Friday, December 16, 2016

Coppy's Q&A Review

Yesterday, Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella conducted another of his #AskCoppy Q&A chats over twitter. These small sessions have become something of great anticipation as it provides fans a glimpse - with limited characters - into one of baseball's brightest minds. Here are some of the fascinating exchanges.
Coppy's take: The biggest changes involve the amateur draft and foreign signing rules.  Ultimately we will be as good as our scouts & player development.

My take: I pointed this out recently as I reviewed some of the ways the new CBA will affect the Braves. Coppy couldn't be more right and not only because of the team's recent focus on prospects. While there was some degree of work to re-do things in the CBA like the luxury tax and other appeasements the owners gave to the players in regards to better conditions in the clubhouse and information provided to players, the new CBA focuses the most on how much money amateur talent will receive to play in professional baseball in America.
Coppy's take: Don't do anything stupid.  We have gotten better and held our prospects.  We want to improve gradually not "win" the off-season per se.

My take: This is a very astute view on the current landscape. The Braves have publicly dipped their toes into Chris Sale and Chris Archer market, but refused to swing for the fences on Sale and do not seem inclined to do for Archer. The Braves have succeeded in "improving gradually," as Coppy alludes to. The trio of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and Jaime Garcia won't be highly talked about in the season previews many publications put out, but the Braves don't need that. In 2016, the goal was to be better than they had been in 2015. 2017 will see a similar goal - be better than the year before.
Coppy's take: Great question.  We got an update late last week that he will be able to resume baseball activities in early January -- ahead of schedule.

My take: "Ozzie" in this case refers to, of course, Ozzie Albies. It's been four months since the middle infield prospect suffered a fractured elbow. While Coppy says that he's ahead of schedule, that must have been a conservative timeline because multiple sources reported early January as a probable jumping off point for baseball activities. Regardless, it's great to see that he's avoided any concerning setbacks. The prevailing wisdom suggests Albies is ticketed for a trip to Gwinnett to begin 2017, but if all goes well, he'll be up in the majors by the summer to give the Braves a long-term double play combo.
Coppy's take: Hate putting labels on anybody as "touchable" or "untouchable" -- will say there are about 20 guys we really want to hold & see what we have

My take: I love this answer. It's refreshingly honest. He essentially is saying guys like Albies, Sean Newcomb, and others can be had, but the Braves would much rather keep them and won't deal them unless it's the right deal. As we saw with the Sale offer, the Braves are still looking for the right deal to really go for broke - and probably won't find it. That's okay, though. As Coppy already said, "don't do anything stupid."
Coppy's take: We added Kade Scivicque late in a trade last year & he tore up Fall Lg.  Also talking w/ Alex Jackson about catching which could be huge!

My take: This was one of the most informative responses during the session. Scivicque did torch the Arizona Fall League after being a late season addition from the Tigers for Erick Aybar. He posted a .412 wOBA in the AFL. Now, that was just 39 PA and his wOBA was about a hundred points lower during the regular season, but he does have some sleeper qualities. Of more interest was the confirmation that the Braves are not ready to give up on Alex Jackson as a catcher prospect. A former sixth overall pick just two drafts ago, Jackson was a top prep star behind the plate before the Mariners moved him from behind the plate. I have not read that it was a defensive choice, but an offensive one. If Jackson's offensive profile, which was elite entering the 2014 draft, played out like the Mariners expected, they didn't want to lose him 1-2 times a week to give him rest and potentially shorten his shelf life as an offensive force. Later in the chat, Coppy mentions more directly that they will try Jackson behind this plate this spring and see how things go.
Coppy's take: No.  Of the 14 teams only 5-6 realistically would even consider trading them -- but yes I have contacted those teams.  I love the draft.

My take: He absolutely does love the draft. In the last two seasons, they acquired the 2015 #41 overall pick from the Padres, the 2015 #75th overall pick from the Diamondbacks, the the 2016 #40 overall from the Marlins via the Hector Olivera trade, and the 2016 #76th overall from the Orioles. Those picks were then used on Austin Riley, A.J. Minter, Joey Wentz, and Brett Cumberland. All four now rank in Atlanta's Top 20 Prospects in the minds of many. Very few GMs have been as aggressive in adding draft choices like Coppelella and even with the changes in draft slot money to discourage tanking, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Braves add another draft pick or two before next June.
Coppy's take: I would say Ronald Acuna, but cat is out of bag there -- maybe Cristian Pache or Bryse Wilson.

My take: Both are great choices. I recently touched on the 2016 Draft and Wilson could be a sneaky good pick out of that draft. He didn't receive a lot of fanfare, but dominated the Gulf Coast League last summer. It would not shock me to see him blitz the Appalachian League before joining Rome next summer. As for Pache, the Braves picked him up in the international signing period of 2015. He expected to be a capable center fielder and the belief was that he would develop some pop to give him a more rounded game. It didn't show last year, but he had zero issues handling both GCL and Appy Legaue pitchers. He's likely headed to Rome to begin next year and, as Coppy said, he'll be one to keep an eye on.
Coppy's take: Rio had a nice year & did a great job of conditioning.  He has a very bright future & will get opportunity along w/ Adonis.

My take: I think the Braves would love nothing more than for Ruiz to come to spring and play his way into a platoon with Garcia. Clay Davenport's metrics do not look kindly on Ruiz's D, though Garcia isn't known for his defense either. Together, the two could combine to be a 2.5 fWAR third baseman and while that's not outstanding, Braves third baseman have combined for just 3.1 fWAR the last three years. The Braves don't seem interested in adding much to this position right now. A different question in the Q&A mentioned Trevor Plouffe as a possibility, though Coppy wasn't too excited about the idea. Can't blame him for that, though. Plouffe's wOBA has fell ten points in each of the last two seasons.
Coppy's take: I've stayed in touch with Kelly throughout the off-season & spoke to him earlier this week.  Terrific talent, better person, can help us.

My take: I have a massive man crush on KJ that goes back to when he was one of the 2005 Baby Braves. Johnson has joined the Braves in each of the last two offseasons only to be dealt to the Mets the next summer. Could Johnson return for a fourth time? It may be difficult to see a spot on the bench for him - especially if the Braves want Ruiz to receive significant playing time at third base. The Braves already have Sean Rodriguez and adding KJ would force Rodriguez to either be the primary backup in center field (with the Braves not keeping a true 4th outfielder) or the primary backup at shortstop. Neither are ideal. That said, KJ could bring the team a bit more depth and open up some trading options.
Coppy's take: Stick to the plan & trust our scouts.  Biggest thing for us is upside.  We aren't going to beat Cubs, Dodgers, etc w/ nice, safe players.

My take: I love this tweet so much I want to marry it. I've spoken many times about the clear difference in drafting between Frank Wren and Coppy. One valued high-floor, depth guys who might have a little extra unearthed via the Braves' development team. The other valued high-ceiling guys who have a higher chance of busting, but also a higher chance of becoming big time performers. "Nice, safe players" like Joey Terdoslavich and Todd Cunningham might help your team, but they won't make you a contender.
Coppy's take: Lots of questions about Wieters because he's good -- never say never, but it would have to make sense for him and for us

My take: Read between the lines - we like Wieters, we'd like to sign Wieters, we don't like his price tag and/or amount of years he wants. We're talking about a guy who has played 225 games the last three years to the tune of 3.6 fWAR. His pitch framing wouldn't appear to be a fit for this team, but if there is a way a Wieters-to-ATL connection works...it might be with a one-year deal where Wieters hits free agency again next year. He'll have some competition - mainly Jonathan Lucroy - but I don't think the Braves want to go long-term with him unless he is willing to give them a deal.
Coppy's take: Great name Kyler.  AJ Minter is somebody we speak about often & likely to be a very big part of our 2017 team.  Nasty in a good way.

My take: If you don't know who Minter is just yet, learn it. His selection speaks of something I just went over - the Braves value high upside over safe picks. Selecting Minter in 2015 while knowing they wouldn't see him pitch in a game until 2016 because of Tommy John surgery was the kind of move that forward-thinking teams make. If Minter builds upon his 2016 and is able to stay healthy, he'll be in Atlanta in 2017 as Coppy mentions.
Coppy's take: Good call, Ty.  Touki has as much upside as any pitcher in our system & could be 1-2 type.  One internal comp on him is actually (Chris) Archer.

My take: Here's where I get to point out how ridiculously good Touki Toussaint was over the final couple of months. From June 7 until his final game on September 5, Toussaint had a 2.72 ERA and struck out 104 over 89.1 innings. He's still raw and needs to work on his command, but when it comes to "upside," you'd be hard-pressed to find another pitcher with a higher ceiling in this system and, for that matter, most systems in baseball.
Coppy's take: Thanks Keeley -- all will get a chance to play a lot, often at multi positions.  The versatility will help us w/ potential 8-man pen.

My take: I'm including this tweet because Coppy mentions an 8-man pen. I don't know if they will truly consider this and I really hope that they don't. With a veteran rotation, it would seem like a real waste to carry more pitchers than position players regardless of how flexible the team is position-wise.

There were many tweets I didn't touch here - including several more mentions of Chris Archer, which Tomahawk Take focused on. As a Braves blogger - and Braves fan - we are very fortunate to have a general manager willing to spend time answering questions from fans in such an open forum.

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