Archive for Braves

Scouting the Cardinals’ Return for Jaime Garcia

The St. Louis Cardinals sent lefty Jaime Garcia to Atlanta in exchange for a trio of minor leaguers this evening. Below are my thoughts on the prospects heading to St. Louis in the deal.

John Gant, RHP (Profile)

The good-bodied and eccentric Gant is probably the likeliest to yield big-league value of the triumvirate acquired by St. Louis tonight. He’s already spent time there, having thrown 50 major-league innings in 2016. As a rookie, Gant struck out nearly a batter per inning (recording a 22% strikeout rate) but also struggled with walks (9.5%). Gant’s fastball sits in the low 90s, mostly 90-93, but will touch as high as 96 and has a slightly above-average spin rate. His changeup is his best secondary offering and best pitch overall. It’s a plus, low-80s cambio that disappears away from lefties as it approaches the plate. Gant maintains his fastball’s arm speed throughout release. There are times when Gant makes a visible effort to create extra movement on the pitch, alters his arm action, and causes his change to flatten out. He also has a loopy, below-average mid-70s curveball. He’s had to use the curve more frequently than a pitch of this quality usually warrants in order to navigate his way through minor-league lineups multiple times.

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Atlanta Trades for Upside in Form of Jaime Garcia

The Braves’ first few moves of the 2016-17 offseason — and, in particular, the acquisitions of both Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey — appeared to raise the floor for an Atlanta club team designed to survive, if not necessarily thrive in, 2017. The club’s most recent move might not help raise that floor any higher. What it could do, however, is heighten the team’s ceiling — and, at the very least, provide the club with an interesting trade chip for the July trade deadline.

Earlier tonight, the Braves traded three prospects to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Jaime Garcia, who enters the final season of an extension signed back in 2011.

Here’s the trade in full.

Braves Receive:

  • Jaime Garcia

Cardinals Receive:

When healthy, Garcia has been an effective pitcher. Over the course of his career, he’s produced a better-than-average FIP and ERA (both 8% lower than league average). Staying on the mound for any length of time has been the issue for Garcia, however. After recording 194 innings in 2011 — and earning a four-year contract extension (with two options) along the way — Garcia struggled to stay healthy. He managed only 220 innings over the next three seasons combined and began 2015 on the disabled list. His numbers were never particularly bad during that span — and were, in some cases, quite good. After thoracic outlet surgery in the middle of 2014, however, his career appeared to be in some jeopardy.

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Projecting Alex Jackson, Max Povse and Rob Whalen

Here are the prospects changing hands in last night’s deal between Seattle and Atlanta as evaluated by KATOH projection system. KATOH+ represents a player’s WAR projection over his first six years in the majors and includes said player’s Baseball America’s ranking as a variable.

*****

Alex Jackson, RF, Atlanta

Jackson has struggled to make contact ever since the Mariners popped him sixth overall back in 2014. He hit decently in his second crack at Low-A last year, but KATOH is alarmed by his 27% strikeout rate. The fact that he’s a right fielder who neither steals bases nor grades out well defensively also hurts his case. He’s hit for decent power, but the statistical negatives far outweigh the positives. Of course, Jackson was viewed as one of the best prospects in the country a mere two-and-a-half years ago, so it’s likely he still has some potential that isn’t showing up in his on-field performance. The traditional KATOH also projects him for 0.4 WAR.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

alex-jackson-likelihood-of-outcomes

Alex Jackson’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Actual WAR
1 Mike Little 1.2 0.4 0.0
2 DaRond Stovall 1.2 0.4 0.0
3 Tim McClinton 1.4 0.5 0.0
4 Joe Hamilton 1.6 0.2 0.0
5 Warner Madrigal 1.8 0.2 0.0
6 Mike Wilson 1.8 0.2 0.0
7 Eli Tintor 2.0 0.2 0.0
8 Yamil Benitez 2.0 0.4 0.4
9 J.R. Mounts 2.0 0.5 0.0
10 Joe Mathis 2.0 0.5 0.0

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Scouting the Prospects in the Alex Jackson Deal

In all-prospect trade Monday night, the Atlanta Braves acquired OF Alex Jackson from Seattle in exchange for pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Jackson, the sixth-overall pick in the 2014 draft, is the headliner here despite poor performance in pro ball because he was one of this decade’s most decorated high-school hitters.

In 2012, Jackson led all California high-school hitters in home runs with 17. He was a sophomore. Later that summer, Jackson went to Area Codes, where he had one of the event’s most impressive batting practices. His swing length was exposed in games during the event, but Jackson made an adjustment and shortened up the next spring and continued to rake. He hit well against elite prep arms in showcases during his entire high-school career. The track record for hitters who have consistent success at those events is very good.

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Why The Braves Needed to Sign Sean Rodriguez

$11.5 million is what the Braves will give Sean Rodriguez over the next two years, and that seems fine even if he reverts to a utility infielder that faces mostly lefties. But there’s a few things Rodriguez did right last year, and if he does those things right again, he’ll be worth much more than the money he’s due. A team like the Braves needed to make a signing like this.

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Bartolo Goes South

The Braves have signed their second pitcher over the age of 40 in as many days. This time it’s the unflappable Bartolo Colon, bringing the man they call Big Sexy’s three-year run in Queens to an end. Colon made himself one of the most beloved figures in baseball during that time. He threw 588.2 innings as a Met, posting a 3.90 ERA, walking just 1.31 batters per nine innings, accumulating 8.3 WAR, and hitting one incredible home run. Thankfully, he will remain in the National League, and will continue to dazzle us with his hitting feats.

Much like R.A. Dickey, who they signed yesterday, Colon is being brought in by the Braves to soak up innings. He led the Mets in innings pitched during his time in Queens and shows no real signs of slowing down. The Braves used 16 starters last year, everyone from Julio Teheran to Lucas Harrell to Jhoulys Chacin to the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona. Only three of them cleared the 100 IP mark. Teheran was legitimately good, Mike Foltynewicz was okay, and Matt Wisler, shall we say, has some things to work on.

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Atlanta’s Offseason Is Off to a Decent Start

The Braves seem committed to fielding a competitive product next year. I don’t think we see eye-to-eye on this — the way I figure, it’s not yet time for the Braves to attempt to push forward. But I also can’t bring myself to be too critical of an operation that wants to build a winner for its fans, so I’m just looking for the Braves to keep from getting too aggressive. There’s nothing wrong with making affordable upgrades. And the Braves have made their first, signing R.A. Dickey for one year and a guaranteed $8 million. Dickey is back to being a starter in the NL East.

This is not about the Braves suddenly being a great team. This is not about Dickey suddenly being a great starter. But, you know what kind of shape the free-agent market is in, with regard to starting pitchers. You’ve seen some of the numbers thrown around when talking about Ivan Nova. Nova is a lock to get three years, and he could get four, or even five. And, well, Nova’s almost 30. Dickey just turned 42. But last year, Dickey had the worse ERA- by just four points. Over the past two years, Dickey has been better, by 10 points. Over the past three years, he’s been better by 19 points.

As far as just 2017 goes, I’m not convinced Nova will be better than Dickey. I know, I know, Ray Searage magic and everything, but Nova’s track record is unimpressive, and his contract will come with a ton of risk. Dickey isn’t nearly so risky. He projects to be basically the same as Jeremy Hellickson, Jason Hammel, Edinson Volquez, and Andrew Cashner. Dickey has been basically the same pitcher in Toronto for four years, and he practically never misses a start. With any knuckleballer, you think of the pitch as being unreliable. Pitch-to-pitch, that might be true, but Dickey himself is remarkably consistent.

He’s something in the vicinity of an average pitcher, and you can put him in for 30+ starts in ink. The Braves might not yet be within that competitive bubble, but last year, no other baseball team used as many starting pitchers as they did. They entered the offseason with an assortment of question marks behind Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, and Dickey is a useful stopgap. Maybe he won’t teach a younger player a nifty changeup grip or whatever, but there’s value in reliability. There’s value in fielding a better major-league product, and the Braves got Dickey without giving anything up. It’s not a bad way to start the push.

If the Braves want to win 80+ games in the season ahead, they need to make so many improvements. This is one they can cross off. Pitchers who are equally average are going to receive far bigger commitments, and they are unlikely to look very good.


Fall League Daily Notes: October 21

Eric Longenhagen is publishing brief, informal notes from his looks at the prospects of the Arizona Fall League and, for the moment, the Fall Instructional League. Find all editions here.

Braves 2B Travis Demeritte has looked tremendous at second base this fall. Not only has he made several acrobatic plays but he’s handled some bad hops and sucked up errant throws on steal attempts as well. While his hands remain somewhat rough, Demeritte’s range and athleticism have forced me to reckon with the idea of plus-plus defense at second base — as well as to remember if I’ve ever put a 7 on a second baseman’s glove before. I don’t think I have, and I suppose it’s worth asking if such a thing even exists, as one might wonder why a 70 or 80 glove at second base couldn’t play shortstop in some capacity. I think the right concoction of skills (chiefly, great range and actions but a poor arm) can churn out a plus-plus defender there. I’d cite Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips and Dustin Pedroia, and Chase Utley as examples from the last eight or 10 years. It’d be aggressive to put a future 7 on Demeritte’s glove right now because his hands and arm accuracy are too inconsistent, but those are things that could be polished up with time.

Tigers RHP Spencer Turnbull was up to 94 and mixed in five different pitches last night. Nothing was plus and Turnbull doesn’t have especially good command but I liked how he and Brewers C Jake Nottingham sequenced hitters and how to and that Turnbull was willing to pitch backwards and give hitters different looks each at-bat. He and Rays RHP Brent Honeywell have the deepest repertoires I’ve seen so far in Fall League.

Giants righty Chris Stratton sat 89-92 last night with an average mid-80s slider that is good enough to miss bats if he locates it, and last night he did. I think the changeup is average, as well, while Stratton’s curveball is a tick below but a useful change of pace early in counts. He looks like a back-end starter.

Quite a few defenders got to air it out last night. Here are some grades I put on guys’ arms:

Dawel Lugo, 3B, ARI: 6

Miguel Andujar, 3B, NYY: 6

Pat Valaika, INF, COL: 5

Gavin Cecchini, INF, NYM: 45

Christin Stewart, OF, DET: 4

Angels CF Michael Hermosillo, who was committed to Illinois to play running back before signing with Anaheim after the 2013 draft, displayed tremendous range in center field last night. He looks erratic at the plate but he hit well at Burlington and Inland Empire this year and is an obvious late-bloomer follow as a two-sport prospect from a cold weather state.


The Legal Case for Challenging Chief Wahoo

If Canadian indigenous-rights activist Douglas Cardinal had had his way, the Cleveland Indians would have been legally prohibited from playing Games 3 through 5 of the American League Championship Series in their standard road uniforms. According to a lawsuit filed by Cardinal on Friday in Ontario Superior Court, both Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo mascot as well as the “Indians” team name itself are racially offensive and discriminatory, in violation of Canada’s Human Rights Act (which generally prohibits businesses from “differentiat[ing] adversely” between citizens on the basis of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation).

Although Judge Thomas McEwen announced on Monday afternoon that he would not be issuing an injunction blocking Cleveland from wearing its normal uniforms during the ALCS, the legal proceedings have nevertheless brought renewed attention to Cleveland’s use of what are, in the minds of many, racially insensitive team insignias.

This raises the question of whether Cleveland’s — or, for that matter, the Atlanta Braves’ — team name or logos are at risk of being successfully contested in the United States. Indeed, considering that a U.S. federal court ruled last year that several trademarks belonging to the National Football League’s Washington Redskins must be cancelled due to their disparaging nature, it is entirely possible — and perhaps even probable — that Cleveland or Atlanta could soon face a trademark challenge of its own in U.S. federal court.

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Freddie Freeman Is Lifting Up the Braves

There’s a danger in waiting to write a post about how the narrative surrounding a particular statistic, because the statistics are always changing. I’ve been meaning to write a post about the Atlanta Braves for a while, and specifically, the Atlanta Braves’ offense. I got the inspiration to write about the Braves offense last week, when some sorting of leaderboards for an entirely differnet topic led me to the realization that the Braves had had baseball’s best second-half offense, up until that point. “The Braves Have Had Baseball’s Best Something” would be the headline, and I would take a look at all the young, exciting players that have fueled this second-half surge for the Braves, and how it bodes well for the future of their rebuild.

Well, things change. The Braves no longer have had baseball’s best anything, because they no longer have baseball’s best second-half offense. That honor goes to the Dodgers. The Braves have now had baseball’s second-best second-half offense, and that’s not nearly as compelling a title. And the more I looked into it, my hypothesis for a narrative just didn’t hold up anyway. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, this second-half offensive surge by Atlanta isn’t all that interesting. The part that’s interesting is that Freddie Freeman has been so damn good, he’s tricked an entire team into appearing compelling.

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How to Judge the Atlanta Braves’ Rebuild

Atlanta Braves fans are waiting for their team to be consistently good again. After winning the division handily in 2013 but losing in the NLDS, the team fired general manager Frank Wren at the end of the following year. They replaced him with a duo: president of baseball pperations John Hart and GM John Coppolella. These two combined with longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz to form the team’s new brain trust.

They began rebuilding immediately. That offseason they sent familiar faces Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. all packing. They signed longtime Oriole Nick Markakis. Midway through 2015, the team traded Alex Wood. After the season, they dealt Andrelton Simmons and then Shelby Miller. The only notable names remaining from Wren’s time were Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran.

Two years after the regime change, I wanted to evaluate their efforts. But first, I needed metrics. How does one evaluate a rebuild? After pondering the subject, I landed on three aspects: team run differential, time, and payroll flexibility. Below I discuss how the Braves are doing in these areas.

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Two Ways Dansby Swanson Is Being Pitched Like a Slugger

Dansby Swanson is dapper. Dansby Swanson is exciting. Dansby Swanson should have great plate discipline and a good hit tool. And Dansby Swanson is a major leaguer. These things are all true. Dansby Swanson may also be a slugger in the future, but he’s not yet. That’s weird, though, because he’s being pitched like a slugger in two key ways.

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Scouting Julio Teheran, Major-League Starter

Leading up to the trade deadline, there was quite a bit of discussion at this website about Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran regarding his value and whether or not it was prudent for the Braves to move him at this juncture. I was often asked in chats about what I thought about the situation, Teheran’s value, etc. I responded that, going forward, I thought Teheran was a league-average starter, a No. 4 worth around two wins annually. There was some adverse reaction to that, which is understandable given that Teheran has made two All-Star teams before turning 26 and had already contributed about 2 WAR this season when I opined. Conversely, he’s also got a career FIP approaching 4.00 and has seen a drop in his average fastball velocity this year.

The Braves came through Arizona for a four-game set with the Diamondbacks last week and I was in attendance for Teheran’s start on Wednesday to get an in-person look at an arm that has undergone a substantial metamorphosis since his days as a prospect and one that will likely be on the market this winter. I try to hit a major-league game every now and then, just to remind myself for what I’m supposed to be looking in the prospects I see. I thought evaluating Teheran would make for an interesting piece, so I did it.

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Projecting Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves Cornerstone

Last night, Dansby Swanson, 2015’s first overall pick, debuted for the Atlanta Braves. After destroying High-A pitching to the tune of .333/.441/.562 in April, Swanson spent 84 games at the Double-A level. He hit a less exciting, but still respectable .261/.342/.411 at the latter stop.

During his brief stay in the minors, Swanson didn’t stand out in any particular area offensively, but was better than average across the board. He posted a healthy 11% walk rate this season, a .151 ISO, and made enough contact (recording an 18% strikeout rate) for it not to be a concern. Even his 13 steals indicate a guy who’s fast, if not exceptionally fast.

Swanson is a good hitter, but his bat alone doesn’t make him a particularly exciting prospect. What really sets him apart is that he’s a good hitter who also happens to play a mean shortstop. Eric Longenhagen noted yesterday that he thinks Swanson will be a plus defender at short. The data support that observation. In just 105 minor-league games at short this year, he’s been a +19 defender according to Clay Davenport’s model.

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Scouting Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves Cornerstone

Just fourteen months after having been selected first overall in the draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dansby Swanson is making his Major League debut for the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. While Swanson doesn’t have a robust collection of plus tools and won’t be setting the National League ablaze with top-of-the scale speed or monster raw power, his skillset is air tight with nothing but the smallest of nits to pick. Combined with his ability to play most valuable of position in baseball, Swanson should provide All Star-level value for the Braves. Read the rest of this entry »


Trade Deadline 2016 Omnibus Post

As it has been the past few years, the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline brought about a flurry of activity that was hard to keep up with even if it was the only thing you were doing. Since most of us have other things that we have to or would like to occupy our time with, we figured we would save you some hassle and create an omnibus post with all of our trade deadline content so that you have it all in one place. For clarity’s sake, I’m going to limit this to articles about trades that actually took place.

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Padres, Braves Exchange Toxic Assets

Note: this is all pending physicals, so

Follow-up note: physicals complete! Trade official. Update included at the very bottom.

Usually, we’re at least able to focus on the baseball side of things. Even though we all recognize that baseball is a business, we’ve gotten good at ignoring that part, focusing on the more baseball-y parts of player transactions. Business matters some in the Mark Melancon trade, but it seems mostly about the Nationals getting a good closer, and the Pirates getting some longer-term pieces. You know, baseball stuff. We’re all in it for the baseball stuff, after all, because the business part is seldom entertaining.

The Padres and Braves have made a business move. Oh, sure, there’s a baseball side, kind of. The Braves must see something in Matt Kemp, something they didn’t see in Hector Olivera. To help cover some of Kemp’s remaining cost, the Padres are reportedly including $10 – 12 million. It would be possible to look at this and think only about the roster implications. But this is mostly just a money move, and from where I sit, the Padres are coming out ahead.

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Scouting New Braves Prospect Travis Demeritte

The Atlanta Braves have turned one player they claimed off of waivers and another they signed to a minor-league deal into a prospect who appeared in this month’s Futures Game. Even if one is skeptical of that prospect, as I am, acquiring a tooled-up middle infielder for two pieces you acquired at next to no cost represents a success for the rebuilding Braves. The newly acquired Travis Demeritte has an interesting set of tools undermined by one potentially fatal flaw that, if remedied, could make him a valuable everyday player.

Demeritte, who turns 22 in September, is hitting .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs at High-A High Desert. He was suspended for 80 games in 2015 for use of a banned substance, the masking agent Furosemide. He also had a 25-homer season at Hickory in 2014. Both Hickory and High Desert, along with most of the rest of the Cal League, are power paradises. A study done by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy in 2015 found those two affiliates to be the most homer-friendly parks in there respective leagues. Though Demeritte has plus raw power projection, I think it’s fair to be skeptical of his in-game power performance’s sustainability.

The raw pop comes primarily from Demeritte’s plus bat speed and a big back-side collapse that creates uppercut in his swing. His footwork is aggressive and noisy and at times he strides down the third-base side, leaving him vulnerable on the outer half, though he’s still able to take the ball the other way exclusively with his hands. He has 11 opposite-field home runs so far this season, according to MLBfarm.com.

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Projecting New Braves Prospect Travis Demeritte

A cursory glance at Travis Demeritte‘s stat line might lead one to think the he’s an offensive beast. He’s hit a powerful .272/.352/.583 at High-A this year, on the strength of an impressive 25 homers. In addition to his offensive exploits, he’s also swiped 13 bases and played solid defense at second base.

But there’s one bad attribute that largely outweighs all the good stuff: his 33% strikeout rate. Demeritte suffers from chronic contact problems, which have led to problematic strikeout rates ever since the Rangers took him in the first round back in 2013. Though he has the eighth-best wRC+ in High-A this year, he also has the fourth-worst strikeout rate. The latter suggests he’ll have a tough time replicating the former against more advanced pitching.

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Rangers Land Potential Relief Ace

An afternoon trade went down between the Rangers and the Braves. One very much legitimate way of thinking about it: Lucas Harrell isn’t very good, but the back of the Rangers’ rotation lately has been terrible, and this just goes to show how the market for any half-decent starting pitcher right now is inflated. While Travis Demeritte isn’t a top-10 prospect or anything, he is a former first-rounder having a breakthrough season in High-A. Not a lot of available 21-year-olds with that sort of power. Good get for the Braves, considering they just added Harrell for practically nothing a couple months ago.

Another very much legitimate way of thinking about it: The Rangers didn’t want to pay the high price for an established relief arm, so they found an alternative route, landing in Dario Alvarez a potential front-line lefty bullpen weapon. Harrell gets attention as the starter with experience, and Demeritte gets attention as the prospect stepping forward, but Alvarez might be a hell of a pitcher, considering you might not have ever heard of him.

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