Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Transaction Tuesday: Ruiz, Gohara, Jackson, and poor poor Freddie

Last week's update included a surprising amount of transactions involving the major league squad - zero. This week was not nearly as quiet. Prepare for an epic journey through the system.

A note on this report - moves referenced today took place between May 16 and May 22. Taxi Squad refers to a Braves minor league team "sending" a player to Danville just to get him off the active roster. In most cases, the player will stay with the team that just demoted him until he is brought back onto the active roster. Prospect Numbers are derived from my preseason Top 50.

Atlanta
Previously, I went over the trades to acquire Matt Adams and Enrique Burgos.

Promoted: Luke Jackson (#24)...Here's a pitcher I hope takes advantage of his callup and sticks this time. It'll come down to control for Jackson and interestingly enough, he hasn't walked a soul in his four innings at the major league level. Of course, that's an exceedingly small sample. The potential has always been there. Will the results come?

Promoted: Rio Ruiz (#20)...This might be the promotion that sticks for Ruiz. Despite being passed over earlier in the week when a certain third baseman hit the DL, Ruiz got called up shortly after and has played in five games since with a 3-for-12 start, including a homer, two walks, and 4 K's. After a bad beginning to the year with Gwinnett, Ruiz turned it and was the top minor league club's hottest hitter before his recall. His defense is much improved and his work ethic can no longer be questioned. Even Brian Snitker has suggested Ruiz will be kept once the former everyday starter at third base returns. Now, Ruiz isn't a huge prospect, but he's definitely worth keeping over the alternatives.

Promoted and Optioned to Gwinnett: Johan Camargo...While Braves fans hoped Emilio Bonifacio would get cut to make room for Adams, it was Camargo getting the boot back to Triple-A. This was the second brief cameo Camargo has made. His defense looks solid, but the Braves are less sure about his bat. He had a big spring and has a .354 wOBA at Gwinnett over 22 games, but never impressed with the bat before. While it would have made some sense to keep Camargo as a platoon option for Ruiz, for now, he's not in the Braves' plans.

DL'd: Adonis Garcia...An Achilles injury and the next injury we'll talk about opened the door for Ruiz. Garcia wasn't providing much value to the team before the injury either. His .274 wOBA was only better than 13 players so far this season. It's beyond time for the Braves to accept that Garcia is a platoon-only bench player.

By Jeff Morris. Follow him on Twitter @AtlBravesJeff
DL'd: Freddie Freeman...You can't replace an elite hitter and the Braves aren't going to be able to. In Adams and Ruiz, they'll try to do the best they can do to replace his production, but Freeman was playing out of his mind before getting his wrist shattered. He'll be out until mid-to-late July.

DL'd: Eric O'Flaherty...The veteran aggrevated his back apparently due to the brief run through Toronto last week - and not the homer he gave up to Jose Bautista. O'Flaherty's metrics early looked better than his ERA and that continues still, but the metrics have continued to decline to the tune of a 4.95 FIP, 4.78 xFIP, and 4.62 SIERA. All three marks are worse than last year. It might be about time to stick a fork in this one.

Transferred to 60-day DL: Chaz Roe...Apparently, his lat strain is worse than originally feared. Outside of one rehab game, Roe hasn't pitched in a game since April 7. Since he was never activated, this only means he's definitely out until after the first week of June. As I mentioned, he did make an appearance for Florida on May 6 and worked an inning.

DFA'd: Anthony Recker...After hitting .278/.394/.433 over 33 games with the Braves last year, Recker saw the Braves flirt with Jason Castro and ultimately sign Kurt Suzuki. Some weird roster math still gave Recker a chance to break camp with the team and he went 1-for-7 in mostly pinch-hit appearances before being optioned out. He bashed three homers in 14 games for Gwinnett, but the big league club needed a spot on the 40-man roster and Recker was chosen. Recker can elect free agency, but I'm sure the Braves are hoping he stays.

Signed and Released: James Loney...Well, that didn't take long. Loney played two games for the Gwinnett Braves. He had one single, a walk, and a strikeout, and he reached base due to catcher's interference. However, Saturday's trade for Matt Adams forced Loney to re-evaluate things and the veteran wanted out. The Braves didn't stop him and cut him yesterday. After it was all said and done, Loney sent out this salty tweet showing his displeasure. He will be missed.

Gwinnett
Promoted from Mississippi: Carlos Franco...On the same day Loney was signed, Carlos Franco was called up. It took Franco four years to get out of rookie ball and with the exception of a decent 2015, Franco has not been on the prospect watch until this year when he smashed the Southern League over 41 games to the tune of .293/.358/.560 with 11 homers. Franco has a reputation of a free swinger, but he takes his walks. One thing that stands out about Franco this season is his ground-ball rate. From 2012-to-2016, Franco's GB% has fluctuated between 53% and 62%. That will limit a player's ability to hit homers. This year, it's down to 42% and he's pulling the ball more as well. It was working for him in Mississippi. Hope it works for him in Gwinnett.

Activated: Dustin Peterson (#15)...With little fan fair, Dustin Peterson just showed up back in the lineup this weekend. A year after vindicating the Braves for wanting him in the Justin Upton trade, Peterson came to spring training looking to impress the team coaches before an inevitable trip to Gwinnett to start the season. He was doing that, but a broken hand took him out of action. He's 2-for-11 so far with a double, two walks, and a pair of strikeouts. Last year, in 132 games with Mississippi, Peterson hit .282/.343/.431 with a .356 wOBA. With Nick Markakis's recent struggles against left-handers, could bringing up Peterson at some point later this year be something the Braves may consider? It's possible if his bat takes off in Gwinnett.

Activated: Braeden Schlehuber...This will mark Year 10 for Schlehuber when he steps up to the plate for the first time. A well-regarded receiver, Schlehuber was a Carolina League All-Star back in 2012 and that's his career highlight.

DL'd: Emerson Landoni...After spending the first month on the DL, Landoni is back on it. The minor league veteran and utility player was hitting .091 in 23 PA before this most recent trip to the trainer's.

Activated and later Released: Blake Lalli...A year after being utilized as a top pinch hitter in the season's final month, Lalli gets his walking papers. He wasn't playing too much in Gwinnett and when he was, the results weren't there.

Mississippi
By Jeff Morris. Follow him on Twitter @AtlBravesJeff
Assigned: Rex Brothers...There was a time the left-handed reliever became an impressive option coming out of the Rockies bullpen. From 2011-13, he was worth 2.6 fWAR - good for 32nd among relievers during the time period. But his strikeouts fell and his walks ballooned the next year and then the injuries began. After missing 2016, he's back in the saddle with the Braves and has looked dominant against the seven Southern League batters he's faced so far as he's amassed five strikeouts and a walk. He's a long shot, but if early impressions are any sign, the Braves will be ecstatic with their pickup.

Activated: Reed Harper...His time on the DL was short. Harper's just a guy in the Braves system who last posted an wOBA over .285 in 2013 in rookie ball.

Activated: Evan Phillips...Things were ugly for Phillips before the move to the DL with an 11.93 ERA. In his defense, over half of the 19 runs he had surrendered in 14.1 innings came in just two outings. Relievers will spend much of the season working off the effects of a six-run and five-run barrage over a three-game run. Since returning, he's logged three innings with a walk and four strikeouts.

DL'd: Luiz Gohara (#7)...Unfortunately, Gohara left his first start in Double-A with a triceps injury. The move to the DL is apparently precautionary and the hope is that he'll return this week. Considering how much he dominated the Florida State League before his promotion (2.11 FIP/2.67 xFIP), definitely hoping some injury won't keep his rise in the prospect lists from not continuing now that he's with Mississippi.

DL'd: Danny Reynolds...Signed after finishing up last year in the independent American Association, Reynolds has struggled to the tune of a 6.20 ERA. The weird thing is that Reynolds has only allowed an opposing OPS of .670. Sure enough, he has a tragically low LOB% of 53.3%.

Florida
Assigned: Kris Medlen...With little press coverage, Medlen worked his way back and this weekend, Meds tossed six scoreless innings in his first game since last September 2. He gave up just one hit, walked three, and struck out three. By now, we all know Medlen's story, but just in case, here is a brief recap. After a monster 2012 (1.57 ERA in 138 innings) and respectable follow-up season, Medlen missed 2014 with his second Tommy John surgery. After the Braves non-tendered him, he tried his luck in Kansas City. He never was able to reclaim his former glory there, though. Now, could it happen in Atlanta? He definitely has the support of legions of fans that recall how well he once pitched for the team.

Promoted from Rome: Tanner Murphy...Before the Braves started to add catching prospects to the mix, it was Murphy who was their biggest hope for a long-term option behind the plate. Murphy struggled with Carolina for half of the year last season, but made some adjustments and slashed  .288/.412/.390 with 3 homers over his final 45 games with more walks than strikeouts. However, the numbers game worked against him and he opened the season with Rome. Playing time has been tough with Lucas Herbert and Brett Cumberland also getting reps behind the plate, but Murphy did use his superb plate discipline to walk 17.7% of the time and slash .227/.362/.320. He'll share time behind the plate in Florida with Jonathan Morales.

Activated off Taxi Squad and later demoted to Rome: Carlos Martinez...Martinez has been used as a fill-in catcher for the Braves and even appeared in a game for Florida - his first of the year. He's got a strong arm, but the bat is nearly non-existent.

By Jeff Morris. Follow him on Twitter @AtlBravesJeff
DL'd: Alex Jackson (#21)...It's unfortunate to see Jackson hit the DL considering the season he's had to this point. In 39 games, he's bashed ten homers - or one less than he hit last season - and slashed .297/.355/.568. The strikeout and walk rates are still substandard, but other than that, it has big a big bounce back from the former sixth overall pick who the Mariners basically gave away. His work behind the plate hasn't received many glowing reports, but he's got time to improve there. I am not sure of the nature of the DL trip, though Braves GM John Coppolella mentioned in last week's #AskCoppy that it's soreness and not a fracture.

Taxi Squad: Andres Santiago...A long time Dodgers minor leaguer, Sanitago has appeared in eight games this year - including two with Rome - and pitched pretty well (FIP and xFIP well under 3.00). He's also 27, so dominance against Single-A hitters isn't all that impressive.

Rome
Activated off Taxi Squad: Thomas Burrows (#37)...You have to assume Burrows might be next-in-line for a promotion to Rome. Acquired in the Gohara deal last winter, Burrows has a 2.01 ERA and a near 55% groundball rate over 22.1 innings with Rome.

Activated off Taxi Squad: Tucker Davidson...It's a weird dynamic with Davidson. His control is pretty good and he gets a bunch of strikeouts, but he still gives up a lot of hits. Some of that is the less-than-stellar infields in the lower minor leagues compounded with iffy defenses, Another part is that he racks up dominating stats against lefties, but faces a lot of righties and he's not that good against them.

Activated off Taxi Squad: Raymar Navarro...The Cuban righty opened the year in extended spring training and since late April, has been a regular member of this column as he gets shifted onto the team and back off. In five innings, the 26 year-old has yet to allow a run. He had a 5.78 ERA in 28 games with Carolina last year.

Demoted to Taxi Squad and later activated: Yeudi Grullon...Last week's pitching appearance for Grullon wasn't his first - he actually made two for Rome last year. He worked around a double and an intentional walk in the 17th, but gave up a two singles (with a pair of steals mixed in) to give up a go-ahead run in the 18th. A slick-fielding infielder, Grullon has flashed decent plate discipline and not much else.

Demoted to Taxi Squad and later activated: Kurt Hoekstra...A 21st rounder in 2015 out of Western Michigan (go Broncos!), Hoekstra has received regular playing at first base over Anthony Concepcion, but neither have hit well. Hoekstra is a max-effort utility infielder, but is a long shot to make it to Triple-A.

Demoted to Taxi Squad and later activated: Adam McCreery...Acquired in the Jhoulys Chacin trade last year, McCreery has been up and down with Rome this year with a few absolute stinkers mixed in. Beyond that, he's been mostly reliable. He worked last week's 18-inning affair and tossed three innings. He allowed no hits, faced two over the minimum and struck out four. The control he showed last year, which was much improved over his Angels' days, has not always been there for the southpaw this year, but the strikeouts are aplenty (28 in 17.2 ING).

Demoted from Mississippi and later demoted to Taxi Squad: Joe Rogers...After a two-game run with Mississippi was interrupted by a trip to the DL, Rogers got into his first game in nearly three weeks and pitched extremely well by striking out three of the seven he faced and not allowing a base runner. Presumably, he went to "Danville" for a fresh arm.

DL'd: Luis Mora...A recent addition to the Rome roster, Mora hit the DL after just 4.2 innings. He is notable for having triple digit max velocity, but struggling to pair that heat with secondary pitches.

DL'd: Joey Wentz (#14)...The Braves didn't need something like this to happen this weekend after watching Freeman, Gohara, and Jackson all hit the DL. I have not seen any updates, but we do know Wentz's trip to the DL came after taking a liner off his left leg. So far this season, Wentz had struck out over a batter an inning with impeccable control (1.8 walks per nine). His 2.13 FIP/3.03 xFIP was helping Wentz to live up to the early hype.

Special thanks to Jeff Morris, who takes some tremendous pictures of Braves minor leaguers. Follow him on Twitter @AtlBravesJeffAtlBravesJeff.

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