Thursday, March 3, 2016

Guys You Don't Know, vol. 2

Huge game yesterday for the offense led by Mallex Smith's 4-for-6 game and Ozhaino Albies going 3-for-5. Both players homered while Smith finished a single short of the cycle with two triples, each of which occurred in the same inning. If only every game was like that.

Still, there may have been some unknown names in the lineup so here's a primer on the names that may have been strange. You can check yesterday's similar post here.

Odom, C, 1-for-2, 2B, RBI

Who is he? Joseph Odom...Originally a 13th rounder in 2013 out of Huntingdon College (go Hawks!), Odom has been an unimpressive catcher so far with the bat, hitting .215/.300/.356 over 550 PA. He seems pretty decent behind the plate and I usually give a pass on caught stealing rates in the minors because pitchers are rarely adept at holding runners on the farm. All in all, Odom's a body who turns 24 and could be ticketed for a return trip to Carolina in 2016.

Astudillo, PH-DH, 0-for-2

Who is he? Willians Astudillo...As far as interesting players, Astudillo kind of takes the cake. He began his career back in 2009 and from the beginning, was shifted around often. By the time his third season was in the books, he had played all four infield positions, both corner outfield positions, and logged over 200 innings behind the plate. He spent those three years in the Venezuelan Summer League and put up strange numbers toward the end of his run there, including walking 15 times in 52 games during 2011 compared to just TWO strikeouts. After missing 2013, Astudillo has slashes of .333/.366/.433 and .314/.348/.384 in a pair of single-A stops before becoming a minor league free agent this winter and signing with the Braves. He's intriguing because his story is unique, but that's about it. Check out a deeper profile of him.

Gant, P, 2 ING, H, K

Who is he? John Gant...One of the biggest late summer surprises was how Gant jumped into the Mississippi rotation after being acquired in the Juan Uribe/Kelly Johnson trade with the Mets. He was considered the lesser of the two pitchers picked up in the deal and had made eleven fairly pedestrian starts for Binghamton, the Double-A affiliate for the Mets. His last start with the organization came on July 23 and he surrendered seven runs (six earned) over 5.1 innings. He would give up just 11 runs (nine earned) over seven starts with Mississippi. The great run prompted the Braves to promote Gant to the 40-man roster to protect him from other teams in last December's Rule 5 draft. Gant is considered a good arm, though he lacks much flair or a plus pitch at this point. If things fall just right, Gant could get into the majors and be tenacious, but short of continuing his success from late summer last year, he's going to have a tough time getting noticed in a system with several great pitching prospects. He could open this season with Mississippi or get aggressively promoted to Gwinnett.

Rutckyj, P, ING, K

Who is he? Evan Rutckyj...Call the presses - the Braves have a former Yankee on their roster. I kid, of course, as Atlanta has picked up former Yankee prospects at a rate that competes with the Royals' penchant for grabbing ex-Braves pitchers. Rutckyj was selected in the Rule 5 draft despite just 17.2 innings above A-ball. The Canadian lefty has struggled with his control over his six-year career, though he did set a new low with a 3.1 BB/9 last season (it was cut more than half from 2013). He'll need that to continue and show he can handle lefties to remain with this team. His velocity runs from the low-to-mid 90's with a slide that flashes swing-and-miss ability from time-to-time.

Thurman, P, ING

Who is he? Andrew Thurman...Similar to Gant in that when he was acquired, he seemed like the final piece of a deal rather than a focal point for the Braves. Thurman was picked up in the Evan Gattis trade and jumped into the Carolina League season with solid numbers before the unfortunate bus wreck took two months of action from him. After a rehab stint in rookie ball, Thurman made it back to the Mudcats in mid-July, though he struggled often with control. That didn't stop the Braves from promoting him to finish the season with Gant in Mississippi. His control was again a problem and an Arizona Fall League run was fairly forgetful. He was particularly vulnerable against lefties (.768 OPS vs. .651) and older hitters (.843 OPS vs. .584). I don't expect much from him and he should return to Mississippi to open 2016.

The Braves will be action today against the Tigers with Sean Newcomb among those set for action.

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