Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eric O'Flaherty The Big Question No One is Asking

Eric O'Flaherty had a fantastic season in 2011.

He had an ERA of .98 in 73.2 innings pitched.
His struck out an average of 8.2 batters per 9 innings while only walking an average of 2.6.
Eric was the ideal 7th inning force and lefty specialist against the best hitters in the National League.

And he should be traded immediately.

As good as Eric was in 2011 it would be irresponsible to assume that he will maintain that level of success. He's a very good pitcher, don't get me wrong but he will not have an ERA under 1 in 2012 if he pitches more than a handful of innings. He will probably be better than his career averages so far, not that it's that impressive; 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 57 innings pitched shouldn't be too hard for him to exceed.

But here's the problem, and it's a big one; The Braves are paying him nearly 2.5 million dollars next season, and he's the third man in the pen. On a team with a 120 million dollar payroll that's fine, on the Braves it's a fantastic luxury but one that could draw funds away from areas of greater need. In a recent interview Braves CEO Terry McGuirk told a reporter that the Braves had around 4 million to spend, add in O'Flaherty's 2.5 million and the Braves could have had the money to trade for a more talented outfielder or a beneficial free agent signing.

Granted the only valuable players that could have possibly be imaged a fit for the Braves that signed for under 6.5 million are in the class of Cody Ross, Luke Scott and Ryan Doumit but Frank Wren could have possibly turned that money into a more valuable player than even the best seventh inning man. It's possible that some contending team in need of a setup man might have valued Eric even more than the Braves and he could of possibly be moved for a valuable prospect. If the Red Sox traded Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon, and one year ago Frank Francisco was traded for Mike Napoli, maybe the Braves could have gotten a legit piece for the talented lefty.

It's not that it's a bad thing to have a pitcher of that caliber on your team, it's just that in the Braves monetary situation could they do any better with that money.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 Braves and your Fantasy Draft

With fantasy baseball draft season coming up right around the corner your probably bouncing ideas around in your head like, "should I draft a pitcher in the first round?" or " should I draft Manny Ramirez if he has a real chance at a starting spot?"

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding NO and if you do you will regret it.

Another thing you might be thinking is how can you get players from your favorite team on your fictional team. Let's face it, its always fun to be rooting double for a guy as it were. And when your ace is going against your favorite team you don't have to hope he pitches good, but not good enough to win. Now it's never advisable to draft a player just because you like him or the team he plays for, that will spell doom for your fake team and you will lose out on better players to get familiar faces.

It is possible to get some players from the team you root for though, you just have to know how they fit;
this is how the 2012 Braves can fit into your fantasy strategy.

To start off we have Brain McCann, as a top 5 offensive catcher for the past 5 years he is a prime target for fantasy owners. This is no mistake and your not going to embarrass yourself too badly even if your reach a bit for him. He's a safe pick in the second to fourth round in any league and in deep and NL only leagues you might even see him in the back half of round one. He helps you in OPB, SLG, HR, RBI and can be very good in AVG if he stays healthy and  coming out of the catchers spot where the likes of Ramon Hernandez and Kurt Suzuki are often starters he's an elite commodity.

The man, the legend Chipper Jones. What can you say? For years he was a surefire first round pick, and even in his mid thirties he has remained a solid starting third baseman for fantasy owners. He's older and a little more injury prone than even now but even still he can help your team. In most leagues he's probably a backup or platoon player now if your roster is big enough to accommodate.  The reality is NL only leagues are where he has the most value and is still a starter, or if your league has at least 14 teams. Draft him by all means if he's available late, he still does very well in OBP, AVG and HR's are good for third still, but in most leagues someone is going to reach and take him in the sixth round when he shouldn't be taken above the tenth in the majority of leagues at this point.

Freddie Freeman is a conundrum, he's a good young hitter coming off a good rookie year, but in most leagues he just not a starting first baseman. He's good enough to make your team though, if you have a spare INF spot or a UT that you can put an extra hitter at he's a great guy to plug in. Beware though he is still a young player and prone to a step back before he takes another step forward, and he will never have Price Fielder power. I'd take him in the 9-12 round of your average 22 or so man roster in a 12 team league, in some leagues you might get someone reaching because of the surplus of good hitting first basemen you might steal him in a late round when he gets overlooked in favor of a true slugger like Mark Reynolds.

A guy that should be fun to watch is Jason Heyward. More talent than any other player on the team, but has yet to put it all together. His rookie campaign was tremendous, last year not so much. I expect a rebound, but the key is reach a little, but not too much. He has the potential of a top 30 player, but right now is only in the top 100 optimistically. A round 8 flyer on him isn't a wasted pick but the smart fantasy player is going to make him your third outfielder or a fourth outfielder unless your in a deeper league.  By all means start him everyday if he gets hot, but don't build your strategy around Heyward putting up all star numbers.

Dan Uggla is another of the Safer bets in the Braves lineup, if you draft him you need a Joe Mauer or Jose Reyes to offset his average, but it also mean you can draft a lighter hitting corner infielder or outfielder. Because he hit bombs. It's what he does, it's what he's known for and it's what you will draft him for. Rounds 5-8 are the perfect place to take Uggla and as long as his first half isn't as dismal he wont be too disappointing.

Another conundrum is Tyler Pastornicky, the Braves probable shortstop in 2012. He should hit enough to stay in the lineup and coming from the shortstop position that is a sort of rare thing. He's not a great flashy player, but let's be honest if he puts up a .265/.320/.400 line he's a starter in most fantasy leagues. Tyler has very little power, but can run a little and 20 stolen bases is not a stretch for him. He's the perfect candidate for the round 14 "oh crap, I don't have a shortstop!" moment and on the offensive side of the ball is very comparable to a Cliff Pennington or on the optimistic side Erik Aybar.

Martin Prado used to be highly sought after because of  his versatility, in 2010 he qualified at third , second and first bases while providing above average offence at second and third base. He probably just qualifies at third and in the outfield this year, and still has value though he isn't the ideal utility option he once was. A good bounce back candidate if he stays healthy and isn't forced to change his game "for the good of the team". Regardless of where he ends up playing his production is still pretty good for third base and he could be a very good option for your deeper league teams or as a backup on any team.

The starting pitchers are all pretty good but offer different things. Husdson is pretty consistent with wins, ERA,  and WHIP and wont kill you in any category. Hanson and Beachy have some injury questions but ill really help you in the strikeout department. Jurrjens is a regression candidate but has been able to keep a respectable ERA over the course of his career and is always good for a few wins at the back of your fantasy rotation. Not to be overlooked are Mike Minor and Julio Tehran keep an eye on who wins the number five job in this spring and see if you can draft either one late, the smart money is on Minor but it's anyone's game and they both put up respectable number across the board with more strikeouts than you average number five.

All of these guys are pretty good bets from round six to the end of the draft in a standard twelve team mixed league.  In terms of fantasy value they probably should be listed Hanson, Hudson, Breachy, Theran/Minor and Jurrjens last. JJ will be drafted long before then  because of his gaudy ERA last year, but his strikeouts and injuries make him less valuable to you than he is to the Braves.

The bullpen has four guys you might could use more if inures occur, Kimbrell will go early because of his insane strikeout numbers. He and Carlos Marmol are in a class of their own when it come to K's from the pen with Kenly Jansen bucking to join them he should be among the first closers drafted, and rightly so they usually start going around round five. Draft him then but don't reach too much because you could get a Kenly Jansen or Jason Motte type near the end of your draft for similar production in most categories.

Johnny Venters is another guy that is good to have, but less so if you don't count holds in your league. He still puts up fantastic production in WHIP, K's and ERA but unless your counting holds or he starts getting saves don't be the idiot that drafts a setup man in the 9th round.

Eric O'Flaherty and Kris Medlin also have value in deeper leagues, O'Flaherty may even get more selections than a seventh inning guy should because of how gaudy his numbers were last season. Of the new I really prefer Medlin, he can go multiple innings, strikes out a lot of batters and isn't restricted by handedness. Medlin is also a candidate to spot start which can add value if he does well in even a few starts.

Arodis Vizcaino could also benift your team in deeper and NL only leagues because he could be a guy to strikeout batters on a similar scale to Kimbrell. I'd leave him off my draft board if you draft before spring training though as he may be relegated to Gwinett for at least part of next season. Randell Delgado is in a similar boat but probably wont see a ton of starts unless someone goes down with an injury.

That about does it for the Braves and your fantasy draft and it's pretty good news as all of their starting players have some value and they don't have a very weak spot anywhere in the pitching staff. If you have a different strategy please feel free to leave it in the comments.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Digging a little in the Braves prospect mine.

There is that guy every year, the unheralded prospect who comes up big in a tight spot for the big club. For the Braves in recent years guys like Johnny Venters, Kris Medlin and Brandon Beachy have come out of nowhere to contribute in a big way. A couple months before their call up you might not even have heard there names. The Braves minor league teams are full of potential MLB quality players; you know about Tehran, Delgado, Pastornicky, and Bethancourt. Most of you know about Terdoslavich, Salcedo, and Hoover. So who are the coming out of nowhere candidates for 2012?

Lets take a look.

First up is Navery Moore, he's a 6"2 215 lb. 21 year old out of Vanderbilt. He was selected in the 14th round of the 2011 draft, by all accounts low for a player of his quality and the thing you need to know about him is this; he throws hard. Topping out in the mid 90's with good command and a breaking pitch with plus potential. He was the Commodores closer this past season and will join former teammate Mark Lamm in the Braves minor League system in 2012. He hasn't played a pro game yet and will likely debut at Rome or Danville, and projecting him to debut in the MLB before 2014 is downright optimistic.  That's part of the reason he make this list, he has some real potential and has begun to tap into it and though he only has the longest shot to contribute in 2012 he is a near lock to be a contributing member of the Braves pen at some point.

Speaking of Lamm, Moore's setup man at Vandy, he also has a shot to contribute at some point. He pitched 27.2 pro innings last season, primarily at Lynchburg and threw well striking out 23 and walking 12 while posting a 2.98 ERA. He's a big guy at 6"4 215 lb. and throws in the low to mid 90's, but his command and polish could help him move quickly. The fact that he immediately became a key member of the Hillcats pen after being drafted speaks well of his ability to adjust to a challenge.

Ernesto Mejia is a guy that isn't pegged to do much to affect his MLB candidacy, and rightfully so he's 26 and has been on a minor league roster since 2005 without ever being in danger of running into the fast lane to the MLB. He's a monster of a man at 6"5 245 and the dude can rake, at AA Mississippi in 2011 he posted a .906 OPS and hit 26 dingers. He reminds me a little bit of former Braves farmhand Kala Ka'aihue, in that he's a big guy with power and a little patience who might have some value if he were mobile enough to play anywhere but 1B. He was tried in the OF in Rookie league, but the Braves quickly thought better of it. He might get a shot as a DH during inter-league play or as an emergency call up if Hinske or Freeman(or both) are down due to injury.

One more guy that could make a surprise impact is Mycal Jones, Jones is a little different in that he has been on the mouths of Braves fans for three or four years now, but in the right circumstances 2012 could be his big chance. Either was it will be a make or break year for the versatile Jones, he has some pop, speed, patience at the plate and is an above average defender in CF and 2B. Originally a shortstop Jones was moved to second and later center field because he had some issues with mental errors and with the addition of Tyler Pastornicky and Matt Lipka(now also a CF) he was no longer as high on the SS depth cart has he had been. He has a chance to come up big due to his versatility and combination of speed and patience if he can put the total package together a little more in 2012.

Those are just a few of the long shot guys that could contribute to the big club at some point, and even if they don't in 2012 I feel sure that you will continue to hear about them in the future.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Carlos Quentin and Your Atlanta Braves

Yesterday Carlos Quentin was traded to the San Diego Padres for two promising, if uninspiring pitching prospects. His name has been one associated with the Braves trade rumor scene. For good reason also; the Braves and White Sox have hooked up on numerous trades and there seemed to be a decent fit. Maybe Jair Jurrjens for Quentin and cash or a decent minor leaguer? If the Sox were close to contending I can see it, but two years of pitcher who is rapidly becoming expensive and unlikely to sign a long term deal. But in their current rebuilding mode it's not likely.

Honestly it probably wouldn't have taken Jurrjens to get him. Based on the return J.J. Hoover and Carlos Perez could have been all that it took. The trade cost isn't the problem really, no it's that beside the fact that Quentin is a seemingly ideal right handed power threat there isn't a way to justify him on the 2012 Braves. They already have below average defenders at third base as Chipper ages, second base with Uggla, and depending on how you rate defenders rookie Tyler Pastornicky and Brian McCann also. But watching Quentin play the outfield harks of a late career Garett Anderson, or a three legged turtle. UZR consistently rates him near the bottom of the league usually in the -20 range. On top of that he is due an estated 7.5 million in his final year of arbitration. Add to that the fact that the idea of him playing 150 games in a season is positively laughable as injuries have sidelined him in every season since his 2008 breakout campaign.

Add all of that together and you have a player the Braves just don't need. Not that they could afford his salary anyway, the would probably have to trade Jurrjens or Martin Prado just to free up the money to pay his arbitration salary. I think two of the Braves second or third tier pitching prospects can help acquire a little more than one rather expensive year of Carlos Quentin. I wish him the best of luck with the Friars and even more luck for their fans as they watch him allow hundreds of extra base hits in the spacious Petco outfield.

Sorry about the lack of stats and possible errors in typography as I authored this post from my iPod.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Braves Acquire Hanley Ramirez

Before you go jumping up and down in joy or disdain, or start cursing at your computer screen read this disclaimer:This has not happened and is not likely to happen any time soon.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ramirez, he may be the most physically gifted player to every play in south Florida. He has been the Marlins shortstop since 2006 and is a three time all-star and former Rookie of the Year. He hits for power, average, and can steal bases(.306/.380/.506 career line with  216 stolen bases). His main problem is, he's a little below average defensively for a shortstop, and when the newly dubbed Miami Marlins signed his World Baseball Classic teammate Jose Reyes to a six year 106 million dollar deal he was no longer the best shortstop on his own team. This was until this past season his team, until his lackluster and off-injured 2011 campaign he had led the Fish in every major offensive category(including attitude) for the past four years.

This didn't sit well with Hanley, though he professed to be okay with a Reyes signing he wasn't okay with moving off of shortstop. Maybe he thought that new manager Ozzie Guillen would put Reyes at second base if they signed him, though that would be a terrible idea for all involved for several reasons. Maybe Guillen and GM Jeffery Loria expected their star player to be mature and move over to third or even center field to make room for his countryman. If they did it's hard to see why, he has a history of attitude problems and when he was benched in the 2009 baseball classic so that Reyes could start it didn't sit well at all with him. It was even more raw for Hanley as he played poorly when he did get an opportunity(although Reyes played at least as badly) and the Dominicans were beaten twice by a vastly inferior Netherlands team.

He also has problems with coaches and  teammates most notably current Braves skipper Freddi Gonzalez and second baseman Dan Uggla. Gonzalez was shown the door shortly after benching the Marlins star for lackadaisical play, and he clashed with Uggla constantly when they were teammates. It is widely speculated that the Marlins failed to extend Uggla because he refused to have a contract of lesser value to Ramirez's. 

After reading all this you may be thinking,"okay, I understand why he might be available, but why would you think he would ever be a Brave?"

This is why; he has been starting shortstop for the Marlins. Therefore he is fated to play for the Braves at some point in his career.

I won't deny it, this is a ridiculous statement and I should be laughed off the web for suggesting it. Until you see the facts.

The Florida Marlins played their first season in 1993 as an expansion team along with the Colorado Rockies, in that time they have had five primary starting shortstops.

In their introductory season it was premier glove man Walt Weiss, a product of the Oakland A's system and 1988 Rookie of the Year. Walt came to the Fish in a trade for a couple of players you've never heard of and had a fairly good season by his standards(.266/.367/.308) and was let walk as a free agent at the end of the season.

Walt would sign with the Braves to take over at short for the newly departed Jeff Blauser before the 1998 season, and had three quite good yet injury plagued season with the Bravos. Included in his time was his lone all-star appearance in 1998. He finished his career in Atlanta and is generally fondly remembered here, mostly as the guy who played short before Raphael Furcal.

Next on the list is Kurt Abbot, the primary shortstop for the Marlins between 1994 and 1996 and a few games there in 1997. He had his moments, but was largely unspectacular and was traded to the A's as soon as the Fish had another warm body to throw into the middle of their infield.

Braves fans everywhere are scratching their head right now,"Kurt Abbot? We never had him did we?"

Yeah we did, but if you blinked at all in the summer of 2001 you probably missed his entire Braves career. He played six games, staring one and at second base and would never play in the big leagues again.

The aforementioned warm body was non other than the talented Edgar Renteria, he hit his was into the lineup in late 1996 and kept a hold on the starting spot until he was traded to the Cardinals for Alfredo Amanza, Braden Looper, and Pablo Ozuna in the great fire sale 1998 of . None of whom worked out very well for the Marlins.

He came to Atlanta in in 2005 for minor league journeyman in training Andy Marte and had two very good seasons in Atlanta including what is in all likelihood his final all-star appearance in 2006. Unlike the two previous players mentioned he didn't finish his career with the Braves, but he might as well have as he has been largely unproductive since.

His successor for the fish was none other than the illustrious Alex Gonzalez, one of the finest defensive shortstops in the past decade. Unfortunately he doesn't know that if you take four balls they let you go to first for free. He played in Miami until he was signed as a free agent by the Red Sox before the 2006 season. Ironically enough this was shortly after they traded Renteria to Atlanta.

The Braves picked him up during a career year in an exchange for  the "clubhouse cancer"Yunel Escobar and Jojo Reyes,  included with Sea Bass were minor leaugers Tim Collins and 2012 possible starting shortstop Tyler Pastornicky. As we all know he played great defense didn't hit a lick and was loved by pitchers almost as much as he was hated by the fans watching his at bats.

He has now signed with the Brewers on a one year deal with a vesting option.

So the only question left is, when will the Braves get Hanley? Will it be in a trade in the next few years? Will it be as a free agent in the twilight of his career? Or will he be the first Marlin to break the cycle?

Perhaps just one more question to ask, if the Braves ever do get Ramirez, will they end up getting Reyes at some point as well?

Stats were provided by fangraphs.com and baseballreference.com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shortstop, a shortstop, my kingdom for a shortstop!

You could just about buy a reasonably sized kingdom for the cash you would expect to pay for the price of the top free agent shortstops this season, and in the opinion of many a feudal era castle might be a safer investment. With a castle all you have to worry about is the decay of ages, moat maintenance and the uprising of the peasants.

Sign Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins and you have to worry about them staying something close to healthy, along with the decay of ages and the uprising of the peasants(and bloggers) when they inevitably get injured.

One look at the free agents and the Braves monetary situation and it will leave you thinking, "there is no way that the Braves will have a shortstop in 2012". And it is true that the lack of great options up the middle has driven up prices so much that Jamey Carroll, a career utility man who will be 38 at the start of next season, to a two year deal worth at least 6.5 million dollars to be their everyday shortstop. It's a sellers market even if the product isn't fantastic. Heck even a 37 year old John McDonald, an all glove career backup with a career OPS of .601 got a two year/3 million deal.

So that begs the question, "Who will play shortstop for the Braves in 2012?"

Well, lets take a look at the options.

In house there is really only one guy, his name is Tyler Pastornicky and in all likelyhood he will be a starting middle infielder in the near future. He preformed very well between AA and AAA in 2011 and will only be 22 at the start of next season. His slash line in 2011 was .314/.359/.414 and stole 27 bases and played SS in a manner that most scouts have described as above average. So what's the problem you say? Frank Wren gave the impression in a recent interview that he didn't think he was ready to start the season as the Braves starting shortstop. Maybe in 2013 he will get a shot, because he's doing all he can to earn one.

So we move on to the free agents and lets face it's not pretty.

As I mentioned above Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are the top of this class, but don't expect the Braves to make a play for either one. The massive amount of money and stupid long contracts these guys will get would drive them out of the Braves radar alone. Throw in the fact that you need a MASH unit to keep up with all of their injuries and you have two very talented guys that will likely never play in Atlanta.

So moving on, the next group is really about a tier or two below the aforementioned but they still have value. That class is headlined by Yuniesky Betancourt, Raphael Furcal, Clint Barmes, Alex Gonzalez and Ronnie Cedeno. Are you bored yet? You should be. The Braves will not even extend and offer to Betancourt if they have done their homework, and after the debacle with Furcal a few years back, coupled with the fact that he is reported to be asking for two years and 16 million you can forget about him too.

 The other three guys, aren't atrocious options in a way, we know what were getting in Gonzalez a great glove and little else. However if he's willing to come back on a one year deal worth less than 4 million, it's easy to envision him manning short and hitting far too high in the batting order for the Braves for one more year. In a world where Jamey Carroll get's two years, there may be a team willing to give Sea Bass a two year deal, in which case you can kiss him good bye Braves fans. Barmes is a pretty good option with a glove comparable to Gonzalez. You get a bit more with the bat, but with the market being a bit high for middle infielders this year he may have priced himself out of Atlanta's range. That is to say they could pay him what he want's, but in the interest of sticking to their long term plan they probably wont. Cedeno is an interesting option, okay not interesting but not the worst either. He's a competent infielder at  SS, 2B, and 3B and is basically an equal to Gonzalez with the bat with a better OBP but no power to speak of. The deal with Cedeno is, if you sign him to a two year deal for 3.5 million or less he can also be a decent backup at several positions if Pastornicky proves that he is ready at some point in the next two years. Are they good options, no, but they might be the best available.

The other guys; The best and brightest of the bottom of the barrel.

These guys are the left overs, the ones that shouldn't be everyday players for a team that hopes to content. Heck they may not even be bench worthy for some of the deeper teams in the league, but are they without worth? Not entirely. We'll start with Jerry Hariston Jr. he's not an everyday player at this stage of his career, but he can still get on base and play good enough defense at every position to provide a decent amount of value. Josh Wilson is another guy who can play everywhere without providing terrible embarrassment, but unlike Harriston he can't hit a lick. I would expect the Braves to bring back late season acquisition Jack Wilson if they decide to go the route for a good fielder who they don't need to hit, and the latter Wilson is a good enough fielder to even start for a bit if he has to.Edgar Renteria is also available, but he will probably cost more than the nominal value he can provide at this point in his career.

Thinking well outside the box.

 Brandon Wood will be 27 at the start of next season, and the once promising prospect has fallen from grace heavily. In no way should he be considered a starting option, but his versatility(SS,3B, 1B) and career minor league OPS of .888 are enough to merit a minor league deal and a spring training invite.

*Note: Since this blog was originality posted he has signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal.*

  Another interesting name is Bill Hall a once promising SS who hit 35 home runs as the shortstop for the 2006 Brewers before he was displaced in favor of J.J. Hardy,  and gradually faded into obscurity. That is until 2010 when he has a resurgence with the Red Sox, where he put up a .247/.316/.456 line and played himself into a starting job with the Astros that he promptly lost...again. At this point he's not really a shortstop but he could be value off the bench on a minor league deal.

Last but not least, the trade candidates.
Frank Wren also stated in his recent interview that he expects to come up with a short term option via trade, and there are a few decent candidates out there. The Angels have two of them Eric Aybar and Macier Izturis Aybar is an above average fielder and his stolen bases give him the impression of being a much better player than Izturis. While Aybar is a bit better especially with the glove Izturis is enough of on base threat that he actually provides plenty of value and can play a very good 2B and 3B if another SS came along.

Another name that gets thrown around a lot is Stephen Drew, and honestly J.D. Drew has a better shot at playing in Atlanta in 2012. Drew is coming off a largely lost season and is getting paid far too much at 7.75 million in 2012 when no one is entirely sure how much he will be able to play. He's a good player but at the price he's getting paid , the injury risks, plus the high cost in players that Kevin Towers will want in return I can't see this move happening.

Robert Andino is a guy that is surfacing a lot on the blogs and message boards, and I think he could be had after the Orioles extended J.J. Hardy. He's got some speed and a bit of on base ability and can play a decent if uninspired shortstop. I think that a Jair Jurrjens for Andino and Xavier Avery would be a decent deal for the Bravos, but who knows if Frank Wren agrees. I have a feeling he may be aiming much higher.

The guy that I really like is Brendan Ryan of the Mariners, they probably aren't looking to move him as they don't have another internal option at short but he of the high socks is certainly a fit for the Braves. Okay, he's not much of a hitter, has no pop, and the only slightly redeeming part of his offensive game is that he can sort of run. Watch him on the field for a few innings though and you just might not care anymore he consistently ranks among the MLB leaders in UZR and fWAR. He is a true fielder in the Ozzie Smith tradition. This is the guy I want, but we probably can't get.

The other two guys that are a bit intriguing that are not starters are Jed Lowrie for the Red Sox and Eduardo Nunez of the Yankees. Lowrie is the super utility guy for the Sox and has a decent bat with a bit of pop. He's not a super rangy shortstop, but he is solid and can also play a competent 2B and 3B. Nunez is mainly the same story but has a bit more speed and less power.

So the hot stove is blazing and after writing this so is my keyboard, if you have a favorite for the shortstop spot please post it in the comments. I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breaking down the Rome Braves Part 1

It's been an interesting season for the Rome Braves, tons of potential much of it unrealized. Some of the Braves top position player prospects played in Rome this season , and there were some great surprises among some of the non-prospects. Evan Gattis came out of nowhere to put up an incredible .986 OPS, and top prospect Edward Salcedo took and big steps forward in  his second pro season raising his average to .248 with a .315 OBP. In this post were going to take a look at the infield/catchers on the 2011 R-Braves. To save confusion the players featured will have finished the year with Rome, and played at least 45 games for them.

Edward Salcedo- 3B/SS-R/R 

Salcedo started the season as the shortstop for the Rome team, but was moved to third base after 19 games. It's not that he was terrible at short, but Matt Lipka has proven to be the more likely to stick there long term. He put up a .248/.315/.396 line with 12 home runs and 23 stolen bases. Salcedo has shown improving power and a decent eye at the plate, he needs to work on his pitch recognition but he just turned 20 late in the season so he has some time to work that out. 

The bad news is his defense, he committed over 40 errors between short and third. After seeing him play it's easy to see why, though he has decent hands, reactions and a strong arm he appears to have some sort of mental block about throwing to first base. Probably three quarters of the errors he committed  were on throws, he seems to think too hard and rush causing him to sail the ball often. This isn't an insolvable problem and many young players struggle with errors early, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him move to an outfield corner if it persists.

Projection: A starting third baseman or left fielder who hits around .275/.335/.415. His speed may begin to evaporate as he fills out but he should be able to continue to improve his power and eye.

Matt Lipka-SS R/R
The first pick of the Braves in the 2010 draft, the "Dirt Devil" has good hands and range a short, his arm is a little below average, but he makes up with it by getting in a good throwing position and a quick release. At the plate he has an improving eye and good bat control, but he makes a lot of weak contact. I give him a lot of credit from going to Rome his first full season out of high school, he will probably start to drive the ball more as he adjusts to the pro-game but will never be a power hitter. The best part of Lipka's game is his speed, he is quick and has speed to burn both in the field and on the bases. 

Projection: A good fielding shortstop at the MLB level who could be an everyday player if he can get on base at a decent clip, and provide the speed to be a top of the order hitter. *

* after this post was written it was reported that Lipka is currently learning CF in the instructional league, so though he may be a good fielding SS we may not see him there often in the future.

Matt Weaver-INF/OF-R/R
A very interesting guy, if only because of his extreme utility. Weaver has a good glove, and saw time at every position besides catcher and center field for the R-Braves this season, even pitching in one game. He has good reactions, especially in the infield, and an accurate arm. As an outfielder he gets good reads, but occasionally takes a bad route on balls hit hard. He is quick, but not a base stealer, and has a good contact swing that drives the ball where it is pitched. Has doubles power, but isn't a real home run threat. 
Projection: Could be an MLB utility man because of his competence at nearly every position, with the potential to be more than that if he can hit enough.

Chris Garcia-1B-L/R
A semi-journeyman at 23 he was cut loose by the Angels after two lackluster season in rookie ball. He found his power stroke in the Independent American Association, and was signed by the Braves in the off season. Though he is a little old for low A ball a .305/.405/.511line is impressive for anyone. He has decent hands around the bag at first, but has very little range. 

Projection: He's blocked by Freddie Freeman on the big club, and a few younger guys that project a little better in the Braves system. He has enough of a bat that someone may give him a shot, but it's hard to see him as more than an organizational guy, albeit a talented one.

Tommy LaStella-2B-L/R
One of the most impressive 2011 draftees, he has an easy swing from the left side that generates a good amount of power. He also possesses a pretty good eye at the plate that helped him put up an impressive .328/.401/.543 line in 63 games as the Rome second baseman. In the field he has decent hands a pretty good arm, but isn't the rangiest middle infielder. 

Projection: His bat looks like it could play if he can stick in the infield. Could perhaps make a move to third at some point if he doesn't make it at second.

Jacob Dalfonso-1B-L/R
He's a big imposing presence at the plate, with good power but at this point that is about it. He seldom walks, and has yet to really find a position seeing time at all four corner positions. Not a terrible fielder at first, but not particularly rangy. Runs okay for a big guy, but that's not a key part of his game. Could be a 2012 breakout candidate if he can find a position and avoid the injury bug that kept him out for much of 2011.

Projection: Similar to Garcia, his bat has the potential to be valuable, but the glove may hold him back. If he can find a position and walk a little more he could get some attention. Probably not a prospect at this point, but is young enough to turn a corner.

Evan Gattis-C/1B-R/R
You can't mention the 2011 Rome Braves without Gattis, after splitting time with Christian Bethancourt at the start of the year, he started playing every day behind the plate after Bethancourt's promotion to Lynchburg. A .986  OPS is the stat that keeps jumping off the page on his line, and his approach supports that number pretty well. He has a short quick stroke that leads to a lot of line drives and very little weak contact. He doesn't walk a ton, but doesn't strike out much either; may walk more when he faces for difficult pitching but for most of 2011 low A.

Projection: At 23 he was old for low A but he's got a good bat. If he can improve his reactions behind the plate, could end up being a good hitting backup catcher. May move to first or even left at an attempt to advance his bat, as it is much more advanced than his glove.

Elmer Reyes-2B/SS-R/R
Reyes came into 2011 looking like one of the Braves top middle infield prospects after a very solid 2010 as a member of two rookie teams putting up a .301/.362/.472 line in his first full season. His 2011 was disappointing, after he faltered out of the gate in Rome and was demoted to Danville. He recovered in rookie ball but still struggled mightily enough to cast some doubt on whether or not he is a legitimate infield prospect. He is a slick fielder with quick hands and a decent arm. Has shown some on base ability and can occasionally can surprise with some pop. He runs well, but isn't much of a stolen base threat at this point. At 20 years old he has some time to make adjustments.

Projection: Probably a reserve infielder unless he can really develop at the plate, but there are times when he swings well enough to make you wonder if a breakout is imminent. 

In the next post we will review the Rome outfield. Keep in mind I am not a scout, so don't take the summaries here as gospel it's just my observations. If you have an opinion on any players mentioned please post them in the comments.