prospects

Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (20-16)

20. Brett Cumberland

A power hitting switch hitting catcher is always intriguing and after slugging 16 homers his Junior year at Cal, the Braves selected Cumbo in the 2nd round. The Braves sent him straight to Danville and he was a little below average there. I caught him catching Ian Anderson in Instructionals and saw a minor league catcher. He isn’t ever going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s built like a catcher and is quick enough on balls in the dirt (Anderson was a little wild that day) only giving up 6 passed balls in nearly 400 innings last year. He only started at catcher about half of the time, DHing the rest of the time. He absolutely crushed in Rome – 10 HR, 176 wRC+ and a .269 ISO in 55 games in the Sally League before being promoted to Florida. He continued to hit for average in the pitcher friendly league and, though he only hit 1 homer in his 56 games in the sunshine state, he still managed a 127 wRC+. His bat went all the way down under this winter, and though he played most of his games in the outfield there, he kept on hitting with 7 homers and a .980 OPS in 26 games. It will be interesting to see where Cumberland starts 2018, I doubt they give up on him this fast behind the plate, but the Braves are flush with young backstops. Herbert and Jackson will need help in Florida and Mississippi respectively and Cumberland can always DH.

 

19. Jean Carlos Encarnacion

An unheralded signing back in 2015, JCE burst onto the scene in 2017 after a unspectacular 2016 DSL campaign. A big kid at 6′ 3″, I took notice of him when he continued to start at third over many highly touted infielders signed in 2016. He hit for power, played a solid third base and ran the bases well for someone his size. After mashing to the tune of a .937 OPS in 27 GCL games, he was promoted to Danville where he regressed slightly in 23 games only posting a .671 OPS in 23 games. However, he still made plenty of contact hitting for a .290 average. At 20 years old, it wouldn’t shock me if he opened as Rome’s Opening Day third baseman.

18. Freddy Tarnok –

A pop up guy if there ever was one, Tarnok didn’t even start pitching until halfway through his Junior season. Committed to the University of Tampa as a shortstop, he’s a gifted athlete and once scouts saw his 6′-4 frame pumping fastballs in the mid 90s he shot up draft boards. Similar to the Ian Anderson pick and the Sean Newcomb acquisition, Tarnok is a rare low mileage arm from Florida with as much upside as any pitcher in the system. With a fastball that sits 91-94 and as high as 97-98, with a plus hook and a feel for a change, he should be a fun guy to watch in 2018. With him most likely starting in Danville, I should get to see him a lot in Extended Spring Training.

17. Kyle Muller –

The 44th pick in the 2016 Draft, Muller was part of the “Big 3” of that draft class, where the Braves picked 3 prep pitchers in the first 70 picks. Muller however has been on a different timeline than his draft mates, while Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Bryse Wilson all headed to Rome to start 2017, Muller stayed back in Florida. He pitched decent in 47.2 Gulf Coast League innings. I caught one of his starts and though he looked healthy and smooth on the mound his velocity was noticeably down from his high school stuff. Reports of his high school coach overusing him causing the dip in velocity have surfaced, but just yesterday Driveline Baseball posted a video of Muller hitting 95.3 MPH off the mound. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come. As Brian Bridges likes to say Muller is “Just what they look like”

16. Patrick Weigel

I hate that Weigel got hurt last year, and if he comes back anywhere close to where he was before that, 16 will look foolishly low. Unfortunately injuries happen, and it usually takes almost two years before a guy is fully back to his old self. If anybody can beat that timeline though I believe in the big right hander as he’s bounced from D1 to JUCO and back again to D1 to 7th round pick. Weigel has taken his big fastball all over the place and turned into a real pitcher with plus stuff and a frame to last. I saw him spin a 7 inning one-hitter in Rome with none other than Josh Brown back in 2016, and caught him again in relief of Kolby Allard in ML Spring Training. There is no question about his stuff, it’s just a matter of getting healthy again. His floor is a big league reliever and in my opinion it’s only up from there.

 

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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (30-21)

30. Jefrey Ramos – Ramos is one of the few guys signed on July 2nd, 2016 still with the Braves. He has crazy raw power and showed it hitting 6 homers in Gulf Coast League play before being promoted to Danville where he spent most of his time in the cleanup role, but only hit one home run there and seemed to tire down the stretch. He was also only 18 in the Appy League, he may start there again this year, but I could see him ending up in Rome with a strong showing in Spring. He hit .323/.366/.532 in his first 41 games, so we’ll see if he can duplicate that next year with another full offseason. He is strictly a left fielder, but that is just fine if he can continue to crank out extra base hits.

 

29. Ricardo Sanchez – Will 2018 be the year Ricardo finally breaks out? He was solid as a 20 year old in the pitcher friendly Florida State League last year, and it will be interesting to see if the team pushes him to Double A or lets him repeat the level to try and improve on things. His K-rate ticked up from ’16 to ’17 while his walk rate stayed roughly the same. The ground ball % went up an impressive 8%, while his strand rate and HR/FB ratio stayed the same. While he has an impressive curve ball, he always seems to struggle to get through the lineup a 3rd time. Obviously, 21 is way too early to give up on a promising starting pitching prospect, 2018 could be a huge year one way or another for the young Venezuelan.

 

28. Braulio Vasquez – Signed as a smallish glove-first, speedy shortstop on July 2nd, 2016, Braulio has bulked up since then and looks poised to have a breakout season in 2018. 40 stolen base potential with expanding gap power, he should be one to keep an eye on this year. With the loss of so many of his 2016 international classmates I could see him making the jump to Rome to start out at 19.

 

27. Travis Demeritte – I was as high as anyone on Demeritte despite the ever present high K-rate. He started out well, but seemed to fade when the team shifted him off his natural 2B to 3B. He is a plus-plus fielder at second and that skill alone could carry him to the bigs as a utility guy. The question is will he be Jack Wilson or Dan Uggla. If he can start putting bat on ball he’ll make me look stupid for having him so low. (He had a stellar final month after moving back to 2B)

 

26. Dustin Peterson – A guy who looked like he might challenge for a spot as Atlanta’s 4th outfielder last spring, faced the cruel wrath of the baseball gods when an errant pitch broke his hamate bone in the middle of Spring Training and sidelined him until the middle of May. He struggled at Gwinnett last year and his already limited power was completely sapped. I like Dustin and could see him making the bigs one day, but as a guy limited to the corner outfield with a career high of 12 homers he’s not bound for much more than a bench role.

 

25. Lucas Herbert – The best defensive catcher in the system by a lot. Herbert did exactly what you’d want to see in his second tour at Rome in 2017. There’s never been any question about the glove, next year will be interesting as I think he’ll start at Florida and have a shot to move quickly if he shows he can continue to hold his own against more advanced pitching.

 

24. Drew Lugbauer – Slugbauer! An 11th-round draft pick who went on to hit 13 homeruns in 60 games and is solid enough as a backstop to let his hit tool/power carry him to the big leagues. Another guy I haven’t seen much in person, so I’ll just go with – big man carries big stick.

 

23. Huascar Ynoa – Prospecting is all about projections, guessing, hoping and wishing. I’ve never caught Ynoa pitch, just watched video clips, but his numbers show enough that he seems to progressing well for a young guy and he has the stuff/ build to carry on as a starter. Time will tell, as this is as guessy of a guess as there is on this list.

 

22. A.J. Minter – I think most of you have gotten to see why he is on this list by now. If not go watch some highlights and come back to read about #21

 

21. Tucker Davidson – The first time I saw Tucker was in extended spring training in 2016. He came on in relief of Ian Anderson and was throwing harder than the first rounder. One of the coaches mentioned he had 4 pitches and seemed impressed with the lefty. He started last year in the Rome bullpen, then took off as a starter. I was excited about seeing what he could do in 2018 with a full season as a starter then JJ Cooper went on Road 2 Atlanta and got me even more hyped when he put them in the same tier as Bryse and Wentz. Look out for Tuck Tuck y’all.

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Prospect rankings aren’t Gospel.

Ranking baseball prospects is fun. I’ve done it. Our podcast even had some Braves prospects experts on this past week to wax philosophic about numerous prospects in the Atlanta Braves system. So this isn’t meant to be a hit piece on anyone who ranks baseball prospects.

Ranking prospects is great. For one, it’s a way to get us baseball nerds through the cold off-season. It’s also a fun way to educate ourselves about the future of our beloved sport, and raise our hopes for our favorite team’s future. As we all know, baseball has a farm system like no other sport, which lends itself to pretty honest process (if you’re good, you advance, if you’re not, you don’t), and it’s a blast to follow. A player gets drafted or signed, they make their way up through the system in hopes of one day playing in an MLB stadium in front of tens of thousands (unless you play for the Marlins). So, ranking that talent and making predictions on that talent is great.

Not only is ranking prospects a grand old time, but lists like the Baseball America top-100 end up being fairly accurate. Some of the game’s greats were top prospects at some point along their respective journeys. Harper, Trout, Griffey, Jr., just to name a few.

According to Andy Harris, of Outfield Fly Rule, players in Baseball America’s top-10 have an MLB success rate of around 90%. Players ranking from 90-100 come in at around a 35% MLB success rate. Andy says that the record is generally better for ranked position players versus pitchers (because of injury risks). Andy goes on to say that of those #1-10 ranked prospects, only 35% end up being elite performers. In short – On any given year, that Baseball America top-10 prospects list you’re looking at only has a few potential stars.

It’s important to remember that prospect rankings are not always the GOSPEL. One of the best things about our sport is that it can be unpredictable. Not only is the game itself unpredictable, but the talent can be, too. Case and point – Ronald Acuna signed for $100,000 in 2014 and is now heralded as the best prospect in the game, and rightfully so.

Sure, Baseball America and guys like Keith Law have certainly gotten it right over the years. But it’s also important to remember that there have been many great ballplayers who were never ranked. Some even had Hall of Fame caliber careers – Jim Edmonds, Jose Altuve, Jeff Kent, Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Robinson Cano, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy and James Shields were never top-100 prospects according to Baseball America, just to name a few.

The opposite of this is also true. Especially if you, like me, grew up collecting baseball cards. How many guys with “rated rookie” or “future star” on their baseball cards ended up being completely forgotten about? Baseball’s weird.

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Knockahoma Nation Atlanta Braves Podcast – Episode 42

This week on the show we’ve got our very first Braves Prospects Summit featuring some of the best Braves prospects writers on the interwebs. Dylan Short and Andy Harris are both writers over at Outfield Fly Rule, and Doc Herbert has been known to write a thing or two over at Call to the Pen.

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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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (31-40)

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.

35. Isranel Wilson –

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

 

33. Anfernee Seymour

“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.

32. Leudys Baez –

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.

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The Pinewood Derby of Braves Spring Training

Growing up I was in Boy Scouts and every year we had the pinewood derby. We would craft cars out of wood, stick some wheels on them, and let gravity roll them down a ramped track. The one that ran down the hill the fastest would win.  It’s a little silly because a lot of it was luck, but hey it was fun to watch! This year the Braves spring training is a bit of a pinewood derby for who gets to ride the pine of the Braves bench for this season. Seven names enter and whichever ones roll down the ramp of spring training the fastest (and maybe gets the luckiest) may win the spot.

For the Braves, most of the starting lineup is pretty solid. After that, things get more interesting. There is a real chance the Braves go with an 8 man bullpen making things even tighter for those wonderful spots riding the pine until that high leverage moment (or pitching change). Here’s a glance at who has a chance and why you should and shouldn’t write them off.

The pool is better this year than last year, but it’s still mostly AAAA guys (but aren’t most bench players). These are guys who are currently probably a tad better than AAA players, but not likely to nail down a consistent major league role. There are really only two kinds of players for the Braves bench; prospects that may still have some room to grow, and AAAA veterans that are very much specific role players. The Braves may yet sign an outside name, but assuming they go in house the options are …

The Prospects…

Micah Johnson. Johnson, acquired this winter from the Dodgers, is one of a few names that haven’t reached their ceiling. He’s been on the prospect list for several years but has failed to really live up to expectations at the major league level. I would consider him a not so poor man’s Mallex Smith. When acquired from the Dodgers he was listed as a second baseman, but it looks like the Braves intend to use him as a speedy outfield option. In the minor leagues, this guy looked like he was going to be a leadoff phenom. He has +++++++ speed (I seriously can’t get enough pluses there), and in the minors, he made lots of contact. His major league career has shown the bat seriously lag, whether that is just some jitters in the lights or a sign of something more significant is still yet to be determined. The Braves are banking on the former. He’s looked really good this spring, and maybe he’s getting the bat lined up to do some big things. At the very least he will be a terrific stash at AAA in the event of an outfield injury. I think his ceiling is that of someone along the lines of Ender Inciarte, and a floor of a speedy utility man that can be used in late game situations for a slap hit or a stolen base. With a team already built around speed, I think he starts at AAA despite being ready for the big leagues.

Johan Camargo. Camargo has looked like a different player in the last year. At one time thought to be a legit prospect, some of the shine wore off as the Braves have added depth to their farm. But he showed up last year in different shape. He went from a bit of a boy to a grown man… and his stats tell the same story. Early on with his change in body type, we saw the bat really lag as he tried to figure out how to put the newfound build and muscle to use, but he seems to have turned the corner and has truly raised his value in the last 10 months. This spring he’s looked like a very solid bench option. While he’s always been thought of as a decent fielder, it’s his bat that has looked much improved this spring. His contact rate is still a little inconsistent as he finds a balance between contact and power, but this kid has the ability to be a very strong utility piece for the Braves. No, he won’t be supplanting Dansby, but he could be a terrific piece for resting Swanson or Phillips and could even cover a game or two at third if needed. He certainly has the arm. He also has raised enough value that he could be a very decent piece of trade bait for Coppy to use at some point this season. My guess, he has a legit shot at making the bench. If not he’ll start at shortstop at AAA and probably see time in Atlanta at some point this year.

Rio Ruiz. We’ve heard about Rio for a few years now and at one point it was hoped he might be the future at 3B. While it looks like the ship of him taking that job by himself may have sailed, he certainly looks like a very legitimate platoon option. His left hand hitting numbers look pretty atrocious, but he is still young and has had limited consistent opportunities against LHP in the last year. With more reps, he might see those numbers rise a bit, but don’t expect too much. That being said he is in the best shape he’s ever been in (a consistent theme with much of the Braves organization this spring). There is still room before reaching his ceiling so he could still make some jumps. My guess is that he makes the team out of Spring Training and at the first sign of any slump from Adonis Garcia (or injury as Garcia came up a bit gimpy in today’s spring training game) Ruiz will certainly get playing time at third. He has some pop in his bat, and I think if he ever became a regular 3B he would be a 10-15 HR guy at his peak. That’s not bad for a bench bat (it’s not bad for a starter). Besides, if you can play 3B there is a decent chance you can play 1st so he makes sense as a (VERY) temporary backup for Freeman if there were an injury.

The Known Quantities…

Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio has undoubtedly left a bad taste in some Braves fans mouth as his mediocre play in the last few years has left many wondering why he ever got a role in the first place. This year he has shown up at camp reportedly down about 8 lbs, and looking “rejuvenated”. It’s shown up so far in his play as his defense has looked stellar. He’s also batting nearly .300 and has an HR and 3 RBI (as of me writing this) in 17 plate appearances. Look, I don’t expect Boni to be a .300 hitter, but he does have legit speed. You know exactly what you are going to get, and he is a very solid AAAA guy. Is he going to excite you? No, at least not often. But he has a 4.9 war over his career (that’s not bad at all… not good, but certainly not bad). And he offers someone that can play any outfield position, as well as pinch run late in games. I know you guys hate this, but it really wouldn’t shock me to see him get the early call for the Braves bench. Not that he’s necessarily the best long-term option, but because he is the most predictable option. Camargo, Johnson, and Ruiz all wouldn’t be hurt by a little more time at AAA for developing, while Bonifacio really isn’t going to learn much more at a lower level. He is what he is, and that is a solid plug for a hole. He’s not going to add much to the team, but he’s also not going to take anything away.

Matt Tuiasasopo. This guy should get the bench role just for the awesomeness that Braves twitter can create with his name. Signed to be an AAA guy, someone forgot to inform him and he has shown up to Spring Training like he expected to make the team. I love him. His defense is terrible. But who cares, the guy has a big swing and some big pop. He doesn’t have any ceiling left, but I don’t know that it matters. I see this guy as a very poor man’s Ryan Klesko (think Ryan when he was a bench bat). He’s going to come up, swing out of his shoes, and possibly stick it over the fence. He can also play 1B, 3B, and the corner outfield positions, not bad for the Braves where we don’t have a lot of depth. If Tuiasa-BigBo could hit around .245 and hit 7 HR that would be a terrific bench piece to add. With a Braves team built mostly about speed, he doesn’t have it. But what he does have is what a lot of the team doesn’t, big pop. I like him because he’s different and fills a role the Braves really haven’t had in awhile. Of course, if he hits only .200 then he’s a waste of a spot and that is certainly a possibility. I’m a fan, but I get it if you aren’t. (To be fair he’s probably the least likely to make the team of anyone listed).

Chase D’Arnaud. Chase is Chase. Being married probably hurts his fan-base. He can sing. As to playing baseball… eh… he’s ok. He brings ‘chemistry’ to the team, if you believe in that stuff. He’s fun to watch cause he has fun playing the game. But I don’t think he adds a lot to this team. He has a real shot at getting the bench role because he was fair last year. I really hope he doesn’t. It’s nothing personal. Seems like a great guy, just doesn’t bring much to this team. All you Chase lovers feel free to @ me with why he should make it, but I just can’t make a legitimate case (and I tried).

Jace Peterson. If anyone has a locked position I’m guessing it’s Jace. He can play almost any position, he’s streaky as heck but can really swing it when he’s locked in. He also seems to get on base when you need him to. I think there might still be a little bit of ceiling left, I’m not sure, but he feels like a poor man’s Sean Rodriguez (and the Braves paid a good bit for Rodriguez). Jace works his butt off (not that that always matters) and I do think he brings some good things to a bench role. I think if he makes the team he plays a lot (at least 4 games a week). He’s not a huge defensive drop in left field from Kemp or Markakis (#goldglovers). With Jace you seem to love him or hate him, I fall more on the love side and hope he makes the team, but the bench seats are tight and I could see him missing out. That being said if anyone had the best odds of making the team I would put them on him.

If I’m the Braves in this season, I’m using the bench to develop players. Let those young guys roll and hope they’ve got a little flow down the track and I’m pulling from the prospects pile as much as possible. However, with the new stadium the front office also is wanting to win more games, so you might see them go with a more predictable bench. Of course, injuries will ultimately determine a lot about the bench, but these are the options you have. It truly is a race down the track to see who rides the pine. No matter who the front office picks I think it’s a better bench than last year and I think it’s one that can make a little noise from time to time.

All of that being said, I hope we sign at least one bench bat from outside the organization.

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