Sunday, July 13, 2014

Random Prospect Sunday: Andy Otero

Today's random prospect has been around for a long time, even though he is just now getting time above the rookie level. Born in Panama on June 3rd, 1992, Andy Otero was born on a day where Curt Schilling out-pitched John Smoltz in Atlanta. Otero was probably not all that concerned with that, though. Otero is in the same mold as other undersized pitchers the Braves have, though Otero is a lefty. He was considered an amazing athlete when the Braves brought him into the organization.

Signed ahead of the 2009 season, Otero was outstanding in the Dominican Summer League. Playing with other current prospects like Williams Perez and Elmer Reyes, Otero outclassed them all with a 0.83 ERA in 64 innings. He added a 1.00 WHIP and a ridiculous 93 K's. You could have found Otero's name as one of the big sleeper prospects heading into 2010, but after being forced into Tommy John surgery, he missed nearly all of 2010-11 save for 11 innings at the end of 2011. Further elbow issues limited him to just three innings in 2012.

This is similar to Benino Pruneda, a young reliever who suffered injuries that killed his entire 2012-13 seasons. Otero had the potential, but injuries have derailed much more heralded pitchers before.
Credit: Kyle Hess Twitter
Finally healthy, Otero transitioned to the bullpen last season. He returned to the Gulf Coast League, where he had languished through injuries and rehab, and after nine games there and a 0.94 WHIP, he finished with six games in Danville. Overall, between the two levels, he showed the skills that had caught everyone's eye in 2009. In 31.2 ING, he allowed just one homer, walked a half-dozen, and struck out 37. The left-hander might not be able to recapture the potential that was attached to him because he was also a starter, but success is success no matter if you start or relieve.

This season, he missed about the first month of action before joining Rome for his first game above rookie-ball on May 9th. The results have been far more uneven than his previous success. In 34.1 ING, he has allowed three homers, walked 13, and has been saddled with a 1.63 WHIP. The strikeouts are still pretty solid (9.7 K/9), but the production has not been there. In his last two outings, he has picked up 9 K's in 5.1 ING and generally has been used in outings where he can get multiple inning performances. But when he's bad, he's been really bad. Four runs in 0.2 ING on July 5th. Five runs in 2 ING on June 12th. While he has not been particularly good against either side of the split, lefties have especially bashed him around, which is surprising. However, a .412 BABIP does suggest some level of bad luck.

Overall, the Braves have to be just happy he's been pretty healthy. He doesn't possess some of the velocity we've grown to expect from Braves relievers and relies on his curve and change-up to be effective. His groundball rate that I've seen also suggests he probably gets a good deal of natural sink. If he can locate better, he's a talented sleeper who could follow the Carlos Perez mold of a guy who languished for a few years before finding some success. My hope is that Otero finds that success as a starter considering that his skill set probably profiles best as a starter, but like I said...success is success regardless of your classification.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Trade Winds: The Filthy Philadelphia Phillies

Whoa, two articles in one day. Time to revisit the Trade Winds columns. Again, I'm focusing on losing ballclubs first and the Phillies are definitely a losing ballclub. Entering Saturday, Philly is 42-51 and their continued efforts to resist a rebuild has left the cupboard pretty barren. Their woeful general manager will sadly likely get the ax after the season (or before) and the Phillies are left with a long climb north.

Would the Phils provide a good target for improvement despite their status as an inter-divisional rival? It wouldn't be the first time the Braves have made an in-season move to improve their club with a Phillies veteran. Notably, the Braves acquired Andy Ashby from the Phillies in 2000.

Left-hander Antonio Bastardo would appear to be a very intriguing option for the Braves, who need the bullpen depth. While Bastardo's recent history suggested that he would be best suited for specialist action, his 2014 season is similar to his career numbers in that there is very little difference between facing right-handed or left-handed batters. He K's nearly 30% of the opposing batters he faces and while his control has been a little off this season (about a 14% walk rate vs. career-rate of 11.6%). Bastardo's amazing skill is that despite his GB% being well south of 40%, he typically does a good job keeping the ball in the park.

He's not a tremendous reliever, but he is a very good one with a career FIP of 3.37. A bonus - he's team-controlled through 2015. There is some concern in that Bastardo already has a PED violation to another one could bring a huge penalty. Still, with the Braves having a significant need in the bullpen, Bastardo has to be considered.

Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is essentially Matt Diaz without the fanfare.  The right-handed hitter carries massive split contrasts when facing left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed. As far as his career goes, it's about a 200 point difference with Mayberry hitting lefties at a .271/.323/.850 clip. Despite about 340 fewer PA against lefties in his career, he has five more homers. This season is no different with Mayberry enjoying a .877 OPS against southpaws vs. a .576 OPS against righties. He's team-controlled through 2016.

Would Mayberry be a good target? Probably not beyond this year if at all. He's already making $1.5875M this season. That's a lot of money for a one-trick pony whose trick isn't as much of a weapon as Diaz's when the latter was at his best.

A.J. Burnett could provide depth to the starting rotation and maybe playing for a contender will energize him like it did for the Pirates last season, when he was a front-of-the-rotation option. Burnett's walks have received a lot of talk, but as a rate, it's really no higher than his career rate. He's just thrown a lot of innings this season. Burnett has a, ahem, creative deal. Ultimately, it's $22.5M over two seasons, but that includes a $7.5M signing bonus that gets spread over three installments starting in December. He also has a $15M mutal option for 2015, or a $7.5M player option that can be worth as much as $12.75M if he makes 32 starts this season (he's made 20 so far).

Seriously, what crackhead thought this contract up? Oh, Ruben Amaro Jr.. Got it.

Could the Braves be interested? I doubt it. I like Burnett, but I hate this random contract and Burnett does have some no-trade protection that as far as I've seen has not been explicitly defined.

There's another option...how about Cliff Lee? Holy crap, I saw your eyes roll through the internet. Not nice. All I'm saying is that getting Lee is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Lee is expected to be activated soon off the DL and his trip to the DL makes him even more enticing as it assures that his 2016 club option will not become guaranteed. Now, the Braves will have to work around some major money issues and I will get to that, but Lee definitely would attract the Braves' interest. He gets his fair share of groundballs, hasn't carried a FIP higher than 3.313 since 2007, and until this season, he has dependably durable. He walks batters as frequently as Keanu Reeves is involved in a good movie and his K rate remains very good. So why the hell not Lee?

Oh, yeah, money. Lee is due about half of $25M this season and $25M next season to go with a 2016 club option for $27.5M that carries a ridiculous $12.5M buyout. So, if we cut his salary in half this season, Lee is due AT LEAST $50M. The big problem with that option year is that it becomes guaranteed if Lee throws 200 innings in 2015. Clearly, the Braves would need considerable help to make this deal happen, but to what degree is unknown considering they basically added $14M in salary after we were convinced they were done this spring. The Braves committed $112M to this year's payroll and have about $80M already committed to next year. With the extensions the Braves signed last season, the Braves cut into some of the big club of arbitration-eligible players, but the Braves still have starters Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Brandon Beachy eligible for arbitration next year along with relievers Jordan Walden and Jonny Venters, plus role players like Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer, and David Carpenter. How do you fit all of those guys and Lee into next year's roster?

Well, you don't. Some cuts will have to be made. If the Phillies added $8M to 2015 and $12.5M to Lee's buyout/option in 2016, the Braves would have about $10-$15M to spend on arbitration, plus auto-renewals if we believe that the payroll remains about the same in 2015. A guy like Medlen or Beachy would have to be shopped around. Signing Minor to a creative extension that lowers his 2015 salary would be useful as well. If the Braves wanted to make it happen, they definitely could.

It wouldn't be easy. But if you added Lee to the front-of-the-rotation with Julio Teheran, the Braves would take a very good rotation and turn it into an awesome one. In 2015, the Braves would still have Lee, Teheran, and Minor to go with Alex Wood and either Medlen or Beachy with David Hale in reserve.

I'm not saying DO IT!!!!! But...it's possible.

What Could Have Been? - First Base and Third Base

So, I took a week off. Well, I kind of took a week off. Mainly, an electric storm screwed up our internet last Friday and because of the 4th of July weekend, it wasn't fixed until Tuesday. Other family needs kept my ability to sit down and write, or type, at a stand-still. But I'm back and will hopefully be able to stick with things now.

Two weeks ago, I began the first of a new series called "What Could Have Been?" It focuses on players that have different levels of hype attached to them and simply never came close to reaching that potential. Many never even came close. Last week, the first player to be added was Tyler Houston behind the plate. This week, two new players join the team at the corner infield positions.

What Could Have Been...at First Base?
Scott Thorman

While others were bigger prospects at first base, few had the pressure Thorman had as he was essentially handed first base as Adam LaRoche had been a few years before. Commonly and simply referred to as Thor, the intimidating Canadian never found his way with the Braves and became an afterthought in the years after, ultimately only getting 440 trips to the plate in the majors for his career. However, that underscores our expectations back in 2006-07 when Thor and his impressive raw power became a normal sight in the lineup.

Drafted out of Preston High School in Cambridge, Ontario with the 30th overall selection of the 2000 draft, Thorman was originally a third baseman whose teammates on that 2000 GCL squad included Kelly Johnson, Blaine Boyer, and Adam Wainwright. An injury wiped out his 2001 season, but he joined Macon for 2002 and grabbed the attention of a lot of people with a .294/.367/.489 slash. All that good press soon gave way to considerable questions after a .702 OPS with Myrtle Beach in 2003. He repeated the level and got better, earning a promotion to finish 2004, but again, he struggled in his first taste at a new level. Like the previous year, 2005 began with Thor repeating a level only to close the season putting up disappointing numbers at a higher level.

That led to 2006. By June, the Atlanta Braves were in the midst of a disappointing follow-up season to the magical 2005 Baby Braves. Ryan Langerhans struggled while platooning with Matt Diaz in left field. Meanwhile, the Braves had shifted Thorman to left in May to try to get him some experience in left field while he paced Richmond with a .298/.360/.508 slash. The Braves ultimately called him up on June 17th and played the first eight innings of a game against the Boston Red Sox, going 0 for 4. He would get his first hit a game later against future Brave Scott Downs, but badly struggled before July 5th. With the Braves hammering the Cardinals 13-5 behind Chuck James, Thorman hit for James in the bottom of the sixth and blasted his first major league home run off Josh Hancock. He would get his second on July 9th, when he started against the Reds and finished a triple short of the cycle with three hits. After the All-Star Break, Thorman would slash .276 with a .862 OPS over 13 games, including eight starts. The run pushed his OPS to .791, but from there, his numbers went south, ultimately reaching .751 when he was demoted for two weeks in August. He returned after the rosters expanded, but had little success, finishing the season with a .234/.263/.438 slash and five HR. He struck out 21 times in 133 PA to go with just five walks.

It may have surprised some people that Thorman was penciled in to replace LaRoche at first base entering 2007 after the latter was traded to the Pirates. However, Thorman had a similar climb up the minors as LaRoche, who needed repeated efforts to conquer both Myrtle Beach and Greenville. While LaRoche had produced a lot quicker, the Braves may have saw a lot of LaRoche in Thorman and believed he would produce given the opportunity. They brought in Craig Wilson to caddy him as Julio Franco had done for LaRoche and in 2007, first base was Thorman's position to lose and the Braves were rather encouraged by Thorman's great start. He slashed .288/.339/.538 in April, making good contact and slamming three homers. The power would remain, but the contact didn't and he would struggle through May and June, striking out 39 times to just four walks. The Braves had seen enough, calling up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, bringing back the 48 year-old Franco, and ultimately agreeing to one of the worst trades in modern history by bringing Mark Teixeira to Atlanta. All of these moves began after Thorman hit .195/.234/.346 from May 1st to July 13th, 2007, starting 51 of a possible 64 games.

Thorman would transition into a pinch hitter from there, even smacking two homeruns, including a tenth inning shot against the Brewers on September 22nd that tied up the game. Francisco Cordero was one out away from the save when Thorman hit one way the hell out off Francisco Cordero on the first pitch he saw. The Braves ultimately won the next inning when Teixeira drove in Willie Harris for the walk-off win. Thorman would close 2007 with a .216/.258/.394 slash and 11 HR. With the Braves eliminated, Thorman started the final game of the year at first against the Astros, going 0 for 3 with a walk and strikeout. His last hit was the home run against the Brewers.

Thorman was sent down to Richmond for 2008 and spent the entire season with the R-Braves. While he did hit 19 homers, the numbers were down across the board and after failing to find a taker, the Braves cut Thor after the 2008 season. He would play with the Brewers, Royals, Rangers, and Tigers organizations over the next three seasons. He would fail to make it back to the majors. After a year in Mexico and two years playing for his homeland's Intercounty League's Brantford Red Sox, Thoman's career came to a close with an official retirement following the 2013 season. He took a job with the Burlington Royals in the Appalachian League as a bench coach. He's only 32 years old.

While Thorman's prospect status was probably exaggerated because he played a position of need for the Braves, Thorman's failures ultimately led to the Braves making a series of moves to essentially replace him, including a deal that sent far too many star prospects to the Rangers and brought back the Braves so little. If he could have produced the .260/.320/.460 slash many suggested was his floor, the Braves likely stand pat.

Some other possibilities: Ron Wright was a bigger prospect than Thorman. Once a top-50 prospect from Baseball America, Wright's power never again matched his 1996-power of 36 homers. He had been traded to the Pirates at the end of that season. Injuries played a big part. Mike Hessman recently set an International League homerun record and his power was fully on display from 1997-2004, when he averaged 21 homers as he climbed from A-ball to Richmond. Still, there were holes in his swing you could drive a truck through.

What Could Have Been...at Third Base?
Andy Marte

I hate to write more about this guy after only writing an entire article about him less than two months ago, but here we are...talking about Andy Manuel Marte. His middle name is just a taste of the different information this little blurb will provide that the blog post two months ago failed to.

Signed as a 16 year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Marte would made his debut the following year with Danville. That was just a sign of what the Braves thought about in regard to Marte. Typically, a kid signed out of the international market like that might play in the Dominican Summer League. Or possibly, he'll get a shot at the Gulf Coast League. But not the young third baseman, who hit just .200 as a 17 year-old pup in 2001 with Danville. However, massively impressive was his plate discipline. He walked 20 times to finish the year with a .306 OBP.

Playing super young for the level was par of the course for Marte. Baseball-reference provides the "Age Difference" statistic for their minor league stats. Basically, it's the difference, both positive and negative, in comparison to the weighted average for either hitters or pitchers. With Danville, Marte was an average of -3.1 years younger than the rest of the hitters. It went to -3.6 with Macon in 2002, when Marte exploded with a .831 OPS and 21 HR. The successful season put Marte in the Baseball America Top 50 for the first time of four consecutive seasons.

After 2002, Marte posted a .840 OPS with the Pelicans in 2003 and while playing -4.2 years younger than the average Southern League hitter in 2004, Marte posted a .889 OPS with the Greenville Braves. Already knocking on the door of AAA, Marte would posted yet another great season, especially considering his age. As the #9 prospect in the game, Marte hit .275/.372/.506 with 20 HR in 109 games. He even got 24 games in the majors for the Braves.

At this point, the narrative was that Marte would be a strong third baseman defensively and and provide excellent production for a third baseman. If WAR was around in 2005, people probably would have projected Marte to be around a 2.5-4 WAR guy annually with the ability to post even better numbers. He was a star in the making.

Except he would never become one. After the season, the Braves acquired Edgar Renteria and cash from the Red Sox in exchange for Marte. Renteria was a plus-player at shortstop and had three years remaining on a contract. The cash was just a cherry on the top. Now, sure, Marte was a big prospect and Renteria had one pretty down year with the BoSox before they sent him packing like they needed to get rid of him as quick as possible, but even one prospect like Marte should not bring back a guy who was a 6.4 fWAR guy in 2003, _plus_ cash. Renteria would spend two seasons in Atlanta and despite an injury-riddled 2007, Renty posted a 7.7 WAR before being sent to the Tigers to finish the contract he originally inked with the Sox.

Unfortunately for Marte, he was blocked in Boston by Mike Lowell, who the Sox picked up two weeks before the trade with the Braves. With a bigger need in the outfield, Boston sent Marte packing less than two months after acquiring him, picking up, among others, Coco Crisp toward the end of January.

Marte's third organization of the offseason was pretty happy to have Marte. Their incumbent third baseman was Aaron Boone, far more famous for his name than his skills. And it wasn't like they had much else in the pipeline. Marte was expected to anchor third base for the Indians for the next ten years.

Yeah, about that...

To the Indians' credit, they were slow with Marte. He started the year in AAA and didn't make his debut with the big league club until around the trading deadline. However, despite repeating the same league he had performed well at in 2005, Marte's follow-up with Buffalo was disappointing for him. Normally, a 22 year-old posting a .773 OPS at AAA with 15 HR is a good thing. For Marte, it meant a 50 point drop in OBP and a 55 point fall in slugging despite only losing 14 points on his batting average. Still, he hit five homeruns in 50 games with the Indians and his .707 OPS over the final two months showed he wasn't entirely overwhelmed.

He would be in 2007. His OPS fell a tad and he couldn't hit major league pitching at all. Nor could he in 2008 when he OPS'd .583. Or in 2009 when he posted a .693 OPS. Or even in 2010 when he posted a .680 OPS.

With Marte arbitration-eligible and 27 years-old for the upcoming 2011 season, the Indians had seen enough. They non-tendered the prospect who many were sure was a guy you could build an organization around. Marte had played in 302 games, including one game in relief. His slash was a miserable .218/.277/.358 with 20 HR.

Marte would play for the Pirates organization in 2011, but he was just as bad, maybe worse, in a return to AAA and after one season in the minors for Pittsburgh, Marte became a free agent again. No satisfying offers came his way and he took 2012 off, preparing for 2013. And no satisfying offers came again. So, Marte did what former top prospects do when all else fails. Try your luck in the Atlantic League. Yes, the Atlantic League where current stars include former failed prospects like Sean Burroughs, Ben Kozlowski, and J.R. Towles. Like many before him, Marte thought he could attack someone's attention and after slashing .301/.367/.526 with 19 homers, Marte did just that as the Angels brought him to their organization to give their Salt Lake AAA squad a shot in the arm. His OPS over about a month of action was .973. However, the Angels didn't bring him up.

This season, Marte continues to feast on Pacific Coast League pitching, this time with the Reno Aces for the Arizona Diamondbacks. His .861 OPS and 13 moonshots are respectable numbers, but in the hitting environment of the PCL, they are hardly noteworthy. The D'Backs have begun the process of dismantling a badly built ballclub and there are those that think Martin Prado could be one of the Diamondbacks that could find a new home. Such a move could give Marte another shot.  He may even get himself off this list and have a Ryan Ludwick-like career where he shakes off the Quad-A label and becomes a productive ballplayer for a major league team.

Probably not. But it could happen.

Some other possibilities: Ed Giovanola wasn't a big prospect, but hit pretty well. To be honest, I'm tempted to put Edward Salcedo on this list, though Salcedo is still pretty young. However, career OPS under .700 and a career-high OBP of .315 isn't exactly in line with what prospect experts seemed to think Salcedo would produce when he was inked to a rich contract out of the Dominican.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Random Ex-Brave: Eric O'Flaherty

Interesting week to get this guy by random since he is expected to be activated very soon from a rehabilitation stint following surgery that prematurely ended his Atlanta Braves career. Eric O'Flaherty was an afterthought when the Braves acquired him. In a bullpen that already had established relievers like Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and Peter Moylan, the former failed Mariners prospect wasn't expected to be much more than depth in the minds of Braves' fans. But he turned out okay.

Back in 2003, the Mariners had drafted O'Flaherty out of Walla Walla High School in the sixth round. The former Blue Devil would quickly rise up the ranks in the Mariners minor league system. He started two games in 2003 and ten the following season, but would transition for good into a reliever in 2005 when he nailed down a career-hgih 13 saves. He had a whirlwind 2006 that began in advanced-A ball with the Inland Empire 66ers and finished with over a month with the Mariners with stops in AA and AAA in between. Used as situational lefty, O'Flaherty finished 11 innings for the fourth-place Mariners.

He spent most of 2007 with the M's and posted a 1.24 WHIP over 52.1 ING, but back discomfort limited him to just 6.2 ING in the majors during 2008 and another 18.1 ING in the minors before ending his season on June 2. Why the Mariners gave up on a guy who showed some nice ability as a 22 year-old in 2007 is just another sign of how poorly ran the Mariners were during the Bill Bavasi and most recently, the Jack Zduriencik days.

Regardless, the Braves took full advantage, acquiring O'Flaherty for a paltry waiver fee and brought O'Flaherty to camp in 2009 with a chance to secure a sport in their bullpen. He would do that and more and pitched in 78 games during 2009 with a 3.04 ERA and 3.45 FIP to go with a 1.24 WHIP. The following season was limited by back trouble, but he was just as good in 2010 as he was in 2009. The Mariners had to be kicking themselves. Their top lefty reliever in 2009 was Garrett Olson, who they used out of the pen 20 times in mostly suckage action. Olson was agin their primary lefty in 2010 and he again primarily sucked. In fact, it wouldn't be until 2012 for the Mariners to have a plus lefty out of the pen when Charlie Furbish broke out.

O'Flaherty's best season came in 2011 when he posted a 0.98 ERA while tying his career high of 78 games. He became the first reliever to record an ERA under 1.00 while making at least 70 appearances.  It was also the first year of O'Ventbrel, a three-headed monster that shortened games for the opposition. Jonny Venters had joined O'Flaherty in 2010 with 79 games as the primary set-up man and Craig Kimbrel ascended to the closer position the following year. The three pitchers combined for 242 appearances, 238.2 ING, and a 1.66 ERA. The Braves starting rotation was hardly formidable in 2011, but they didn't have to be. All they had to do was get the ball to the first chink in the O'Ventbrel chain.

Sequels are never as good as the original and while the 2012 version was very good with help from O'Flaherty's 64 games and 1.73 ERA, the trio was not quite as good and struggled with nagging injuries. Sadly, it would be truly the final version of the O'Ventbrel monster.

2013 saw Venters break down before the season even began. O'Flaherty lasted a month-and-a-half before he too would hit the DL and miss the rest of the season. It was an especially sad development for O'Flaherty, who was a free agent at the end of the season. Once the 2013 season was finished, there was a lot of ink that the Braves and O'Flaherty might agree to a contract to extend his time with the Braves. The hopefulness of December soon transitioned into a long weeks of no word until O'Flaherty agreed to a two-year, back-loaded deal with the A's. He would make $1.5M this year and $5.5M the following.

O'Flaherty would finally work himself into playing shape on June 6th when he debuted with Stockton in advanced-A. Five days later, he got into his second game with AAA Sacramento. Six games later, he has yet to appear in back-to-backs, but as his rehab stint is nearly finished, O'Flaherty expects to formally be called up to join the first place A's as soon as today.

On August 15th, the A's come to Atlanta for a three-game weekend series. If healthy, we might see O'Flaherty facing Braves lefties like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. Best of luck, boys. O'Flaherty's pretty good.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Best (and Worst) of June

A day late, but here are the winners of Walk-Off Walk's June awards, the most prestigious and yet never talked about awards in the entire world.

Rookie of the Month
Tommy La Stella

It was a big month for the rookies, but La Stella takes the prize. He walked more than he struck out, on-based .351, and toward the end of the month, he showed pretty good pop to push his wRC+ over 100. While he has been buried low in the order again, La Stella seems likely to get another opportunity to bat in front of the thunder again eventually and when that comes, hopefully he will avoid the tumble he had when he briefly led off.

Honorable Mentions - Shae Simmons (12.2 ING, 1 ER, 8.5 K/9, 1.68 FIP), Juan Jaime (15.8 K/9)

Least Valuable Position Player of the Month
Andrelton Simmons

Choices were tough here. Both of the Upton brothers had their moments in June, but outside of his defense, Simmons was non-existent throughout the month. He finished with a .214/.277/.262 slash and a 49 wRC+. Granted, his production at shortstop remains unchallenged, but Simmons continues to disappoint with the stick and has yet to produce at the level many of us think he is capable of.

Dishonorable Mentions - B.J. Upton (.244 OBP, 28.6 K%, 61 wRC+), Justin Upton (.263 OBP, 72 wRC+), Dan Uggla (1-for-15)

Worst Pitcher of the Month
Aaron Harang

Harang as a fifth starter is not the worst thing in the world. However, even fifth starters are expected to post a better FIP than 5.36 over 36.2 ING. He walked an astounding 20 batters, nine more than the next worst mark by a Braves pitcher. As such, he was below all Braves pitchers with at least 15 innings of work in the difference between in K% and BB%. For Harang, the mark was an amazingly low 0.6%.

Dishonorable Mention - David Hale (5.48 FIP, as many K's as walks in 14.2 ING).

Best Position Player of the Month
Evan Gattis

Though back issues would ultimately end his month, Gattis was a monster during June, posting a .353/.402/.635 slash with six homers in just 92 PA. His .282 ISO, .444 wOBA, and 190 RC+ were benchmarks ahead of a Braves team that didn't hit for much power in June. He added six doubles during the month, giving him 12 EBH to tie for the team-lead.

Honorable Mentions - Jason Heyward (13.1 BB%, .361 OBP, 1.2 fWAR), Freddie Freeman (.277/.374/.464 with 4 HR)

Best Pitcher of the Month
Julio Teheran

There was not even a competition for this award. While Teheran's ERA was inflated by a fluke game at Coors Field, his 2.08 FIP was only bested by a reliever, Simmons. He struck out 9.4 K/9, second by starters on the team, and walked an astounding 0.76 BB/9. To put that in black-and-white terms, Teheran walked just three batters in 35.1 ING. Because that's not showy enough, Teheran walked just three of the 139 batters he faced in June. Only two hit a homerun off him. He struck out more batters than he gave up hits. Not to put a too fine a point on it, but do you know what full-time starter for the month of June walked fewer batters than Teheran in all of baseball? The answer may surprise you. Nobody. No one was able to walk less than four, save Teheran. Harang walked six in one start. Yeah, sure, Teheran's no Clayton Kershaw, but he's the thing people still think the Braves lack. Teheran is a textbook ace.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Once a Brave, Always a Brave - NL West (Part 1 of 2)

Because there are a lot of ex-Braves in the NL West, I'm going to go ahead and split this division into two posts. To be honest, I was half-tempted to cut the division into four different posts, but that seems like a bit too much.

Arizona Diamondbacks
P Randall Delgado - On the plus side for the D'Backs, only one of the five they acquired in the Justin Upton trade haven't played in the majors for them. On the not-so-plus side, many have pitched or played like Delgado. His ERA is near 5.00 in just over 40 games with the D'Backs with a FIP that is nearly matching. His tendency to give up long balls was only mildly annoying while playing in Atlanta, a park that doesn't tend to help hitters' power. In Arizona, it has nearly impossible to overcome. Mostly a reliever who is out of options now, Delgado will probably get another shot soon to start, but his time with the Diamondbacks looks like it might have a rapidly approaching expiration date.

P Zeke Spruill - At the time Spruill was coming up the system, he was often overshadowed by guys like Delgado. With good reason. Since coming to the Diamondbacks, he has been pretty average in the minors and fairly miserable in the majors in just 20.2 ING over eight games and three starts. Put it this way, 39% of the batters he's faced have reached base by either a hit, walk, or HBP. That's a lot of baserunners.

SS Nick Ahmed - A fast riser since the Braves took him in the 2nd round out of UConn, Ahmed is known for a slick glove and a developing bat. Well, after exploding for a .324/.390/.431 start in AAA, Ahmed got the call after an injury to one of the Diamondbacks infielder and went 1-for-3 in his debut. I doubt he suddenly became a great hitter and the Pacific Coast League often makes hitters look better than they really are, but Ahmed is a superb athlete who will play great defense and swipe 15-20 bases. He probably won't hit that much, not will his defense be as good as the Braves' current shortstop. Still, he might be the best young player out of this trade for Arizona...

3B Brandon Drury (A+) - ...That is, if Drury doesn't continue to put up extra nice numbers. Out of all the players traded in this deal, the one I felt the more apprehensive after the early shock of losing #14 was Drury. A 13th rounder out of a high school in Oregon, Drury had opened up some eyes with a .891 OPS with Danville in 2011 with 8 HR. While he would slump offensively the next year, there was still a lot to like. After the trade, Drury went back to A-ball and posted a .862 OPS with 15 HR. He's still in A-ball this season, though it's "advanced-A," and the results are just as solid with an .870 OPS. His glove isn't great, but neither is the current third baseman for the Braves. The solace of this is that Kyle Kubitza appears to be just as good of a prospect and a better athlete and defender, though Drury is a better power threat.

3B Martin Prado - What more can you say about Prado? When the announcement of the trade inititally hit facebook, his name wasn't mentioned. We all got excited about the prospect of one more year of Prado leading off and Justin Upton fitting somewhere in the lineup after him. That wasn't to be, however. After refusing Prado's demands for a long term deal, the Braves traded Prado as the center piece of the deal and Diamondbacks, who love grit if you haven't heard, inked him to a $40M deal over four years. And while Upton might frustrate Braves fans with his streakiness, Prado's falling numbers probably frustrate D'Backs fans more. After averaging .296/.346/.438 in the five seasons before the trade, Prado has hit just .277/.327/.399. While his defense is good, it's hardly great and the D'Backs were probably hoping of more of the 5.6 fWAR guy from 2012, not the 2.3 fWAR guy they got last season. Still impossible not to like, Prado is well received anytime the Arizona comes to town.

3B Andy Marte (AAA) Marte continues to rake at AAA, but that's nothing new. Marte has logged nearly 600 years at AAA during his career and has 94 homers to go with it. While hardly Mike Hessman territory, Marte is a solid player for teams at the second-highest rung. With the Diamondbacks likely selling at the deadline, maybe there will be room for Marte to get back to the bigs for the first time since the end of the 2010 season.

Colorado Rockies
P Matt Belisle - It was forever and a day ago that the Braves took Belisle in the 2nd round out of McCallum High School in Austin, Texas. The 2nd rounder was a starting prospect, but the Braves would give up on him for a mid-August waiver deal for Kent Mercker in 2002. He never had much success with the Reds and was miserable as a starter, but he found himself in his second season with the Rockies in 2010. Since then, the rubber-armed Belisle has pitched 337 times with a 3.62 ERA, 2.99 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP.

P Yohan Flande - In 2012, it looked like Flande was going to break camp with the Braves. After a good spring, the former Phillies farmhand who had just completed his first year at AAA was looking at a job as the long-man, but the lefty was demoted when the Braves signed Livan Hernandez. Flande would spent 2012 and most of 2013 with Gwinnett with an maddeningly average performance before leaving the organization after 2013. He landed in Colorado and despite continued average numbers, an injury got him to the majors and Flande made his major debut in June 25th. He gave up four runs to the Cards in a no-decision before losing last night against the Nationals. Thanks for that, Flande.

P Boone Logan - My favorite little tidbit about Logan is that he came over to the Braves in the Javier Vazquez deal and a year later, he was traded with Vazquez to the Yankees. Hopefully, they were roomies. Logan finally found success as a situational lefty with the Yankees over the last four years before getting $16.5M to come to Denver. The results have been miserable and he's missed nearly a month with left elbow inflammation. A LOOGY might need his left elbow. He's supposed to be returning very soon.

SS Paul Janish (AAA) - Remember how Janish hit .183 with the Braves with a pitcher-like .491 OPS? Yeah, he still can't hit, even in the thin air of Colorado Springs, where Janish has been playing for the Rockies' top minor league squad. A great defender whose claim to fame last season was 52 games to just 45 PA, Janish is a great guy to have around for your minor league team if only to give your pitcher a solid glove behind him.

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll take a look at the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants. The middle team of the three is especially interesting. Thanks for reading!