April 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
Though much has been made of the Braves rather stagnant offseason, there is one big difference with the current roster’s makeup that has been rather ignored.
First, check out the 2011 Opening Day bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Cristhian Martinez, Scott Linebrink, Peter Moylan and George Sherrill.
Now look at the 2012 Opening Day bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Cristhian Martinez, Chad Durbin, Livan Hernandez and Kris Medlen.
While some of the names differ, it’s more than the names that change the makeup of the 2012 bullpen.
It didn’t appear that until late last season the Braves front office and coaching staff began to realize the demand they placed on the trio of Kimbrel, Venters and O’Flaherty. Rookie Arodys Vizcaino was put on a fast track to the big leagues to provide crucial support for a bullpen that was in danger of exhausting its biggest assets. No one can say for sure that better bullpen management would have pushed the Braves into the playoffs in 2011, but the Braves have attempted to move past any regrets by restructuring in a big way for 2012.
With the departures of Linebrink and Sherrill, in addition to Moylan’s injury, the Braves found themselves without any relief specialists. Though Venters and O’Flaherty are both left-handed pitchers, their stuff is effective against hitters on both sides of the plate and it is a mere certainty they are going to throw the 7th and 8th innings in a close game.
Because of the lack of stamina in the back of the pen last season, the Braves have attempted a completely different approach for their relief core this season. General Manager Frank Wren inked two NL East veterans in Chad Durbin and Livan Hernandez to small-money deals within the last week. In addition, Kris Medlen has also returned from injury after missing nearly the entire 2011 season.
With Durbin, the Braves acquired a former starting pitcher turned reliever who has accrued 759 innings in the Major Leagues. Look at his splits and you will find that his opponents OPS numbers are nearly identical from both sides of the plate.
In Hernandez, Atlanta signed one of the best innings eaters in recent baseball history. Since his debut in 1996, he has pitched in 475 MLB games. Just one of those came in relief.
Medlen is an interesting case because of his potential to start and finish games, but moreover because of his dominance against left-handed batters due to the effectiveness of his changeup.
Between the three of them, they combined for a total of 350 innings in their most recent full-season of work. The trio of Linebrink, Sherrill and Moylan shared just 156 total innings of work in the same scenario.
If it were me, I would have preferred a Cory Gearrin type over Chad Durbin considering the amount of depth the bullpen already contains and the lack of a true right-handed specialist, but the move is just one injury away. Considering the fragility of the Braves rotation, Hernandez or Medlen could fill a starting void almost immediately, allowing the Braves to bring Gearrin, Anthony Varvaro or a healthy Peter Moylan back into the mix.
At this point, it’s safe to say the Braves have prepared to sacrifice situational splits for bullpen stamina and longevity this year. Whether or not it pays off won’t be known for some time, but it does present a scenario to monitor throughout the season.
April 5, 2012 at 2:00 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
If you followed the site last season, you probably read my “The Process Versus” posts on occasion. If you didn’t, they looked a little something like this.
With an expanded staff and a new season about to begin, I have decided to bring these posts back, but in a different way. Franklin Rabon has taken over the offensive metrics, while I will be tabulating the pitching forecast for the time being. Also, instead of producing the content in article form, we have decided to present the information in a two-page PDF prior to each series. This way, you can print the document and keep it with you while you watch the games to see how the statistics correlate and get angry about poor managerial decisions.
Franklin will be posting the opposing team’s heat maps before each series on the site, since they are difficult to incorporate in the document, but the information on these documents will serve as an analysis of those maps in addition to the players’ defensive capabilities.
The document will be uploaded through Scribd each week and featured in its respective post, just as it is below. You can download the PDF to your computer or mobile device and chose to print it to enhance your viewing experience.
If you have any questions about the data, the post itself, downloading the document, etc. leave a comment in the section below and I will do my best to help you out.
April 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
In case you missed it earlier today, the Atlanta Braves traded pitching prospect J.J. Hoover to the Cincinnati Reds for 3B/LF Juan Francisco.
Francisco, 24, was once considered one of the Reds top prospects since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. In 181 Major League at bats, Francisco has hit a respectable .284/.331/.450. Unfortunately, those at bats have been spread over three seasons as an under-utilized bench bat.
His biggest assets are his power bat and lethal arm. In 2,423 Minor League at bats, Francisco has 112 home runs which average out to about 25 per season. Conversely, his defensive range and strike zone judgment are biggest weak spots. I haven’t seen him much in recent years, but in talking to multiple people who have, they continue to harp on him for these attributes. In his previously mentioned Major League at bats, Francisco has a 28.2 K% and walks just 6.1% of the time.
Hoover, 24, was a 10th round pick in 2008 and has played at every level in the Atlanta farm system since. Most recently, the Elizabeth, Pa. native spent 2011 with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. Hoover finished 2012 with a combined 105.2 innings pitched with a 2.64 ERA, 1.286 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. About halfway through the season, he was promoted to Gwinnett and was demolished in his first start at that level. He returned to Mississippi as a reliever before heading to Gwinnett one more time to finish out the season.
Even with his transition to a bullpen role last season, Hoover was ranked 9th on the 2012 CAC Prospect Rankings. As I previously stated, “If he returns to the rotation, he could possibly peak as a No. 3, but odds are against him at this point.” In short, Hoover is running short on time to make an impact in the big leagues, but maybe Cincinnati has different plans for him.
Overall, this trade makes sense for both teams. Both players were prospects who aren’t believed to have the ceiling they once did a few years ago, but a new opportunity could help both of them. For the Braves, Francisco will serve as a solid backup to Chipper Jones and potentially keep Martin Prado in left field. It is difficult to determine whether or not the Braves like Francisco enough to keep him in left or third at this point, but personally, I’d like to see him get a significant amount of playing time compared to the Matt Diaz / Eric Hinske platoon. Time will tell what kind of role he will play in Atlanta, but this is definitely an upgrade in the short term and potentially the long term considering the Braves depth of pitching prospects.
Update (3:00 p.m.): In a radio interview during today’s game, Braves GM Frank Wren stated that Francisco will fill in at third base when Chipper is gone , keeping Martin Prado in left field. That being said, Matt Diaz has even less value at this point. Either way, either Diaz or Drew Sutton will lose their spot on the 25-man roster to Francisco. Francisco is out of options, so he will either remain on the 25-man roster, or will have to pass through waivers to go back to the minors.
Update (3:15 p.m.): Baseball Prospectus writer R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson) has requested that I add this headshot of Juan Francisco. Thanks to him for the heads up.
March 28, 2012 at 11:16 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
After receiving plenty of positive feedback on our first live chat a couple of weeks ago, we have decided to do one more this month. Franklin, David and I will be taking your questions and commentary throughout the Braves vs. Yankees game, which will be airing on ESPN. Mississippi Braves Broadcaster Kyle Tait is scheduled to join the action sometime after 2:00 p.m. We look forward to chatting with you.
March 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
As DOB tweeted this morning, reliever Arodys Vizcaino will miss the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. This doesn’t come as a big surprise considering Vizcaino missed a significant portion of the 2010 season due to a partially torn ligament that was never surgically repaired. Even with his previous injury, Vizcaino throws in the upper 90’s on a regular basis and struck out nearly a batter per inning in 17.1 innings of work with Atlanta last season. He is only 21 years old.
Vizcaino was supposed to fill a spot in the bullpen alongside Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez. With Vizcaino out of the mix, the Braves will likely turn to Cory Gearrin to fill the void. Adam Russell could be another option, particularly since he is the lone option that can match Vizcaino’s heat.
Overall, the Braves will likely rotate between a variety of options throughout the season including Anthony Varvaro and Jairo Asencio. Peter Moylan is also an option, although he is not on the 40-man roster for the time being.
March 20, 2012 at 2:28 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
Last week, we accidentally started a new feature in which we each provided our insight on a popular Braves-related topic. Let’s call it the “CAC Roundtable.” It will appear here once a week, likely on Monday or Tuesday. Deal? Deal.
This week’s question is: Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado for the fifth starter spot?
First off, it’s obvious the Braves have staged a competition between the two top prospects for the fifth starter void with Tim Hudson unavailable for the start of the season. The other will likely be optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett to maintain a consistent workload as a starter if needed later in the season. I’d compare it to the situation that played out last spring between Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. Few expected Beachy to win, especially since he came from virtually nothing in 2010, although he captured the spot. Minor was eventually given a chance to prove his worth and will now be the fourth starter in the rotation this season.
Both pitchers have thrown 13 innings this year with rather poor numbers. Delgado does have more strikeouts, seven fewer home runs allowed (Teheran gave up six in one outing) and a 1.62 WHIP compared to Teheran’s 1.92. Small sample size be dammed, Delgado’s numbers are superior. Then again, if you followed along with last week’s chat and ensuing twitter conversation, I took Teheran’s side as the nastier pitcher for the time being. He offered some nasty curveballs (see Ian Desmond’s strikeout).
I think Delgado will likely win the role due to his success last season with Atlanta, whereas Teheran could still use some work with his secondary pitches and overall level of experience. I’d still take Teheran in the long run without a doubt, though. – Kevin Orris
Jim Bowden recently reported two “rival general managers” as saying Julio Teheran should return to Triple-A this year to get a better feel for his pitches, and I think I have to agree with this. We all realize spring training is a horrible way to evaluate a player, especially a pitcher who is gaining strength and working on things for the season. But it’s also evident in watching Teheran that he doesn’t have a feel for his fastball or curve right now. His changeup is in midseason form, but he has little command of his fastball, and it gets pounded more often than it should. His curve has also been inconsistent, which is something he continues to fight at times.
Randall Delgado hasn’t had much more success than Teheran this spring, but watching him, you can tell he’s closer to ready than Teheran. His curve has been pretty solid, and he has shown better command of the fastball than Teheran, even if it’s not saying much.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of who is pitching better right now, because the job will last a month. This is why I called for Kris Medlen to earn the spot before spring training started, because I think he would give the Braves the best numbers over a month. But if he’s not in the picture, the next-best option right now is Delgado, in my opinion. – David Lee
To be honest, I’d really most like to have Medlen. I can’t tell if Fredi really knows what he’s talking about when he says Medlen is slated for a bullpen spot, or if it’s like when he said Teheran and Delgado would be in the bullpen before being forced to quickly retract the statement.
But since that’s not an option I’ll go with Delgado. First, I think he’s just slightly more ready right now. Teheran seems to overthrow when he’s pitching for the big club, whereas Delgado, though not mind-blowing, looks a little more composed. And when Teheran overthrows he loses fastball command and his pitches flatten out and become very hittable. Secondly, if Teheran does reach his potential, he’s going to make a lot more in arbitration than Delgado would, so delaying that clock can only help the team financially. A talent like his shouldn’t be put in the Majors unless it’s absolutely ready. Whereas with Delgado, it’s less likely he puts up a huge ace type season prior to arbitration, and thus we wouldn’t stand to lose as much by starting his clock early. Finally, I think Delgado has the least amount of work he needs to do on his pitches. While Teheran’s command is overall better, and his stuff has a higher ceiling, Teheran still needs to work on his curve. Delgado’s secondary pitches can use some refinement, but they’re close enough to where you don’t mind him throwing any of his three pitches (fastball, curve, change) at the MLB level. With Teheran, I think he would feel pressured to use his fastball and change almost exclusively in the majors, to the detriment of developing his curve. The only way to develop a curve is to throw it, and he would be free to throw it as much as he wanted in Gwinnett. – Franklin J. Rabon
I think the debate is pretty even. Teheran has been more hittable in his Major League stint and in spring training thus far, but he’s also showed the better overall stuff. Thankfully, the decision one way or the other won’t be tremendously important, since the difference between the two is relatively small. I still think there should be a bit more time before a decision is made, but I expect the Braves to go with Delgado. Both can use some work at Triple-A though, and I expect both to have stints in the minors at points this year. – Ben Duronio
Post your answer to this week’s question in the comments section below. Also, if you have a question for next week’s round table segment, send it to me via Twitter @KevinOrris. Follow the rest of the CAC crew @Ben_Duronio, @David11Lee, @fjrabon and/or like us on Facebook.
March 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
Tonight’s game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals will be featured on Sports South, MLB.tv and the MLB Network, so we’re going to host a live chat right here. I will be moderating the entire time while Ben, Franklin and David will stop by periodically. I encourage you to join us at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for what should be a fun evening.
During the game, the broadcast crew interviewed Chipper Jones and asked about his retirement comments from earlier this week. Here is what he said:
“Well. We have a reporter in Atlanta that is a little more overzealous with his uh, trying to get the jump on everybody else. I don’t deny making those comments. I denied the context in which they are reported. The thing that really ticked me off was that Dave wasn’t there. You know. He took it second hand and he has my phone number and he can call and clarify whichever comments he hears. I said those things in jest.”
In other words, we can move on now.