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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Should the Braves Target Kimbrel After 2018?

AtlSwag69 (CC BY SA 3.0) via Wikipedia Commons
From the moment Craig Kimbrel was traded to the Padres hours before the 2015 season was to begin, many fans have wondered if the homegrown star closer might one day return to the Braves. As Atlanta has tried to replace Kimbrel with Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, and Arodys Vizcaino, Kimbrel has remained outstanding for first San Diego and now Boston. This season, he's pitching the best baseball of his life with a 12 K/BB ratio and a 1.04 FIP. Could the Braves try to entice their former All-Star to return home to Atlanta?

First off, there's a small problem with even dreaming of Kimbrel returning next year. If the Red Sox had no problem paying Kimbrel $13 million this season, the smart money is on them picking up his option for 2018 which will pay him exactly the same. That would mean that Kimbrel's Age-30 season will be next year as the closer for the Red Sox.

There's the other problem - provided the Red Sox are not able to extend Kimbrel before the end of 2018, he'll hit free agency as the best closer on the market. A few other current closers will be available at the same time, though that's always subject to change as relievers are a fickle breed. Regardless of how many closers are on the market, none are Craig Kimbrel - though Andrew Miller is highly impressive even if he's not being used as a closer and will command a significant salary. Furthermore, when Kimbrel becomes available, he'll be aiming for a contract from a market that last winter gave Aroldis Chapman $86 million over five years and Kenley Jansen $80M. Provided Kimbrel hits the market healthy and pitching well, he'll at least command a similar average annual value. Both Chapman and Jansen were entering their Age-29 seasons while Kimbrel's first season of a new contract will be his Age-31 season. That might make it harder to get a fifth guaranteed season, but an open market might figure in big here and Kimbrel's not only a good get for performance, but for his name.

Back to the Braves. Will they be interested? You bet your sweet behind they will. The bigger question is how interested and maybe the even biggest question is - should they be?

Back to the first question, a lot can change between now-and-then. Atlanta has a vast collection of impressive young arms and one of them could turn into their unquestioned closer before the end of 2018. A.J. Minter's name has often been thrown around as a closer-in-waiting. The team's incumbent closer, Vizcaino, is team-controlled through 2019. The Braves have a plethora of other arms, many of them currently starting, that could also be in the discussion by the end of 2018 should they move to the bullpen. Regardless, John Coppolella has seemed to hint at Kimbrel being someone of interest for the Braves in previous #AskCoppy sessions so that could suggest to some degree how interested Atlanta would be.

Once again, the biggest question - should Atlanta be interested in signing Kimbrel - is much more interesting to me. Mainly because I'm going to say no. It's not because I don't love Kimbrel. I mean, what fan of the Braves doesn't love Kimbrel? The man was an absolute beast in Atlanta and I, like most of Braves Twitter, loved to see people have a conniption over Kimbrel's hat on a nightly basis. And I don't think there's much reason to believe Kimbrel won't continue to be a dominant reliever for the foreseeable future. As I said, relievers are a fickle breed, but when someone does what Kimbrel has for the last seven years, you take notice. Getting to 30 saves once or twice in the majors isn't that much of an accomplishment. From 2007 to 2016, there were 168 instances of pitchers reaching 30 saves or more - which comes out to roughly 17 pitchers a year. That's more than half of the teams in the major leagues each season. Yet, only ten pitchers reached 200 saves - or roughly six-and-a-half years of reaching 30 saves. Just 28 others saved 100 games. Being able to accumulate saves year-after-year is a much rarer thing. Craig Kimbrel has proven that he's not Juan Oviedo or Tom Wilhelmsen. He's on another level and predicting continued success is not only prudent, it's what the projection systems actually say. While Baseball Prospectus long-term forecast is very conservative, it doesn't have Kimbrel reaching a 4.00 DRA until his Age-35 season in 2023. For what it's worth, he's never had a DRA in a full season over 2.21 so I imagine Kimbrel will beat those projections by a considerable amount.

If I love him so much and believe he's going to remain very good, why do I hope the Braves pass on the prospect of bringing back Kimbrel?

It's simple economics. The Braves opened this year with a $122 million payroll. That could climb in 2018, but how much is debatable considering the good, but not great attendance this season in SunTrust Park. Apparently, just having a new park doesn't guarantee sellouts. I don't foresee the Braves cutting salary moving forward, but I also didn't believe their payroll would match some of the big boys in the league when they moved to Cobb County. There often is a bump, but payroll just doesn't skyrocket because of a new park. Unless you're the Marlins and that lasted, oh, a year.

Ignoring Atlanta's commitments for 2019 and moving forward, a closer of Kimbrel's ability would take up between $15M and $18M of payroll - possibly more. For a $130M payroll, that's somewhere in the range of 12% to 14%. That's a lot of money to spend for a player only pitching 60 times a year. Bringing back in those future commitments we just ignored, the Braves will pay, short of a trade, nearly $60M for Matt Kemp, Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, and Ender Inciarte in 2019 and adding a big closer's salary will hamstring the entire budget.

And then there's this - is Kimbrel at $15M that much better than Cody Allen, also a free agent in the winter of 2018-19? Or, for that matter, Vizcaino? There's no simple answer to that question. Kimbrel's a better pitcher than Allen and Vizcaino, but finances have to be considered. Think of it this way - would you rather have Vizcaino at $8M and a starting third baseman at a similar rate or would you rather have Kimbrel? With a limitless budget, you might go with Kimbrel and worry about the third baseman later. But the Braves are playing with the salary setting on so that has to be considered.

There's also the argument that paying relievers that much money is foolish in general considering that they are so rarely used properly. The idea is that your closer is your best reliever, but so many teams - even smart ones like the Red Sox - utilize their closers in very restrictive ways. As the Braves found out in the 2013 NLDS, what's the purpose in having a Kimbrel in the bullpen when he's waiting until it's the "right time" to bring him in? Meanwhile, a guy making the major league minimum is blowing the lead just so that you can save your closer until the ninth inning. To get the best value out of a pitcher like Kimbrel, the Braves would need to use their bullpen differently and be willing to surrender save opportunities for higher-leverage situations earlier in the game. At the same time, they would need to justify utilizing a $16M closer in the seventh inning to fans who only value relievers by how many saves they have.

The Braves making Kimbrel a target after 2018 isn't a bad thing. He's an amazing pitcher who could be in line for a handful or more 2 to 4 fWAR seasons after he concludes his current contract - which is no small feat for a reliever. But the finances and the way he'll be used (which will limit his value to the Braves) make signing Kimbrel a bad investment.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Baseball's Weirdest Rule 5 Situation

What better way to explain service time than with the hottest prospect to come through the Braves system since Jason Heyward? For that matter, what better way to explain arbitration than with the strangest case that we've seen over the last number of years?

In professional baseball, you earn two different kinds of "time." The one that everyone gets from a rookie-league ballplayer to R.A. Dickey relates to how long you have been a professional. This is especially important when it comes to things like the Rule 5 draft and minor league free agency. For instance, after seven seasons in the minors, you can become a minor league free agent. Oddly, we call them "six-year minor league free agents" despite needing seven years. Baseball is strange.

The other kind of time a player earns - which is far more important to this article - is service time. This refers to each day spent in the major leagues. Under the new CBA, there are 187 days to fit in a 162-game schedule. However, you are still credited with a day of service time during those off days. In fact, a full season is referred to as 172 days in the major leagues - which did not change in the CBA despite the added days to the MLB calendar year. Think of this way - as long as a player didn't use an option that season (i.e. 20 days in the minors), he likely earned a year of service time if he was with the team in April.

You receive service time while on the active roster, the disabled list, the restricted (or suspended) list, and...well...any list. As long as you haven't been optioned to the minors, your service time is climbing. Hence why some teams have tried to play the system against itself. In 2015, the Chicago Cubs waited exactly 13 days to call up Kris Bryant. Under the previous CBA, there were 184 days in a calendar season. As Bryant was not on the 40-man roster to begin the season, by pushing his debut off nearly two weeks, the 2015 Rookie of the Year received 171 days of service time in 2015. That's a day short of a full season. Chicago said all the right things about Bryant needing to work on some parts of his game, but the decision was made with the 2021 season in mind. Had the Cubs opened the season with Bryant on the major league roster, he would have become a free agent after 2020 as players with six years of service time in the majors at the end of any given season can become free agents should they not be signed beyond that season. Believing it was more beneficial to them to keep him in the minors, they did just that.

Should the Braves follow suit with Ronald Acuna? There is a lot of talk about bringing him up in September and why not? Over three stops from High-A ball to Triple-A, Acuna has hit .320/.374/.539 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 20 homers, and 37 steals. His numbers have improved at each stop and despite being about eight years younger than the International League, Acuna has an OPS of 1.021 with Gwinnett over 34 games. He's not only the top prospect in the Braves' system but has a solid claim to the best prospect in baseball and he's just 19 years-old.

Bringing him up now would sacrifice a potential extra year of team control. There are other concerns, but provided Acuna stays in the majors, he would reach free agency after 2023. If the Braves waited until sometime in late April of next season to bring Acuna up, they would follow the Bryant route and gain an extra year of team control while merely sacrificing a few weeks of the 2018 season with their top prospect in Triple-A. The Braves have historically not concerned themselves with that, though. I mentioned Heyward and he opened his rookie season in the starting lineup on opening day. By that September, Freddie Freeman joined the team for a cup of coffee. Last August, Dansby Swanson was surprisingly brought to the majors, which started his clock early. In fact, the last time I remember the Braves really concerning themselves with service time came in 2009.

Tommy Hanson was absolutely dominant with Myrtle Beach and Mississippi in 2008 as a 21-year-old. He finished the season by crushing the Arizona Fall League with a 0.63 ERA over 28.2 innings and 49 strikeouts. Over 14.2 innings the following spring, Hanson had a 2.45 ERA with 14 strikeouts. But it was Jo-Jo Reyes who was named the fifth starter. Predictably, he failed and in mid-May, the Braves made a change. Hanson had a 1.70 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 47.2 ING over his first eight starts, but the Braves passed on bringing him up from Gwinnett. They instead called on Kris Medlen, who had been nearly as excellent but wasn't considered a top prospect. Medlen would get three starts until June 7, when the Braves finally brought up Hanson.

All of this was done for one reason - arbitration. Had the Braves opened the season with Hanson as the fifth starter, not only would he have gotten to free agency a season quicker, he would have gotten paid a lot quicker as well. Players become arbitration-eligible after three seasons on a MLB roster. The Braves passed and continued to pass even after gaining the extra year of team control. That was done to get him past the expected date for Super 2 arbitration-eligible players. Super 2 refers to players with two years of service time plus a lot more. Basically, you group all of the players with more than two years of service time, but less than three years in a given season. You take the top 22% of that list and it gives you a threshold. Anyone above that threshold reaches arbitration early. That threshold differs, but it typically lands somewhere in the 2 years and 120-to-150 days area. Remember Bryant from earlier? Despite the fact that the Cubs bought an extra year before free agency, he will still reach salary arbitration this year. And the three years after it. Hence why Super 2 guys can get really expensive. Since arbitration-eligible players rarely fail to receive a nice bump in pay, it gets pretty costly the third time around even for just good players. Add a fourth year and players often are getting plenty of bank. One such player for the Braves this offseason will be Mike Foltynewicz, who will likely have 2 years and 163 days of service time. While the Super 2 cutoff hasn't been decided for 2017, it's unlikely to be higher than 163 days.

The entire reason I bring up service time and arbitration today is related to Dan Winkler. Back in December of 2014, the Braves selected Winkler in the Rule 5 draft. They knew he would miss of the next season after having Tommy John surgery. When a Rule 5 player is injured and misses time the next season, they still have to log at least 90 days on the active roster to fulfill their Rule 5 eligibility. If they fail to reach 90 days in their first season as a Rule 5 guy, they must finish off the remaining time the next season before being eligible to be optioned to the minors. In Winkler's case, as we know, it gets complicated.

Winkler was activated off the DL in 2015 on September 10. Between that day and the end of the season, he logged 24 days on the active roster. The following season, he was on the active roster for eight days before fracturing his elbow. In two seasons, he had 32 days of service time - or nearly two months short of what he would need to satisfy the Rule 5 requirement of 90 days.

The right-hander is currently on his second rehab assignment this season, which has required approval because pitchers only receive 30 days on rehab assignments. Winkler's most recent rehab assignment began 12 days ago. If he has been granted a second rehab assignment of 30 days, the Braves would be able to keep him in the minors until September 1 without having to make a move with the current roster. The season runs through October 1, which would get Winkler to 31 days of active roster time for this season and 55 overall. That leaves an additional 35 days of active roster time he would need to reach in 2018 to satisfy his Rule 5 requirements.

But...he'll also be arbitration-eligible. Yep, even though Winkler has thrown four innings in the majors, he'd be eligible for arbitration even if he went back on the DL for the rest of the year. Earlier, I said players get credit for service time while on the DL. Even though Winkler has pitched 13 times this season in the minors, it's all came under rehab assignments, which means he's still on the major league DL. That would mean Winkler would reach 172 days of service time this season on or about September 15, which would give him three years of service time in the major leagues.

But why stop this extra-strength convoluted exercise now? Let's go over the Braves' options.

I don't remember a case even close to this so this is my best-educated guess.

The Braves could non-tender Winkler, but as far as I know it, non-tender players become official in early December. That might be longer than the Braves would like to go with Winkler taking up space on their roster if they already plan on getting rid of him.

Atlanta could outright Winkler to the minors, but there are a few hang-ups there as well. One, to get him off the 40-man roster, they would need to waive him, offer him to the rest of the league, and, provided he passed through waivers, offer him back to the Rockies. If the other 29 teams passed, the Braves could attempt to outright him to the minors, but as an arbitration-eligible player, Winkler would have the right to elect free agency. As a free agent, the Braves could still try to sign him as a minor league free agent if they so wanted. For that matter, they could simplify the process and release Winkler and then sign him. If he accepted an assignment to the minors after being outrighted or signed as a minor league free agent and either came before the Rule 5 draft, he'd actually be eligible in the 2018 Rule 5 draft.

The Braves could also elect to offer arbitration. After all, how much could Winkler ask for and what could his agent argue? That he's been a good patient? For his part, Winkler has looked much sharper since beginning another rehab stint with Gwinnett and was very impressive to open last season. As he is unlikely to receive significantly more than the major league minimum through arbitration, he still could be a good bet to receive an arbitration tender.

Fortunately, few cases are crazier than Winkler and most are much simpler. Joining Winkler and Foltynewicz among this year's arbitration-eligible players for the first time will be Sam Freeman, Danny Santana, and Jace Peterson. Another player, Jose Ramirez, seems like a good bet to also reach Super 2 status. Ian Krol, Rex Brothers, Arodys Vizcaino, and Matt Adams will also be arbitration-eligible. Much of this group seems likely to receive a non-tender - including Winkler. Should that happen, the next team won't even have to worry about Rule 5 eligibility with Winkler. That should keep the complications down to a minimal.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Some Waves are Bigger than Others

There are some in Braves country that are getting annoyed with the rebuild, and I get it (but don't agree with the mindset). The Braves traded some of their biggest names in Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, and Andrelton Simmons, and thus far have not seen the fruits of that labor at the Major League level. Since the rebuild commenced, the MLB team has looked pretty lackluster, and even the pitching talent that has surfaced has likely not been what is expected...or at least advertised. 

However, if you look outside the Braves front office fluffing of a few of the early pitching prospects, you get an unbiased look at what was expected of some of these guys, and while the "ceiling" has not been met, the expectation was MUCH, MUCH less than what our fans or front office claimed.

But fret not Braves fans. On a daily basis, I get to set my eyes upon the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico and I can assure you that some waves are bigger than others. If you're familiar with the color-coded flags that frequent the panhandle of Florida that determine wave conditions, you'll be familiar with the green, yellow, red, and double red flags. Here are their descriptions:

  • GREEN FLAG- Calm Condition
  • YELLOW FLAG- Moderate Surf/Currents
  • RED FLAG- High Hazard
  • DOUBLE RED FLAG- Beach Closed to the Public

These flags represent the Braves rebuild, especially that of the pitching variety. We are in the midst of this thing, but it's about to get really rocky for other MLB teams.

LET'S GO GREEN!!!!


Two years ago the first wave of the rebuild showed up and, no doubt, it was of the green flag variety. It wasn't a threat to the other MLB clubs. But the problem was in how it was presented to the masses. Let's break down a few guys: 

Staff Sgt. Jason Duhr via Wikipedia Commons
1. Matt Wisler- Every outlet that projected this guy saw him as a guy with a mid-rotation ceiling, but prior to his promotion he was being pushed as a guy to build on by the Braves brass. This was wish-casting and fast-forward to 2017, Wisler's being converted to relief at AAA after failing to keep his ERA below 4 since 2013.

2. Mike Foltynewicz- Immediately, when Mike was traded for, Braves started discussing front-line rotation stuff.  Unlike Wisler, this wasn't much of a stretch, but many prospect gurus agreed that the floor of "back-end relief" was more likely. Fast forward 3 years, and there are flashes but it mostly looks like he'll be a mid-rotation guy for his career...and that's a win for the Braves.

3. Aaron Blair- "Mid-rotation workhorse" ceiling that turned into a big dumpster fire at the MLB level. And this tidbit: He miraculously lost 3 MPH on his fastball when he donned a Braves uni. He's now sporting a high walk rate, a low strikeout rate, and a mid-4s ERA at AAA.

4. Tyrell Jenkins- "Back-end rotation" ceiling now out of a job after being released by the Padres in July. Many, including myself, got caught up in his dynamic personality and decent ERA despite having poor peripherals that showed their true colors against the best baseball hitters in the game.

So, the GREEN FLAG wave has passed and as of now, only 1 of the 4 have come close to prospect projections. Is this more a lesson in prospect projections? Patience? Expectations? Really, it's all of the above. It is pretty rare for baseball players to live up to the hype of their prospect status, but the expectations that were thrown on this first wave to bear fruit were unfair to the players and the fans, not to mention the pressure the front office put on them with unreachable ceilings. But baseball is hard, and the guys above still have plenty of time to grow into their projections.

They call me MELLOW YELLOW


The Braves are in the midst of their YELLOW FLAG wave. These are guys with higher ceilings but have not put it all together in the MLB or MilB.

1.Sean Newcomb- The poster child for the YELLOW FLAG as Sean has a ceiling that is likely as high as anyone in the entire system, but is still plagued by control issues that were still present at Gwinnett. It's not a bad strategy for him to try to work through control issues in the midst of a punt year, but it'll be interesting to see what happens next year when the Braves are supposedly going to try to compete for the division and likely won't have the patience to run a pitcher out every 5th day plagued with the same issues that have cursed his baseball career. 

Rick Briggs via Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)
2. Lucas Sims- Once considered the Braves best-pitching prospect, Sims is now overshadowed by 2 handfuls of pitchers throughout the system.  Like Newcomb, Sims has been plagued by the ol' 4-baller, but that's taken care of itself over the last 2 years, but at what cost?  What made Sims valuable at a younger age was a fastball that had lots of movement and could hit 96.  Now his fastball sits in the low-90s. At Gwinnett this year, it didn't effect his strikeout rate as he was punching out over 10 per 9. However, in the MLB it's down to 4.7, albeit in a very small sample. The thing about Sims is if you look at projecting the Braves over the next 4-5 years, he doesn't seem to have the sticking power to stay in the rotation. His ceiling is much lower now than what it was after his age 19-season, and current projections have him as a back end guy/high-leverage reliever. It's my opinion that Sims received his 2017 chance due to his 40-man roster placement, not his performance, which was good but not really call-up worthy. As part of the yellow wave, I think Sims' best chance to stay in a rotation would be in a rotation that doesn't have a tomahawk across the chest. 

3. Max Fried- Fried is a poster child for small samples, both good and bad. His overall body of work has looked very pedestrian, but he flashes brilliance on a regular basis. Like Sims, Fried is likely on the MLB roster due to his position on the 40-man roster, but also the Braves are likely trying to keep his innings down as they've been extra cautious with guys coming off of Tommy John surgery. All of Fried's pitches are still present and his hook looks as filthy as ever, but something has held him back from tapping consistently into greatness. My guess is simply location as there's nothing else that can be pinpointed to mediocrity. He's one to keep an eye on as his ceiling is that of a 3-4 starter, but health could take him down as low as middle relief.

Red Flag?  SKIP THAT! DOUBLE RED FLAG IN FULL-EFFECT in 2018!!!


2018, the bulk of high-end pitching prospects will be at full-bloom at some point in time during the year, and it could be a wonder to behold!  Our next group all have front-line potential (number 1-2 starters) and this isn't organizational fluff but real prospect gurus with real projections.

1. Luiz Gohara- 20 years of age and flying through the minors after being mercifully removed from the Mariners' organization, Gohara might have the highest ceiling of all the pitching prospects with a serious left-handed power arm that's capable of striking out the fiercest of opponents. His issues stem from problems outside the diamond of which I'm not willing to delve into, but if he can keep those at bay, look out MLB.

2. Mike Soroka- Comparing anyone to Greg Maddux is setting them up for failure, so I'm not going to do that, but Soroka's pinpoint control is reminiscent of Maddux's reputation. Also only 20, Soroka is on pace to see time in the MLB as early as April of 2018, and I cannot possibly imagine a scenario where he's not in the bigs by 2018's end. Works low in the zone and uses every scrap of the plate, and if Tyler Flowers has anything to do with it, he'll use bits right outside the plate as well. With 3 plus pitches in his arsenal, this dude's the real deal. While he might not have the front-line arsenal of Gohara, his control could put him in the conversation.

3. Kolby Allard- At 19, the Braves might be pumping the brakes on this young stud as he's run into his first professional stretch where he hasn't dominated. Like Soroka, Allard has 3 plus-pitches and can run a FB up to 97, but normally ranges from 91-94. The fastball has lots of movement and his curve has different levels of break depending on the velocity. He's in AA and I think he stays there the rest of this year and maybe part of 2018. From there, it's anyone's guess, but I think his MLB debut happens sometime in 2019.

4. Touki Toussaint- If you were like me (don't be like me) you rated Touki lower on the prospect chart due to an inflated ERA that's been present his entire MiLB career. Like I said, don't be me and listen to others when they say Touki was, and still is, raw, but he is really coming around these last 4-5 starts. Like Gohara, if everything goes right, oh boy! Hold on to your seat because he's going to rocket. For now, his 95 MPH fastball and ridiculous curveball will make its home in Pearl, MS where he'll make foes look like fools. My bet is he'd be on the Allard track.

5. Kyle Wright- Could the Braves push Wright to MLB next year? You bet your butt they could...but I wouldn't expect it. Like Dansby, Wright is a polished pitcher that's got the frame and arsenal to be great. If the Braves need a push from a pitcher late in 2018, Wright could be that guy. However, 2019 seems more realistic and that's only 1.5 years in the Minors, a little more than Dansby.


Calm after the Storm? HECK NO!!! RED FLAG COMING IN!!!!

This group could very well become a named storm, let's call it Hurricane Arm Overload, and that would put them into DOUBLE RED FLAG status if they continue to develop, but for now, let's just appreciate them for kicking butt in the system. Most of these guys are early in their development and while most players they're facing off against are older, they're still in Low-A or below (or injured) and I've learned valuable lessons about projecting guys as "stars" when they're still in the lower minors (or injured). Watch closely to this group's development when they get to Double-A and beyond. I most definitely have high hopes.

1. Ian Anderson- Only 19 years old, Braves 1st round pick from 2016 is sitting 'em down at Low-A and has a body to grow into. Can already run it up to 97, and has the projections to be a #2-3 guy.

2. Joey Wentz- Also only 19, and has been a personal favorite of mine since the draft (and I have articles to prove it!), I think he's going to be really special. Putting up best numbers in the system at Low-A with a mid-90s peak fastball, and a change up and curve that's reportedly getting better every outing. The athleticism is the game-changer here and Wentz was a serious 2-way star coming out of high school and that should really pay dividends on the mound. Early projections show his ceiling as a mid-rotation pitcher.

3. Bryse Wilson- The surprise of the system thus far, and forgive me if I repeat things, but Bryse is also 19 years of age. Only surpassed by Wentz, Bryse is sporting a 2.36 ERA with a great K-rate, low-BB rate, and a knack for controlling the zone. The knock on him when drafted was that scouts thought he was destined for the bullpen, but man oh man he's proving he can play up. Working off of his fastball that sits the mid-90s, Bryse has a curve/slurve that's very effective and a change-up that is developing with every outing. Early projections show him as a mid-to-back end rotation pitcher.

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
4. Kyle Muller- Pitching at Danville, Muller seems to be a bit behind in development from the 3 above, but it'd only take 2-3 dominant performances for him to be right in the mix. Muller most definitely has one of the more suitable frames for longevity as he's coming in at 6'6 225. Fastball sits at 92-93 but many reports I saw right after the draft had it pushing 95. I think we will see added velo to his fastball before it's said and done and he's likely toned it down to work on command which is very common for pitchers in the Braves system. Like Wentz, Muller is known for his athleticism and that should help his cause on the mound. A 3 pitch arsenal that's being fine tuned and has a 4th pitch that he's playing around with for now, Muller has the makeup to become an overnight surprise. Was in extended ST for a while nursing an ailment so I wouldn't doubt if he's up in Low-A by the end of the season when mass promotions will once again pour over the southeast like a summer thunderstorm.

5. Patrick Weigel- There's no doubt that Weigel would be in the Double Red Flag group above had it not been for his season-ending Tommy-John surgery at June's end. Like Muller, Weigel has a frame for eating innings if his arm can agree with his body post-surgery. Weigel works off of his fastball which sits 95ish and moves up to 100 on occasions. Weigel was promoted to AAA after 7 dominant starts in AA and ran into some hiccups. However, it was reported that his velo took a nosedive in the last 2-3 starts before being pulled on June 18th after only 3.1 innings.  Due to the Braves extreme caution on Tommy John victims, Weigel likely won't see action again until 2019 or at earliest Winter Ball in 2018 which, in turns, begs the question, "Does Weigel remain a starter?" The short answer for me is yes, but I don't think that'll be his role in MLB. If he can stay healthy, I think Weigel becomes a back-end bullpen threat where he's asked to come in and let it fly. Focusing on 2 dominant pitches in his fastball and curveball and keeping the 3rd (changeup) in his back pocket to keep hitters honest, Weigel could be a serious force for years.

WELL, that's all folks!  Don't fret when looking at the current fruits of the Braves pitching prospects that have peaked into the bigs this year. Dominance is coming and we are going to have wave after wave after wave for years to come.

Go BRAVES!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Transaction Tuesday: Swanson, Demeritte, Sanchez, Pena

Not a big week in transactions, though a few players hit the DL that was quite noteworthy. We also had a minor league trade and a player to be named later was finally named in the Brandon Phillips trade. Finally, there was a suspension for a minor league player.

*The moves covered in this edition of Transaction Tuesday cover August 8 to August 14. A number in parenthesis represents the player's ranking in the midseason WOW Top 50.

Atlanta

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
Recalled from Gwinnett: Dansby Swanson...Here's the thing that already looks good - Swanson is hitting the ball with more exit velocity (roughly 5-7 mph) than he did when his struggles finally reached rock bottom before the demotion. That's a plus. On the negative side, he has yet to hit a ball with a better than 90 mph EV - something he did more frequently earlier in the season. But we'll take what good we can find from Swanson. His time in the minors wasn't very exciting, though it was short-lived. In fact, the most noteworthy thing about his stay in the minors was when he played second base. Not much else has yet to be written about Swanson this year so I won't bore you with the same old, same old. What we do know is how he finishes these last several weeks might tell us more about where he is heading into 2018 and how the Braves see him.

Acquired as a PTBNL from Reds: Kevin Franklin...A second rounder back in 2013, Franklin has yet to show much of a bat in the minors. He was expected to have good power coming out of high school and was ranked #232 by Baseball America before the draft. Franklin has a long swing and the expected side effect of such a lengthy swing - a lot of strikeouts. He's also quite aggressive at the plate and is simply not in the batter's box to take walks. Now 22-years-old, Franklin is a curious pickup here. I guess it suggests that the Reds weren't offering much more to add to the already very successful Brandon Phillips trade.

DL'd: Johan Camargo (#23, knee bone bruise)...Injured in an odd series of events last week, Camargo will miss some time with a knee injury. Camargo was struggling right before the injury with a .204/.278/.367 slash over his previous 54 PA (15 games). His BABIP was still at a healthy .364 clip and I don't want to make too much of a big deal about that. The Camargo of 2017 is not the Camargo of previous years so the old and trusted idea of a career norm in BABIP might not be as useful as it usually is. All that said, there are some issues here that do suggest a further decline in his full season numbers shouldn't be a surprise. I'm of the belief - and the numbers support it - that Camargo's range is not very good at shortstop. With his cannon, he's a better fit at third. Either way, no one can disagree that Camargo has had a very good rookie season. It's what he ultimately profiles as that there is a lot of disagreement and that is unlikely to change soon.

Gwinnett
Promoted from Mississippi: Emerson Landoni...This is the sixth time Landoni has made one of these updates. He's the definition of organizational filler.

Activated: Rhiner Cruz...One of Gwinnett's top relievers missed very little time on the DL. A right-hander with major league experienced (5.05 FIP in 76.1 ING), Cruz has been much better with Gwinnett than he was in the Mexican League last year, proving once and for all - if you can't hack it in the Mexican League, you still have a future in the International League.

Traded to Tacoma (Seattle): Andrew Albers...You landed on one of two sides when it came to this deal, which brought the Braves some extra cash. Either you were upset about trading the left-hander in the middle of a dominant season at Triple-A or you thought, "Am I upset about dealing a soft-tossing 31-year-old lefty? Nope." Albers has always had good control and with no plus-plus pitch, he knows how to use what he has well. The problem is guys with Albers' stuff often get blasted in the majors. Sometimes, though, something clicks and an AAAA guy finds success late in his career. Aaron Small, who also played in the Braves' system, had a brief 76-inning stretch in 2005 with the Yankees where he put up a 1.3 fWAR run. This is amazing since his lifetime fWAR is 0.5. The next season, he turned back into a pumpkin. Will the Braves regret giving away Albers? I doubt it, but who knows? Baseball's a funny game.

Mississippi
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DL'd: Travis Demeritte (#12)...The hype train was ready to leave the station this season for Demeritte, but one small problem. It left behind Demeritte, who has languished during a terrible season in Mississippi, slashing just .216/.295/.398 with 15 homers. He has struck out less - about 6% less - but that number has been climbing this summer as his batting average has declined. In his defense, a .269 BABIP is killer. In fact, it's similar to his 2014 campaign, where he slashed .211/.310/.450. That year, his BABIP was .286. When you strike out as frequently as Demeritte does - and he's still striking out 27.5% of the time - super low BABIP numbers will kill your average because around 30% of your plate appearances are already outs. If you are looking for another silver lining...Demeritte has hit left-hand pitching very well. That suggests a possibility - a very remote one - of Demeritte possibly pushing his way into the third base picture next spring if the Braves don't bring in a player to take over the position. As of now, I don't have any information as to what landed Demeritte on the DL.

Florida
DL'd: Sal Giardina...There was some thought that when Giardina was demoted at the end of July, he might be retiring. His tweet did kind of suggest that. Instead, he joined Florida, where he played first base and third base over the next several days. According to another tweet, Giardina recently was dealing with strep, which is why he missed a few games. It's possible the trip to the DL is just an extension of that.

DL'd: Ricardo Sanchez (#31)...There have been a few good things with Sanchez's season. His strikeout rate has climbed for the second straight season while his walk rate has declined for the third straight season. He's getting about 7% more groundballs and his numbers would likely look a lot better if he wasn't carrying a .358 BABIP as his FIP (4.06) and xFIP (3.69) suggests. Unfortunately, in his most recent start on Sunday, Sanchez faced two batters (retired both) and threw only seven pitches before being removed. We'll hope for the best in regards to Sanchez, but that's never a good sign.

Rome
Demoted to Danville and Re-promoted: Walter Borkovich...The next handful of moves were all about getting fresh arms on the Rome active roster and utilizing the Danville's bigger roster to do so. Borkovich has appeared with Danville this season, but since his call-up a few weeks ago even though he "spent" much of last week in the Appalachian League.

Promoted from Danville: Troy Conyers...Didn't appear for Danville so another roster management move.

Promoted from Danville: Tucker Davidson...Didn't appear for Danville so another roster management move.

Danville
Demoted from Rome: Matt Custred...This is completely due to roster management as Custred is part of what is a very talented Rome bullpen. In fact, Custred has earned a promotion that probably should have come after last season. In 2016, Custred had a 3.18 ERA over 56.1 ING. The walks were a bit high, but he also struck out 64. A year later and his numbers are tremendously better and the 23-year-old still can't get a call-up to Florida. Custred has solid mid-90's heat with good movement when he keeps it down and an excellent curveball that he has a better feel of this season. The Braves are often aggressive with their best prospects so Custred languishing at Rome (with some "time" spent with Danville) suggests they don't value him very highly.

Demoted from Rome: Taylor Hyssong...Another part of the roster shakeup as the Braves sought to pull guys off the Rome roster and put that back on. Hyssong didn't pitch while in Low-A.

GCL
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Promoted from DSL: Yenci Pena...The 2016 J2 class keeps giving. Pena got an even million bucks to sign last year - though he signed a few weeks after Kevin Maitan and company because he didn't turn 16 until July 13. Pena is a well-rounded prospect who does a bit of everything. The Braves liked him at shortstop in the DSL and moving forward in the GCL, we might get a glimpse into who is the higher-rated shortstop right now - Livan Soto or Pena. Soto has been the regular at shortstop this year for the GCL squad and though he hasn't done a lot with the bat, he's been doing a bit better of late.

DSL
Assigned: Yandri Lara...The Braves haven't been shy about getting some of their J2 class from this year into action and Lara is the latest addition to the club. A 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Lara is listed as a third baseman and that's about all of the information I have on him so far. He played regularly over the last week, though struggled badly with just a single in 18 AB. He walked twice and struck out a dozen times.

Suspended: Madinson Colon...Signed near the end of 2016-17 international class, Colon was in the midst of some truly awful numbers before popping positive for Stanozolol. In eight games and 7.1 ING, Colon had walked 16 and struck out just four. In his defense, one of those walks was intentional so it was really only 15 walks in 7.1 ING. Ruff. He also hit four batters and uncorked five wild pitches. So, you see, the usage of the term "performance-enhancing drug" here does not apply.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Yet Another Ronald Acuna/Andruw Jones Piece - But This One is Different!

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I am on the record with this. I love Ronald Acuna. He makes my heart flutter. When he hits a home run, to quote Bowling for Soup, "all the wind blows and the angels sing." He's the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact, he's like pretzel bread, which as we all know, improves bread to another level. Ronald Acuna is hope and hope is good.

But the Braves have, as our own Stephen Tolbert said a few weeks back, a corner outfield problem. Worse, it is a problem that could - I repeat, could - continue into 2018. Where would Acuna fit in if the Braves are incapable of finding a trading partner willing to take on Matt Kemp's salary and/or Nick Markakis's...Markaisian averageness? Should the Braves simply take their losses and release Kemp or Markakis (likely the latter) just to open up a spot for Acuna? Should he stay in the minors until the Braves find a taker for one of their older corner outfielders - despite unreal numbers this season?

Here's the thing, Braves fans. The Braves don't have to have an either/or. They can have a team next year that includes Kemp, Markakis, and Acuna. Just so you don't freak out, Ender Inciarte also fits into this arrangement. And what's even better is that the Braves have done it before

You've probably seen a lot - and I mean A LOT - of comparisons between Andruw Jones and Acuna. Both climbed from A-ball to Triple-A in their Age-19 seasons. Both were dynamic outfielders and elite prospects in baseball. Whether these comparisons are fair or not, they are inevitable. There are just too many similar factors here. And why stop now? Why not follow what the Braves did in 1997 with the then 20-year-old Andruw Jones? Why not use Acuna as the fourth outfielder for a year?

I know what you're thinking - the Braves won't do that because Acuna is too valuable to be wasted in a fourth outfielder role. It's also difficult to see a possibility where Acuna isn't better than either Kemp nor Markakis in 2018. And for the record, I don't mean Acuna should be the fourth outfielder in a way Lane Adams is a fourth outfielder. I mean only to use Acuna like Andruw Jones was used in 1997.

Let's flashback to that year for a second. While every Braves fan remembers 1996 and Andruw homering twice in the Bronx during the World Series, the Braves didn't hand the young man a spot in the starting lineup to begin 1997. It's why Michael Tucker had an opportunity to hit the first home run in Turner Field history. The Braves opened the season with a platoon between Tucker and Andruw. When he wasn't in the starting lineup, Andruw would play often in a pinch-hitting/defensive replacement role. Of the first 25 games, he played in 24. He remained in that timeshare until mid-June, when Kenny Lofton went down with an injury. It allowed Andruw the shot to play nightly. When Lofton returned, Andruw was relegated back into his backup role, filling in against left-hand pitching, playing defense in right and left, and occasionally spelling Lofton in center field. He started 96 games - fewer than Tucker, Lofton, and Ryan Klesko - but more than one might expect for a fourth outfielder. He also played an additional 51 games in the field for a total of 147 games of experience in the outfield. Add that with six more games in a pinch-hitting capacity and Andruw Jones actually finished second on the 1997 Braves in games played.

Now, does this situation compare to a potential 2018 Braves' squad? You better believe it. Consider these two scenarios.

Scenario #1 - The Braves Can't Find a Taker for Kemp

This possibility is a likelihood at this point. Many who questioned the Hector Olivera trade last summer pointed out that Kemp's value was only going down. This season, he has been a replacement level player due to atrocious defense and bad baserunning metrics. His offense isn't bad (though a rising groundball rate is troubling), but the belief that he was a changed man after coming over from the Padres is a bit overblown. He's essentially the same player as he was in 2015, his first season in San Diego.

Kemp has been durable to an extent, but many would argue that has been to the club's detriment. Kemp plays hurt - largely because his knees are shot and though he's still just 32, it seems like he's much older. Still, he averaged 153 games in the three years before this so he knows how to stay in the lineup. Two trips to the DL this season, though, and nagging injuries throughout the season point to the possibility that his 150-game seasons might be a thing of the past. That's actually not the worst thing, by the way. Players with Kemp's issues need regular rest to make them better able to deal with a long season.

Since the Braves are unlikely to find a team with much interest in sharing the burden of the nearly $40 million the Braves are on the hook for over the next two seasons, Kemp seems likely to return in 2018. Wouldn't it be nice to have both a capable defender able to hide Kemp in late games and a capable hitter able to contribute offensively? Do you really feel it's out of the realm of possibility that Atlanta will need a contingency plan should Kemp miss a month or more of the 2018 season? Acuna provides a ready replacement.

There's also the possibility of keeping Matt Adams and giving him at-bats to keep Kemp fresh. I'm not sure that it makes a lot of sense to keep two guys who still couldn't cover left field even if MLB allowed the Braves to play both at the same time, but I understand the whole "if Kemp is bad at defense, does it matter that Adams also is?" Nevertheless, the team could still use a defensive replacement for either.

Scenario #2 - Markakis Attracts a Lukewarm Market

Nick Markakis (2015-Present)
vs. AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
RHP .290 .378 .412 .341 112
LHP .256 .308 .324 .280 71
Since coming to Atlanta, Nick Markakis has wRC+ of 71 and a .280 wOBA against left-hand pitching. That's abysmal. Hiding that with Acuna would definitely be useful in a world where Markakis might not attract a lot of attention on the open market should the Braves attempt to deal him. Further, Markakis's defense, while not as severely detrimental to the team as Kemp's, remains an issue for Atlanta.

The Braves could - and probably would - be open to paying down some of Markakis's $10.5M remaining salary, but for what? A no-name prospect? Say what you will about Markakis and I have, but the guy is consistent, durable, and consistent. Yes, I know I said that twice, but compliments work best in threes and I couldn't think of another one. With the very real possibility of Kemp going down for significant time in 2018, do the Braves really want to lose Markakis, who again is durable (and consistent)?

Now, you might say that these two scenarios don't exist in a vacuum and you would be right. The Braves could trade Markakis, for example, and sign a good enough outfielder or platoon Dustin Peterson and Lane Adams to deal with any possible injury to Kemp. For that matter, Kemp could stay relatively healthy. Furthermore, Matt Adams is the mix as well (though his numbers have fallen considerably since his big start with the Braves). You might even say, "why put off the inevitable? Ronald Acuna is the future and the future is ready to begin."

It's a tough argument to counter. Playing Ronald Acuna every day is certainly more exciting than watching either the consistently durable Markakis or the kneeless Kemp meander around the outfield. But is it best for the player? I'll use two examples here. First, let's look back at Andruw Jones. He spent a year playing nearly every game, but only starting slightly more than half. Did it stunt his growth? Not even a little. He improved across the board the following season and was an All-Star three years later. While many would argue that Andruw never reached the potential we set out for him, it didn't change the fact that he had a very productive - and possibly Hall of Fame worthy - career.

The other example is Dansby Swanson. Like Acuna, Swanson was an exciting player who rushed through the minors. He was hyped up as the future Derek Jeter and a frontrunner for the 2017 Rookie of the Year. But baseball happened. Now, the Braves are simply trying to jump-start Swanson so he can pivot into 2018 on a high note. If such a thing happened to Acuna, wouldn't it be nice to be able to have Markakis and Kemp in-house? Sure, neither are world beaters, but what are the chances that another Johan Camargo bails out the Braves here?

In the end, I would simply say this - I love Acuna as a player. I want only success for the young man. I believe in him. I also think that maybe the best way of bringing him to the big time is in a smaller role. Again, I'm not saying give him 200 plate appearances like you might a typical fourth outfielder. He'd play often as a platoon bat in right field, keeping Kemp fresh in left field, and giving Inciarte breathers in center field. He'd be part of the mix, not a traditional backup. And either through a midseason trade of Kemp or Markakis or the latter leaving after 2018, Acuna would simply slide into a starting spot.

It worked for Andruw. More than 20 years later, it's time to try it again with Acuna.

Finding the Braves a 3B

Through their run of 14 straight division titles spanning from 1991 to 2005, the Braves were known for dominant pitching. Regardless of what happened the year before or what happened in the off-season or free agency, it seemed Atlanta always had pitching. Having 3 Hall of Famers anchoring your rotation will, of course, help build that reputation but starting pitching wasn’t the only position Atlanta didn’t have to worry about for the better part of two decades. The other was third base.


Chipper Jones held down the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves for pretty much he’s entire career. Excuse me, his entire Hall of Fame career. The only time he wasn’t there was when fellow all-star Vinny Castilla manned the positions for a few years in the early 2000s while Chipper patrolled LF. And even before Chipper arrived, former MVP Terry Pendelton was the primary 3B, starting over there from 1991-1994. Point is for almost a quarter century, 3B just wasn’t a position the Braves had to worry about. Production was always there.

Well that’s changed.

Chipper retired in 2012 and since the Braves have been, well terrible at 3B. How terrible? Here’s a chart of every NL team starting in 2013 through present day:





Apparently in the NL East you can be great at 3B, or awful. No in between. Anyways, as you can see, the Braves have been bad. I’m not going to go through all the names they’ve run out there since 2012, you guys know who they are. Point is it’s time for Atlanta to find a decent 3B. It is important to remember that uber-prospect Kevin Maitan most likely big-league position will end up being third base in my opinion. Others will disagree with that but I see a guy only 17 and already bordering on being too big to stay at SS. But we’ll see. Maitan is too far away to be counting on at this point anyways so Atlanta still needs to be looking.

And because of that, I put together a list of guys I think may have at least some chance of being Atlanta's 3B in 2018 and beyond. 

There are a few of things about the list before we get started:
  • This isn’t exhaustive. There will be guys you think of that I didn’t. It’s fine.
  • This isn’t a ranking. Where a guy shows up on the list isn’t significant. It’s just a list.
  • Defense matters. It’s a zero-sum game. A run saved is a run scored.
  • Everything is allowed. I look at trades, FA signings, internal promotions.
  • I’ll probably revisit this in December when we have a better idea of the market.


Ok. Off we go.

Mike Moustakas


So this is the name everyone is talking about, and rightfully so. Moustakas is having an incredible year offensively while maintaining league average defense. His 34 home runs rank 1st among all 3B in MLB and is on pace for around a 4 Win season. Moustakas is a free agent after the season and given he’s only 28 and the kind of year he’s having, he will be handsomely rewarded with what is sure to be a massive contract. And this is where it gets tricky with him and Atlanta. The Braves don’t swim in the deep end of the free agency pool and given some big market teams, including the Yankees, will likely be looking for 3B help, it’s very likely Atlanta will simply get outbid. Anything can happen so we’ll see but this looks like a match that makes more sense on paper than it does in the budget.

Adonis Garcia


No.

Eduardo Nunez


The best thing you can say about Nunez is he’s just solid. Nothing terribly spectacular about his game but no big glaring hole either. One plus for him is he’s able to make high levels of contact while maintaining decent power numbers. A 10% K rate with a .140 ISO is solid ratio and works plenty well as a solid major league starter. The defense is just meh, slightly below average but he isn’t going to kill you over there. Nunez is free agent at the end of the year and is expected to command significantly less salary than Moustakas so this one has some plausibility.

Johan Camargo


Everyone’s favorite story of the 2017 season, the once disappointing prospect has turned some serious heads with added pop, loud tools, and what looks to be a new dedication to the game. Johan had a really good spring and was close to making the team if not for some mental lapses and sloppy errors that convinced the organization to go with other, lesser players for the bench. Camargo’s solid play this year has led some to wonder if he should be the starting 3B next year, next to SS Dansby Swanson and 2B Ozzie Albies. Since it’s my list I’ll say I wouldn’t do this just because that .364 BABIP he’s running this year has only led to a 101 wRC+ and as one rapidly falls, so will the other. Combine that with a 5% walk rate and ultimately, I think Camargo is best suited for a utility role. But he’s definitely put his name in the ring which is amazing given where he was a year ago.

Yandy Diaz


Some of you have no idea who this but this is a guy I, personally, have been following for a while. Diaz is a 3B in the Indians farm system and has consistently put up some of the best numbers in minor league baseball. When we did our trade deadline extravaganza here at WalkOffWalk, we each picked a guy we “wish” the org would go get. My guy was Yandy. He’s not a guy you'll see on top 100 prospect list because his production has always been louder than his tools and prospect guys love tools. But here’s what he’s done the last few years in the upper minors:


2015 AA
143 wRC+
13.8 BB%
11.5 K%
2016 AA
144 wRC+
21.8 BB%
14.5 K%
2016 AAA
149 wRC+
11.3 BB%
16.8 K%
2017 AAA
166 wRC+
16.9 BB%
15.4 K%


Just insane production. And as far as his defense goes, Fangraphs throws a 60 on his glove and a 70 on his arm. The other great thing about Yandy is he’s barely seen any major league time. That means it’s at least 5 or 6 years of team control if you can acquire him. And given Cleveland already has an All-Star 3B in Jose Ramirez and are a win now team, I imagine Atlanta can find something to send their way in the offseason to make a deal work. This list isn’t a ranking but if it was, Yandy would be #1.

Rio Ruiz


Rio is another guy who has ridden the prospect roller coaster the last few years. If you don’t remember, Ruiz came over in the Evan Gattis trade with the Houston Astros and at the time, was a top 100 prospect. But after a disappointing 2015, Ruiz found himself at a crossroads in his career and there were many in the Braves organization who questioned his effort, specifically around keeping his body in shape. Well Ruiz took the criticism to heart and showed up in 2016 with a new body and a new game. Ruiz put up a 114 wRC+ for AAA Gwinnett in 2016 with an 11% BB rate and re-established himself as a legitimate prospect. He didn’t slow down in 2017 either, starting the year on fire and eventually earning a promotion to Atlanta. His big-league stint was rather lack luster, in part because of extremely inconsistent playing time, and eventually was sent back to AAA. It’s a bit of a mystery where the organization sees him long-term but if I had to guess, it would be more as a solid bench piece rather than an everyday starter. We’ll see though. Rio continuing to play well can only help his cause.

Eugenio Suarez


Suarez is another guy that, if you’re not as weirdly obsessed with baseball as I am, you may never of heard. But he’s a really good player. Suarez is the starting 3B for the Cincinnati Reds and is quietly putting up a very good season. In 2017. Suarez has a 120 wRC+ with 20 HRs and a 13% BB rate. He’s also an absolute vacuum cleaner defensively. Suarez is at +7 defensive runs saved for this season and while that’s much better than he’s ever posted, he’s always been at least above average with the glove. The reason the 26-year-old would be available is because the Reds have a 22-year-old stud prospect named Nick Senzel putting up a 188 wRC+ in AA. And when you have as many holes to fill as Cincinnati does, you can’t afford these types of redundancies on the roster, especially on their budget. My guess is they’ll move Suarez for help elsewhere and Atlanta would be wise to at least check in.

Travis Demeritte.


Last guy on the list (remember, not exhaustive) is Travis Demeritte. Coming into the year, Demeritte would have been near the top of the list of potential guys to man to hot corner for Atlanta in 2018 after the strong year he had in 2016. Even 6 weeks or so into the season, he was having a solid year, and most importantly had appeared to figure out his strikeout problem. But around mid-May, he just fell off a cliff. For the season, he’s still put up 15 HRs, a 10% BB rate and a league average OBA but the strikeouts returned in full force. His K rate is up to 27.5% on the season, and to make that profile work in the majors, you have to produce a ton of power and be quality with the glove. Good news for Demeritte is he has both a good glove and plus power but it’s unclear where the organization seems him now and seemingly unlikely he’ll see the majors in 2018 absent a strong finish to the season.


So there it is. An early look at some 3B options going into next year. Like I said at the top, we’ll look at this again in the offseason when we have a better idea of the market and have a few more names to go through.