Sunday, November 25, 2007

2006 Top 30 Prospects Rundown Part 2

A few days ago, I looked at my rankings from last year from 21-30. Here is 11-20. Four of these guys played with the major league club last year.

20. Clint Sammons – Catcher – Age: 23…With Max Ramirez traded and Brian McCann in position to become the regular catcher for a decade, Sammons is now the top catching prospect outside of that whole Jarrod Saltalamacchia guy. Unfortunately, he has shown very little of the promise those other three did. He struggled significantly at Myrtle Beach last year and might be asked to repeat the level (especially if Saltalamacchia starts 2007 in Mississippi).

Sammons has shown some decent plate discipline and some contact skills, but next to no power. He seems to be known for his glove, though, which Baseball America classified as the best defense from a catcher in the system. A former Georgia Bulldog and graduate of Parkview High School, Sammons could be competing for a backup job with Atlanta in a few years, but is probably no better than that. Why did he make my top 20, you may be asking? Catchers will always have value.

ETA: Late 2008

With Jarrod Saltalamacchia gone, Sammons becomes the most ready catching prospect in the system and has as good of a chance as anyone right now of making next year's club as a backup. He hit well at Myrtle Beach, but struggled with Mississippi. However, he is merely a defensive catcher and got a September callup last year and started the final game.

19. Kevin Gunderson – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 22…The Braves are trying to carve out a niche with college relievers and a year after selecting Joey Devine and Will Startup, they took the closer of Oregon State, who won the NCAA Title last year. With the Beavers, he saved 20 games before joining the Danville Braves after the College World Series. He played just one game with them before hitting Rome, where he continued to cruise.

Gunderson lives on a fastball and a slider, neither of which will strike out a large amount of batters, but will both get the job done. He also has excellent pin-point control, allowing him to not walk batters and also keep the ball in the park. Gunderson is a true sleeper to climb the minor leagues this year. I see him as a real possibility to end the year with Richmond.

ETA: Mid 2008

Gunderson's ERA at two stops (MB and Miss.) was good, but his WHIP was horrible. The lefty will likely rejoin Mississippi to try to regroup and get back on track. Of particular concern was his control, which was rather poor. Perhaps he was hurt.

18. Jeffrey Locke – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 19…Oh, gosh, a 4.22 ERA. He is so average! No, not exactly. While Locke’s ERA was a bit high and as were the hits allowed, the southpaw struck out 38 in 32 innings to five walks. Sounds nasty enough to make this list.

I picture Locke growing into a Macay McBride type role rather than a starter. With that said, he gave up a lot of homeruns for the Gulf Coast League (four) and will need to do a much better job. Unless he gets shifted to the pen, expect the Braves to push the New Hampshire native along slowly.

ETA: Early 2011

Locke was absolutely dominating at Danville last year, striking out 74 to just eight walks in 61 innings. The southpaw will get his first taste of fullseason ball next year, but has a great shot to rise up the prospect rankings very quickly.

17. Anthony Lerew – Right-Hand Pitcher – Age: 24…Lerew only seems old as a prospect, but he will be 24 for the entire 2007 season. He will enter his seventh professional season and it may be do or die time for Lerew with the organization. On the good side, he goes to battle with one of the livelier arms in the organization. On the bad side, he has yet to do much with it.

Lerew has posted a fairly boring minor league resume that got steadily worse last year as he failed miserably in his efforts to conquer AAA. In 16 games, all but one as a starter, he was ripped for a 7.48 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP. The efforts had him receive a demotion to Mississippi and he looked significantly better. However, without a good season, the Braves may move on to other hurlers moving through their organization rather than keep around the Pennsylvanian who is entering his final option year.

ETA: Late 2007

Lerew had a decent go-at-it with Richmond last year and with the Braves dying for starting help, they called on Lerew. After a good start, things went downhill and he hid an injury from the Braves. Surgery will take him out and if he hopes to have an impact on the Braves, it may have to wait until 2009.

16. Steven Evarts – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 19…Unlikely to play a major role this year as the Braves will probably use him at Danville before throwing him to the wolves at Rome, but Evarts had a great start to his professional career last year. The Braves selected the Tampa, FL resident with their third first round selection and the 43rd overall. When you look at the potential the Braves drafted on the mound, there is some serious talent here. They are just a long ways away.

As for Evarts, he seems to be in the mold of many Braves pitchers before him: great control, not a strikeout pitcher, and a guy who keeps base runners allowed low through changing speeds. I actually believe he will become the best starting pitcher out of this draft, but I do not plan on seeing him anytime soon.

ETA: Early 2011

Another 2006 draftee, Evarts was another solid arm for Danville, though his innings were lower than Locke. Perhaps he was injured. If healthy, he joins other '06 arms at Rome next year to see how good they can be.

15. Chase Fontaine – Shortstop – Age: 21…What are the chances this guy has a bunch of girls after him? When you tell a girl your name is Chase Fontaine, she will sleep with you. Try it at bars. As for the real Chase Fontaine, the Braves selected him this year with their second round selection and may have gotten another future star hitter for their organization.

In 60 games with Danville, the left-hand hitting shortstop completed a solid debut season that saw him hit .296 with a .411 OBP and a .412 SLG. He struck out a few too many times (45 in 199 AB), but the walks (37) help you forget that to a degree. Could be in the top 10 of Braves prospect next year if he hits well at Rome.

ETA: Late 2009/Early 2010

I liked Fontaine a lot when the season opened, but his glove really struggled to keep up with his bat and he was moved around. In '06, he played shortstop, which increased his value. Last year, he spent most of the year at 2B and 3B and found time in the outfield. Looks like a project.

14. Dustin Evans – Right-Hand Pitcher – Age: 22…So far, he is the class of the 2006 draft in how far he has progressed. Oh, well, that says nothing because he was just drafted, but the Georgia Southern product barely spent anytime at Danville before heading to Rome, where he displayed a 1.18 WHIP, a knack for not walking batters, and a great homerun ratio.

It may be too soon to rank him this high, but the second rounder made a fan out of me through his short time and could be knocking on the door to Mississippi very soon. I think his strikeout rate (5.53 K/9) will rise into the 6.50-7.00 range and if he continues to force batters to get on base through some other way than the free pass, he might become the first player from the 2006 draft to make his major league debut in a couple of years.

ETA: Mid 2009

Drafted out of college in '06, Evans was already with Myrtle Beach last year. The results weren't pretty. A 4.70 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP, medicore K/9 and K/BB rates. He will have to re-establish his value to stay above some of the '06 pitchers level-wise.

13. Kala Kaaihue – First Base – Age: 22…I will try to refrain from any Hawaiian Punch references. Kaaihue, a native of Kailua, really came onto the scene with an amazing first half of 2006 with Rome. He drilled everything he bothered to swing at and if he did not swing, most of the time he reached base anyway via a walk. After 67 games, he was hitting .329 with a .458 OBP and a .614 SLG. The Braves got the memo and promoted him.

However, he struggled with Myrtle Beach. His average slumped to .223. However, the power and eye was still there as he reached base at a .342 clip and slugged .473. He received a little action in the Hawaii Winter League and will likely head back to Myrtle Beach next year, but Kaaihue could become a serious player in the Braves future picture next year after leading the organization with 28 homeruns last year. If the average comes back up, we could be looking up at Adam Dunn. Where he will play and when he will get a chance are questions we will ask later on.

ETA: Mid-to-Late 2008

Kaaihue's 2007 mirrored his 2006. He hit well at his first stop, was horrible at his second stop. He couldn't hit a beachball after getting moved up to Mississippi and his prospect status is in limbo. Kaaihue could still make some waves in the organization, but needs to hit well all season.

12. Yunel Escobar – Shortstop/Third Base – Age: 24…There are a few publications that believe Escobar has a chance to push his way into the Atlanta second base discussion this year. I am not so sure, but he has talent. Defensively, Escobar might be the best shortstop ready to possibly contribute in the major leagues within the next year and a half. Offensively, there are some good things. He nearly posted a .100 IsoOBP last year and that is definitely helpful for a lineup full of “swing first, swing second, ask questions tomorrow” hitters. He also took home the Arizona Fall League Batting Title.

Where Escobar goes from there is still to be determined. In full disclosure, I am not his biggest fan. He does not seem to have some signature ability to get on base, to hit for power, to steal bases, or to be wonderful defensively (ala Luis Hernandez). With all that said, he is still young enough to get something going and if he has a solid year in Richmond, he may become a solid tradable piece or a reason to trade Edgar Renteria.

ETA: Early 2008

Esco, Mr. Dynamic, or however you knew him, slowly made me a believer. He did becom the reason to trade Edgar Renteria as he set the major leagues on fire with his skills and instincts after being promoted. He is now in position to start at shortstop next year. What a few years for the Cuban import.

11. Jo Jo Reyes – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 22…Selected in the second round in 2003, injuries have kept Reyes from climbing up the minor leagues faster, but he showed in 13 games with Rome what he can be. His numbers before a deserved promotion were 8-1, 2.99 ERA, 10.14 K/9, and a 1.15 WHIP. His numbers were not as impressive at Myrtle Beach, but he does not seem to have been totally overmatched.

It really is not known just what to expect out of Reyes. Like I said, injuries have kept Reyes to just 65 games in four seasons. When he was drafted, Bartolo Colon’s name was thrown about as a comparable name. If he can remain healthy, Reyes has a good chance of being a successful major leaguer.

ETA: Early 2009

He destroyed my original ETA by climbing up the ranks and passing Matt Harrison even before Harrison was traded. He headed into this offseason as the best young pitcher ready to contribute, but Jair Jurrjens has taken that from him. Still, I believe he has a good future.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A-Z Reviews: Y

Time to finish up my player reviews. 48 players down, one last player to go.

Tyler Yates
-Yatesy had moments of absolute domination. Unfortunately, none of those moments came in the second half. In 27.2 ING, he allowed 32 hits, 21 runs, four jacks, walked 14, and struck out 31. He picked up a save, but that was only because Willie Harris pwned the Mets at Shea. Otherwise, his numbers could look even worse. He was rarely called upon in September, but sucked when he did get a call. Yatesy was fairly decent in 2006, but even then, he was hardly some reliable guy.

2008 Outlook: If Yates is a Brave next year, one of two things has occured. Either Yates is a sweet talker or Yates has pictures of Frank Wren with Boy George. Barring these two things, I doubt Yates will be with the Braves when spring training opens. Yates is eligible for arbitration and if Wren wouldn't keep Villy around, why would he keep Yates?

2006 Top 30 Prospects Rundown

As I begin to put things together for my 2007 Top 30 prospects, I figure it is time to look back at last year and where players ranked. As such, here is 21-30 from Raw Numbers #17.

30. Jose Ascanio – Right-Hand Pitcher – Age: 21…Ascanio is the classic story of a great arm in need of just staying healthy. Ascanio played in just five games in 2005 and struggled greatly in 2006, yet he gets mentioned as a member on the Braves 40 man roster. Before his injury, Ascanio displayed exceptional control and a strikeout arm out of the bullpen. However, since his return, he is struggling to regain the control.

Nonetheless, I am putting him on this list out of respect and hope that the Atlanta Braves staff knows what they are doing when they take up a spot on their 40 man roster with him. That said, this is the same team that lost Adam Stern because they wanted to keep Mike Hessman. They also put Jonathan Johnson on their 40 man roster this off-season. Oh, and they signed Chris Woodward and Tanyon Sturtze. Okay, I have no idea why this guy is on the list.

ETA: Early 2009

Ascanio beat my ETA by a year-and-a-half and debuted with the Braves this year, often on the back-and-forth between the majors and minors before finding his spot. In general, he showed a great arm with a lot of stuff. The thing I mentioned being a drawback, his control, was not such a problem either. Expect a rise in this year's Top 30.

29. Will Startup – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 22…Startup, selected four rounds after Joey Devine, was given the time Devine was not. Two years ago with Rome, he looked good over 25 games (which game him 50 on the year because he logged 25 as a Georgia Bulldog before being drafted). Last year, though, he was on fire with Myrtle Beach and Mississippi. Well, to be fair, he only played one game as a Pelican, but he struck out three in two scoreless innings so I am adding that. At Pearl, he allowed just a pair of runs in 25 innings before his promotion to Richmond.

This is where things got a little bogged down. The hits skyrocketed to more than a hit an inning while the strikeouts also took a hit. However, he pitched well down the stretch and could be in line to battle for a spot with the team this year. Startup has good enough control and should grow into a solid reliever. I rank him so low because I have heard claims of inconsistency and I am just not as convinced as others.

ETA: Mid 2007

Probably should have reached his ETA, but the higher ups kept him down before trading him with Wilfredo Ledezma for Royce Ring. His inability to get a callup might be telling.

28. Brayan Pena – Catcher – Age: 25…The Cuban Contact Hitting Machine, Brayan Pena has logged 80 at-bats with Atlanta the last two years and seems sure to have the inside track to the backup catcher role with the big league club. A career .303 hitter in the minors, Pena lacks any kind of power and does not even show glimpses that he will grow into a power hitter. Nonetheless, the switch-hitter has never struck out more than 41 times in any given season and even swiped six (out of twelve) bases last year.

Troublesome about the catcher is his lack of plate discipline. His career high 31 was set in his first 64 games of his professional career while with Danville in 2001. He has never even come close as for as ratio of walks to plate appearances go. The other potential problem is Pena will not be mistaken for Eddie Perez or other such “defensive specialists.” With all of that said, considering his position, his contact skills, and age, Pena has the potential to be a solid backup who can step in and not be all Todd Pratt.

ETA: Early 2007

Pena got his chance and really didn't lose it, just had it taken from him. His defense seems to be a real problem.

27. Martin Prado – Second Base/Third Base – Age: 23…Nothing really stands out when it comes to Prado. He is a good hitter (.296) and decent at getting on base (.348), but nothing to write home about. He does not have a power element to add to the discussion and is also not an accomplished base stealer.

So, why does this guy have a real shot to replace Marcus Giles at second this year? Well, he is a pretty good defender and he keeps hitting. Last year, he jumped from Mississippi to Richmond to Atlanta and seemed to save his best hitting peripherals for the final trip, hitting .262 in 42 at-bats, but getting on base at a .340 clip and slugging .405. He seems to be your typical scrappy middle infielder who could surprise some people and may do so this year.

ETA: Mid 2007

He did all he could do in the spring to push KJ, but failed to secure any real playing time. He was fairly good with the team last year, though, and looks to have the inside track to a spot on the bench next year.

26. James Parr – Right Hand Pitcher – Age: 21…There are certain pitchers in the Braves system that can be classified as sleepers. Parr, a former fourth round selection, is one of those players. Parr displays great control and has put up a 1.27 WHIP during his first three professional seasons. More impressive than that is the fact he will be able to drink legally for the first time in February and has already performed well enough to deserve a promotion to AA.

I am not so sure he will actually get that promotion to start 2007 because he did have a 4.81 ERA at Myrtle Beach, but the rest of his numbers are not that concerning except a mediocre amount of homeruns surrendered. Just the same, at his age, Parr may have a chance to take some serious strides in the future.

ETA: Early-to-Mid 2009

Parr did head back to Myrtle Beach and was good enough to head to Mississippi soon after. His AA numbers were not as good, though. Seems to have a niche as a pitcher who needs time to complete each level. Could still sneak up the system next year, but his sleeper tag is beginning to fall.

25. Beau Jones – Left-Hand Pitcher – Age: 20…When he was selected out of Louisiana’s Destrehan High School, Jones had an easy time with the Gulf Coast League in 2005. The first rounder walked slightly too many batters (4.11 BB/9), but also struck out 10.54 per nine. Usually, the Braves hate to push pitchers over a level, but they felt Jones was ready for A-ball and sent him to Rome, skipping Danville. Bottom line…it did not go well.

Jones slumped to a 5.61 ERA, a 1.88 WHIP, and 83 walks in 110.2 innings. He did strike out 101, but you simply cannot put a little bow as trash and call it the silver lining. Jones probably needs another half-season at Rome, but he definitely has a talented arm. Hopefully, he gets going this season before he becomes a quick bust.

ETA: Early 2010

Jones found his place as a reliever with Rome last year and got enough attention to be part of the Teixiera deal in July. In the Rangers system, they put him back as a starter and he faired somewhat well.

24. Thomas Hanson – Right-Hand Pitcher – Age: 20…Perhaps one of the last draft-and-follows, Hanson was selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft and signed just before the 2006 draft. Before signing, he had no problem dominating the California junior college system. Well, the Appalachian League proved to not be much of a worry, either.

In 13 games, eight of them as a starter, Hanson gave up less than a runner an inning and struck out more than a batter an inning. 56 strikeouts to 9 walks is an impressive number, especially for a young pitcher. Look for him to help solidify what should be a solid Rome Braves staff.

ETA: Late 2010

Spoiler alert, no one will make as dramatic a rise up my ranking as Hanson. I am a major fan of him. I see him possibly getting a shot in September of next year at the earliest. He may have posted the sickest 5-9 campaign last year.

23. Gregor Blanco – Outfield – Age: 23…I really have no idea what to think about with Blanco. I have this vibe that Blanco will not turn into a successful major league player, but then again, I could be (and probably will be) wrong. Last year, Blanco showed that miracles can happen and a Braves minor leaguer can post an OBP better than .400. Unfortunately, his SLG was much lower. This is not a homerun issue, but an extra-base issue in general. He simply lacks any power and only once, in 2004 with Myrtle Beach of all teams, was able to get his SLG over .400. Well, it was still .401, but still…impressive, huh?

In addition to his excellent plate discipline, Blanco has generally been a decent hitter in the terms of batting average. Last year, he set a new personal high with a .290 average between Mississippi and Richmond. Blanco reportedly possesses great speed, but is not a good base stealer. He has swiped better than 25 bases in all five of his minor league seasons, but only at a 70% clip. At the very least, the left-handed hitter could become Ryan Langerhans replacement. On the other hand, if things go his way, he could start in center in 2008 when Andruw Jones leaves.

ETA: Mid-to-Late 2007

Same ole', same ole' with Blanco. He really did little to earn much support for next year as a starting candidate. Disappointing campaign to say the least.

22. Kris Medlin – Right-Hand Pitcher – Age: 21…The Braves drafted 12 pitchers out of 15 selections in the first eleven rounds and Medlin was picked up in the tenth from Santa Ana College. In 22 innings with Danville, the young righty allowed all of 14 hits, one earned run, and a pair of walks. Oh, and he struck out 36.

Medlin will likely join Rome as their primary closer and the Braves have freely shown an open attitude to pushing relievers through the system fast so Medlin could hit the fast track if he has a good half-season with the Rome Braves. But right now, he can be pretty satisfied in his 0.41 ERA.

ETA: Late 2009

Medlen (not Medlin as I repeatily misspelled it) had three stops last year so I was right on about hitting the fast track. He is due to start next year with his last stop, Mississippi. His numbers at Rome and Myrtle Beach were elite and he got a Devineish amount of grounders. He also dominated Hawaii. Could see him knock on the door for Atlanta this year.

21. Jamie Romak – Outfield – Age: 21…The Braves are really adopting an almost sabermetric point-of-view. Example: Romak. He has failed to impress at all as far as batting average is concerned. Last year, the Canadian hit .247 and has hit .233 over 209 games. Nonetheless, he has shown great plate discipline and pretty good power, especially in the ballparks he has played in. John Schuerholz = Moneyball?

These are the reasons why I put a .233 hitter in my Top 30. Maybe Romak will never hit .300, but if he hits .260 at the major league level, he will still be very valuable. Think Kelly Johnson, but more power.

ETA: Late 2009

Soon after, the Pirates loved my review that they acquired Romak in the Adam LaRoche/Mike Gonzalez deal. He dominated in the Sally League before heading to the Carlona League where he struggled to a .863 OPS to go with his .252 AVG. I saw him with Lynchburg and he reminds me of a poor man's Adam Dunn. He has a hole in his swing, but he hits the ball very hard. The Pirates got a major power hitting project with this Canadian.


The official dog of the Atlanta Braves, Mike Hampton, is back. Well, sorta. He pitched an inning in the Mexican League on Thanksgiving (way to be American, Mikey) and gave up a hit and struck out one in an inning. The hit oddly came against the only lefty he faced in the frame, but whatever.

Hat tip to sdp.bravesfan via this chopnation thread. He is also the owner of Chop Chat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Andruw won't be an Angel...

Andruw Jones's main competition for top free agent center fielder signed today with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of The United States of the Western Hemasphere of the planet Earth of the Milkey Way Galaxy. Torri Hunter is an okay ballplayer, but someone is going to have to explain how he got $18M a year over the next five seasons when he hasn't been that good. Let's look at a comparison between Andruw and Hunter.

Andruw career OPS+ = 113
Andruw last three years OPS+ = 117
Hunter career OPS+ = 104
Hunter last three years OPS+ = 113

Andruw career EQA = .281
Andruw last three years EQA = .283*
Hunter career EQA = .262
Hunter last three years EQA = .273*

Andruw defensive rate = 113
Andruw last three years rate = 104
Hunter career defensive rate = 102
Hunter last three years rate = 98

* = not exact...just took the final total of the last three years and averaged them out, but it's pretty close.

But Hunter had a nice year last year, critics will say. Yes, he posted a 122 adjusted OPS, two points off his best total of his career. For a five year period before 2007, Jones had a 124 adjusted OPS. Yay.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Link for ya...

J.C. at Sabernomics always does a fantastic job and he pointed out some interesting numbers based on MPR, or margicial Revenue Product. I still need to sit down and understand this number thoroughly, but what I gather is it essentially looks at what a player should be making based on the market and his performance. Three Braves were ranked based on last year. No adjustments were made for position.

NL Cy Young
3. Tim Hudson, $15.22
5. John Smoltz, $13.73

5. Chipper Jones, $22.44

Still couldn't get to the playoffs...

Catching up...

So, the Braves have had a busy few days. Time to see what's up and all that jazz.

Tom Glavine has signed a one-year, $8M deal. Had he been anyone else, I would have had a meet and greet. But that would be dumb. Anyway, the deal was finalized and Glavine said it was for the best. As much as I love nostalgia and my recent purchase of the TMNT movie plays up that fact, this signing does little for me. It's not a bad signing, but it's not a good signing. It just makes sense. Personally, I doubt Glavine will do much more than John Thomson when the latter was healthy. I have been wrong before, though. See: saying "I've been wrong before, though."

Braves added three pitchers to their 40 man roster in efforts to protect them. I often find at least one name that pisses me off to see. That name is going to be Charlie Morton. In years past, it was the likes of Mike fucking Hessman. Morton has had a nice fall league, but he's never been that good. I guess he could theoritically get it together as a bullpen guy, but don't see why he needed to be protected. Also added were J.C. or Jairo Cuevas and Zach Schreiber. I've heard the latter is a no stuff, good minor leaguer. Cuevas, however, has a live arm. Still, none of these names are that interesting. I guess there weren't many good players to be protected.

Um...oh, also in that article, Peterson Orr was desiginated for assignment. Can I get a w00t, w00t?

Happy thanksgiving peeps.

A-Z Reviews: W

Bob Wickman
-Thickman, or Fatty McFatty, or Blob, or whatever you called him went from a guy I didn't like as a player to a guy I didn't like as a player and a person in one short week. Wickman, who has had a few good runs, but struggled at times to get outs in 2007, was pissed in August when used in a non-save chance. Truth was, the guy didn't deserve to close anymore than Oscar Villarreal, but hey, that's why I don't manage, right? The decision made him blow a fuse, or at least get pretty angry, and he spoke up. Soon after, he was gone and the Braves saved a lot on fuel from lugging his big ass to places. He finished up with Arizona and had a barely noticable eight games in middle relief. Whispers are that he may have played his last game.

2008 Outlook: See 2007 write-up. If he returns, he will have to work his way onto some team and hope to prolong his career with middle inning work, something that bothered him so much in Atlanta. Otherwise, he's headed to the retirement line.

Craig Wilson
-Sometimes, things just don't work out. Craig Wilson's signing last offseason was a great move at the time for the Braves. Wilson was a strikeout machine, sure, but he had solid numbers across the board as a Pirate. However, the platoon with Scott Thorman worked against him and he never got started. In 24 games, he hit .172 with just one homer. His struggles eventually ended with a release from the Braves system. He hooked up with Charlotte, the White Sox AAA team, and was horrible for them in 15 games.

2008 Outlook: Wilson can still hit, I feel. Things snowballed on him. He may have to take an independent league contract, but I would be surprised if he never got another major league chance. But stranger things have happened, I guess.

Chris Woodward
-Woody somehow parlayed his lack of skills into a full season in which he played in over half of the Braves games. In 92 insertions to the lineup, he hit .199/.252/.279 with a homer. His best offensive production was four sacbunts, but he was horrible at bunting too. Yet, he stuck around. Like a bad visitor.

2008 Outlook: On the positive side, Cox stopped even playing Woody in September, showing that yes, Woody has no place in the plans for this team. With Brent Lillibridge, Martin Prado, Willy Aybar, and a possible veteran middle infielder for some backup in the mix, Woody can ruin another team's bench next year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A-Z Reviews: V

Oscar Villarreal
-Villy was pretty solid in 2006, posting good numbers both in traditional and sabermetric categories, but really fell back to Earth last year. Though his ERA of 4.24 isn't that bad, he pitched worse. His DERA hit 4.66. He did get a bit more K's, but walked more hitters which is rarely a good trade. The Vulture didn't make a run on ten wins, but I refuse to think he would have been any worse than some of the guys Bobby turned to as a starter. I was surprised Villy didn't get any chances there.

2008 Outlook: Frank Wren's latest move was to send Villy to Houston for outfielder Josh Anderson. Good deal for the Braves because Villy was arbitration-eligible, likely to be non-tendered, and not that good. Villy will likely make the 'Stros bullpen and be a decent long reliever. I honestly expect him to begin to bounce from team-to-team pretty soon.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Let's Meet...Josh Anderson

That's Josh. Say hi to him. He is a new Brave, acquired for Oscar Villarreal. The only thing I hate more than people with hard to type names like Jurr Jurrjens (I'm not even making sure that's right) is people with generic WASPy names like Josh Anderson. If you or your family is reading, you're totally the exception that proves the rule. Totally. Dammit, I need to see Clueless for the five billionth time.

Anderson was born three days after me in 1982. Weird. He's from Kentucky and went to Eastern Kentucky where he hit very well and parlayed into a fourth round selection from the Houston Astros. The left-hand hitting outfielder finished up 2003 with Tri City before beginning his first full season of pro ball with Lexington of the SALLY league in '04. After an outstanding .324/.402/.425 campaign in 74 games, he would spend the next 3.5 years trying to approach those numbers again. After Lexington's dominance, he finished the year with Salem in the Carolina League. His OPS fell under .700 where it stayed the following year in Corpus Cristie. A 2006 repeat of Corpus Cristie saw some improvement as he hit .309/.349/.384. Last year, he hit .273 but OPS'd just .666 in the hitter-friendly PCL. That's right, he's the devil.

He finished up with the Astros where he surprised many by hitting .358 in 21 games. In fact, he played the final series against the Braves, going 3 for 12. He finished the year with a six game hit streak and hit in 15 of his final 16 games.

But that's not Josh Anderson, I feel. Not even close. Wanna know who J-And really is?

Fast Guy: Anderson has stolen 237 bases in five minor league seasons and has been caught only 62 times (79%). He is what Willie Harris and Gregor Blanco simply are not. A guy with plenty of speed, but an eye and instinct for stealing.

Powerless: He slugged just .373 as a minor leaguer. Three of his 24 major league hits went for extra bases. You simply are not going to get much power out of him, which is why his speed is so important to his game.

Good Contact: Anderson does not strike out too much which is good because he doesn't walk. At all. His entire game is predicated by putting the ball in play and running.

A player in this mold can start for clubs. When he's a middle infielder that is. Or people get so enamored with your "grit" and the fact you're a black guy with a french-spanish name (Juan Pierre?), but Anderson is not starting material. However, as a fourth outfielder, he could be valuable. I'm a stats guy, but when it comes to the bench, I typically will think "high average" because in my opinion, the batting eye is tougher to maintain as a benchwarmer than the swing. Especially when you have spent your minor league years as a punch-and-judy hitter anyway.

Ultimately, decent deal. The Braves got some help, got rid of some dead weight, and did so while saving money. Yay.

A-Z Reviews: T

No pictures...just trying to get through the reviews. Also wanna write about the Villy/Anderson deal. Anywho...

Mark Teixeira
-Teix was acquired at the deadline in a six-player trade that included three of the top five prospects in the system. It was a shrewd trade by a possibly desperate John Schuerholz. I felt the deal would give the Braves 3-4 extra wins than they would have had otherwise. Instead, the Braves finished a game over .500 for the final two months after being five over .500 the first four months. Nevertheless, the deal turned the Braves offense into a force and had the pitching been addressed at all, the Braves would have won more games because despite 160 runs in August, a monthly high, they allowed 148, also a monthly high. In general, Teix was everything we expected.

2008 Outlook: Teix's contract situation aside, he is a tremendous hitter. Over the past four years, his EQA has not drifted under .285 and he is good for 6-8 wins above a replacement player. Put that in perspective. Because Teix is a 1B, a traditional power hitting position with some of the best hitters in the game, Teix has to be that much better to be worth so many more wins. I felt his 1B play was an improvement, but he's not an incredible defender or anything - just pretty good. It will be unfortunate if the Braves get a year and a half out of Teix, but that will be an awesome year and a half provided he stays healthy.

Scott Thorman
-Teix replaced Thorman in a sense, but Thor had been replaced slightly before the trading deadline by Julio Franco. Odd because he was having some of his best success in July. However, he struggled down the stretch and would have been cut if he wasn't out of options. As the year came to a close, he was looking at a .216 year with just 14 walks. He showed explosive power (11 HR, 18 2B, .178 ISO), but never looked comfortable this year.

2008 Outlook: Not quite sure what to think about with Thor. His minor league career is hardly some shining example of prospect city. .276/.342/.452. He has looked pretty horrible with Atlanta since his callup in 2006. It might be time to cut bait if a trade can benefit the Braves. Otherwise, hold on to him for some power off the bench and a LH bat for 1B/LF. Still, he was probably at best a stopgap. Now...he's a man searching for a chance. He apparently is having a nice winter in Mexico so maybe he can increase his trade value.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A-Z Reviews: S

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
-Salty was called up on May 2nd on his 22nd birthday and immediately performed at a high pace for the Braves, where he split time at catcher and first. His impact was not as high as it could have been because simply put, when you're the only backup catcher, the chances you could get hurt, thrown out of the game, etc. really keep you from playing time elsewhere. Nevertheless, Salty played like a talented rookie and hit .284/.333/.411 in 47 games with the Braves before the trade deadline deal with the Rangers saw him traded. How good he becomes and how long Mark Teixeira is a Brave will decide the winner of the deal. Salty showed a great arm behind the plate, but looked like a bad first baseman at first. Not that surprising considering he was playing it for the first time in games.

2008 Outlook: As a catcher, Salty is an explosive star of the future. Quick, name how many switch-hitting catchers can post .200 IsoSLG's routinely and display solid on-base skills. Jorge Posada. Victor Martinez. Yeah, that's about it. Now whether or not Salty can get to that level is unknown, but I actually think it is highly likely he will and will do so within two seasons. Now, if the Rangers decide to use him at first, his value is lowered. He will probably be a good first baseman, but a far cry from being a great catcher.

Clint Sammons
-Sammons is best friends with Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann and got his shot late in the season after Corky Miller welcomed a new child and the Braves still had little confidence in Brayan Pena's catching abilities. He appeared in a pair of games, starting the finale of the season where he received his first three plate appearances of his major league career. He went 2 for 3 with a double. He's a fairly light-hitting catcher who has displayed solid on-base skills. Right now, he is probably the best catching prospect in the system.

2008 Outlook: Sammons struggled at Mississippi last year after handling Myrtle Beach with ease in his second tour with the Pelicans. After Salty's promotion, Sammons replaced him with the M-Braves and batted just .243 with 15 EBH in 83 games. Expect a return to Mississippi this year. He could battle for the backup catching spot with a great spring, but chances are better he will be working on getting to AAA first.

John Smoltz
-Smoltzie tossed 200 innings for the third straight year despite the occasional health problem. He started off the year trying to throw less pitches, but once he realized that wasn't helping, went back to his strikeout self and recorded 197 of them and had his second best season as a starter in what baseballprospectus calls Stuff. All in all, it was a normal Smoltzie year in which he put up a 3.50 DERA (.09 less than his career average). He became the first person in baseball history to win 200 games and save 150 and with 25 K's, will hit the 3,000 K plateau. He turns 41 next May so how much the Braves can rely on him is questionable, but as he starts his third decade of major league ball (made his debut in '88), Smoltze is just now getting the praise he has deserved as maybe the second best starter of the Atlanta Braves era (behind Maddux, of course).

2008 Outlook: His age is going to be a problem because you can never know when the other shoe will fall and Smoltzie will take one bad pitch, or feel something starting to creep up on his right shoulder/elbow, or whatever and it's going to be time to shut it down for good. But as long as he is pitching, he will have a few downers where he just can't reach back and get his splitter working and a lot of solid games that he will give his team a favorable chance to win.

Rafael Soriano
-Acquired for Horacio Ramirez in one of the most lopsided trades of the year, Soriano started off incredibly, struggled a little, and then finished up with insanely solid numbers yet again. What amazes me about Soriano is that in 72 innings, he allowed just 46 hits and 15 walks. The only thing that hurt him was the gopher ball. He allowed a career high 12 of them. I believe that was a little flukish, but power arms that get so many flyballs will give up homers. Nevertheless, he finished second on the team in saves with nine and after officially taking over the ninth inning again in September, was unhittable in that month. In 13 innings, he allowed four hits (including a solo homer), walked three (one intentional), and struck out 17. That included a three game suspension that MLB handed down for no real reason.

2008 Outlook: Soriano should be the "closer" heading into next season. There is no reason for him not to handle the roll. He may be even better in that role because he won't be brought into so many tie games or ones the Braves are losing by a run. He set career highs in G and ING last year, but may be better suited for the 55-60 game, 55-65 ING type year than the middle man.

Now he all angry!

Chipper Jones is apparently not too pleased with the baseball writers choosing David Wright as the NL Gold Glove winner. According to the AJC, Chipper said the news left him "speechless."

Listen, Chipper, I love you as a hitter. I think you do not even come close to receiving the credit you deserve. But come the eff on. It is pretty obvious to me Chipper feels he deserved some love for his year in which he committed just nine errors and posted a .971 fielding percentage. Stats that tell you nothing about that player's defensive ability when it comes to range, his performance based on what all 3B do, etc.

Whoa...what the hell?

Been out of it for a couple of weeks and missed time to comment on a trade. Damn you, Wren. I had an agreement with Schuerholz to keep any amazing trades on the DL until I was ready to comment on it. For my part, I will catch up with a column to be posted Monday or Tuesday at so be sure to check it out. Both players acquired in the deal were soon after added to the Baseball America Top Ten Prospects for the Braves organization.

1. Jordan Schafer, of
2. Jason Heyward, of
3. Jair Jurrjens, rhp
4. Brandon Jones, of
5. Gorkys Hernandez, of
6. Brent Lillibridge, ss
7. Cole Rohrbough, lhp
8. Jeff Locke, lhp
9. Tommy Hanson, rhp
10. Julio Teheran, rhp

I think Hanson is a bit too low and Heyward might be a bit too high, but a good list overall. Elsewhere, a hilarious column found here poises the question, "Is David Eckstein as good as Renteria? Maybe, maybe not..." That made me chuckle.

What else is going on in Braves world? Well, Tom Glavine seems like a sure bet to sign. I guess I just have to accept that when Schuerholz and Wren talked about improving the staff, they really meant Glavine above anything.

Jeff Francoeur won a Gold Glove. Yet again, that award is a useless display of defensive ability. Congrats Francoeur nevertheless.

Andruw Jones met with Stan Kastan. Apparently, nothing was discussed. Andruw playing coy? Things are so different! Speaking of now former Braves, the Braves traded Hiram Kyle Davies for Octavio Dotel, got nine games out of him, and declined his option. Oh, how miserable that deal makes me.

Wren flatout said the Braves will not be after a free agent closer. Wonder if Schuerholz has told Wren yet that loose lips sink ships or however that oddass phrase goes. Since taking over, Wren can't stop flapping his yap about whatever new thought he has. Still, if this one holds out, kudos.

Well, that's about all that is going on. I'm sure by the next time I post, the Braves will have signed Jesus because Wren loves to mess with my lack of posting during the week. Bastard.