Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Minor League Depth Signings

Last Wednesday, I did a look at free agent signings, almost all of the minor league variety, that the Braves have finalized so far. Let's look again at some of the new names you might not know of. If you're curious, BaseballAmerica.com does a superb job of tracking this information here, though I did stumble onto another name not mentioned at that link.

RHP Justin Jackson - 25 years old - Formerly of the Toronto organization.

Interesting player to start with. Jackson was drafted with the 45th selection of the 2007 draft as a supplemental first round pick. The Jays got the selection when Frank Catalanotto signed with the Texas Rangers. A graduate from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina, Jackson was a shortstop with a powerful arm and amazing speed. If his bat developed and he remained at shortstop, Jackson's stock would grow considerably. Unfortunately, it never did. In his first full season, he struck out over 150 times in 121 games, yet posted his best single season OPS of .708.

By 2010, the Blue Jays were toying with the idea of using Jackson as a utility player and he began to drift to second and third, along with the outfield. Still no success. Finally, before the 2013 season, Jackson moved to the mound in efforts to jumpstart his career. When he pitched in high school, he was able to top out his velocity at 93 mph and that was with him more focused on playing shortstop.

Since moving to the mound, there have been mixed results. He still has the same velocity and mixes in a change-up and slider, but as probably should be expected, his control has not been very noteworthy (4.5 BB/9) and that likely has led to an unacceptable amount of homers. But there is some potential here and this is, at worst, a minor league depth pickup. At best...who knows? Be sure to give him a follow on twitter and his hilarious instagram. By the way, one last note on Jackson and more notably the school he graduated from. Also from T.C. Roberson? Last year's first round pick, Braxton Davidson.

RHP Victor Mateo - 25 years old - Formerly of the Tampa organization.

More minor league depth, this time one with starting experience. Mateo, a tall and slender righty from the Dominican Republic, has been pretty durable since joining the Rays system back in 2007 and again, there is some potential here. Notably, Mateo has thrown two no-hitters already, one in 2011 and another in 2013, while moving up the ladder. He actually had some prospect status following the 2013 season when he posted a 1.14 WHIP in 153.1 ING. However, he was left in AA for a second season last year and his numbers worsened. Mateo relies on a low 90's fastball and a hit-and-miss change-up, but doesn't get many K's and walks a few too many. Still, with his youth, durable nature, and the ability to occasionally put it together, there might be some hope he becomes more than AAAA fodder.

LHP Francisco Rondon - 26 years old - Formerly of the New York Yankees organization.

Unlike Jackson and Mateo, Rondon has been on the cusp of breaking through to the bigs. While he has spent most of the last three years receiving a AA salary, he has appeared in 16 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The lefty has relied on low 90's velocity with a nice sweeping slider to get outs, but the reason why he was picked up for peanuts was simply that he wasn't getting enough outs. Too many fastballs left high in the zone turned into walks and extra base hits. Rondon needs his fastball to be located properly to allow his best pitch, his slider, to do its job and get left-hand batters reaching. Maybe working on his release point will allow him to gain better control. He's worth a look, but he's not likely to ever play for the Braves.

SS Sean Kazmar - 30 years old - Re-Signed

Looks like the Braves have latched onto a guy they like at Gwinnett. Kazmar originally joined the Braves before the 2013 season and spent last year with the Braves as well. Before that, he had spent a year with the Mets and a year with the Mariners following seven years in the Padres organization that allowed him the opportunity to log 19 games in the majors back in 2008. Originally the first pick of he fifth round back in 2004, Kazmar had his best minor league season of his career last year, slashing .297/.348/.435. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 68 games and that marks the third consecutive year he has failed to play in at least 100 games. Known for his glove, Kazmar is around for depth and nothing more.

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