Season in Review - Gwinnett
Barbaro Canizares made a huge impression on Braves fans during a brief callup during the summer, but cooled considerably after that, finishing the season with an OPS exactly at .800. At 29, he's really not a prospect at all, but is worth considering for a bench spot in 2010. His power is isn't that great (.141 ISO this year, .133 last year), but he's got a decent eye (9.3% BB rate this year) and doesn't strike out a lot at all (13.2%). This is the third year he's spent a majority of his time in Gwinnett, and I don't think it would be prudent to let him stay down for another year.
Reid Gorecki is another guy Braves fans became familiar with, with his spot starts in the outfield and occasional pinch running/defensive sub appearances. Gorecki was a horrible drain on the Braves during the 27 plate appearances he got in the majors, but it was a different story in Gwinnett, as Gorecki actually ended up pacing the team with an .815 OPS and a .178 ISO...slightly odd that the scraptastic outfielder would post better numbers than the first baseman, but whatever. Like Canizares, Gorecki is old at 28, but unlike Canizares, this was his first full year in Gwinnett. I could see him returning next year, provided he's not taking a roster spot away from an actual prospect.
Sticking with the trend of old players who don't have much of a major league future, lets talk about Wes Timmons. 2009 was his FOURTH year in Gwinnett, and he responded with a decentish season, posting a .782 OPS bolstered by a 16.1% walk rate and a K rate of only 11.2%. However, he's got no power to speak of, posting an ISO of .084. He's primarily a corner infielder, and to be one of those, you require some sort of bat. Timmons has hit 14 homers in 4 years in AAA. Yeah.
29 year old Brooks Conrad leaped into the hearts and minds of Braves fans with a stellar July after being called up when Kelly Johnson was placed on the DL. People thought this dude was the future and a great candidate to start or something along those lines. I mean, he posted a 1.070 OPS in 32 at bats in July! He's a hoss! People soon shut up and realized why he was a career minor leaguer when he proceeded to go 0 for 22 with 8 strikeouts after he got called up in September. Way to go, Brooks. He's got decent pop (.153 ISO, pretty great for a 2B), and walks at a decent clip (11.8%), but seriously, a 27.1% K rate? Are you kidding me?
Finally for the hitters, we'll touch on an actual prospect who's likely doomed to remain in Gwinnett forever...that of course, is Brandon Jones. Yours truly lead the charge for him to start as the Braves left fielder this season over Garret Anderson. It probably would have been a good move, considering Anderson was horrible and Jones was...adequate? Thats probably the best word for it. Jones's power has decreased as he's moved through the system, and this season, it sat at .138, his lowest mark in the minors. However, his walk rate was close to a career best at 11.5%, and his K rate was a career low at 19.8%. As a result, he posted by far the best BB:K of his career. I still firmly believe Jones could at least produce a little bit at the major league level, and the Braves have absolutely nothing to gain by letting him stay in Gwinnett for a fourth total year in 2010. Just give the dude a shot.
Gwinnett pitchers...not a ton to get excited about here. Todd Redmond, the reigning Southern League pitcher of the year, struggled a lot this year, as his K rate dropped from last year, though it was roughly in line with his career levels, and his walk rate skyrocketed to a point where a control freak with average stuff like Redmond just cannot succeed. Because Redmond doesn't have great stuff, he tends to allow around a hit an inning, and cannot afford putting extra runners on with walks. This year, he was doing just that, and suffering as a result. I'd expect him to stay in Gwinnett next year to try to get his command back where he wants it.
The G-Braves had a pair of relievers with some very interesting peripherals. I of course am talking about Mariano Gomez and Juan Perez. The possibility of Gomez in the Braves pen next year horrifies me, as he struck out 4.48 per 9 while walking 3.61. Due to a .222 BABIP, he posted an ERA of 1.99, while FIP had him at 4.11. Yeah, thats scary. Perez was a whole different case, striking out 9.32 per 9, but posting an obscene walk rate of 5.68. That, combined with the 1.11 HR rate, make me absolutely want to run away from him completely. I don't want a Latino Mitch Williams on my team.
Finally, one more reliever to talk about, and that is the best of the bunch, Luis Valdez. Since joining the Braves organization in 2008, Valdez has taken things by storm, posting K rates over 9 and cutting his walk rate in half this season to 2.40. His BABIP is actually higher than the league average at .330, and he only allows .50 homers per 9. This is a dude I'd really love to see in the Braves bullpen in 2010, maybe as a set up man, maybe as a replacement for one of the departed closers. We shall see.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand that does it for minor league season recaps. The big club will be next, divided into several sections. Its going to be hell to do, but I will get it done. I doubt there will be any updates here until next week, but...youneverknow. Keep an eye on your RSS feed.
The final topic in the series on the minor leagues, this time with the Braves top affiliate in Gwinnett. Gwinnett had a damn good year, winning the wild card in the IL before being dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by the SWB Yankees. Funny thing was, there weren't a whole lot of great prospects on this team...lots of old men and retreads. Going to be an interesting recap, thats for sure.