For two years we’ve heard the Andruw Jones comparisons. Writers and fans alike have compared Ronald Acuña to the greatest center fielder of all time – former Atlanta Brave, Andruw Jones.
The Andruw comparisons all started with Randy Ingle and Chipper Jones. Randy Ingle, up until recently, had been the manager for the Rome Braves since 2006. The man has over 30 years of experience in minor league ball (and… fun fact – Randy Ingle holds the record for highest career BA at Appalachian State University) so I think he’s qualified to make such a comparison. Chipper Jones is not only a Hall of Famer, but he played with Andruw Jones himself for a decade, so he is also qualified to make such a comparison.
Since Chipper and Randy made the comparison two years ago, so far (knock on wood) their comparisons look pretty darn good. Ronald Acuña is flying through the minor league system in the same fashion as Andruw Jones did, they have freakishly similar numbers, they have virtually the same swing, they both hit for power, and scouts say they have the same glove.
So, would you actually put “Andruw Jones 2.0” anywhere but center field? Please. I don’t think so.
Keep in mind, Andruw played right field when he was first called up to the Major Leagues. Unless something weird happens with Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña will do the same, making his baseball journey even more freakishly similar to the man he’s compared to.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Ender Inciarte is a 27-year-old Gold Glove center fielder who can rake. In my opinion (and I don’t care that he doesn’t hit for power) he’s top 3 best all-around center fielders in baseball. But here’s the crazy thing – If the scouting reports end up being correct, if Ronald Acuña really is the next Andruw Jones (as crazy as that may sound), then Ronald Acuña is going to be better than Ender Inciarte. It’s that simple.
Last winter the Atlanta Braves extended Ender Inciarte to a 5-year $30.5MM deal. In my opinion, this is the best thing John Coppolella did during his time in Atlanta. The Braves are sitting on a gold mine with Ender Inciarte.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “So, Josh… you’re saying the Braves should trade Ender Inciarte?” Not really. Plus, I don’t think the Braves have plans to. Here’s my two cents. I think the Atlanta Braves keep Ender Inciarte, eventually move him back to right field in 2019 and move Acuña to center. Ender has a cannon, and in 2015 he won a Fielding Bible Award playing primarily right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In short – The Braves call up Ronnie this spring, put him in LF and then move him to center late in games and/or starts here and there in the event Ender struggles at the plate. At first, it will appear that the Braves are simply giving Ender a night off, but bigger things are going to happen. Like Ronnie playing center field. For years to come. Put that in your pipeline and smoke it.
If I’m completely wrong and the Atlanta Braves stick Acuña in right field for years to come, it’s certainly not the end of the world. Braves fans will basically be watching two Gold Glove center fielders playing next to each other. I can imagine much worse things to watch.
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Also on the show (in between Josh and Ken arguing about the the movie Legends of the Fall) they discuss the new MLB pace-of-play debacle. Will pitch clocks really help grow the game of baseball? Josh and Ken seem to think that the real challenge in growing baseball is making baseball more accessible among low-income youths here in America (where MLB teams actually exist). Braves Options Guy also stops by to explain baseball salary arbitration, PLUS Ken gives content creators some basic tips.
The Knockahoma Nation podcast is also on iTunes AND CastBox (and most other places where podcasts live).
So, here’s episode 42. Enjoy!
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The Braves should sign Mike Foltynewicz to a long term contract.
If you’re a Braves fan, the name alone probably brings an opinion to your mind. Bust. Future. Superstar. Wild. Emotional. Overrated. Underrated.
The 26-year old pitcher the Atlanta Braves acquired from the Houston Astros in 2015 for Evan Gattis and James Hoyt is entering a crucial year for his career. In his past 2 years at the Major League level, Folty has been the epitome of unpredictable. His splits vary from month to month, sometimes lefties have dominated him, sometimes he’s owned them. Then suddenly right hand hitters come out of nowhere to be back on top of his stuff. In one month, he goes from being one of the best pitchers in baseball and nearly completing a no-hitter, to forgetting how to throw baseballs the very next month.
Ridiculed as being “too emotional,” Foltynewicz, is a fiery 6’4” 220 lb. righty that brings the heat. He often sits in the upper 90’s well into the sixth or seventh inning, when he lasts that long. His numbers follow his performance pretty accurately, sporadic to say the least. Since joining the Major League rotation, he has seen a dramatic increase in his Homerun/Flyball rate, he’s been caught accidently tipping pitches, and at times he seems to forget how to pitch in certain counts.
All of that being said, I still think the Braves should sign him to a minimum of a 5 year, $37 million dollar deal.
Well my papa used to tell me, “Boy, you make hay while the sun shines.”
For those of you who have never baled any hay in the south, you cut it when you don’t expect rain… often even if it’s not completely ripe and 100% ready to be cut. Because perfect hay is worthless if you can’t get it up off the ground without it getting wet. If it rains on hay, you have to ted it all back out (using a machine to re-scatter it), wait on it to dry in the sun, rake it again, and then bale it. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can lose the whole crop because of too much rain.
Baseball contracts for mid-market teams are like baling hay. You make hay while the sun shines. Meaning, if you’re a mid-market team, like the Atlanta Braves, who really can’t compete with the ‘big boys’ on huge salaries and contracts, then you have to find a way to gamble on the hay while the weather is nice. Right now, the weather on Mike Foltynewicz is really nice.
The Braves currently have Folty under team control for 4 more years. This is his first year entering arbitration and he is going to get either $2.2 or $2.3 million. This sounds pretty cheap, but when you look at how arbitration figures scale it gets a bit more complicated. $2.2 million for one year certainly isn’t a bad deal, but when you realize someone like Arodys Vizcaino received roughly $850,000 for his first year you realize that $2.2 million for a first year arbitration guy is not cheap.
Arbitration scaling is a bit wonky to say the least, but basically each year it scales up based on performance, league comparisons, and which year of arbitration you are in. Josh Donaldson just received $23M for his final year of arbitration from the Blue Jays. You can see, simply having team control doesn’t automatically mean a cheap contract.
But why should the Braves sign Folty to a 5-year deal? Julio Teheran may have the answer.
Julio Teheran is what mid-market teams dream of. It’s not that he’s the best pitcher ever; I would even argue he’s probably not a #1 starter on most teams – more of a 2 or 3 sort of guy. But if there is one thing Frank Wren did right for the Atlanta Braves, it was signing Julio Teheran to a 6-year, $32.4 million dollar deal back in 2014. That contract is a gold mine (regardless of his divisive 2017 numbers).
Much like Ender Inciarte’s deal, that John Coppolella negotiated, buying out a young player’s arbitration and giving them a serious deal with your team can be brilliant. Especially for mid-market teams. When Frank Wren locked up Julio Teheran long-term, he had completed just one year of pitching for the Atlanta Braves. One year. While his year entering arbitration had been a bit more consistent than Folty’s was, it’s also important to remember that he had a serious baseball staff behind him that made the playoffs. He was backed by arguably the best modern day defensive shortstop in Andrelton Simmons, had Justin Upton and Evan Gattis smashing homeruns, and Craig Kimbrel closing it down.
If you put Folty in front of the same kind of staff that Julio had in 2013, I think you’d see quite an uptick in his numbers. Not to mention the fact that at times last year, Mike was the closest thing to a number 1 starter the Atlanta Braves had, and often got matched up that way. Mike is a big guy that has never had serious injury concerns. He did have a fluke blood clot steal some weight and time from his first season, but as far as the arm is concerned he’s had no real issues. He’s built big, and he threw 150+ innings last year and probably could have thrown more had his control been a bit better and had Manager Brian Snitker been a bit slower with the hook. He’s a power pitcher who is going to eat innings, a lot of them.
As a mid-market team, the Atlanta Braves have to make gambles to increase the value of their assets. Julio Teheran will be paid $8 million to pitch for the Braves in 2018. On the open market, even if evaluated as a #2 or #3 starter, it is quite easy to imagine him getting $15M+ per year (probably higher). That is a lot of value in a long-term contract that the Braves can either happily sit on and be content to pay someone much under what they are worth, or they can trade and reap quite a bountiful harvest in prospects and other players based on his value. Either way, for the Atlanta Braves, Julio Teheran is a gold mine.
This is why the Braves should lock up Mike Foltynewicz, yesterday. And there is reason to speculate this may be just what they’re doing. When the Braves and Folty filed for arbitration literally $100K apart, many Braves fans rolled their eyes. However, this feels fishy. It feels like both parties may have simply said “just file a number while we get a bigger deal worked out.”
If the Braves paid Folty a front-loaded deal, meaning the more expensive years were on the front side of the contract, I think the Braves could create another Julio-type gold mine. Five years for $37 Million is roughly $7.4M a year. This sounds expensive compared to the $2.3M he could make this year, but if you balance it all out and Foltynewicz hits as a true #2 or #3 innings eater, you have struck gold. On top of this, if the Braves front-load the contract so they pay him the most now, while they have some payroll flexibility, it allows them to absorb the cost and manage the risk of the contract in years to come.
If you look at the state of contracts in MLB in the last 5 years, you will see what I mean. In 2012, the average MLB salary was $3.21Million; in 2017, $4.47 Million. Those numbers don’t sound too far apart, but when you look at it through another lens that is an increase across the board of nearly 72% (stats from Statista). That is insane. Next offseason, arguably the best class of free agents to ever hit the open market will do so, and there is little doubt that average salary numbers are going to continue to skyrocket. If I told you that I could sign a player for about 25% over his current value for the next 5 years that sounds silly, but if I then explained that across the board salaries were going to go up 75% so that at a minimum you were looking at a 50% savings by the end of the contract, I think you would sign up in a heartbeat and that’s the basis of my argument.
Of course the fear is, what if Foltynewicz is a bust? The Atlanta Braves paid R.A. Dickey $7.5M last year at age 42 to pitch for them and be mediocre at best. They paid Bartolo Colon $12M at 43 years old to be complete trash for them. I would much rather see a guy like Folty working through bumps with a chance to build value while eating innings, than guys from a nursing home trying to pad their retirement fund with zero chance of them creating future value.
The other thing about Folty is this – his stuff is still really good. He is not a very cerebral pitcher. He’s not going to out-think too many guys, he’s not Greg Maddux and he’s not going to set you up in the first because he’s got a plan of attack for you in the seventh. But his fastball is legit. Let’s say he bombs out as a starter. A guy that can throw 98 in the 8th on his 106th pitch can easily touch 100 if you move him to the bullpen to throw 20 pitches. Not to mention a bullpen role would allow him to narrow his pitches to a smaller mix, and only face hitters one time. (Mike’s stats currently seriously suffer his second and third time through the lineup).
If Folty busts out and is forced into the pen, the contract still isn’t trash (especially if you front load it). If he develops into a top-tier reliever, you might still have a golden contract; if a mid-level reliever, he might be slightly overpaid, but at the rate of inflation in Major League contracts, even that is doubtful. If he is a total bust, then sure the contract stings, but at the end of the day it’s $37M over 5 years. This isn’t the biggest financial hit this team would have taken by a longshot (see Melvin Upton, Dan Uggla, Matt Kemp, etc).
For mid-market teams, you have to take gambles to make up the gap in money. The Braves have made some really smart financial gambles over the years, like Teheran, Freeman, and Inciarte. I think Mike Foltynewicz should be another one. He’s not perfectly ripened, he’s still a little green in places standing in the field, and there is a risk he won’t be quite as good as the hay down the street, but sometimes you have to mow the hay and bale it while it isn’t raining before it’s perfectly mature. I don’t know if Foltynewicz should be in the Braves rotation 3 years from now, or even in their bullpen, or even on the team, but what I do know is that if you make hay while the sun shines you’re more likely to feed the cows come winter. And if the Braves sign Folty to a long-term deal, they’re more likely to enjoy the value that contract creates than to regret the minimal risk associated with it.
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It was a dark day when they came for them. The screams heard across the nation were heart wrenching. Hopes and dreams shattering in a moment. Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, perhaps it was worse.
The colors of the fall had set in fully. The long days of summer slowly trumpeting their retreat. The summer had been challenging, as most are in the sweet plains of Georgia in recent years. The boys had fought bravely, but still were found licking their wounds from the battles that seemed to never end on those late sunsets in the brutal southern heat. The ground that had been gained over the last few years was slow and tedious, but the future seemed bright.
Then came the Fall.
It seems Fall always bring bad news. I guess it should be expected. The trimming back of the fruitfulness of the harvest. The first hints of beautiful color, sending a foreboding warning that barrenness will soon cover the land. They say hindsight is 20/20, but even now I don’t see how we could have seen it coming. You never expect those dearest to you to fall so far, so fast. When our general suddenly withdrew from battle it was a blow to the morale of all the force, and as expected weak links were quickly exposed. Optimism was rich in many, in spite of the fear that gnawed at the hearts of the faithful, while some quickly drew sabres and cast blame. Who could blame them? I certainly had no idea that the outsiders would take back so much ground so quickly.
But alas, that is how the gods operate. Fickle as they may be, always protective of their beloved and always critical of the outsiders. Fearful that someone might usurp their tedious balance of power. As quickly as they had struck down the general, they set about stripping away all of his glorious works. First one cornerstone and then the next, as they gradually unbuilt the perfectly hewn masterworks of the architect they so despised.
Needless to say, the general had opened the door for this. Otherwise, the people would have revolted against the gods. However, the gods can play in the fields of a man’s heart, so long as man gives him the open door. The general believed in few closed doors.
Following his fall, the winter came quick. Icy polar blasts dropped down from the northern reaches. Darkness swallowing up the day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Fifteen of our men would fall to the cold icy blackness. The screams from that day I’ll never forget. It was as if a child was torn from the arms of mothers, obsequious fathers watching as their babes were cast out and sent to live with other homes, never again to see the lights of the fires of home.
The darkness was all consuming. All encompassing. It stole your very soul, it’s icy tendrils ripping away at the fortitude of the most well built of places like the violence of time etched in the walls of the pyramids. With the cornerstones of the edifice removed, the buildings cracked and crumbled and questions from the faithful turned to the obsessions of mad men.
One brief fire illuminated the men with a momentary breath of hope. Or was it hate? Seeing men turn on the shipping out of the wounded, no matter their exorbitant costs, shown a dark light on the desperation of the camp. Survival was becoming the heartbeat, all other motivations found secondary to being free of this weight of darkness.
Seeking semblance of normalcy, some turned to the mindless pursuits of endless bartering proposals with the other tribes, some fell away to more droll calculations of remunerations, and some of the purest of heart even found their eyes wandering to the opportunities of the hurricanes of winter.
The cold was paralyzing. If you stood about thinking too long your breath froze to the strands of your mustache like the persistent leak of thick viscous oil. Stoves went out. Darkness settled. The long winter made every second of every day long and tedious. Never ending. No sun, no hope, no future. No barters were made, no whispers spread, the shadows of the taken lingering large in the empty spaces of the farm. No hope of spring.
33 days until pitchers and catchers report. If you’re an Atlanta Braves fan this winter sucks.
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At this point, everyone in Braves country is hearing rumors of the Braves going after Marlins outfielder, Christian Yelich, and perhaps even their catcher, J.T. Realmuto. While I think Realmuto and Yelich are both terrific players, I’m left with an itch that’s begging to be scratched. Call it a “Yel-itch”.
I’ve always been a big fan of Christian Yelich, and I’ve frequently thought that he has been criminally underrated. His defense is solid, his offense is on the rise, he’s shown flashes of the potential to be a 5-tool player. I even think the future could be brighter for Yelich. He is likely to increase his home run rate, his production, and, away from the prairies of Marlin’s park, improve his defense.
And yet, I’m opposed to the Braves trading for him.
Good question. There is this interesting operating philosophy in baseball that simply acquiring great players will, in turn, make a great team. Certainly, there is a measure of truth to that idea. However, I also think there has to be more to your philosophy than simply collecting great players.
We could look back through history and find, time and again, where teams that were comprised of “great” players simply didn’t win. Revisionist history would tell us that it was because some of those players perhaps were not as “great” as we originally thought, but perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps, the team they were on and the role they were asked to play made them less great.
Unless your team is the Cleveland Browns, I don’t believe in bad luck or sacred goat curses. However, I do believe that team chemistry is important. And by team chemistry I don’t mean clubhouse personalities and how people get along (although there is some truth to that as well). What I mean is that a team has to be comprised of players that fit a big picture purpose for the baseball team.
For me, it was the downfall of Fredi Gonzalez as a baseball coach. Fredi seemed convinced that he could massage and manipulate lineups that put players in different positions on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, to maximize match-ups and play to the current ‘momentum’ of the team. But baseball is a job at the end of the day, and a player needs a clear picture of the job that he’s been hired to perform.
‘I mean why don’t he just hit baseballs and play gud defense, ain’t that what every gud baseball player does’
It’s true that hitting baseballs and playing defense is the core of the game, but those terms are broad and often misleading. The truth is – it’s more complex than that. Much more complex.
Do you want your leadoff man to get on base? Is that his primary role? If so, he needs to take more pitches, be more selective, work more counts, and shorten his swing and aim for more singles. Or maybe you want a leadoff man with a higher WRC+ who has more pop and power? Unless his name is Mike Trout, you pretty much need to understand he’s going to get on base a bit less, going to strike out more, and swing away at more first pitches.
Philosophically, do you want your best hitter hitting second? He’ll get about 60 more at-bats a year if you do. Or maybe you’re a traditionalist that likes him batting 3rd, do you want him to aim for power? Swing away? Do you need to protect him in the lineup? Oh, and if so, what do you protect him with? Power? Is that still the answer in today’s strikeout heavy world of power hitters?
At the end of the day, I think the Braves have some philosophical holes to fill. Is Ender your leadoff hitter or Ozzie? What are you looking for from your #2 hole hitter? Is Acuna going to bat 2nd? And if so, how long before you get him there? So far, the Braves have always used Freddie to bat 3rd, so where is Yelich? Is he really a 4th hole hitter?
Yelich has traditionally hit 3rd for Miami, yet last year he only hit .282 with 18 home runs. I mean that certainly isn’t bad, but let’s compare that to Freeman who batted .307 and hit 28 home runs (oh, and missed 6 weeks). Is a .282/18HR guy really what you want protecting Freeman? (Protection matters.) Do we really need another 15-20 HR guy with good defense or would we be better served with a 30+ HR guy that might lack a little defensively, or not have the greatest OBP (ie. Martinez, Duvall, etc).
Perhaps Yelich will make up for it on defense?
Well, just as on the offensive side of things and creating a lineup, you have a defensive philosophy as well. Yelich is a terrific defender, right? Well, that’s what people keep telling me, yet in 2017, he saw a significant decline in his defense, finishing the year with -6 DRS. I’ll be the first to stand up and scream that defense runs saved isn’t the best stat ever, but it is an indicator for sure.
Yelich’s potential value is primarily built upon the idea that he will continue to get better. And he certainly may, but the biggest part of the puzzle is always cost/value. To acquire Yelich is going to be an expensive overpay. I’m the kind of guy that’s sometimes guilty of over-valuing prospects, but I’m actually ok with overpaying for pieces I think fit the right holes in the philosophy and have future value in line with what you’re giving up. Any trade is risky. Yelich is young and on a mostly cost-friendly contract. There are reasons to think he will soar to his potential value. But many Braves fans (and now Cubs fans) are familiar with 26-year-olds with great stats and superstar potential don’t always pan out … sometimes they suddenly can’t remember how to hit baseballs and their entire 5 tool concept suddenly becomes 2 tools. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jason Heyward.
If we were talking about Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, even my personally-hated Bryce Harper, I think there is very little room to doubt the future ascent of their rise to franchise anchoring status. At one point, I thought Yelich was headed there. But while I think he was once undervalued, the perception of him may now have gone in the other direction, and his perceived value may actually be higher than reality. It’s not that he has significantly declined, or regressed. In fact, he may continue right on up, yet even at his best, I wonder if he is truly a top-tier player worth the cost that he inevitably will demand. His K% is league average, his DRS is slightly above average, his 18 HRs is a little above average, his slugging .463 is a little above average. I think Yelich is better than average, but is he really a superstar? And even if he is a superstar, is he the superstar the Braves need to empty their coffers for?
Is it really worth giving up four prospects from your top 15, and perhaps seven from your top 25, some of which project to be a good bit better than just above average? (I’ll be the first to admit prospects bust frequently, but from the richest farm in baseball that’s not chump change.) It’s easy to want splashy moves for names we like. It’s much harder to stay the course, stick to your philosophy, and find the answers to the holes you have on the team you are already fielding. When I look at the Braves I don’t see the hole begging for Yelich. I see a team missing power, missing defense, and missing quite a few other roles (3B, pitching, etc) that Yelich simply cannot fill. Would he be another great player on the Braves team? Absolutely. Would it make the Braves a much better team? I’m not so certain.
The answer to Yelich’s value to the Braves is an itch I’m not sure I want to scratch.
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Hello Knockahoma Nation, you probably know me from Twitter or from the handful of podcasts I’ve popped up on with Josh and Ken. I live down in Tampa, Florida and while that doesn’t allow me to go to SunTrust Park as much as I’d like, it puts me within driving distance of lots and lots of baseball.
I have seen most of the prospects I’m about to list either on the backfields in extended Spring Training, Gulf Coast League or Florida State League games. If I haven’t seen a guy in person, all I have to go on is MILB.tv like the rest of you. I’m not a scout, and thus, do not try to act like one, I just watch a lot of baseball and tell it like I see it. If you don’t agree with where I have a player ranked or have questions, hit me up on Twitter at @ProspectsBraves or my personal account @JonesBWP. I am pretty active on there.
So without further adieu let’s get started.
40. Jesse Biddle –
A former first round pick by the Phillies, Biddle was a top 100 prospect before having Tommy John surgery, being waived, subsequently scooped up by the Pirates, dropped and picked up by the Braves where he recovered from said TJ. I happened to be at his first appearance after surgery against those very same hometown Phillies in Clearwater and he looked good, especially for his first appearance. He ran it up to 94-95 and displayed his customary plus curveball, which is a slower offering to go along with a solid changeup. He pitched the entire 2017 year in Mississippi and posted solid numbers – 49.2 IP, 9.60 K/9, 2.90 BB/9 and a 2.90 ERA. Expect him to get a crack at a bullpen spot in Atlanta as he’s already been on the 40-man for 2 years. He’s a lefty with reverse splits and while I would’ve worried about that last year, Anthopoulos seems to have Snitker nose deep in Bill James’ Baseball Abstract right about now.
NOTE – There are a handful of other relief prospects that could’ve been featured here most notably – Corbin Clouse, Devan Watts, Phil Pfieffer, Caleb Dirks, Michael Mader and Evan Phillips.
39. Akeel Morris –
Why is water wet? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t Akeel Morris get a fair crack at the Atlanta bullpen? All questions that surely have an answer, but none of which I can name off the top of my head. Blessed with an unreal changeup, Akeel continues to put up solid numbers in the minor leagues (54.1 IP, 2.65 ERA, 65 K, 25 walks) what else can the guy do? Maybe 2018 will be the year he gets more than a week in the show!
38. Anyelo Gomez –
The Braves most recent dip into the Yankees talent pool is from the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. Gomez had a breakout year in 2017 – 87 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 70.1 IP, 1.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, only gave up 2 HR all season. He just couldn’t make the cut on the Yankees stacked 40 man/bullpen and the Braves look to have pulled a Robin Hood here. He will be in the mix for the 2018 bullpen or we’ll be forced to ship him back to the Yankees. His fastball sits in the mid 90s with a solid changeup out of a funky delivery.
37. Jacob Lindgren –
Another guy scooped up thanks to the Yankees bullpen being ridiculous, Lindgren was a college reliever taken in the 2nd round back in 2014 out of Mississippi State. A hard throwing lefty who has already made his major league debut but unfortunately had to have Tommy John surgery in 2015 after at first being shut down for bone spurs. He’s pretty much the same pitcher as A.J. Minter – literally Minter is 6′, Lindgren is 5′-11″. They both throw mid to upper 90’s with a devastating slider, both pitched out of the bullpen in college and both have already had TJ. They’re also only 5 months apart. SEC! SEC! SEC!
36. Tyler Pike –
Pike came over in the Alex Jackson trade as the player to be named later and started the year in High A Florida not far from his hometown of Winter Haven. After being jerked back and forth between levels and getting stuck in the hitter’s paradise that is the PCL on more than one occasion he seemed to settle in back closer to home. In 12 starts he hummed along to the tune of a 2.20 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with a decent 3.49 BB/9, after appearing in the Florida State League All Star Game he was promoted to Mississippi. That is where he seemingly hit a wall with 6 starts with 5 or more walks, he ended up with a K/9 over 10 in the Southern League but a BB/9 of 7.59 is just not going to cut it. I think he’ll get another chance to start in the cavernous ballpark that is Trustmark Park but if he doesn’t find a way to cut down on the walks I still think he could be a useful reliever with the potential for even more strikeouts.
Signed all the way back in 2014, Wilson is a big kid with pop who plays a smooth center field. As a former shortstop, he also has a cannon for an arm, which I’ve witnessed on a few occasions. A talented kid no doubt, his biggest enemy has always seemed to be himself as he has all the tools to be an excellent player. He will only be 20 come Opening Day 2018 and I’d expect him to open up as Rome’s starting center fielder with Cristian Pache graduating to Florida. After having his 2016 season cut short and only playing 60 games last season, it will be interesting to see what he does with a full season this year. I’ll make somewhat of a bold prediction here and guess he comes close to matching his career home run total of 18.
34. Tyler Neslony –
Ah, The Pony, Josh’s pride and joy. He was drafted in 2016 and was still playing in the College World Series so I had a chance to watch him right away and flat out, the kid can hit. Tyler Neslony doesn’t crack Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects, and he doesn’t crack most Braves blogger’s top 50. But here’s a fun fact – Tim Hudson, David Price, Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Tim Wakefield, Jeff Kent, Jim Edmonds (just to name a few) were never ranked prospects. Truth is, ranking prospects can be like predicting the weather 15 days out.
Neslony’s ceiling is probably Nick Swisher. And that’s a hell of a ceiling. His floor is a guy who makes it to AAA and sells insurance in three years. With Tyler, it’ll really come down to his defense and his ability to hit more advanced pitching. He can rake, but can he rake against the best? We’ll see. – JB
“Speed, I am speed.” – Lightning McQueen or Anfernee Seymour? Seymour is pretty much always the fastest player on the diamond and I’m not quite sure why the Marlins tried to shoehorn him into a middle infield position after signing him. I was extremely pleased to see him starting in center field the first time I caught him at extended Spring Training in 2017, the dude is a gazelle out there. He hit .282/.342/.357 in 110 games between Florida and Rome with the majority of them coming in Florida. He was caught on 20 of 45 stolen base attempts, but he truly does have 80 grade speed and that may just be him needing to adjust to better catchers at higher levels. I probably would’ve had him higher on my list but he was suspended after the 2017 season right before heading to Arizona for the Fall League so we didn’t get a chance to see him against elite competition. The reason for the suspension was never made clear, the Braves always keep that sort of thing pretty tight lipped but the one tweet I did see is a really dumb reason and unfortunate for Anfernee. Hopefully it motivates him and he is able to break camp to Mississippi with his pal Touki.
Braves prospect Anfernee Seymour suspended for “violation of team rules” and removed from AFL roster. Team declined comment on reason.
A guy I pinned last year as a rebound candidate came back from a injury plagued 2016 season and tore it up out of the gate in Danville to the tune of a 1.000 OPS in 25 games. He was deservedly promoted to Rome, where he cooled off a bit hitting just .268 with a .733 OPS in 31 games. Like Isranel Wilson, he’s a “toolsy” guy who checks all the boxes and will look to build on the progress he made last year. I assume he’ll play in High A Florida in 2018.
31. Derian Cruz –
Formerly the highest paid International signing in Braves history, Derian had a rough 2016 to put it lightly committing 16 errors in 26 games Rome and struggling at the plate before being demoted. He is still just 19 and will more than likely repeat at Rome where, thanks to outside circumstances, it looks like he’ll get another shot at short. He is an athletic, hard working kid and I expect him to rebound and make me look foolish for having him this low on my list.
The famous Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on First” unforgettably amuses the audience as Abbott befuddles his pal Costello with the confusing names of the players on his baseball team. In the skit, the third baseman is “I Don’t Know”. The Braves feel like they’re right in the middle of that skit when it comes to the identity of their 2018 third baseman and “I Don’t Know” is on third for Atlanta.
Most of us know the usual characters and options that are sitting there available, so I’ll not waste your time by giving a detailed analysis of each player that could be a 2018 third base option for the Atlanta Braves, but I will skim them.
Frazier batted .213 last season. Yep, .213. He did crush 27 home runs, though. He had a terrible BABIP. But even projections for this next year have it only jumping up about 20 points. He’s a plus defender at 3rd. The end.
He’s a name not heavily talked about, but the Pirates have made it known that he’s available. While I think Harrison is one of the best utility players in the game, his third base defense is average at best, and his batting has traditionally suffered when he plays the hot corner. Not only is he owed $10.25MM in 2018, but his asking price could be hefty. While I think Harrison wouldn’t be an atrocious stopgap, ultimately he costs too much.
With the Marlins turning into the Flea Market of baseball, it feels like Prado is probably available. Prado’s name will always be loved in Braves Country, but at this point I believe getting Prado would be a bit like grabbing the Matt Kemp of infielders. While he’s not quite as overpaid as Kemp was, he’s still getting $28M + for two more years. That’s not great for a guy coming back from some serious knee issues. Besides, his defense was only slightly above league average for the last few years before he was injured.
Yeah he’s my darling pick. Anyone that follows me knows that I love the idea of Castellanos at the hot corner and seeing what he can do.
He hit 26 bombs last year. The knock on Nick is his defense. It’s not good. In fact, last year it was so bad the Tigers moved him to the outfield. I personally believe Ron Washington is a miracle worker and if he can make Freddie Freeman into an incredible third baseman, he can fix anyone. But even if Castellanos doesn’t stick at 3B, he could certainly move to left field and add quite a bit of pop to the lineup. With the Tigers in a rebuild it feels like you could get him without having to give up too much, but you can’t be sure.
Last but not least, Camargo. Some have complained about his splits, but when you dig a little deeper he actually doesn’t have any problems against lefties or righties. He did struggle against relief pitchers, many of which had a single very dominant pitch.
However, he batted .305 against RH starters and .296 against LH starters. He also crushed the ball when he hit it. His average exit velocity was 88.12 mph. For comparison, Freddie Freeman’s average exit velocity in 2017 was 89.68 mph. Undoubtedly, Camargo hasn’t shown the pop and home run power that you traditionally expect from a third baseman. But I also think it might still be in hiding in there. In the winter league, Camargo is slugging .511. That’s only 1 home run, but a triple and 5 doubles in only 54 at bats.
I mentioned Josh Harrison earlier as an option for third, but the truth is the Braves already have their Josh Harrison and his name is Johan Camargo. Unless the Braves want to try a double fix with a move for Castellanos, with Camargo backing him up as a utility man with lots of playing time or taking over at third if Castellanos can’t play defense, I prefer they stay put with Camargo.
Frazier may have more pop, but his batting average is atrocious and he doesn’t seem destined to make any giant leaps. (Hitting baseballs matters.) I know Atlanta could use a bit more pop in their lineup, but slugging may be the better measure of just what Camargo can add than simply his home run totals, and Camargo out-slugged Frazier last season by more than 24 points despite only hitting 4 home runs.
Somehow, over the course of this offseason, it feels as if fans have forgotten how solid Johan Camargo was this year. Prognosticators have chalked it up to a high BABIP or pitchers not figuring him out. Skeptics have questioned his power while ignoring his slugging. He’s not the sexy big money name of Machado (oh by the way the Braves would be insane to pay for one year of Machado). He’s not the traditional third baseman that Todd Frazier is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a place on this team and it doesn’t mean that place couldn’t be third base. He currently fits a bit more of a utility profile, but I think limiting him to a utility role is short sighted and judgmental.
I’ll be honest Johan Camargo is an “I Don’t Know” for me. I don’t know what he will hit, I don’t know what his power will be, I don’t know how his defense will end up, and I don’t know that he’s the permanent answer for the Atlanta Braves.
At the end of the day, this team is young. Very young, and very fast. I like the idea of creating a culture of young guys discovering exactly who they are. Challenging the assumptions about who they are and who they are not. Not being limited to trying to fit some mold that the previous guy has always played to answer the Who’s on First, What’s on Second and I Don’t Know is on third. If I’m making the decisions, I Don’t Know is playing third for me, but I do know who he is. He’s Johan Camargo.
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Andruw Jones might not get in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, but I believe he’ll get in eventually. The Andruw Jones naysayers hone in on his career .254 batting average, but as we all know by now (hopefully) – baseball, and offense in particular, is a little more than batting average (batting average doesn’t matter).
My Hall of Fame case for Andruw Jones is quite simple. Andruw Jones has more career home runs than the greatest power-hitting catcher of all time (Mike Piazza) (Homeruns don’t matter) and is the best defensive center fielder of all time. Ozzie Smith had a career wRC+ of 92, but his elite glove got him into the Hall of Fame in no time. Andruw threw up a career 111 wRC+ and did just as much or more defensively for his respective position. (wRC+ doesn’t matter)
Andruw Jones has more career home runs than the best power-hitting catcher of all time (Mike Piazza). Andruw's glove alone should get him into the HOF, his bat is just gravy.
What hurts Andruw Jones, among the uneducated writers, is three things:
Andruw Jones had an awkward ending to his career. In 2007 it was like Andruw Jones hit a wall. And please don’t come at me with the whole PED speculation. MLB began testing for PEDs in 2003 and in 2005 Andruw Jones hit 51 homers. Besides, what roided up steroid using ballplayer was slightly chubby like Andruw Jones? (Jason Giambi doesn’t matter)
Andruw Jones played for the Atlanta Braves during his 10 consecutive Gold Glove winning years. If you watched the Braves back then, and then tuned in nightly to ESPN, you might remember something. On any given night, Andruw Jones would make insane Spider Man-like catches but would very seldom be featured on SportsCenter’s “Web Gems.” So if you’re a national writer, or a guy covering the Royals locally, Andruw Jones wasn’t really on your radar. Why? Because ESPN is a terrible company and hates Atlanta. (ESPN doesn’t matter)
Andruw Jones wasn’t flashy. Much of the Hall of Fame voting (unfortunately) is all about perception and not numbers. Case and point – Mike Mussina. When you watched Andruw Jones play, at times he almost looked lazy. Baseball came easy to him. Andruw Jones taught us that being the greatest center fielder of all time wasn’t really about speed, it was about quickness and the ability to read the ball off the bat. No one did this better than Andruw Jones, and unless you had the privilege of watching this occur in person, it’s hard to understand. (Side note – Andruw Jones’ arm doesn’t get written about enough. In fact, I might be the first person to ever write about how amazing Andruw Jones’ arm was. And that’s sad.) (Center Fielders’ arms don’t matter)
If Andruw Jones isn’t a Hall of Famer, NOTHING MATTERS.
Here’s a video:
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