Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Six-Pack of Minor League Signings

Here's another six pack of minor league free agent signings from this winter. So far this winter, I have done three of these and each focused on pre-December signings. Today's group were all added in the final month of 2016.

By Minda Haas Kuhlmann (CC by 2.0) via Flickr
Lane Adams, OF, 27 years-old

Drafted in the 13th round of the 2009 draft out of Red Oaks, Oklahoma, Adams began his career in the Royals system. A right-hand hitter who grew into his 6'3" frame, Adams developed a bit of pop with double digit homerun years beginning in 2012 and continuing through last season. Along the way, he has shown a decent enough bat with a .269 career batting average and .344 on-base percentage. He's also become much more adept at swiping bases. After a career-high 19 steals in 2012, he set a new record the following year with 38 steals and tied his own record again in 2014. After 31 steals in 2015, he stole a new high 44 bases last year. He also briefly appeared for the Royals in 2014 for six games (0-for-3 at the plate). Last year, he headed to the Yankees on waivers. He was cut last July but hooked on with the Cubs' Double-A squad for a good month of August.

Adams does possess some interesting qualities like a career .141 ISO, 208 steals, and he's capable of playing center field. However, despite all of his success, Adams has never been able to hit Triple-A pitching. Curiously, he's rarely received an opportunity. During his career, he has played 300 more games at Double-A than Triple-A and originally reached Double-A in 2013. Nevertheless, it's a small black mark on his minor league career. Adams seems like a potential fourth outfielder ala Darren Bragg, but he's going to have to hit above Double-A first.

Andrew Albers, LHP, 31 years-old

There's always a job for a left-hander. Albers began his career as a tenth rounder in the Padres' system in '08 but would miss a pair of seasons after needing Tommy John. The Padres cut him and after re-establishing himself as a prospect in the independent Canadian-American Association, the Twins signed Albers for the 2011 season. They tried to use him as a starter because he fit their mold for starters at the time (control artist, gets grounders, low strikeout numbers). It got Albers to the majors in 2013 for ten starts with iffy results (4.05 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 4.42 xFIP). He would be cut after the season so that Albers could try his luck in Korea. In the hyper-offensive KBO, his numbers took a turn toward ugly and he returned as a minor league free agent for the Blue Jays. He spent most of 2015 struggling in Triple-A, though he did log 2.2 innings in the majors. Last year included a one-start reign with Lancaster in the Atlantic League before the Twins swooped in and grabbed him. While he again spent most of the year in the International League (though with better results), he also pitched 17 innings for the Twins with a 6.15 FIP.

For some reason, teams still consider Albers a starter even though he can't get righties out. If we just look at his major league split, the differences are stark. While Albers will never record big strikeout numbers, he also won't walk lefties. That allows him to limit lefties to a .268 OBP despite a .250 batting average against the lefty. He's given up just two homers and walked just two lefties in the majors. That could help him compete for a spot on the Braves this spring, but Albers is going to have to prove he has something a little extra. He does have a four-pitch mix, though he works primarily off his mid-80's sinker and high-70's slider. He'll also toss a slow high-60's curve along with a rare 77 mph change-of-pace. He's definitely in the mix, but he's got the deck stacked against him.

Manny Barreda, RHP, 28 years-old

Over the last few years, the Braves have added a number of former Yankee farmhands. Barreda, a 12th rounder in 2007 by the Yanks, is just another that fits the bill. It took Barreda five years to establish himself in a full season minor league as he appeared in 45 games for Charleston in 2011. It would be the first time Barreda excited you with his strikeout numbers (10 per nine innings) and frustrated you with his walk totals (6 per nine innings). In 2013, he finally reached Double-A, but the Yankees were beginning to grow tired of waiting for Barreda to put it together. He'd be cut in July of 2014 and immediately joined the Brewers' system. After a nice finish to 2014, he opened 2015 in Mexico before rejoining the Brewers to finish the season. He would spend all of 2016 in Mexico.

Barreda has yet to play in Triple-A (not counting the Mexican League) and while he has over a strikeout-an-inning during his career, it does not completely overcome a 4.8 BB/9 rate and an unimpressive 0.7 HR/9. Shortly before he signed with the Braves, Barreda did something fairly noteworthy. While pitching for the Caneros de los Mochis, he tossed a no-hitter. He would need 138 pitches to do so, though walked just one and struck out nine. A flyball pitcher, scouting reports are pretty scarce for Barreda. His fastball during the no-hitter was in the 91-93 mph range while his breaking stuff (which may have been two different pitches) looked to be about 82-85 mph.

Emilio Bonifacio, UTIL, 31 years-old

What more needs to be said about Bonifacio? For a decade, he's been hanging around the majors and playing nearly every position on the field while doing so. He's a career .258/.315/.335 hitter in the majors with 166 steals and not much else that stands out. Last year, after the Braves surprisingly gave him a major league deal despite a .198 OBP with the White Sox in 2015, Atlanta ultimately cut Bonifacio right before the season and later brought him back on a minor league deal. He was a solid member of a better-than-advertised Gwinnett ballclub, slashing .298/.356/.369 with 37 steals over 107 games. He was rarely utilized as an infielder (just two games at second base). Bonifacio also received a pair of callups to the majors and especially during the first call-up, he was used entirely too frequently (streak of 15 consecutive games played).

Bonifacio is who he is at this point. He won't get on base that well and even when he does, his speed isn't the weapon it once was. While his defensive flexibility is an asset, he's only carried a positive grade at second base and in right field (though the latter has sample size issues). He's sometimes more of a detriment to a team than anything as managers fall in love with his intangibles and lose perspective on what Bonifacio really brings to the team. As Triple-A depth, you can do worse and with any luck, Triple-A will be exactly where he spends 2017.

By Sports Crazy on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational
(Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Rhiner Cruz, RHP, 30 years-old

Like Barreda, Cruz is coming back to affiliated ball after a season spent in the Mexican League. Unlike Barreda, the previous two years for Cruz mostly saw the right-hander play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. The last time Cruz pitched full-time in the states was 2013 - also the last time he was in the majors. Originally a non-July international signing by the Tigers in 2003, Cruz was rarely healthy for the Tigers before being cut. He signed on with the Mets and played five seasons in their system before being the surprising first choice of the Rule 5 draft by the Astros ahead of the 2012 season. In a sign of how bad the Astros were in 2012, they used Cruz 52 times despite a 5.00 FIP and 1.71 WHIP. The next year, he pitched 20 times in the majors and though his ERA was 3.38, his FIP and xFIP were actually worse. In 2014, after 14 games in the minors, the Astros released him so he could head to Japan.

His results weren't terrible in the far east, though it didn't make teams anxious to bring him back either. He briefly played in Mexico last year as well and has logged 13 games in the Dominican Winter Leagues with, again, average results. In regards to Cruz's scouting report, he has a funky delivery which helps him keep batters off-balanced. He also pairs a mid-90's heater with a fringy slurve. Though he has over 70 games of major league experience, Cruz is not much of a threat to break camp with the Braves.

By Jeff Dahl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons
John Danks, LHP, 31 years-old

Maybe the most intriguing minor league signing to this point is Danks, a lefty who has earned nearly $73 million playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox. Once the ninth overall pick of the 2003 draft, the White Sox acquired Danks (along with future Brave Nick Masset) in December of 2006 for Brandon McCarthy and a minor leaguer. A top prospect at the time, Danks would start 26 games for the White Sox in 2007. He was bad, but many rookie pitchers are. He was much better the next three years as he started 97 games with a 3.61 ERA over 608.1 innings. He was never an All-Star, as his 3.91 FIP might indicate, but he was a durable middle-of-the-rotation arm. While his ERA would climb the next year and he missed a half-dozen starts, the White Sox still extended Danks for $65 million over five years. It was comparable to other pitchers like Jered Weaver and Chad Billingsley at the time.

However, Danks never lived up to the contract. Over the first four seasons of the deal, his ERA approached 5 and his FIP did as well. Never a strikeout pitcher, he still underperformed his K numbers from before the extension. A 15.5 fWAR pitcher from 2007-to-2011, Danks' value would sink to 2.6 fWAR over the life of the deal from the nine-start 2012 to the four-start 2016 before the White Sox took him out back and shot him (not literally - they just released him). Danks velocity has lost a couple of ticks over the years while his pitch usage surprisingly changed as he entered the extension. Before 2012, he relied on his four-seamer, cutter, and change. Since then, he has added a sinker, upped his changeup and curve usage, while bringing down his four-seamer and cutter deliveries.

That change could be altered with the Braves. Atlanta might also opt to drop Danks out of the rotation discussion and try to bring him along as a reliever. Danks lacks traditional splits, though he does trend more positively against lefthanders as you might expect and the contrast over the last three years plus (2013-16) are a bit starker (.332 wOBA vs. .353) with about a 5% difference in groundball rate. Also of note is a 4% difference in softly-hit balls.

It's nearly impossible to predict greatness from this signing, but there might be something of use here. Also, consider that the Braves turned Bud Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, and Lucas Harrell into future assets last year. Danks has had a much more established career than that trio.

For more minor league free agent recaps, click below.
November 27, December 4, December 19, or check here for the complete rundown.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Recently DFA'd Players of Interest

With many 40-man rosters full, anytime a player is added, that typically forces a corresponding move to open up a spot. Here are a quartet of players recently DFA'd and their chances of helping the Braves.

By Keith Allison (CC 2.0) via Flickr
Ji-Man Choi, Angels, 1B/OF

Signed out of South Korea in '09 by the Mariners, Choi finally reached the majors last season for the Angels and showed surprising power. I say "surprising" because despite playing traditional power positions, Choi's game doesn't really include a lot of power. Instead, he relies on a lot of doubles and a well-rounded offensive approach at the plate, which has helped Choi sustain a career .408 OBP in the minors.

Once in the majors, however, he struggled to make solid contact and managed just a 16.5% line drive rate over 129 PA. While he took his walks at a robust 12.4% clip and belted homers at a higher rate than when he was at Triple-A during 2016, his wOBA slumped to .267 and his wRC+ was a bad 67. He'll turn 26 in May and has two option years remaining so the Braves could stash him at Gwinnett. Plus, you have to love that his name is pronounced G-Man Choy. Yet, despite all of that, it seems unlikely for the Braves to find a place for Choi.

Angel Nesbitt, Tigers, RHP

Nesbitt is a prime example of how if you stick around long enough, eventually a situation will work out perfectly to get you to the major leagues. In 2015, Nesbitt's seventh year in professional ball, the righty broke camp with the Tigers. He had been decent enough the previous year as a 23 year-old playing Advanced-A and Double-A ball. It had been by far his best season of his minor league career that included three seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League.

Thing was - the 2015 Tigers bullpen was really bad. It managed a 0.0 fWAR for the entire season. That was better than Atlanta, but that was hardly something to be proud about. Nesbitt wasn't the worse option out of that bullpen and he was actually better than Ian Krol, but Nesbitt was still pretty horrid (4.70 FIP/4.93 xFIP). Detroit banished him to the minors a week-and-half into June. and he finished up 2015 pitching even worse in Toledo than he had pitched in Detroit. Last year was another lost year as he cycled through three levels while never finding himself. While a power arm, he's not known for big strikeout numbers and relies more on groundballs. For Atlanta's purposes, he'll be lost in a sea of power arms vying for position in the Braves' bullpen.

By Minda Haas on Flickr (Original version) UCinter-
national (Crop) [CC 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Peter O'Brien, D'Backs, UTIL

With teams looking at the possibility of an eight-man bullpen, benches must be stocked full of players with exceptional flexibility. O'Brien fits the bill. A former second-rounder by the Yankees out of "The U" in 2012, O'Brien was a catcher without the skillset to stay there. After an aborted attempted to turn him into a third baseman, O'Brien settled into a 1B and corner outfielder who also caught games. The D'Backs got him at the trading deadline in 2014 for Martin Prado and he spent time in the majors in each of the last two seasons.

The results over the 79 PA were fairly miserable. He did hit six homers, but hit .176 with 5 walks and 32 strikeouts. The problem is that those results are not too out-of-character for him. He's never had strong on-base numbers and has always struck out a ton. His saving grace has been a decent batting average and plus-plus power. Over five years and 513 games in the minors, he's sent 116 baseballs past the outfield wall. His best total, which came in 2014, was when he smacked 34 homeruns and then added five more in the Arizona Fall League. From a power standpoint, you won't find much better on the open market. The problem is contact or the lack there of.

Still, if you are searching for positional flexibility, finding a 1B/OF who can also catch is rare. Is taking a chance on O'Brien a better use of a 40-man roster slot than keeping around Jason Hursh? I think that it probably is based on what a maxed out O'Brien could be versus what a maxed out Hursh might be. Further, O'Brien has only used one option to this point so he could be stashed in Gwinnett if it doesn't work out this spring.

Jason Rogers, UTIL, Pirates

It would be a bit of a homecoming for Rogers if the Braves acquired him. Born in East Point, GA in 1988, Rogers attended Banneker High (College Park, GA) before attending Columbus State University. He began his career as a Brewers farmhand and came onto the scene in 2012 while playing for a pair of A-level squads. He hit .301 with 11 homers and a .854 OPS that year. His numbers improved in 2013 with a career-high 22 homers in Double-A along with a trip to the Arizona Fall League. He continued to hit in 2014 and earned an eight-game callup to the majors. He spent even more time in the majors the following year and handled himself well, hitting .296/.367/.441 over 169 PA. He was especially hot in the second half. After the season, the Pirates traded a pair of players to acquire Rogers.

He never got going in Pittsburgh. Before spending most of September with the team, he earned a pair of callups and struggled over the brief time he was in the majors. In September, he was used as a pinch hitter almost exclusively and managed just one single in 14 PA with 3 walks. His numbers in the minors were also a letdown (.263/.338/.371). He has experience at first, third, and both corner outfield slots (though mostly left field) and could be a nice right-handed bat off the bench if a change of scenery worked for him. He also has a pair of options left.

So, what do you think? Any of these guys worth a waiver claim?

Friday, December 23, 2016

TOT - Braves Add Six-Fingered Alfonseca

Transaction of Today...December 23, 2003 - The Atlanta Braves sign Antonio Alfonseca as a free agent

Old man gnar at the English language Wikipedia
[GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It was the last good year of his eleven year career.

On this day thirteen years ago, the Braves added  a right-hander whose nickname of El Pulpo was always more notable than the results he posted on the field. The nickname was Spanish for The Octopus, a play on the fact that Alfonseca was born with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

Originally a starter with bouts of wildness for the Expos, Alfonseca joined the Marlins in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft before the '94 season. He remained a non-prospect, but the Marlins finally got him to throw strikes. He would arrive in the majors in 1997, which was a good year to be a Marlin. After 17 games during the season, he would stick around in the postseason and even became a bit of a unsung hero in the World Series after throwing 6.1 scoreless innings against the Indians.

After a year cutting his teeth, Alfonseca ascended to closer in 1999 after the Marlins traded Matt Mantei to the Diamondbacks in July. Alfonseca notched 21 saves that season, though if there had been a stats nerd group over-analyzing things in 1999, they probably would have pointed to Alfonseca's low strikeout numbers as a worrisome part of his game. Regardless, Alfonseca became the NL Saves leader in 2000 with 45, though again, his numbers weren't all that impressive.

After another season in the closer role where he nabbed 28 saves, Alfonseca's Marlins career came to an end after they traded Matt Clement and the six-fingered closer to the Cubs for, among others, Dontrelle Willis. The deal would work wonders for the Marlins, but Chicago wasn't that bad off in '02. Clement slotted behind Kerry Wood to give the Cubs another 200 K guy while Alfonseca led them in saves. The following year, 2003, the Cubs brought in Joe Borowski and relegated Alfonseca to middle relief, which he struggled at. Alfonseca would appear in the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year and added 3.1 scoreless innings of relief in the Cubs' NLDS win over the Braves and NLCS loss to the Marlins.

That brings us to the 2003-04 offseason. During the three years John Smoltz was the team's closer, the Braves had a competent bullpen just once - the first year. In 2002, the magical pen of Smoltz, Chris Hammond, Mike Remlinger, Kerry Ligtenberg, and company dominated the National League. Most of that pen grabbed big deals as free agents and their replacements weren't so good for the Braves. Trey Hodges, Roberto Hernandez, Ray King, and Jung Bong all had ERAs between 3.51 and 5.05. The two holdovers in Kevin Gryboski and Darren Holmes were less effective in their follow-up campaigns as well. By the end of the season, Atlanta was relying on Kent Mercker, Will Cunnane, and surprising Jaret Wright to fill the void.

They would start over in 2004. The Braves traded for Chris Reitsma and Juan Cruz while squeezing out a decent smoke-and-mirrors year out of Gryboski. In addition, they added Alfonseca. As far as metrics go, it wasn't a great year. He tossed 73.2 innings with 28 walks and 45 strikeouts. He gave up five homers and carried a 3.85 FIP. However, he bested the entire bullpen in ERA with a 2.57 total. He would pitch four times that October in Atlanta's five-game loss to the Astros in the NLDS. In Game 2, he replaced Smoltz in the top of the 11th and set down - in order - Carlos Beltran, Jeff Bagwell, and Lance Berkman. In the bottom of the tenth, Rafael Furcal hit a two-run walk-off homer to give Alfonseca his only win in the postseason. Two days later, he was charged with two runs in the sixth, though it was Tom Martin who was on the mound when the two runs scored. While those two runs wouldn't ultimately be the difference in the loss, they certainly made it harder to come back as the Braves eventually lost 8-5. Alfonseca's last game as a Brave included a scoreless sixth inning against the Astros in Game 4 to keep the game tied at 6. J.D. Drew would drive in Furcal in the ninth to put Atlanta on top and force a Game 5.

Alfonseca would put three more years in the majors with a 5.32 ERA. He did appear briefly in the 2007 NLDS with the Phillies, throwing a scorleess inning. Colorado won that series and Alfonseca never pitched in the majors again. He kept in the game, pitching winter ball and independent-league ball, before finally hanging his cleats up for good after 2011.

Ender Inciarte Makes Atlanta his Long-Term Home

Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr (Original version)
UCinternational (Crop) (CC 2.0) via Wikipedia Commons
Two days before Christmas, Ender Inciarte received a nice Christmas present. Or, maybe it was the other way around? Maybe Mom was right when she told me that giving a gift was a present in its own right.

The Braves and their new center fielder agreed upon a five-year contract worth at least $30.525 million. A sixth season option would increase the overall value of the deal to $38.5 million. Inciarte was eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and as a Super 2 player, he would have been arbitration-eligible for three more years. In essence, the Braves bought out at least one of his free agent years and if they exercise his option, they will have the defensive wonder through his Age-31 season.

While this contract cannot possibly be reasonably argued against, there are questions about Inciarte that remain valid despite a solid first year in Atlanta. Notably, he lacks any real defining skill offensively. While this is completely true, Inciarte makes the most of his skillset and has shown improvement as he's matured into a more seasoned veteran. Last year, he increased his walk rate 3% upon the previous year. He improved his contact rate while doing it, which meant he simply swung the bat less - a sign of a better eye. He lowered his groundball rate and increased his line drive percentage. That leads to more hits.

However, no matter what Inciarte does at the plate, in a good year, he'll merely rise to above average with the bat when league and park factors are weighed. What earned him a contract was his superb base running and defense. First, let's go over the base running because his defense is already well renowned.

Base running is one of those things that can be difficult to quantify and even harder to know how to quantify. Our old method was limited to stolen base numbers. If Player A was successful in, say, 80% of his stolen base attempts, he was a good base runner. However, now, we can better judge base running through metrics like BsR and some of the other numbers we can find at Baseball-Reference.

For instance, B-R keeps track of how many times a runner took the extra base. In his two years with the Diamondbacks, Inciarte advanced an extra base 29% and 40% of the time. The latter is roughly the major league average. In his first season with the Braves, 52% of the time, he took an extra base by going to first-to-third on a single or first-to-home on a double. While not in the same company as some of the elite speedsters and base runners in the game, it was a solid improvement for Inciarte. He was also successful in 70% of his stolen base attempts, which is close to league average.

Fangraphs paints an even rosier picture of Inciarte's base running prowess. With a 4.3 grade, Inciarte finished 2016 as the 21st best base runner in baseball. When you take into account the last two seasons, Inciarte moves up a bit to 16th best with a 7.6 overall grade. To put that into perspective for Braves fans, one guy we loved to watch on the base paths was Jason Heyward. Over the last two years, Heyward has a grade of 9.0 - ninth in baseball.

When it comes to defense, Inciarte is one of the five-best center fielders in baseball and you might be able to lower that number to three or four-best. Unfortunately, because he played a lot of left and right with the D'Backs, he doesn't rank very highly when you judge multiple seasons in regards to center fielder numbers. However, in the context of 2016, there is Kevin Pillar, Billy Hamilton, Inciarte, and a little bit of space before Jackie Bradley Jr. While he did play some left field and missed time with an injury, Inciarte still finished third in UZR/150, tied for second in rPM (Plus Minus Runs Saved), fourth in rARM (Outfield Arm Runs Saved), and third in DRS. Inside Edge ranks him a bit below Pillar and Hamilton as far as range goes and he doesn't make many remote or unlikely players, but Inciarte is as good as it gets when it comes to borderline, likely, and almost certain plays.

Here is a couple of things to keep in mind. What does Inciarte's contract extension mean for Mallex Smith? Probably not good things. To play both Inciarte and Smith, the Braves would be committing to two positions with very little pop. Remember that Ozzie Albies, the presumptive long-term option at second base, also lacks very much power. That would mean that on any given day, nearly half of the lineup (once you add the pitcher) would be full of guys who may never reach double figure homerun totals. On the flipside, with a fairly team-friendly contract, Inciarte becomes an even better trade asset. Teams will already be able to know how much Inciarte will be paid through what we can assume is the prime of his career. One could also suggest that the Braves do not grade Smith as highly as many fans do and think of him more as a fourth outfielder/platoon option than a full-time guy.

No matter how this plays out, this contract means two things to me. One, the John Hart-led contract extension frenzy of 2013-14 might be back on. During that offseason, the Braves signed Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, and Craig Kimbrel to long-term extensions. The latter two would be later dismissed, but Teheran and Freeman have blossomed into cornerstones. While Inciarte was the obvious choice for a contract extension this offseason, could we be that far away from considering Dansby Swanson a candidate for a contract extension? If Mike Foltynewicz or Matt Wisler take a monster step forward in 2017, could they be in line for an extension? Hart kept the young nucleus of the Indians together this way once before.

Second, this contract makes the Shelby Miller deal last winter look even better. While I have my concerns about Aaron Blair, the Braves have team control of Inciarte and Swanson through the 2022 season. If Blair figures it out, even better. Miller, along with Tyrell Jenkins, were once the early foundation of a future Braves winner. They were since turned into an even better foundation for a future Braves winner that has already developed into a pair of new franchise cornerstones to go with Teheran and Freeman.

All in all, I didn't expect a contract extension this winter, but I'm glad to see it. Inciarte is a great player to have around at a premium position. You just don't find 3+ fWAR guys on five year deals worth a shade more than $30 million anymore.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Early 2018 Hall of Fame Thoughts

If you missed it yesterday, I posted my 2017 Hall of Fame ballot at Outfield Fly Rule. The guys at OFR are doing a wonderful job with their Hall of Fame coverage for this year, but what happens next year? Well, let's do some crystal balling.

First off, using Ryan Thibodaux's invaluable Hall of Fame tracker, I can make an educated guess as to who will be named to the Hall of Fame class of 2017. Jeff Bagwell seems like a lock and I believe Ivan Rodriguez gets in as well. Tim Raines would drop off the ballot regardless, but I think he'll receive the needed 3/4's percentage in his final year to avoid the travesty of snubbing Raines one last time.

Before we get too far into this, we are still early in the process. Over the last three years, Thibodaux's tracker of HOF ballots has included between 302 and 331 ballots and as much as 70.5% of the total ballots have been made public. So far, we have just 84 ballots. A lot can change to affect the three players I've mentioned and others that are on the borderline. My gut doubts that each of the players who have received at least 70% of the publicly known ballots will join the Hall of Fame class of 2017. I just want this to be clear, though - this is a theoretical exercise based in part on Thibodaux's tracker, recent history, and gut feelings.

With all that said, if I were to guess who will make up the '17 class, I would stick with the three I've already mentioned and add Trevor Hoffman. The former Padres closer was one of four returning players from last year's ballot who saw their percentage of total votes climb when the non-publicly known ballots were added to the total. To be fair, it was only a difference of about a percentage point, but since it was a rarity on last year's ballot, it stood out. Hoffman is sitting on the threshold right now. If someone is added to this class, it'll be him.

That leaves the steroid-tainted duo of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Their support has climbed into the 70% range early on and while I do believe it will drop, I think they will both be inducted very soon - likely in the same year and that could be 2018. Also in the steroid discussion is Manny Ramirez, who is not looking very strong so far with just 33% of the vote. He's a few years out from really having a case.

Edgar Martinez seems like he'll miss out in 2017, but is trending in the right direction. Of returning voters to this point, he has gained 13 votes and lost just one. He has just two more years of eligibility and might be a last-year guy much like Raines, who is the only player to have a higher net gain in returning voters than the former Mariners' star. In contrast to Martinez, Curt Schilling has lost 14 votes and gained just four. His politics and his personality are hurting him more than his numbers. My gut says he'll get voted in, but it may have to wait until his final year of eligibility.

A couple of other candidates that are trending up are Mike Mussina (+6) and Larry Walker (+7). While Walker is seeing a similar increase in gained votes, he trails Mussina by nearly 40% and received nearly 30% fewer total votes last year. Mussina's trend makes him a likely Hall of Famer over the next couple of seasons. Walker is going to need a major movement to join him.

One last candidate to go over before we look at the ballot newbies for 2018. Vladimir Guerrero has just three less votes than Hoffman to this point and one more vote than Clemens and Bonds. I don't think the voters will make him a first-ballot guy, but he seems like a good bet to make it in 2018.

Next year's rookie class includes four players with a 100 or better Hall of Fame Monitor, which gives them a likely chance to be selected for the Hall of Fame. Two of those players pass 50 in the Hall of Fame standards scale, which means they rank as an average Hall of Famer or better. First, the two that didn't grade well on both and both share one thing in common - elite defense. Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones both have fascinating arguments to join the Hall of Fame and my personal belief is that both are deserving. I think Andruw is an easy selection because once you remove the "he didn't live up to the hype" part of the argument, you can find a Hall of Fame resume. In regards to Vizquel, I make the argument that if you elect a player like Ozzie Smith, why not Vizquel?

The two players who passed both the HOFm and HOFs criteria are Jim Thome and Chipper Jones. My belief is that Thome will be passed on for stupid reasons (position, park, he DH'd some) while Chipper is a first ballot guy. John Smoltz was more of a borderline case and he received nearly 83% of the vote in 2015. People need to quit believing the media is against Atlanta. As we have seen over the last few years, they award the stars of the 90's era quickly and rather overwhelming despite deserving criticisms. While I doubt Andruw makes it in with Chipper in 2018, Andruw is a sure bet to get in eventually. More and more baseball writers are valuing defensive metrics, which will only boost Andruw's case.

So, to recap - my guess is that Bagwell, Rodriguez, and Hoffman will join Raines in this year's class. With that in mind, my early prediction for the 2018 class will be Chipper, Guerrero, Bonds, and Clemens.

Moving forward, I believe Mariano Rivera will be a first ballot guy in 2019 with Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Halladay becoming prime candidates in the years that follow provided none of the trio make it in 2019 (and I doubt they do).

2020's class only has one Hall of Famer in Derek Jeter and he's a first ballot guy. There are no Hall of Famers among the 2021 lot. This is good news for candidates currently on the ballot and those joining in 2018 and 2019 as it will help clear up some of the backlog.

Did I miss the mark on anyone? Let me know.

Seasons in Time: 1914 (Part 5 of 5)

(In this series, I will recap in a series of posts one season of Braves baseball from Boston-to-Atlanta and everything in between. If you have a particular season you'd like to see reviewed, let me know in the comments.)

Part 1 - Prologue
Part 2 - The Road Trip that Wouldn't End
Part 3 - Finding Their Footing
Part 4 - Unfazed on the Biggest Stage

Part 5 - Epilogue

John F. Riley | Library of Congress
The 1914 Braves were a team of destiny. During the summer and fall, everything seemed to go their way. Yet, the 1914 Braves were not a collection of standout talent that was put together for a big run. Only two players off that team would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame - 32 year-old Johnny Evers and 22 year-old Rabbit Maranville. The rest of the team was full of young players whose rise to fame was nearly as sudden as their fall.

In 1915, the Braves were always good enough to be in the mix, but never good enough to push the Philadelphia Phillies for first place. After May, the closest they were to the top of the NL was 2.5 games. Boston finished 83-69 and in second place - eight games back. Evers broke down during the season and only played in 83 games. With their captain struggling to stay on the field, the rest of the squad cobbled together the third best offense in runs scored on the heels of the best on-base percentage in the NL. The pitching staff remained very good, though Bill James only was able to throw 68.1 innings. 31 year-old Pat Ragan and 22 year-old Art Nehf stepped in, but Boston was simply not the class of the league anymore.

The offense worsened in 1916 and Boston fell to third place. By 1917, the team fell under .500 and with the exception of 1921, they remained under .500 until 1932.

George Stallings was dismissed following 1920. The team's offense under Stallings went from bad-to-brutal after 1915 and the war effort in Europe took many players away. The Big Three were broken up in 1915 after James' arm shut down. Just 24 years-old, James was likely suffering from a torn rotator cuff and it would be many more years before the medical field could fix such an injury. James tried to come back in 1918 and 1919 with him appearing in one game for the '19 Braves, but that would be the only major league game he pitched in after 1915.

D. Rudolph's Grip | Library of Congress
Lefty Tyler pitched for Boston until 1917 when he was dealt to the Cubs for a pair of players and cash. Dick Rudolph played a few more years with Boston as the last remaining member of The Big Three, but his arm was giving out on him. After missing 1921, he pitched only seven times over the next two years. He briefly made it back in 1927 for one game, but his career was effectively over after 1920. While Boston would cycle in pitchers left-and-right to keep the team competitive in games, none were as dominant as the Big Three had been in 1914.

While the pitching staff remained decent, it was the offense that pushed the Braves back toward the bottom of the NL. Evers played in 139 games in 1914 while earning an MVP, but would never play in more than 80 games for the rest of his career - which didn't last long anyway. He was waived and joined the Phillies in 1917. Joe Connolly hit .306 with an .886 OPS in 1914, but his OPS fell a hundred point in 1915 before falling another 160 points the next year. His short four-year career in the majors was over.

Hank Gowdy shined in the World Series for Boston  with a .545 batting average, five extra base hits, and five walks to just one strikeout. The backstop would play for Boston until 1923. That doesn't include time he missed as the first active major leaguer to enlist to fight in World War I. Gowdy was gone from the Braves for most of three years while missing 1918 completely as he fought on the Western Front. Once back as a full-time major leaguer in 1920, Gowdy struggled to stay on the field. However, his bat never left him and that was especially apparent after the Braves traded him back to the Giants in 1923. It was with the Giants he got back to the Fall Classic. In Game Seven of the '24 Series, Gowdy tore off his mask to catch a foul pop-up with nobody on and one out. However, he stepped on the mask and couldn't reach the ball. The batter doubled and scored the winning run as the Senators beat the Giants. He later rejoined the military as an athletic coach during World War II and Fort Benning's Gowdy Field is named for him.

Other important players from the 1914 Braves faded away either because of performance or being moved to other teams. When the first Stallings-less Braves took the field in 1921, outside of Gowdy, they didn't look a thing like the '14 Braves.

The sudden rise and fall of the '14 Braves and their surprising upset of the more favored Athletics have led some people to find parallels between the 1914 World Series and its counterpart in 1919. In the latter case, the best team in baseball and the heavy favorites to win it all, the Chicago White Sox, conspired to throw the Series. Was the '14 Series fixed? Many conspiracists have argued that it was, but the proof seems limited to the belief that the Braves couldn't have possibly beat the A's.

That theory ignores that the series, while a sweep, was still competitive. The Athletics were in position to win Game 2 and Game 3, but simply failed to execute whereas the Braves did. In so many ways, that was a microcosm of the 1914 Braves - they executed when others couldn't. They don't win the NL without help and the Giants going 32-34 after July was a big part of the reason the Braves were able to even to reach the World Series. The fact that there were no other NL contenders to stand in Boston's way was also a big assist.

In the World Series, Eddie Collins had three singles while Wally Schang had just two hits. Home Run Baker, who led the AL with nine homeruns, managed just four hits including a pair of doubles. He was their best option on offense during the four game sweep. Boston's Big Three, who threw all 39 innings during the series for the Braves, had a 1.15 ERA with 28 strikeouts.

Unlike the Chicago White Sox in 1919, who committed 12 errors over the eight game series, the Athletics didn't boot the ball around. They committed just two errors - or half as many as Boston did. Philadelphia ran into a buzzsaw. Bill James, Dick Rudolph, and Lefty Tyler were pitching the best baseball of their career all at the same time. Hank Gowdy destroyed the ball during the series and Johnny Evers was always on base. As were Rabbit Maranville and Possum Whitted.

Boston fell back to Earth because their run was unsustainable. They weren't better than the A's or the Giants when it came to talent. They didn't have to be. They needed only to be the best team in baseball for a few months. When it came to that, they pulled it off and shocked the world.

Seasons in Time: 1914

Part 1 - Prologue
Part 2 - The Road Trip that Wouldn't End
Part 3 - Finding Their Footing
Part 4 - Unfazed on the Biggest Stage
Part 5 - Epilogue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seasons in Time: 1914 (Part 4 of 5)

(In this series, I will recap in a series of posts one season of Braves baseball from Boston-to-Atlanta and everything in between. If you have a particular season you'd like to see reviewed, let me know in the comments.)

Part 1 - Prologue
Part 2 - The Road Trip that Wouldn't End
Part 3 - Finding Their Footing

Part 4 - Unfazed on the Biggest Stage

The Braves had stormed all the way back from a 28-40 record when play began on July 8 to win 66 of their final 85 games. It was an amazing accomplishment that propelled Boston from worst-to-first in the span of a mere few months.

Connie Mack (left) in 1914 | Library of Congress
If Boston felt they all the momentum on their side when the World Series began, they were greatly mistaken. In Philadelphia, something big also took place. Connie Mack's Athletics went on a similar run from beginning in the dog days of summer. Unlike Boston, Philadelphia wouldn't have to come from behind to win the pennant - they led the AL by three games as play picked up on July 8. While they weren't as dominant as Boston in wins-losses, they were as dominant on the field. Boston scored 415 runs after July 7. The A's scored 414. Boston surrendered 264 runs while Philadelphia was charged with 239.

The Athletics had taken over the AL lead on June 9 and never gave it back. Five different Hall of Famers played on the team and that doesn't include their revered skipper, Mr. Mack. Already a seasoned manager at 51, Mack had taken over the A's in 1901 at 38 year-old. Even more amazing, he wasn't a rookie manager as he was already in his second stop as skipper. Already with pennants in 1902 and 1905, Mack guided the A's to the promise land in 1910 and they would follow that up with two more titles in three years. It had been expected that John McGraw and Mack would battle wits in the Fall Classic for a fourth time in 1914. Mack had already got the best of McGraw's Giants in 1911 and 1913 while McGraw won his first World Series in 1905 against Mack. Of course, that was before George Stallings and the Braves rolled past the Giants.

Nobody had even come close to matching Philadelphia's 749 runs in 1914. It was tough to find an easy out in their lineup. Eddie Collins had OPS'd .904 on the heels of 39 extra base hits, 58 steals, and 97 walks to go with 31 K's. At third base, Home Run Baker lived up to his name with nine homers, which gave him his fourth consecutive homerun title. The infield, which also included first baseman Stuffy McInnis and shortstop Jack Berry, was dubbed the $100,000 infield for their worth when McInnish joined the other three in 1911.

Beyond their valuable infield, the Athletics had catcher Wally Schang, who finished 1914 with a .775 OPS a year after making a name for himself as the A's rookie catcher who hit .357 in the 1913 World Series. Schang would later become a catcher and utility player for the 1918 Red Sox, catching - among others - Babe Ruth.

The rotation, which had been built on the arms of Eddie Plank and Chief Bender for much of the dynasty, was beginning to shift toward younger arms like 21 year-old Bullet Joe Bush and 23 year-old righty Bob Shawkey.

The A's had won 98 games during the regular season and were huge favorites to beat the scrappy Braves. The belief was that Boston had accomplished a great deal to get to this point, but the A's were the most complete team in baseball and would shove these upstarts to the side in rout to a fourth title in five years.

Dick Rudolph | Library of Congress
The Braves traveled south to Philadelphia to open the series. Dick Rudolph got the start for the Braves while Mack countered with 30 year-old Chief Bender. Born Charles Albert Bender in Minnesota, Bender was born to a German-American father and a Ojibwe (Chippewa) mother. Bender was one of at least 11 children. The family settled in the White Earth Reservation of Minnesota before Bender was sent to a boarding school for American Indian children in Pennsylvania. It was there he learned baseball and was discovered by one of Mack's people. Mack would later say of Bender that despite managing the likes of Lefty Grove and Rube Waddell, there was no other pitcher he would rather give the ball to in a must-win game than Bender.

But on October 9, 1914, the Braves had Bender's number like they had the number of so many greats they faced during the season. After a scoreless first, the Possum Whitted led off with a walk. Whitted had settled into the cleanup spot and hit .321 over the final 14 games after joining the team following a late June trade with the Cardinals. With one out, Hank Gowdy doubled in Whitted to draw first blood. Rabbit Maranville followed with an RBI single and the Braves were out to a lead they would not surrender. Whitted added a two-run triple in the sixth as the Braves plated six runs off Bender in the latter's final appearance in the Fall Classic. The Braves rolled to a 6-1 win.

A day later, back at Shibe Park, a true classic was developing between Bill James and 38 year-old Eddie Plank. Born in Gettysburg ten years after the Civil War ended, Plank had failed to throw 200 innings for the first time in his career in 1914. Still, he maintained a 2.87 ERA and 2.17 FIP during the season. Like Bender, Plank had been around for the glory years of the Athletics under Mack. He would end his career with the most wins by a lefthander in baseball history until Warren Spahn passed him. In an era of big stolen base numbers, Plank rarely threw over to first base. A former player recalled Plank saying, "There are only so many pitches in this old arm, and I don't believe in wasting them throwing to first base."

With a lefty on the mound, Braves skipper George Stallings shifted his lineup. He benched Herbie Moran and Joe Connolly in favor of Les Mann and Ted Cather while keeping Whitted in center field. The Braves threatened Plank in the first with a single and a walk, but couldn't score. Meanwhile, in the bottom half, Bill James walked the first batter he faced. Unlike Plank, he didn't mind throwing over and picked off Eddie Murphy straying a little too far away from first. The A's wouldn't get another baserunner until the sixth.

Boston continued to threaten Plank throughout the game. The top of the seventh was the first time Plank got through an inning unscathed. He was always on the verge of disaster while James rolled through inning-after inning until the sixth, when Wally Schang broke up a no-hit bid with a double. Despite the contrast between utter dominance and just getting by, neither team could score against James and Plank.

In the top of the ninth, Charlie Deal doubled. Deal was a good glovesman at third base, but not much of a hitter as his .210 batting average during the year showed. He would only manage two hits during the 1914 series, but this one was a big one. With Plank unwilling to throw to second to keep him close, Deal stole third to put the go-ahead run on third base. Plank bore down and struck out James, who Stallings refused to pinch hit for. That brought up Les Mann with two outs. Whether or not the stolen base mattered is not readily known, but suffice it to say, it was easier for Mann to bring Deal in from third base than second base. Which Mann did as he singled to plate Deal and put Boston on top.

In the bottom of the 10th, James worked around two walks to finish the game on a Rabbit Maranville-to-Butch Schmidt double play. James had yielded just two hits and three walks while striking out eight. The statistician Bill James later developed "Game Score," as a way to determine the value of any one start by a pitcher. In Braves World Series history, James's 88 Game Score is tied with Warren Spahn's outing in Game 4 of the 1958 World Series as the best individual pitching performance for a Brave in the playoffs.

For Plank, he shared one more thing in common with his long-time teammate Bender. Plank's appearance in the 1914 World Series was the final postseason game of his career.

The World Series shifted to Boston for Game 3 after a travel day. The Braves continued to roll out their Big Three as Lefty Tyler took the bump. The A's countered with the youngster Bullet Joe Bush. In his second full season, had finished strong with a 2.15 ERA over his final 12 outings (eight starts). He had rose to fame in the previous year's World Series after shutting down the Giants to swing a 1-1 series in the favor of the A's.

Rather than play in the Braves' usual home of the South End Grounds, the series was shifted to Fenway Park to accommodate a bigger crowd. With over 35,000 on hand, it was the road team again jumping out to an early lead. An error on the defensively challenge Joe Connolly led to a run to give Philadelphia's its first lead of the Series. Hank Gowdy tied it up in the second with a double that scored Rabbit Maranville. Again, the A's took a one-run lead in the fourth and again, the Braves came roaring back with Maranville driving in a run. It remained 2-2 until the tenth. With Home Run Baker at the plate and the bases loaded, Tyler pitched carefully to the big hitter, but couldn't retire him. Baker singled passed Johnny Evers to score a pair of runs and for the third time, the A's had the lead.

In the bottom of the tenth, the Boston quickly got one of the runs back courtesy of a Hank Gowdy homerun. Herbie Moran walked with one out and advanced to third on an Evers single. That would become key as Connolly followed with a flyball to center that was deep enough to score the run and tie the game up again.

By Bain (Library of Congress) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bill James, who had just thrown a shutout two days before, replaced Tyler on the mound after the latter had been pinch-hit for. Despite some control issues, James powered through the A's lineup to add two scoreless frames to his already impressive World Series stats. In the bottom of the 12th, it was that guy again as Hank Gowdy hit a ground-rule double. Les Mann would run for him and after an intentional walk, Moran stepped to the plate. Stallings called a bunt to try to get the runner to third and give Evers and Connolly, who would follow Moran, a chance to win it. Instead, Bush tried to nail Gowdy at third. The throw got away and Gowdy scampered home to score the walkoff run.

It was deflating for the A's. Three times, they had taken a lead on the Braves only to watch the never-say-die kids from Boston come back each time. A day later, the A's were looking for answers and a chance to extend the series. Stallings once again stuck to his Big Three with Dick Rudolph getting the ball. Mack countered with young Bob Shawkey. He stuck with his lineup, believing it would finally work.

After both pitchers traded goose-eggs for the first three innings, Butch Schmidt singled in Evers to put Boston on top. Shawkey took matters in his own hands and doubled in a run to tie it in the fifth, but Rudolph got him back in the bottom half. With two outs and Shawkey trying to finish off a quiet frame, Rudolph kept the inning alive with a single. The right-hander reached third on a Herbie Moran double. The next batters was Evers. Earlier in the season, he had been challenged to play better and the Braves captain came through then. He would also come through that Tuesday afternoon with a two-run single. Once again, the Braves were on top and saw the finish line.

The A's seemed powerless to stop Boston. Rudolph rolled through Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker in the sixth. In the seventh, Rudolph got himself into trouble with a walk and wild pitch, but was bailed out by - who else? - Gowdy. After Rudolph struck out Jack Barry, Gowdy threw down to second to nail the runner straying too far from the base. In the eighth, Rudolph efficiently recorded three outs for an easy inning. Collins and Baker, two of the best hitters in the game, got last shot at redemption in the ninth, but Collins stuck-out while Baker grounded out to Evers. Stuffy McInnis was the A's last hope. Hit smacked a grounder to third where Charlie Deal picked it and fired to first to win the game - and the World Series!

The Miracle Braves' season was finally complete. They had clawed their way from the bottom to the top of the mountain while taking down the Giants and A's in the process. There was a belief that the Boston Braves were on the cusp of a dynasty to rival the glory days of the late 1880's and 90's.

That, unfortunately, would never come to fruition.

(In the final part, I'll look at suspicions of a fix and why the Braves weren't able to keep up the momentum into 1915 and beyond.)

Seasons in Time: 1914

Part 1 - Prologue
Part 2 - The Road Trip that Wouldn't End
Part 3 - Finding Their Footing
Part 4 - Unfazed on the Biggest Stage
Part 5 - Epilogue

Monday, December 19, 2016

Six-Pack of Minor League Signings

For the third time this offseason, I try to catch up on some under-the-radar minor league signings the Braves have announced. Previous reviews can be found here and here. For a frequently updated list of comings-and-goings related to minor league signings, check out this page.

Ramon Morla, RHP, 27 years-old

A product of the Mariners' organization, Morla began his career as an infielder who reached Double-A in both 2013 and 2014. He had some decent power years, but struck out a quarter of the time and only carried a .769 OPS. In 2014, the Mariners shifted him to pitcher in the second half of the season. After a five-game cameo in the Arizona Summer League shortened by a torn UCL, Morla spent the next two seasons trying to gain traction and earn a return trip to Double-A, which never happened. Over 41 games since the switch to reliever, Morla has 62 K's in 52.1 innings, but also walked 24 and allowed four homers. He has great velocity in the upper 90's, which makes this converted infielder one to watch as he tries to make the Mississippi roster.

Dan Reynolds, RHP, 25 years-old

The 2009 draft turned out pretty good for the Angels. Mike Trout and Garrett Richards stand out, of course, but both Randal Grichuk and Patrick Corbin were also picked that year. In the sixth round, the Angels picked Reynolds out of Durango High School. That selection didn't really pan out, though. After initially being used as a reliever, Reynolds was moved to the rotation in 2012, but that lasted just two years. Over the last three years, Reynolds climbed all the way to Triple-A for a game, but was cut last year after a woeful start with Double-A Arkansas. He signed with Laredo of the independent American Association and blitzed the league by striking out 27 of the 64 he faced while only allowing 17 to reach base. Reynolds was formerly so well-thought of that the Angels protected him from the Rule 5 draft. With a upper-90's fastball and high-80's off-speed delivery, Reynolds is a nice project for the Braves as they try to get him back on track control-wise.

Isaac Sanchez, RHP, 24 years-old

A teammate of Morla's last year with Bakersfield, Sanchez began his career in the Dominican Summer League despite being born in the Bronx. For six years, Sanchez failed to earn a promotion to Double-A, but started to put it together in 2015 with a 43-game season in which he had a 2.67 ERA out of the pen. That garnered some attention from the Mariners' organization, who selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft last winter. He reached new strikeout highs with Bakersfield and spent five games in Double-A. Overall, Sanchez lacks the high velocity on his heater that Morla and Reynolds possess, but has been a durable sleeper arm for a few years now. The Braves initially placed him in Triple-A, but I think that was to protect him from being picked in the Rule 5's AAA portion for a second consecutive year. I do expect an assignment with Mississippi to begin 2017 if he makes the roster.

Braeden Schlehuber, C, 28 years-old

What more really needs to be said about Schlehuber? This upcoming season will mark a decade in the game after being picked in the 4th round of the '08 draft. His entire career has been spent with the Braves' organiation and he's been around long enough to play for both Myrtle beach and Lynchburg. Career-wise, Schlehuber has hit just .219/.281/.318 with 28 homers in over 2100 plate appearances. The fact that the Braves keep bringing him back speaks to his chances of getting a coaching job once he decides to hang 'em up.

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as
"20130601-0223") [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Matt Tuiasosopo, OF, 30 years-old

Selected in the third round all the way back in 2004, Tuiasosopo has played for 18 teams during his professional career. I did the math. Last year, he spent most of the year posting some good numbers in Gwinnett with a week where he was used three times to zero success as a pinch hitter in Atlanta. Tuiasosopo is a nice option to have in Triple-A. He has 155 games of major league experience so there's little he hasn't seen. He's also been in the International League since 2012 so he knows the league inside-and-out and can help newcomers get situated. Do you want to rely on Tuiasosopo for much longer than a week in the majors? Of course not, but do you like having guys like Tuiasosopo at Triple-A? Absolutely.

Because I'm feeling generous and a six-pack is an actual thing, let's go for one more.

Colin Walsh, UTIL, 27 years-old

Last year was a big deal for Walsh. The Brewers selected him in the Rule 5 draft and he appeared in 38 games in the majors as a result. Those 38 games were fairly abysmal as the switch-hitter hit just .085 (4-for-47) including just one single in 17 at-bats as a pinch hitter. If there were any silver linings, Walsh did walk 15 times to up his on-base into the .317 range with 10 of those walks coming as a pinch hitter (.407 OBP). He was returned to the A's organization and spent the rest of the year in the Pacific Coast League. Walsh takes his walks and has a bit of pop. He also can play second-and-third along with the corner outfield positions. Unlike many switch-hitters, he hits lefties better than righties. In the end, Walsh reminds me of Joey Terdoslavich with better positional flexibility (and a little less pop). In the right situation with the right coaching, Walsh could be a fairly productive situational bat in a pinch-hitting role.