Archive for the 'baseball trades' Category

#168: The Worst May Be Behind us

Gil
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.

 

 

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#165: So, It Begins Again…

Gil

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.

RADickey

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+Atlanta+Braves+Photo+Day+Px85fmtaLGDl

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.

JaimeGarciaAtlantaBravesPhotoDayTgyo2L19499l

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.

#159: Arizona Farm League Prospects: Update Part II

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
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.

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#158: Arizona Farm League Prospects Update

 

Gil

by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

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

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

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

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

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

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

travis-demeritte

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

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

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

dylan-moore-braves

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

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

gil2

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.

gil2

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.

MLB.com 2016 Top Prospects

153insert

Gil2

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

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil In Mechanicsville

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Aybar

Aybar

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

Inciarte

Inciarte

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

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

Flowers

Flowers

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

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

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

………….

In Memoriam

Bobby Dews

Bobby Dews

 

 

#147: Hot Stove or Open Pit?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil 
Mechanicsville, VA

Going back and reading some of the links posted previously, Coppy is finding Braves fans can be a tough crowd. Amazing how someone could supplant Frank Wren as the villain. No matter how well intentioned, folks get antsy when they feel you are more like Jeff Loria than Dan Dombroski.

Losing seasons are part of baseball but salary dumping is never a crowd pleaser. It’s as if the Braves have lost their focus. Changing from being a sports franchise to becoming a real estate developer. Even the most successful shopping mall has to have a couple of good anchor stores.

Unless you are a NASCAR fan, few people root for the corporate sponsor. Even so, I worked for DuPont for 25 years but never was a Jeff Gordon fan… If the Braves think a new stadium will increase the turnstile flow, they need only look at Pittsburg. Great stadium but until they started winning, most fans came disguised as empty seats.

Our old friend, Skip Caray, oft opined, the best promotion was a winning team. The Braves have to be very careful going forward. They risk alienating a whole generation of Braves fans if they are perceived as tanking. If they thought it was tough getting fans back after the baseball strike in ’93, they will find it doubly tough to comeback after losing 100 games for a few years. Add an increase in ticket prices and you could see a downward spiral from which it might be tough to pull out from.

The Braves endeavor to make Sun Trust Stadium a destination but I suspect a lot of folks can find good food or entertainment without the cover charge of $50 per ticket and having to sit through 3 hours of seeing your home team get clobbered each day. The Dodgers seem to draw quite well despite an ancient ballpark. Same could be said of Fenway. Not saying you don’t have to put money into an old park but when you can sit at home where the beer is colder, the seats are wider, the bathroom has no waiting line, and the view of the field is unobstructed, why bother to fight the traffic?

Gil2

# 145: And Now, The Rebuilding Is Official

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil In Mechanicsville

Up until about 6PM CDT Friday night, folks in Braves Country still held out hope the Braves might stage a remarkable turn of events and sneak into the play-offs with an improbable cast of characters. After all, they were only 6 games back in both the division and the second wild card. Stranger things have happened, really… Did anyone really expect the Braves to be this close going into August? Alas, with the exportation of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to NL East rival Mets, the Braves front office officially signaled to the world that the season is done. Trading two guys who have done much to add some life to a very anemic offense  for yet another pair of pitching prospects pretty much has signaled they are throwing in the towel for 2015.

Now, to be fair, it was not really a surprise for this trade to occur. The pundits and speculators have been signalling for weeks the Braves were in sell mode. The absence of Freddie Freeman from the line up has not helped either. Again, a failure to score runs can lead to a lot of losses, no matter how good your pitching is. To be honest, the Braves defense has had a bit of “Bad News Bears” quality to it. I have seen many times where sharpness with the glove has added a bit of pop to a player’s bat. Giving other teams extra outs, even bad ones, can often lead to long innings, many extra pitches and losses and lots of unearned runs.

So, what now? I expect some other moves to be made soon. Jim Johnson, A.J. Perzinski, Cameron Maybin and others may soon be traded to teams still in the hunt. None figured to be long term fixtures in Atlanta anyway as the rebuild towards their goal of putting a winning team in their spanking new stadium in 2017. For those of us who were spoiled by all the success of the Braves from 1991 to 2005, it is a bitter pill to swallow. Not like it has been unknown to fail in Atlanta, look at the past couple of years.

One thing we have all come to understand is nothing is a given in baseball. Sure, good pitching usually beats good hitting but a player and a team with talent still normally beats one with only desire. So, as the team rebuilds, fans need to look at the current situation as a process. Look for the silver lining as young pitchers hone their craft. Speaking from personal experience, the lessons learned from failure were often more deeply entrenched than those learned from success. Sure, even a blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while but you don’t see too many blind squirrels getting fat.

We will need to look at each player through the eyes of a scout rather than the eyes of a fan. It’s okay to be critical in your view but not to criticize, after all, they are human beings. Some will have the talent to stay, some will not. Let’s be realistic in our expectations. not many Chipper Jones or Greg Madduxs come along. That is why only 1% of all the professional major league players are ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. Let’s look at it as an opportunity to build another great dynasty in Atlanta. It is just tough sometimes watching them make the sausage.

Gil2

#136: New faces for 2015 and beyond, Part I

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

One of the first trades made by new President of Baseball Operations/ General Manager John Hart was to trade Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever/long jumper Jordan Walden to St. Louis for right handed pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins. While Miller has battled some inconstancy during his two years as a part of the St Louis rotation , he has shown constant improvement and when coupled with young Julio Teheran and Alex Woods, it should form the core of a very good major league rotation.

The 6 ‘ 3” 215 pound Miller hales from Houston Texas. He fills a dire need the Braves have found themselves in for starting pitching. The Braves have a promising starting pitcher who will be under full club control for the next four years. Of course, pitchers may be the most fragile human beings on earth with the difference between long term success and sudden flame out being a few strands of sinew attached between their ulna and humerus.

The 24 year old Miller features a complement of a 94 mph fastball and a plus curveball which he used in combination 98% of the time. After the All-Star break in 2014, he added a sinker into his repertoire with very positive results. The addition of the sinker added a critical third pitch needed by every successful starting pitcher. Miller’s major league history has shown an increase in the number of innings thrown each season as he matures. It is not unreasonable to expect Miller to exceed 200 innings pitched in 2015.

While Miller’s won loss record of 10-9 in 2014 might be somewhat deceiving in his true value, fans should remember that the Braves primary lefty and former number one draft pick, Mike Minor, posted a record of 6-12 last season. So, rather than throw out a bunch of stats, let’s just state that Miller is project to be a top of the order starter for the Braves. We all know it begins with pitching. While it will be tough for the 2015 Braves to compete head to head with the stellar staff assembled by the Washington Nationals and the up and coming flame throwers in New York and Miami, the Braves still have to play those games on the field. We cannot simply write those games off.

 The other addition to the Braves’ roster in the trade was young Tyrell Jenkins. Another lanky Texas native. He has experience some shoulder problems but may have discovered the cause of his problems being related to  taking a very long stride on the mound. Do not expect Jenkins to appear in Atlanta anytime soon and will likely begin 2015 at double A or high A ball but it is expected he will advance quickly as he perfects his change up to go along with his 2 seam and 4 seam fastball. He pitched well this year in the Arizona Fall League against older and more experienced batters. He has been projected by St Louis brain trust as a potential top of the rotation starter.

Gil2

#135: What Should Braves Fans Really Expect in 2015?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

With the trades of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this winter, the new Braves President of Baseball Operations/General Manager has sent a message that the future is still in the future. Although the Braves surprised everyone in the baseball world by winning the 2013 NL East pennant sprinting past the Washington Nationals who quite frankly, under performed the first five months of the season. The Nats only became relevant the final month of the 2013 season but it was too little too late and the Braves held on to win the flag.

2014 started off like gang busters for the Braves with a pitching staff that surprised everyone by posting a combined ERA of 1.50 for the month of  April.  Everyone in Braves Country was giddy with the surprise success of this team. Alas, it did not last and when the pitchers began to flag under the unrealistic pressure of maintaining such an other-worldly mark, the offense failed to pick them up. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows it is not just pitching that wins baseball games, you need to put some runs on the board too.

There is a huge difference in being able to pitch with a three or four run lead than having to worry about one pitch, one mistake, one hanging breaking ball being the difference between being on the winning or losing end of a baseball game. It is often said that it is not just the number of pitches thrown in a game by a pitcher but the amount of high stress pitches thrown. Give a pitcher a five run lead and he can relax a little bit and challenge opposing hitters and not worry about being so fine with his pitches he starts trying to hit the corners with every pitch. Unfortunately for the Braves’ offense, their hitters were not only were fooled by pitches out of the strike zone, they also did not make opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes either.

Other than April of last year, the Braves posted only a .500 or sub .500 record. The worst month was September when they simply folded like a cheap suit after the Nats caught them and then never looked back. Washington finally woke up and realized they were as good as advertised.  They were, however, eliminated by the Giants who were on their way to their third World Series Championship in five years.

So, what do we have to look forward to for 2015?  To begin with, the Braves brain trust has determined they were not going to beat out the Nationals with the talent already assembled by since-departed GM Frank Wren and company. Perhaps the lingering bad taste of having to eat bad contracts to under performing second baseman Dan Uggla and the five year contract of B.J. Upton outweighed the single pennant won in 2013 and the miracle pick up of Arron Harang and Ervin Santana to replace injured Chris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. More telling is beyond Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Aderlton Simmons and Julio Teheran, the Braves scouting department had little to show for their efforts during Frank Wren’s tenure as GM for the club. That and the fact he was running off some of the Braves’s best scouting talent, the total collapse of the Braves in September appear to be the final straw to break the camel’s back. Perhaps the only real surprise was that Freddie Gonzalas remained at the helm of the team as manager.

It appears that Bobby Cox, who himself appeared at odds with since-departed GM Wren and may have even hastened his own retirement, likely saved Freddie’s job. After all, if you don’t have the horses to begin with, it’s hard to win the race.

Now, what do we have to look forward too? Interim GM John Hart and his staff have made the conscious decision that the Braves were faced with three realities:

1: they were not going to get any better with the current team assembled.

2: they desperately needed pitching to stay relevant in 2015.

3: there was no help on the horizon coming from a severely depleted minor league farm system.

There are lots of reasons for the third but the most likely suspect is the robbing of Peter to pay Paul theory. That is, in order to keep corporate owner happy with the bottom line, they cut corners in their minor league system  to stay within a budget set forth by team owner, Liberty Media. That was made even more severe after the negotiation of what appears to be an under valued TV contract. While teams like the Dodgers are reaping billions from their contract, America’s team got pennies on the dollar. After all, the Braves are still rated as the third most popular franchise in America following Ted Turner’s brilliant decision to buy both the team and a little known local UHF station in Atlanta and market them nationally via cable.

Tyrell Deon Jenkins Born: 7/20/1992 in Henderson, TX  Bats/Throws: R/R  HT: 6'4'' WT: 204

Tyrell Deon Jenkins     7/20/1992 Henderson, TX
Bats/Throws: R/R
HT: 6’4” WT: 204

Shelby Charles Miller Atlanta Braves – No. 17 Pitcher Born: October 10, 1990 (age 24) Houston, Texas Bats: RightThrows: Right

Shelby C. Miller (P)
Born: October 10, 1990 
Houston, Texas
Bats/Throws R/R

John the Elder made two trades to address the problem by first trading Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for rising star Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

He then traded soon-to-be free agent Justin Upton to the Padres for a bevy of young talent in a minor-league haul, including two former first-round picks:

 

 

 

 

trades

MAX FRIED (P)

age 20, b.  Jan 18, 1994
Ht/Wt: 6’3’/180
Bats/Throws:  Left/L

 

 

JACE RYAN PETERSON

Born: 5/9/1990 in Lake Charles, LA
Bats/Throws: L/R HT: 6’0″ WT: 210
Debut: 4/25/2014 College: McNeese State

 

 

DUSTIN ALLEN PETERSON

Age: 20 (September 10, 1994) in Phoenix, AZ
Bats/Throws: R/R Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 180
Draft: Round 2 (2013, SD)

 

 

MALLEX LYDELL SMITH

Born: 5/6/1993 in Tallahassee, FL
Bats/Throws: L/R
HT: 5’9″ WT: 170

 

MANNY BANUELOS

Born: March 13, 1991 (age 23), Gómez Palacio, Durango, Mexico
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 198 lbs
Bats: Left-handed

Banuelos is now into his second year of recovery of Tommy John surgery and is expected to vie for the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation.

Alberto Callaspo

Alberto Callaspo

The Braves had already signed journyman second baseman Alberto Callaspo, late of the Athletics as a place holder for Braves prospect Jose Peraza but the acquisition of Jace Peterson from the Friers may have pushed young Peraza down a spot on the depth chart.

A J Pierzynski

A J Pierzynski

The Braves also have inked veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to serve as the backup/mentor for young Christian Bethancourt at the catcher’s position and allow the Braves to move slugger Evan Gattis to the left field position so his bat can be added to the everyday line up for the Bravos.

Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis

The Braves also signed free agent Nick Markakis of the Orioles to a 4 year $44 million dollar contract to play right field in place of the since traded Jason Heyward. Markakis has a couple of gold gloves to his credit himself and is known to be a contact type hitter. While he is probably better suited to hit second, he will likely be drafted to take Heyward’s spot as the lead off man in the line up given the Braves lack of other likely candidates for that position.

So, as it stands, with the Nationals pretty much standing pat and the Marlins vastly improving their club from last season, the Braves look to fight it out with the Mets for third place in the division ahead of the aging Phillies. Never say never however, after all, the 1991 Braves were picked by one and all to finish last in the National League West then dominated by Dodgers. A lot has to go right for the Braves this season and a few things have to go wrong for the Fish and the Nats but baseball is a game played on the field, not on paper. Now if only Hart and company can figure out some way to either trade the other Upton brother and his over the top contract away so they can have a little financial flexibility or somehow BJ himself take personal responsibility for his poor play and learns how to hit again so as not to be a drag on the club, the 2015 Braves might just have a chance to be more than just a footnote on the way to the 2015 World Series.

Gil2

#133: The Future Is Now

Vox O'Raisins

Vox O’Raisins

 

2015 STARTS NOW

Not feeling very good about our team this morning. Let me clarify… not feeling good about it as a whole. Sure, there are elements and players that I still am glad we have. Freddie, Jason (hopefully for more than just 2015), Simba, most of the pitching staff…

But as a whole, this team was more than just painful, they were embarrassing. At a time when the Braves faced must-win games at home, when they had to show their mettle, they were outscored 27-9 over six games. They were shutout twice. They scored in just 4 innings out of 53. 4 out of 53! They managed just 3 ER off 6 starting pitchers. In all my years of watching baseball, I’ve never seen anything like it. This was beyond collapse. Something has to be standing up to collapse. This team seemed as though they never got off the bench.

I need to qualify that statement. Our pitchers need to sue the rest of the team for non-support. We have a lineup full of dead-beat-batters. Our starters have notched a league leading 108 quality starts through game 156 to date this season. The segment that should have an excuse, that was truly decimated before pitch 1 of game 1, leads MLB in quality starts. Yet, the Braves are heading toward a sub-.500 team for only the 3rd time since 1990.

It’s mind-boggling.Upton-BJ.Wren

Things change over time, and sometimes change quickly. Two weeks ago, I advocated for Frank to be given one more shot to correct his mistakes. As recently as a few days ago, I half-heartedly stood up for Fredi in that he has been dealt a rotten hand. But the series against the Mets revealed more than just the obvious flaws we’ve discussed ad nauseum. Frank assembled a team that lacks certain necessary game elements to be effective, and he allowed the team’s leaders to leave at the same time. His inability to get along with other staff directly led to long-time and highly respected scout Dom Chiti and coveted pitching instructor Dave Wallace leaving for other teams. And it was revealed over the weekend that John Schuerholz is the one that stepped in to the breach and prevented Roger McDowell from departing to the Phillies. This team lost several strong planks and attempted to replace them with Popsicle sticks. The boat is sinking, fellas.

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

As for Fredi, yes he was dealt a rotten hand. But he looked totally lost and defeated over this last week as well. He appeared to be grasping at straws. And while he did seem to manage his pitchers better this year, his mis-handling of Even Gattis is just unforgivable to me. And let’s not forget this is the 2nd September in the last 3 that the Braves looked like they were making vacation reservations early.

No, there is much work to be done both on and off the field. We have 2 years left before we open a brand new ballpark and a new era for the team. There is no way that Terry McGuirk and John Schuerholz are going to let this bunch pave the way. This is the offseason for the foundation to be laid. Frank is and Fredi should be gone, along with Walker/Fletcher and Tosca, and likely Dascenzo. I still believe TP and EP should be safe, given their long term ties to the championship days of this team.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

At least John Schuerholz finally did what had to be done and canned Wren and his right hand man Burse Manno more changes are likely. My money is on John Coppolella, but with the appointment of John Hart as interim GM and the announcement of a blue ribbon search committee consisting of Schuerholtz, Hart and surprisingly Bobby Cox, anything is possible. That said, the new guy will get started with evaluating the team top to bottom.

I would have liked to see TP lead the last 7 games to see what he’s got. I’d would be nice to see if he could rally the troops and get this team to show some pride before heading to the beach or the golf course or the woods. However, perhaps his recent back trouble precluded that. That and Bobby Cox’s support of Fredi Gonzalez.  For better or worse, Bobby still appears to be willing to take a bullet for his guy.

As far as any great hope for 2014, it walked out the door yesterday. The push for 2015 should started today.

~ Raisins ~

 

124: The players may change but the game remains the same.

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

Hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball. Time honored axioms of the greatest game on earth. A game which is perfect for the haze of summer for when it is meant to be played. As followers of the game, we are all familiar with names like Cy Young, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and hundreds more who have graced the green fields of places known as Wrigley. Turner and Ebbets Field. Stadiums as cavernous as the Mistake on the Lake in Cleveland and as intimate as Fenway. Baseball fields which all have their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies but all have the same dimensions of 90 feet between each base and 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. But, even with these dimensions being the same, every field is unique in the way they play. Some teams let the grass grow long to slow the ball to allow for an infield comprised of slow-footed sluggers or lightning fast if the defense is stellar.

 Cy Young 1892

Cy Young 1892

Every season, one team remains as the winner of the ultimate prize in baseball, to be crowned world champions. Winners of a best of seven play-offs between the final teams left after a 162 game season to qualify for the play-offs and then to outlast the remaining qualifiers for the right to play for the championship. Not surprisingly, it is not always the best team, the highest paid team, the team with the best hitter, the best pitcher but most often, it is the team which is the most clutch, is best able to withstand the pressure of the moment who are victorious. Perhaps unfairly, it is the team which can get hot at the most opportune time who gain the glory.

 Avilan

Avilan

David carpenter3

Carpenter

This past season, we watched as our beloved Braves surprised most everyone in baseball by winning the National League East. Winning 96 games and beating the much ballyhooed Washington Nationals by ten games. They did this despite having their two highest paid players hit well below the infamous Mendoza line. Despite having one of the youngest teams in major league baseball. The Braves defied expectations by having a bullpen without the services of such stalwarts as Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flarety and Christian Martinez.

Ramiro+Pena

Ramiro Pena

Amazingly the emergence of Luis Avilan and a converted catcher by the name of David Carpenter, who by the way was released by Boston Red Sox after being traded from Toronto.

The 2013 Braves won 96 games despite having 20 players spend time on the disabled list at some point during the  season and others that missed significant time due to wear and tear. Amazingly, losing front line pitchers Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Paul Mulholm. Losing the services of gold glove outfielder Jason Heyward not once but twice for what amounted to 1/3 of the season. The untimely loss of super utility guy Ramiro Pena and just about every back up infielder on the 40 man roster. Jordan Schafer, who finally showed flashes of the potential the Braves saw in him when he was drafted by the them in the third round of the 2005 draft. The 2013 Braves won despite having to insert Kansas City Royal cast off Elliot Johnson at second base because Tyler Pastornicky could not make it past one week as the heir apparent at second base after a collision with Jason Heyward in short right field.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Andrelton Simmons

With Chipper Jones now a memory, Chris Johnson, who will likely never win a gold glove at third base, became a wonderful surprise with a clutch bat and strong arm and a more than adequate replacement for the foreseeable future at third base for the Bravos. All-World Andrelton Simmons who will improve the stats of every Braves pitcher who can induce a ground ball by opposing hitters and will continue to improve at the plate as he accrues acumen with the bat. A first baseman in Freddie Freeman who by all rights should be the starting first baseman for the National League All-star game for the next several years and should garner MVP consideration not only for his prowess with the bat but for the number of errant throws from the other infielders he snares as they pass within the vicinity of his position.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Everyone’s feel good story of the year, Evan Gattis has become an Atlanta legend in the course of a few short months. Exceeding everyone’s expectations by not only hitting in clutch situations but taking to a new position in left field and showing better than average ability while donning the tools of ignorance. No doubt Brian McCann will be missed when he leaves for a big payday soon but the catcher’s position is not one for which the Braves will have to seek a replacement. Christian Bethancourt, the here-to-fore heir to McCann will have to wait a while longer before he becomes the Braves number one signal caller.

So, who will be the next ex Braves besides McCann this season? Both the Braves and Tim Hudson have indicated they would like to continue their relationship. It may be the bean counters who decide if it continues. Reed Johnson’s Achilles heel may be his Achilles heel. Never counted on to be an everyday guy, he still has value both in the club house and as a right hand pinch hitter. Dan Uggla’s ability to see the light, or anything else for that matter, will be determine if he starts next season in a Braves uniform. I cannot see any other team having value for a guy who cannot make contact no matter what the price. It is not like Dan’s glove is going to keep him line up. No, Dan will either hit this spring or end up being a $13 million dollar albatross around Frank Wren’s neck.

Eric O’Flarerty or Jonny Venters, take your pick. One will stay, one will go. Let’s hope the Braves keep the right one. Personally, I think O’Flarerty would be the safer bet to keep but that does not mean he will. Comes down to where the Braves want to spend their money. BJ Upton will still be in town but methinks that if Frank’s crystal ball had given him any indication of the emergence of Evan Gattis as a right handed power bat this season, the off season signing of Upton would never have happened and 75 million dollars would have gone towards front line starter like Zack Grienke or even extending Brian McCann but that ship has sailed. Let’s all hope that BJ doesn’t become the highest paid pinch runner in the league.

~ Gil~

119: Up and Runing!

by Gil Elliott'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott

I doubt anyone outside of the most fervent fan figured a beginning to the Upton Era quite like the one we have seen the first week of the 2013 season. With Justin homering in five if the first six games and his big bother breaking out of his early slump with a huge home run off Carlos Marmol to tie the game Saturday night. While the talking heads fawn over Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, the Diamondbacks’ former first over all pick of the 2007 draft has taken to Atlanta like kudzu on a Georgia highway embankment.

BJ (2) and Justin (8) Upton

BJ (2) and Justin (8) Upton

Yes, the D’Backs did pick up a fairly promising young right hander in Delgado but the early returns on J-Up have been like the price of gasoline futures during the Arab embargo. To be honest, the town of Atlanta has not had so much to be excited about since the premier of Gone With The Wind.  While it is still early days, the brass in Arizona must be wondering what they were thinking when they flipped Justin to the Braves for Marteen Prado.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Little has gone wrong for the Braves the first week with the flip-flopping of Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco at third and the same behind the plate with Gerald Laird and growing folk legend Evan Gattis. Even with the somewhat disappointing début of phenom Julio Teheran could not overshadow the excitement coming out of The Ted this first week of the 2013 season. Every move being made in the Atlanta dugout appears to be gold because no matter, this bunch of ball players have covered up every mistake made so far. While it is still way early to be crowning any team as the probable winner of this year’s Wold Series. The current team, being led with the heroics of the Justin Upton is certainly making sure they are being included in the conversation.

One has to wonder the effect the return of Brian McCann will have to the team in early May. Can this team get any better? It is a little scary to think about frankly. But, that is a topic to fret over another day. Let’s all ride the wave of euphoria while we can. To be sure, it is a mighty big wave.

~Gil~

117: Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

hotstove

by Voice of Raisins

Northeast Georgia, God’s country

Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

20 years of Braves opening day LF:

2013: ????

2012: Matt Diaz, by default… Chipper on DL; Martin at 3B

2011: Martin Prado, a converted IF

2010: Melky Cabrera, having an atrocious season

2009: Matt Diaz, but Frank’s darkest moment Garret Flippin’ Anderson was penciled in as the regular starter… he had a boo-boo on his wittle weg on Opening Day

2008: Matt Diaz, who platooned with Gregor Blanco

2007: Matt Diaz, whom we picked up off waivers after KC dumped him

2006: Ryan Langerhans, whom we ended up trading for a PTBNL that never was

2005: an old Brian Jordan redux, soon to be booted in favor of Kelly Johnson, a converted 2BcJones

2004: Chipper Jones, but Charles Thompson was called up from AAA and played the most games there that year

2003: Chipper Jones

2002: Chipper Jones, for cryin’ out loud

2001: B.J. Surhoff, hanging on to collect one final paycheck

2000: Reggie Sanders, having the absolute worst season of his career

1999: Otis Nixon, on his way out… Gerald Williams played the most games thereRYAN KLESKO

1998: Ryan Klesko

1997: Ryan Klesko

1996: Ryan Klesko

1995: Ryan Klesko

1994: Ryan Klesko, a converted 1B

1993: Ron Gant, a converted 2B

In 20 years, the most consistent play we have had from LF is from 1B Ryan Klesko.

Let that one sink in a minute…

Next in consistency of appearances in LF we have Matt Diaz, who had been let go by perennial doormat Kansas City. We made him a starter. Next? How about HOF 3B Chipper Jones?

Do we not see a pattern here? Is LF cursed for the Braves? Can we not, for the love of all that’s good and holy, get a real LF to play LF for more than a year? And I’m OK with converted IF Prado as my consistent LF, if I have a real 3B. But the 3B market is maybe the thinnest in baseball right now.

For 2013, I saw a small ray of hope – not even a ray, just a flicker – that we’d have a real LF for the first time since the atrocious days of baby blue uniforms. Frank said he was focused. “Narrowly focused”, he said, and with “resources”.

Now we are hearing words like “comfortable” and “in-house options”. That is a stark contradiction to “narrowly focused”. They are talking names such as Constanza, Schierholtz (lost him to the Cubs), Reed Johnson (not yet an “in-house option”)… bench players all.

Who are our “in-house options”? Jose Constanza… the Braves “spark plug” and “high energy guy”. Those are terms used to describe players who don’t have the physical tools, but try really, really hard. Jordan Schafer, picked off the scrap heap from Houston, who had the worst record in baseball last season. He is currently listed only as the #3 CF on the Braves official depth chart behind BJ Upton – the high payed star who will play 155+ games – and Jose Constanza. Telling. And of course, currently the Braves official depth chart shows Martin as the #1 LF and Juan Francisco as #1 3B. Long Juan (great name, Gil) can hit ‘em a mile when he connects. He subscribes to the theory that you swing hard in case you hit it. Can’t hit RHP’s for squat.BrianJordan

I am not thrilled with our “in-house options”.

Maybe we should try v.3 of Brian Jordan. Is Langerhans still trying to eke out a living? Can’t be much worse than our other “in-house options”…

~VR~

 

110: 2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

#108: A Handful Of Questions About The Future

By VOR aka Voice of Raisins/Reason/Reality/Ridiculous/Rose-colored glasses

JEFFERSON, GA (God’s country) – There was a good bit of chatter a few days ago on MLBTR’s chat regarding the Braves, their pitchers and Michael Bourn. All very good questions, and questions we all pretty much ask regularly. So here are a handful of questions for 2012 and beyond:

1. Thumb: Will the Braves trade DLowe in the off season?
2. Index Finger: Will the Braves trade JJ in the off season?
3. Bird Finger: What pitcher goes to make room for Julio Teheran next year?
4. Ring Finger: What will Bourn make in arb?
5. Pinky: Will the Braves try to extend Bourn?

The first three fingers are about pitching. Literally. Those are the fingers used to grip the baseball… but I digress. Those first 3 questions can really be combined, and expanded to include Mike Minor, who must be included in the rotation candidates. No one seems to remember that Minor, like Teheran, has very little left to learn at AAA. He’d already be in the rotation of almost every other major league team. So, what to do? You already have 3 young stud pitchers in Hanson, Jurjjens & Beachy. Huddy is likely a Brave until he retires. He’s the veteran rock that all the youngsters lean on. He’s so entrenched in the community that I can’t see the Braves even entertaining any thoughts of parting with him. Huddy is a lock for next season. So is Beachy. He’s got every quality you want in a pitcher. He’s gritty, smart and cool under pressure. And he can pitch… not throw, pitch. He’s Greg Maddux lite. Following that, you have the 2 star youngsters, Jurjjens and Hanson, and you have the overpaid grizzled veteran DLowe. Obviously, one of those 3 pitchers will not be here next season.

First, let’s address JJ and Tommy. Both are under team control for the near future, and both are represented by Ber’s favorite, Scott Boras. Big Red, though, is under team control for a couple of years more than JJ, who is a FA in 2014. Red doesn’t hit the market until 2016. Plus, he’s the big righty power pitcher that every rotation must have. Tommy’s not going anywhere for a while.

So… for those keeping score, in no particular order, Huddy, Beachy and Hanson are locks for next year’s rotation. And I don’t think I’m going out on too flimsy a limb to say that Teheran/Minor will be the #5 next season. That battle will be fierce, with the loser going back to Gwinnett to be the first guy on Frank’s Rolodex.

So that really leaves one spot for DLowe and JJ in 2012. I know… no real earth shattering revelation here. We can all see that handwriting on the clubhouse wall. The conventional wisdom says that DLowe will finally be tradable with just 1 year left on his onerous contract and that he is the obvious one to go. I say, “Hold on there, Baba-louie! I’ll do the thinnin’ around here!” (Vague reference to Quickdraw McGraw…) The decision between the two is not as cut and dried as some would suggest. Yeah, I know that JJ is an All-Star and was clearly the Braves best starter for the first half of 2011. He was pretty much their best starter the first half of 2010. Problem is, they make us play the second half, too. JJ is a very talented pitcher, no doubt. He’d be the #1 on many teams in both leagues. His value is pretty high. That, to me, makes him the clear choice. His value will never be higher, and he’s gonna have to go after 2012 anyway. Too many studs in the pipeline.

And I’ll even offer one other scenario. I can see the Braves trading JJ during the off season, gaining a nice return while opening a spot for Teheran/Minor, and then dangling DLowe at the 2012 deadline. At that point, he’ll be the veteran rental pitcher that a lot of contending teams will covet going toward the playoff push. That’s likely where they’ll get their best return for him.

You say, “VOR! No way the Braves would have two rookies in next year’s rotation!” Reasonable objection… but again I say, “Hold on there, Baba-louie!” First, Minor has had enough major league starts that he isn’t a true rookie in that sense. Plus, he pitched in last year’s playoff push, and pitched quite well, if you’ll recall. Second, Teheran – whom I think wins the #5 spot – will have half a season under his belt before the aforementioned trade deadline. This is the pros, folks. Go big or go home. After 14 or so starts, is he a true rookie? I say no…

So my final assessment says the Braves will start, in no particular order, Huddy, Beachy, Hanson, Teheran & DLowe/Minor. Formidable, and among the best in baseball.

Now… Bourn. (Transition homage to The Scribe…)

4. Ring Finger: What will Bourn make in arb?
A: A lot.

5. Pinky: Will the Braves try to extend Bourn?
A: No. 2 words: Scott Boras. Boras won’t allow an extension; rather he’ll take him all the way to FA. It’s what Boras does. And Boras wants a lot, like DLowe kind of money. The Braves won’t make that commitment to Bourn. I can’t see it.

So that leads to…

6. Antonio Alfonseca’s 6th Finger: Who is the Braves CF in 2013 and beyond, now that Jordan Schafer is gone?
A: The water gets very murky here…

Schafer was not going to be the Braves long term guy anyway. He had his chance, and couldn’t make the step. As far as the farm system goes, they really like Matt Lipka, a SS who they have talked a lot about converting to CF. He’s a tremendous athlete with a ton of speed. He’s very young though (19), and 2013 will be pushing it for him… really pushing it. By the way, I am not sold on Jose Constanza long term, but I suppose you never know. He was hitting .312 with a .361 OBP for the season in AAA before his call-up, so I suppose he could just be a late bloomer. But we’ve had our Charles Thomas moments before.  I need to see more.  Outside the organization, that’s why you trade JJ.

One thing is for certain. I think we have seen what Frank and Fredi’s vision is for this team. In the post PED era, speed is the difference maker.  Pitching has risen to dominance, and good pitching will always beat good hitting, but speed can beat a good pitcher.  Speed can frustrate a good pitcher. There is no defense for it.

Somewhere, Whitey Herzog is smiling…

~VOR~

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