Posts Tagged 'Andrelton Simmons'

#140: New Faces for 2015, Part V

By Gil in Mechanicsville

With only about two weeks left before games begin in earnest and the promise of a brand new season starts the long and rutted road to the World Series, the Braves still have spots open for the taking in their line up. The foot injury to Melvin Upton Jr. and the recurring shoulder problems of left handed pitcher Mike Minor has created opportunities for at least two more players to begin the season playing for the Big A.

Holdover players Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethencourt looked to have had a good spring training. While CJ took a while to heat up, he has suddenly returned to 2013 form but with more power. Allowing the home runs to come rather than pursue them looks to have allowed the Atlanta third baseman to stay on the ball longer and make solid contact with greater frequency.

Simmons, Freeman and Bethancourt all have looked comfortable at the plate and should provide steady offense this year. Newcomers AJ Perzinski and Jonny Gomes have done nothing to dispel the names they have made for themselves as professional ball players. The veteran leadership often needed in a clubhouse full of youngsters was sorely missing last year after the departure of Tim Hudson and Brian McCain have been replaced with the likes of Perzinski, Gomes and relief pitcher Jason Grille.

Nick “The Neck” Markakis has begun his long awaited return to the game after off season spinal fusion surgery and by all accounts will be a force in the Atlanta outfield, perhaps not as exciting Jason Heyward but no slouch. Understandably, it will take a few weeks for him to regain his full strength but his initial return against Astros showed him going 3 for 4 as the DH. A good sign for a guy who had not seen live pitching for five months. His reputation is as a solid outfielder who knows how to play the game. He does not make mental errors and always hits the cutoff man and throws to the right base.

The rest of the starting line up still appears to be in a bit of a flux. Alberto Callaspo, one of John Hart’s earliest off season signings and projected starting second baseman showed up overweight. The teeth gnashing and ash wallowing began amongst the Braves fans who follow the blogs. Fortunately, it appears the 31 year old Venezuelan has shed some pounds and has played regularly at both second and third base this spring. He began slowly but of late, his bat has heated up. The switch hitter has shown the versatility that would enable him to be part of a soft platoon with Chris Johnson at third. Perhaps urged on by the strong showing this spring by Jace Peterson, who came to the Braves as part of trade that saw Justin Upton depart for San Diago, to win away from him the starting job at second base gave him incentive. Peterson’s slash line of .341/.449/.390 in 41 at bats this spring and solid defense has been a very pleasant surprise. Project as a “super sub” type player, Peterson has taken a bit of the air out of the “Perazza Now” balloon. That and Jose Peraza’s youth becoming evident at the plate. While his glove is major league ready, his bat evidently can benefit from some more time in the minors.

The center field jobs looks to be won by an impressive showing by E Y Young Jr. EY Jr was released by the Mets and was signed to a minor league contract by the Braves. Initially he was penciled in as a possible utility, fourth outfielder but the foot injury to Melvin Upton has given him the opportunity to open the season with Atlanta manning the number eight position in the defense. The added upside to EY Jr is he is a natural lead-off man. While it does not look at this point Upton has been Wally Pipped at this point, he has at least given most Braves fans the sense that Upton should take his time getting healthy before he needs to return.

Todd Cunningham’s window of opportunity may be closing if he does not win a job outright this spring. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions but he may be the pro-typical Quad A player. The same may be true for Joey Terdoslavich. He has had a decent spring for the Braves, hitting .278 with seven extra base hits, he can play either corner outfield spot as well as first base. He worked with his dad during the off season to cut down on his swing. He is in the mix against veteran Kelly Johnson who has played everywhere the Braves have asked him to to display his versatility. KJ’s bat has begun to heat up of late and it appears he will be given every opportunity to win a spot as a utility/left handed bat off the bench for this year’s club.

The last players to be considered will be Phil Gosselin, Zoilo Almonte and surprising off season minor league signing Pedro Ciriaco who has 15 hits and 7 strike outs in 42 at bats this spring. A second baseman who has spent time with Boston and Kansas City, he has a strong accurate arm and some speed. While it would be a long shot to see him make the team this spring, he has opened some eyes. Phil Gosselin looks to have secured his spot as the utility infielder again this season after being the starting second baseman the latter part of the 2014 season. Zoilo is still vying for the spot platoon role with Jonny Gomes. It’s my opinion that he is on the bubble to start the season with the club.

The pitching is still to be discussed. I will do so in my final spring training blog.

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#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~


Blog Birthdays

ChrisKlob: Feb 4

Raisins: Mar 13

Berigan: Mar 15

Gil: Apr 15

Salty: Apr 22

FloridaBravesGirl: Jul 8

Skip Caray: Aug 12

Miss Josie: Aug 18

Carolina Lady: Oct 7

BravesAndStuff: Dec 5, 2007

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