Saturday, January 24, 2015

Breaking News: Atlanta Braves Spring Roster Balloons to 231 Players

You can't say that John Hart has been passive this winter.

In addition to all of the big moves and the recent additions of Kelly Johnson and Jonny Gomes, the Braves claimed Eury Perez off waivers from the New York Yankees Friday night. So, add him to the collection of players who will come to spring training and battle for playing time while the casual Braves fans try to figure out who the hell are all these people playing for the Braves this season.

Perez, a 24 year-old outfielder, is a veteran of eight professional seasons including the last six state-side. He's also appeared in the majors for three ultra-short cups of coffee. A former Washington National prospect, Perez twice took home the organizational Fastest Baserunner honor that Baseball America dishes out along with once being named the Best Defensive OF in the system. He was also twice a Top 10 prospect for the Nats.

Over the last couple of seasons, Perez stagnated in AAA while also failing to stay healthy. He hit .310/.371/.409 last season in the minors, which outside of some rehab work in the lower levels, was spent with Syracuse in the International League. He played a good deal of right field, which typically raises an eyebrow when center fielders get moved to the corner. Usually, that means defensive issues. But I just said he was honored as the Best Defensive OF in the Nats system once. Brian Goodwin, who might have a chance to replace Denard Span in CF, had moved to AAA so that helps explain that. The better prospect always gets the time.

After Washington picked up Pedro Florimon off waivers in September, they waived Perez to open a spot. The Yankees followed by claiming Perez and sending Josh  Outman away, who is now one of Perez's teammates. So, what kind of player is Perez? And could he replace B.J. Upton as some have wondered because, yeah, that's going to totally happen. The following breakdown covers both minor league numbers and the brief time spent in the majors.
Year vsRHP vsLHP
2014 .289/.363/.370 .342/.369/.468
2013 .273/.317/.372 .353/.369/.521
2012 .307/.340/.339 .327/.350/.410
2011 .261/.303/.317 .321/.354/.328
There does appear to be some platoon possibilities with Perez, who was good against righties last year, average in 2012, and pretty bad in 2013 & 2011. But his numbers against southpaws have traditionally been very good. Unfortunately for him, Gomes just signed.

Since the Braves appear to not believe that Todd Cunningham is a legitimate option in center, Perez rockets up the charts to B.J.'s backup and the out-of-options outfielder will have every opportunity to win a spot this spring on a wide-open roster. On a team that might have to steal a lot of bases to press the issue, Perez could have some value both off the bench and, if BJ struggles, he could steal some time from the high-priced outfielder. Perez probably won't be much more than a fourth outfielder, who at best, could do a Juan Pierre impression. On a good team, he'd be in AAA. On a bad team...well, he starts to looks a lot better than he really is. So, I fully expect him to make the roster.

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