Archive for Braves

Scouting New Braves Prospect Huascar Ynoa

A few days after trade conversation between Minnesota and Atlanta regarding Jaime Garcia became public, the two clubs reached a deal that sent Garcia and Catasauqua High School graduate, C Anthony Recker, to the Twins in exchange for 19-year-old Dominican righty, Huascar Ynoa.

Twins get

  • LHP Jaime Garcia
  • C Anthony Recker
  • Cash Considerations

Braves get

  • RHP Huascar Ynoa

Ynoa ranked 22nd on the Twins list over the offseason. I saw him last fall during instructional league, during which he sat 89-94 with a sinking fastball while flashing an above-average curveball. This year, Ynoa’s arm slot has been raised a bit and he’s throwing harder, sitting more comfortably in the 90s and touching 95 or 96. A person from an org not involved with the deal told me they had Ynoa averaging close to 94 mph with his fastball during a start with Elizabethton this year.

Ynoa has displayed some feel for creating movement on his changeup, as well, though at times he shows clear arm deceleration. The curveball is much more likely to drive Ynoa’s ascent through the minor leagues, but I like his chances of developing a viable cambio. I also saw what looked like some bad, low-80s sliders last fall, though they might have just been curveballs Ynoa couldn’t get on top of, something pitchers with lower arm slots often struggle to do.

While an inherently risky prospect because of his proximity to the majors (Ynoa had made a half-dozen Appalachian League starts before the trade, and is still a 40 FV for me based on his distance from the majors), he has the makings of two above-average pitches, an average third, and enough strike-throwing ability to remain a starter. He’s not one of the sexier prospects in a loaded Braves farm system but a nice, low-level flier with a chance to max out as a league-average starter.

Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 40/45 50/55 45/50 40/50

Daily Prospect Notes: 7/25

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Enyel De Los Santos, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: 24   Top 100: NR
Line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 8 K

The good-bodied De Los Santos, acquired from Seattle for Joaquin Benoit in November of 2015, missed bats with all three of his pitches last night, garnering swings and misses on his 92-95 mph fastball both within the strike zone and above it and with his fading changeup. De Los Santos also has a solid-average curveball that he can bend into the zone for cheap, early-count strikes the third time through the lineup, but he’s becoming more adept at burying it in the dirt when he’s ahead. He generally lives in the strike zone and is a good bet to start; the only knock I’ve heard from scouts is that the stuff plays down due to poor extension, which might explain the modest strikeout rate despite good reports on the stuff.

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Freddie Freeman’s Strange BP Technique

“Watch a batting practice of mine and it’s real boring,” said Freddie Freeman with a smile. The Atlanta first baseman is back, and he’s playing third base right now. You’d think the change of position might be the strangest thing about him. After studying angles with the team’s infield coach Ron Washington, though, he feels like playing third won’t actually be so difficult. What’s weirder is his approach during batting practice. As both his numbers and geometry suggest, however, his unusual BP strategy makes sense for him.

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It’s Tough Being a (Very) Tall Pitcher

This year, we’ve seen the debut of two 24-year-old lefties who have taken their own paths to the big leagues. Jordan Montgomery in New York and Sean Newcomb in Atlanta both look like they’re dealing, but they’ve had to work to get here. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5, respectively, it’s worth wondering if their height has slowed down the development of their command, if it’s taken them longer to get their impressive levers in the right places. There’s some evidence that might be the case. But these two pitchers remind us that there are very few absolutes when it comes to mechanics, and that even tall pitchers are as different from each other as they are from the general population.

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Welcome to the Strike Zone, Sean Newcomb

All along, Sean Newcomb has been very much an individual pitching prospect. And yet, he’s also been several pitching prospects, innumerable pitching prospects. Newcomb has been one of so many young pitchers with tantalizing stuff, but just not enough control. Every single one of those pitchers has always been unique, but it’s such a familiar profile. Throwing hard is hard. Throwing different pitches hard is hard. Controlling those pitches might be the hardest thing of all. Newcomb’s always been young, so he’s always had time, but each and every one of us has been burned. We all recall that pitchers who just couldn’t make it.

After being drafted in the first round some years back by the Angels, Newcomb was good without being very good. In 2015, he missed bats, but he yielded too many walks. In 2016, he missed bats, but he yielded too many walks. Earlier in the minors in 2017, he missed bats, but he yielded too many walks. There were small signs of progress, sure, but nothing dramatic. Newcomb remained a work in progress.

Here we are now, suddenly, with Newcomb having started four games in the majors. And he’s…thrown strikes. Newcomb has left his old identity behind.

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Freddie Freeman Might As Well Play Third Base

It’s difficult to overstate how much Freddie Freeman means to the Braves. He is, at present, the face of the franchise, and rather than trade Freeman, his general manager would sooner give his right arm. It’s not just that Freeman’s the best player on the Braves — Freeman is the Braves, for all intents and purposes. Although he isn’t Mike Trout, he’s the Braves’ Mike Trout, and the Angels aren’t going to trade Mike Trout. They’re going to cherish him, feature him, build around him, promote the hell out of him. The Braves have been going through a difficult stage. Freeman’s helped to keep them marketable.

Freeman’s great. He’s gotten some amount of MVP support in three separate years. He’s long been firmly entrenched as the Braves’ everyday first baseman, and there was never really any question about that. That is, until now. As soon as Freeman got injured, the team dealt for Matt Adams. Adams started to hit well almost immediately. Now it looks like a healthy Freeman could play third base in order to keep Adams in the lineup. What’s even weirder is, I think it makes sense?

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Park Factors and Other Early-Season Statcast Fun

Baseball has long been a game of tradition, and one rightful criticism of our “national pastime” has been its tendency to be slow to change. One of the most welcome enhancements of some fans’ enjoyment of the game has been the introduction of Statcast in recent years. No, it’s not for everyone, but its existence — and most of all, its availability for free to the populace — adds another avenue of potential involvement for the fan base, while also offering countless opportunities for study of any aspect of our game from a nearly infinite number of perspectives.

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Baseball’s Toughest (and Easiest) Schedules So Far

When you look up and see that the Athletics are in the midst of a two-game mid-week series against the Marlins in late May, you might suspect that the major-league baseball schedule is simply an exercise in randomness. At this point in the campaign, that’s actually sort of the case. The combination of interleague play and the random vagaries of an early-season schedule conspire to mean that your favorite team hasn’t had the same schedule as your least favorite team. Let’s try to put a number on that disparity.

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Matt Adams Joins the Braves… For Now

The season opened with a curious experiment that saw the Cardinals playing Matt Adams in left field. Adams is a large human being who, till this year, had been a first baseman — and, well, the whole left-field experiment didn’t go particularly well. Due to Matt Carpenter’s presence at first, Adams entered the weekend with just 53 plate appearances to his name — plate appearances in which he’d hit fairly well, but without his usual power.

It’s possible that some regular playing time could get Adams back to his old ways. The Atlanta Braves will be the ones to find out, as they traded for him on Saturday to fill in for the injured Freddie Freeman. Freeman had been playing like a superstar before being hit by a pitch and fracturing his wrist.

It’s a devastating blow to a Braves team that already wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, but you can do a lot worse for a replacement than Adams.

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Freddie Freeman Has a Broken Wrist

Well, this sucks. In the midst of a season that looked like it was going to take the Braves first baseman from one of the better hitters in baseball to one of the elite players in the game, Freddie Freeman has hit a roadblock. Or rather, been hit by one. An Aaron Loup fastball in the fifth inning of last night’s game got Freeman in the arm, and today, it’s been reported that an MRI revealed a broken wrist, which will sideline the star first baseman for at least the next couple of months.

This is obviously a huge blow to the Braves, as Freeman was carrying the team on his back. Even with Freeman running a 204 wRC+ to this point, the Braves still had just a 94 wRC+, and without a real backup first baseman on the team, it’s not entirely clear who will replace him in the line-up. The Braves official site lists Jace Peterson as the team’s backup 1B, but he’s now playing third while Adonis Garcia is on the DL. Nick Markakis has played some first base before, but the team isn’t exactly overflowing with outfielders as it is, so then you’re looking at someone like Danny Santana replacing the team’s best hitter for two months.

While the Braves probably weren’t going to be contenders this year, this is a huge blow to their chances to even hang around for the rest of the summer. For a team looking to infuse some optimism into the fanbase with the opening of a new stadium, this is pretty close to the worst news they could receive.

Hopefully, for the Braves and the game’s sake, Freeman comes back to full health for the last few months of the year. Freeman’s at-bats were becoming appointment viewing, and the summer just got a little less interesting for baseball as a whole, and a lot less interesting for fans in Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman Is Now an Elite Slugger

Up until last year, Freddie Freeman was an example of just how good a hitter a player could be without top-shelf power. From 2013 to 2015, he was the only player in MLB to run a 140 or better wRC+ while posting an ISO below .200. He put up the same wRC+ as David Ortiz despite being out-homered by Big Papi 102 to 59, as his .351 BABIP helped him offset the relatively lower number of balls leaving the park. With a bunch of line drives and enough walks to keep the OBP up, Freeman became about as good a hitter as one can be while hitting 20 homers a year.

Last year, though, Freeman found his power stroke, launching 34 home runs and running a .267 ISO, eighth-best in baseball. While he sacrificed a little bit of contact to get there, raising his strikeout rate to 25% in the process, he continued to torch the baseball even when it didn’t leave the field, allowing him to run a .370 BABIP that kept his BA and OBP up even while the strikeouts increased a little bit. His 152 wRC+ was the best of his career and tied him with Miguel Cabrera for the sixth-highest mark of any hitter in 2016. And after the first couple of weeks of 2017, that looks less like a career year and more like what we should start to expect from Freeman going forward.

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Congratulations, Ender Inciarte

Yesterday, Ender Inciarte hit a home run. Two games before that, he hit a home run. The game before that, he hit two home runs. Four. That’s four home runs. Last season, Ender Inciarte hit three home runs.

Inciarte owns plenty of firsts now for SunTrust Park. I don’t care about that as much as I care about another first. Last season, there were 146 so-called “qualified” position players. The cutoff there is 502 plate appearances. I know that seems like a silly number, but, what do I care, I didn’t make it up. Looking at that group of position players for 2016, and for 2017, Inciarte has become the first of them to achieve a higher home-run total this year. I know it’s a lot easier for Ender Inciarte to top three than it is for Mark Trumbo to top 47, but maybe Trumbo shouldn’t have set so high a bar for himself.

When something like this happens, the automatic follow-up question is, “why?” Why the power surge? I don’t want to make too much of it yet. Four homers. But look at the Sunday homer. Or look at this earlier homer:

Check out the confident bat-drops! Since when does Inciarte know enough about hitting home runs to develop such a confident bat-drop?

Two times, Ender Inciarte has looked like a power hitter, so at the very least, this is something to keep your eye on moving forward. Inciarte doesn’t have a history of hitting for power. He’s got 17 career dingers to his name, to go with a .099 ISO. In this year’s tiny sample, Inciarte hasn’t cut down on his grounders. He has pulled the ball more, and he has swung more often, with less contact. The samples are so small I’m almost embarrassed to even be analyzing them, but let’s face it — if I didn’t look at the numbers, you were just going to click through and look at the same numbers. I’m saving you time. Maybe Ender Inciarte is up to something? Maybe he’s not, and he’s just made an unusual amount of great contact lately. But it’s easy to let your imagination get the best of you, given that Inciarte already runs and fields so damned well. Baseball’s so weird Inciarte might as well go deep 40 times.

Time will tell how much Inciarte will accomplish at the plate. Already, he’s accomplished one thing, thanks to having accomplished four things: He’s become the first qualified hitter from 2016 to reach a higher home-run total in 2017. Your turn, Jose Iglesias.

Tuesday Cup of Coffee, 4/11

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen.

Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 9  Top 100: 93
Line: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 H, 7 K

Soroka is the most polished strike-thrower of Atlanta’s young arms and has mature competitive poise. Much was made of his aggressive assignment to Double-A, but this was a promising start.

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John Hart’s Giving Tree of Innovation

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Everyone wants to speak with John Hart.

On a sunny day in late March at the Braves’ spring-training facility, Hart is seated in the driver’s seat of an E-Z-GO golf cart near the nylon netting of the on-field cage during batting practice. He employs the cart to travel around the sprawling facility. He loves spending time at its back fields, where the game’s No. 1 farm system, according to Baseball America, resided this spring. But at the big-league field his ability to watch pre-game work is compromised by a constant flow of visitors.

Bo Porter, a front-office assistant, is seated next to Hart in the passenger seat of the cart when Charlie Leibrandt approaches and speaks with Hart about a recent golf outing. Several current Braves players approach, as does a reporter (me). He makes time for everyone. No one is hesitant to greet the club president. There’s no halo of space — or a sense of need for space — around him.

“I like people. I’m an encourager by nature,” Hart says. “I really am.”

Perhaps that’s the foundation of his success: availability and amiability. I spoke with Hart this spring in the midst of his third rebuild project as an executive. His first, in Cleveland, was a major success, and he later put pieces in place for a turnaround in Texas. All that eludes him in a professional career spanning nearly four decades is a World Series ring.

It’s quite possible that encouraging, enjoying people, listening, being approachable — that they’re all keys to fostering the sort of collaborative environment and innovation for which Hart is responsible. It was under Hart that pre-arbitration contracts were pioneered, along with the modern front-office structure, in the early and mid-1990s in Cleveland. The game’s first proprietary database was built there, and all those Ivy League GMs who are running the show these days? Hart started that trend, too. He’s the creator of something akin to baseball’s version of the Bill Parcells Coaching Tree, having hired an unparalleled number of front-office staffers who became general managers.

Said Braves general manager John Coppolella, whom Hart hired in Atlanta: “I think you can very easily make a case for John Hart to be in the Hall of Fame. If you think about the influence he’s had. There are, what, 10 GMs who have worked for him? He can really hand power to people.”

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If the Braves Fail, It Will Be for the Right Reasons

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Atlanta Braves president John Hart sports a tan this spring, which in itself isn’t particularly strange for someone in the baseball industry. In Hart’s case, the cause is the time he’s spent on the back fields, perhaps his favorite spot in the organization’s Disney-based complex. He rose to front-office prominence via an unorthodox path, having started on a managerial track in Baltimore until Hank Peters identified him as an executive candidate and brought him to Cleveland. He’s spent countless hours evaluating, coaching and encouraging on chain-link fields. It’s where the future is this time of year. But he also loves the back fields of the Braves’ complex this spring because of what he sees. It’s there where a small army of tall, lanky, projectable pitchers resides.

The Braves are the third franchise Hart is attempting to transform into a winner, and this rebuilding approach has been more pitching focused than his previous efforts in Cleveland and Texas. The Braves have four pitching prospects ranked in Baseball America’s top-100 rankings, five among Eric Longenhagen’s top 100, where two more just missed the cut in Sean Newcomb and Joey Wentz.

While the Braves have top-end positional prospects like Dansby Swanson (acquired via trade) and Ozzie Albies (signed by the previous regime), prospect talent acquired under Hart and general manager John Coppolella — particularly through the draft — has been pitching heavy.

I was curious to ask Hart about the subject after having interviewed him previously on the topic of the risk/reward dilemma presented by pitching prospects — particularly those drafted out of high school — back when Hart was an MLB Network analyst and I was a beat reporter covering the Pirates. At that time, I’d asked him about Pittsburgh’s Pitch-22 philosophy — i.e. the notion that most pitching prospects fail, but small- and mid-market teams must develop their own pitching.

The Pirates had made a historic commitment to pitching at the time. In three drafts from 2009 to -11, Pittsburgh expended 22 of their first 30 picks on pitchers. Seventeen were prep pitchers. The Pirates signed 18 of them to bonuses totaling $25.6 million.

Said Hart at the time:

“A truism is if you have 10, you can really count on two of them making it,” Hart said. “I came up in the (1980s) and never believed it. I said, ‘Come on, there can’t be that much attrition.’ Then bang: This guy gets hurt. This guy doesn’t develop a third pitch. … You can never have enough pitching.”

Hart’s estimate is pretty much in line with the success rate for pitchers rated as 100 prospects.

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Baseball’s Newest Slider Machine

I first heard of Chaz Roe in December of 2010, when he was traded straight-up for Jose Lopez. It wasn’t a promising thing; it was more like, hey, in 2009 Lopez hit 25 home runs, and in 2010 the best he could get in a trade was Chaz Roe. Roe, since then, has bounced around without quite establishing himself. He is, at this point, a 30-year-old man, who is now with his tenth organization, one of which having been an independent outfit named the Lemurs. Roe has traveled all over the place. He’s been sufficiently intriguing to get a number of looks, yet insufficiently effective to stick. Such is the career of an eighth or ninth reliever.

By now, I’m sure Roe doesn’t feel too secure. He’s probably hesitant to ever unpack any bags, and his current employer — the Braves — remains in the midst of a rebuild anyway. If Roe’s bad, he could go. If Roe’s good, he could go. The future’s uncertain, but at least Roe is now giving it his best shot. He’s running out of time to build a more stable career, so late last season, he started using his best pitch a lot more. It sounds so simple to us. It seems almost obvious. You can now count Chaz Roe among the slider machines.

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Max Fried and the Braves’ Risk Tolerance

Max Fried is a dude again.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it is so. Being a dude in baseball is much preferable to being just a guy.

After a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery and a shaky return, Fried finished the 2016 minor-league season by striking out 44 against seven walks in 25 innings over his final four starts. He touched 97 mph and the knee-melting curveball was back. According to the reviews out of Braves camp, he has picked up this spring where he left off in the fall:

You might recall that Fried was once the second-best pitcher on his high-school team, behind staff ace Lucas Giolito, but was talented enough to go seventh overall in the 2012 draft.

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Top 32 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Braves Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Dansby Swanson 23 MLB SS 2017 65
2 Ozzie Albies 20 AAA 2B 2018 60
3 Ronald Acuna 19 A CF 2020 55
4 Kolby Allard 19 A LHP 2019 55
5 Kevin Maitan 17 R 3B 2021 55
6 Ian Anderson 18 R RHP 2021 55
7 Max Fried 23 A LHP 2018 55
8 Luiz Gohara 20 A LHP 2019 55
9 Mike Soroka 19 A RHP 2020 50
10 Cristian Pache 18 R CF 2020 50
11 Sean Newcomb 23 AA LHP 2018 50
12 Joey Wentz 19 R LHP 2021 50
13 Touki Touisaint 20 A RHP 2019 45
14 Patrick Weigel 22 AA RHP 2018 45
15 Travis Demeritte 22 A+ 2B 2019 45
16 Kyle Muller 19 R LHP 2020 45
17 Ray-Patrick Didder 22 A OF 2019 45
18 Dustin Peterson 22 AA LF 2018 45
19 Brett Cumberland 21 R C 2019 40
20 A.J. Minter 23 AA LHP 2017 40
21 Drew Harrington 21 R LHP 2019 40
22 Derian Cruz 18 R SS 2021 40
23 Yunior Severino 17 R SS 2022 40
24 Alex Jackson 21 A C 2021 40
25 Rio Ruiz 22 MLB 3B 2017 40
26 Dylan Moore 24 A+ UTIL 2018 40
27 Mauricio Cabrera 23 MLB RHP 2017 40
28 Austin Riley 19 A 3B 2021 40
29 Bryse Wilson 19 R RHP 2020 40
30 Ricardo Sanchez 19 A LHP 2020 40
31 Jonathan Morales 22 A C 2019 40
32 Randy Ventura 19 R RF 2020 40

65 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Vanderbilt
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 40/45 60/60 55/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .302/.361/.442 in 145 MLB plate appearances.

Scouting Report
The first-overall pick by Arizona in 2015, Swanson barely played affiliated ball for the Diamondbacks after he was hit in the face by a Yoan Lopez pitch on the backfields in Scottsdale shortly after signing. Swanson, who still wears a face guard on his batting helmet, was traded to Atlanta that December in the Shelby Miller deal.

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The Calculated Mediocrity of the Atlanta Braves

The Braves aren’t going to go very far this year: that’s an assertion that’s unlikely to bite me six months from now. Both our Depth Charts projections and Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA forecast Atlanta failing to clear the 80-win threshold. The acquisition of Brandon Phillips over the weekend did little, if anything, to change that. Phillips is roundly projected to be just a touch over replacement level this season. The man he’s supplanting, Jace Peterson, is who you see a picture of when you look up “replacement level” in the baseball dictionary. Peterson has taken more than a thousand trips to the plate and played more than 2,000 innings in the field. He’s put up a career WAR of 0.4. Phillips needn’t do much to represent an upgrade.

That’s good, because (as just stated) Phillips probably isn’t going to represent much of an upgrade — a sentiment that basically other every club appears to share. Nor do new additions Bartolo Colon or R.A. Dickey, or Jaime Garcia appear set to turn the club around. The Braves have spent their winter loading up on veterans on one-year deals like these players, using them to round out a roster that has some desirable elements and other pieces that are less helpful. There’s unquestionably value in replacing bad players with somewhat competent ones.

Doing that isn’t enough to make the Braves contenders. They seem to understand this, of course. The Braves don’t appear to be banking on a postseason spot this year. They’re unlikely to compete with the Mets and Nationals in the NL East, and their projected high-70s win total puts them in position to have another nice draft. Even with all the Freddie Freeman in the world, the Braves are no match for the forces of superior baseball and sweet, sweet prospects.

What they do seem to have done is field a team that’s palatable enough to draw people into their new taxpayer-funded stadium. Because of that new stadium, the organization will attempt to pull of a difficult balancing act this year. Fans will need to be sold on the product currently on the field, and on what’s to come.

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Braves, D-backs in Litigation with Cities Over Stadium Leases

Currently, more than 75% of major-league teams — 23 out of 30, to be exact — play their home games in stadiums publicly owned by a local government entity. Each of these relationships between the franchise and its host municipality is, in turn, governed by a contract specifying the terms under which the government has leased its stadium to the MLB team.

As one might expect, disagreements between the franchises and their local communities occasionally arise under these lease agreements. Recently, two such disputes — one involving the Atlanta Braves and the other involving the Arizona Diamondbacks — progressed to the point that the team or local municipality opted to file a lawsuit against the other in state court.

S.M.P. Community Fund v. Atlanta Braves

In late December, the Atlanta Braves were sued in local state court by the S.M.P. Community Fund, an entity formed by the City of Atlanta to distribute funds generated by the Braves’ former stadium — Turner Field — throughout the local community. Under the terms of the Braves’ lease agreement, the team was obligated to contribute 8.25% of the parking revenue it generated at Turner Field, along with 25% of the net revenue generated from any special events held at the stadium, to the Fund. The Fund would then use these proceeds to benefit the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Turner Field.

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