Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why Not Terdo?

On Sunday, I got into a discussion on twitter with Grant McAuley, who works for the Atlanta-based radio station 92.9 - The Game. Grant is a wonderful guy to follow on twitter and is very approachable. After Joey Terdoslavich blasted a three-run bomb against the Blue Jays, he tweeted...
My comment to him and what started a short discussion yesterday was...
He laughed it off and said let's not get carried away, but did mention later that Fredi Gonzalez, after the game, said that Terdo would get a look at a couple of positions on the team., including a bench spot.

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Obviously, we are a long way away from getting to the point where Terdo has claimed much playing time for the Braves, but as Jim Powell on Braves radio pointed out, this Braves team is void of much power. That happens when you trade away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis. The trio combined for 62 of the team's paltry 123 homers last season. Quick - name a guy capable of hitting 20 homeruns for the Braves in 2015. If you've named more than one player, you are really optimistic.

But maybe not...if that second player is Terdo. Now, that is still a little high for Terdo, who's 150-game average in the minors is about 17 HR, but at least we are in the neighborhood, right? So, again, why are we so convinced Terdo only profiles as a guy battling for bench time?

Joey T originally came onto the scene in 2011 for the Lynchburg Hillcats when he blitzed the pitcher's league for a .286/.341/.526 slash line, helped out by a Carolina League-high 52 doubles and 20 homers. That 52nd double, by the way, didn't just lead the league. It broke a 65-year-old record. Overall, it was an impressive season that only became more impressive when he was one of the hitting stars of the Arizona Fall League after the season. In 99 plate appearances, Terdo OPS'd .972. Pretty good 2011 to hang your hat on.

The only problem was that the player development team saw something no one else did. "Let's move him to third to give us a potential replacement for Chipper Jones. He's occasionally played there. Oh, and let's bump him up to AAA." Frank Wren's team gets a lot of blame for things they probably shouldn't be blamed for, but that was a bonehead move. I watched Terdo a lot that year with Lynchburg as I lived minutes from City Stadium at the time. I loved him. He was a fan favorite. He was also defensively limited at first base. Simple baseball logic states that if your range is average-to-bad at first, it'll be even worse at third.

And it was. And the bypassing AA at the same time hurt Terdo's development. After two ugly months where he couldn't field and it probably hurt his hitting, Terdo was sent to Mississippi and retired his third baseman glove. He rebounded with a great summer for the M-Braves and was back on track, even if he wouldn't increase his value by becoming a third baseman. He did play more left and right field as he moved to Gwinnett in 2013. He was tremendous for the G-Braves, posting a .557 SLG with Gwinnett and eventually getting a promotion to the majors on July 4th of that year. Fredi used him as a bench bat, taking advantage of his switch-hit capabilities, while starting him just 14 out of 55 games he appeared in. He didn't hit particularly well, though he showed good patience.

It looked like Terdo was a favorite to make the 2014 roster, but he was a late cut and it appeared to affect him. He got off to a decent start, but soon was in a nose dive that lasted until the end of June. We'd like to think a demotion would start a fire under a player's butt, but it seemed to do the opposite to Terdo. He would rebound, though, and hit .300 in July and sustained an OPS over .820 over the final two months. The Braves utilized Terdo at the end of the season largely in a PH role.

I've been pretty consistent with one theme that I think the Braves have to look at this spring and into the season. If a guy can hit and will hit, the Braves have to be willing to give him a chance. Look at this roster - I'll wait. Where's the offense coming from? That's a legitimate question. The Braves offense from 2014 was miserable and this offseason saw 3 of their best 4 hitters traded. Now, maybe Kevin Seitzer's new philosophy will help unearth some new production from the holdovers, but even with that, the Braves still have massive offensive questions. If Terdo can hit, why not him in right if Nick Markakis misses time? Why not Terdo in left platooning with Johnny Gomes?

Well...there are potential issues with Terdo. First, his defense is pretty bad and would require a caddy option for late inning games (but so would Gomes). Second, he has yet to hit major league pitching, but neither has pretty much any of the other options. Third, his name is really long. Not sure if that matters, but I'm told lists require at least three things.

On the plus side, like expected platoon option Zoilo Almonte, Terdo has historically hit right-hand pitching significantly better than left-hand pitching (which is why Gomes is here).

We have talked all camp about how many spots are wide-open for players to swoop in and take them. The fifth starter, two bullpen spots, the infield bench slots, and yes, the outfield. If Terdo hits and there is a right-hander on the mound on opening day, Terdo should be in the starting lineup...but that's where the business of baseball comes in. Almonte, like Eury Perez, is out of options. That might push the Braves to give them a longer look, especially in Melvin Upton Jr.'s absence. If Markakis makes it back, that takes up another spot. Since Eric Young Jr. is so beloved by Fredi, it would appear with Markakis in the mix along with Gomes, there might be one or two extra outfield spots. Maybe the Braves keep Almonte and Perez until Upton's return forces a decision. That would appear to push out Terdo, who can only play first on the infield.

Again, it's supposedly wide open for any player to take a spot. If that's true, why not Terdo?

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