Archive for the 'Bethancourt' Category

#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

 

 

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

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

By Gil in Mechanicsville

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

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

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

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


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