Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Transaction Tuesday: Shae, Yepez, Minter, Banuelos

Many apologies for disappearing over the last week. A slew of other commitments propped up and pushed many of the things I enjoy - like this blog - to the side as I tried to be an adult. I hope to address many of the things I missed over the coming days like Fredi Gonzalez's dismissal, yesterday's trade with the Orioles, and continue my recap of the 5 Best and 5 Worst Drafts since 2000. To get back into the swing of things, here is this week's minor league transaction recap. I missed last week, but this won't be a supersized version. Instead, this will be all of the reported moves from May 17 to May 23.

Gwinnett Braves
Signed: Lucas Harrell...After looking like a pretty interesting middle-of-the-rotation piece in 2012, Harrell's career has went off the tracks. Part of that was due to Harrell being really hit-lucky in his Age-27 year. Did I say only part? Harrell is a groundball guy who spent last year in Korea. He depends on location and being stubborn on the mound - not entirely terrible things, but unlikely to help him get back into the majors without some serious luck.

Signed: Rob Wooten...Second go-around with the Braves just this season. Wooten may have been cut before to seek other employment opportunities and when he didn't find them, indicated he was open for a return assignment. Thoroughly unimpressive reliever.

Optioned: Aaron Blair...What we saw with major league Aaron Blair was a guy who nibbled - a lot. He was behind the count on 30% of his pitches, which is not an easy way to make a living. Pitching behind leads to a 74% contact rate on pitches outside the strikezone as hitters can zero in on where they want the pitch and even if it's a "ball," it's where they want it. Blair got away with it for awhile, but it's just not possible to keep pitching behind as major league hitters tee off pitches that they can guess with a reasonable amount of confidence that they will see - as his 32.5% line drive rate can attest.

Optioned: Manny Banuelos...With his assignment last week, Banuelos took the next step in getting back into the Braves' good graces after succombing to more injuries last year. It's been his M.O. during his nine-year career. Excite, get hurt. Excite, get hurt. He made one start with Rome on a "rehab" assignment before being curiously optioned a day later.

Optioned: Joel De La Cruz...Seriously, Atlanta. Stop calling him up unless you plan on using him. For the second time this season, Cruz was promoted to the majors only to sit in the bullpen for a short time before being sent back down. Now in his ninth year (if you don't count 2007-08 when he didn't pitch), Cruz has not been good at all for Gwinnett this year.

Optioned: John Gant...I've never been too high on Gant like others. He's a flyball pitcher who relies on his herky-jerky delivery a little too much over having the skill level to throw balls passed hitters. That works in the minors - not so much in the majors. He could be a decent long reliever, but expecting more would be a bit too much in my opinion.

Released: Sean Burnett...The southpaw badly wants back in the majors. When a run with the Dodgers didn't get him to the majors, he tried the Braves. Growing impatient, he now heads to the Twins organization in his quest to wear all of the AAA jerseys in one year. Burnett has looked good in AAA and honestly, I would have preferred him over Eric O'Flaherty, but the difference between the two probably isn't significant enough to care.

Mississippi Braves
Promoted: Levi Hyams...Short of a small run in Gwinnett of 12 PA, Hyams has been in Mississippi this year and was simply being returned to the team after a brief assignment with Danville. He's hit worse this year than he did last year (.365 wOBA - .267), but keeps getting work.

Promoted (to AAA) and Demoted: Victor Mateo...Organizational arm went to Gwinnett to give them an extra arm if need be, but quickly was demoted back to Mississippi, where he has a 4.76 ERA in 11.1 innings.

Demoted (to Danville) and Promoted: Michael O'Neal...An independent signing last offseason, O'Neal has played at times this year for Carolina to the tune of four runs in nine innings. Was brought up to Mississippi for an emergency start last week and was actually quite decent (4 ING, H, 2 BB, K). If he has a future big league career, it'll likely be as a left-hand specialist.

DL'd and Activated: Matt Kennelly...Has played in all of six games in this, his tenth season. Did hit his first homerun since 2013 with Gwinnett.

DL'd: Kyle Kinman...Second trip to the DL for Kinman this year. Over his last eight games, he has surrendered five hits, five walks, and struckout six over 8.1 innings. A lot was hoped for with Kinman this season, but it's been slow to get going.

Released: Steve Rodriguez...Picked up in the minor league portion of last year's Rule 5 draft, Rodriguez hit just .210 at Mississippi last year and was hitting .209 at the time he was released this year. In 74 games with the Braves' organization, he had just six extra-base hits - all doubles. To remember all that Rodriguez brought, feel free to read my recent Random Prospect profile on him.

Carolina 
Promoted: A.J. Minter...Atlanta really likes what they have seen from the 22 year-old second rounder who made his debut with Rome earlier this month. It's worth mentioning (again) that Minter only tossed 58 innings in college so what the Braves have right now is fully based on potential rather than results, though Minter definitely looked good with Rome (6 ING, 2 H, BB, 6 K). He made his Carolina League debut last week and struck out 4-of-6 batters he faced in the two-inning outing. The lefty has a chance to be a quick riser at this rate. The demotion of O'Neal (covered above) to Danville set the stage for Minter to join Carolina.

Rome
Promoted: Carlos Castro...With a slew of injuries leaving Rome short-handed, the team brought up Castro from the Danville roster. Castro spent two years in the Dominican before finally hitting in 2014. Atlanta finally brought him stateside and he slashed .319/.340/.412 with Danville last year. He's a bit too old, is a first baseman without power, and doesn't walk. Still, he should make the Rome lineup better and possibly show the team that when those injured players return, Castro shouldn't be returned to Danville.

Promoted: Trevor Belicek...His placement in Danville was only temporary. Belicek had been one of Rome's most dependable relievers and often gave the team multiple inning performances. His almost robotic control comes through impressively in his stats (28.1 ING, 1 BB, 32 K). That includes a three-inning stint with Mississippi in April. Belicek would be traded Monday to the Orioles.

Rehab Assignment: Shae Simmons...Simmons had already logged a pair of innings with Gwinnett, but with Gwinnett playing in Charlotte as his next rehab game was on tap, the Braves moved him down to Rome so that he could stay close to Atlanta. Most teams do something similar, but with two minor league teams so close to the parent squad, Atlanta is usually able to avoid any case of sending a rehabbing player on the road. As for the outing, Simmons had his cleanest inning. He needed just 11 pitches to send Augusta into the field. He struck out one and 7-of-11 pitches went for strikes with 3 looking. He's close - real close.

DL'd: Matt Tellor...He's struggling to stay healthy and hasn't hit much when healthy. Of 84 possible plate appearances, he has 2 doubles, a homer, one walk, and 32 strikeouts. He's 24.

DL'd: Juan Yepez...It was good to see Yepez get some reps at third base last week and the 18 year-old was handling himself okay before hitting the DL. Yepez is going to hit. It's his calling card. The dream was that he would do so as a third baseman, but that might be too much to ask for. As a 1B, his value decreases.

Danville
Demoted: Jose Ramirez...Just a means to get a live arm on the Gwinnett roster. Ramirez had thrown 46 pitches in a 2.2 inning outing against Charlotte on May 20, so a demotion to Danville gives him time to rest. He'll be back (possibly today or tomorrow).

GCL
No moves.

DSL
No moves.

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