Monday, May 29, 2017

Prepping for the Trade Deadline: Part 2

(Written by Ryan Cothran, a contributor at Walk-Off Walk for the last few weeks. Previous columns by Cothran include one on BABIP, the bullpen, and reviewing the Braves' buy-low philosophy on Tommy John survivors. The first part of this series detailed possible fixes for the team should there be trades over the next couple of months. Remember to follow Ryan on Twitter.)

Last year, while writing for Tomahawk Take, I wrote a piece regarding organizational surplus and I found it a very enlightening exercise to help target surplus pieces in the farm to trade.

The term “Pipeline” rings true here: Where there’s a bulge in the pipe ready to burst, that’s where there’s surplus. Last year, the biggest bulge in the pipe was in back-end RHP starters...12 of them to be exact. I discussed that Coppy could trade 2-3 of the surplus and not think twice about it. He traded 5! And 2 more are no longer in the organization.

So, I completed the exercise of identifying the surplus talent inside the 2017 organization to navigate and find a few areas that the Atlanta Braves could use for trades without sacrificing the future of the farm system.

The problem with this exercise is that prospects are just that – the prospects of a forecasted future – and are therefore unpredictable. The player one chooses to keep might become a career Minor Leaguer while the player traded becomes a perennial All-Star. Dealing prospects is always a risk.

So, let’s look at the organizational depth chart, shall we? I listed most players who, at current projections, could be useful major league ballplayers at some capacity. Albeit, this is an incomplete list and even being the author, I understand that.

Most of the international prospects from last year are not listed here so just bear with the process.  It is not often that they are included in trades at their ages anyway.

By Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Frontline (#1-2 ceiling) RH Starting Pitchers
Frontline (#1-2 ceiling) LH Starting Pitchers

Mid-Back Rotation (3-5 ceiling) RH Starting Pitchers
Sanchez | By Jeff Morris. Follow @AtlBravesJeff
Mid-Back Rotation (3-5 ceiling) LH Starting Pitchers
Catchers
First Base
By Jeff Morris. Follow @AtlBravesJeff
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Outfield
Now...after digesting that list, you’ll see that some depth charts are longer than others, but remember that pitching depth and outfield depth will naturally be larger as both require more players than, for example, first base.

But it’s not just the quantity, rather it’s the developmental level as well. If many are on the same developmental level, then VOILA!  Surplus.

Evaluating the Pitching
There’s never enough pitching depth is a theory the Braves have been challenging these past few years as the Braves could have 30 prospects that are just pitchers in the organization and it’d be a better list than ⅔ of other organizations. There are a few places I see a bulge that the Braves could deal a prospect or 2 and still be deep at said position.

Front-line RH Starting Pitching- Merely looking at age, Lucas Sims, Patrick Weigel, and Mike Soroka seem like they’re very different in regards to their projected MLB debut, but there’s probably only a calendar year’s difference as Soroka, being the baby of the 3, has far more polish than the other two. Dealing one of these would hurt as we’ve all grown fond of “our guys”, but it could be done without sacrificing too much.

Front-line LH Starting Pitching- Like Sims, Weigel, and Soroka, the foursome of Newcomb, Fried, Allard, and Gohara could be a calendar year apart in debuts as the younger guys are more polished than Newk and Fried. Trading one of these 4 would also hurt, but could be done without jeopardizing too much.

Back-end RH Starting Pitching- Would anyone really care if Bartolo, Dickey, Wisler, Blair, or even Luke Jackson were traded, especially if it landed a real prospect or a front-line starter under control for years? BIG BULGE! These 5 are surplus and I’d expect a few to be gone before this season has elapsed.

Back-end LH Starting Pitching-  Jaime Garcia seems replaceable in the Braves rotation by Newcomb, which likely won’t be an upgrade this year but could prove beneficial to Newcomb’s experience.  Mader, Harrington, Pike, and Sanchez seem repetitive as guys likely destined for the bullpen and around the same developmental level (albeit, Pike is throwing out some pretty righteous stats at High-A). Trading one of these guys doesn’t hurt the Braves from a depth perspective.

Evaluating the Position Players
Catchers- Should Alex Jackson emerge as a force as a catcher, the Braves could look at trading a few of their guys that could become positionless in the future. Until then, I don’t see a catching surplus.

1st Basemen- Matt Adams is the only surplus and he’s currently not even that with Freeman out. If he continues to hit, he’ll be a good bench spot, but a better trade chip.

2nd Basemen- Phillips, Albies, Demeritte, and Jace are surplus in a sense. However, if we’re projecting Albies as the starting 2nd baseman in 2018, Demeritte and Jace still make up good utility players. The real surplus here is Brandon Phillips, but he’s playing well and it’d be very hard for the Braves to trade him if they’re playing .500 baseball. At this point, I don’t see a surplus here.

3rd Basemen- Braves actually need more 3rd basemen in the system as the options at the MLB level are platoons at best and then it’s thin until Austin Riley. No surplus here.

Shortstops- Braves aren’t short on shortstops, but don’t really have any bumping into each other on the depth charts either. No surplus here.

Outfielders- While there aren’t guys that are knocking down the door for an MLB promotion, this is one to keep an eye on as both Dustin Peterson and Ronald Acuna could be begging to be in the bigs by the end of the season, with DP getting an October cup of coffee. If either of these guys solidify their place in the bigs, there’s surplus that opens in the form of Markakis at the MLB level and several guys in the minors that could project as starting OFers.  For now...no surplus.

To wrap it up, I’m not pushing for any of the guys in our organization to be traded, but it’s going to happen. It’s happened every year. The biggest bulges seem to be in RH MLB-ready back-end starting pitching with at least 1 surplus in each of the other pitching categories. Trades are going to hurt...but hopefully they help more.

Go Braves!

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