Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Braves Cash in Chacin

Keith Allison on Flickr via Wikipedia
When the day began, it looked like Jhoulys Chacin would make his sixth start as a Brave. By mid-day, we knew that wouldn't happen. Atlanta traded the righty reclamation project to the Angels for left-hander Adam McCreery, who may or may not have won the tenth season of American Idol (I'm terrible with names). Before we welcome Adam to all things Brave, let's take a moment to say goodbye to Jhoulys.

I immediately was a fan of the signing when the Braves inked him to a deal 11 days before Christmas last winter. If you are going to take a chance on a player, Chacin was the right type of player to take a chance on. Soon after, we were given a example of the wrong type of player to take a chance on - Kyle Kendrick. Always go for the guy who either could be a late bloomer or was superb before being sidetracked by injuries. Chacin fit the bill for the latter. In 2013, he was ranked 20th in baseball in fWAR among pitchers. That's the kind of player you hope for the best with.

He had a few hiccups this spring, but did enough to finish camp as a member of the rotation. Because of off days, he initially began the season in Triple-A and made a nice start with Gwinnett before excelling against the Nats on April 12 with six scoreless innings and 8 K's. Subsequent outings would never match the glory of his debut (same problem with Iron Man franchise) and things got away from him last time out when he gave up his first four homeruns of the year all in one game. The one outing made his ERA look worse than it probably should have as it jumped from 3.27 to 5.40. Chacin's xFIP of 3.32 and 3.55 SIERA were among his best professional totals. He was also doing enough to strikeout nearly a quarter of all batters - WAY over his career norms - with the best walk rate of his career. His cutter isn't a great pitch, but the extra usage seen this year may have helped his fastball and he's always had good breaking stuff.

But he's gone. I understand the impulse. Trade a guy with several injuries on his resume while he's healthy and productive. That said, I think there is a chance the Braves sold low here. If Chacin remains healthy and reasonably effective, the Angels paid a small price to get him. In fact, if the Angels are out of it in July, they could repackage Chacin for a better prospect than they gave up. However, I can't fault the Braves for getting what they can when they can.

And what they got was a raw 23 year-old pitcher. McCreery was well-thought of coming out of Bonita High School in 2011, but concerns with his elbow dropped him from a possible 2nd round pick to a 14th round selection by the Twins. McCreery chose not to sign and committed to Arizona State. After seeing a little action his freshman season, McCreery was used more frequently with poorer results in his sophomore campaign. He then transferred to Azusa Pacific, where he was a teammate of current Carolina Mudcats outfielder, Joseph Daris. McCreery would right the ship some with a 67 inning campaign with 72 strikeouts, but a concerning 50 walks.

The Angels spent a 22nd rounder on McCreery in June of 2014 and signed the California southpaw shortly after the draft. It was a good fit for both as the Angels got a potential strong arm with upside while McCreery could develop under the umbrella of a team that was less than an hour from his home. But the results have just not been there for McCreery. He's spent two years in the Arizona Summer League where he's too old to be playing. He improved his numbers last year compared to 2014 (walk rate down 2 BB/9, K rate up 3.7 per nine), but he still walked 14 in just 18.2 innings and now has 33 career free passes in 38 innings.

McCreery is an imposing sight. At 6'8", immediately, there were jokes that maybe he can help out the Hawks. He also pitches out of a three-quarters delivery as you can see below.

The ball likely appears to jump at lefthanders from that arm slot, but there are slight little hiccups in his delivery that need to be cleaned up. Part of the reason he fell in the 2011 draft was because he had to re-work his delivery to take out some of the violence. While it's smoother now, it's a struggle to stay consistent. A friend of mine pointed out that he might be "dead-arming" his glove hand rather than use his front side to line up his target. That alone can cause some control issues.

Provided he can clean up some of what is holding him back, it'll make his mid-90's velocity more dangerous against against hitters - especially left-handed batters. He will also need to develop his offspeed and breaking stuff. Overall, despite being 23, there is still a lot of basic work here that needs to be completed and that's why he's behind on his development. A 2014 college-age selection should be at least testing his luck in Single-A, not relegated to the old guy on a roster with a bunch of high school grads.

McCreery likely will begin his season in late June when the Appalachian League begins. Unlike Chacin, McCreery is a potential asset beyond this season. Whether that materializes and to what degree will depend on how well the lefty develops. At his age, it's time to get moving.

I mentioned this on my Twitter, but my contract with About.com Sports will be running out. The company has reassessed several of their departments and the focus on Sports and individual teams have been decreased. I will continue to post here and I am lining up some additional opportunities. 

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