Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Once a Brave, Always a Brave - AL Central (Part 1 of 2)

In this week's issue, we focus on the American League Central, a division that includes a tight race from 1 to 5 because the Tigers haven't played like everyone assumed they would. This division also includes the Kansas City Royals, who made it a habit to grab every ex-Brave they could afford a few years ago. Times have changed (or Dayton Moore has been gone long enough to not know these players), but the KC-ATL connection still exists, though not as extreme. In fact, due to so many former Braves in the Central, I've decided to cut the article in half and wait till next week to finish the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox
P Scott Downs - Acquired last summer to provide some stable left-hand relief, Downs was a disappointment down the stretch, nearly allowing twice as many runners as innings pitched and he was left off the playoff roster as a result. He has caught on with the White Sox, but his control has been miserable (walk rate nearly twice his career average) and his overall numbers have suffered as a result.

P Tommy Hanson (AAA) - In 2011, Hanson struck out over a batter an inning while posting a 1.17 WHIP in 22 starts. Since then, things have gone from meh to bad to awful with Hanson stuck in AAA, essentially being told that he can't help a team with an ERA near the bottom in the American League.

P Deunte Heath (AAA) - A former 2006 draft choice out of the 19th round, Heath was a middling starter in the Braves organization until being released following the 2009 season after he struggled in his only taste in AAA. Heath caught on with the White Sox and has been in the organization ever since with the righty receiving eight games in the majors in the previous two seasons.

C Tyler Flowers - Hard to believe, but Flowers is already in his sixth year with the White Sox organization. Half of that time, he has been in the majors, including the last two seasons as the primary backstop for ChiSox. Amazingly, for a guy who, as a Braves prospect, was a bat-first catcher who Atlanta wasn't sure had the skills to remain behind the plate, his glove is why he's still in the majors.

OF Gorkys Hernandez (AAA) - Acquired from the Tigers with Jair Jurrjens for Edgar Renteria, Hernandez was a strong prospect who played only 52 games in the Atlanta organization before being used in the Nate McLouth deal. Stops in Miami, Kansas City, and now Chicago have yet to establish Hernandez as the star outfielder many hope he could be. He has a career .569 OPS in 70 games in the majors so far and hasn't really hit in the minors since 2011.

Cleveland Indians
P Kyle Davies (AAA) - He's baaaack. Long ago expected to help anchor a post-John Smoltz rotation, Davies flamed out in Atlanta before being sent to the Royals. After 99 mostly awful starts in Kansas City, the Royals finally got with the program and cut Davies in 2011. He's pitched in the minors for Toronto, Minnesota, and now Cleveland as he tries to get back to the majors. On the bright side, he's pitched better than Hanson this season.

IF Elliot Johnson - Last season, Johnson's biggest moment came when the Braves chose to keep him on the postseason roster over Dan Uggla. It was a confusing decision even if Uggla was struggling. Nevertheless, the Braves weren't anxious to bring Johnson back and he landed in Cleveland, spending most of the year in AAA. In fact, he recently homered off Jordan Walden, who was rehabbing at Gwinnett.

OF Michael Bourn - Braves fans still wonder if Atlanta screwed up by signing B.J. Upton rather than bring back Bourn. For his part, after having a career season with a 6.1 fWAR in his one full season in Atlanta, Bourn has posted well below half of that in over 170 games with the Indians. His stolen base ability, a core part of his game, has been lacking and his defense has also not been as good as it was in Atlanta.

Detroit Tigers
Former Brave shortstop Alex Gonzalez briefly played with them earlier before being cut.

P Will Startup (AA) - One of the most interesting additions to this list, Startup was a fifth round pick in 2005. Much like Joey Devine, the Braves first round selection that season, Startup was a college reliever with a chance to move quickly to the majors. After reaching Richmond just a year later and pitching well for the R-Braves in 2007, the Braves moved Startup to the Padres for Wil Ledezma. It was a confusing move as both pitchers were left-hand relievers with limitations. Ledezma didn't stick around in Atlanta long and Startup missed the following year with injuries before being cut after the 2009 season. After two years in the Baltimore organization where he only pitched two games above AA, Startup was in independent ball during the 2012 season. He has spent the last two seasons in the Tigers organization trying to get back to AAA.

1B/3B Mike Hessman (AAA) - It seems like eons ago when the Braves picked Hessman out of a high school in California. A powerful third baseman, Hessman would blast at least 20 homeruns in five of his first six full seasons. However, he was blocked in Atlanta and lacked decent on-base skills. He did make it Atlanta for short stints in both 2003 and 2004. Atlanta let Hessman go and he hooked up with the Tigers, beginning a long-term residence in Toledo. He's received other stints in the majors with the Tigers and Mets, but has never stayed for long in the majors. Of note, Hessman, now 36, has tied the International League homerun record of 258 that has stood since 1945. With 403 career minor league homers, Hessman is third all-time in minor league history with only Nick Cullop (420) and Buzz Arlett (432) ahead of him. If he plays another season, he has a good chance to catching that total and might actually attract some real interest from teams so that he might break the record with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment