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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 25

2010 Season in Review: Craig Kimbrel

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Craig Kimbrel was anointed as the Braves closer of the future after being drafted in 2008. He's a tiny dude who has an odd delivery and quite frankly, he's been nearly unhittable for his entire career. He debuted with Danville in 2008, and worked his way up to Myrtle Beach, striking out 56 and walking 15 in 35 1/3 innings. He allowed 16 hits in those 35 1/3 innings. Pretty dominant for a kid fresh out of college. 2009 was a slight step back for Kimbrel, and he spent his year at 4 levels in the organization, from Rome all the way up to Gwinnett. During that season, he threw 60 innings, hitting the magic number and striking out 103 batters but walking a pretty high 45. But again, the BAA was low: only 30 hits, and a .150 average. 2010 was going to be the ultimate year for him though, and Kimbrel was expected to get a shot in the majors. He did, and was impressive.

Kimbrel spent most of his season in Gwinnett, logging 55 2/3 innings in AAA, but spent a good chunk of time in Atlanta too, getting 20 2/3 innings in the majors. His success was varied, as the patterns from the rest of his minor league career repeated itself: lots of strikeouts, lots of walks, and a low batting average. He was recalled for good once rosters expanded in September, and pitched so well that he made the playoff roster. He pitched so well, that people from all around the league started to take notice and just wonder "who the hell is this guy?!?!" After his recall, Kimbrel threw 11 1/3 innings, allowed 4 hits, no runs, 5 walks, and struck out 23 batters. His total season in the majors resulted in 40 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. Yes, he averaged nearly 2 batters per inning.

Kimbrel isn't necessarily a one trick pony. He's more than a strikeout machine. In his career of 171 2/3 innings pitched, he's only allowed 7 homers. That results in a fantastically low ratio of only 0.37 per 9 innings. Most dominant relievers have rates that low, but one bad outing can really screw your homer ratio...remember Tommy Hanson in that August start against the Marlins? Yeah. But with Kimbrel, there is reason to be optimistic that he can keep his homer total low. In every one of his minor league stops, he got more ground ball outs than fly ball outs. It doesn't really seem like much, but it really matters. When Kimbrel's vicious fastball is coming in, if you do make contact, its probably going to be bad contact, and you'll squib it to an infielder. He's not going to get a lot of long fly ball outs, though he allowed more balls in the air during his major league stint, most of which were concentrated to his first callup around midseason.

Now is Kimbrel's time. He can finally shed that "future closer" label and just be the Braves closer. Many Braves fans were wondering if he should even be the closer in 2011, with Jonny Venters instead getting the nod. Kimbrel's backbreaking performance in September and October pretty much closed the door on that scenario, because you absolutely don't want a guy that good as a setup man to an inferior pitcher like Venters, who I'd like to see have more than one good season in his career before counting on him to be a big part of the Braves future. Kimbrel WILL be the closer in 2011, and he WILL be a damn good one. A worthy successor to Billy Wagner in my mind.

2010 Season in Review: Kenshin Kawakami

Written by Joe Lucia on .

I'm sure you're all going to read the title of this piece, see the name Kenshin Kawakami, and bust out your pitchforks and torches, ready to run Kawakami out of town. Well, its true that he had an ERA over 5.00 and a hideous 1-10 win/loss record in 2010, but we've moved on past those types of stats these days...we know that wins is a stat that the pitcher can't control, and that ERA is primarily influenced by the defense beind the pitcher. So let's take a look at Kawakami's 2010 and see if it was really much different from 2009...

...and in a word, I can tell you "no". Kawakami's strikeout and walk rates were nearly identical in both years (6.04 K/9 in 2009, 6.08 in 2010; 3.28 BB/9 in 2009, 3.30 in 2010). There was one major difference among the three peripherals that Kawakami can control, and that was his homer rate. In 2009, KK allowed 0.86 homers per 9, while in 2010, he allowed 1.03. That's a pretty big jump, but not really one that precipitates an ERA rise of 1.29 points. When you start digging a little deeper, things get a little more confusing. KK's GB/FB ratio remained nearly identical from 2009 to 2010 (1.08 in 2009, 1.05 in 2010, while his LD% rose to 22.3% from 18.9%. That helps explain the higher ERA. More line drives = more extra base hits.

But its funny...he really just was tremendously unlucky. Kawakami's 2009 BABIP was .291, a little low but still within the realm of possibility. It rose to .320 in 2010, a jump of nearly 30 points. That .320 mark is high, but not absurdly so. So that 29 point rise in BABIP helps explain the ERA rise, but is there anything else? Why yes, there is. In 2009, Kenshin stranded 73.3% of runners, which is around league average...maybe a little low. In 2010, that number dropped 10% all the way down to 63.3%, a HIDEOUSLY low percentage. You're not going to have an ERA under 4.00 (and probably not under 5.00) when you're stranding less than 2/3 of the runners you let get on base. Its just not going to happen.

And then, just as a final farewell, we're gonna look at the sum total of all of these parts. KK's FIP in 2009 was 4.21, and in 2010, it was 4.35. A 0.14 difference over 2 years is not a dramatic, life altering change. If you enjoy looking at xFIP, we'll look at that. 2009: 4.61. 2010: 4.56. So he pitched slightly *better* in 2010? xFIP says so. Gotta love normalizing homer ratios to account for sudden bouts of gopherballitis.

Kawakami is, in all likelihood, not going to be a Brave in 2011. And its a shame, because he's really not a bad pitcher. He's a back end guy who's probably worth a little less than the $6.67 million he's scheduled to make in 2011. Unfortunately for Kenshin, the Braves have 4 guys absolutely locked into the rotation (Hudson, Hanson, Lowe, and Jurrjens) and 2 rookies fighting over the fifth spot (Minor, Beachy). There just isn't any room for him on the staff. It would be in another team's best interest to attempt to acquire Kawakami from the Braves if they need a starter, because he can really be effective plugging a hole in the 4 or 5 spot in a rotation. Its just not going to happen in Atlanta in 2011, and I hope that the speed at which this deal has gone sour doesn't affect the Braves scouting and development in Japan.

2010 Season in Review: Jair Jurrjens

Written by Joe Lucia on .

After a season that saw him post a 2.60 ERA, many fans expected the world from Jair Jurrjens. They weren't looking at the 3.68 FIP he posted in 2009 though, and expected that he would be able to sustain that 2.60 ERA. 2010 showed that the numbers never lie, and JJ's ERA rose all the way up to 4.64 with a 4.19 FIP as he battled injuries and ineffectiveness all season, making only 20 starts and throwing 116 1/3 innings. Glancing over JJ's peripherals for 2010, its clear what the jump in FIP/ERA can be attributed to: home runs. His K rate stayed constant at 6.65 (career: 6.38), his walk rate stayed constant at 3.25 (career: 3.24), but his homer rate spiked all the way up to 1.01 (career: 0.70). If you're not into rate stats and just like round numbers, Jurrjens allowed 13 homers in those 116 1/3 innings in 2010...in 2009, he allowed 15 in 215 innings. 2008, he allowed 11 in 188 1/3 innings. So there is a definite jump there.

The injury that sidelined Jurrjens early in the season eventually faded, and he was solid if not unspectacular following his return in late June after a terrible April. The wheels completely fell off in September, as he allowed 4 homers in 15 2/3 innings and posted a 6.32 ERA. Then he missed a start against Philly with some knee tenderness. Further tests revealed he had a torn meniscus, which he had surgery to repair this offseason. Jurrjens will be at full health to start the season, or so the Braves hope. With Kris Medlen expected to miss a good chunk of the season, and Kenshin Kawakami cleared off the 40-man roster, Jurrjens is an important part of the Braves rotation. If his knee isn't ready, Brandon Beachy or Mike Minor could easily take over for a few starts and help keep the Braves' head above water, but neither is much of a long-term replacement at this point in their career.

If Jurrjens didn't get hurt at the end of the year, and Medlen also didn't get hurt, I was hypothesizing that he could be traded. His agent is Scott Boras, and he's going to be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, so a big raise will be in order for him. But alas, with the injuries, he's going to be staying put in Atlanta. I think trading him next offseason, provided that him and Medlen are both healthy, and that Jurrjens has a good season, could be a possibility. He's a young, solid #3 starter, and could probably fetch a decent return. The Braves farm system is very strong, but lacking in young hitting prospects. The team could definitely use a couple of young impact bats to fill out the prospect lists a little bit. Overall, I think Jurrjens is overvalued by those who put more faith in conventional stats as opposed to sabermetric ones. He's not an elite pitcher, despite what that 2009 ERA may say. If you're Frank Wren, and a team comes to you offering a couple of top 100 hitting prospects for him, that's a deal you need to do, right?

2011 will be a very important year in Jurrjens' career. If the Braves fall out of contention early on, I also wouldn't be surprised to see him be moved then depending on the progress of Beachy and Minor. Jurrjens is a polarizing figure among Braves fans, and the team has already gotten their money's worth and more out of him. If he gets spun off during the 2011 season or offseason, I'd expect some very angry fans who are going to need things explained to them in detail.

Final AFL Wrap-up

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The AFL season ended a week ago, but the season for the Braves prospects out in Arizona ended a week and a half ago. Yes, I'm just getting to this now...been a little hectic with the holidays and such. Anyway, it really was a lost fall for the young Braves: only one player ended the fall playing well and healthy. We'll start with him. That player was of course, Myrtle Beach outfielder Cory Harrilchak. He led the Desert Dogs in OPS and finished second in batting average, powered by 3 homers in 75 at bats. In contrast, he hit 3 homers in 453 at bats all season for Rome and Myrtle Beach. Harrilchak's walk rate improved in the AFL, earning 12 walks in the 22 games he played, but his strikeout rate also increased, as he struck out 17 times. He didn't really run all that often, only attempting 5 steals on the (brief) season, and being successful only twice. Its going to be interesting to see if his fall performance changes his overall game at all. Right now, he's a top 30 prospect in the organization, possibly top 20. Some more power could shoot him up the list a little further.

Middle infielder extraordinaire Tyler Pastornicky also spent some time in Arizona, before missing the final week with a hamstring injury. Unlike Harrilchak, he struggled with the bat, but its not terribly shocking for him considering that he was the third youngest player on the team at only 20 years old. Tyler's bat has never been his strong suit and it showed this fall, as he was only able to muster a .649 OPS in 15 games. He was only 1/2 on the basepaths, shocking for a guy who stole 35 during the season. Pastornicky's normally above average patience wasn't on display at all either, earning only one walk in the AFL. Also, his defense, which is normally quite stellar, was pretty bad in the AFL. Pastornicky had a team high 6 errors, which is pretty bad in only 15 games. Despite all this, he was named to play in the AFL's Rising Stars game. His future is bright, as he's spent his Braves career in AA, which is pretty damn good for a 20 year old. Like Harrilchak, he's a top 30 prospect with room to grow.

The final Braves hitter who spent time in Arizona is the one who had the most amount of hype behind him, and ironically, spent the least amount of time out there. I'm of course talking about the Opening Day first baseman for the Braves, Freddie Freeman. Freeman didn't really have a chance to do anything, playing in only 5 games before injuring his thumb sliding into third base. I can't really draw any conclusions about his performance when we're talking about such a small sample size, but in those 5 games, he did have a pair of extra base hits and a pair of walks. Baby steps. He should be healthy by the time pitchers and catchers report in February.

Now, onto the pitchers. Only one Braves pitcher spent the entire fall in Arizona, and that was a guy who has an outside shot at making the Braves bullpen: Cory Gearrin. Gearrin is a ground ball machine with decent control who can get a strikeout when he needs it. His first 10 1/3 innings in the AFL were scoreless, allowing only 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. In his final 8 innings, the wheels fell off. Cory allowed 8 earned on 11 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7. I fully believe his dropoff at the end of the year is due to fatigue, as he threw 98 1/3 innings on the season. His previous career high was 54 2/3. Sure, let's increase his innings by eighty percent, I'm sure that'll work out just fine! Cory probably shouldn't have gone to the AFL in the first place, but that's life. Hopefully, he's fully healthy and will be able to come to camp ready to compete for a bullpen job.

Another guy who finished the year in Arizona was a late arrival. Benino Pruneda showed up 2 days before Halloween, and threw a scoreless inning. That would be his only scoreless appearance in his tenure in Arizona. Pruneda would appear in 4 more games, and allowed 10 earned on 14 hits while walking 7 and striking out 7. All this in only 5 1/3 innings. Erm, that's really not good. I don't want to point the finger at fatigue again, but I think the main issue here is that he was allowed to sit around doing nothing from the end of the minor league season at the beginning of September, until he was asked to come out late in the AFL season at the end of October. Maybe he wasn't in great shape, maybe his mind was a little off...whatever. I'm not going to hold this against him. When you strike out 93 batters in 64 2/3 innings on the season as a 22 year old, you've got my attention.

The other 3 Braves pitchers who spent time in the AFL left early for whatever reason, be it injury, ineffectiveness, or anything else...not going to press the issue. Michael Broadway left a week before Pruneda showed up, and had allowed 6 runs in 5 1/3 innings on a whopping 10 hits. One positive for Broadway is that he only walked 1 man and struck out 5. I'll take a positive when I can get it. He's Gwinnett bullpen fodder. Erik Cordier, who I apparently have some sort of personal vendetta against (for the sole fact that I don't think he's a great prospect because he walks too many damn batters), only got 2 appearances and 5 innings in. He allowed 7 hits and 5 earned, though all 5 runs came in the first appearance. Making my stomach turn is the 6 walks and 6 strikeouts in those 5 innings. Its like he knows what I hate and wants to fuel my fire a little more...I assume he'll spend 2011 in Gwinnett as well, not that they have a lot of room in their rotation. And finally, Kyle Cofield. He pitched one inning, allowed a solo homer, and that was that. He's spent the last 2 season in Mississippi. Will 2011 be the year where he finally gets a promotion? Time will tell.

Overall, the 2010 AFL was a borderline disaster for the Braves. Only one player really set the world on fire, and many of the ones who went out to the desert were just plain ineffective. A little disappointing to see, but sometimes, that happens. Next season should be a little more interesting, with some of the younger players in the organization getting another year of experience and possibly getting the call out to Phoenix. I'd die to see Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado pitching in November...it would truly be a beautiful thing.

2010 Season in Review: Tim Hudson

Written by Joe Lucia on .

We're gonna finally get back on track with these, since my BravesHeart archives are now up here at Chop-N-Change...to check them out, just click the Archives button along the top toolbar, and click the year and month you want. Mine go back to June 2009. Anyway, we left off a month ago with Tommy Hanson. I'm going in alphabetical order from the roster, so next up is Tim Hudson. Hudson made his return to the Braves from Tommy John surgery last September, and fans really had no idea what to expect from him. Hudson signed a 3 year extension with the Braves after the season (with an option for the 4th year) at $9 million per season. Seemed like a decent enough deal depending on how well he'd pitch during a full season in his return from TJ. If only the Braves knew what they'd be getting...

Hudson was, quite frankly, completely awesome for the Braves in 2010. He made the All-Star team and finished 4th in Cy Young voting. Each of those honors were the first time for Hudson as a Brave. Hudson transformed himself as a pitcher after his injury, turning into an absolute ground ball machine who could get the big strikeout when he needed to and didn't walk a whole lot of batters. His K rate was 5.47, lower than each of his seasons in Oakland but the second highest in his tenure as a Brave over a full season. His walk rate jumped to 2.91, slightly higher than his career average. But the ground ball rate is where Hudson shined. Hudson's mark of 64.1% was not only 5% higher than his career norm, but it was also tops in the majors. Fun fact: no other pitcher had a rate higher than 60%. And there's Hudson, over 64%. Amazing.

Overall though, Hudson outperformed his peripherals. But then again, guys who get groundballs that frequently will generally have things skewed a little more due to the lack of hard hit balls. Despite a 2.83 ERA, Hudson's FIP was only 4.09, and his xFIP was 3.87. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if Hudson was able to boost his strikeouts a little bit and cut his walks a little bit in order to get things a little more in line with the way they're supposed to be. But in the end, if he's able to consistently outperform his peripherals over the life of his contract with an obscene groundball ratio, I'll take it. I'd expect the ERA to rise a little bit in 2011 though, with Martin Prado and his consistent (albeit mediocre) defense being shifted to the outfield in favor of the butcher that is Dan Uggla. That strand rate of 81.2% probably won't stay that high, either. Overall projection...I'd say a 3.30 ERA and 16 wins. Sounds about right.

What To Be Thankful For

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Happy Thanksgiving from the staff here at Chop N Change to you and yours this turkey day! Now, as I was at work today (yes, I worked today. What ended up being 20 hours of pay for an 8 hour shift? Sign me up!), I was reading tweets from people talking about what they were thankful for, and I got to be thinking about some things I'm personally thankful for, both related and unrelated to Braves baseball. Thinking about it as the day went on, I realized that us Braves fans really have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Without any further ado, here are 10 things all Braves fans should be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

-Be thankful we get to watch Jason Heyward on a daily basis. Not only is Jason one of the best and brightest young stars in the league, he's an incredibly exciting player to watch. I know it sounds totally cliche, but he really gives 110% on every play. It is a true pleasure to be able to know that for the next 5 years at least, we'll be watching him play with the Braves.

-Be thankful that Tim Hudson's elbow is healthy. No one knew what the Braves were going to get out of Hudson in 2010. He delivered with a season that got him votes in the Cy Young balloting. He was the rock of the Braves rotation in 2010, and he's probably going to be a Brave for 3 more years. If he's able to keep pitching somewhere close to the level he did this season, its going to be an absolute treat.

-Be thankful that Derek Lowe changed the way he pitched after he got his cortisone shot in August. Before that shot, Lowe was looking more and more like a sunk cost for 2011 and 2012. But after that shot, he became a completely different and amazing pitcher, winning the NL Pitcher of the Month award for September. Now, fans are looking to Lowe for the next 2 seasons as someone who can help anchor the Braves rotation.

-Be thankful that Melky Cabrera won't be back next year. It was really embarrassing as a Braves fan to say that Melky was the team's primary left fielder in 2010. He was disgustingly bad out there. Yet, he stepped to the plate over 500 times, and nearly cost the team a playoff berth with his play over the course of the season. He won't be back next season. Good riddance.

-Be thankful that Chipper Jones is coming back next season. It's been a joy to watch Chipper since his should-have-been Rookie of the Year season in 1995. We've dealt with a lot with Chipper over the past 15 years: injuries, position shifts, a batting title, and a World Championship. But one thing hasn't changed over those 15 years: Chipper Jones is the Atlanta Braves. And until he retires, he will be the Atlanta Braves. We've taken his career for granted. Its time to take a step back and give thanks for watching an amazing career take place.

-Be thankful that the team sent Bobby Cox out with a playoff berth instead of a heartbreaking finish. The team nearly blew it over the final 6 weeks of the season with the injuries to Martin Prado, Jones, Takashi Saito, and Jair Jurrjens. But on the last day of the season, the Braves beat the Phillies and the Giants beat the Padres, and the Braves went to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Despite losing to the Giants in 4 games, it was a really fun ride, and the only way that Bobby could have gone out better was with a World Championship. That unfortunately didn't happen, but a playoff run was the next best thing.

-Be thankful that the minor league system is so loaded. Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, Randall Delgado...3 probable top 50 prospects, and they're all Braves. Freeman will open the season as the team's first baseman. Teheran and Delgado will probably start in AA, but could get cups of coffee in Atlanta in September depending on how the cookie crumbles. The future is not bleak for this team. In fact, it may be brighter than the present.

-Be thankful that the mainstream public is finally beginning to acknowledge Brian McCann as the best catcher in the National League. He didn't start the All-Star game (again), but delivered the game winning hit and won the MVP award. He got votes in the MVP balloting for the first time in his career. He won his 4th Silver Slugger in 5 full seasons. And just think, he doesn't turn 27 until February. He's also under contract for 3 more years. I don't think there's a more perfect guy to have behind the dish.

-Be thankful that Frank Wren pulled the trigger on Dan Uggla. The team has a legitimate power hitter in the middle of the lineup now. The cost to acquire Uggla from the Marlins was next to nothing. Wren's call to make that trade will help the team immensely in 2011, as he is a massive upgrade from the Cabrera/Matt Diaz platoon that was eating up plate appearances every night. Martin Prado in left field will be interesting, though.

-And finally, be thankful that you're fans of the greatest team in the world. There is nothing on this planet like Atlanta Braves baseball. We all know this, and we all love it. 4 months until the first spring training game. Not that I'm counting or anything.

The Tale of Mr Boras and Mr Salcedo

Written by Joe Lucia on .

News broke early this morning about super agent to the stars (ahem) Scott Boras loaning money to young Hispanic players. Anything over $500 needs to be reported to the player's union and failure to do so could result in the agent getting in deep doodoo. Boras was loaning THOUSANDS of dollars to these players. One of them is Braves uberprospect Edward Salcedo. Boras apparently loaned Salcedo and his family $70,000 when he was 15 years old to help with their economic situation. The money has not been repaid to Boras after he asked for it back when Salcedo signed with the Braves and got a 7 figure signing bonus at the beginning of the year. Salcedo's agent is...Scott Boras. Everyone is putting two and two together without really knowing what the hell is going on. They see Boras giving Salcedo and his family money, Salcedo signing with Boras's agency and getting signed...and of course, everyone automatically assumes that Boras paid off the Salcedos in order to get Edward to choose Boras as his agent.

We don't know what the case really is right now. Like I said, details just started emerging about this in the morning. No comments from Boras, no comments from Salcedo...we don't know what's going on here. Was it a bribe? Or was it an actual, legitimate loan? Why has the money not been paid back yet?

Now, the question Braves fans feel is most important, myself included. What can happen to Salcedo in this situation? Quite frankly...I have no idea. This isn't the NCAA, its not as if he can lose eligibility for taking money from an agent before he was a professional. No wins are going to be vacated or anything silly like that. I doubt his contract will be voided, since it was negotiated in good faith by the Braves without knowledge of the loan. And seriously, is the loan even grounds for the contract to be voided? MLB doesn't exactly void contracts every day, it takes a pretty serious breach for that to happen.

We are all going to need to take a step back and see just what the hell is going to happen here. My gut tells me that everything will be fine with regards to Salcedo, except that he might have a new agent and be about 70 grand lighter. But for Boras? This could be a huge knife in the chest for him and his firm. With the MLB's recent crackdown on the nonsense going on in the Hispanic countries (the bonus skimming, the age verifications, etc), they could look to make an example out of Boras like they did Jose Rijo for the Nationals. As a baseball fan, I'm really interested in seeing what actually happens...or if it just gets swept under the rug with a slap to the wrist of the most powerful agent in the sport.

UPDATE: I've got conflicting reports on whether or not he's still with Boras. One article said he was, the initial news of his signing said he left Boras during his age investigation snafu.

UPDATE 2: Boras responds

There Is Nothing Going On

Written by Joe Lucia on .

We got our huge offseason move out of the way a week ago, with the Dan Uggla trade. We're in a little bit of a holding pattern now...nothing to focus on, nothing to really write about. Just a bunch of procedural nonsense and playing the waiting game. I'm going to be starting up my season in reviews here once I get my archives migrated over from BravesHeart. Its taking forever for Fanball to get me the data, so I'm just kinda spinning around in my chair wishing, waiting patiently. I can do the AFL recap...probably tonight or tomorrow. The AFL was a total disaster for the Braves. Everyone got hurt and/or played horribly aside from Cory Harrilchak. I don't like writing about depressing things like that, but I guess I'm going to have to.

Some actual baseball news...its apparently a two horse race for Eric Hinske, between the Braves and the Brewers. The Brewers? Really? Apparently Hinske lives in Wisconsin, so that's got something to do with it. The Braves offer was in the range of $1.5 million. I'd love to have Hinske back, but I'm not really going to freak out if he ends up leaving. It'll be a shame, but that's how the cookie crumbles. At the end of the day, he's still a bench player. A very effective, popular bench player, but a bench player nonetheless. Nothing worth losing any sleep over. The big sticking point is that Hinske wants two years instead of one. Bench players can be notoriously fickle, but if David Ross can get two years, I think Hinske can get two years from the Braves. Make it happen!

The Braves declined to offer arbitration to all of their arb-eligible free agents. Those guys are Derrek Lee, Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, Troy Glaus, and Hinske. Lee was the only one who could bring in a compensatory draft pick, as a type A free agent. So it looks like the Braves will only have one first round pick this coming June, unless Frank Wren goes bonkers and signs a big name on the market and loses the pick. That's highly unlikely, however. Out of those 5, the only one I could see coming back is Hinske. MAYBE Farnsworth on a one year, low money deal. Glaus, Lee, and Ankiel are gone with the wind. If Freddie Freeman weren't here, I would have liked to see Lee come back. He had a great 2 months with the Braves, regardless of what the haters say.

Is there anything else going on? Uhhhhhh...apparently not. So let's get a couple of shills out of the way: follow me on Twitter @JoeCNC, and become a fan of Chop N Change on Facebook by clicking that little F icon on the right hand side of your page near the top. You can click the aqua T for my Twitter page too. Lots of good stuff on there, so be sure to check them out. I'll be back a couple more times this week with some boring content pieces, and hopefully some news will break around this Thanksgiving holiday so we can actually discuss Braves baseball in 2011!

Some Minor Moves

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Not minor as in Mike Minor...minor as in small. Also, involving the minor leagues. Hey, a double pun! Without any further ado.

Added to the 40-man roster: Randall Delgado, Matt Young, Cory Gearrin

These moves were made to protect all 3 of these men from the Rule V draft, which I believe is this weekend...if the Braves are involved at all, I'll say something, The team usually loses a player or so a year and doesn't pick one up...last year, Edgar Osuna went to the Royals, didn't make the team, and the Braves let them keep him. OK then. I was actually a little surprised to learn Delgado was eligible, but he was signed when he was 16, so I guess it works out. As for Young and Gearrin, this gives both of them a prime opportunity to make the major league roster. Young can play all 3 outfield positions very well, and got some time at second this summer (not that it matters with two guys who can do that on the roster right now). What's the deal on Young, in case you don't know? He's a really great player, but is older (28), so he's not a huge top prospect. He walks a lot (10.5% last year), doesn't strike out at all (10.9%), and is a very efficient base stealer (39/46 last season). He doesn't have great pop, and is more of a doubles hitter. In other words...he's a PERFECT fourth outfielder who can get some playing time in center if Nate McLouth struggles. I expect him to get a fair shot at making the roster in March. He's having a great winter in Mexico: .356/.454/.475 with 21 walks and only 14 strikeouts in 31 games.

Cory Gearrin. I've been writing about his time in the AFL lately, which just ended last night...full writeup on that to come Sunday. He's gassed out though right now, which explains the 8 earned and 11 hits in his last 8 innings. He's thrown a career high 98 2/3 innings this season...nice to see the Braves coddling their young arms. His previous high was 54 2/3 last season. Just a bit of a jump there. Gearrin keeps the ball on the ground, and could probably do what Peter Moylan did last season at a fraction of the cost. It wouldn't surprise me to see him get an invite to spring and see Moylan shipped out of town in March. But who really knows anymore...

As for Randall Delgado, he's a top 3 prospect in the organization. At 20 years old, he struck out a batter per inning at Myrtle Beach and Mississippi this season and posted a 3.30 ERA between the two levels. He'll probably start next year in AA after struggling immediately after his promotion, but don't be surprised if you see him in Gwinnett by midseason. This move was procedural to protect him from the Rule V draft, but he could be in Atlanta as soon as 2012, though I have no idea who's spot he'd be taking.

One more transaction. The Braves sold -- yes, sold -- outfielder, power hitting god, and former first round pick Cody Johnson to the Yankees. As a fan, this really bums me out. Johnson is a guy who has holes in his swing the size of the state of Georgia, but when the bat hits the ball, it goes a long way. It seems silly to just sell him like that, but I'm pretty sure he was eligible for the Rule V draft, and a team probably would have taken him from the Braves. So at least they got something...though they could have had Johnson for 25 grand, because there is no chance in hell he could stick on a major league roster at this point in time, especially the Yankees roster. It's sad to see him go, but I'm going to wish him the best of luck in New York, and will hopefully see him in action this summer when Norwich comes to Harrisburg. The best power in the Braves system belongs to uh...who now? Its not good I can't immediately think of someone.

What Can Uggla Do For You?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

By now, the dust has partially settled. Every Braves fan knows of the deal that has brought Dan Uggla to Atlanta. A good majority (probably about 95% or so) are absolutely thrilled about it, as they should be. An All-Star, Silver Slugger winning second baseman on the team for the low cost of an All-Star (ahem) utility infielder with a worse eye than Jeff Francoeur and no power, and a hard throwing LOOGY who didn't have a guaranteed spot in the bullpen? Sign me up. Fans who are angry about this deal...I don't really know what to tell you. Dan Uggla isn't a jack of all trades like Infante, but the dude could hit better than Infante in his sleep, and don't give me any of that crap about "but Infante almost won a batting title!!!" Almost only counts in tiddly winks and nuclear war. He didn't win the batting title, and its a shame he didn't, because maybe the Braves could have given up someone lower on the totem pole than Dunn in that case. But it is what is. The deal is done, the Braves are a much better team, and that's the end of that. Thank god.

Now, the nitty gritty. Uggla is a Brave, but where does he fit into the lineup? Manager Fredi Gonzalez said during interviews yesterday that he'd probably be penciling Uggla into the 4th or 5th spot into the lineup, with Freddie Freeman hitting behind him. So that means that the Braves lineup would probably look something like this, as of right now...

Prado
Heyward
Jones
Uggla/McCann
Uggla/McCann
Freeman
Gonzalez
McLouth

That's a pretty solid lineup, especially if McLouth hits like he did in September. Keeping Heyward in the 2-hole would be a smart move thanks to his fantastic ability to get on base, setting the table for Jones, Uggla and McCann. I'm going into this offseason with the assumption that Chipper will be fine come February and that he'll be able to slot right back into that third spot in the order, and at the hot corner. His defense is probably going to be abysmal, but that's something we're going to need to learn to live with. Speaking of abysmal defense, Uggla is apparently going to be the new every day second baseman. He's pretty bad at second...in his 5 season career, he's had 3 seasons with negative UZR and Dewan numbers, one that was neutral with UZR, and one good...his other 2 Dewan seasons were around neutral. So defense isn't his strong suit. Martin Prado will apparently be the new every day left fielder. Prado doesn't have the pop you'd normally expect from an outfielder, but since the Braves will be getting that out of second base now, its a moot point.

Prado is a jack of all trades, and is probably going to be playing all over the place this season. Rumors are floating around that in addition to starting in left, he'd be spelling Chipper at third and Freeman at first. Talk about doing it all. He played 23 innings in left in 2008, and was fantastic defensively, but remember...that's a really, REALLY small sample size. Not even 3 full games. Can't draw a lot of conclusions from that. In winter league ball though, left field is Prado's primary position. So he's got some familiarity with it, at least. Is it the best move? Looking at the raw numbers...it's really a push. Despite people's insistence that Prado is a great defensive second baseman, his career UZR/150 is a terrible -8.4. He logged over 500 innings there the last 2 seasons, and was negative in UZR both years. Aside from last season, he posted negative Dewan numbers at second in each year of his career since his debut in 2006. Admittedly the earlier seasons don't have a ton of data, but its something to chew on. His mark was a +2 last year in over 800 innings, so that's something I guess. Defensive metrics rarely agree.

The Uggla trade gives a small glimmer of hope to Matt Diaz's Atlanta future. The lack of a BIG BAT EVERY DAY OUTFIELDER means that Diaz could perhaps stick around in a pinch hitter/spot starter role. With Prado possibly getting time at third or first during the season, Diaz could get more playing time against lefties. I'm pretty sure Freeman had a slight platoon split, so Diaz could get maybe a start a week, with Prado starting at first in order to get Freeman a little more acclimated to the majors. Trading Infante means the Braves really lack an option as a backup at shortstop aside from the two headed combo of offensive ineptitude that is Diory Hernandez and Brandon Hicks, so someone could be signed to fill the void. I don't think this trade bodes well for the possibility of Eric Hinske returning though, because he's just too limited of a player at this point in time. He would pretty much be only a pinch hitter, which is a shame, because he's still got some oomph in his bat. I guess the Braves would prefer to have Brooks Conrad in that PH role, despite his defensive shortcomings.

All I know for sure is that it's going to be an interesting couple of weeks before we get to the nontender deadline.


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