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wednesday-wanderings-arbitration-minors-news | December | 2009 Articles

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Wednesday Wanderings: Arbitration, Minors News

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Alex put up the "breaking news" piece on Kelly Johnson, but I want to take one more chance to say that I thought it was a crying shame to see Johnson non-tendered this weekend. I keep reading about the Braves kicking the tires on Mark DeRosa, and as Matt Klaassen wrote on FanGraphs last week, there's an argument that teams ought to be looking at DeRosa only as a backup plan to Kelly Johnson. I still like KJ's offensive potential, and I think his next team is going to be delighted to have him. Pity that team won't be the Braves. Frank Wren will have to spend wisely to make the Johnson non-tender (and the hurried trade of Rafael Soriano) worthwhile.

Can't complain about all the arby decisions, however. Matt Diaz was a no-brainer, and Wren did well to go ahead and get his salary locked in at a reasonable $2.55 million. Peter Moylan was also an easy call, but I like the decision to offer Boone Logan. The 'pen is going to need a second lefty, and Logan still dials his fastball up into the mid-90s. He'll be part of the hardest-throwing Braves bullpen in a long time.

In other news, there's been plenty of noteworthy movement in the Braves' minor-league system. The Braves lost lefty Edgar Osuna to the Royals in the Rule 5 Draft last Thursday, and while I really don't understand why the Braves would protect the likes of Kyle Cofield over Osuna, I also don't think Osuna is a big loss. He's left-handed, but his fastball tops out at about 88 MPH, and his flyball tendencies don't bode well for a future in the majors. The Royals also snagged first baseman Ernesto Mejia from the Braves via minor-league free agency; Mejia had something of a breakout year in 2008 before an ACL injury kept him out for most of 2009. The loss is worth noting, but like Osuna, nothing to be broken up about. He's defensively limited to first base, which means he'll need to mash to make it, and while his .505 slugging percentage at Myrtle Beach in 2008 was impressive, his .327 OBP wasn't. The Braves also released outfielder Brian Barton, who was acquired for Blaine Boyer from St. Louis midseason, but who never did much to impress at Gwinnett.

That's the outgoing, now how about the incoming? Well, the Braves re-upped catcher J.C. Boscan, third baseman Wes Timmons, righty Jon Huber and lefty Mariano Gomez, and announced their first round of minor-league free-agent signings: 1B Gerardo Avila, 1B Mauro Gomez, 2B Luis Bolivar, 2B Juan Gonzalez, 3B Eric Duncan, and OF Brent Clevlen.

Timmons posted a .416 OBP at Gwinnett last year, and might have the talent to stick on a major-league bench, but though he's had chances to go elsewhere, he keeps re-signing with the Braves, so it appears he's content to play merely close to a major-league team. Huber was signed out of an independent league midseason last year and didn't embarrass himself in the International League (42 K's to just 7 walks in 42 1/3 innings), and he could merit a cup of coffee if the Braves' bullpen weren't so crowded. Boscan has been in the Braves' organization since he was a 17-year-old in 1997, and he's a solid veteran minor-league backup who provides more leadership and mentoring than actual production, but that has plenty of worth to an organization famed for its track record of developing catchers. Mariano Gomez is left-handed. And that's it.

Avila and (Mauro) Gomez both had monster years in 2009, but Avila was a 22-year-old still playing short-season ball (hitting .333/.368/.582), and Gomez was 24 years old at High-A (hitting .283/.333/.535). It costs next to nothing to take a chance on them and see what happens, but there ought to be no expectations whatsoever. Bolivar and Gonzalez (no, not THAT Juan Gonzalez) are middle infielders who had better be good glovemen, because they sure can't do anything at the plate; they are here because, well, even the Mississippi Braves need utility infielders. Duncan and Clevlen both bring excellent draft pedigrees; Duncan was the Yankees' first-round pick in 2003, and Clevlen went to the Tigers in the second round in 2006. Both guys have spent the last three years at Triple-A; Duncan will be 25 next year and Clevlen 26. Duncan hasn't hit a lick since A-ball in 2004, but Clevlen has some shot to make a big-league bench someday as a guy with power and some defensive ability in the outfield. He still strikes out too much to ever be a starter, but perhaps the Braves can use him off the bench.

I always like looking at the guys the Braves bring into the minor-league system, so we'll keep an eye on them all year in case anything interesting happens. We all know the Braves have a fantastic scouting network, and obviously they see something in each of these guys. Any comments?

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