Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Player Reviews: Chaz Roe, Rio Ruiz, Shae Simmons

I see an end to this series, though it keeps getting pushed back as the Braves add players. Today, I take a look at three players who could all be on next year's opening day roster.

Did you miss the last edition? I got your back. Want to catch up on all of the series? I have you covered as well.

*Ages reflect the player's age on opening day, 2017.

Chaz Roe, RHP, 30 years-old

2016 Review: In early August, the Braves quietly picked up Roe from the Orioles off waivers. It was the ninth organization of Roe's career that originally began after being picked by the Rockies in the first round of the 2005 draft. His departure was a numbers game working against Roe and some poor pitching to begin with, including 7 walks in 9.2 innings. Once he got to Atlanta, he found himself over 21 games to finish the season. The Braves didn't change him much - they just gave him time and he threw more strikes.

2017 Projection: If you are looking for reasons to believe Roe can find continued success in 2017, here are a few things that might help. Roe was actually pretty decent the previous year with a FIP/xFIP of 3.86/3.78. He outperformed those marks after arriving in Atlanta with the aid of a high groundball rate (64%!) and a 1.75/2.75 combined FIP/xFIP. His BABIP was within his career norms as well. How Roe fairs after the sacking of Roger McDowell is another question because Roe fit right into McDowell's fondness for trash heap sinkerballers. He's worth a look, though he'll need to pitch well in spring to keep his job.

By Tate Nations (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
Rio Ruiz, 3B, 22 years-old

2016 Review: According to Baseball Reference, Ruiz became the first Rio to ever play in the majors, which is already a cool fact. His middle name is Noble, too. I'm just padding this section because Ruiz only had a handful of games in the bigs. After a hot start to the season, Ruiz cooled off in May with Gwinnett. Ruiz was able to shake it off and flipped the switch back on toward the end of the season. In August alone, he hit .286/.375/.505 with 4 of his 10 homers. That strong finish certainly gave the Braves enough reason to believe Ruiz was ready for a cup of coffee and he played in five games in the final two weeks, going 2-for-7 with a triple, a steal, and two K's.

2017 Projection: Ruiz is ready to contribute in the majors and short of the Braves adding a full-time third baseman (or trading Ruiz), he'll be given a chance to compete for time this spring. While Adonis Garcia did a decent enough job in 2016, he is hardly a long-term option. Ruiz likely isn't either, but in all likelihood, he'll have his opportunity to impress. Ruiz hasn't flashed a lot of power in the minors and struggled against left-handers last year, but does have a patient approach at the plate with enough pop to be interesting. He's expected to be a solid defender, though not an elite one. Whether a platoon or some kind of time share develops, the duo of Ruiz/Garcia (and maybe Jace Peterson as well) should handle third base well enough in 2017.

Shae Simmons, RHP, 26 years-old

2016 Review: Starts and stops led to a long rehab from Tommy John surgery which kept Simmons off the mound very often in 2016. After missing all of the previous season following the surgery, he first got back into live action in mid-May. After three games and a setback, he returned in June for two games before again hitting the shelf. Finally, in late July, he was able to stay on the mound and even pulled his first back-to-back of the year on August 23-24. As rosters expanded for September, Simmons would appear seven times for the big league club before elbow soreness ended his season.

2017 Projection: Can he stay healthy? If the answer is yes, Simmons could be an x-factor. When he arrived on the scene in 2014, people were already comparing him to Craig Kimbrel. That's unfair, but the sink and movement on his pitches were pretty nasty. He set a new personal best this season with a 98.9 mph fastball. The slider, which snakes across the zone, comes in at about 12 mph slower. He was charted with two new pitches this season, a curve and sinker, and also throws a changeup, but how much of that is just the data not understanding the results? One thing Simmons didn't do once returning to Atlanta is force batters to miss often or strikeout. That's based on control, I feel, as he couldn't command the strikezone and, as a result, pitched himself into bad counts. The stuff is there - especially the slider. Can he command it? Can he just stay healthy? Can he be Mini Kimbrel? Positive answers to the first two questions will go a long way to answering the third.

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