s stink..”

12 Sep 2018, Gil wrote:

“Given the youth of this club, it may well be the Braves will celebrate with ginger ale rather than champagne…”

23 Sep 2018, VOR posted:

Braves Magic Number @BravesMagicNum:  0″

178: Are We There Yet?

Mechanicsville, VA

Wow, it’s Labor Day and the Braves are still relevant. Okay, be honest, raise your hand if you really thought the Braves would be in first place in the NL East on this date when the season began.

Yeah, me neither. Like everyone else, I expected the Nationals to be well on their way to wrapping up their third straight NL East title.

Surprise! Both the upstart and surprising Braves and the young Phillies have come back from baseball irrelevancy to compete for the mantle of Beast of the East.

While the Braves are currently atop the NL East (76-60) with a 4-game lead over the 2nd place Phils, there is still a lot of important baseball left in season. Now we will find out who has the fortitude to fight through the fatigue that comes in a 162 game season.

For a lot of the young players, playing in September is a new experience. Their brethren in the minors will close out their seasons this week. Most will be packing their bags for home while a lucky few will get a nice pay boost while accumulating service time in the Show.

Some additions have already made it into the Braves clubhouse as the rosters expanded:

Lane Adams

Touki Toussaint

Bryse Wilson






Rene Rivera

Kyle Wright

Preston Tucker







The Braves reacquired Preston Tucker from the Reds, but he won’t be assigned until room is created for him on the 40-man roster.

Micheal Reed was added but was placed on the 60 day DL with a lower back strain. (That was quick!)

So, who else looks to be added soon? Braves relievers José Ramirez and Arodys Vizcaíno are on the 60-day DL and were assigned to Braves affiliate Rome to complete their rehab. Both would be big adds if healthy.

Austin Riley

The name on the lips of most Braves fans is Austin Riley but given the current log jam on the Braves 40-man roster, I doubt he will be added but you just never know with Thoppy.

So hang on Braves fans! Playing meaningful games in September is a reality for the Bravos and, while the Braves appear to be ahead of schedule, you never know what lies ahead. It’s been a great season thus far so why not enjoy the rest of the ride?

#177: Thoughts from the cheap seats…


Vox O’Reason


You all know me… I’m the most positive person around Stuffville.

Well, I’m positive that the bullpen is a major weakness, and I’m positive it will prove to be what takes us down if it’s not addressed.

I’m not even sure Thoppy can continue to measure until closer to the deadline.

Here’s how I react when each of our relievers come into a game, including Viz who should be back in a few days, and excluding Parsons who was already informed he’s heading back to AAA:

I’m confident

AJ Minter
I’m confident

I’m confident

Shane Carle
I’m fairly confident








P Moylan
I’m praying

Luke Jackson
Sorry he’s being called on

S Freeman
I’m praying

Jesse Biddle
I’m confident









We desperately need 3 things to happen, and to happen soon.

#1, we need Luiz Gohara to get his head back on straight and help us out in middle innings. Who would you have rather seen come into yesterday’s 7th inning – Sam Freeman or Luiz Gohara? ‘Nuff said.

#2, we need to give up on Luke Jackson, whom we know is never going to be any better, and swap him out for Max Fried, who actually has real potential. Unless Fried’s being preserved as a starter for trade purposes, go ahead and move him into a role where he can contribute now. His most likely role in ATL is in the pen anyway. He’s not starting over Newk, Folty, Soroka, Allard, Julio, Gohara, etc. See what I mean? He’s be a heckuva lot better in this pen than Jackson, who has already passed cleanly by all 29 other teams through waivers twice this season. That means not only does nobody else want him, apparently we don’t either. Yet here he is.

#3, we need AA to make a deal for a reliever and show both the team and the fans that management is serious about 2018. The longer he waits, the more he shakes the faith of the faithful. Instead of taking 2 of 3 from each respective league’s cellar dweller, we lost both series. We could be sitting today 5 game up on the 2nd place Phils and 5 1/2 game up on the Nats. Instead we’re allowing them to stay close while we go on a 10 game road trip against 3 of the best teams in baseball.

Want to really make a commitment?  Go to Oakland and deal for both closer Blake Treinen and 3B Jed Lowrie.

Blake Treinen

Jed Lowrie

Lowrie is having a really solid year at the plate and is only signed through the end of this season and would not block the incoming Austin Riley. Treinen would either be our closer or a solid lock down 8th inning guy. We need both. Having Winkler/Minter/Treinen/Viz at the back end of the bullpen shortens the game.


Keone Kela

Adrian Beltre

Want to really make a splash, go to TEX and deal for their closer Keone Kela and 3B Adrian Beltre. That would put all of baseball on notice that we’re serious about contending for a title. The flamethrowing Kela is 20/20 in save opportunities, is controllable through 2021, and is on the block because TEX is in a position with him in similar fashion to the way the Braves were with Kimbrel a few years ago. What good does it do to have a top closer when you’re a losing team? And they’d do Beltre a real solid favor by letting him go to a contender rather than languish on a loser. Can you imagine him hitting in the cleanup spot in our order?

There are already rumblings that the Braves are interested in Beltre. Alone he won’t even bring back a top 100 guy. But I’d much rather see them go for the ring and snag Kela too. That’d be a major coup.


#176: The Month of May Continues to be Merry.

Gil in
Mechanicsville VA

As we approach mid-May, the Braves continue to hold onto 1st place in the NL East. I’m not sure how others feel but I am pleasantly surprised. Still, there is a long way to go and the traps and pit falls associated with a 162 game season can jump up and bite the Bravos.

The Mets looked as if they were going to be an unstoppable juggernaut the first two weeks of the 2018 season but injuries to key players and a sudden collapse of their vaunted pitching staff has made them appear very ordinary. While there is lots of time for the New York nine to right their ship, they look very beatable.

Same could be said for the mighty Nationals. They stumbled out of the gate but they have come on strong of late, and they trail both the Braves and the Phillies.

As for the Phillies, I thought they would be much improved this season but they are strong all the way across the board. Good pitching and defense and a solid pen, however, they have a losing record against teams in their division. Could the Braves have contributed to that?

The Marlins are where everyone expected but they do have some pretty impressive pieces. I doubt they will have many of those players around by mid-season as they go full on rebuild.

So, as we watch the budding stars of Albies and Acuna learn the ways of the major leagues, we can be pleasantly surprised by the resurgence of Nick Markakis and the continued impressive performance of Freddie Freeman. Now, as soon as Austin Riley makes his appearance, we can really have some fun!

Albies, Acuna, Riley

Freeman & Markakis


#175: New Season, New Faces

Gil ‘n Mechanicsville, VA

With every new season, new players are added to the roster. Some to replace departing players, some to improve the line up and some to fill a need. The 2018 Braves have a fair share of new faces dotting the line up card as the 2018 marathon begins. I will keep this fairly short and identify the position players only in this post. By the time I get around to the pitching staff it may be obsolete.


Ryan Flaherty

First is Ryan Flaherty, a 31 y/o journeyman who has spent the majority of his major league career as a 2nd baseman in Baltimore of the American League. An alum of Vanderbilt, he is a former 1st round pick in 2008 (41st overall) by the Chicago Cubs. This spring he was in the Phillies’ camp after the Orioles declined to resign him for 2018. He opted out of his contract with the Phillies with about a week to go in spring training when became apparent he would not be part of the Fightin’s 2018 plans.

Ryan, who is Nick Markais’ brother in law, was signed by the Braves as insurance for the infield when Johan Camargo was sidelined by an oblique injury about two weeks prior to the end of spring training. While Flaherty is not a prototypical 3rd baseman, he is solid with the glove and has not embarrassed himself with the lumber. He had a very good spring training with the Phillies and has been a plus so far this season.

Preston Tucker

Next is 27 y/o outfielder Preston Tucker, a refugee from the loaded Astro’s organization. Preston is the older brother of Kyle Tucker, who is heralded as the next great outfielder for that franchise. Tucker played the entire 2018 season with the Astro’s triple A affiliate Fresno of the PCL. Tucker was acquired from the Astro’s for cash considerations in December and, to be truthful, appears to be a placeholder for the Braves super-star-in-waiting, Ronald Acuna, Jr. So far Preston has played a solid defense in left and has been clutch with the bat. It should be interesting as to whether or not he or Lane Adams remains on the major league roster when Acuna arrives on the scene.

A good interview with Tucker by Gabriel Burns is found here.

Chris Stewart


The final player I will mention is 36 y/o catcher Chris Stewart, late of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Signed as a depth piece for the organization which has a dearth of major league catching talent, he was added to the major league roster essentially to allow for Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers to be used as a pinch hitter on those days which they did not start behind the plate.

As it turned out it became a stroke of good luck with Tyler Flowers going down to an oblique injury during his first at bat. When Suzuki was hit in the hand in game two, it was necessary for the Braves to have a solid backstop who could step in.

Carlos Perez


While x-rays did not reveal a fracture to Suzuki’s right hand, the Braves made a trade for another catcher with major league experience in Carlos Perez, who had been DFA’d by the Angels last Tuesday. The Braves sent infielder Ryan Schimpf to the Angels in exchange for the 27 y/o Venezuelan. Perez batted .265 in spring training but did not really have a spot on the Angel’s 25 man roster with a .195 career batting average. No one should mistaken the trade as anything but an insurance policy for the Braves at the catching position.



#174: Words of wisdom

Vox O’Reason

$50M sounds like so much money to you and me, but it won’t even pay for 2 All-Stars for 1 year, much less over the long term deals they want. And any owner that “takes their $50M windfall and spends it all in one place” isn’t being fiscally responsible.

As to the Braves, I would love for them to have taken $50M and bought a pitcher and a hitter. Truth is, though, that it wouldn’t have paid for both Yu Darvish and JD Martinez. The cost of a player goes way beyond just straight salary. There’s stipends, food, hotels, travel, and very costly insurance just to name a short few. I cannot imagine the total yearly budget for operating a baseball franchise. It’s staggering to think about. So $50M in the total perspective isn’t as much a windfall as we might imagine.

As we all have hashed over time and time again, the Braves’ horrendous TV contract already puts them behind other teams… hence the genesis of The Battery, a very innovative concept that all 29 other teams are paying close attention to. That will help make up some of the difference, but it doesn’t just begin spitting cash on arrival. It has to be planned, built, occupied and operated. All that costs money and takes time. It’s already paying some dividends, but it’s just in its infancy.

Am I defending the tight-walleted Braves ownership, or ownership in general? Well, here’s the uncomfortable truth. They own the team; they can do with it as they please. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking baseball owners – whether it be private or corporate – are in it just to build winning teams. They’re in it to make money. That’s how they are, and that’s how they can afford a baseball franchise to begin with. Obviously building a winning team helps bolster the bottom line, but it isn’t the #1 priority. And it doesn’t come quickly, easily or cheaply.

Overall, baseball owners are learning that the days of George Steinbrenner are long gone. There are so many examples of teams spending themselves into oblivion and still losing. And even “going all in” by overspending and trading away your farm doesn’t guarantee anything. Anyone remember Mark Teixeira? No, the new wave of team executives have earned their stripes by taking the long approach… by building the farm system and reaping slow long range benefits. It’s the Dayton Moore approach and its proven. And it’s not just in KC. Chicago did it; Houston did it; Minnesota is doing it. It works.

So that transitions to other major parts of the slow free agent market equation…

Let’s say we did buy Mike Moustakas on a short term cost-friendly 1-year pillow contract. The signing still would cost us a high draft pick. So even if the budget hit is positive, the impact on the farm system is negative. Team execs are beginning to place a much higher value on those draft picks and aren’t willing to just give them up easily.

Now, tack on the luxury tax and you really have a disincentive. Paying 150% on every $ you spend is bad business, period. It’s why the Dodgers took Matt Kemp’s albatross contract… to spread out their commitment over 2 years instead of 1 and avoid being hit with the penalty. The Braves could afford to absorb the cost in 2018 alone. (And the by-product is that it all comes off the books for 2019.)

All that adds up to a basic philosophy: unless your team is ready to win this year, it isn’t worth the negative effect on the future to buy high $ players. Who bought the big names? The Cubs, the Red Sox, the Angels… teams expecting to contend and win now.

I want the Braves to win this year. I really do. But I want them to win over the next 10 years too. Blowing a big wad in 2018 won’t give our young pitchers the experience they need, and it won’t guarantee us even a division title this year. But it will slow down the final lap of the long rebuild.

The smart executive will allow Nick Markakis to play out his deal this year and take what you get from him in RF. He will keep Ronald Acuna in AAA for April before starting his ML clock. He will allow his young pitchers to learn in the fire and take the hits this year. He’ll watch the team struggle again in 2018.

But in 2019, he’ll have young stud pitchers with real ML experience. He’ll have a budding star in the OF to go along with an established gold-glover. And he’ll have an opening, but he’ll also have means to fill out his young and talented roster with a that one complimentary player that will make the difference.

We somehow let Coppy and Hart sell us on the idea of retool, not rebuild, and “2 parallel paths*. But that was crap. It was a lie and it was false. There is only one way to rebuild, and it takes time. It takes 4 years of losing before you begin to emerge in the 5th. KC did it; Chicago did it; Houston did it; Minnesota is doing it. And the Braves will be doing it next year.

#173: Brett Cumberland

Gil ‘N

Another of the Braves promising prospects is 22 year old Brett Cumberland, a switch hitting catching prospect out of California. Cumberland was chosen by the Braves in the June 2016 Armature Draft as number 76 over-all. He was tapped in the “B” competitive compensation round. Cumberland had played for the California Golden Bears of the Pac 12 and was the Pac 12 Player of the Year in 2016 as a sophomore.

After inking a pro contract with a signing bonus of 1.5 million dollars, he was assigned to Atlanta’s Appalachian League affiliate, in Danville Virginia. While appearing in 45 games the rookie league, he had 189 plate appearances and 162 official at bats. he amassed 35 hits including 11 doubles and 3 home runs. He had 14 walks and 49 strike outs. His slash line was .216 batting average/.317 on base percentage/ .340 slugging percentage/ on base plus slugging of .657. He also hit into 4 double plays and hit by pitch 11 times. Not exactly star studded numbers but not unusual for a rookie.

In 2017 he was posted to lower A Rome of the Southern League to begin his season and appeared in 55 games. In 236 plate appearances he had 175 official at bats. He stroked 46 hits, 15 doubles, 1 triple and 10 home runs. He drove in 48 runs and had one stolen base. He had 61 strike outs and 31 walks. He was also hit by pitch 25 times and only hit into 1 double play. In mid season he was promoted to Advance A Florida Fire Frogs in Florida State League. In 56 games he put up 216 plate appearance and 182 at bats. he had 49 hits, 12 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run. He had 18 walks and 62 strikeouts. His slash line was .269/.384/.363 and an OPS of .747. He hit into 5 DPs. He was also hit by pitch 16 times.

it should be noted that in 112 games played in A ball in 2017 he was used as the designated hitter in 62 games and caught in 50 games as he split time at the position with Tanner Murphy. Cumberland only threw out 17 of 60 would be base stealers for a 22% success rate. He also had 14 passed balls in his two seasons in minor league ball.

This fall, the 5′-11″ 205 pound catcher was placed with the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball Association. Cumberland has appeared as both a catcher and as a right fielder. It is as a outfielder I believe will be his eventual landing spot if he makes it to the show. He is still two to three years away from the Show but as he fine tunes his game, he has the potential to be a major league ball player.


#172: Alex Jackson – Catcher

by Gil Elliott




In 2014, the Seattle Mariners in the first round and with the 6th over-all pick in the Amateur Draft chose Alex Jackson. Jackson, a kid who had been a catcher his entire amateur baseball career was immediately assigned to the Mariners rookie affiliate in Arizona and move to the outfield to learn that position. The Mariners, who had been impressed by Jackson’s hitting prowess, wanted to move him to a position where his bat could play every day. Needless to say, the experiment was an abysmal failure as Alex’s hitting suffered from the pressure of trying to learn a new position.

In 2014, at rookie league Arizona, Jackson hit a respectable .280 in 23 games and 82 at bats. In addition, his slash line was .344 OBP, .476 slugging and .820 OPS while racking up 23 hits, 6 were doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs.


In 2015, Jackson only hit .207 in 76 games between class A Clinton Iowa of the Midwest League and short season class A Everett Washington in the Northwest League. In the two minor league stops he hit a total of 56 hits 271 at bats. His slash line was .207BA/.318OBP/.365Slug/.683OPS. In his 56 hits, 17 were doubles, 1 triple and 8 home runs. He had 21 walks and 61 strike outs between the two minor league teams.

Aug 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; American catcher Alex Jackson (10) rounds second base during the 2013 Under Armour All-American Baseball game at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

To say the least, these were not the kind of numbers expected for a first round draft pick who had signed for a tidy $4.2MM dollars. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right handed pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen in November of 2016. The Atlanta Braves acquired Jackson plus a player to be named from the Mariners for two pitchers whom the Braves felt were no longer part of their long range plans.

While not the most polished of catching prospect, Jackson never the less was assigned to the Braves’ Advanced A affiliate, the Florida Fire Frogs as a catcher. It was a position where the Braves felt he had the most potential and the Braves had the greatest need. With the Fire Frogs, Alex played in 66 games, amassing 70 hits in 257 at-bats. Of those 70 hits, 17 were doubles and 14 home runs. He also drew 13 walks and struck out 74 times. He had a .272 batting average and an OBP of .333, a .502 slugging percentage and an OPS of .835.

In July of 2017 he was promoted to AA Mississippi where he appeared in 30 games. In 110 at bats he posted a .255 batting average and delivered 28 hits, 4 doubles and 5 home runs. His on base percentage was .317, a .427 slugging percentage and a .744 OPS. As I stated earlier, he is not the most polished defensive catcher and in the minors, his fielding percentage is .979 with 7 passed balls and 16 caught stealing to go with 61 stolen bases against. These are not stellar stats but he is only 21 years old and a work in progress.

This fall, the Braves assigned Jackson to the Peoria Javalinas in the Arizona Fall League to play against some of the best minor league talent in the game. He put up good numbers in the AFL batting .263 in 20 games with 80 at bats. Among his 21 hits were 2 doubles and 5 home runs to go along with 23 strike outs. This translated to a .813 slugging percentage and a OPS of .826. These numbers were pretty much in line with his 2017 minor league stats of a .267 BA.

One of the things I have noticed about Jackson is the consistent numbers he has put up in all of his stops along the way. Those being strikeouts equal to the number of games he has played in and decent OPS numbers. He does draw his walks but his strike out totals are high but not unreasonable for a slugging catcher.

Alex Jackson still has work to do before he can be considered a major league catcher. His defense is a concerned but it is likely that it will be his bat that will get him to the Show. While he may not be considered spectacular prospect as a catcher, he is a very solid player. He is one of many young prospective catchers now working their way through the Braves minor league system. I expect for him to be assigned to AA Mississippi to begin the 2018 season but if his success continues at that level, look for him to be promoted to Triple A Gwinnett by the All-star break.




[Editor’s Note:  my car is a year older than Jackson is. :/ ]

#171: Austin Riley

Gil from Mechanicsville

Another of the Braves stable of wunderkind is 20 year old Austin Riley. Austin is listed as being 6-3 and 220 pounds officially and was drafted 41st overall in the 2015 MLB Amature Draft. He is a product of DeSota Central High School in Southhaven, Mississippi. Austin is another young prospect in the Braves long search for a permanent replacement for Hall of Fame bound Chipper Jones. The road to Atlanta is littered with “can’t miss” prospects who fell short. However, Riley is built like a prototypical third baseman and he has been described as having light tower power.

This fall, Austin was assigned by the Braves organization to play for the Peoria Javalinas of the Arizona Fall League. Against top flight minor league competition he slashed a tidy .300/.364/.657 with a sparkling OPS of 1.021. In 70 at bats, Riley posted 21 hits including 5 doubles, 1 triple and 6 home runs. He struck out 21 times and coaxed 4 walks. While the number strikeouts is a bit disconcerting, he is after all, a power hitter and still is only 20 years old. Coming into the fall league, he reputation was his defense at the hot corner was suspect but he showed good quickness at the hot corner and a strong arm.

After being drafted by the Braves in June of 2015, Riley split time with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate and the short season rookie team in Danville. He posted a combined .304/.389/.544 and an OPS of .993 in 60 games and 217 at bats. In 66 hits, he slugged 14 double, 1 triple and 12 home runs striking out 65 times. If you are paying attention, you will note he seems to have equaled his hit totals with strike outs.

Austin Riley

In 2016, Riley was promoted to Rome of the A class Sally League. He appeared in 129 games and had 543 plate appearances amassing 134 hits, 39 doubles, 2 triples and 20 home runs. He also struck out 147 times and drew 39 walks, scoring 68 times while driving in 80. His line for the year was .271/.324/.479 and an OPS of .803.

Defensively, in 1045.1 innings played, he had 355 chances recording 92 put outs and 213 assist. He committed 30 errors and posted a .910 fielding percentage. He also had range factor of 2.63. To give a point of reference, the major league average range factor for third baseman(a saber metric stat) is 2.70. Unknown to me are how many of Riley’s errors were fielding miscues verses the number of throwing errors.

In 2017, Austin again split time in two levels of minor league teams. He began the season with Advanced A Florida Fire Frogs and was promoted after 80 games to the AA team in Mississippi. Between the two levels, he hit .275 in 129 games with 542 plate appearances. He scored 71 runs and drove in 74 slugging 19 doubles, 2 triples and 20 homeruns. He also walked 43 times and struckout 124 times. If you compare his numbers for the two seasons he has spent in the minors to date, you will notice his numbers are pretty consistent. His over all fielding appeared to improve with a .932 fielding percentage in 1093.1 innings. He handled 326 chances registering 91 put outs and 215 assist while committing 20 errors at the hot corner. His range factor was 2.52 for the year.

Excerpts from a March 2017 article by Mark Bowman:

“I looked at his first-half numbers and thought, ‘He’s better than that,'” Jones said of Riley, ranked as the No. 13 prospect in Atlanta’s farm system by  “Then you saw the second-half numbers and it was obvious something clicked. So when I saw him this year, I asked, ‘What was the deal?’ He said, ‘Breaking balls for strikes and 2-0 changeups.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Welcome to the three-hole, buddy. That’s the way it is. When they come to the ballpark, what they’re saying is we can’t let Austin Riley beat us.'”

Though he is not a part of this year’s big league camp, Riley made his second start of the Grapefruit League season during Thursday’s 8-7 loss to Yankees. He recorded a pair of hits against the Marlins on Saturday, but he has gone hitless in the four at-bats that have followed.

As Jones has spent time with Riley over the past week, the two have traded offseason hunting tales and discussed those mental aspects that could help the 19-year-old Riley develop a better plate approach as he prepares to begin the upcoming season at the Class A Advanced level.

“Austin Riley could be Freddie Freeman’s protection in the lineup within the next two to three years,” Jones said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. So, I’m really trying to talk the mental side of hitting as opposed to the fundamentals because the fundamentals are there.”

Just two years removed from high school, Riley garnered the attention of Bobby Cox during the 2015 Instructional League and then ended up with an .803 OPS despite experiencing a disappointing first half of his first full pro season last year. He also committed 30 errors, but as he moves closer to ending his teenage years, he has started to grow into his big frame and gain the mobility he’ll need to serve as an adequate defender at third base.

“Chipper and I have talked about last year’s first half and how I could have done things better,” Riley said. “It was all about how I could have simplified things. He gave me some feedback and it all made sense about why the first half went bad and the second half went good. During the first half, I was looking offspeed. In the second half, I was hunting the fastball and it went a lot better.”

At age 20, Austin appears to be right on schedule to make his debut in Atlanta by the end of 2019 or 2020. Short term, the organization will want to see how he fares against stiffer competition at Triple A Gwinnett. I am unsure if Riley will begin the 2018 season at double a Mississippi or triple a Gwinnett. A lot will depend on what organizational moves are made in the off season by the new regime of Alex Anthopoulos. Currently, the Braves have three possible choices to play the position in Adonis Garcia, Rio Ruiz and Johan Carmargo. The word is the Braves want an upgrade to play third base and will look outside the organization to bridge until Riley is ready to make his appearance in Atlanta.

#170: A Report On Two Braves Prospects

November 19, 2017

Gil ‘N



With the conclusion of the 2017 edition of the Arizona Fall League last Saturday, the Braves “Answer to Everything”, Ronald Acuna capped off what has been a pretty eventful year for a 19 year old phenom.

Ronald Acuna

Beginning with a stint in the Australian Baseball League with the Melbourne Aces, the young Venezuelan hit .375/.446/.556 with an OPS of 1.001 in 20 games and was named to the Australian All Star team. After returning home to Venezuela for the league’s Christmas break, he encountered visa problems and was unable to return to Melbourne for the conclusion of that season.

Undeterred, he rejoined the Braves for spring training and was assigned to the Florida Fire Frogs in the Advanced A Florida State League. He played in 28 games for the Fire Frogs slashing .287/.336/.478 and an OPS of .814. He was promoted to AA Mississippi for 56 games and improved with .326/.374/.520 stat line and an OPS of .895. Upon his promotion to Triple A Gwinnett where he continued to improve on his average with a line of .344/.393/.548 and OPS of .940. in 54 games.

Along the way, he has garnered both All Star honors as well as MVP awards while playing with teammates older than himself. To be fair, he is not a one trick pony but a true five tool player playing all three outfield positions with a plus throwing arm. He has plus speed and has shown the ability to steal bases and hit for power. While lacking polish, which only comes for experience, it is anticipated he will start the season in the Atlanta outfield in 2018. The only question is which of the Braves current outfielders will be moved.

Max Fried

While garnering most of the ink, Acuna was not the only Braves prospect to shine in the AFL this fall. Soon to be 24 years old Max Fried also showed why the Braves are so giddy to have this young man in their fold.

Fried, who came to the Braves as part of the package acquired from the Padres for outfielder Justin Upton, Fried was a first round draft pick (over all #7) by the Padres in 2012. Max was sidelined for Tommy John surgery when the Braves acquired him in 2014 but their foresight may well have been spot on. Fried made his return from Tommy John surgery in 2016 with A class Rome. His record with the Rome Braves was 8/7 with an ERA of .393. In 21 games and 103 innings pitched he had 112 strikeouts and 47 walks and a whip of 1.301.

In 2017, he began his season with AA Mississippi appearing in 19 games and 86.2 innings. His stat line with Mississippi was fairly unimpressive with a record of 2-11 and an ERA of 5.92 with 85 Ks and 43 walks and a whip of 1.512.

Fried’s march toward Atlanta came with a promotion to AAA Gwinnett where he appeared in two games for a total of 6 innings. He registered 6 strikeouts with 2 walks and a whip of 0.500. This might be proof positive where wins and losses are not relative to a prospect’s potential.

Max Fried’s promotion to Atlanta on August 5th was somewhat unexpected but when a team is in full bore rebuild, opportunities are abound. Fried appeared in 9 games in the show, 4 as a starter and 5 in relief. He had a 1-1 won loss record and amassed 22 Ks and 12 BB with an ERA of 3.81 and a whip of 1.615. Perhaps more impressive was the poise and mound presence of the 23 year old rookie lefty. He did not give any indication of being over matched and showed glimpses of why he was considered the Padres #1 pitching prospect after he was drafted.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Braves assigned Fried to the Peoria Javalinas of Arizona Fall League following the end of the MLB season. Perhaps the Braves saw it as an opportunity to further evaluate the development of their prized lefty in a controlled environment where Braves minor league manager Luiz Salazar was slated to manage the Javalinas. He did not disappoint, appearing in 6 games and accumulating a total of 26 innings and posting a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.73 with 32 strikeouts, 8 walks. His only snafu was in his next to last appearance against the Glendale Devil Dogs when he gave up 5 runs, 4 earned in 4 innings pitched. Fried has definitely made his case to be included in Atlanta’s plans for their starting staff in 2018.

All totaled Max Fried pitched 144.2 innings in 2017, a good number for a player only 2 years removed from Tommy John. Fried perhaps will be the top prized returned from the Padres accompanied by Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith in exchange for Justin Upton.

#169: Some Advice to the Braves from a Fan…

Vox O’Reason Oct. 12, 2017

So how do the suits in Lake Buena Vista begin to wash away the ugliness that currently stains our formerly “gold standard” franchise?

I have a couple of thoughts on that. (Big surprise, right?) And I say this with the disclaimer that the investigation is still ongoing and that there could be more negativity coming.

So suits, listen up!

Terry McGuirk, this first part is addressed to you. You obviously have to hire some stable leadership and get this boat back upright again. We’re listing thanks to the current hierarchy, regardless of who knew what and who did what. Those at the top failed. I include all leadership in “baseball operations”. Anyone at GM level or higher has failed. Period. The venerable John Schuerholz can stay. After all, he’s really nothing more than a figurehead in the organization now, and hasn’t been for 3 years. He’s a HOF’er that makes for great PR on the speaking circuit. But his influence over the day-to-day operations of the Braves is long gone. He’s kind of like the Queen of England. Great history; no power.

When the house becomes unstable, you don’t go in and try replacing the framework a 2×4 at a time. You raze the structure and start from the foundation. That’s what we need to do here – clean house and start fresh.

Next, have to make sure you don’t lose the fan base that came out to see the shiny new ballpark this year. STP won’t be nearly as much a novelty in 2018, and this current blight will surely cement the cynicism among the fringe fans. In order to keep the fence sitters interested, you have to create some positive news and positive energy. The best way to do that is by showing them you are committed to winning NOW, and that you aren’t going to use this setback as an excuse to push the target further down the timeline.

They say that money can’t buy happiness, and that’s true. But it can buy you out of some bad press if you spend it correctly. You want some of the bad news to go away? Break out the wallet and go after a couple of key pieces in FA and prove to the fans that you want to step forward in 2018. How badly do you want to put this darkness behind us, and how quickly? Buy some big positive headlines. It’s not that hard… just expensive.

Yes, I know that you can’t buy World Series winner. Then again, CC Sabathia and Aroldys Chapman did play a key role in the Yankees beating the superior Indians in the ALDS. (And I kind of remember a FA laden Marlins team winning the whole shebang not just once, but twice. But I don’t advocate that method – the stock and purge method.) The Yankees example shows us that the best way for a young team to shine is to have some key veterans put them in that position. And there are absolutely a couple of positions on the Braves that glaringly cry out for a veteran to step in.

Todd Frazier

On the top of my list is 3B and starting pitcher. Is it prudent to roll out the armored car and land a guy like Mike Moustakas? Uh… probably not, especially since you have Austin Riley projected to be about 2 years away. Again, I point to the Yankees, who have gotten key contributions from 3B Todd Frazier down the stretch and into the playoffs. His powerful bat isn’t setting any records in post-season, but his steadiness and vocal leadership is proving to be the rudder that’s keeping the Yankees ship on course. His 27 HR’s over the course of the regular season didn’t hurt anything either. That would have been the 2nd highest total on the Braves this season, just 1 behind Freddie Freeman and way far ahead of the twin Matts’ 19 each. Want a steadier power bat behind Freddie in 2018? Todd Frazier is the guy. Want a guy that you can project into the lineup every day, unlike Matt Kemp? Todd Frazier is the guy. He’ll be just 32 and he played in 147 games in 2017. You can probably sign him for 2 years plus an option, so he fits the timeline nicely.

Jake Arrieta

Now you need a starter, and I mean a real one. Yes, I’m talking about buying one now. This whole Coppoloser mess gives us an excuse now to buy one, and I think we should take advantage of it. I’m not talking about Bartolo Colon or RA Dickey. I’m talking about Jake Arrieta. I’m talking about Yu Darvish. I’m talking about Alex Cobb. I’m sure there will be a couple of teams escalate the bidding on these guys, but if you get in on the right one – Cobb perhaps – you can still land your desired ace and stabilize a quite unstable rotation. And in doing so, you effectively strengthen your bullpen as guys like Max Fried and Lucas Sims can be counted on in a multi-inning role, much like the Yankees have done this year with Chad Green and Aroldys Chapman. Those guys are weapons.

Alex Cobb

Estimating arb salaries and pre-arb raises, the Braves have somewhere in the neighborhood of $90M committed for 2018 to the current roster. A non-tender here, or a buyout there and that total changes, but it still works as a reasonable baseline from which to work. The 2017 total payroll was somewhere in the neighborhood of $120M. The league average Opening Day payroll in 2017 was exactly $152,327,084. You’ve been telling us that The Battery is bringing in more more revenue that is to be turned around into the team. So use it. Increase the payroll to league average. Give your new GM some walking around money to improve the product on the field. Give him $60M or so to make real progress with the roster. But even if you don’t want to go that high in 2018, an increase of $40M would still spend nicely. Sign Alex Cobb for 5yrs/$125M or maybe 7yrs/$175M($25M yearly), Todd Frazier for 2 yrs/$25M ($12.5 yearly) and you’re in the ballpark, pun fully intended.

Hey, a guy can dream… can’t he?

#168: The Worst May Be Behind us

Mechanicsville, VA

August 7, 2017

The gauntlet faced by the Braves in July turned out to be about as expected although the culprit was an unlikely one. No surprise the Cubs swept the Braves at STP, well, maybe a little surprise but the Braves had just reached the mythical .500 mark and seemed poised to make a run. Then pifft… Swept 3 games by the resurgent Cubbies and off to the left coast, a place where the hopes and dreams of Braves teams of the recent past have gone to wilt and die. Surprise again, the Braves took the first two games and looked like a third win in four games was possible but alas, the Dodgers remembered who they were and beat back the Bravos’ charge. The Braves lost 2 of three to the 2nd place Diamondbacks but it was on to Philadelphia and the woeful Phillies. Alas a trip which had promise was smashed by a Phillies four game sweep. Now the Braves found themselves in a pretty deep hole, any real hope of making the playoffs were pretty much done in at that point.

The Braves have since returned home to face the Dodgers who inexplicably seem only to have problems beating the Braves. Yes, the Braves only one on game out of three in the recent home stand against the best team in the National League this season but they had a chance to take the season series. The Braves just finished a week-end series with the Fish taking two of three before faltering Sunday 4-1. The good news is, the Braves are playing .500 ball this month and with the trade deadline behind them, appear more focused on what is ahead of them instead of behind them.

Connor Kok-Wy Joe

Jamie Garcia was traded to the Indians for a young minor league pitcher and Sean Rodriguez was traded to the Pirates for a former first round pick Connor Joe who is playing A ball. It was a good move for the Braves who have cleared about $12 million from their payroll with the trades of Garcia and S-Rod. who by the way hit the game winning homerun for the Buccos in the 12th inning his first game back with his old team. Well, Godspeed to him.

Lucas Sims

Meanwhile, the Braves sent struggling Dansby Swanson down to Triple A Gwinnett to find himself again. He had been struggling mightily at the plate and it was carrying over to the shortstop position. The Braves called up young right hander Lucas Sims and mighty-mite Ozzie Albies to play second base. While Sims is 0-2, he has shown promise and does not appear to be over matched. Albies is not exactly hitting the cover off the ball but he looks like he belongs and it is only a matter of time before he breaks out.

Brandon Phillips

In a related move, Brandon Phillips has been moved to third base and frankly, he looks like Brooks Robinson over there. Making diving plays and displaying a much stronger arm than I knew he possessed.

In addition, Matt Adams has been slotted to play left field at least until Matt Kemp returns. Kemp is currently out with a bad hamstring and I would not be surprised to see him out until late August. Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman has moved back to first base where he belongs. He did what he could to try and make the team better and did not embarrass himself at the hot corner but his best position is at first and it makes the overall defense better.

Max Fried

So, what to expect? Look for more youngsters to be given a chance to show what they can do as players are traded and snuffled around, especially the bullpen. A somewhat surprising move was made Saturday when the Braves promoted young lefty Max Fried from Double A Mississippi and placed him in the pen. He has yet to make an appearance but it will happen soon. Don’t expect The-Answer-to-Everything, Ronald Acuna to play for the Big Braves this season however, the Braves are playing the long game with him and while he almost certainly will make the show in 2018, the Braves will try to protect many of their promising young players from the Rule 5 draft and don’t want to add Acuna to their 40 man roster before they have to.



#167: Trust The Gut


Vox O’Reason


As of today, here are the moves my gut says will happen over the next 18 days, in the order of how certain I feel they’ll happen…




Ozzie Albans


Brandon Phillips


Brandon Phillips will be traded and Ozzie will be promoted. This one is almost a lock. Ozzie Albies is ready and Brandon’s contract is very friendly. This one is a no-brainer.






Matt Adams


Matt Adams will be traded. First, his breakout early season here put him on the radar, but he has come back to earth a bit recently. The time is right now. He’s controllable for a couple of years and has a team friendly contract, making him easier to move.


Johan Carmarga




Johan Camargo has emerged as a real answer at 3B, where our franchise cornerstone 1B is currently residing like a square peg in a round hole. Adams will be traded and Freddie Freeman will rightfully return to 1B while Johan assumes the primary duties at 3B. All will be right with the world. Sean Rodriguez will then join the team as the super-sub he was intended to be and play all over the field.



Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia will be traded. He won’t bring back what we hoped he might a month ago, but we’ll get something, and we’ll like it.


Hard to say what the corresponding pitching move might be.


Kris Medlin


Not sure Kris Medlen is ready, but he seems a possibility. Lucas Sims is also a possibility. Of course, Coppy trading for his elusive “ace” is also a possibility, although a remote one. Regardless, Garcia will be moved since he was only intended as a half season bridge anyway.


Those moves I feel fairly strongly about. Here are some I think could happen, but I’m not as certain…



Jason Motte

Jason Motte


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson could be traded. His value is not very high at the moment, but he happens to be a bullpen arm at a time when bullpen arms are in high demand. If Arodys Vizcaino was healthy, I’d see him as a stronger trade candidate, but since he’s not, JimmyJohn is the guy. Jason Motte is also a possibility here, although a lesser one.





Matt Kemp


Nick Markakis could be traded. Up until very recently I felt the team would keep him through at least the middle of next season. But the fact that Ronald Acuna just got bumped to AAA tells me that the Johns feel The Answer To Everything could contribute very soon. I think that truncates Nick’s timeline. I do not think Matt Kemp will be traded. He just fits here for the time being, both on the field and in the clubhouse.



Anthony Recker



One of Kurt Suzuki or Tyler Flowers could be moved. I don’t feel really strongly about this one, but the demand for catching could make it happen if the right offer came across Coppy’s desk. It could also be hastened if Coppy receives a decent catching prospect in any of the above mentioned deals. The Flowers/Suzuki tandem has been very good, but Anthony Recker proved last year he can be a capable backup if called upon.


That’s it for me. That’s all my gut tells me. Then again, I could just be hungry.



166: CL Asks, “Why 3rd? Why Now?”

CL, basically because there is a small , unique window to try this.


Adonis Garcia

Adonis Garcia is hurt and is not a long term solution at 3rd


Rio Ruiz

base. Rio Ruiz started hot then cooled off quite a bit. He doesn’t look to be, as of June 2017, the long term guy there. So there is little risk of blocking someone in the system at 3rd right now.




Matt Adams

As much as I was a cheerleader for Matt Adams over James Loney, I had no clue he would do this well!  No one did.  I was hoping for 4 or 5 HRs, 10-15 RBIs, and a .260 BA in his first month here.  Instead, in 30 games as a brave, he has 11HRs and 29 RBIs with a .294 BA.  To put that in perspective, in 37 games, FF had 14 HRs (which lead the league when he was injured, and still lead the league for about a week after he was on the DL), 25 RBIs and a .342 BA.  Matt Kemp, in 60 games, has 12 HRs, 35 RBIs, and a .320 BA.


I don’t know if hitting coach Kevin Seitzer saw a flaw in his swing or if Matt Adams, having a chance to relax and know he was going to play everyday for two months unless he was flat out terrible, helped his timing and/or confidence, or what…but something has clicked…for a month at least.



Matt Kemp


Nick Markakis

Braves could trade Nick M and move Kemp to right, and Adams in left, but that would more than likely give us 2 subpar outfielders and a very tired CF’er.





Freddie Freeman

So, with basically nothing to lose, it sounds like F.F. talked the braves into giving him a shot at 3rd.  If he makes an error a night, well, Matt Adams has to be traded. If he can be a league average guy or better (and guys like F.F. try harder and work harder than regular guys, which is why he’s a superstar) and if Matt can settle into being a .270 hitter who could hit 25-30 HR’s a year, drive in 90…then the braves have a much more dangerous lineup from here on out.
Also, that would be one less hole to plug as there are few 3rd basemen out there and, though there are several teams that can/will get the guy you want, if you don’t get someone who’s better than Garcia or Ruiz…then you have to play Garcia and Ruiz.


Jonathan Lucroy

Plus there would be more moola to spend on a catcher like the Rangers Jonathan Lucroy (who, by the by, is going to be 32 next year and only has 4 HRs and 19 RBIs) or the braves will have more prospects to use to get a catching prospect or an ace (or a #2 like Archer that Coppy has a man-crush on) and to perhaps upgrade right field production from Nick M.  (I really like the guy, think he’s very good, but he doesn’t have much pop, and you need some pop from your right fielder if you want to compete with the Nats… and unlike other players, isn’t getting any younger 🙄 )

So much can go wrong, either guy can get hurt and make it a moot point, but a comment I saw about the move made a good point I hadn’t thought of:  if FF is ok at 3rd and Matt hits ok from here to the trading deadline, then the braves will look less like a team that has to trade Matt Adams.  They would still have that option but he won’t be sitting on the bench rotting once F.F. is back.

~ BER ~

#165: So, It Begins Again…


by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

With 1/3 of the 2017 season now solidly in the rear-view mirror, it is probably an appropriate time to look at the Braves season, where it is, where its been and where it is likely to end up. For the first two months, a supposed strength of the Brave failed to materialize, that being pitching.  I know, no one thought a staff made up of a pair of AARP prospects and a rookie was going the lead the league in ERA but neither did anyone realistically think they would be this bad.


Richard Allen Dickey   age 42

To be fair, R.A. Dicky is about what was expected, some good games, some bad games and some that were rained out.  Bartolo Colon and Julio Teheran however have been horrible. Unless you have a team that can routinely put a couple of touchdowns on the board, there is little hope for a W to be put up, they just have not pitched anywhere near expectations.


Bartolo Colon  age 44

Bartolo may have an excuse that he simply is feeling his age; Julio, for whatever reason, has just not had it. He has developed a habit of giving up gopher balls at an alarming rate. It is as if he has caught what ever contagion afflicting the since-demoted Arron Blair and Matt Wisler and served up baseballs like they were on a Tee. Opposing hitters have fattened up their batting averages to an alarming degree when facing Braves’ pitchers.


Jaime Garcia age 30

We’ve gotten some decent pitching from Jaime Garcia, a new and unexpected addition to the lineup.  With a new addition to the DL, some of the new Minor League pitchers will be making their appearances in the Big Show.

The first will be Sean Newcomb who was acquired from the Angels as part of the deal which sent Andrelton Simmons to the left coast. Sean is a big left-hander who, like most young fire-balling hurlers, has had his troubles maintaining consistency with the strike zone. Perhaps he will get lucky and have an ump with a wide zone behind the dish when he is pitching.

         Kris Medlin                 age 31

If he can stay healthy, old favorite Kris Medlen looks to be on a path which should return him to the big leagues by July. Kris continues to build arm and shoulder strength after two Tommy John surgeries and a shoulder repair. He has altered his mechanics so as to lessen the stress on his shoulder. The rest of the young phenoms toiling away in high A and double A will likely not show up in an Atlanta uniform until the 2018 and 2019 seasons and beyond.

Freddie Freeman
age 27

Matt Adams
age 28

As far as offense, the injury to Freddie Freeman’s wrist was an awful set back to the hopes and dreams of the 2017 Braves. While the Braves front office pulled off quite a coup in dealing for Matt Adams, he is still not Freddie Freeman. Upon Freeman’s return in August, the Braves will determine how best to use Adams’ considerable talent.

Dansby Swanson
age 23

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments could be the shaky play of rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson. Oh well, he will get past it. He perhaps is simply the victim of too high expectations after a fast start last September. It is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie to be the face of the franchise, just ask Jeff Francoeur. The current offense has shown glimpses of solid play and impressive offense but for now, we best just watch as this team goes thru its growing pains.

#164: Fodder for Food.. or maybe just fodder…


by Vox O’Reason



This team is really, really hard to figure out. I still believe they are a team capable of a .500 season except they aren’t playing like it consistently… and I think that’s the key. So why aren’t they?

This is my amateur assessment after the Braves fell to 11-18, almost 1/4 way into the season:

One, I never make any wholesale judgments on any team until Memorial Day… never. Just too many weather-related outcomes and uneven schedules this early in the year. Heck, it seems as if the Braves have played half their games vs. the Mets. That said, you can make some targeted observations.

Two, the Braves veteran starters, brought in for the sole purpose of providing innings and stability, have provided neither innings nor stability. The bullpen has already been overused and we’re only in the first week of May. Is it because we’ve played multiple series against both NYM and WAS, the top 2 HR hitting teams in the league? Or maybe they are the top 2 HR hitting teams because they’ve played multiple series against the Braves..? Doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that the starting pitching has been too inconsistent, and that includes Julio and Folty. Something has to give, and soon. No offense perform consistently when they are constantly trying to dig out of a hole every stinking night. So how do you get the starters on track? I suppose if I knew that, I’d be employed by a MLB team somewhere.

Three, the bullpen, which can have its bad moments, actually has turned in some pretty good outings. Heck, yesterday they gave us 7 innings of 1 hit ball until the fateful 14th. But when you have to trot a guy out there 3 nights in a row, you have


to expect trouble. Also, if you take away just Wisler’s stats alone, the overall numbers improve dramatically. JimmyJohn, Viz, JoRam have all been dominant at times. Sam Freeman thus far has been effective. But when you expose Motte, Kroll and EOF too often, you’re gonna get burned. And you never know if you’re gonna get the good Collmenter or the bad Collmenter. Ever. The inconsistency of our starters has overexposed the pen. Period. Improve the rotation and you automatically improve the bullpen. That part is simple.

Four, as I mentioned earlier, if you stop giving up an early lead every game, the offense can work more effectively. When I look at the lineup, it’s absolutely a lineup capable of pushing a team to a .500 record or better. Thanks to Adonis’ late revival, the top of the lineup is actually pretty good. Our catching tandem even leads the league in OBP at the position. No comments are needed for Dansby. Our eyes all work perfectly. I’ll only add my agreement with Gil that the kid is getting no help from the umps. That called strike 3 he took in the 11th inning yesterday was shoulder high. That’s just salt in the gaping wound. Heck, it made me feel uncomfortable and I’m not feeling his pressure. Overall, these guys are capable. They’re just being betrayed by the pitching.

Five, the bench is still not constructed well. Lane Adams has been a good addition, and Jace has been better than expected. Whichever of our catching tandem is not starting has respectively held his own as a PH. But here’s where it drops off the cliff. We’re already


running a short bench, and we’ve got Emilio Bonifacio still taking up a spot. Why? He’s not contributing anything. Might as well add a 9th reliever. (If I’m in charge, he’s released immediately and Johan Camargo is added.) The absence of a good bench is exemplified by our 1-3 record in extra innings? Heck, we were forced to PH Julio in yesterday’s tilt. What greater example needs be shown? If you’re gonna run a short bench, you better make darn sure the 4 guys you have are of ML quality. I only count 3 on our bench. That’s a huge problem. We had the potential winning run on 3B in the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings yesterday, but nobody could drive them in. Good teams have a guy that can come off the bench and get it done at least once out of 3 times. We don’t.

Six, the manager is still the same guy that was a breath of fresh air in 2016. I don’t think he is a factor here. You could have Sparky Anderson in the dugout with this team and they still would have us all pulling our collective hair out. It’s simply not possible to put a puzzle together when you don’t have all the pieces.

Finally, you add all that up and you get 11-18. Want to get back to .500? Find more quality starts from the rotation and find a real bench replacement for Boni. They might not contend for a WC, but they sure as heck won’t be as frustrating as this current group.



#163: Warm Weather & The Braves Heat Up

Mechanicsville, VA


After a pretty ragged start to the season which saw the Braves boot the ball around like they were auditioning for a spot with the Atlanta United FC. Needless to say, no one secured a spot on the football club for fear of a rash of own goals occurring. While the Braves were in most of their early games, unforced errors led to a 1-6 record.


Along with a split of a two game set in Miami, the Braves returned to the Atlanta suburbs and their new home of Sun Trust Park. Warm weather and timely hitting as well as fundamentally sound defense the Los Bravos have chopped their way to a modest 5 game win streak. Perhaps most encouragingly it has been done in the absence of Matt Kemp while he rested a cranky hamstring.

The braves still face a pretty tough road as they continue to seek answers at several key positions. Adonis Garcia continues to man the third base position and it is likely he will be one of the first to be jettisoned when a suitable alternative is procured. Perhaps his best role would be as a right handed pinch hitter off the bench but after having future hall of fame player Chipper Jones play there, the drop off is noticeable. Even Martin Prado was solid as a super sub manning the position.


The Braves bullpen has found the sweet spot too with Rameirez, Vizcaino and Johnson closing games but these guys cannot pitch every night. It would be nice to see Braves starters going deep into games instead of coming out after 5 or 6 innings.


Ramirez, Viscaino, Johnson

Ian Krol still seems to have some problems being consistent in the strike zone and causes me to have some angst when his number is called to come in from the bull pen.What we don’t want to see is Snit fall in love with the same three guys every night to the point they lose their effectiveness or their arms fall off by August.

So, as the gNats blow into town, the first real test of the young season might well be upon us. Swatting the gNats could go a long way in showing this team and baseball they are pretty far along on the road to respectability.

162: New Season, New Faces


by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

One of the great things about spring training is all the new faces we see and read about as management attempts to put together a product which will be able to win ball games and possibly be the best of the thirty major league teams.

Sure, we know about the regulars, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte.


It is not as if we don’t want to know about the stars, we do want to know they are healthy and are in great shape as well as if their bat is slowing down or have lost a step. It is reassuring to know all is well with the core of the team. After all, we have seen the rug pulled out from under the team on several occasions in the interest of getting better.

It is the new guys that create the most interest for me. Funny how there always seems to be a name or two we have hardly ever heard of who suddenly arrives on the scene to create a buzz.


Acuna – Albies – Newcomb

We were all exposed to the exploits Ronald Acuna this winter. The suddenly not so secret ‘secret weapon’ signed as an international free agent. We have followed with interest several of the prospects acquired thru trades as well as in free agent drafts, Names like Mataio and Albies and Newcomb who some folks believe should already be logging major league time. For some reason, they have a difficult time grasping the fact that few prospects ever reach the major leagues. Even fewer live up to the hype promoted by various front office types who try to gin up the interest in their respective clubs.


Dansby Swanson

This season we are looking forward to watching possible rookie of the year Dansby Swanson. To date, he has not disappointed. Maybe not the best at any one skill but a heck of a five tool guy who is really good at just about everything he does.

The brandonphillipsaddition of Brandon Phillips to man the second base position was a real positive move on John Cappelletti’s part. BP may not be the player he once was but he is no slouch and is an improvement over Jace Peterson as the Braves await the arrival of Ozzie Albies on the scene. Not to disrespect Jace but he will be much more valuable to the team as a super sub than he is as a regular. He has delivered on more than one occasion but he has also had long stretches of failure to make consistent contact.

This season, unlike the last two years, the lineup is pretty well set. Three of the four infield



positions will be manned by All-Star calibre players. Third base has 32 year old Adonis Garcia penciled in to start but several names have popped up as



possible challengers to man the hot corner. Rio Ruiz has long been touted as a candidate but of late Johan Carmargo’s name has been mentioned. The unexpected loss of Sean Rodriguez following an off season traffic accident did yield Brandon Phillips for at least part of the year and has altered the expected plans to platoon Jace Peterson and Adonis.


Even so, it is still very early and there is no telling who might suddenly appear on the scene either via trade or promotion. I just would not assume or take for granted anything if I were listed on the Braves 2017 roster.


161:Countdown to Spring


by Gil Elliott


In just about a month, baseball’s spring training begins. More than the return of the swallows to Capistrano or the first Robin appearing at your feeders, it is the true harbinger of the return of warm weather and the renewal of life in North America. No longer will we have to rely on reports from the far flung reaches of the world to stay abreast of the Braves hopefuls nor need translations from Spanish to English the progress of players in various winter leagues.

Spring ballpark errors.

We will again be able to watch some meaningful baseball with the World Baseball Classic scheduled to make its return this year. We will also hold our collective breaths as we hope and pray none of our players are injured in what is essentially a glorified exhibition series. The WBC is a step above spring training games where there will not be anyone getting in their cardio by running the outfield during the game.


charlie-brown-the-rosterSo, we anxiously await the arrival of pitchers and catchers and shortly thereafter the rest of the more than 200 players who will participate in the Braves organization when they return to Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Most of the this season’s major league roster is already set but there are always question marks. The Braves’ outfield is set other than the fourth outfielder as well as most of the infield but last minute trades or heaven forbid, injuries.


Second and third base still appear the slots most likely to be the ones targeted for upgrades. The anticipated arrival of yet another Curacao product, Ozzie Albies, is eagerly awaited by the denizens of Braves’ Country who have followed the young phenom for years. The signing of three veteran pitchers to anchor the starting staff signals that the Braves want their bevy of young pitching prospects to develop in a less stressful environment.

chsbrownsnoopyatbatSo, let the games begin. I will concede the floor to football as the NFL winds down and March Madness and the NCAA basketball tourney take center stage. They only mean we are that much closer to our true passion and meaningful baseball returns.

However, we do reserve the right to interrupt the other lesser sports should Coppy & Co make additional moves!


#160: Comers and Goers

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil ‘N Mechanicsville
December 8, 2016

The 2016 Winter meetings have come to a close and the big trades appear to be Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals. Chapman signing with the Yankees and Andrew McCutchen staying in Pittsburg, at least for now. Other moves have taken place too but I will talk about those later, the main thrust of our interest is still the Braves. So, let’s focus on them.

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon

The Braves had previously signed two free agent pitchers to one year deals. R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Both are bonafide members of the Geritol set and with the addition of Jamie Garcia, the Bravos have exponentially increase the age and experience in their starting rotation. Dickey, late of the Toronto Blue Jays signed a one year contract with a one year option for 2018. The knuckleballer should still be able to supply innings and the hope is he won’t wear out Tyler Flowers behind the plate. I am reminded of the line attributed to our old favorite Bob Uecker. When he was asked about how he caught Phil Niekro’s knuckleball he replied, “It’s simple, I just wait for it to stop rolling and pick it up.”

Robert Allen Dickey

Robert Allen Dickey

Dickey is 41 years old but it is not like he has to rely upon a 96 mph fastball to get guys out. His bread and butter has always been his ability to make a baseball do things a baseball is not want to do. Now, a knuckleball is not one which translate well to TV in it’s movement. It is however one where it is anyone’s guess where it will be when it gets to the plate. It is not as if a knuckleball is impossible to hit, it is just tough to hit well. As for a batter being able to time the pitch, he still has a decent fastball to keep opposing hitters honest. Don’t be surprise if a pitcher like Josh Collmenter doesn’t pick Dickey’s brain a tries to learn the pitch. It should be interesting when Dickey meets with Braves legend Phil Niekro this spring.

The second off season signing of note is the ageless Bartolo Colon. Another graybeard, Colon, who has outlasted Turner Field in longevity, can still get batters out with a variety of pitches. His “fastball” tops out around 88 mph but it is everything but straight. Movement and location, the two holy grails of the craft have been mastered by a guy who for all appearances is having more fun than any reasonable person should be expected to have. The impression he gives is a guy who is truly comfortable in his ample skin. For sure, he is entertaining and he has a wealth of experience and knowledge he can pass along to the next generation of pitchers in the Braves stable.

Jamie Garcia

Jamie Garcia

The final piece it the Braves’ new look rotation is Jamie Garcia. The lefty is another veteran. He was acquired from the St Louis Cardinals for rookies Chris Ellis, who I profiled in my previous lead. Also included in the trade package was prospect Luke Dykstra and right handed pitcher John Gant. Gant was acquired from the Mets, along with Rod Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. While Gant had some value, the Braves felt his ceiling was well below much of the talent currently in the pipeline.

Garcia had a bit of a down year in 2016 with the Red Birds but he did pitch over 171 innings last season. John Coppoletta was clearly looking for pitchers who could routinely pitch into the 7th inning as opposed to the 4 and 5 inning efforts put forth by several of the Braves young arms last season. The Braves revolving door should not have to swing quite so frequently in 2017. While fans should not expect the trio of new starters to log many 1 hit shutouts in 2017, they should be expected to deliver many solid quality starts. Perhaps with an improved offense, the Braves pitchers can focus on delivering innings and not worry about who is warming up in the pen and trying to be too fine in their pitches.

For sure, many of the young prospects will have a wide choice of peers from whom to choose as a mentor.



#159: Arizona Farm League Prospects: Update Part II

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Mechanicsville, VA

My last update profiled three of the six Braves prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. This edition will provide some insight to those omitted last week.

Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis

First is right handed pitcher Chris Ellis. Chris is a 24 year old, 6’5″, 205 lbs, who was drafted in the third round (88th overall) by the LAX Angels in 2014. He was part of the return package for Andrelton Simmons which also netted Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar. Ellis spent the better part of last season as part of the Gwinnett staff pitching after beginning the season in double A Mississippi. His record of 8 wins and 2 losses earned him a promotion to Triple A where he found the sledding a bit tougher. After promotion to the IL, his record sagged a bit to 3-7 with an ERA of 7.04 in 14 games and 62-2/3rds innings.

So far in the AFL, he continues to struggle with the strike zone with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts while giving up 15 hits and 14 runs, 11 earned after only 4 games and 12 innings pitched. Not exactly the kind of numbers one would hope to see from a top tier prospect. Perhaps he is tired, maybe he has an ailment he is not revealing or maybe he is trying to prefect a new pitch but whatever, it does not look good for the young righty from Mississippi. I think he is still growing into his body. Until he is able to command his pitches better, he will remain a prospect and not see the major leagues.

Evan Phillips

Evan Phillips

Next up is Evan Phillips, 6’2″, 215 lbs, a 22 year old right handed reliever who played college ball at UNC-Wilmington, NC. Drafted in the 17th round by the Braves, Phillips is one of those rare gems every scout dreams of and every GM looks brilliant for finding them and then taking them at a low cost low risk high reward situation. Phillips has shined at every stop in his professional career. While he has not put up the eye popping numbers of Jared Miller, a Diamondback prize, he was chosen as the Braves lone representative for the AFL All-star game. So far, he continues to record outs while pitching in a relief role. To date, he has appeared in six games, hurling 7.2 innings with 10 Ks and 5 walks. Aside from his first appearance, he has been solid in relief for the Salt River Rafters. While he has given up three earned runs, he has a .143 BA against so far in the AFL.

Evan is currently listed as the Braves #99 prospect but I suspect that number will rise as he continues to progress in the Braves system. His good work in Arizona will likely earn him an invite to the Braves’ spring training camp with the big boys to continue evaluate his potential against top flight hitters. Phillips works with a three-pitch mix, featuring a fastball in the 91-94 range, touching as high as 96. He also features a hard slider and a hard curve as his third pitch, both in the mid-80s in velocity. The knock on Phillips has been his lack of control but since moving to being used strictly as a reliever, his control has improved. Don’t be surprised to see his name linked in one of the many trade rumors we are likely to hear about this winter.

Kade Scivicque

Kade Scivicque

Lastly, in this trio, is cajun catching prospect Kade Scivicque (pronounced Siv-EEK) 6’0″, 225 lbs.  Kade was acquired from the Detroit Tigers organization in exchange for Erick Aybar at the trade deadline. The 23 year old native of Baton Rouge, LA, was a lightly scouted player out of LSU, taken 340th overall by the Tigers in 2016. He was not highly touted but his coaches all praised his leadership skills. He has been a little slow to develop his offense but has shown flashes of late in getting the bat on the ball. He is considered a “project” and potentially a backup candidate for the major leagues but then, you never know when a guy will finally have the lights turned on and he will “get it”. After the disappointment the Braves experienced with Bethancourt who we all heard was the next Johnny Bench, the Braves could use some over-achievers at the backstop position. I expect he will begin the 2017 season at Pearl Mississippi but if his bat continues to heat up, he could find himself at Triple A a couple of seasons ahead of schedule. He is currently batting a respectable .317 for the Rafters but it is a truly small sample size.

Next time I will preview the current Braves plying their trade in the other winter leagues.


#158: Arizona Farm League Prospects Update



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.


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.


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…


#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.


156: The Home Stretch & The Braves Heat Up

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

So here we are, the final month of the season. A point in the past where we have seen the Braves totally collapse and limp into the postseason. No such worries this year, the Braves lost this season in April with a 5 wins, 18 loss record. May and June were hardly any better going 10-18 and 12-16 respectfully, so yes, it was over early for los Bravos. In fact, until August 31st, the Braves appeared to have a stranglehold on having the first overall pick in the 2017 draft.

All that seems to have turned around though with a good, not great record, but relative to the rest of the season, a very good August. 13-15 for the month is not going to win many championships but considering the state of the Braves pitching staff, it was a pretty spectacular month. Two things seem to have the greatest impact on the turnaround for the home boys in Atlanta: (1) Matt Kemp and (2) resurgence in the young pitchers.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp, no longer the All-star caliber player he was in LA is still head and shoulders above anyone else the Braves have had playing left field in years. He was traded for a guy who was a huge disappointment for all concerned with both the Dodgers and Braves. The Dodgers did at least recover some of their investment but the Braves basically ate about 30MM dollars. A guy who was so toxic, the Padres dropped him before he could get on a plane and fly to San Diego. Of course Olivera will have to console himself with the 62 million dollars he is signed for. A fellow can live pretty well in the Dominican Republic with that kind of scratch.

Matt Kemp was a salary dump for the Padres, plain and simple. All I can say is it must have been a pretty miserable marriage for the offensively challenged Padres to want him off their roster. Kemp showed up in Atlanta about 30 pounds overweight and somewhat out of shape but he has made a big difference for Freddie Freeman in particular and the Braves in general. No longer fleet afoot, he still can drive in runs and has played a decent left field. In the final game with San Diego, he actually laid out for a sinking line drive. He came up just short and the ball rolled to the wall for a triple but hey, up by 7 runs at the time, it was gutsy and I’m sure the effort was not lost on his teammates.

This team might be well out of it but they are not playing like it. The final month of the season is upon us and the Braves can only play the role of spoilers. They will again be playing a majority of NL East rivals. While the Nationals have pretty much wrapped up the division, the Mets and the Marlins are both clawing for a wild card berth. The Braves are playing for a modicum of respect and several are playing for a spot on next season’s roster.

It should be interesting as to who will make up the roster when the Braves take the field in their new ballpark next April. Truthfully, I only see two spots on the roster as being givens: Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson;  everyone else is on the bubble as far as I can tell. It should be an interesting offseason for the Braves.


#155: Four Down, Two To Go

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil in
Mechanicsville, VA

So, the Non-Waiver trade deadline has come and gone and no big news out of Atlanta. John Coppoletta said while some interest was expressed on players like reliever Jim Johnson and outfielders Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte, no one was willing to meet the Braves’ asking price. Well, I can live with that. Those players will still be available during the hot stove season to teams looking to add pieces. As it was, their was only a small number of teams looking to add pieces for the play-off push and other than Jim Johnson, no one really had a lot of value.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

This week the Braves did make a trade for a player who perhaps is on the downward side of his career in Matt Kemp but a guy who still shows more power than anyone other than perhaps Freddie Freeman. A lot of teams would not have wanted to add a player like Kemp but for Atlanta, he makes tremendous sense. He is a right handed bat who can protect lefty hitting Freddie Freeman and slot nicely between Freddie and Nick Markakis. While his defensive numbers are not that great, he could still play right field in place of Markakis or left. As far as left fielders go, I doubt his defense rates below that of other players who have been regulated to the off field of baseball.



Perhaps the biggest upside is moving the hugely disappointing Hector Olivera off the Braves payroll. While it has been widely rumored that Olivera will be DFAed by San Diego, it is not official and I suspect the Padres would simply allow him to pass through waivers and then play him in Triple A, or not. It’s no longer the Braves’ concern as to where the Cuban-born exile will play. I guess the real question is if any of the talent evaluators who pushed for the acquisition of Olivera are still on the Braves payroll or can their opinions be trusted?

So, back to what we can look forward to short term. The Braves hope that the addition of Kemp will increase the run production against the lefthanded pitching have had such a problem with this season. While not of the same talent level of a Cespedes, at least he is a bigger power threat than most everyone else who has played in the Atlanta outfield this season. Tyler Flowers is expected to return soon and also add some power to the line up.

I doubt Mallex Smith will return prior to the September call ups. For now, the Braves biggest problem seems to be who will fill the roster as starting pitchers. Coppy flipped Lucas Harrell to the Rangers so look for Gant to fill his spot as soon as he returns to full health. Perhaps Aaron Blair will return after his stint in Triple A. Even “utility” pitcher, Joel De La Cruz could fill in as a five starter. As it is, I expect the Braves will continue to take their lumps. The schedule is filled with the rest of the NL East rivals in the near future. The Marlins are much improved since we saw the last and both they and the Mets will try to use the Braves as a stepping stone to at least a play-off berth. The Nationals are still the class of the division and August and September is when they have normally played their best baseball.

At least perhaps we are not out of spring training for this team.



154: Halfway Done & It’s Still Spring Training

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Mechanicsville, VA

The Braves have now played 79 official games to date. That is 3 shy of the 82 which would mark the official halfway point of the season. 27 and 52 for a winning percentage of .342 and 20.5 games out of first in the NL East. When the Braves broke camp in April, I do not think anyone had any delusions that the Atlanta club would be in contention for the division title but I also don’t think folks thought the Braves would lose so many games so quickly.

To be fair, the Braves had one of if not the toughest schedule for the first two months of the season. We were told by the folks who were supposed to know that while the team was in full rebuild mode, they would be competitive. I guess they are right in one regard, they are in contention for the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB amateur draft. It has been brutal to watch this team night after night.

Of the 25 players on the opening day roster, pitchers John Gant, Williams Perez and Eric O’Flaherty are on the DL.

Gant, Perez, O'Flaherty

Gant, Perez, O’Flaherty

MIA:  Jason Grilli and Bud Norris have been traded, Jose Ramirez was demoted to Triple A Gwinnett and Alexi Ogando has been designated for assignment.


Outfielders Hector Oliveria is on the “suspended and we don’t know what we are going to do with him when he comes back list” and Drew Stubbs was released and is currently on the 60 day DL for a strained left pinky toe. He was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers when the Braves released him after 20 games.  Infielders/utility player Kelly Johnson has been traded to the New York Mets, again, and Gordon Beckham is nearing the end of a stint on the DL for a pulled hamstring.


Let us not forget that opening day manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca were also let go and Rob Smith was replaced by veteran pitcher Buddy Carlyle to manage replay review.


So let’s recap, 7 of 12 pitchers and 4 of 13 position players have are not on the current 25 man roster. That does not account for guys like Jace Peterson spending time in triple A, Mallex Smith playing in place of Ender Inciarte and currently on the DL for a broken left thumb after being hit by a pitch. Adonis Garcia being sent down to learn a new position which he has yet to play, Erik Aybar being on the DL, although he was not missed to be honest and Daniel Castro who has since been up from Gwinnett and sent back down after hitting about a buck fifty.

These are not all of the transactions made by the Braves to date but it gives you a sense of the unsettled nature of the Braves as a team for the first half of the season. Recent moves have been mainly in the pitching staff. Tyrell Jenkins, Joel De La Cruz, Casey Kelly and Mauricio Cabrera coming up. Dario Alvarez being acquired off waivers from the Mets and Aaron Blair and Marks Marksberry going down. There have been over 40 transactions involving Atlanta players going up, down out or in to date. That does not include draft signings. No wonder the Braves got confused as to the availability of Emilio Bonifacio when they tried to bring him up to the majors and ended up playing a man short when they discovered he was not yet eligible.

Like I said, it has been very spring training like as to who will be in the lineup each night and as for starting pitching, the Braves only have two reliable starters with Julio Teheran and Matt Wisler on the roster since the Braves have traded Bud Norris. Mike Foltynewicz was reactivated on June 30th but he is still a work in progress. Most observers still expect Erick Aybar to depart from Atlanta before the end of the season. I would not be surprised to see Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies make their debuts in Atlanta in August.

Still likely to be on the auction block would be Jeff Francoeur, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson and Nick Markakis. For the right return, even the Braves ace Julio Teheran could be gone for the right return of prospects. If the Braves can make it to September, they can load of their bullpen with arms like the Rockies did a few years ago and let the relievers pitch two innings each game. Uh, just like spring training….




153: Two Down, Four to Go

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil in
Mechanicsville, VA


As we head into June, we have seen a slight up tic in Braves win/loss percentage.  Currently, the Bravos are in a head to head race with the Twins for the privilege of having the overall first pick in the 2017 Draft. At this point, I don’t think it will make that much difference in the broad scheme of things as far as the immediate direction the team is headed in. The baseball draft is really all about the future. While I don’t have the answer at my immediate disposal, from observations made over a lifetime, it is my opinion that those players who are drafted and make it to the big leagues often take four years or more before they become truly productive.

The Braves helped speed up the process by trading for so many good prospects last season but they are still a ways away. I suspect the emphasis will continue to be pitching for the Braves because they are just so fragile it seems. Hopefully, the Braves will also find the next David Justice or Jermaine Dye, too.  I hope the Braves have learned their lesson with Cuban players. Sure, guys like Cespedes are out there but so are players like Mike Trout. You just have to be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the biggest failing of Frank Wren was the loss of so many seasoned and talented scouts to other organizations. I’m not talking about guys who advanced up the ladder but personnel who took lateral moves.   What we were left with were people who left the cupboard bare of talent.

In any give draft, I think a team is extremely lucky to get two players who actually make it to the big leagues. Not just on the team that drafted them but any big league team. There are so many pitfalls facing players on their way to the Show, the probability of making the right choice is akin to hitting all five numbers plus the powerball number in the lottery.

So, keep watching and praying the Braves hit the lottery this summer. As we watch the progress of kids like Kolby Allard and Austin Riley as they mature, I hope the Braves brass are watching the progress of nearly 2000 other kids who were drafted last season. We know the Braves’ needs, so do twenty-nine other teams in major league baseball. All are looking to pick each other’s pocket but trades should not be about who got the best of the trade but long term it should be how a trade helped each team meet their goal. 2016 Top Prospects



152: One Month Down, Five to Go


Gil In Mechanicsville

Well, the first month of the 2016 season is behind us and in this year of rebuilding, the Braves have firmly established themselves in their cellar. They say every team has to rebuild at some point, the real trick is to not make it a generational thing like the Pirates did from 1992 to 2014. Everyone knew the Braves would be bad, nobody thought they would be this bad. Of course, the Braves have had a brutal schedule. Other than the Marlins, every team faced so far figured to be in the play-off this year.


Most thought the Braves would fight it out with the Phillies to stay out of the cellar but the Phillies have done better than expected but they have not had as tough a schedule either. That said, they did sweep the Nationals in Washington last week. So far, the Nationals have been the class of the division. The Mets have stumbled a bit out of the gate but they are currently only 1/2 game behind the Nats.



The Braves have endured two horrendous losing streaks. The inability to get timely hits coupled with a bullpen that is leakier than the Titanic post iceberg collision. Perhaps most surprising has been a very porous defense. They say every trade should be evaluated long term. That said, Eric Aybar has not made people forget Andrelton Simmons. Until the promising pitchers included in the deal show up, this deal has all the makings of being Len Barkerish on the bad trade scale.

So, what to look forward to? The Braves will begin to rotate some of their promising young pitchers into the rotation. Will that help? Maybe but until they actually find some pitchers who have the ability to hold leads after the sixth inning, they will continue to break the hearts of Atlanta fans everywhere. This is not the first time we have seen poor performance out of the pen, the last time we saw the Braves try secure a bat to make up for the



lack of arms in the pen. That resulted with John Schuerholz being demoted upstairs and the Rangers riding the trade to the World Series as they cleaned out all the available talent in the Braves farm system. It was a trade which I think has impeded the Braves ever since.

So, what do we have to look forward to short term?



Enders Incarte should be back soon.  That should allow Drew Stubbs or Mallex Smith to return to Triple A.  I still believe Albies will make it to the big club this season.  Just as soon as Eric Aybar improves his value and becomes acceptable to some other teams. That and who gets hurt, who stays healthy and who is positioned to make the play-offs.

Now, the biggest surprise might be the trade of Markakis. Not saying it will happen but I would not be surprised if it



does. Markakis would produce the biggest haul of any player currently on the roster. He has a very affordable contract for a player of his ability and would be a good addition for any team he was added to.

Other possible position player prospects we could see are Dansby Swanson and Rio Ruiz. I think a lot depends on how much the Braves think it would benefit both the club and the players to be promoted. The Braves already know the season is lost. Now it is a matter of how willing they are to bet they can keep their fan base intact for their move to their new stadium in 2017.




#151: A New Beginning

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

by Gil Elliott

Leos staff

Leo’s staff

Long, long ago, in a city far away, there was a baseball franchise that achieved the pinnacle of success. This organization was one of the oldest in baseball with a reputation of being nomadic as well as somewhat mediocric. Oh, there were occasional spurts of success but nothing like what was to become know as an example of excellence which few believe will ever be equalled. Fourteen straight division titles. Of course there are those who will decry the fact only one world championship attained during that streak. However, that is still one more than the Cubs have won in the past one hundred and eight years.

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

This streak was built upon the money of Ted Turner, the idea of it all begins with pitching and the addition of a GM who was a savvy trader who knew how and when to pull the trigger for much needed pieces for each team. Knowing when to let some go and who to keep. That plus an environment which created an incentive for players to actually play for less money than what may have been available elsewhere.

John Schuerholz

John Schuerholz

Even the final season of the streak in 2005 was a Cinderella story nearly as amazing as the first in the worst to first story of 1991. The “baby Braves” with fourteen rookies on a roster to eek out an unbelievable finish resulting in Bobby Cox winning his final Manager of the Year award. But…. end it did. The sale of the Braves which was part of the Ted Turner, AOL, Time Warner merger resulted in Ted Turner losing controlling interest in the team. A corporate mind set permeated the organization and widespread defections began to take place. Stan Kasten, Dayton Moore, and many others signaled a change in the direction of the organization.

Glavine, Cox, Maddux Hall of Fame Induction

Glavine, Cox, Maddux Hall of Fame Induction

John Smoltz Hall of Fame Plaque

John Smoltz Hall of Fame Induction


While these changes did not show up immediately, it did begin to affect the overall quality of what had become a solid and substantial farm system which had been the secret of the Braves success. Developing players who could continue to replenish a team in a sport which has a relatively short shelf with players, few whom last more than 10 years after they reach the majors. When corporations take over any entity, they try to change the mindset of the acquired property and look at the bottom line and that is to do more with less and cut corners when possible and then flip the property after taking out the most value they can.

So it was with squeezing out Ted Turner and selling the franchise to Liberty Media by Time Warner/AOL. It was more of the same only worse. It was almost as if the Braves were following the Expos/Nationals model on how to destroy a once great franchise by cutting the farm system budget to the bare minimum and trading away any good player for cash. Almost like Jeffrey Loria on steroids.

Oh, the Braves still had some occasional flashes of success but even those were short lived. The center of power for excellence had shifted north. The Phillies, the Nationals and the Mets have all enjoyed their moment in the sun, all using the old Braves model of building from within. Now the question becomes whether these teams can sustain that success. We have already seen the Phillies fade as quickly as they arose. Burdened with a win-it-now philosophy where they overpaid for many of their stars, it left the cupboard bare.

So, what to expect this season? Sadly for Braves fans, the expectations are closer to a season more closely resembling 2015 than 1991. Of course a lot of Braves fans were still hoping for a miracle finish before the Braves threw in the towel and traded away Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to the Mets. The Braves went into a nosedive from which there was no hope of recovery. Losing 95 games, perhaps not that big of a surprise after fading in 2014 and losing 83, we had essentially the same team which had won the division in 2013 with 96 victories. One has to wonder, did the Braves get worse or did everyone else get better?

Chipper Jones #10

Chipper Jones #10

So many questions, so few real answers but the fix was in. Frank Wren was gone and it seemed anyone who knew him was fired too. Perhaps the lone survivor was Fredi Gonzalez but you do need a scapegoat while you blow up a team and completely rebuild from the ground up. What has been a real positive is the Braves have been acquiring some really good talent. The problem is this talent is still years away from having a significant impact on the fortunes of the team. Prospects are just that: prospects. Remember, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine were not overnight successes. Chipper Jones spent years in the minors before he arrived in 1995. The “Great Eight” became a nucleus for a franchise known for continues success. Keeping some, trading others but the beginning was much different from the end.

I still point to the trade of five prospects for first baseman Mark Teixeira with Texas was the real beginning of the end for the Braves. A trade which propelled the Rangers into the World Series and the Braves into mediocrity. The thing which had kept the Braves relevant was gone. That coupled with a diminished player development doomed the Braves to where they are.

But, a new beginning is now in progress. It will be a tough slog for the Braves with what could be one of the toughest schedules in the first two months of the 2016 season. The flip side is it should reveal the true character of these players. We should also see the arrival of some of the future stars of the game. Guys like Albies and Swanson and Malix Smith and some of the highly-touted young arms. I do not expect a magical season for the Braves this year but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel which looks a little less like an oncoming freight train and more like the actual portal into the light.


#150: Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh What Relief Is There?

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

Gil from Mechanicsville,


Last season, the Braves employed a menagerie of cast offs, retreads and hopefuls to fill the bullpen of a rebuilding organization. Two, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, performed well enough to help keep the Atlanta club at least within striking distance of first place until mid July. Then disaster stuck with Grilli going down with a torn Achilles tendon. At that point it seemed the Braves lost their heart. Suddenly the bailing wire and duct tape gave out as pitchers lost whatever mojo they had to begin with as the Braves traded away the glue which had held them together.


Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli


With a paltry offense and a spotty starting staff, the bullpen proved to be more cannon fodder from which opposing teams could feast. So, what do the Braves have to look forward to in 2016? With the pitchers and catchers reporting this week, at least we have some small idea of what to expect. Jason Grilli, ever the optimist, claims to be healthy. We shall have to wait and see if he can hold up to the riggers of the full season. In fact, we might well have to see if he can survive spring training. Having to suddenly go full bore following such a debilitating injury can reveal just how tenuous the human body can be following surgery. It is why we have so many pitchers fail to recover from Tommy John surgery properly. Everyone feels the need to push it often to the peril of the player.



Jim Johnson is back after an epic late season fail with the Dodgers. While pitching in Atlanta appeared to agree with him, when traded along with Alex Woods for Hector Olivera, Johnson stunk up the joint in Chavez Ravine. Even so, the Braves are hoping that reuniting him with Roger McDowell can again make him the reliable set up man he was the first half of the  2015 season. I have often heard the the mound in LA has a much steeper slope and could be a possible cause of his maladies but  I am really thinking not having Andrelton Simmons manning the six hole behind him. When you are primarily a pitch to contact, ground ball pitcher, you better have a stellar defense behind yo to make it work.


Arodys Viscaino

Arodys Viscaino


Arodys Vizcaino proved to be a good closer after being re-acquired by the Braves from the Cubs. It appeared that Arodys has finally learned how to find the strike zone with enough consistency to utilize his fastball. While Grilli is penciled in as this coming season’s closer, Vizcaino looks to be ready to assume that role. Of course, the Braves will have to be in more games late for that to be an issue. With so many young starters on the Braves staff, an effective bullpen will be a must if the Braves hope to improve on last season’s 67-95 record.

Chris Withrow

Chris Withrow


New comer Chris Withrow is another long term investment made by the Braves. Withrow was acquired from the Dodgers last May following Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 26 year old has the potential to become a reliable set up man in the Braves 2016 bullpen. It will have been about 2 years since his surgery when the season begins so he should now be on the proper time frame to be fully rehabilitated.



Mike Foltynewicz

Mike Foltynewicz

Mark Foltynewicz could go either way this season, a lot depends on how well he recovers from off season surgery. He has been used as both a starter and a reliever in the past. It is harnessing the control on his 97 mph fast ball and developing a third pitch to allow for him to go through line ups multiple times which could decide his fate. I do find it amazing how many pitchers can throw upper 90s fastballs these days. I has got to be tough to be a hitter in the modern era. That said, Folty is reported to be about two weeks behind so I expect him to start the season in triple A. He won’t stay there long, just long enough to recover from some pretty serious off season surgery.


David Carpenter

David Carpenter



During the off season, the Braves signed David Carpenter and Carlos Torres, aka Super Mario, to minor league contracts. The Braves are hoping they can rehabilitate both pitchers to past glories. We shall see. With so many good young arms now making their way to Atlanta, I expect we will begin to see the arrival of some of the highly touted prospects by mid June.



Andrew McKirahan

Andrew McKirahan

Paco Rodriguez

Paco Rodriguez



Some other names which deserve mention are Paco Rodriquez and Andrew McKirahan. One thing to keep in mind, last season the depth just was not there on the farm to cover the rash of injuries. Hopefully, the bullpen will not be the black hole it was last season. For sure, if you are a pitcher who is looking for an opportunity to play in the big leagues, Atlanta should be a top five destination. The word is bring it early and often to show you deserve a job. It’s not like you have a bunch of All-stars blocking your path.


It may be ugly early for the Braves but hey, it is a full-on rebuild in progress. At the top of the list is pitching, pitching and pitching. It’s tough to go through it but when you have tried to get by on the cheap for years, it’s not surprising to discover your foundation is riddled with termites. After all, no one really wanted to pay for the exterminator. Why worry about termites when the roof leaks every time it rains?


#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.


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.




#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 op