Season in Review: Gwinnett Braves
Freddie Freeman. In 80 games before the All-Star Break, Freeman...well, he didn't play bad. He was just pedestrian: .287/.347/.478. Not bad at all, especially for a 20 year old in AAA, but many fans expected more. Freddie gave them more after the break, going nuts with a blistering .375/.432/.595 that helped earn him the IL's Rookie of the Year award. For the season, he posted an .898 OPS while striking out in 18.2% of his at bats and walking in 8.5% of his plate appearances. He'll be the starting first baseman for the Braves next year.
If Freeman falters, the Braves have a nice backup plan at AAA, in the form of IL All-Star and batting champion Barbaro Canizares. Canizares paced the IL with a .341 average, and actually had a higher OPS than Freeman, with a .907 mark. Canizares showed some great plate discipline, only striking out in 12.7% of his at bats while walking 40 times as well. The .163 ISO isn't ideal for a first baseman, but you'll take what you can get when a .340+ batting average is in play. Barbaro is going to be 31 at the start of next season, so he's not some hot shot prospect, but it would be nice to see him get an extended shot in the majors. With Freeman blocking him in Atlanta, it may be with another organization though.
Wes Timmons got another shot in AAA this season, and once again produced, this time with a .293/.400/.404 line. Power is not Timmons' strong suit, but plate discipline is: in 386 at bats, he walked 60 times while only striking out 33. Absolutely amazing statistic there. He showed good speed on the bases, swiping 19 bags and only being caught 8 times. The 31 year old Timmons deserves at least a cup of coffee in the majors, but slap hitting corner infielders aren't exactly in high demand these days. His plate discipline intrigues the hell out of me though.
Another guy who doesn't really fit into the prospect mold for Gwinnett, but is a very interesting player, is Matt Young, an outfielder who started getting some time at second base late in the season. He'll be 29 once next season begins, and his line for the year was .300/.380/.407, perfectly acceptable. Young's two best traits are his plate discipline, and his speed: he walked 57 times to only 53 strikeouts in 487 at bats, and was 39/46 on the basepaths. My main question about Young is whether or not he can do that at the big league level. That type of performance has some value coming from a center fielder, but if the plate discipline would falter, he's not left with a whole lot. Personally, I feel like Young is a dark horse to make the 2011 Braves roster as a fourth outfielder. He's been hitting great these past couple of years, and now might be the time for him to get a shot after proving he can do it at AAA.
No one else on offense really rubs me the right way. Let's take a look at some pitching...what a shock, more pitching! Its the strength of the organization for a reason.
The workhorse of the 2010 Gwinnett staff was Todd Redmond, who threw 162 2/3 innings. Redmond is a control freak, and if his control isn't on, it could be a real rough time for him. His 2009 and 2010 seasons were remarkably similar. His K rate rose from 6.58 to 7.86, his walk rate fell from 2.92 to 2.43, and his homer rate stayed nearly constant from a way too high 1.30 last season to a still way too high 1.16 this year. He's not much of a top prospect in the organization anymore after 2 years at AAA, and his approaching 26th birthday in May. But he's a good organizational arm to have around.
Scott Diamond earned a promotion to Gwinnett in July, and turned in some good performances en route to a breakout season. Over the 2 levels, Diamond went 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 158 2/3 innings pitched. More impressive to me is the only 6 homers allowed on the season. The walk and strikeout rates don't look too hot at 3.06/9 and 6.98/9, but most of his struggles came after the promotion to Gwinnett. Down in Mississippi, he was a strikeout machine. That didn't translate too well once Diamond got promoted. Diamond didn't make his pro debut until 2008, and he'll be 25 after the break next year...still eligible for THE LIST. I don't think he'll be a starter at the major league level, though.
Stephen Marek was not called up by the Braves for the September stretch drive, and I believe it was a total mistake with how well he pitched this season at Gwinnett and Mississippi. 2009 was a year to forget for Marek, as he walked more batters than he struck out and allowed more than a hit an inning. Things drastically turned around in 2010, to the tune of a 1.14 ERA, 74 strikeouts, and 20 walks in 63 1/3 innings pitched. He deserved a recall to Atlanta to close the season, and its a shame that he didn't get one. Marek should be in the discussion for next year's bullpen. He was borderline dominant all year, and its a shame to see Scott Proctor getting innings at the major league level while Marek just rots away.
I think we'll stop this here. There are a few other players I'd like to talk about, but they've spent decent chunks of time in Atlanta this season (Minor, Beachy, Kimbrel, Dunn), and will get full-blown season in review profiles once the season ends (hopefully in November).
Remember, tomorrow night: Beachy vs Kendrick. Braves magic number is 3. They can clinch tomorrow night with a Padres loss this evening, and a win and another Padres loss tomorrow. Go Cubs. Go Giants.
The final batch of the season. Sorry about how long this took, its been a little chaotic around these parts lately.
72-71, 2nd in division
All-Stars: Freddie Freeman (postseason), Barbaro Canizares (midseason, postseason), Wes Timmons (midseason)
Gwinnett had a solid mix of talent this year, and finished just short of the playoff race in the International League. The team had top 100 prospects, career minor leaguers, guys that came out of nowhere to produce....it was a very interesting mix of talent, and there are a lot of guys I need to cover in this one. We'll start from the top with the top position player prospect in the Braves organization,