July 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transaction Analysis, Transactions
As reported prior to the game Sunday, the Braves signed Ben Sheets to a minor league deal. He will make his first start Wednesday for Double-A Mississippi.
Frank Wren said Sheets could potentially be a rotation member within a few weeks. This is a bold statement for someone who hasn’t been on a mound since 2010. Sheets underwent Tommy John surgery after 119 innings for the Athletics that year, and the right-hander has been on the disabled list seven times in his nine-year career.
However, the move comes with no risk. As a minor league deal, the Braves are not guaranteeing Sheets anything, and if he doesn’t return to form, they can cut bait with no loss.
And if he does return to form, the Braves get a 33-year-old that once posted a 28.2% strikeout rate over 237 innings. Sheets has recorded a strikeout rate over 20% three times while earning a career 3.65 FIP and 20.1% K-rate. He has always displayed great control with solid strikeout stuff, working off a low-90s fastball and a curveball that profiles as a true out pitch. Sheets also ramped up his changeup usage at 16.3% while in Oakland, so we’ll see whether he goes back to the fastball more or remains changeup-heavy in his return.
In the meantime, Sheets will work in the minor leagues as he attempts to regain his stamina and feel. Look for him to make several starts between Double-A and Triple-A, and monitor his progress, because his walk and strikeout totals could tell a story on how he responds to the elbow surgery.
If all goes well in the minors, Sheets could take a spot occupied by Mike Minor or Randall Delgado. If Sheets blows the Braves away in his return, the younger pitchers could even find themselves involved in trade rumors. We’ll see how it goes.