Friday, October 30, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: The Craig Kimbrel Deal

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With most of the season in our rear view, it's time to start reviewing each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins
Varvaro for Kurcz
J. Upton for Jace Peterson and prospects
Carp/Shreve for Banulos
Kubitza/Hyatt for Sanchez
Gattis for Foltynewicz and Ruiz
Hale for Briceno
Elander for Cahill and Lots of Cash

The Trade
Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres for Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, Carlos Quentin, Jordan Paroubeck, and a 2015 draft choice (Austin Riley). I looking at those leaving and coming at this blog and a deeper look over at About.com.

The Rationale
A month ago, as I went over the Justin Upton trade, I wrote this: "(A.J.) Preller could say he held out and didn't give the Braves the pitcher they really wanted - Matt Wisler. Of course, that would change when Preller got so desperate to put a bow on his first offseason, but we'll get to that deal later." Welcome to later. It's hard to decide what was the most surprising thing about this trade. That the Braves had moved Kimbrel, who we were told was untouchable? That the deal came hours before the season was set to begin? Or, if you were like me, was it that the Braves found a team so desperate - so foolish - to take on an additional $50 million in payroll just to get an elite closer?

Jim McIssac | Getty
A lot of people hated this trade, but not for its impact on the Braves team so much as losing yet another homegrown, popular player. Sure, losing the despised elder Upton and his contract helped matters, but Kimbrel was loved in Atlanta who had broken the franchise record for saves before he turned 27. He was the last remaining piece of the super successful O'Ventbrel with southpaws Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty. He was our chosen one who sat in a bullpen in Los Angeles while Fredi Gonzalez arbitrarily counted the amount of outs Kimbrel was "good for" even as the 2013 season went down in flames.

But even the greatest closer in franchise history only throws 60-70 innings. Closers are overvalued because of their mystique. Was Kimbrel overpaid? Not according to the market, but was he too expensive for the Braves? Absolutely. He was about to enter Year 2 of his 4 year, $41M contract with a team option that could increase it to $52M. The Braves saw a chance to clear the books and while they stuck with the company line that they loved Kimbrel and wouldn't trade him, even they saw future payrolls and wondered if Kimbrel was worth it.

Getting rid of Upton just made the exchange easier. A big red mark on Frank Wren's time in Atlanta, Upton had been offered $75M over five years to come to Atlanta despite a .255 career batting average and .298 OBP in his walk year with the Rays. The Braves basically put $75M on red during roulette. They would either come out of it looking like roses or things would go about as bad as you could imagine.

Of course, it went the latter. In two seasons, Upton slashed .198/.279/.314 with 21 HR, 32 SB, and 324 strikeouts. The Braves were desperate to find a taker for the $46.5M left on his contract. The Cubs flirted with the idea of sending Edwin Jackson to the Braves for Upton, but nothing materialized. It was a foregone conclusion that even if the Braves traded Upton, they would be taking on some, if not the majority of, the remaining salary.

But that's where the Padres stepped in. A.J. Preller had been nearly as active as the new Braves front office during the offseason. He had already traded for Justin Upton from the Braves while adding Wil Myers and Matt Kemp because defense is totally optional. With James Shields, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks also in place, Preller assumed he had built a juggernaut. He assumed very wrong, but as the season was about to open, he saw an opportunity to put a cherry on the top. Mr. Kimbrel. Sure, the Pads still had Joaquin Benoit, who was more than capable, but he was no Kimbrel. Plus, with Kimbrel, the bullpen would be much deeper. Sure, they would have to add the other Upton, but they already had a glut of outfielders, as the rest of the deal showed.

Getting rid of Maybin and Quentin cleared up things for the Padres, who also had Will Venable. With Melvin missing the first couple of months, it allowed the Padres plenty of time to work him in slowly while keeping Venable in a 4th outfielder role because their super duper outfield was, well, super duper. Of course, where Melvin fit in was confusing, but KIMBREL!

Maybin was a bust in San Diego after signing a long-term deal when he first became arbitration-eligible. He had played in 109 games over the previous two years and had a .665 OPS over four years with the Padres. They didn't have a place for him and were glad to shed his salary. Quentin's inclusion was weird because the Braves released him soon after, but the latter was part of the plan. Quentin had no-trade protection and wanted to get the freedom to try to jumpstart his career elsewhere, preferably with a team that played 95% of their games with a DH. My friend Bryce theorized the inclusion of Quentin was so that the deal would get done without the need for commissioner approval rather than the Braves packaging money to help pay for the Padres to release Quentin themselves.

Paroubeck was an interesting prospect in the long-term. Incredibly raw with athletic ability off the charts, Paroubeck was a second-rounder in 2013, who didn't make his debut until the following season. The production was there, but again, as interesting as he was, it was like adding another draft choice to the organization considering how little he had played and how young he was. Speaking of draft choices, we didn't know it at the time, but the 41st selection of the 2015 draft would quickly pay dividends.

As for the guy the Braves had wanted for Melvin's older brother earlier in the offseason, Wisler was ticketed for a return trip to El Paso before the trade. It's where he landed the previous spring and after sulking because he felt he deserved a look over the pitchers the Padres kept, Wisler was demoted back to AA to try to jumpstart his season. Overall, he had finished with a 5.01 ERA in AAA. Even with that in mind, Baseball America ranked him the #34 prospect in baseball. He was one of just two Padres prospects ranked by BA, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com in the top 100 (Hunter Renfroe was the other).

Short-Term Results
The Padres remade their team and won three fewer games in doing so. Adding Kimbrel aided the pen, which was fairly good as a result. He struggled early (for him), but Kimbrel turned it on late. Homers were a bit of a problem, but a career-high rate in HR/FB may have been a bit flukish. It turns out to be his worse full season in the majors both in saves and xFIP/SIERA. However, Kimbrel's so damn good that having 39 saves, a 2.46 xFIP, and 2.21 SIERA is considered a down year. But the Padres learned what the Braves already were aware of - having a great closer is a luxery, but only makes a bad ballclub moderately better.

Of more interest was Melvin's resurgence. Sure, he was limited to just 87 games, but he slashed .259/.327/.429 with a 110 RC+. His last three years in Tampa averaged a 109 RC+ so that was impressive. I'm not sold on it continuing as Melvin's .348 BABIP was his highest since his 2007-08 days when he walked a lot and hit for a good average. That said, a pull rate that leaped over 50% might suggest that Upton's clunky approach at the plate was adjusted and gave him a better chance at getting around on balls, which led to a career-best line drive rate.

Just to touch on a few of the short-timers...Quentin caught on with the Mariners organization, but quickly decided that enough was enough and hung up his spikes at the ripe old age of just 32. Paroubeck was traded before he played a game in the organization. Nursing an injury, he was moved, along with Caleb Dirks, to the Dodgers on July 2 for an international bonus slot that helped the Braves sign their pair of high-priced international guys.

Now, to the meat. Maybin had a wonderful first half, but fell off the map in the second half, which led to a .267/.327/.370 final slash with 10 HR, 23 steals, and defensive metrics sour on him. He did play in 141 games after 109 the previous two seasons so that was a plus. His first half numbers were exciting, too. Who doesn't want .289/.356/.418 from your center fielder who, I wager, is better in the field that the -5.3 adjusted defensive rating Fangraphs gave him.

As for Wisler, there were both good and bad parts of his game this season. he remained a durable arm and threw 109 innings in the majors along with 65 in Gwinnett. Curiously, his strikeout rate fell from the 8.6 per nine rate he had been pulling before 2015 to a bit over 6 per nine. In addition, his xFIP and SIERA were not pretty (both around 5.00). While his late season starts look good, the results are not really supported in the numbers, though the same size is VERY VERY SMALL.

Finally, there is Riley, the prep pitcher who just wanted a chance to hit. The Braves gave him that chance and he smacked a dozen homers in 60 games. He has received some aggressive rankings since then (including #11 by me) and it might be premature for a guy who K'd a quarter of his plate appearances, but you just don't see many 18 year-olds brutalize the Appalachian League.

Long-Term Outlook
The Padres are on the hook for at least two more seasons of both Kimbrel and Melvin, though they have been rumored to be at least listening to offers on Kimbrel. And there in lies the accepted conundrum with Kimbrel. As good as he is, you still feel kind of dumb paying $24M for the next two innings for 130 innings. Granted, if you have an endless payroll, screw it. But for teams like the Padres and Braves, does paying that much money for so few actual innings make financial sense?

On the flipside, if Melvin keeps hitting, regardless with what happens with Kimbrel, the Padres will at least have that to hang their hat on. Yay...

Atlanta is stocked with veteran outfielders in 2016 and Maybin could be on the market, though I tend to think the Braves like the idea of letting Mallex Smith get a spring under the veterans, a few more months in Gwinnett to buy another pre-arbitration season, and bring up their hot prospect only after things clear up in Atlanta. It allows the Braves more depth to limit Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher's at-bats to keep their vesting options from triggering (which, if they produce, could help their trade value). I'm sure Atlanta will listen to offers on Maybin, but they need an upgrade to the roster to make a deal - not just more prospects.

The bigger picture rests on the arm of Wisler and the bat of Riley. Will Wisler clean up his game to become the middle-of-the-staff force many felt him capable of? It's definitely possible and if he makes that step in 2016, all the better. Atlanta could use the depth behind the projected rotation of Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, zombie Mike Minor, and...well, that's it. Meanwhile, power is a commodity that the Braves are short on and while Riley is a number of years away from likely getting into the picture, Atlanta could use his presence.

All in all, this deal might be the best one the Holy John Trinity made in their first year. Yeah, a certain Diamondbacks deal ranks very high, but this particular trade was a franchise changer. It moved bad contracts while only adding Maybin's affordable contract post-2015. It brought two big young players to the system and it gave the Braves a chance to move beyond the awfulness of watching Melvin suck.

Top 30 Prospects, Post-2015 Edition - ...and One More!

(Hey guys, been a little while since my last post as life required some more of my time. Trying to catch up to my schedule over the next several days. Thanks for reading and your patience.)

Previous Rankings: 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

After finishing the top 30 prospects, I like to take a look at guys who are the next man in at their respective positions. These guys could break into the Top 30 by the time I do a preseason list or by midseason. Probably more likely, they have a good chance of never getting beyond this list, but hey, that's the nature of prospects.

If you missed a previous ranking, click the navigation above. For these players, I won't use grades.

RHP - Matt Custred - You don't often see 31st rounders impress, but the Texas Tech product quickly became a name to watch this season. He spent most of the season with Danville and K'd 45 in 31.2 ING with the Braves there. When you add his nine walks, that's a 5/1 K/BB ratio and while math's hard, that's easy to get excited about. But Texas Tech bullpen catcher Brooks Gustafson could have warned us of that. "Custred, he’s just nasty. Everything he throws is hard and just moves a lot." Gustafson tried to avoid catching Custred if he could because of his skill set on the mound.

Feigl (Elsa/Getty)
LHP - Brady Feigl - During spring training, Feigl became such a topic of discussion that an intro into Feigl I wrote became one of my most-read articles of 2015. Undrafted and retired, Feigl gave competitive pitching another shot and it resulted in a contract and a 2014 season where he had over 4 K's to each walk at A-ball. He was off to a great start in winning a surprise spot out of the pen this spring, but struggles late led the team to search for the problem. They found it and Tommy John surgery took Feigl away for the season. He'll likely miss the start of the year and will need rehab time in the minors, but don't be surprised if Feigl is an early summer addition to the Braves' bullpen.

C - Tanner Murphy - No position took a step back more than catcher this season and Murphy was not immune from the trend. A year after slashing .242/.361/.389 with Danville, Murphy slumped to a .193/.277/.312 line in 2015 as a member of the Rome Braves. The former 4th rounder did hit 7 homers, which is at least something. With Jose Briceno stalled in front of him and Lucas Herbert trying to get back on track after missing most of his first season, Murphy won't have much more time to get going before he becomes yesterday's news.

1B - Anthony Concepcion - Pickings are slim at first base, though that's not too abnormal. You could go with Jake Schrader here, but I'm going with someone else mainly to change things up. Neither is a big prospect and Concepcion was old for the Dominican Summer League last year, but the 1B/LF did have a .861 OPS in 68 games with an eye-opening .410 OBP.

2B - Omar Obregon - A switch-hitter out of Nicaragua, Obregon has played shortstop almost as much as he's played second base so far. This year, his first above rookie ball, he hit .274 with a .336 OBP. Smooth defensively, he's a bit of a trainwreck on the basepthes and was caught in 19 of his 50 attempts. He's a long-shot and likely just minor league filler.

SS - Emerson Landoni - Can a 26 year-old utility guy who has spent the last year-and-a-half in Mississippi be a prospect? Probably not, but I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Landoni joined the Braves after the Yankees gave up on him following the 2011 season. Since then, he has served as a useful bench bat who provides depth to the lineup. Last year, Landoni received 443 PA with the M-Braves and hit .297. To this point, he has played all four infield positions, LF, and even got a win as a pitcher during the 2011 season.

3B - Carlos Franco - Hard to get too bullish on Franco, who exceeded his previous output by a noticeable margin in 2015 and even with that in mind, he hit .254/.347/.403 with 11 HR. Still, the Braves placed four 3B in my top 30 so this position does have plenty of depth as is.

OF - Leudys Baez - Yet another member of the aggressively-pushed youth that the Holy John Trinity brought in after Frank Wren was let go, Baez opened his career by posting a .311/.331/.473 line in 33 games with Danville. A push to Rome was likely premature and Baez struggled as a result. He's got great athletic ability, but has to learn to take a walk (just six in 267 PA).

OF - Ronald Acuna - A younger speedier version of Baez is Acuna, who opened the season as a 17 year-old in the Gulf Coast League and finished with an 18-game run with Danville where his numbers only improved. Overall, he hit .269/.380/.438 with 4 HR and 16 steals in 55 games. Expected to have the ability to stick in center, Acuna is a right-hand hitting option to keep an eye on.

OF - Connor Lien - While Lien didn't exactly make a big splash compared to his 2014 numbers, he did hit .285 with 9 HR and 34 steals while displaying a rocket arm that scared many a Carolina League runner into submission. One of my bubble guys who just missed the Top 30, Lien has a few issues that may sidetrack him from becoming a major league player. Namely, he strikes out a ton and walks very little. Nevertheless, his numbers have improved each season since making his debut in 2012 in the Gulf Coast League. If that trend continues in Mississippi, it might be time to consider Lien more.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Top 30 Prospects, Post-2015 Edition - #10-1

Previous Rankings: 30-21 | 20-11

Over the last two weeks, I have released the first two tiers of my Top 30 post-season ranks. This finishes up the list. Well, not really. Next Monday, I will release a "And One More" prospect run-down which will include one more player at each position to keep an eye on over the winter and into two next year. For reference, two of the players from the preseason list (Daniel Winkler and Juan Yepez) made this Top 30.

I'm thinking of a Supersized Top 30 for the preseason ranking. Maybe a Top 30 + 20 prospects. If you have any ideas of how to improve this list, feel free to comment or tweet me. In the meantime, thanks for reading and on with the countdown.

Previous ranking legend
#20, #25 ...example ranking referring to pre-2015 rank and midseason update respectively.
- ...not ranked
+1 ...made the "And One More" list as a honorable mention

Ruiz (Elsa | Getty)
10. Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade: B-
Previous Ranks: 6, 7

It takes me awhile to quit on a guy, but without Ruiz's strong finish, he certainly drops out my Top 10. However, hitting 4 of his five homers and hitting nearly .300 over the final 34 games gives me some hope. There's something here and it's enough to get hopeful over. After all, most 21 year-olds struggle at AA. Likely tabbed for a return trip to Mississippi in 2016, Ruiz can be dealt with patiently as the Braves see if they can get him going in the right direction. If Ruiz is in Gwinnett by the summer, things are looking up.

9. Braxton Davidson, OF, Grade: B-
Previous Ranks: 11, 10 

Davidson has seen some ranking progression so far from 11th to 10th to 9th this time. How can a guy who hit just .242 get much praise? By adding 10 homers, 84 walks, and a .381 OBP. Now, there are some whispers that he's not aggressive enough and it paves the way for too many strikeouts, but remember that Davidson started this season at 18 in the South Atlantic League and didn't turn 19 until two months in. He never faced a pitcher younger than him and of the Top 15 youngest hitters in the SALLY, of which Davidson ranks as the 14th youngest, Davidson's .755 OPS was sixth (3rd if you limit the list to those that received 400 PA). At just 19, he still has a lot of time to mature into the power hitter that made Frank Wren pony up the money to sign him as the 32nd overall selection of last year's draft. I like Davidson's chances to go higher in the rankings in 2016.

Jenkins (Elsa | Getty)
8. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade: B- 
Previous Ranks: 10, 11 

On one end, it would be easy to ignore Jenkins' 2015 for what it wasn't. What it wasn't was a big strikeout year. What it wasn't was a year where hitters struggled to reach base. But what it was? It was a year in which Jenkins (mostly) stayed healthy, something he has not been able to do as a professional. The former Baylor QB recruit pitched 138.1 innings, shattering his previous best by 50 innings, and did well at AA before a late season promotion to AAA showed some cracks (more homers, for one). Now, it's worth mentioning that a 1.4 K/BB rate is not exactly going to win any awards and his strikeouts were down last year, but the Braves sought a healthy season with progression for Jenkins and got it. Now, in 2016, the real challenge begins. Can he improve his numbers and get his walks down?

7. Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade: B 
Previous Ranks: 7, 6

ManBan opened the year with 15 starts, including his second professional shutout, for the Gwinnett Braves. While we were all aware that he was on an innings limit, he looked like he was on the right direction to finish with a big first season in the organization. His first three appearances in Atlanta in early July did nothing to erase that hope, but a few iffy outings followed by bone spurs in his surgically fixed arm led to a DL trip. Once he came back in September, he lasted a pair of ugly starts before getting shut down to get the spurs removed from his arm. So, 2015 gave us the tantalizing quality of Banuelos, who has Top 100 stuff, but has been able to throw 100 innings just twice in his eight-year career. But 2016 could be different...right?

Mallex Smith (Stacy Revere | Getty Sports)
6. Mallex Smith, OF, Grade: B 
Previous Ranks: 12, 9

It took me a long time to buy into Mallex and even now, I'm tempted to poke holes in his game. However, when you have the back-to-back seasons that Mallex has had, it's difficult to not be impressed. While he stole 31 fewer bases in 2015 than he did the previous year, he still stole 57 bases in 70 attempts and hit .306 with a .373 OBP. The 22 year-old wasn't quite as impressive at Gwinnett after his June promotion, but that's nit-picking and I promised I wouldn't. Some think Mallex should start 2016 in Atlanta, but unless we see some trades before now and then that clear up the outfield situation, I would rather see him in Gwinnett. Even so, he's done nothing but show that he belongs in the discussion for "who should leadoff in Atlanta?"

5. Lucas Sims, RHP, Grade: B
Previous Ranks: 3, 3 

It was another mixed bag year for Sims in 2015 after struggling in the Carolina League during the previous year. Tabbed for a return trip, Sims was not impressive in 3 of his first four starts, but just as he looked to be on his way with a pair of starts and 10 K's in 13 innings, he was involved in the mid-May Mudcats bus accident. It kept him out a month and after a pair of rehab starts, he rejoined the Mudcats in July. The Braves must have been looking for any reason to promote him up the line because after a pair of mediocre efforts, he was promoted after his July 16 start where he K'd 8 in six innings. His nine starts in Mississippi were impressive, though. He K'd over a batter an inning and while he did have control issues, he kept the ball in the park. That's where he'll likely begin 2016, but he's back on track and could be one of Atlanta's biggest surprises next season.

4. Kolby Allard, LHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: -, -

Pitchers with Top 10 talent don't often fall to #14, but when they do, you make the move and that's what the Braves did. After a lot of posturing where it looked like Allard might go to college rather than sign, Allard finally joined the organization and later made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League in August. He was held to a strict pitch count and only logged six innings in three games, but he struck out 12 of the 20 he faced while allowing no walks, a hit, and hit batsman. The Braves can afford to go slow with Allard, but he's got the skillset to dominate next season. Did I mention he just turned 18 last August 13th?

Fried (Dennis Poroy | Getty)
3. Max Fried, LHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: 4, 5

Nine days ago, Fried tweeted out some good news. "Officially graduated rehab!" The Braves have waited since last offseason to see Fried throw a meaningful pitch and while they will continue to wait until the season gets going, this was big. Fried was the best prospect in a trade that includes the Braves current starting second baseman (Jace Peterson) and the #6 prospect of my rankings (Smith). In his last "healthy" season of 2013, Fried K'd 100 in 118.2 ING with a 3.49 ERA at A-level Fort Wayne. Braves will likely be very cautious with Fried in 2016 so we may not see him break out until 2017.

2. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Grade: B+
Previous Ranks: -, 2 

I haven't gotten to Touki's deal in my review of the Hart/Coppolella trades, but it might be my favorite. The D'Backs effectively gave up their top pick from 2014 just to get rid of Bronson Arroyo. Crazy. His stats after the trade were inconsistent. On July 20, he threw six no-hit innings. Six days later, he gave up nine runs in 3.1 ING. Six days after that, he gave up just two hits and a run in six innings. He's a kid figuring it out, but when he can control his stuff, he is one of the best prospects in baseball, let alone the system.

Brace Hemmelgarn | Getty
1. Ozhaino Albies, SS, Grade: A- 
Previous Ranks: 8, 8

Curacao has 171.4 square miles and just over 150,000 people. If one of those 150K Curacaoians can play baseball, the Braves will find him. Albies showed up on the scene in 2014, hitting .364 with 22 steals. This year, he went to Rome, where he was among the youngest players in the league (and younger than Davidson). Albies hit all of .310/.368/.404 with 29 steals. He's undersized and doesn't have much in terms of power, but he plays a good shortstop and does everything else really well. The switch-hitter is blocked at short currently, but much like former prospect, Jose Peraza, the Braves will move him to second if needed.

Thanks for reading and tell me in the comment section where I went wrong. Oh, and be sure to visit next week when I add a player at each position to keep an eye on.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

This Week At AtlantaBraves.About.Com

Been a bit of a slow week at my other blog as I am searching for ideas for articles. I think I have a few interesting ones that will start on Monday so maybe I can pump out 3 or more articles next week over there. In the meantime, here is the one that I posted last week.

New Front Office Member Once Tried to Send the Braves a Superstar

I'm a fan of alternate history views. Previously, I've talked about what I think would have happened had the Braves not dealt Yunel Escobar in 2010. Some months ago, I looked at how close the Braves were to acquiring Alex Rodriguez. This week, I looked at a pretty well-known story - how Barry Bonds nearly became a Brave right before the 1992 season.

This is interesting in a couple ways. The Braves would have tried to extend Bonds and if successful, would it have brought a World Series ring in 1992? Would the Braves have won more than one title during the 90's? Would they have been able to sign Greg Maddux after the '92 season?

And where would Braves lore be without Sid's Slide? Remember, it was Bonds' throw from left that didn't catch Bream at the plate. Without Bonds, the Pirates don't win the NL East that year. Speaking of that, the Montreal Expos were in second place at the end of the year. Would what have happened had they made the playoffs and beat the Braves, setting up an All-Canada Series?

But none of that happened and we may have just one man to blame/thank for that.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: Josh Elander for Trevor Cahill and bags of money

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With most of the season in our rear view, it's time to start reviewing each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins
Varvaro for Kurcz
J. Upton for Jace Peterson and prospects
Carp/Shreve for Banulos
Kubitza/Hyatt for Sanchez
Gattis for Foltynewicz and Ruiz
Hale for Briceno

The Trade
Josh Elander to the Diamondbacks for Trevor Cahill and cash.

The Rationale
Kevin C. Cox | Getty
It really wasn't that long ago that Cahill was a serviceable major league starter. In 2012, his first season with the Diamondbacks, he had a 3.78 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and a 3.84 SIERA. Certainly not awesome numbers, but pretty good numbers overall. He had completed the second year of a five-year contract he had signed with the A's before Oakland dealt him to Arizona for a trio of players. Overall, Cahill looked like he was worth the at least $25.5M he would receive from 2013-2015 (with more to be earned if team options were exercised).

But 2013's numbers weren't good and in 2014, his GB% had dipped below 50% for the first time since his rookie year. However, and this gets lost, he seemed better than his 5.61 ERA indicated. Remember those 2012 FIP's and SIERA's? In 2014, he had a 3.89 FIP and 3.96 SIERA. His numbers should have been better. It looked, at least for people who saw beyond his baseball card stats, that the Braves were acquiring a pretty decent option to stabilize the bottom-of-the-rotation. With any luck, he would re-establish some trade value and the Braves would effectively turn Elander into a better prospect. Win-win.

Speaking of Elander, he had been the Braves' sixth round pick in the 2012 draft and was a pretty interesting prospect until he got to Lynchburg. He hit .260/.366/.439 with Danville after being drafted and .318/.381/.536 with 11 HR in a 74-game run with Rome in 2013 before being promoted to Lynchburg. Injuries, especially to his shoulder, and poor play removed a good portion of the hype, but Elander was on the cusp of some people's organizational prospect list. Elander unfortunately wasn't able to stick at catcher, which would have helped his value tremendously. He had been moved to left in 2013.

And then there was the money. Cahill was due $12M in 2015. The Diamondbacks agreed to pay more than half of the tab, leaving the Braves to take a $5.5M flier (plus a $300K buyout) on a guy who was likely a better option than Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults.

Short-Term Results
So little of this trade worked for either side. Elander lasted all of a month in the Arizona system before being cut. As far as I can tell, he has not signed elsewhere since. He'll turn 25 before the 2016 season and has not played above high-A ball. The TCU product might give the indies a try or just hang 'em up.

Cahill started the eighth game of the year. He lasted 2.1 ING and gave up four runs. Seven days later, four more runs and four innings this time. Five days later, he got to six innings and gave up, you guessed it, four runs. It would be the last game he started for the Braves. The Braves called up Mike Foltynewicz to replace Cahill and sent the latter to the bullpen. Used often in blowouts, Cahill only gave up runs in four of his 12 games, but when he gave 'em up, he gave them up in bunches. Four to the Nats, three to the Brewers, and three more to the Pirates. The Braves DFA'd him on June 11 and called up Dana Eveland. Ugh, Dana Eveland.

Once released, Cahill signed with the Dodgers organization and tried to stretch his arm out, but after eight games, he wasn't getting anywhere with LA's organization so he opted out to sign with the Cubs in mid-August. The Cubs immediately put him in the pen and after a handful of games in AAA, he was promoted to the bigs when rosters expanded. The pen seemed to agree with him. He racked up a bunch of strikeouts, kept the ball on the ground, and over 11 appearances, he allowed just four runs in 17 ING with a 0.77 WHIP and 4.4 K/BB rate. It was the perfect mix for Cahill. His success led the Cubs to keep him for the postseason and he appeared in three games in the NLDS. He gave up one run, but six of the eight batters he retired came via the strikeout. All of the games he appeared in were wins for the Cubs, including the deciding Game 4 where he gave up a tying run, but watched as the Cubs retook the lead, making "Trevor Cahill" as the answer to who got the win in Chicago's first playoff series win since 2003.

Long-Term Outlook
Neither team got much out of this one. The Braves' $5.5M gamble didn't pay off, though I guess you could argue that the Diamondbacks got that much in salary relief and opened a rotation slot for Archie Bradley so even as Elander was cut shortly after the trade, Arizona wins this one. Even then, it's not a big deal either way. The Braves surrendered little more than payroll space and took a chance - and a worthy one at that - on a pitcher who had better peripherals than production. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

This is completely unproven, but I like to think that the relationship began in this deal between John Hart/John Coppolella and new D'Backs GM Dave Stewart may have helped lead to the later Touki Toussaint trade. After all, the Braves showed that they were willing to take on salary and report between GM's can be especially helpful. Just a thought because other than that, there's not much to make of in the long-term related to this deal.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thursday Throwback - Jerome Walton

(This column used to be called Random Ex-Brave.)

Jerome Walton is the Bush of ball players.

I'll explain.

In 1994, Bush released Sixteen Stone. It spawned hits like "Everything Zen," "Comedown," and "Glycerine." The latter became Bush's most iconic song. It was certified platinum six times and just like that, Bush was one of the biggest bands in the world. However, subsequent follow-ups never quite made a similar impression. Razorblade Suitcase, released two years later, sold about half as many records while 1999's The Science of Things was certified platinum just once. None of their other three albums even reached those sales. Outside of "The Sound of Winter" in 2011, the last Top 5 hit on the US Alternative Rock charts came in 2000.

Bruce Bennett | Getty
In 1989, Jerome Walton came on the scene as yet another young player to lead the Don Zimmer era Cubs to new heights. Mark Grace was 25, Shawon Dunston was 26, Dwight Smith was 25, and the 23 year-old Greg Maddux led a strong rotation. It was a great group of young talent, that went to the NLCS that year before losing to the Giants in five, paving the way for the Earthquake Series with the A's. Walton was a big reason why. Replacing a series of under-performing players in center field from 1988, Walton hit .293 with 24 steals over 116 games. He missed some action, but was instrumental in getting the Cubs to the plays after a 30-game hit streak starting on July 21. That day, the Cubs lost 4-3 to the Giants and were in third place in the NL East. When the streak ended on August 20, the Cubs had moved ahead of the Astros for the division lead. They would never lose the lead again and after the season, Walton finished 13th in the MVP vote and won the Rookie of the Year. Since 1947, only five Cubs have ever won the award. It was Walton's best year.

Born July 8, 1965 in Newnan, GA, Walton attended Enterprise-Ozark Community College in Alabama. The school has produced just one other major leaguer - Dana Williams. In the minors, Walton was a pretty exciting prospect and the year before breaking into the bigs, he hit .331 in AA with 42 steals. After winning the CF job in spring training, Walton was set and the Cubs got excited after a magical rookie season. As I said, Walton missed action in 1989. This would become fairly routine for the often-injured speedster.

In 1990, there was Walton at the top of the lineup to begin the year. He went 2-for-4 and scored a tying run in the first. His OPS stayed in the .680-.720 department for most of the season, though he lost 40 games to injury in mid-June. For the most part, Zimmer hit him leadoff and despite weaker numbers across the board, he did on-base .350, though he only swiped 14 bases. It would be his last full-time season. While Walton played a lot in 1991, he was used as a defensive replacement for the weaker fielding, but better hitting alternatives (Doug Dascenzo and Chico Walker). He finished the year with a disappointing .219 average and a .604 OPS.

New manager Jim Lefebvre settled on a pre-roids Sammy Sosa as his everyday CF in 1992, though Sosa's struggles opened the position up for competition. Not for Walton, though. It was Dascenzo who stepped up. It didn't help that Walton missed the beginning of the year due to injury and by June 18, with a slash of .127/.273/.164, the Cubs disabled Walton for the remainder of the season before non-tendering him. In four years, the 1989 Rookie of the Year hit .258 with 12 HR and 46 steals - numbers that look a lot worse if you take out his magical rookie year and hit streak.

Walton went out west and signed with the California Angels, as they were known as. He played mostly in AAA and hit .313 there, but only a five-game look in the bigs before being cut. Walton's days as a starter were over, but he had a nice five-year run starting in 1994, though he could never stay healthy long enough to enjoy it. He was a rarely used sub for the '94 Reds, but he hit .309 in 46 games. Still, it was difficult to find playing time behind Kevin Mitchell and Reggie Sanders in the corners and Roberto Kelly/Deion Sanders in center field. The Reds also had Jacob Brumfield, who hit .311. The following season saw Walton return to the Reds and Ron Gant replace Mitchell in left field for the strike-delayed 1995 campaign. Walton played all three outfield positions and even a few innings at first base, but only got 188 PA out of it. He made it count, hitting .290 with 8 of his career 25 homers along with his third and last year with double digit steals.

His 1995 season with the Reds made Walton an attractive option for the Braves. They had learned how nice it is having a deep bench the previous year with Walton's former teammate Dwight Smith and later additions Luis Polonia and Mike Devereaux all playing key roles in getting the Braves to their only World Series title in Atlanta. Adding Walton with the returning Smith seemed like a no-brainer. Walton hit from the beginning. On opening day, Walton entered in a double switch to replace Ryan Klesko in left. In his first at-bat, he worked the count full against Chris Hook before hitting a homer. It would be helpful after Mark Wohlers battled control in the ninth and a 10-5 game got real close before the Braves eventually won 10-8.

Walton spent most of his time with the Braves as Klesko's caddy in left field. Of the 27 games in April, he played 21, but he only started twice. His job was to come in late and play defense. His offense was a bonus. He got five starts in May, but hit the DL at the end of the month and stayed there for the remainder of the season. His line as a Brave? .340/.389/.511. However, after his and David Justice's injuries, things shuffled in the outfield. Jermaine Dye filled in and the Braves shifted Chipper Jones to the corners to accommodate the, at that point, pretty bad Terry Pendleton.

In free agency, Walton signed with the Orioles, another contender looking to add depth. Walton didn't get through April before hitting the DL. However, unlike the previous season, he was able to return before the end of the year He even played in the playoffs, continuing a streak of 14 consecutive postseason at-bats without a hit since an RBI single in the Game 5 of the 1989 NLCS. For 1998, he headed south to join the inaugural Devil Rays. His season ended on May 6. Shocker.

For the next three seasons, Walton stayed around baseball. He went to Mexico to play for Campeche and also spent time in the Atlantic League with Somerset and Nashua. Two of his teammates for the latter were only notable because of who their brother was - Stephen Larkin and Bobby Bonds Jr. Walton also spent about a month in the Marlins system, but never got back to the majors. His career came to a close in 2001.

Since retiring, Walton has kept busy. He spent some time as an instructor with Home Plate in Peachtree, GA and also founded his own baseball academy called Centerfield Baseball Academy. It's a shame he wasn't able to stay healthy when he became a backup. The Braves could have used him in '96 as it turned out.

More Recent Throwbacks...
Blaine Boyer (2005-09)
Juan Berenguer (1991-92)
Charlie Morton (2008)
...or view ALL of them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: Hale for Briceno

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With most of the season in our rear view, it's time to start reviewing each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins
Varvaro for Kurcz
J. Upton for Jace Peterson and prospects
Carp/Shreve for Banulos
Kubitza/Hyatt for Sanchez
Gattis for Foltynewicz and Ruiz

The Trade
David Hale and Gus Schlosser to the Rockies for Jose Briceno and Chris O'Dowd. I discussed this deal here at WalkOffWalk.net and here at About.com.

The Rationale
Mitchell Layton | Getty
Was my hatred of David Hale rational? Absolutely not. It wasn't even Hale's fault - it was Twitter. Several people wanted more and more of Hale, and forgive me, but hell no. He was a non prospect who had a couple of good starts, but very little else. He wasn't the next Kris Medlen or Brandon Beachy - pitchers who came out of nowhere and became productive Braves. He was just a guy who wasn't terrible, but not good. He was decently able in the Cristhian Martinez role to handle long relief so he had some value. Well, not much according to Fangraphs who graded his 2014 production as a -0.1 WAR season. But hey, it's difficult to get much saber love when you carry a 1.3% strikeout-to-walk percentage.

The Braves saw an opportunity to smartly cash in on Hale's 3.30 ERA. He wasn't likely to maintain it beyond 2014. After all, 1.47 WHIPs typically don't pave the road for a pitcher to be successful.

Schlosser had a fun 2014. A 17th rounder in 2011, Schlosser rocketed to the majors because his 3/4's delivery helped him keep the ball down. After being a surprise in spring training, Schlosser appeared in the first game of 2014 and pitched a perfect 1.2 ING despite only facing four batters (a double play wiped out an inherited runner). He wasn't very good for the remainder of April, though he did have an eventful 4/20. Not in that way. I don't think. Anyway, after Hale had given up three runs in six innings, the Braves and Mets played into the 11th when Schlosser came on. In the 14th inning, he singled in his first and, to this date, only plate appearance. He was forced out on a double play. The following inning, a walk, bunt, intentional walk, and wild pitch set up Curtis Granderson to bring home the walk-off runner via a sacrifice fly. Schlosser would be demoted after two more appearances. He appeared in a double header on June 28, but otherwise, was kept in Gwinnett for most of 2014 until a September callup. He was cut after the season, but re-signed.

Hardly a pair of hot prospects, but the Rockies always need able arms and both had major league experience and in Hale's case, he wasn't terrible. Meanwhile, as a common theme, the Braves were willing to surrender major league depth in exchange for a higher end prospect. That came in the form of Jose Briceno. Colorado was rich in catching prospects with Tom Murphy rounding back into form after missing most of 2014. On his heels was Dom Nunez, a guy the Rockies moved to catcher in '14. If that wasn't enough, Ryan Casteel had just come off a 16-HR campaign in AA. Briceno was an interesting prospect, but hardly a big loss for this system. His value to the Braves was much higher as they looked for options while hoping Christian Bethancourt excelled.

Adding a heady player like Chris O'Dowd was both smart and a favor to the Rockies. O'Dowd was much like Kyle Wren - a son of the team's former GM. He wasn't much of a prospect, though he had great speed for a catcher and had made it to AA in 2014. He was organizational filler, but catchers are always needed.

Short-Term Results
The trade, much like the Ricardo Sanchez trade I profiled, is a Mulligan for both sides. For the Rockies, Schlosser washed out and was eventually released. He would later sign with the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League and finished the year with 19 innings and a weak 1.42 WHIP for them, though it was an improvement over his AA numbers in the Eastern League.

Meanwhile, Hale missed the early part of the year with injury before making sporadic starts in late May and June for the Rockies. He split time between the rotation and bullpen after that to odd results. After being Groundball McSqueezy who couldn't strikeout anyone with the Braves, he upped his K rate to 7 per nine and his GB% saw a 9% decline. The latter led to 9 more homers in 2015 than he gave up in 2014 despite pitching 9 innings less. Lots of 9's in this comparison. Of course, Turner Field's a bit more forgiving than Coors Field.

As for the Braves, they hardly got much out of the deal this season either. Briceno came to the Braves after hitting .278 during 110 games with Asheville between 2013-14 with 13 HR and a .780 OPS. While still raw behind the plate, scouts raved over his arm and bat. If his receiving skills increased, he could be a B-grade prospect and a potential alternative to Bethancourt. It didn't work that way as Briceno struggled from Day 1. His .183/.215/.267 slash over 327 plate appearances was woeful. When you add the 11 double plays, Briceno was responsible for 268 outs. That comes out to about three a game. Jeff Francoeur thinks that's bad.

Meanwhile, O'Dowd had a strong month-plus sharing time with minor league Rule 5 pick Steve Rodriguez before being busted in June for PEDs. He had been hitting .304 with a .429 OBP before being placed on the inactive list pending his eventual suspension. He would miss the remainder of the season and by my math, still has a couple of games left on his suspension before being cleared to begin the 2016 season.

Long-Term Outlook
Still, despite the O'Dowd suspension and Briceno's struggles, I remain convinced that this was a good move. At the end of it all, getting the higher end prospect for depth guys is always the way to go. Neither Hale nor Schlosser are guys you need to keep unless you need some help with your investments (here's more on that). Briceno has the best shot to be a productive major league player so you take a chance.

With that said, Briceno is only the top catching prospect in the Braves' system because there are so few alternatives as I discussed in my recent look at the Evan Gattis trade. After a likely return to Carolina, Briceno will need to produce in a hurry to solidify his claim as the top catching prospect.

As for Hale and Schlosser. Well, the later was released. Hale remains with the Rockies, but the Rockies have some interesting righties like Jon Gray and Eddie Butler who have a much better chance of playing a role for future Rockies' clubs. Hale, like he was for the Braves, is depth for both the rotation and pen. He gives you an option that wasn't as good as his 3.30 ERA with the Braves in 2014, but also not as bad as his 6.09 ERA last season. That's not enough to keep him in your plans, but you can always do worse.

Hey, look at that. I ended on a compliment.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Top 30 Prospects, Post-2015 Edition - #20-11

Previous Rankings: 30-21

Last Monday, I started the post-2015 Top 30 Prospects by looking at the bottom tier. As the Braves have built for the future, naturally more talent has been added to the system. Case in point, of the ten players in my Middle Tier, nine of them joined the system after Frank Wren was fired. The system of Hart and Coppolella has taken shape over the last nearly 13 months. Remember that next week, I will publish my Top 10 prospects in the system. For those that follow the system, there should be little surprise by who makes up the Top 10 after reading this post, though the order may not line up with yours or others.

Previous ranking legend
#20, #25 ...example ranking referring to pre-2015 rank and midseason update respectively.
- ...not ranked
+1 ...made the "And One More" list as a honorable mention

20. Randy Ventura, OF, Grade: C 
Previous Rank: -, -

An aggressive ranking? You betcha. But Ventura came on the scene in a big way while playing in the Dominican Summer League. He hit a cool .329 with a superb .421 OBP with the assistance of a 35-to-27 BB/K line. What made Ventura so incredibly interesting was that in 58 games, he swiped an amazing 55 bases. He would have strolled to the organizational title without Mallex Smith in the system. Still, nobody could match his ability to steal bases at a stupid rate (55 SB in 58 G with 91 TB). One slight issue: 11 errors in less than 500 innings out in center field isn't cool, but he may have been run on at will as he also had 14 assists. Ventura could climb or fall rapidly in these rankings depending on how things go next year.

19. Andrew Thurman, RHP, Grade: C 
Previous Rank: 24, 18 

I recently included Thurman in my Evan Gattis trade review so there is going to be a lot of repetition here. For awhile there, Thurman looked like he might have been a surprise pick-up. After being a 2013 second rounder, Thurman added velocity and showed some K ability. The Braves seemed to push him to pull back in an effort to increase his control. He started the year great in Carolina, but the mid-May bus accident put his season on hold. He was never quite as good after it. Thurman ended the season by spending most of August in Mississippi to mostly bad results. The book on Thurman wasn't too dissimilar to John Gant - he's a heady pitcher who utilizes all he has to get batters out. While I don't like Thurman's chances to get into the big league picture with so many ahead of him with much more impressive stuff, he could provide depth and make for a decent trade piece if he recaptures his early-2015 luck.

CalgaryHerald.com
18. Mike Soroka, RHP, Grade: C
Previous Rank: -, -

One of the top Canadians in this year's draft, there was buzz when Soroka was selected that the Braves were looking to save money on him to help sign Kolby Allard. That ultimately didn't come to pass as Soroka was signed for slot (around $1.97M) after the draft. A tall righty who turned 18 on August 4, Soroka saw action in both the Gulf Coast League and with the Danville Braves after making his debut. Overall, he struck out 37 in 34 innings while walking just 5. Pretty impressive stuff for the Alberta product. He was sitting close to the mid-90's with a very good change-of-pace. His future will depend on the development of a third pitch, a breaking ball, to keep hitters off-balance. I didn't think much of this pick when it happened, but I have grown to love it. He could be an aggressive push to Rome next spring, though it wouldn't surprise me to see him start the year next summer in Danville.

17. Jose Briceno, C, Grade: C 
Previous Rank: 13, 14

I had high hopes for Briceno when the Braves picked him up from the Rockies in the David Hale trade. He had hit a robust .283/.336/.476 for Asheville in the South Atlantic League and if his glove caught up with his natural ability, he would be a nice catching prospect. Unfortunately, he fell on his face with Carolina this season, hitting .183 with 4 HR in 88 games. He showed a nice arm, but his hype was built on his bat and it simply didn't come with him from the Rockies' organization. The Braves system needs catching talent. Briceno is my highest ranked catcher and only two made it into my Top 30. Unless the Braves stumble onto a long-term option this winter, Briceno will have a chance to re-establish himself in 2016 in what will likely be a return to Carolina.

16. Robert Whalen, RHP, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: -, -

I like Whalen - probably more than I should. He's my lowest ranked C+ grade guy. At his best, Whalen was a pitcher who could rack up K's and groundballs. I have a strong affinity for pitchers who can do that, even though his K rate has seen a decline over his first full rookie-ball campaign. Whalen misses some strong sinking pitches with an off-speed pitch that he learned might be important after getting his head bashed in during the 2014 Arizona Fall League. He had made three starts after the trade before leaving hitting the DL with something I can't find, but a look at his Twitter shows that both of his knees were operated on. Judging by his Twitter, his rehab is going well and he'll look to stay healthy for a full season in 2016.

Povse's Twitter
15. Max Povse, RHP, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: 30, 17 

Standing 6'8", Povse is an intimidating presence on the mound and the UNC-Greensboro had a mixed bag in 2015. He was limited to just three April starts because of a DL stint, but once healthy, he had a great run going. Of his first ten starts, he allowed one or fewer runs in eight of them. After an ugly June 16 start against Hickory, he rebounded in his next start with 7 scoreless innings, no walks, and 4 K's. It was enough to get him a promotion to Carolina, but other than a quality start against the Salem Red Sox, it was pretty abysmal. His season ended after facing just five batters on July 20. He has middle-of-the-rotation ability with great sinking velocity, but his secondary options will ultimately decide if he can stick at starter.

14. Ricardo Sanchez, RHP, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: 16, 13

I recently profiled Sanchez as part of my look back at Hart's and, by extension, Coppy's Trades during their first year in power. Sanchez has stayed pretty consistent in the rankings because I didn't put much value in his numbers this season, nor have I lost the faith. I love Sanchez's high-end potential. Of course, reaching it is another thing, but if his secondary pitches develop to join his mid-90's velocity and smooth delivery, Sanchez could be joining the fold in a couple of years as yet another exciting arm on the cusp of big things.

13. Dustin Peterson, OF, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: 19, 12 

I didn't think much of Peterson when he was picked up in the Justin Upton trade, but that may have been selling him short. While one could look at a .251 average and only 8 homers and think this season was a letdown, I look at his age (20 in the Carolina League), much improved pitch recognition, and a full season in left field as plus signs from this season. Certainly, a move to left hurt his value and he remains very toolsy, but if he can put it together, he's got a great chance to rocket up these rankings and be a player to watch for the next couple of seasons.

12. Zachary Bird, RHP, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: -, -

Very little was written about Bird after the Braves acquired him in the massive trade deadline deal with the Dodgers and Marlins. A 9th rounder in 2012, the results weren't there so much as the potential. This continues to be the case as he struck out over a batter an inning this year, but walked a small village. Bird is another scouts special by the new front office which values high-end potential. He had turned 21 about two weeks before this trade, but the Braves aggressively moved him to Mississippi to finish the season. With Bird, the Braves can take their time. He's blessed with a tremendous amount of athleticism and like seemingly every Braves prospect, can flirt with 95 mph on the radar gun. The Braves will work with him to develop his off-speed stuff while aiming to help him gain control of his stuff. I like their chances to do those things.

InsideMSUSports
11. Austin Riley, 3B, Grade: C+
Previous Rank: -, -

The 41st overall selection of this year's draft, Austin Riley was looked at as a reach. He had a nice arm while playing for DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, Mississippi, but the Braves saw him more as a power bat at third. Some asked why the Braves had to pay $1.6M, or nearly 100K above slot, for a bit of a project. The results so far have only reaffirmed that the Braves know what they are doing. Riley belted seven homers for the GCL Braves in 30 games before getting a push up to Danville where the 18 year-old battered APPY pitching to the tune of .351/.443/.586 with 5 HR. Overall, he hit .304 on the year with 12 homers. He struck out a bit too much, but that's nit-picking. 12 homers in 60 games with an ISO of about .240 is pretty exciting. It would be an aggressive assignment to send him to Rome to open 2016, but I fully expect Atlanta to do that. Keep an eye on Riley. He could crack the Top 10 to stay by the end of 2016.

Next Monday, I'll have my Top 10. Did I over-rank anyone? Under-rank them? Let me know in the comments section.