Thursday, December 8, 2016

Best #63 in Braves Franchise History

(Series Note: Baseball-Reference was used for a collection of players so this series is as complete as their database is. No coaches/managers were included and a number had to have at least four options to be considered with two exceptions. I started from the highest available number because as I approach #1, I'll have much tougher decisions.)

Best #63 in Franchise History

Boy, this series gets an amazing start to it. Five options to choose from - each have wore the number since 2007. Three of the five also wore a different number while playing for the Braves. In addition, though not the same exact group as the last sentence, three players were later used in trades.

That last detail is how I arrived at this decision. What trade could ultimately pay the biggest dividends. Well, we do know that Charlie Morton (2008) was traded in the Nate McLouth and that trade has already been graded (Spoiler Alert: Bust). Robert Whalen (2016) was recently dealt to the Mariners in the Alex Jackson deal so we will know more about how that ends up later.

Before I pick, the other two options are Corky Miller (2007) and Jake Brigham (2015). Just didn't want to forget to provide that level of analysis.

By EricEnfermero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
My choice for the Top #63 will be...Lucas Harrell. He wore the number in 2016 before Whalen later was assigned the number after arriving in the majors.

Oh, sure, Harrell only played five games with the Braves and yeah, those five games are easy to forget about. They included quality starts against the Marlins, a game in Wrigley, and his final start as a Brave - six scoreless innings in Minnesota where he stymied a bad Twins club. The other two starts weren't much to write home about as the Rockies bashed him around in Turner Field while the Reds got to him pretty good at home.

But Harrell is my choice for the Top #63 because of what was completed on July 27, 2016. It was on that day the Atlanta Braves announced that they had dealt Harrell, along with Dario Alvarez, to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Travis Demeritte.

What happens next is largely up to Demeritte. The Rangers selected Demeritte with the 30th overall pick of the 2013 draft and one pick ahead of the Braves, who selected right-hander Jason Hursh. He had a big showing in 2013 in the Arizona Summer League by hitting four homers and OPSing .856, but subsequent efforts were less exciting.

In 2016, however, Demeritte showed that he may be realizing his potential. Now, to be fair, he was playing in a league and park that inflates offensive numbers. With that said, Demeritte was hitting .272/.352/.583 at the time of this deal with 25 HR. That comes out to a nice and round .400 wOBA. He struck out a ton (33%) but also showed enough discipline to walk in nearly 11% of his PA.

After the trade, Demeritte's numbers fell some, but in 35 games with Carolina, the 21 year-old still carried an adjusted wOBA of .389. That represented a drop of just eleven points despite playing in a league that averaged a run fewer per game than the California League. After the season, he was a star in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .261/.333/.522 over 105 PA with 4 HR. He struck out significantly less than he did in the regular season (a difference of about 9%). By the end of the season, in a pretty awesome farm system, Demeritte is a solid Top 10 prospect.

Again, pickings are slim this high in the available numbers. Lucas Harrell was barely a Brave, but his trade could pay off in a big way if Demeritte continues to excel.

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