Thursday, June 29, 2017

Braves Empty the Colon, Call on Brothers

Despite what people may say, they didn't know things would go like this for Bartolo Colon.

Oh, sure, it was reasonable to predict a decline. It's always reasonable to predict that a pitcher, who will turn 44 in that particular season, will struggle more than he had in previous years. But Colon had bucked Father Time for so long that even if there was a decline, you could expect a 4.25-4.50 FIP with a slightly higher xFIP. With any luck, his ERA would be around 3.80-4.00 and he'll toss 190+ innings for you. All told, it was reasonable to expect another 2+ fWAR season - something he had done for six consecutive seasons.

But that won't happen. Not for the Braves and likely, not for Colon. On Thursday afternoon, they cut the bigger-than-life figure, severing ties with one of the few bold signings of the John Coppolella era. Colon had made 13 starts for the Braves with a 8.14 ERA over 63 innings. The Braves had won just five of those starts and he had surrendered four or more runs in eight of his 13 tries, including his final two. That doesn't include May 30, when shoddy defense led to seven-of-nine runs being unearned. His last two starts were separated by a 17-day rest for Colon and his sore oblique - or more accurately, his hurt pride.

To be sure, Colon gave it his all. His all was just not good enough. He went from a guy who lived in the strike-zone to a guy having to work his way back from being behind-the-batter - something that's just not possible for a pitcher without plus-stuff and Colon hasn't had plus-stuff since the George W. Bush administration. What he had with the Mets - and what the Braves were hopeful he was bringing to Atlanta - was pinpoint control and guile. They only got the latter from Colon. His Zone%, which focuses specifically on the strike-zone regardless of what the umpire decides is a strike, dropped nearly 6%. That may not seem like a lot at first blush, but for a pitcher who had to throw strikes on the regular to get batters out, it may have been the difference between having a regular gig in the majors and not.

To be fair, Colon pitched better than his 8.14 ERA. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all were about three runs lower. But that provides little solace when your walk-rate climbs 2.5% and your strikeout rate falls 2%. Colon had to be the Colon he once was to be effective. He no longer had that and while he was dinged up by some super unlucky metrics (.360 BABIP, 48.2% LOB%), he wasn't the guy the Braves thought they were getting.

So, we say adios to Bartolo Colon. He never hit a homerun for the Braves, much to everyone's disappointment. In fact, he was hitless in 15 trips to the plate with eight strikeouts and zero sacrifices. He had just two games where his Game Score was over 50 - his first and third outings. That's...about the end of good things to say about Colon's tenure with the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves could trade Colon, but I don't see it happening. His career could be over, but there's always the Mets. They loved him and have a need for pitching after all.

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Atlanta will stick with his four-man bench and replace Colon with another pitcher, left-hander Rex Brothers. A former closer for the Colorado Rockies back in 2013, injuries and poor play ended his time in Colorado relatively soon after. He carries a career 3.68 FIP/3.66 xFIP largely as a result of iffy control during his time in Colorado.

Brothers is a fastball/slider pitcher who flashed mid-90's heat during his good years, but a few ticks slower after his struggles began. When he's on, he can get strikes early in the count with his heater before bringing the slider, which has more of a 12/6 break than a typical slider. He has to live down in the zone to be successful.

Splits-wise, Brothers was extremely tough on lefthanders during his best years and moderately good against them in his lesser seasons. Righties showed more power against him and he carries about an 25 point difference in opposing wOBA between the two. The one thing that has really bothered him even against lefties is the walks. He actually gave slightly more free passes to left-handed hitters than righties, but the increased strikeout numbers and fewer homers when he had the platoon advantage did give him a 3.31 FIP against them. It's closer to 4.00 against righties. Either way, he hasn't shown the ability to be a left-hand specialist.

He did dominate in 14 innings mostly spent at Double-A this season. He had recently been promoted to Triple-A and tossed 4.1 scoreless innings there without a walk, which is always a good sign.

He's definitely worth a look, but let's not kid ourselves. He's 29 years-old and at his best, was still a 3.29 FIP/3.43 xFIP guy. We'll know quickly if the heater is back and if his location is improved. If it's not, don't expect Brothers to stick around as long as Colon did.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Speed Has a New Measurement

On Tuesday, MLB released a new metric called Sprint Speed. The metric, which is part of the Statcast collection of numbers, is defined as "feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window."

The range is typically 23 ft/sec on the poor side and 30 ft/sec on the strong side. 27 ft/sec is about average.

Let's look at where the Braves sit.

Tyler Flowers comes in at about 25.8. Now, that sounds below average, but you have to remember that we're talking about catchers here. Only ten catchers were at 26.5 ft/sec or better. For a little more perspective, former Braves catcher Evan Gattis came in a bit faster at 26.2 ft/sec, which is why he's a former outfielder, right? (sarcasm) The last qualified catcher was Brian McCann. 23.4. Only Albert Pujols was slower. By the way, I might pay to see them in a 40-yard dash.

First Base
Freddie Freeman is an agile first baseman. He ranked 26.6 ft/sec, which is about league average and just outside the Top 10 for first basemen. Matt Adams wasn't far behind, though, coming in at 26.2 ft/sec. Will Myers led this lot with a 28.5 ft/sec metric.

Second Base
Brandon Phillips is one of the slowest second basemen in baseball. In fact, he mimicked Freeman with a 26.6 ft/sec. To be fair, let's not make more of this stat than it is. It's a measure of speed and that's it. It's not a measure of defense or base stealing. Both skills can be improved with speed or hurt by a lack of, but speed is just one of the many variables that go into playing defense or stealing a base. Only four 2B rated lower than Phillips. Jace Peterson was around the average for this position at 27.2 ft/sec. Guys with former Braves ties like Jose Peraza (28.3 ft/sec) and Brandon Drury (27.3 ft/sec) also made the leaderboard.
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At 28.2 ft/sec, Dansby Swanson ranked sixth among shortstops. Swanson's speed is not a huge part of his game, but when he turns it on, he can make up some ground in a hurry. Former Braves like Nick Ahmed (28.1 ft/sec), Andrelton Simmons (27.9 ft/sec), and Elvis Andrus (27.6 ft/sec) also made the list.

Third Base
One thing is for sure. Freddie Freeman is just about as fast as Rio Ruiz, who came in at 26.7 ft/sec, and Adonis Garcia (26.6 ft/sec). All three are significantly slower than Johan Camargo, who matched fellow third baseman Jose Reyes with a 27.6 ft/sec. We didn't have the stat when Reyes was at his quickest, though. It was enough for Camargo to land in the Top 10.

Left Field
Matt Kemp is not the fleetest of foot. That's a bit of an understatement. Again, this is just speed, but Matt Kemp ranks dead last among LF with a 25.7 ft/sec. To put that into perspective, Kyle Schwarber is faster at 26 ft/sec. Melky Cabrera is faster at 26.0. I mentioned Gattis and he's leaving Kemp in the dust with a 26.2 ft/sec sprint speed. Ryan Klesko is warming up to make Kemp look dumb. Speed is one of many skills that make up a player, but Kemp might want to look into Forrest Gump's magic shoes. His mom told him they'll take him anywhere! Then again, after last night's catch, maybe he already did.

Center Field
Ender Inciarte is an elite center fielder, but he doesn't have elite center field speed. In fact, he's near the bottom with a 27.5 ft/sec, ninth worst. And that speaks to the limitations of this stat. While Inciarte is not Mallex Smith fast (29.2 ft/sec), it doesn't affect his ability to play his position as well as anyone in the game. It does mean that Inciarte probably won't be stealing thirty bases any time soon, however.

Right Field
You do have to give Inciarte a lot of credit because he's flanked by two of the slowest corner outfielders in baseball. Nick Markakis ranked as the sixth slowest right fielder with a 26.4 ft/sec rating. It's about a full one sec/ft slower than Jason Heyward, the man he replaced. Markakis is better at playing right field than Kemp is at playing left field so there's that. All told, the Braves have possibly the slowest starting outfield in baseball.

What do you think about this new stat? Does it tell you anything new and were you surprised by the metric's findings?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Walk-Off Talk 1.6: Finding A Partner (Part 3) - The Matt Adams Conundrum

(Previously...on Walk-Off Talk...Ryan and I tried to find some interested teams for the two most valuable soon-to-be free agents on the Braves, Jaime Garcia and Brandon Phillips. Next, we looked at one-year assets like Jason Motte and Kurt Suzuki and tried to locate interested parties. Today, we focus completely on one player and his effect on the Braves' franchise player. Events occur in real time.) 


So, here we go. Matt Adams. Oh, boy.

When we mapped out this series, I thought Big City would need his own Big Post because of all the potential teams that theoretically would have an interest in him. However, over the last week, we have seen something intriguing happen. Freddie Freeman - whose injury prompted the Adams deal in the first place - volunteered to move over to third base to allow the Braves to have a starting nine that includes both Adams and Freeman in it.

First, we need to address that before even talking about potential partners for Adams in a deal. On Twitter, you have indicated a willingness to see this move out in a serious, thoughtful manner. On the other hand, yours truly made a joke about how I used John Kruk at shortstop in RBI Baseball and it’s one of my most popular tweets ever. Twitter’s a weird place sometimes.

My general thoughts: Third base has been a dumpster fire for the Braves since the retirement of Chipper Jones. Since the old man last played for the Braves, Braves third basemen have been worth 5.9 fWAR. That ranks 26th of 30 teams. Only three teams have seen their third basemen hit fewer home runs. And imagine how worse things would look without Chris Johnson's God of BABIP-infused 2.5 fWAR season in 2013.

Freddie Freeman's bat certainly would look good at third base. Having both Freeman and Adams in the lineup makes the Braves all the more dangerous provided Adams continues to play out of his mind. Clearly, the Braves can't bench Adams right now to bring back Freeman. It's like a football team benching the hot hand at running back because their former starter has returned. You find a way to utilize both while they are on the same team.

On the other hand - how much defensive value will you sacrifice to get both of these bats in the lineup? Freeman is a better fielder at first base than Adams, but ignoring that, Freeman hasn't played third base in a decade. When the Tigers asked Miguel Cabrera to play third base, at least he had a recent history of playing the position. Third base is not an easy position to play. Chipper Jones was a shortstop who converted to third base and at his very best, he was merely average. Freeman's bat will make up for some of the defensive issues he'll have at the position, but is it a good idea to sacrifice some of the value your best player provides by shifting him to a position he's unlikely to be able to play at a reasonable level - especially when considering that the Braves starting staff relies so heavily on their defense as they are worst at striking out batters this season? I’m not even going to get into the very real possibility of an increased likelihood of injury with Freeman playing a position he’s not comfortable with.

I get the "what do we have to lose?" crowd. I do. But I don't find that argument particularly compelling. Try to convince me otherwise. 



I’m not going to try to convince anyone that this is a good idea. In fact, if the Braves can still get a stud prospect for Matt Adams, I’m okay with that. But if they don’t go the trade route and they want to explore the idea of moving Freddie to 3rd base, I’d also be down for the trial.

Look, by no means do I think he’s going to be a good defender at 3rd. He lacks range, that’s been well-documented in his years at first base. However, 3B isn’t as much about range as it is reaction, and he has good hands and a good arm but coming in on the ball will be difficult. I think it’s about 90% likely he’d be a below-average defender there if he stayed at 3B beyond 2017. He could be as bad as Miguel Cabrera was in 2013, in which he spent over 1200 innings at the hot corner and “collected” -18 Defensive Runs Saved.

But want to know something else? Miguel was out of his mind good at the plate that year and even his abysmal defense couldn’t hold him back from a 7.5 fWAR year. Although impressive, Miguel’s 2013 still doesn’t match the production of what Freeman was doing before the injury.

But the 10% of this idea is what really intrigues me the most. What if Freddie Freeman can be a defensively average 3rd baseman for this year...and even beyond? What if Matt Adams and his new physique can continue to crush in an Atlanta uniform and decided to stick around for a few years? Can you imagine a couple of LH power hitters at infield corners for the Braves for 4-5 years, popping 40 dingers a year? So, the move to 3B for Freddie is only part of what grabs me about this idea. That Adams is breaking out on a nightly basis, he’s in peak physical shape for his career, and that he’s entering his prime years of production are the X-factors that moves this idea from, “Are you out of your MIND?” to “Okay. This intrigues me.” 



I just want to make a few more comments on this before moving onto another possibility.

The Braves won against Milwaukee on Friday night in no small part because they had a capable defender at third base. With runners on first-and-second - and that run on second was the tying run - a hard shot was hit to third base that Johan Camargo quickly ranged to his left, grabbed the ball, and tossed a strike to second to begin a double play that ended the Brewers' threat. He had no time to waste if he wanted to make the play. In the ninth, after a leadoff double, Dansby Swanson fielded a ball on a grounder up the middle. He expected - and was rewarded with - the third baseman quickly heading to the bag for a possible throw. Camargo received the throw and tagged out the runner. The next batter lifted a long flyball that would have scored the tying run had it not been for Swanson’s heady play.

Does Freeman make those plays? Maybe the second one provided he doesn't get caught napping, but I definitely think he doesn't make the first one.

"But Tommy, in the late innings, they can switch out Camargo for Adams and move Freeman to first for defense."

True, but what if that play happens in the fourth inning and instead of a double play happening, a three-run inning occurs? Try working your way back from that. I know many people think us Deputy Downers are making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to defense, but it matters, buddy. It really does. You mentioned the 2013 Tigers. Ignoring that Cabrera played third base full-time in '07 and '08 and switched back to the position in '12, the 2013 Tigers bashed their way to 93 wins. They also had the fourth largest difference between ERA and FIP in that their FIP was 0.35 below their team ERA. They actually led the league in FIP, but finished ninth (third in the AL) in ERA. They also had something the Braves don't have. Strikeout pitchers. 60% of their rotation was 200-K pitchers and they rely significantly less on their defense than guys like Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey. All I'm saying is that defense matters and ignoring it won't make the Braves much better.

But maybe everything I wrote is for not. Maybe the Braves are doing everything in their power to retain trade value for Matt Adams. Maybe they want the league to be so sure that they'll keep Adams and play Freeman at third only to ensure maximum interest in the slugging Big City. Some have suggested that and while I have a difficult time believing that the Braves - and Freeman - would do this much to convince the league of something they don't actively want to do, anything's possible. So, what say you? Are the Braves trying hard to convince of something that they don't particularly want?



Defense matters and while I’d like to argue with your points above, I cannot do it and look at myself naked in the mirror tomorrow morning. The risk factor ultimately breaks down to this: Does the offensive upside outweigh what is likely to be below average defense at the hot corner. I cannot answer that until I see a year of it, and honestly I don’t think we will see it play out for that long. Someone is going to offer Coppy something he cannot refuse and, if history rings true, Braves country will either be really happy or ready to burn Suntrust down.

I’m sometimes a conspiracy theorist when it comes to Braves rumors, how they start circulating, and I do believe that the Braves use Mark Bowman a whole heckuva lot when trying to boost value. However, I think this little nugget simply fell into their lap in the form of an unselfish Freddie Freeman. It sounds to me that he’s dead-set on coming back a 3-bagger and that confidence and daily work at the position has itself raised Adams’s value...and someone’s going to pony-up a prospect or 6! What do you think he brings back?



I have to agree. I don’t buy into the premise that the Braves are letting Freddie Freeman take ground balls at third because they are trying to convince everyone of something they aren’t considering. Instead, I am sure they are considering moving Freeman to third. I don’t like it, but that’s where we are.

Perhaps the option won’t be given to Freeman, though. As you eluded to, the Braves could simply trade away Adams and Freeman would slide back into his usual first baseman gig. But where? And more importantly, what kind of package can the Braves truly expect here?

I’ll look at the latter question first. Adams has absolutely crushed it since joining the Braves just over a month ago. He's bashed a dozen homers in nearly 150 PA with an isolated slugging over .300, a .401 wOBA, and a 148 wRC+. Everything he hits seems to be hard and screaming through the air. For all of the reasons many Braves fans are against trading Adams, you have to imagine that his trade value is climbing.

But how far? Here's where I want to be a little grounded. He's a first baseman who historically is platoon-limited. Is he breaking out in a big way? Potentially, but other teams may not be anxious to hand over A-grade prospects for a guy they grade as position-limited and platoon-limited. That's why he only cost Juan Yepez in the first place. Now, his value has to be higher now, but I don't think he's going to bring back a piece that immediately becomes a Top 5 organizational prospect. Maybe a Top 10 guy, though. Maybe.

And that leads us to who might be interested.

New York Yankees - This matchup is almost too perfect. The Yankees have a deep farm system after selling off their assets last year and have to be anxious to upgrade their first base situation. Chris Carter was brought in, but bombed. Greg Bird is starting to show signs of life, but any value they get back on him at this point is bonus. Tyler Austin recently replaced Carter and is a decent piece, but not a huge prospect by any means. This is a perfect matchup for the Braves.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - I swear they are fit for most of the Braves' pieces. The problem for the Angels is that after years of selling off assets like Sean Newcomb to compete in the majors, their farm system is bare. Like butt naked bare.

Seattle Mariners - Another repeat appearance for the M's as possible trading partners before the deadline. Danny Valencia has bombed so far this season and might be a better fit in his former utility role. The M's could bring back Dan Vogelbach for an extended look, but with them hovering around .500, might they look to seize the day with a big Adams pickup?

Texas Rangers - Sticking with the AL West, the Rangers platoon of Mike Napoli and Ryan Rua has been a failure. With the Rangers' lineup slacking, Adams would be a good fit for them. Add in a potential bigger deal involving Jaime Garcia and the Rangers could surrender a few good pieces to the Braves.

What are some other good fits? And what do you believe a good package for Adams might look like?


After last year’s trade deadline which saw asinine prices for 1-year rentals, I really have no idea what players will cost on this market. But here’s the deal, Tommy. Coppy’s not going to trade Adams just to stockpile another prospect in the system. He’s going to look for serious impact at a position that needs it. If not, then his discussion prior to the season regarding trades becomes null. Sure, no one can argue that he needs to trade all of the 1-year veterans as they have no future value to the team, but if the team is going through all of this trouble to accommodate Adams, he’s going to cost a lot to get him. In my opinion, that price is going to be a top-50 prospect. That’s a pretty loose term right now so I’m keeping the door open on pre-season vs. mid-season vs. post-season. I’m sneaky like that.

From Yankees: Blake Rutherford, Miguel Andujar, or Dustin Fowler
From Angels: There’s no one in this system.
From Mariners: Kyle Lewis or Tyler O’Neill
From Rangers: Again, for me, it’s Joey Gallo or bust

Call me crazy...I’m used to it!



Transaction Tuesday: Weigel, Ruiz, Cumberland, Severino

For the first time this season, the Braves have all seven minor league squads up-and-running. No longer will players get "demoted" to Danville just to get them off the active roster for a few days. I don't include all the moves to set the Danville and GCL rosters, but did include a few that correlated with promotions/demotions. Further, we have a release and a retirement in this week's recap. Let's dive in.

*Prospect Rankings come from the WOW Preseason Top 50.

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Promoted from Gwinnett: Jace Peterson...Hopefully, the minor league assignment did him well. Peterson was on fire over 17 games with Gwinnett with a .338/.450/.477 slash. He also played all over, logging time at three infield positions and all three outfield spots. As I mentioned last week, the Braves nearly avoided burning Peterson's final option this year but were a day late in bringing him back.

In addition, the Braves officially signed a number of their draft choices along with three undrafted free agents (RHP Hayden Deal and Walter Borkovich, IF Carlos Baerga Jr.). For more on them, check out Outfield Fly Rule.

Demoted from Atlanta: Rio Ruiz (#20)...He got 31 games to prove himself, but Ruiz fell on his face after a promising start after arriving in the majors to replace an injured Adonis Garcia. He struck out too much and simply wasn't able to get on base enough. With the emergence of Johan Camargo, Ruiz was riding the bench, which isn't a good fit for a position-limited player on a short four-man bench. Ruiz has taken the demotion in stride, banging out six hits in 16 AB with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts.

Activated: Emerson Landoni...After four trips to the DL this year, Landoni has logged just eleven games. He's depth and his trips to the DL are likely not injury-related.

Retired: Braeden Schlehuber...He's been around forever, but his career finally came to a close last week. Originally drafted back in 2008 out of Southern Nevada, Schlehuber struggled with the bat in every season outside of 2012. That year, he hit .270/.328/.439 with Lynchburg and appeared in his only All-Star Game. Since 2015, he's spent most of his time with on the Gwinnett roster or on the Gwinnett DL. This year alone, he was on the DL three times and played just six games. But the DL is used often for "phantom injuries" at the minor league level - especially for catchers who provide depth. I imagine Schlehuber will stick with the organization in a different role, but maybe he just wants to get away from the game for a little while. Added note...Schlehuber was the first Random Prospect I profiled. Reading that post, it's clear this blog has come a long way.

DL'd: Patrick Weigel (#17)...Well, this is unfortunate. Last week, he showed up on the DL with the scariest sentence relating to a pitcher in baseball as he was scheduled for a meeting with Dr. James Andrews. Nothing has been released in regards to that so we are just waiting and preparing. Weigel got off to a dominant start with Mississippi and after a bad second start with Gwinnett (eight runs in one inning), he had settled had settled into a very solid five starts before his June 18th game where he gave up nine runs. There was talk of decreased velocity in that go-around.

Promoted from Florida: Devan Watts...Another find for the scouting department. He was picked in the 17th round out of Tusculum College last year. You know Tusculum, right? The school that produced Dale Alexander, who finished 11th in the MVP balloting back in 1932? Watts gave up two runs in 23.2 innings last year between Danville and Rome. This season, he's allowed a few more. Six, to be exact. Still, his ERA is just 1.95 and he's striking out over a batter an inning with great control. He made his Double-A debut last week with a one-walk, one-strikeout frame. He's one to watch.

Activated: Joseph Odom...Last week marked the first time Odom has been activated this season. He was coming off a mixed bag last year where he hit well during his third year in the Carolina League but struggled after a midseason promotion to Mississippi. He's a solid defensive option behind the plate, but the bat is unlikely to be better than below-average.

DL'd: Joey Meneses...In a way, Meneses reminds me of Adam LaRoche. Not in the sense that'll develop into a pretty good option at first base, but that he often needs repeat assignments to get his bat going at a level. He debuted with Rome in 2013 but struggled. Returning to Rome, he bashed the SALLY League during an injury-shortened 2014. He headed to Carolina next and again struggled. He returned in 2016 and blitzed the league to earn a spot with Mississippi, where he struggled over the season's final two-and-a-half months. Wouldn't ya know it that he's doing well this year? At his current rate, he should be figuring out Triple-A pitching in 2019.

Promoted from Rome: Oriel Caicedo...This is Year 7 of Caicedo's career (though he lost one year due to injury). Last week, he made his debut at High-A. He has tremendous control and generally posts good numbers, but is just a guy.

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Promoted from Rome: Brett Cumberland (#25)...After a slow start, Cumberland exploded in Rome for a .263/.432/.531 slash. He bashed 10 homers to go along with 15 doubles over 55 games and was hit by a pitch 25 times. Typically, Atlanta lets its minor leaguers spend a year in low-A, but as a college draftee, Cumberland earned a promotion up the chain. Pairing him with Alex Jackson gives Florida two big-hitting prospects who both need to get better behind the plate. In his first three games with Florida, Cumberland has a single, a double, and yes, he's been hit-by-a-pitch.

Promoted from Rome: Adam McCreery...Acquired last season as a project for Jhoulys Chacin, the former Angels' 22nd rounder has shown much-improved control with the Braves. Another tall pitcher in a system of gigantic pitchers, the lefty cut his walk rate nearly in half in terms of BB/9 last season and this season, he's brought back his strikeout rate which slumped last year. McCreery was one of the oldest pitchers at Rome so a new challenge will be good for the southpaw. He gave up a run in two innings during his Florida debut.

Demoted from Mississippi: Chad Sobotka (#40)...The Random Prospect generator picked the wrong week to spit out Sobotka. Just days before I published my profile on him, Sobotka got the heave-ho to Florida. He had struggled badly with Mississippi with just about all his metrics heading in the wrong direction. The Braves are hoping a demotion will clear his head and jumpstart his season. He looked pretty good in his first outing with Florida, striking out two over one scoreless inning.

DL'd: Chase Johnson-Mullins...The tall lefty out of Shelton State Community College (go Bucs!), CJM has been impressive this year as his walk rate is down and his strikeout rate has climbed a bit. On the other hand, he's basically repeating Class A+. Hopefully, the injury is minor and the 6'8, 270-pound behemoth will get back on the mound soon.

DL'd: Wigberto Nevarez...The Braves use the DL for catchers like they use Danville's roster before the APPY season opens. These assignments rarely mean anything. I just want to say, though, if Florida put "Wigberto" on the back of the jersey, I think it would sell pretty well.

Assigned: Austin Bush...Picked in the 15th round of this year's draft, Bush is a big boy. He's listed at 6'6" and 265 pounds. Obviously, he's Rome's defensive end/first baseman/power forward. He bashed his first professional homerun in his second game and has gone 8-for-19 to begin his career. He's also struck out eight times. Basically, if he puts the ball in play, good things are happening so far.

Assigned: Jordan Rodgers...Another advanced college draftee from earlier this month, Rodgers was a quick sign. In five games with Rome, he's already played three positions. There's some pop here and the potential for a solid utility player.

Activated: Matt Custred...With a logjam of relievers ahead of him, Custred was one of the guys who returned to Rome despite some solid work with last year's squad. Custred spent two months on the DL after an appearance on April 25 before his recent activation. He's been dominant for Rome when he has stayed on the mound, though, striking out 16 over 12.2 innings and has been charged with just one earned run. He picked up 64 K's last year with Rome in 56.2 innings with a 3.18 ERA.

Demoted to Danville and Returned: Alan Rangel...The Braves can no longer use Danville's roster as an extended spring training so it looks like Rangel has impressed enough people to stick with Rome. Still just 19, Rangel's in his third season out of Mexico and has flashed big K numbers with good control in the past. He's struggled through a trio of starts with Rome to this point, but the Braves are buying in for now.

Demoted from Florida: Taylor Lewis...A ninth-round pick in 2015 out of the University of Florida, Lewis rolled last year as he climbed from Rome to Mississippi (with a 19-game dominant stretch with Carolina mixed in). However, the righty was returned to High-A to open this season nd has been a dumpster fire. He walked just 14 batters (2 were intentional) in 66 innings last year, but has given just as many free passes (all unintentional) in 23.1 ING with Florida this year. He also matched his career total in homeruns given up in half-a-season. The Braves are hopeful a return to Rome will get him going, though he gave up a run and uncorked three pitches in his first outing with the team.

Released: Yeudi Grullon (6/19)...I either missed this one for last year's transaction recap or it wasn't posted. Either way, Grullon was sent packing during his fifth year in the system. He never showed much of a stick and hit just one homerun during his 721 PA. He was in his second season as a utility guy for Rome when he was released. He was known more for his pitching the with Rome (three outings to close games) than his hitting.

(Lots of moves as the Braves set the roster with draft choices and callups from last year's GCL roster. Too many moves to list.)

Demoted from Rome: Jaret Hellinger...Hellinger's struggles in Rome kept the lefty from potentially avoiding a second year in Danville. He allowed 13 ER in 12.1 ING with more walks (9) than strikeouts (6). After iffy campaigns the last two years following his 20th-round selection back in 2015, Hellinger's not too much of a prospect at the moment.

Promoted from DSL: Kelvin Rodriguez...One of the few players who opens his career state-side before heading to the DSL, this is Rodriguez's third season of professional ball. After spending 2016 in the Dominican Republic, he opened this season down there as well before a promotion up the chain to Danville. To this point, he hasn't done much to attract much attention and looks more like a veteran innings guy.

GCL Braves
(Roster finalized this week. I'll include a list of players jumping from DSL to start this season to the GCL.)

Promoted from DSL: Alger Hodgson, Miguel Jerez, Deyvis Julian, Yoeli Lopez (#50), Juan Morales, Luidemid Rojas, Yefri Del Rosario, Yunior Severino (#44), Albinson Volquez...Obviously, Severino is the biggest name here. A switch-hitter with power to spare, Severino was ranked as the 8th best prospect of last year's signing class by Baseball America. He only hit .189 in 10 games in the DSL, but the Braves think he's ready for a more aggressive assignment. Del Roasario was also a J2 signing last year and got a bonus in the high six figures. He's a project pitcher with questionable mechanics but could be a star with big velocity and a nice breaking ball.

DL'd: Jackson Pokorney...Not sure what landed last year's 29th rounder on the DL, but it was a 60-day DL assignment so it looks to be a severe injury. Pokorney was not expected to sign after blitzing his high school competition with a better than .500 average during his senior season, but he put college aside for a chance to join the Braves and hit .259/.340/.318 as an 18 year-old in the GCL last year. A switch-hitter, Pokorney has a projectable frame. For more on Pokorney, here's a profile from USA Today.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Roundup: Big Flies Lead to Big Week

A full slate of games last week as the Braves welcomed both the Giants and Brewers to town. Let's dive in.

June 19, 9-0 WIN vs. Giants
Mr. Ryan Cothran recently pointed out how R.A. Dickey's splits-by-month improve once the temperatures warm up. Last Monday, he made Cothran look really good with seven masterful frames. He yielded just three hits and walked one while striking out a half-dozen. The game was a close one heading into the eighth, but things got nutty as the Giants' pen imploded. Danny Santana had the big knock of the frame with a three-run pinch-hit homer that may still be in orbit. Matt Adams also hit a homer, his 11th, and was one of four Braves to notch multi-hit games.

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June 20, 6-3 LOSS vs. Giants
Like the previous day, the eighth inning saw a lot of action. Unfortunately, it wasn't the kind of action the Braves needed to see. Julio Teheran had breezed through seven innings before a Dansby Swanson error on what should have been a double play was immediately followed by a three-run home run. After another hit and a sacrifice, Ian Krol entered and another two errors (charged to Krol and Adams) helped to pad the Giants' lead. Atlanta got one back in the bottom half on a Matt Kemp ground-rule double, but the Braves couldn't scratch across any more runs across. Johan Camargo finished a homer short of the cycle.

June 21, 5-3 WIN vs. Giants (11 ING)
With former Brave Cory Gearrin on the mound, Matt Kemp delivered a two-run homer in the eleventh as the Braves won in walk-off fashion. The homer provided some solace for the Braves after wasting a 3-1 lead in the late innings. It was Jim Johnson's fifth blown save of the year when he surrendered a Hunter Pence game-tying solo bomb in the ninth. Atlanta won despite only managing seven hits because three of them went screaming toward the stands. In addition to Kemp's 12th homer, Matt Adams hit his 12th as well and Tyler Flowers smacked his sixth. Sean Newcomb's third start was solid. He scattered three hits, including a RBI triple which was the only blemish on his record. He walked just one and K'd a trio.

June 22, 12-11 WIN vs. Giants
A wild one was played after a nearly 90-minute rain delay to begin the night. Jaime Garcia got lit up to the tune of a half-dozen runs over 4.1 innings. Still, a crazy fifth inning gave the Braves just enough offense to win this one. Down 6-4, Brandon Phillips smacked the first pitch he saw of the frame for a homer. After a pair of singles chased Giants starter, Matt Cain, Matt Adams brought home a run on another single to tie it. The theme continued with a go-ahead RBI single by Kurt Suzuki. Johan Camargo made the first out of the inning count with a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded before Lane Adams gave the Braves their second pinch-hit three-run homer of the week. It was Adams' first homer of his major league career. Danny Santana, who entered as a pinch-runner for Matt Kemp earlier in the inning, finished the scoring with a RBI single to plate Phillips (who had walked in his second PA of the inning). All told, the Braves scored eight runs and sent 13 batters to the plate. It was nearly not enough as the Giants fought back to score three off Ian Krol (a costly Lane Adams error led to two of those runs being unearned) and added two more runs off Jim Johnson, but the Braves closer finished the game with his 14th save. The long night was even harder on the Giants, who had a game the next day at home. The rain delay kept the game from starting until 9:01 and it ended around 12:30 AM. They left the park about 90 minutes later and hopped a cross-country plane. Jet-lagged and exhausted, the Giants would lose to the Mets the next evening, 11-4.

June 23, 5-4 WIN vs Brewers
Braves built a pair of three-run leads but had to hold on for a one-run win without their closer available in this one. Mike Foltynewicz was good, though had some big-pitch innings. He finished with 9 K's in just 5 innings and only one run allowed. He walked three and threw 104 pitches. The Brewers scored a run off Sam Freeman and added two more against Jose Ramirez before Arodys Vizcaino pitched around a leadoff double for his first save of the year. The defense played a big role in the final two frames. With runners on first-and-second and only one out in a one-run ballgame, Jesus Aguilar rocketed a ball toward third where Johan Camargo fielded it cleanly and quickly got the ball over to second. Brandon Phillips turned a flawless double play from there to end the threat. In the ninth, following the leadoff double, Dansby Swanson ranged to his right to field a grounder and didn't hesitate on a strong throw to third to cut down the leading runner. The next Brewers hitter smacked a long fly ball that would have scored the runner. Swanson also caught a dying liner to end the game. Brandon Phillips homered for the second consecutive game, a solo bomb in the first. He added a RBI double later in the game to spearhead the Braves' attack.

June 24, 3-1 WIN vs. Brewers
Stay hot, R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer tossed seven superb innings and the bullpen had an uneventful night for a change. Brandon Phillips did it again, homering for the third consecutive night. His two-run bomb broke a 1-1 tie and was all the edge Atlanta and Dickey would need. The first inning was a weird frame. It included a questionable balk call and an ejection of Milwaukee Brewers utility man, Nick Franklin, for arguing that the Braves were given too much time to decide whether or not to challenge a play. They ultimately didn't, but it still meant Franklin had an early night even though he wasn't playing. In all of the chaos, there was the Brewers only run, which scored on a bases-loaded fielder's choice. Atlanta would tie it in the first on a two-out single by Tyler Flowers. The Braves catcher was down 0-2 against Matt Garza, but worked the count full before rocketing a single through the infield to plate Phillips.

June 25, 7-0 LOSS vs. Brewers
Julio Teheran didn't have to wait long for his day to implode like he did earlier in the week. He retired just nine batters and was charged with all seven runs. He walked two and K'd three during his short day. Luke Jackson allowed one of those runs to score after he inherited it, but that was the only bad thing anyone could have said about Jackson's outing. He went four shutout innings, scattering two hits, and striking out four. He didn't walk a batter. Ender Inciarte had two of Atlanta's five total hits - all singles.

This Week's Record: 5-2
Season Record: 36-39, 2nd Place in the NL East, 9 GB

Minor League Week in Review (Briefly)
Gwinnett: 3-3...38-36, 2nd Place in the South, 7.5 GB
Mississippi: 2-2...2-2, 2nd Place in South (2nd Half), 1 GB
Florida: 2-4...2-2, 3rd Place in North (2nd Half), 1 GB
Rome: 2-2...2-2, 2nd Place in Southern (2nd Half), 1 GB
Danville: 2-2...2-2, 3rd Place in East, 1 GB
GCL: Opens play this week
DSL: 3-3...8-10, 7th Place in Northwest, 2.5 GB

Three Last Things
1) Things Are About to Get Tough

Sunday marked the 24th game of June. Atlanta has done well with a 14-10 record. All but six of those games came at home via a quirk in the schedule. Further, only a half-dozen of those games came against teams with a .500 or better record. That will change soon.

Following an off day today, Atlanta heads out west for six in California with the Padres and A's. Then comes a buzzsaw that includes 2 vs. HOU, 4 @ DC, 3 vs. ARZ, 3 vs. CHC, 4 @ LAD, and 3 @ ARZ. The Braves will finish July with four games in Philly. As they arrive in the City of Brotherly Love, we'll know a lot more about this team. To this point, only 20 games total have come against teams with a .500 or better record (they're 9-11). In July, they are scheduled to have 19 games against those kind of teams. They'll also play 21 games on the road between now and the trading deadline and are 16-19 on the road this season. For reference, the four-game set in Washington comes right before the All-Star Break.

Some people are buying in. They believe the Braves are better than advertised and will surprise some people. If they are right, July has to be just as impressive as June despite a much tougher slate of games. If you want the Braves to be buyers, they need to continue their recent success against the Astros, Nationals, Diamondbacks and so on. They'll need more games like Friday and Saturday when they took down an impressive Brewers club, and fewer games like Sunday, when their "ace" was blasted for seven runs.

2) Jose Ramirez is Finding Out Regression is Tough

Despite being one of the most trustworthy arms in the pen this year, many were slow to buy in on Jose Ramirez as a true asset. Those that waved off the bandwagon over-and-over may have made that right call. Over his last 14 games, Ramirez has allowed eight runs in 10.1 ING, blown two saves, and walked ten compared to just seven strikeouts. He's also allowed two homeruns.

But we had to see this coming, no? His xFIP heading into June was above 4.00 despite strong WHIP numbers. The belief was that he had been very lucky to this point with a super-low BABIP helping to hide some of the warts. In June, those warts have come out in full force with a 9.02 FIP/7.84 xFIP. While short sample size concerns negate too much value being placed on those numbers, Ramirez has struggled considerably with his control and after some early-season success in inducing weak contact, he is no longer able to rely on that.

Ramirez needs to adjust quickly. He's walked a batter in each of his last seven games, which resembles the guy who was cast to the minors during the first few games of the 2016 season.

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
3) Oh, Julio

I've always been a big fan of Julio Teheran. Back in 2010, when he climbed from Rome to Mississippi, I was anxious to see him dominate in the majors. I even stayed positive during his iffy 2012 campaign where he struggled as the Braves tinkered with his delivery. And I was rewarded for my patience with four seasons and a solid major league pitcher.

Sure, he wasn't an "ace," but he was still very good. His 9.9 fWAR between 2013 and 2016 ranked 35th in the game. He was a durable second starter who simply needed an ace to team with. The Braves were never able to find that, of course, as they cycled through Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Shelby Miller. Nevertheless, if you are rebuilding and putting a focus on starting pitching, the reasonable belief is that one of those flamethrowing kids would take the ace mantle and run with it. That would push Teheran back and the Braves could roll with a solid rotation.

But...this season happened.

I don't really know what is wrong with Teheran. There's nothing in his release point or movement that really stands out. His frequency of using one pitch over another is not too far removed from last year, though I've never understood why he stopped featuring his curveball as much after 2014. His velocity is about where you expect it to be and he can still reach back and hit 96 mph when he wants to. If you ignored the actual results on the field and just scoured the pitch data, you wouldn't come away thinking anything was too out of the ordinary. But nobody pays a pitcher for a consistent release point or velocity. They pay them to take those things and turn them into positive results and right now, there simply is none to speak of for Teheran.

And it's really difficult to understand why his numbers are just so awful. The strike% is right there. His first-strike percentage, the pitch we are told is so important, is at a career-high. About a quarter of his strikeouts end in the backwards K, a career-high. He's pitching ahead as frequently as ever with only 31% of his matchups ending with the batter ahead in the count (right in tune with his career).

Perhaps he's hurt. Perhaps he's in his head. Perhaps he's throwing rather than pitching. Perhaps the dismissal of Roger McDowell has had an effect. Perhaps it's mechanical. Perhaps SunTrust Park just doesn't work for him.

Whatever the case may be, the Braves aren't going very far this year with this version of Teheran. And it's just damn ugly to watch.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Random Prospect Sunday - Chad Sobotka

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
In what would become Frank Wren's final draft with the Atlanta Braves, the team went pitcher-heavy early with college arms. They took the freakishly tall Max Povse in the third round and in the fifth round, landed productive Miami Hurricanes lefty Chris Diaz. Between those picks, with the 133rd overall selection, the Braves went with a righty from the small University of South Carolina Upstate, Chad Sobotka. A year later, the Braves would make a similar selection - though with much higher expectations - when they picked A.J. Minter. Both pitchers were coming off significant injuries, but each had the potential to be big bullpen players for future Braves' teams.

Born July 10, 1993, Sobotka was raised in Sarasota, Florida, where he attended Riverview High School. After not receiving much of a look coming out of high school, he landed with the Spartans under Matt Fincher. The righty quickly impressed with plus-velocity and a pretty good idea of where the ball was headed - especially for a freshman - and became the team's closer. In 25 games, the youngest pitcher on the team notched 12 saves with a 1.74 ERA and over a strikeout an inning. The following season wasn't as impressive as he ran into a few control issues, but he still saved seven more games. That may not seem like a lot, but after just two years on campus, Sobotka was one save away from tying the school record.

After his sophomore season, Sobotka went to the Cape Cod League and impressed scouts with his power. He returned to campus with hopes for another big year and possibly a saves record, but a stress fracture in his back put him on the mend. He would miss his entire junior season. That didn't stop the Braves from using the 133rd overall pick on him, though, and unlike many Wren-era picks, this was not a safe selection nor a pick the Braves failed to get good value on. The injury concerns alone were an issue for the Braves, but the value on drafting Sobotka was solid with Baseball America attached a 115th overall ranking for the righty while Keith Law ranked him the 66th best prospect coming into the draft. Sobotka remains the highest-selected player from South Carolina Upstate.

Sobotka would only rehab during his first professional season. When 2015 hit, the then-21 year-old opened the season in Rome. He was given extensive work as a starter with little success. The belief among fans wasn't that the Braves felt Sobotka was a starting prospect, but were trying to give him innings in an easy-to-regulate manner. His first taste of professional ball was interrupted twice by DL stints - one two games into the season and the other coming in mid-June. That one put him on the shelf for two months. Overall, including three rehab games with GCL and Danville, Sobotka's first season was a disappointment. He appeared 15 times with a 6.32 ERA with as many walks as strikeouts (22).

But that wasn't disheartening. After all, Sobotka was able to stay healthy enough to log 37 innings. That was 37 more than the previous year. When 2016 came, Sobotka was given a return assignment with Rome. The season got off to a rough start as he left his first outing after just three batters with an injury that would keep him out a month. Returning in May, his put up seven consecutive scoreless appearances and ten innings in total before getting off to a poor start in June. He was able to turn the corner for a pair of outings in the final few days of the month where he K'd 5 batters in three innings. He earned his promotion to Carolina where he would pitch wonderfully. He had one iffy game in which he gave up three runs, but outside of that, he was nearly untouchable. His control, which wavered from time-to-time in Rome, was spot-on in Carolina (three walks in 17.2 ING). He even clinched his first three professional saves and after two months in Carolina, Sobotka was promoted to Mississippi. He pitched twice there with a pair of perfect frames and stayed with the team for the playoff run, where he tossed 5.1 scoreless innings.

A lot was hoped for in regards to Sobotka as 2017 opened. He was one of many relief arms looking to open some eyes and push their way into the major league picture, but this season just hasn't gone his way. He's been scored on in just over half of his 18 appearances with Mississippi and over his final eleven games in Double-A, things got really bad. He allowed 17 runs in 16.2 innings with more walks (12) than strikeouts). His last three were especially ugly. He retired just nine batters while allowing seven runs to score. His struggles came to a head on Friday when he was demoted to Florida. His first outing there was a good one. He gave up a single, but struck out two over one inning.

Sobotka throws out of a high 3/4's delivery and definitely has the velocity to be a power reliever with a mid-90's heat. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball with the latter allowing him to uncover some added velocity and the ability to pitch up-in-the-zone. However, his bread-and-butter is a two-seam fastball that while it doesn't have a lot of movement on it, because of his height (6'6") and high release, the ball has the impression of some good sink on it. The slider, which is featured on the GIF to the side from a game a week ago, seems to drop off the cliff as it reaches the batter when he's on. When he's not, it gets very flat. Sobotka also has a changeup from his starter days, but most of the time, he's humming fastballs into the zone to set up the slider.

The big righty lacks the press that his current teammate A.J. Minter has. Both had similar beginnings with the Braves, but Minter has higher grades. Just the same, Sobotka has a good chance to rise in this system. He's got the arsenal to develop into a high-leverage reliever. All it will come down to is consistency in his delivery, trusting his stuff, and maybe most importantly - staying on the mound. If he can do that, he'll be back on track and moving up the system.

More Random Prospects
Randy Venutura (6/4/17)
Evan Phillips (5/28/17)
Kevin Josephina (5/14/17)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Few Braves Notes

The Atlanta Braves were in a rain delay so I wanted to get a few random notes out to you guys and both come courtesy of Braves Option Guy. You know, BOG - the one guy ALL Braves fans follow. Or should, at least.

Today, the Braves optioned Rio Ruiz back to Gwinnett and brought Jace Peterson back. Ruiz has received an extended stay in the majors due to an Adonis Garcia injury (and re-injury), but has struggled to take advantage of what playing time he was getting. As he heads back to the minors, Ruiz is hitting a paltry .175/.264/.288 with three doubles, two homeruns, nine walks, and 25 strikeouts in 91 PA.

With Johan Camargo hitting well, Ruiz was limited to mostly bench work and that's not a positive for a 23 year-old who could still be a decent platoon hitter in the majors. Enter Peterson, who went to the minors earlier this month after hitting a paltry .194/.293/.259 in 123 PA with the Braves. Yes, I know I used paltry twice. Peterson raked in Gwinnett over 17 games, slashing a non-paltry .338/.450/.477 over 80 PA.

The reason I bring this up rather than wait until the next Transaction Tuesday is that the Braves could have avoided using an option this season on Peterson. He logged exactly 20 days with Gwinnett following his demotion, according to BOG. If an optioned player spends less than 20 days in the minors during a given season, the "option" won't actually be counted as an "option." Like BOG, I try to keep track of player options (though not as well as BOG) via this page and occasionally, I'll put a (p) next to a year indicating an option is pending. Peterson's pending option became an actual option as of yesterday. As it is his third option, he'll no longer have options after this season. Either the Braves lost track of that or simply do not care. I'm betting the latter.

In addition, BOG keeps track of draft signees. You can see his work to the right as of June 22. What I want you to focus on is the signing bonuses. This is one of those things that not all fans realize. From rounds 1-10, 100% of the signing bonus is counted. This is why the Braves inked so many players to - yes - paltry sums after the fourth round. Atlanta spent 87% of their available pool money to sign their first three picks after all.

While Bruce Zimmerman's signing bonus has yet to be announced - the same applies to many of the picks after the tenth round - we do know that the Braves spent $17K on rounds six thru ten. All 100% of that will be applied to the pool of money the Braves are allowed to spend to sign draft picks. But look at the eleventh round pick, Drew Lugbauer. The Braves gave him a $125,100 bonus - well over a hundred grand more than they gave the five draft choices before him combined!

This is because of a rule that only the money spent over $125,000 after the tenth round counts toward the draft pool. So, while the Braves gave Lugbauer a big bonus, only $100 goes toward the draft pool.

That, my friends, is called working the system and the Braves are better at that than most teams. Since dispatching Frank Wren, John Hart and John Coppolella have focused heavily on quality. They saw in Kyle Wright and Drew Waters, a pair of players that could be impact prospects. Now, the problem with that approach is the whole putting all of your eggs in one basket. If those two fail, the draft looks bad. The good thing, though, is that ceiling of both players are sky high. You can draft ten Todd Cunningham-type players and you'll have good luck that they'll make it to the majors. What you won't have is an impact player.

Walk-Off Talk 1.5: Finding A Partner (Part 2)

(Previously...on Walk-Off Talk...Ryan and I tried to find some interested teams for the two most valuable soon-to-be free agents on the Braves, Jaime Garcia and Brandon Phillips. Today, we look at four more pending free agent assets who don't have markets that aren't nearly as robust. Events occur in real time.)


Last year, John Coppolella turned Hunter Cervenka into Michael Mader and Anfernee Seymour so we know the guy can find quality players for a reliever, but Jason Motte isn't Cervenka. He's not left-handed, he's not 26, and he doesn't carry a half-decade of team control. Is it even worth talking about Motte as a tradeable asset?

To be fair, Motte has been a nice find. He's kept his ERA around 2.00, picked up three holds, and stranded 11 of 15 runners he's inherited. But there are some issues here and that's not only related to the fact he turns 35 today. One, he's been about as lucky as a pitcher can be. The guy has an ERA nearly four runs under what his FIP is at. He's found a way to carry a negative WAR with a 2.14 ERA, which should be impossible. He has a 100% LOB%. His BABIP is a hyper-low .179.

Motte's going to crash and he's going to crash quick. And none of the numbers I cited are secret. While some teams are more stats-savvy than others, it's hard for me to accept that anyone thinks Motte has pitched as well as his ERA states. While we could certainly talk about some teams who are need of relief help, I see Motte more likely to be an added piece in deals involving Jaime Garcia or Brandon Phillips (or others we'll talk about later). Similar to how Jim Johnson was basically attached to the Hector Olivera (CHANGE TO He Who Must Not Be Named) deal. Am I wrong? Do you think there are teams that are going to actually target Motte?



No. Next?  Just kidding. I think you’re spot on when it comes to Motte as he’ll be a guy that gets attached to another player, if at all! He’s someone that the Braves fans should appreciate this year as he’s been brought in the midst of madness with runners galore and has stranded 11 of 15. Forget that some balls are hit so hard that they nearly take off the infielders’ gloves right before they double up the guy running back to 2nd, that’s a pretty remarkable feat. Velcro him to someone and let’s get another young flamethrower up here.



I think we will also have similar reactions to the next two players - R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Let's address the knuckleballer first. He is coming off possibly his best start as a Brave where he tossed seven quality innings against the Giants. I say it was possibly his best start because eleven days before that, he had a Game Score v. 2.0 of 82 against the Phillies, which slightly edges the 81 he put up against San Francisco. Unfortunately, those starts were sandwiched around an eight-run, three-homer affair against the Nats. Since the beginning of 2013, Dickey has a FIP of 4.68 and it's only getting higher.

The righty does carry a - relatively speaking - affordable $8M club option for 2018, but will anyone bite on Dickey (ouch)? It seems hard for me to find a match. Maybe a team like the Red Sox who like the versatility of having a knuckleballer who can serve as a swingman? They lost Steven Wright after all and kept Tim Wakefield around despite some gross numbers toward the end of his career. That's about all I can come up with at this point. A few more games like last weekend, though, and things could change in a hurry.

As for Colon, I know you are going to suggest the Mets and honestly, it's the only option I see as well. Though, I kind of look at it like Julio Franco in reverse. The ageless one left the Braves for the Mets and really struggled in '07. They released him in mid-July and three days later, the Braves added him for the remainder of the season. I see the Mets maybe pouncing on Colon (ouch?) should the Braves cut him, but hard for me to see them giving the Braves anything - even a non-prospect.

And by the way, I think I'm being optimistic here in including two teams that might have any interest whatsoever at this point in either Dickey or Colon.



Let’s talk about R.A. Dickey and the history of his knuckleball: it gets better with the age of a season. For his career, his ERA during months of March/April is over 5. In May, 4.41. From there?

  • June- 3.50
  • July- 4.14
  • August- 3.89
  • September/Oct- 3.45

If there’s a team that knows this about Dickey, he could most definitely be looked at as an innings eater that could keep them in the game. However, that doesn’t negate the current numbers and that his ERA is 4.91. I like your idea about the Red Sox and there could be a match there, but aside from some salary relief, I don’t think there’s reason to discuss return at this point as it likely will be a player of little to no impact.

As for Bartolo, I think it’s Mets or bust, and if the Mets have an underperforming player they’d like to give the Braves in return for Bartolo, that’d be fine with me. On Twitter a few weeks back, I suggested a Bartolo for Josh Smoker deal. Smoker would have to be inserted on the 40-man, but he’s a LH flamethrower that’s finding success in the minors, but hasn’t translated to the bigs yet. Send Mets Bartolo, pay all but 1MM of his salary, and get a lottery ticket in return.



Smoker? I hardly knew her.

Sorry. I mean, I’ll take any assets as I can for Colon as long as it doesn’t add to the financial bottom line, though I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of faith there is much chance of a deal.

Keith Allison (CC by 2.0) via Wikipedia Commons
Moving on to the Braves’ final one-year contract, let’s look at Kurt Suzuki. Back when the Braves signed Suzuki, I was a little disappointed. I didn't see the point in handing over the backup catcher gig to Suzuki over going with an open competition between Anthony Recker and a cast of thousands. So far, though, Suzuki has been pretty darn impressive. I'll take a wRC+ of 91 out of a backup catcher especially when he's ninth in the league in outside-of-the-zone strike percentage according to Statcorner.com.

It wouldn't be the worst thing to bring him back for 2018 depending on how he finishes this season, but if another team is looking for stability behind the plate and is willing to serve up a prospect or two, I'm definitely going to consider things.

  • Arizona - The Diamondbacks have the worst fWAR among their catchers in the majors. Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis are both underperforming veterans, though Iannetta has mashed eight homers. Finally, there is Chris Hermann, who hit well last year, but has returned to the third catcher status that followed his career in Minnesota. Both Iannetta and Mathis score well in pitch framing, though Hermann does not. I imagine the Diamondbacks would be more interested in a better solution than Suzuki, but the market is thin and Suzuki might be one of their best options should they seek an improvement.
  • Toronto - Russell Martin has underperformed, but Suzuki would not steal his playing time. Rather, this is about depth. Toronto started the season with our old friend Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate as the backup, but after he managed just a single in 26 PA (with 16 strikeouts!), the Jays moved on to Luke Maile, a 26 year-old in his third year who has hit .185/.211/.292 over 245 PA. The Jays could definitely use some help here.
  • Cleveland - Roberto Perez was a bit of a postseason name, but he's hit just .159/.235/.216 this season. Yan Gomez isn't exactly lighting it up, either. Both do provide good defense and Perez is a particularly gifted framer. They don't seem like a good match on paper, but they might be interested in adding some depth.
  • Washington - Matt Wieters' great start is a distant memory. He's reached 0.0 fWAR and nobody is talking anymore about how the Braves should have got him. Jose Lobaton, his backup, is a great receiver, but with Wieters cooling, might the Nats be interested in a better bat behind him? 

On one hand, the market isn't huge for Suzuki, though you could make an argument that half (if not more) of the league could use a better backup catcher and Suzuki is one of the better ones in baseball this season at providing just that. Do you think there might be abother player here I haven't listed?


Thanks for asking, Tommy.

While I’ve had a few others that on the surface look like matches for Suzuki (Angels, Red Sox, Rockies), I think you’ve covered the main players. However….

I think the team that really could use Suzuki is a team you’ve discussed, and that is the Diamondbacks. They’re having a pretty good year and could use a fresh veteran presence behind the plate. There’s a LHP out of Vandy in their system that isn’t putting up great numbers at AA despite having great strikeout numbers: Jared Miller. He’s the perfect kind of upside for the Braves to take a risk on and he’s performing poorly enough to where the Diamondbacks would trade him.

But let it be known, I want to see the Braves extend Suzuki. I was of the same opinion as you when he was first signed, but his value as a backup to Tyler has been...well...valuable. I like 2 veteran guys catching our young guys going forward and I’d like to see these 2 back behind the dish in 2018. Obviously, the Braves could do both, trade him then re-sign him in the offseason, and that would be the best of both worlds as long as Suzuki is cool with it.