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 1, 2009 at 10:33 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Defense, Draft, Front Office, Statistical Analysis
Ravens 24 at Patriots 23
Buccaneers 10 at Redskins 11
Titans 17 at Jaguars 20
Raiders 10 at Texans 27
Lions 3 at Bears 13
Bengals 31 at Browns 9
Seahawks 17 at Colts 27
Giants 31 at Chiefs 6
Jets 24 at Saints 31
Bills 35 at Dolphins 31
Cowboys 31 at Broncos 14
Rams 10 at 49ers 21
Chargers 17 at Steelers 21
Packers 31 at Vikings 30
The title says it all. The best the Braves can do at this point is tie. With a strange loss last night and a Rockies win, the Braves are 4 back with 4 to play. Their elimination number is one. Here’s the chart to illustrate:
|To Tie After 162|
It’s a shame the Braves will probably be eliminated, because they’re a good team. But this run has been fun, no question.
Gaffe Last Night
I’d like to make a few comments on the 2nd biggest base running gaffe in Braves’ history. First of all, you can’t hate Matt Diaz no matter how bad of a mistake it is. Matt Diaz is too like-able of a guy. I’m glad it was a like-able guy because the fans and front-office won’t overreact and condemn the player for one play despite all of his good work. Kelly Johnson, for instance, isn’t an extremely like-able guy, though I suppose he is as like-able as the next guy. But because he’s not a super-like-able guy, his reputation has never recovered from the “dropped pop-up“. Because it’s impossible for Matt Diaz to do wrong, his reputation won’t be extremely tarnished from one play.
Secondly, Bobby Cox states after the game:
I haven’t seen too many end like that — and Matty’s our best base runner.
Well, Matt Diaz has cost the Braves more runs on the base paths than anyone on the team except the departed Casey Kotchman, Chipper Jones, David Ross, and Brian McCann. None of their EQBRR’s are below -3 (except Kotchman, who is a painfully bad base runner. PAINFUL) and this is largely a function of the opportunity to cost runs (i.e. times on base). And of course, the team leader, Omar Infante, has just over 2 EQBRR, so we’re not talking a ton of difference here. I mean, all together this is a very bad base running team. But Baseball Prospectus thinks Matt Diaz is below-average on the base paths, and 29th of 33 Braves. So you know what my position on Diaz’s base running probably is*. But let’s assume, for a second, that Bobby Cox doesn’t check the Baseball Prospectus EQBRR numbers as frequently as I do.
*It’s actually a lot better than 29th of 33. Diaz, I had always thought, was good at taking the extra base and just sort of “heads up” base running moves. This year he’s tried to steal more and his 70.59% success rate hurts him a bit. He’s also made a gaffe or two, like last night. But I don’t think the numbers necessarily represent Diaz’s actual value, here. Though any way you slice it, he isn’t a significantly above-average base runner.
What makes him think Diaz is the best base runner? Him and Nate McLouth both have identical SB-CS numbers (12-5), but McLouth has accomplished it in 50 fewer PA’s. They lead the team in SB. Kelly Johnson’s 7-for-9 in SB (77.78%), Chipper and McCann’s 4-for-5 (80.00%), and the four players that have stolen a base but haven’t been caught–Omar Infante (2), Gregor Blanco (2), Garret Anderson (1), and Reid Gorecki (1)–are all better SB success rates than Matt Diaz’s 70.59%.
I know “the best” and “the most valuable” don’t always equal, otherwise clubs wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on the development of their prospects, but I think the evidence is pretty clear that Matt Diaz is not the Braves’ best base runner.
But this brings up a bigger point. The Braves are horrible at running the bases. When your manager, and one of the best all time, mistakes the 29th most valuable base runner for the best, you simply, as a whole, are indistinguishable and overwhelmingly mediocre. The Braves are currently, and will finish at best, 28th in baseball with -13.536 EQBRR. I discussed earlier the impact of base running and concluded that if you’re looking to build an offense around base running and that’s the only feature of the offense, the offense will fail. To that end, I don’t suggest the Braves go out of their way to fix their base running problems by acquiring players to improve base running at the expense of another area. It’s absolutely easier to win with the 28th best EQBRR than the 28th OBP or SLG% or AVG or ERA or Home Runs or Home Runs Allowed etc…
But I think it should be Jeff Porter’s mission to have all of the players on a diet and work-outs geared towards getting faster next year. It theoretically helps defensively and with regards to base running. The Braves two biggest weaknesses of the four major categories (Pitching, Defense, Hitting, Base Running) are defense (the Braves are 19th in defensive efficiency) and base running.
I concluded earlier that the way the Braves are configured, they’re not in a position to add an impact defender. Their only conceivable positions to add a player are 1B and corner OF, you’re not going to get an ultra-valuable defensive player at either of those positions. So, if they want to get better defensively, they’re probably going to have to do it internally (using more favorable alignments and a commitment from the players to get better individually and focus more). By the same token, base running isn’t an important enough category to justify adding an impact player at the expense of adding an impact player in another category. So to get better on the base paths, the Braves are probably going to have to just do it themselves. And I think Jeff Porter needs to step in here and have the players commit to being in better condition next year. For the sake of defense and base running.
Of course, this also begs the question, should Brian Snitker be fired? And you all know my position on that issue. (In case you don’t, the answer is a “yes”).
Thoughts on Closers
When asked what I thought about the possibility of bringing in a free agent non-closer and letting him try to close, this was my response:
I like the idea of bringing in someone who hasn’t closed before (or in awhile). Paying market rate for closers is the fastest way to add a bad contract to your team. See this year: Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, B.J. Ryan, Kerry Wood, and Brian Fuentes. All of these pitchers were significantly less valuable than their contract and they were all either signed as free agents or locked up at market-rates before they hit free agency. The list of economically successful post-FA closers is much smaller. Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman (but for the deal he signed, he’s hardly being paid market-rate for a closer).
So if you want to shore up the bullpen, paying market rate for a free agent seems like the worst way to do it. That leaves a) paying less than market rate for a closer on the FA market, b) acquiring a non-closer like you suggested, or c) making a trade for a reliever. I’d hate to give up prospects for a reliever, although a spare part (Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church, etc..) for a reliever could work.
Otherwise, you’re left with scrap heap closers, the type of acquisition you pray will work out and rarely does, and those that never got the opportunity to close. And if you’re good with your scouting and research, you might be able to find someone who is just as capable as the best reliever on the market (the one who is being well overpaid to close games for the Cubs) from the group of FA RP’s that have never closed.
Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t. There’s inherent risk every time you bring in a new RP, regardless of whether or not they’ve closed before. RP’s are so volatile in the first place that you assume risk with each pitcher you acquire. There’s always that chance that they injure themselves or forget how to get outs. I think there’s more uncertainty in the bullpen than any other position in baseball. Teams cycle through relievers, discard them and recall them at their whims. That’s because they accept the risk and choose to get by riding the hot hand rather than devote resources there.
John Schuerholz understood this perhaps better than anyone. In the age of relievers getting huge contracts and closers being paid like DH’s, Schuerholz never committed long-term to something as volatile as a relief pitcher. As well he shouldn’t have. Look at all the different single-season saves leaders (and others that saved at least 10 games) during the playoff run:
1991 – Juan Berenguer – 17 (Alejandro Pena – 11)
1992 – Alejandro Pena – 15
1993 – Mike Stanton – 27 (Greg McMichael – 19)
1994 – Greg McMichael – 21
1995 – Mark Wholers – 25
1996 – Mark Wholers – 39
1997 – Mark Wholers – 33
1998 – Kerry Lightenberg – 30
1999 – John Rocker – 38
2000 – John Rocker – 24 (Mike Remlinger – 12, Kerry Lightenberg – 12)
2001 – John Rocker – 19 (John Smoltz – 10)
2002 – John Smoltz – 55
2003 – John Smoltz – 45
2004 – John Smoltz – 44
2005 – Chris Retisma – 15 (Dan Kolb – 11, Kyle Farnsworth – 10)
That’s 12 people that saved at least 10 games in 15 seasons. There was zero stability there. So whoever says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win is full of it. And someone who says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win in the post-season is even stupider. The Braves made the post-season 14 consecutive times. And the three years that the best closer they’ve ever had was closing games for them, they lost in the post-season, too.
I should add that I think keeping everyone on the pitching staff except Soriano and Gonzalez is the correct decision. Whether that sends Lowe, Kawakami, Hudson, or whoever to the bullpen, I don’t care, but the invaluable rotation depth is something the Braves should value and preserve at all costs. Even that of the bullpen. If you’ve got enough resources to bring in a 1B or corner OF and you can bring in some bullpen help, then you go cowering through the trade market and free agents searching for a bargain bullpen arm. But that’s the last thing you add.
- Brian McCann is still at 92 RBI.
- Chipper Jones is still at 18 HR.
- Peter Moylan is still at 85 appearances and still hasn’t allowed a Home Run.
- Rafael Soriano still has 96 strikeouts.
- Javier Vazquez still leads Tim Lincecum 2.90 to 2.93 in xFIP.
At Least the Nationals are here
But it doesn’t really matter. Nothing like playing a meaningless game with the Nationals again. The Braves played so many of them last year (18) and only managed to win 6 of them. And who knows, maybe the Braves improve their draft order. They’d pick 23rd if the season ended now, so here are the teams the Braves could potentially overtake in the draft standings over the next few days:
San Francisco, Florida, and Texas have been eliminated, but the Tigers still have to clinch the AL Central (they could do so with a win against Minnesota today). So there’s probably a decent chance the Braves will pick 22nd or even 21st. The best-case scenario is would be 19th. Regardless, they’re not getting a protected 1st rounder, so I wouldn’t advise signing Type A Free Agents that have been offered arbitration by another club.
Fixing a Hole
As much as I ramble about defense and base running, the Braves’ biggest hole for over a year now is the absence of a right-handed power hitter. Jeff Francoeur was supposed to be that person and, well, that didn’t work. It looks like the Braves will make fixing this hole a priority this off-season. Per David O’Brien:
As it relates to Braves, you should presume Braves will focus on right-handed power bats, not another lefty. They’re serious about getting a right-handed bat, from what I hear. Not lefty.
He also goes on to dismiss the notion that the Braves should push for Chone Figgins (a stupid suggestion in the first place).
Who doesn’t love Chone Figgins’ game and think he could help their team? But the Braves want to add a power bat, and he’s not that. He’s many things, but not a big power hitter.
I think it’s good that the Braves are looking to fill their need. The two most logical targets, though, are Paul Konerko and Derrek Lee, two players with no-trade clauses and players whose teams don’t match up well with the Braves for a potential trade. Perhaps they add a OF. I hope they don’t go with Jermaine Dye. I can’t take another year of bad OF defense.
Elias Rankings Update
Remember when I said Hudson is a Type B? Forget I ever said that. The rankings were wrong. He’s not a Type B and likely won’t be. Not that it’s of huge impact. Everything else is correct.
That’s all I got.
September 25, 2009 at 1:35 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Draft, Farm System, Minor Leagues, Series Preview
Elias Rankings Update
The new Elias Rankings are out courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
- Adam LaRoche remains a Type B and puts some distance between him and the “no-status” status.
- Garret Anderson, against all odds, remains a Type B by a fairly large margin.
- Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano remain in no jeopardy of falling out of Type A status.
- Tim Hudson may have an outside shot at achieving Type B status, but he’s a fairly large ways away (Tim’s at 53.333 points, Pelfrey, the highest on the list who isn’t a Type B, is at 58.409, and the lowest Type B, John Lannan (whom Kelly has a career 1.133 OPS against, gotta squeeze in the agenda!), is at 60.00).
We Swept ‘Em Back-to-Back
Two straight sweeps of the Mets. Not that this deserves any bragging, as it’s probably easy to beat the Mets without Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, J. J. Putz, and Johan Santana. But it still feels good to sweep the Mets. Always. Never gets old.
Right at 12%. That’s pretty much all wild-card at this point. Perhaps I just cursed the Braves who head into a 10-game stretch where they play 3 at Washington, 3 vs Florida, and 4 more vs Washington. We’ll hope the Braves don’t read this site and try to prove me wrong.
Getting down to it, though, the Braves need to win 10 of their last 10. Seriously, running the table is pretty much the only option. After Colorado lost last night*, they sit at 86-67 and the Braves 82-70. If the Braves go 10-0, they’ll be at 92-70, the inverse of last year’s record. All Colorado has to do is go 6-3 over their final 9 to force a 1-game playoff and 7-2 to win the wild-card. Perhaps the Braves have help on the way, though. Colorado’s final 9 games feature 3 vs. St. Louis, 3 vs. Milwaukee, and 3 @ Los Angeles. There’s a good chance that the Rockies win less than 5 of their final 9. So the Braves chances are still alive. You’ve just gotta run the table.
*Good lord, about time the Rockies lost**. It’s annoying. Earlier in the year, the Braves were on a huge streak and gained no ground on the Phillies. It’s the same story here. Every time the Braves go on their streak, seems like someone else ahead of them follows suit. The only option is to go on an unattainably long hot streak.
**I wrote this post yesterday and the Rockies had just lost their first to the Padres. The Rockies have since lost again, putting the Braves in an even better position.
And you’ve gotta start tonight in Washington.
The Pitching match-ups include Javier Vazquez vs. John Lannan, Tommy Hanson vs. Garrett Mock, and Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez. I like the Braves in all 3 of those. It’s important to take them 1 at a time, though. Meanwhile, the Rockies will be pitted against the likes of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Kyle Lohse this weekend. It’s a great opportunity to gain some ground.
The Braves have the best chance of any team of overtaking the Rockies. It’d take a trick they themselves have pulled to overtake them, though (the Braves have won 11 of 13. The Rockies won 21 of 22 to get to the World Series. The Braves need to win 20-21 of their final 23).
Earlier, Christian Bethancourt was named the GCL’s number 1 prospect. I didn’t report it because I don’t know anything about GCL players, usually. Baseball America followed up with their Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects. The Cartagena Kid was ranked number 1. Danville also won the Appy league, so it would stand to reason they would have a few in the top 20. Last year’s 2nd rounder, Tyler Stovall, ranked 16th on their list. 2009 4th rounder–Mycal Jones, a toolsy college SS, hit .258 with 19 SB (4 CS), 4 HR, and a .767 OPS, enough to rank 17th on the list. Brett Oberholtzer (LHP), a 2008 8th rounder, also cracked the top-20. The article also mentions two break-out performers who didn’t crack the list:
Two of Danville’s first-year pros made a huge impact in the Appy League but just missed the cut. First baseman and league MVP Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, a 16th-round pick from Nova Southeastern (Fla.), hit .359 to win the batting title, and his strength and knowledge of the strike zone portend a bright future. Lefthander Chris Masters, an 11th-round pick from Western Carolina, led the league with 85 strikeouts in 70 innings and narrowly missed winning the ERA title at 1.42. He expertly spots an 87-92 mph fastball but needs to refine his secondary stuff.
Games Last Night
Even though the Braves didn’t play, I watched some baseball last night. First the Padres-Rockies. That game was pretty crazy. Then the Giants-Cubs, that one was even crazier. Let’s just take a look at the Win Probability Graphs. First Rockies-Padres:
And the Cubs-Giants:
It was a great day for Braves baseball even if they were off. The Rockies lose (and now have 9 games against tough opponents), the Cubs win (so the Cardinals have to play at least one meaningful game against the Rockies), and the Giants lost, putting them behind the Braves in the Wild Card standings. Great day.
Packers 34 at Rams 17
Redskins 21 at Lions 10
49ers 20 at Vikings 21
Falcons 34 at Patriots 35
Titans 10 at Jets 17
Chiefs 3 at Eagles 33
Giants 31 at Buccaneers 17
Browns 3 at Ravens 24
Jaguars 21 at Texans 38
Bears 17 at Seahawks 16
Saints 38 at Bills 35
Steelers 27 at Bengals 0
Broncos 9 at Raiders 10
Dolphins 17 at Chargers 34
Colts 27 at Cardinals 21
Panthers 35 at Cowboys 34
I’ve already done Kelly Johnson Fan Club for the upcoming series and I feel like I should be diverting more attention towards getting the Braves in the playoffs (like I can have any impact…) and less to my “KJ needs more playing time” agenda. Although I think the two would probably correlate. So that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s beat the Nationals tonight, and tomorrow, and Sunday!
September 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Stat Leaders
Hey! A win! And Derek Lowe was pitching! Weird. Of course, it wasn’t an unusual Lowe win, as he allowed 11 baserunners in 5 and 2/3 innings. He’s got to get it together.
Heyward Named Minor League Player of the Year
We had already learned that USAToday named Jason Heyward their minor league player of the year, but Baseball America has followed suit. That’s good to see. Heyward certainly deserved it. Here’s a few quotes from the article:
And unlike Francoeur, who struggled in his first exposure to Double-A in 2004, Heyward has thrived. In fact, he improved after moving up from high Class A Myrtle Beach to Double-A Mississippi, batting .336/.434/.605 with seven home runs there after batting .296/.369/.519 with 10 homers for the Pelicans.
Taken together—his .314/.399/.557 overall performance in his second full season, plus his ascension into the role of future franchise cornerstone—Heyward was an easy choice as Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, a singular distinction for a singular talent.
“We’re always looking for weaknesses we can develop. In all honesty, I’ve spent two months looking for things we can work on, and it sounds crazy, but I can’t find any,” Wellman said. “That’s a credit to his ability to make adjustments. He’s very cerebral. He’ll strike out twice on changeups, and I’ll say, ‘Now maybe there’s something.’ And the next time up, he’ll hit a 2-0 changeup 500 feet.
In spite of the surface similarities between Heyward and Francoeur, when you break it down, differences are there. The biggest by far comes in their approach at the plate. Francoeur is one of the game’s great free swingers, with just 132 career walks in 2,819 plate appearances. He has struck out 503 times.
Heyward? Not so much.
In fact, scouts had difficulty pinning down his skills as a hitter when he was in high school because so many opponents pitched around him—and he rarely went fishing for balls out of the zone. For this, Braves scouting director Roy Clark will be eternally grateful, because it allowed Heyward to slip to the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft.
They also include a chart of players stats during their 2nd full season, comparing Heyward to the likes of Gary Sheffield, Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and our own Chipper Jones. Heyward’s numbers are the most impressive of the bunch. Congratulations to the farm’s crown jewel. He’s made us proud this season.
Which One Would You Rather Have?
Of the following two players, which would you rather have in your starting line-up?:
Player A is Martin Prado. Player B is Kelly Johnson. Speaking of Kelly Johnson.
Kelly Johnson Fan Club
Kelly has started 12 games since he came off of the disabled list. The Braves are 10-2 in those games and averaging 7.25 runs per game. Kelly had a good performance last night, reaching base 3 times in five tries via a single, a double, and a walk. He boosted his post-DL OPS to .903 with his strong showing last night. Keep him in the line-up!
Wild Card Standings
I suppose this will be the last time I post the wild card standings. I said to myself I’d keep doing it until the Braves are mathematically eliminated, but let’s be honest, they might as well be mathematically eliminated. Here goes:
No fucking comment.
Protected Draft Pick Race
If the Braves plan on signing a Type A free agent, they might want to start tanking. They need one of the 15 worst records–between 16th and 30th best records in the league–to secure a protected draft pick. That is, the draft pick isn’t eligible to compensate a club for signing a Type A free agent of theirs. The Braves are currently tied with the Rays and Cubs for the 12th best record. Here’s what those standings look like:
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, so hopefully the Rays, Cubs, Twins, and Mariners start winning some games. Check out how freakishly similar (or identical) the Tampa Bay and Atlanta lines are.
Stat of the Day: EqBRR
Equivalent Baserunning Runs, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, is a metric that takes in every baserunning event and converts it to an equivalent number of “runs”. Remember ~10 runs is a win. Basically, this metric allows you to see how valuable each player has been on the basepaths. Other methods, like stolen bases, fall short. Stolen Bases don’t account for non-base-stealing baserunning events and don’t subtract value when you’re caught stealing. It isn’t a perfect metric, but it’s close. I’ve created a few charts. First we have the top-10 most valuable baserunners, a snip, and the most valuable Braves baserunner surrounded by the most proximate places on the master list:
When your most valuable baserunner a) is a utility player, b) has been out for a good portion of the year, and c) is #51 on the list, your team sucks at baserunning. Now for the antithesis of that list:
Casey Kotchman was actually way worse than Chipper, but I didn’t include him. I do this for a reason. If our worst baserunner is #777 and our best is #51 and there’s only half a win of difference between them, you can’t make that much of an impact on the basepaths. It helps, of course. Every little bit helps. But if you’re building a team and try to build it such that the only secondary offensive skill is baserunning, you’re going to have a really fucking shitty offense.
So, those of you who say, “what the Braves need is a true lead-off hitter”, no, no, and fucking no. They need power. Lead-off hitters are overrated.
Off to St. Louis
Jurrjens vs. Pineiro Friday. Hudson vs. Lohse Saturday. Vazquez vs. Carpenter Sunday. Those are some pretty good pitching match-ups. I can’t believe Kyle Lohse is still alive. These games are important for nobody, the Cardinals have a huge lead and the Braves are out of it.
Kelly Johnson Fan Club Round 2
Kelly Johnson has a 1.538 OPS against Piniero in 13 career PA’s. He has a 1.917 OPS against Carpenter in 6 career PA’s. Knowing how fucking terrible Bobby Cox is at making decisions, he’ll probably sit Kelly vs. those two guys and play him against Kyle Lohse, whom he has a .400 OPS against in 10 career PA’s.
That’s all for now.
August 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft
I’m bored before the game and I’ve been all draft-tastic over here lately, so I’m going to write a history of the Braves’ 1st round picks. Since 1990. Their overall pick is in parenthesis.
1990 – Chipper Jones (1). That one seemed to work out alright.
1991 – Mike Kelly (2). Drafted as an outfielder. Hit .220/.273/.383 in 233 PA’s. He was later traded for Chad Fox and the PTBNL in the deal was my favorite person ever, Ray King.
1992 – Jamie Arnold (20). Wound up being a career minor-leaguer and only totaled 108 and 1/3 big-league innings.
1993 – No pick. Some guy named Alex Rodriguez was taken first overall in that draft.
1994 – Jacob Shumate (27). Never made it out of AA.
1995 – Chad Hutchinson (26). He didn’t sign. Wound up signing with the Cards 3 years later after being drafted again. He got a cup of coffee in 2001 and totaled 4 MLB innings. His career MLB ERA is 24.75. Which might be some kind of record, but I doubt it.
1996 – A.J. Zapp (27). .255 career minor-league batting average. Never made it to MLB.
1997 – No pick. The Braves were too busy trying to re-teach Mark Wholers how to pitch.
1998 – No pick. The Phillies took Pat the Bat number 1 overall in 1998.
1999 – No pick. Did the Braves forget to do the draft in the late 90′s?
2000 – Adam Wainwright (29). Traded to the Cardinals in the J.D. Drew deal. A successful major-leaguer. The Braves had back-to-back first round picks that year and took Scott Thorman at pick number 30. He sucks.
2001 – Macay McBride (24). Looked like he’d make it in the big leagues after sporting a career 3.24 ERA in ~500 minor league innings. But fell apart and only pitched 103 and 1/3 major league innings. Five picks later, the Braves took Josh Burrus. He never made it to the show and hit .243 in his minor-league career.
2002 – Jeff Francoeur (23). He sucks.
2003 – No pick. Delmon Young, who sucks, was taken 1st overall by the Rays. The most successful first rounder is probably Nick Markakis, taken 7th.
2004 – No pick. Matt F’n Bush! was taken 1st overall in that draft. Folks, this is why you consider character when you draft.
2005 – Joey Devine (27). Good pick. He’s now with Oakland. I’d trade Luis Sumoza for Joey Devine right now.
2006 – Cody Johnson (24). He’s that guy who strikes out all the time and hits a lot of home runs for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Lincecum was taken at pick number 10 in this draft.
2007 – Jason Heyward (14). He’s going to be good for a long time.
2008 – No pick. Thanks, Tom Glavine. Example number 294,787,029,745 why the compensation system is fucking stupid. Tom Glavine a type A? What a joke.
2009 – Mike Minor (7). Made his professional debut the other day pitching 2 perfect innings with 2 K’s. I’ve come around on him. Still wish the Braves had taken someone else, though.