December 1, 2011 at 10:58 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves, Economic Analysis, Farm System, Player Analysis, Transactions
So David O’Brien stoked up the fires of Braves fans everywhere with his most recent blog discussing the prospects for a Brian McCann extension. It was actually a very good article, though it more reported the facts than went into analysis of what will happen (DO’B is actually excellent at these kinds of articles). However, many Braves fans were highly perturbed that O’Brien would even suggest the possibility that the Braves may go with young Christian Bethancourt instead of extending McCann into the golden sunset. One Twitter follower even missed the point so badly that he tweeted O’Brien asking “you’re seriously comparing a future HOFer to a guy who has 0 MLB at bats (Bethancourt)?!”
Braves fans are just now coming to terms with the fact that Jair Jurrjens at the very least won’t be extended, and will probably be traded before he hits free agency. Then there’s the idea of also trading the gritty, scrappy, ‘just loves playing the game of baseball’ Martin Prado that’s also had some among the Braves faithful reigniting their disdain for GM Frank Wren. Not keeping McCann long term would just break their backs. Stay calm Braves fans. Brain McCann, barring a significant injury within the next year, will sign long term and here’s why.
Brian McCann likes being a Brave. This much is obvious, it’d be a great inconvenience for him to leave, personally. He’s built his whole life around this area and seems to genuinely love the area. If there was ever a candidate for a guy taking a hometown discount, it’s Brian McCann. No, he wouldn’t accept 7 years at 6 million a year or anything absurd like that. But I truly believe he’d take at least 2-3 million under what he’d get on the open market. As O’Brien also points out, he also has an agent that has taken team friendly deals in the past with Chipper Jones. Now, this isn’t so much about the agent, as it is a signal of McCann’s intentions. If McCann was fully intending to try to get the maximum he could squeeze out of the Braves, then he’d likely have changed agents by now. B.B. Abbott is the agent you choose when you want more of a ‘lifestyle deal’. While Scott Boras is excellent at what he does, he actually tends to avoid clients that aren’t seeking the maximum they can get, or at least he tries to convince them of the errors in their ways. The fact that McCann has chosen, and stuck with B.B. Abbott is a very good sign for Braves fans.
Now, the other issue is that Brian McCann may be worth more to the Braves than any other team. I know most of the SABR crowd is loathe to valuate a player on anything other than strictly on the field metrics. But the Atlanta Braves have spent a lot of money in marketing Brian McCann. While the ‘face of the franchise’ idea can often times be overplayed, some also might underplay it. The Braves marketing department has tied up a lot of the value of the Braves brand into the Brian McCann brand. In my view, they’ve in many ways put in a large long term investment in him already as a selling point both team value wise and ticket wise.
There are some counterbalancing factors here as well though. On a strictly ‘on the field’ measure McCann would likely be more valuable to an American League team, where he could transition to DH if his body wore down too much to be an effective catcher, and even if it didn’t, he’d provide additional value as a DH during his scheduled off days, much like Mauer has for the Twins.
However, it’s my firm belief that with the Braves substantial investment in marketing McCann as the selling point to fans for the franchise, and McCann’s comfort with the area, it is so far in both parties’ interest that it seems highly improbable that he won’t sign at least one more contract as a Brave. I believe the chances are high that after his next contract he would go to an AL team as his body continues to wear down from catching, but I think both sides, McCann and the Braves, will be willing to risk another 5-7 years (from this point forward, not 5-7 years from 2014) of McCann as a full time catcher.
Now, all that might not matter if the Braves just flat out cannot afford to sign him to an at least reasonable long term contract without crippling the franchise. So we have to explore what flexibility the team will have over the next 7 years and whether or not this would allow them to sign McCann.
Using Cot’s Atlanta Braves contract obligations page, we see that the Braves do indeed have substantial payroll flexibility. Not only are they only on the hook for Uggla after next year, but it appears they will be able to field an excellent pitching staff entirely based around ML minimum and arbitration players. This will likely allow them to field an entire starting staff for around the cost of C.C. Sabathia. During that time it seems likely that SS, RF and 1B will also be comprised of arbitration and ML minimum players (Pastornicky, Heyward and Freeman). It is difficult to know exactly where all these arbitration numbers will fall, and which players may or may not be non-tendered, but my estimate is that for 2014 (the first year the Braves wouldn’t control McCann), the Braves are looking at being able to fill 5 starters, Closer, Primary Set Up Man, 1B, 2B, SS and RF for around 35-40 million. There’s no reason to think the Braves budget will significantly deviate from the ~88 Million it’s been at in previous years. Leaving the team with roughly 50 million dollars to fill Catcher, 3B, CF and LF (along with bench spots and filler bullpen roles). I’ll just guess that the mix of 3B, CF, LF and bench/bullpen will cost somewhere around $30 Million, with a mix of prospects, trades and free agents filling those roles. That leaves the Braves with something like a max of $20 Million for McCann in 2014.
However, the issue isn’t McCann’s first year, it’s the subsequent years as players like Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel continue to see their salaries escalate through the arbitration ranks (or possibly having their arbitration and first few years of free agency bought out in an extension).
This would be the one drawback to having such a productive farm. The Braves would either be forced to trade at least some of these players, or have serious payroll restrictions. If many of these players perform like we expect them to, they could see arbitration awards in the neighborhood of 6-10 million, especially in their final years of arbitration. Beginning in 2016, the Braves will begin to feel a substantial pinch, as many of their top flight players are scheduled to hit the free agent market. If they aren’t resigned at substantial cost, and there isn’t a rookie waiting in the wings, they’ll have to be replaced at a substantial cost.
This is the part where things become tricky. If the Braves do sign McCann to a long term deal, they’re not only taking a gamble that McCann’s body will hold up to the rigors of catching full time for several more years, they’re also gambling that their farm system will continue to be just as productive as it has been in recent years. Especially 2015-2016. If the Braves begin to see the farm system well dry up during that time span, things could get ugly, as they’d be forced to either depend on substandard rookies or cheap free agents to fill in the gaps in 2015-2016.
With Bethancourt, the Braves would be taking substantially less of a gamble. Sure, he might not, in fact almost certainly will not, be the player that McCann is. But with Bethancourt at the ML minimum for a few years and then as a lower cost arbitration player, the Braves would have substantially greater payroll flexibility to cover over potential shortcomings in other areas.
That being said, I think that’s a gamble the Braves take. Wren seems justifiably confident in his ability to build and maintain a productive farm system, and the fact that the new CBA will no longer punish the Braves draft penny pinching ways quite as much bodes well for the future of the farm system. We can also take into account that if Bethancourt continues to mature into a highly valuable prospect, he could be traded to either bring in a missing piece, or more likely substantially bolster the farm system in areas of greater immediate need.
So, finally, let’s look at the exact dollar amounts that it would likely take to get it done. First we have to set the top and bottom of the market. Those two numbers are easy enough to set: McCann won’t take a paycut from his 2013 pay and no team is going to pay him more than the Twins shelled out for Mauer. That establishes his bottom number as $13 million and his top number as $23 million. Obviously however there is a lot of room between those two numbers.
First, I think we can attack the top number somewhat. Joe Mauer was also a hometown product (Born in St. Paul Minnesota), so many of the similarities between the two are stunning. However, I think that Mauer’s injury has scared some of the more skittish GMs, who might otherwise lavish money upon McCann, at least a little. Additionally, while McCann’s career numbers compare very favorably to Mauer’s, McCann hasn’t had a year like Mauer did in 2009, which was likely also overvalued by the Twins, because they seem to organizationally care a lot about batting average. I wouldn’t think McCann would be able to find much in excess of $19 million per on the free agency market. Especially since the Yankees seem content with a young catcher, the Red Sox seem to be going forward with Salty (interesting McCann gets blocked by Salty) and the Angels seem to be really high on Ianetta’s OBP. While all of thsoe are fluid situations, it likely precludes any of those teams from being able to fully just blow away the Braves offer. So, for now, let’s estimate the top of the market at $19 million.
At the bottom, I don’t see McCann taking anything under a $3 million raise from his option year on his current contract. So, we can then say the absolute bottom will likely be $15 million.
With a range of $15 million to $19 million, I’d expect that the Braves will first exercise their club option on McCann for 2013, then extend him midseason through 2018, for a total of 5 years, $80 million at $16 million per, with performance bonuses that could put him up to $18 million per.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides here. McCann will likely be leaving some money on the table, for stability and security. The Braves are taking a substantial risk that McCann will stay healthy and that their farm system will continue to provide the big club with several cheap younger players in future years. However, given the investments both parties have made in this relationship to this point, I don’t see any scenario (except substantial injury in the next year and a half) where both sides fail to agree to continue the relationship. I don’t even expect the dealings to be especially contentious.
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December 21, 2010 at 12:15 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves, Farm System, Interview, Player Analysis, Prospects
The day that I agreed to start writing for CAC, I knew that I’d be writing about Freddie Freeman within a week. It wasn’t because I have a man crush, obsession, or anything of the sort. Rather, it’s simply because he’s the one that everyone wants to know about.
Does he have power? Is he the next Jason Heyward or Andy Marte? Is he smart? What will his batting average be? Can he hold his own in the field? How’s his makeup?
These are all questions that I’ve been asked this off-season regarding Freeman from a variety of baseball fans through e-mail and Twitter (@kevinorris). While don’t I claim to have all of the answers, or any of them for that matter, the least that I can do is offer my opinion and insight.
For starters, I interviewed Freeman in August of 2009, shortly after his promotion to Double-A Mississippi. You can listen to 12 minute interview by clicking here (I highly recommend that you do so, especially the 22 seconds).
In my opinion, the interview went well. Freeman opened up more than most prospects do, and it’s important to remember that he was still just 19-years-old.
I’d like to preface my thoughts with the following: fans have a tendency to get their hopes up regarding prospects, but often times the numbers don’t translate right away. Just look at Jason Heyward. My goal isn’t to raise or lower expectations, rather provide a realistic opinion of what the future holds.
Freeman has continued to improve throughout his minor league career, and will likely fall in Baseball America’s Top 15 prospects next season. He hit for a career high .319 average in Triple-A Gwinnett last year, and we can assume that the Atlanta Front Office will give him the opportunity to start at first base next season.
From a physical stand point, he still has plenty of room to grow. He currently stands 6’5”, weighing 225 lbs. He’s clearly not the fastest player (13 career SB on 26 attempts), but he’s been doing his best to build muscle.
In our interview, Freeman calls himself a power hitter, so I’ve got no reason to believe that it’s the area of his game that he feels is his strong suit. All scouting reports indicate that he has the potential to his 30 home runs/season in his career, but I wouldn’t count on many more than that.
His batting average has improved throughout his career, and shouldn’t be much of an issue translating to the big leagues. Although he admits that he has a tendency to be aggressive at the plate, many young hitters struggle with walk rates in their first few seasons, simply because the quality of pitching is that much better.
Defensively, Freeman is sound at first base, and although he has a great arm, it’s often an unnecessary tool for a first baseman.
Overall, I think expectations are pretty high right now. Many fans expect him to hit over .300 with 20 HR and 80 RBI. To be honest, I think a more realistic line would be .280, 15 HR and an unpredictable amount of RBI (as with every player).
I think the closest comparison that could be made between Freeman and a current player is Billy Butler, a first baseman with the Kansas City Royals. Last year, Butler his .318 with 15 HR and 78 RBI, almost identical to what Freeman did in Gwinnett. In Butler’s rookie season he hit .292 with 8 HR and 52 RBI in 360 PA at the age of 21… the same age that Freddie will be entering next season.
I think that we’ve got something special on our hands, but let’s be sure to give it time. Leave your thoughts on Freeman in the comments below, or send me an e-mail at KevinOrris@CapitolAvenueClub.com. I’m excited to see your predictions for Freeman for next season and the years to come.
October 15, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Minor Leagues, Prospects
2009′s third rounder played his high school ball at Walker High School in Marietta, Georgia before going to Princeton, where he was met with rather pedestrian results. He has the stuff to be a front-line starting pitcher. He throws a mid-90′s fastball with good tailing action, an above-average change-up that he throws ~20 MPH slower than his fastball, and a developing slider that could be an average pitch. His 3/4 delivery generates the tailing action on his pitches. His ERA at Princeton in 2007 and 2008 was 4.88, though. You would expect a guy like Hale with good stuff to have better results against weak Ivy League competition. His command is spotty. When it’s on, he is. When it’s not he does things like post a 4.88 ERA in the Ivy League. In 16 innings for the Danville Braves this season, Hale posted a 1.12 ERA, a 0.750 WHIP, and a 12-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There’s a great deal of upside here, but he needs to get a lot better. Class A Rome will probably be Hale’s 2010 destination.
The Braves took Tyler Stovall in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft and signed him to a significantly over-slot bonus. He should’ve made the list last season, but injuries and oversight on my part kept him off my map. This season, with the Danville Braves, Stovall pitched 52 innings with a 3.12 ERA, a 1.769 WHIP, and a 57-to-56 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was the strangest of seasons. Stovall throws two above-average pitches right now, his fastball and curveball. However, he doesn’t trust his fastball (something I’ve dubbed “Clay Buchholz Syndrome”) and frequently uses his curveball as his primary pitch. Thus the 56 walks in 52 innings. He’s an athletic guy, which usually bodes well for control, so I don’t anticipate walks will be a huge problem going forward, he just needs to trust the fastball. Like Hale, he’s got the stuff to be a front-line starter. I imagine he’ll join Hale in Class-A Rome’s rotation in 2010.
Ortegano is a Venezuelan product that saw his stock increase as he made a seamless transition to the upper minors in 2009. In 117 and 1/3 innings between Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class-AA Mississippi, he posted a 3.22 ERA, a 1.159 WHIP, and a 101-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio. I wrote the following about him last year: “He’s a control guy, and he won’t ever miss enough bats to bee a Scott Kazmir, but his future is brighter than Chuck James’”. He’s gotten better and better as he’s progressed through the system and has a fairly good shot at making it to MLB. He’ll probably start the 2010 season at Mississippi, and with a good year there, he could find himself competing for a job out of 2011 Spring Training. Or even sooner. Though he doesn’t possess a whole lot of upside.
A little guy. 5’9″, 170 LB, and only 20 years old. But he somehow throws a 100-MPH fastball. Due to a funky delivery and lack of much to go with his heater, he’s strictly a relief prospect and has made all of his professional appearances in relief. In 2009, he pitched 59 innings between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and posted a 4.73 ERA, a 1.508 WHIP, and a 77-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The only thing that stands out about his game is his ability to strike batters out (thus the 100-MPH fastball). It’s easy to fall in love with this ability, but I’m skeptical as to whether or not it will translate into success in the upper minors or MLB. While his walk rate is alarming, he’s still one of the more interesting relief prospects in the system. There’s no need to rush him, and I think he’ll begin his 21-year old season at Myrtle Beach.
Cody Johnson was taken in the 1st round (24th overall) of the 2006 draft. Since then, he’s been impressing scouts and prospect huggers alike with his 80 raw power, but showing plenty of other limitations. In 2009, he hit .239/.342/.500 in 518 PA’s with 32 HR, 18 2B, 67 BB’s, and 180 K’s. He made marginal progress with his walk rate, but his contact rate is still miserable. People are generally impressed with power because it’s sexy, but striking out in nearly 35% of your PA’s won’t cut it. Major league hitters can be productive striking out that much, but we’re talking about a Class-A Advanced hitter. The contact issues lead me to question whether or not his bat will continue to play as he reaches the upper minors. He’s not a good fielder and will be limited to LF if he ever makes it to MLB. Still, there’s a great deal of upside here and he’s still very young, so don’t give up hope yet. If he could overcome his contact issues, he’d be in consideration for the various top-100 lists encompassing all of MiLB. Class-AA Mississippi is likely where he’ll begin the 2010 season.
2009 was sort of an 11th hour turn-around for Matt Young. He profiles as the typical left-handed hitting, lead-off, center fielder. In 2009, he increased his walk rate, posting a line of .284/.414/.403 with 5 HR, 10 3B, 23 2B, 97 BB’s, and 64 K’s in 600 PA’s between Class-AA Mississippi and Class-AAA Gwinnett. He also stole 43 bases in 60 attempts (71.67% success rate). I normally wouldn’t rank a player this old, much less at number 15, but the turn-around he experienced in 2009 was too much to ignore. With the glut of left-handed hitting outfielders with no power, I doubt he gets any shot at a big-league job out of spring training, but a promising 2010 season at Gwinnett could land him on a big-league roster (either the Braves’ or another) by late 2010.
Dimaster Delgado (aka “the other Delgado”) is a Panamanian import who has shown a great deal of promise with outstanding strikeout and walk rates throughout his minor league career. In 2009, for instance, he made 17 starts for the Class-A Rome Braves, posting a 3.61 ERA, a 1.154 WHIP, and a 104-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99 and 2/3 innings. It was an extremely good campaign for his first full season. He throws a high 80′s fastball, a decent show-me curveball, and a developing change-up. Developing that change-up will be key for him, as the curveball doesn’t figure to be an out-pitch further in his career. He locates all of his pitches very well. There’s not a great deal of upside here and scouts wonder if he’s not as good as his numbers, but three very good seasons in a row is too much to ignore. He’ll probably begin 2010 at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach.
2009′s polarizing first rounder (7th overall) was taken after three years at Vanderbilt and a pair of very impressive showings for Team USA. He throws a low-90′s fastball, a change-up that can be above-average at times, an average slider, and an average curveball. His 14 Class-A innings in 2009 aren’t particularly meaningful, but he did post a 0.64 ERA, a 0.714 WHIP, and struck out 17 batters while walking none. We’ll have more meaningful data and more scouting information after his AFL campaign, which kicked off two days ago as he allowed an unearned run on a hit and 2 walks in 2 innings, getting the start for Peoria Saguaros. His ceiling is probably that of a “number 3 starter” (I hate using that term), but he’s a polished college product and should advance through the system rather quickly.
Osuna is a Mexican pitcher who is utilized as a starter in the Braves’ system and a situational lefty in the Mexican League. Like Ortegano, he’s a soft-tossing lefty who locates his pitches. He made 27 appearances (26 starts) between Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class-AA Mississippi in 2009, posting a 4.02 ERA, a 1.273 WHIP, and a 105-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 150 innings. The dip in his strikeout rate is concerning, but he worked very efficiently in 2009, averaging over 5 and 2/3 innings per start. Like a lot of lefties, the question isn’t so much if he’ll make it to the big leagues, but when and as what. If he improves in 2010, his future could be rather bright as a starter. If not, he’ll probably be relegated to a relief role in the big leagues.
For the 2nd straight season, Brett DeVall, a 2008 compensation round pick, saw his season hampered by injuries. He totaled only 53 and 2/3 innings for the Class-A Rome Braves. The numbers were good, as he posted a 3.52 ERA, a 1.193 WHIP, and a 41-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those 53 and 2/3 innings. Still, concerns about his durability leave him out of the top-10. DeVall is a prototypical pitchability lefty, throwing a high-80′s fastball, a good change-up, and a solid curveball. Like Minor, his ceiling is probably a mid-rotation starter, but he’s younger and has more time to develop. The next step for DeVall is getting through an entire season without an injury. I don’t know if he’ll get that chance with the Class-A Rome Braves or Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 2010, but it will likely be one of the two.
October 14, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Minor Leagues, Prospects
Luis Sumoza signed out with the Red Sox of Venezuela and was later shipped to the Braves for Mark Kotsay in 2008. In 2009 he showed a lot more of why the Red Sox were willing to part with him than why the Braves were excited to acquire him. In 534 PA’s between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach he hit .265/.311/.353 with 4 HR, 2 3B, 28 2B, 31 BB, and 109 strikeouts. He stole 8 bases in 19 attempts. While he played good defense in right, his power completely disappeared. After hitting 11 HR and posting a .236 ISO in 2008, his .088 ISO and 4 HR are extremely measly. He’s still very young, he’ll be 21 next year, and he still has a great deal of upside, but he needs to do a better job of using his tools in game situations. He’ll probably begin the 2010 campaign at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, but don’t rule out a return to Rome.
2009 was not kind to Brandon Hicks. He spent the entire year at Class-AA Mississippi and was met with rather terrible results. In 534 PA’s he hit .237/.319/.373 with 10 HR, 4 3B, 25 2B, 53 BB’s, and 131 K’s. His contact rate actually improved from 2008, but his walk rate took a hit. Additionally, his power evaporated. He hit 20 HR with a .232 ISO in 2008 but only 10 HR wit a .136 ISO in 2009. Coming into 2009 the contact issues were there, but overshadowed by his excellent defense and plus power potential at SS. He performed well defensively, but with the power gone and contact issues only marginally improved, his stock is way down. There is still some potential, but the contact issues may be too great to overcome as he’ll be 24 in 2010. I imagine he’ll repeat Class-AA Mississippi in 2010. If he doesn’t improve in 2010 you can probably kiss his hopes of reaching the majors goodbye. He’ll also be joining others from this list in the Arizona Fall League, which started yesterday.
2009′s 20th rounder pitched three years at the University of Virginia with pretty crappy results for his stuff and approach. However, he turned in two solid Cape Cod League campaigns and the Braves’ scouts figured he’d play better against wooden bats. In 2009 he began to prove them right, posting a 4.09 ERA, a 1.303 WHIP, and a 42-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings for the Danville Braves. He never posted a K/9 > 7.0 in his college career, so the 11.5 is very encouraging, even if he was facing weaker competition in the Appy league than he did in the ACC. He’ll probably advance through the system rather quickly, but he’ll most likely report to Class-A Rome in 2010.
2009′s 8th rounder out of Community College did not fail to impress in his professional debut. In 174 PA’s between the Appy League and the GCL, he hit .293/.397/.354 with 1 HR, 1 3B, 4 2B, 20 BB’s, and 21 K’s. He also stole 27 bases in 31 attempts (87.10% success rate) and played excellent defense in Center Field. He isn’t going to hit for any power, but he displays an impressive approach at the plate. He has a chance to be the prototypical lead-off CF’er, good avg, OBP, tons of SB, and plus defense in center to off-set his lack of power.
The comp is Carl Crawford. Good average, good approach, a bit of pop, lots of speed, good defense, etc.. He hit .324/.401/.441 in 253 PA’s for the Rookie Danville Braves. He hit 2 HR, 5 3B, 10 2B, drew 27 walks and struck out only 22 times, and stole 19 bases in 21 attempts. Unlike Crawford, he possesses the arm to play Center or Right, where he mostly played in 2009. Harrilchak was the Braves’ 2009 14th rounder out of Elon University, where he posted a 1.109 OPS in his career. He also pitched, thus the good arm.
Brewer was a 14th rounder in 2007, but injuries limited him to 32 and 2/3 innings his first two seasons (all in 2007). He came back in 2009 as a 2o-year old and pitched 44 and 2/3 innings in the GCL, posting a 2.82 ERA, a 1.142 WHIP, and a 65-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Even though he was rather old for the league, Baseball America named him the number 17 prospect in the GCL. He throws a low-to-mid 90′s fastball and a good, tight curveball. He’s developing the change and command issues–leading to the 31 walks–hindered him a bit in 2009. I imagine he’ll be ready for a full-season assignment in 2010, so Class-A Rome is the logical destination.
Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg got the attention of a lot of bloggers after jumping off to a hot start at Danville. The 2009 16th rounder finished the year hitting .359/.411/.543 in 263 PA’s with 8 HR, 19 2B, 16 BB’s, and 37 K’s. It was certainly a good line, but his walk rate was, simply, bad and a lot of his power was batting average driven. The .184 ISO, for instance, is lower than fellow 1B prospect Gerardo Rodriguez posted in 2009. He has plus power potential, but defensively he’s limited to 1B. He was also rather old for the Appy League at 21. Displaying more secondary offense is what “RSF” needs to do in 2010. He’ll probably have to do it against South Atlantic League pitching. He just missed being ranked in Baseball America’s Appalachian League top-20.
2009′s 11th rounder put up one heck of a showing in Danville during his professional debut. He pitched 69 and 2/3 innings, posting a 1.42 ERA, a 0.890 WHIP, and a 85-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The numbers speak for themselves, but keep in mind Masters was old (21) for the league and faced stiffer competition at Western Carolina University for the past three years. He throws, and commands very well, a low-90′s fastball, but needs to develop his secondary stuff. He also just missed ranking in Baseball America’s Appalachian League top-20.
Oberholtzer was an 8th round pick in the 2008 draft and has gotten off to a great start of his professional career. He throws a high-80′s to low-90′s fastball with good life, an average curveball, and an average change-up. He walked only 6 hitters in 67 innings for the Danville Braves, displaying his exquisite control. He does a good job of holding runners, he fields his position, and he handles the bat well. As Baseball America says (he was ranked the 20th best prospect in the Appalachian League): Though he lacks a knockout pitch, the sum of his abilities gives him a chance to pitch at the back of a big league rotation. He’ll probably make his full-season debut in 2010–presumably with Rome. He profiles as the typical pitchability back-end lefty. I’m expecting good things from Oberholtzer in 2010.
There were a lot of things to like about what 2009′s 4th rounder did in his professional debut. Playing every day and batting 2nd for the Danville Braves, Jones hit .258/.337/.430 in 282 PA’s. He hit 4 HR, 6 3B, 18 2B, drew 26 BB’s, struck out 55 times, and stole 19 bases in 23 attempts. He was also good defensively at SS, displaying above-average range and an average arm. His walk rates and contact rates, while good, could stand to improve a bit. He displayed an advanced approach at the plate and impressive strike-zone knowledge. While he was rather old for the Appy league, there is still a lot to be encouraged by what he did and where he’s headed. Rome or Myrtle Beach will be his 2010 destination.
October 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Prospects
Selected in the 7th round of the 2008 draft out of Junior College, Paul Clemens made the most of his first professional year, making it all the way to Class-A Rome. His full season debut wasn’t nearly as strong, though. He posted a 5.91 ERA, a 1.805 WHIP, and a 64-to-49 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 85 and 1/3 innings. Clemens throws hard, touching 97 with his fastball, but he’s desperately in need of a secondary pitch. He also needs to refine his command. While the velocity is there, he doesn’t generate a lot of movement on his fastball. I imagine he’ll start 2010 at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, but don’t rule out a return to Rome, given the lousy results.
Travis Jones entered the year as the number 18 prospect in the organization, having become a rather interesting middle infielder. However, Jones struggled mightily after making the jump to the upper minors, posting a .249/.350/.355 line in 434 PA’s with the Class-AA Mississippi Braves. While his walk rates and contact rates remained the same as they were in 2008, his power completely disappeared, hitting only 5 home runs after belting 16 while playing his home games in the pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach stadium in 2008. What a difference a year makes. Though that’s probably misleading, as he’s probably just as good of a player but just can’t hit against upper minor-league pitching. I imagine he’ll repeat Class-AA next season, which might be his last shot at making it to the major leagues.
David Francis got a year older in 2009, but didn’t get a lot better. And now that the memory of his 16-strikeout, 6-inning no-hitter is a distant one, his prospect stature is fading. After advancing to a level more appropriate for his age in 2009, he failed to put up dazzling numbers, posting a 4.20 ERA, a 1.524 WHIP, and a 95-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 105 innings between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Generally, his secondary stuff didn’t make enough progress to succeed in full-season ball, but he also struggled with command. He’ll probably start 2009 at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach.
Yeliar Castro was signed as an international free agent out of Panama and 2009 was his 5th year in the Braves’ system. He throws hard (94 MPH), but his secondary pitch, a slurvy breaking ball, is so-so and he needs to refine his command. He’s advanced like a snail through the system, topping out at Class-A Advanced this season, which isn’t concerning thus far given his youth, but he’s finally at an age-appropriate level and needs to begin improving. He posted a 4.43 ERA, a 1.373 WHIP, and a 78-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 innings for the Rome Braves and Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 2009. He’ll likely return to Myrtle Beach to kick off the 2010 campaign.
Paulino was one of those guys who never really stood out enough to get much attention, but as he compiles innings, his results become more and more statistically significant. He’s now to the point of “prospect consideration”. He’s an international signing out of the Dominican Republic. Over the past three seasons, he’s compiled a 3.40 ERA, a 1.308 WHIP, and a 190-to-70 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 159 innings. I imagine he’ll start the 2010 season at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and will need to move to the upper minors at some point in 2010 to continue climbing the prospect rung. He could turn into one of the better relief prospects in the system.
Like many prospects–the Braves’ own Travis Jones included–Diamond struggled to adjust to the upper minors. His strikeout rate held steady, but his command suffered, causing his BB/9 to jump from 2.3 in 2008 to 3.6 in 2009. It also resulted in his being generally more hittable, allowing 10.4 hits per 9 innings after allowing 2 fewer in 2008. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, so lapses in command can be detrimental. I believe he’ll repeat Class-AA in 2010, a crucial year for him.
Rodriguez was originally signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic, but released before the 2008 season, for which the Braves signed him. Last season, in 501 PA’s between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, he hit .269/.315/.487 (.218 ISO) with 23 HR, 7 3B, 18 2B, 27 BB’s, and 141 K’s. He’s the typical lower-minors power-hitter. Lots of XBH and K’s, few walks and a low average. There are definite contact and plate discipline issues he needs to sort out, but his plus power potential gets him on the list. It’ll probably be Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach for Gerardo Rodriguez to start off the 2010 campaign.
Gearrin was a difficult one to rank. There’s a lot to be encouraged by what he did in 2009, but he was 23 years old and cracking the upper minor leagues for the first time. He’s a former fourth round pick, but he doesn’t possess a ton of upside–having been used exclusively as a reliever in his professional career. He displayed fantastic control, walking only 1.8 hitters per 9 innings and posted generally good numbers–peripherals included–a 2.30 ERA, a 0.951 WHIP, and a 52-to-11 strikeout to walk ratio in 54 and 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class AA Mississippi. In general, there’s a lot to like about him, but not a lot to love. It’ll probably be Mississippi again for Gearrin to begin the 2010 season.
Palica had a nice 2009 season and may be looking at a breakout season in 2010. He pitched 61 and 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class AA Mississippi with a 3.23 ERA, a 1.288 WHIP, and a 68-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s hard not to be somewhat optimistic about a 21-year old lefthander reaching AA, but he’s strictly a reliever at this point, his numbers weren’t wowing (they were certainly solid, but not wowing), and he regressed a bit in AA. If he can hold his own at AA, where he’ll begin the 2010 season, he may be looking at competing for a big-league job out of Spring Training in 2011.
Tyrelle Harris had a fairly disappointing College career at the University of Tennessee, but the stuff was there to be a successful big-leaguer. He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 draft and he began to show his talent in his first professional season, posting a 1.04 ERA, a 0.865 WHIP, and a 24-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 and 1/3 innings between Danville and Rome. I don’t know what the Braves will do with their high-upside 23-year old in 2010, but I imagine it will either be Rome or Myrtle Beach. The fact that he got such a late start to his professional career–leaving no time for his development to miss a beat–keeps him from ranking higher on this list.
Starting October 17th, you can view the entire top-40 list here.
October 3, 2009 at 4:37 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Farm System, Minor Leagues, Prospects
Number 40: J. J. Hoover- RHP (21) 6′3″ 215 LB
Hoover was, perhaps, the most valuable starter for the Rome Braves in 2009. Being the most valuable starter for any Atlanta Braves’ minor-league affiliate is usually an honor, but this one is particularly meaningful considering the rotation included, at some point, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Brett DeVall, Zeke Spruill, Dimaster Delgado, Paul Clemens, Richard Sullivan, and Mike Minor. There was more pitching talent on the Rome Braves this year than any other Braves’ minor-league affiliate, and Hoover was their horse. Hoover posted a 3.35 ERA, a 1.191 WHIP, and a 148-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134 and 1/3 innings for the Class Single-A Rome Braves. He also got a “cup of coffee” with the Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans and pitched 3 innings. He showed plenty of polish, as he should for a 22-year-old playing in the South Atlantic League. He’s one of those prospects who are difficult to gauge, but overall, with his excellent, yet un-astonishing, performance in 2009, he’s moved himself from the “fringe prospect/filler” category to “on the prospect map”. There’s a good chance he’ll crack the top-2o when I finalize my rankings.
Number 39: Michael Mehlich – RHP (21) 6′2″ 180 LB
It was a rough year, statistically speaking, for Michael Mehlich. He posted a 6.82 ERA, a 1.686 WHIP, and a 55-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 and 2/3 innings between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach. His walk rate, HR/9, and H/9 all climbed this season while his K/9 dipped significantly. This, of course, resulted in overall ineffectiveness. For review, Mehlich is very raw and new to pitching. He was a 2-sport standout in high school and never pitched before he was drafted. I won’t know how to properly evaluate his season until I talk to some knowledgeable people about his progress, but the result likely isn’t good. Though with a good review, he could be top-30.
Number 38: Thomas Palica – LHP (21) 6′3″ 215 LB
Thomas Palica had another impressive season and has officially joined the ranks of the many relief prospects in the upper minors of the Braves’ system. Palica, in 61 and 1/3 innings between Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class-AA Mississippi, posted a 3.23 ERA, a 1.288 WHIP, and a 68-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His strikeout rate is slightly down from last year and his walk rate is slightly up, though not enough to cause concern. Overall, a very good building season. If next season goes as well as 2009 did, Palica could find himself fighting for a big-league job out of Spring Training in 2011.
Number 37: Brett Oberholtzer – LHP (19) 6′2″ 190 LB
Brett Oberholtzer had an excellent season for the Danville Braves, pitching 67 innings in 12 starts with a 2.01 ERA, a 0.776 WHIP, and a 56-to-6(!) strikeout-to-walk ratio. He pitched well enough to be named Baseball America’s 20th best prospect in the Appalacian League. The control specialist allowed only 1 HR in his 12 starts. He showed that he may be capable of being more than just an innings-eater and certainly increased his prospect stock. He may rank in the top-20, but he’ll most likely miss the cut.
Number 36: Van Pope -3B (25) 6’0″ 200 LB
Sucked. In 368 PA’s with AAA-Gwinnett, he hit .202/.279/.286/.565. He played some great defensive 3B, but he’s 25 years old and he probably isn’t ever going to hit. Verdict: Bust.
Number 35: Diory Hernandez – 2B (25) 5’11″ 175 LB
Diory Hernandez led the minors in hitting for awhile, hitting .355 at AAA Gwinnett before he was called up to replace Omar Infante as the utility infielder with the big club. He was terrible with the Atlanta Braves, but posted a final line of .319/.399/.422 at AAA, which isn’t so bad. He’s 25 years old and will likely never be more than a spare part. He played horrible defense and hit .141/.198/.212 in 93 PA’s with the big club. His outlook would probably be better if he hadn’t exposed himself in MLB this year.
Number 34: Jacob Thompson – RHP (22) 6′6″ 215 LB
Bad year for Jacob Thompson. He pitched 154 and 2/3 innings between Class-A Rome and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach. In those 154 and 2/3 innings, Thompson posted a 4.25 ERA, a 1.409 WHIP, and a 119-to-56 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Strikeouts are down, walks are up, and hits are up. Basically, he took a step backwards in every important category this year. That doesn’t bode well for his ranking and he’ll most likely be off this year’s top-4o.
Number 33: Kyle Cofield – RHP (22) 6′5″ 190 LB
It amazes me how Kyle Cofield is able to prevent runs. This year he pitched 140 and 2/3 innings for the Class-AA Mississippi Braves and posted a 3.90 ERA despite a 1.500 WHIP and a 87-to-89(!) strikeout-to-walk ratio. A high strand rate and the fact that 13 of the 74 runs he surrendered were scored “unearned” deflates his ERA, but his phereprials tell the real story. He didn’t show much this year and his prospect stock is way down.
Number 32: Dimaster Delgado – RHP (20) 6′2″ 180 LB
Dimaster Delgado did an excellent job of building on his solid 2007 and 2008 campaigns, making 17 starts for the Class-A Rome Braves. In those starts, he posted a 3.61 ERA, a 1.154 WHIP, and a 104-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The solid across the board season has increased Delgado’s prospect stock and he’ll likely make the top-20 in the new rankings.
Number 31: Paul Clemens – RHP (21) 6′4″ 170 LB
Paul Clemens had a very bad 2009 season. In 85 and 1/3 innings for the Class-A Rome Braves, he posted a 5.91 ERA, a 1.805 WHIP, and a 64-to-49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Every one of his phereprials took a step backwards. The 7th rounder isn’t off the prospect map, but his performance won’t warrant much consideration for anything beyond his current position in the rankings.
View the complete top 40 list here.
September 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Farm System
Update 3:45 PM
I’ve read two articles that have been very good and I have to link to them here:
With a Braves loss and a Rockies win last night, the Rockies’ magic number is now 3. By the same token, the Braves’ elimination number is 3. That is–the total number of Rockies wins and Braves losses for the rest of the year can’t equal 3 for the Braves to make the post-season or play game 163 to get to the post-season. In fact, here’s a chart of what has to happen in order to get to the post-season:
|To Tie After 162|
|To Lead After 162|
Things aren’t looking too rosy, though hope endures. The position the Braves are in is still the same. They still have to keep winning and hope the Rockies stumble. The urgency of the matter is much greater, though. The good news is the pitching match-ups seem favorable the rest of the way. It’ll be Javier Vazquez vs. Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Hanson vs. Garrett Mock, Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez (again, thank god), Jair Jurrjens vs. Ross Detwiler, and Tim Hudson vs. J.D. Martin. If the Braves can force a 1-game playoff, Javier Vazquez would face Jason Hammel (or Aaron Cook on short rest). Per the new rules, the Braves would host the 1-game playoff since they tied the season series and own the better record in their division.
The Rockies will throw Jason Hammel vs. Jeff Suppan tonight, Aaron Cook vs. Manny Parra tomorrow, Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Randy Wolf on Friday, Jorge De La Rosa vs. Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, and Jason Marquis vs. Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday. The Dodgers have the on-paper advantage in every game of the series if they decide they want to play to win. Whether they do or not is to be seen.
Like I said, all you can do is win and hope. And try to make this flip up-side down.
Pretty much a 2-horse race at this point. Man, 2.0 out looks a lot better than 3.0 out. And 1.0 out would look even better. Perhaps the Braves will be 2.0 out by tonight. I don’t think they’ll lose another game. You’d really like to get it to 2.0 games heading into the Nationals series. 2.0 out with 4 left is a much better position than 3.0 out with 4 left.
Nolasco has a 5.17 ERA in the month of September and a career 5.o2 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) against the Braves. Javier Vazquez has a 1.93 ERA in September, but a 5.88 ERA against the Marlins this year. Hopefully he gets back on track. The Marlins match-up well with Vazquez because they’re aggressive hitters and Vazquez lives in the zone. A lot of Braves hitters have high career OPS’s against Nolasco. Chipper Jones (1.649), Brian McCann (1.224), Yunel Escobar (1.158), Matt Diaz (1.264), Martin Prado (1.000), Greg Norton (1.400), Gregor Blanco (1.000), and Ryan Church (.939).
Nolasco’s best pitch is his slider (12.2 RAA). With that, we’ll do stat of the day.
Stat of the Day
wSL. How well the starting 8 hit the slider.
Nolasco’s pitch is more of a cutter/slider than a true slider anyway, so I don’t feel like this has much predictive value. I know the Braves have taken care of Nolasco and I expect them to continue today.
Tentative Top 10
I’ve started ranking the prospects and I’ve come up with my tentative top-10 list. There’s a good chance something changes before I come out with my top 40. But here’s what I’ve got at the moment.
1. Jason Heyward
2. Julio Teheran
3. Freddie Freeman
4. Randall Delgado
5. Brett DeVall
6. Craig Kimbrel
7. Cole Rohrbough
8. J. J. Hoover
9. Tyler Stovall
10. Adam Milligan
Before you ask, Mike Minor would be number 11 and Zeke Spruill would be number 12. That’s all I’ve got so far. I miss minor league baseball.
Rafael Soriano 100 Strikeout Watch
Rafael Soriano is now at 96 strikeouts. He wasn’t used tonight so he should be available tomorrow night. Now, only 4 away, it seems likely that Soriano will reach the century mark.
Other “races” include:
- Brian McCann 100-RBI watch.
- Peter Moylan home-run watch. Peter Moylan has broken the Braves single-season appearances record and is yet to allow a home run. If he finishes the season without allowing a home run, he’ll hold the record for most appearances in a season without allowing a home-run.
- Javier Vazquez xFIP watch. He’s at 2.93 and Lincecum is at 2.94. Will Vazquez finish the season leading the league in xFIP?
- Chipper 20-homer watch. If Chipper hits 2 more homers (I hope he hits 5 more) over the final 5 games, he’ll become the 1st player in MLB history to hit 20 or more home runs every year for the first 15 years of an MLB career*. Chipper’s currently tied with Eddie Matthews with 14.
*Hank Aaron hit 20 or more home runs for an astonishing twenty years, but he only hit 13 home runs in 509 PA’s his rookie year, so he doesn’t qualify for this list. Hank Aaron is tied with many at the bottom of the list with zero.
I’ve refrained from discussing this topic in this space for awhile now. I’ve wanted to bring it up for a month, but figured it’d be better to see them finish the season. I don’t suppose a player’s value tremendously dips or skyrockets over the final 5 games, so I guess it’s appropriate to bring it up here. Here’s a list of everyone who could possibly be considered team MVP:
- Brian McCann
- Yunel Escobar
- Martin Prado
- Chipper Jones
- Matt Diaz
- Javier Vazquez
- Jair Jurrjens
- Rafael Soriano
- Peter Moylan
I’ll list their WAR:
Vazquez is clearly the most valuable pitcher. Whether or not Yunel or McCann has been more valuable is debatable. Fangraphs doesn’t know how to handle Catcher’s defense so it just doesn’t include it. It’s admirable that they’ll admit they don’t know what to do, but ignoring it all together is a lousy solution. No doubt McCann’s WAR would suffer if his defensive performance were included. Secondly, UZR rates Yunel worse than he performs. +/- has Yunel at +10 runs while UZR has him at merely average. That’s a full win right there.
Apart from Vazquez, McCann, and Yunel, there isn’t another suitable candidate. Matt Diaz and Martin Prado haven’t played enough. Relievers don’t pitch enough innings to have major impact. And Chipper and Jurrjens haven’t been good enough.
There are arguments that a starting pitcher shouldn’t be a MVP because he only participates in ~20% of the games. It’s not a bad argument. And if you buy into that, the decision is, in my eye, is between Yunel and McCann.
That’s all I got.
We need a miracle.