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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 3

Chipper's Heir-Not-So-Apparent

Written by Mark Smith on .

It’s the question we haven’t been able to stop talking about for the past five years. At some point in the near future, Chipper Jones will retire, and when he does, there will be a void at third base to be filled. The Braves have already run through numerous “Third Baseman of the Future”s from within the organization in guys like Eric Campbell and John Gilmore, but basically because of the general attrition of prospects, they never quite developed the way everyone hoped or were traded away. The Braves currently have a couple of possibilities in Edward Salcedo and Joey Terdoslavich. Salcedo, however, is too far away to be ready by 2012 or 2013, and Terdoslavich is not a third baseman no matter how much you say he was at one point in his life (Jim Thome was a shortstop, for goodness sakes). Martin Prado is another possibility, but he’s not under team control for much longer and may be traded soon anyway (meaning the Braves probably don’t see him as the heir). Looking toward free-agency, Mark Reynolds (will be 29) and Maicer Izturis (32) are the best options, but they aren’t exactly appetizing. I may have another option.

His name is Matt Dominguez, and I imagine, if you know about prospects, that his name doesn’t exactly send you into seventh heaven. But bear with me. The situation in Miami is terrible for Dominguez, and he’s become an after-thought. The Jose Reyes signing moves Hanley Ramirez to third, and while Hanley doesn’t seem too excited about it now, I wouldn’t imagine he would be but imagine he’ll get used to the idea as Spring Training progresses. With those two entrenched on the left side of the infield, there’s nowhere for Dominguez to go, and after stumbling last season, his value might be at its lowest possible spot. But why would the Braves want someone the Marlins seem to not want?

The first reason is Dominguez’s strength - he’s an elite defensive third baseman. With exceptional range, hands, and arm, Dominguez is the best defensive third baseman in the minors, and if he steps into the majors right now, he might give Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman a run for their money, though it’s hard to be that good. But if you’re going to trade for a guy that brings most of his value on defense, you want to get use of it. For outfielders, that means being fly-ball heavy in the pitching staff, but for infielders like Dominguez, you would want a staff full of worm killers.

So let’s think about the future of the staff. Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe were the only “ground-ball” pitchers in the rotation with Jair Jurrjens around average. Well, Lowe is gone, Hudson may or may not be back next year (but probably won’t be the season after), and Jurrjens may be gone soon. That leaves Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran, and all of them are fly-ball pitchers. While that does dampen the outlook of bringing Dominguez on board, those pitchers do still get ground balls, and the bullpen is actually ground-ball heavy. Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Christhian Martinez, and Cory Gearrin/Peter Moylan all get a ton of ground-balls, possibly indicating that the leverage of those ground balls could near off-setting the value lost from the rotation not getting so many ground balls.

The other reason I like him is that I wonder if the offensive worries about him are overblown. As it stands now, Dominguez has average to a tick above average power, but his approach and plate discipline haven’t really advanced in his 4 years of minor-league play. He still gets pull happy, and he’s still lacking in the ability to recognize breaking pitches. Here, obviously, comes the however. Dominguez will be 22 for most of this next season, and that means he’s been 2-3 years young for the levels he’s played in. Try learning calculus when you haven’t grasped algebra completely yet. You’re so focused on learning the basics and then grasping the new ideas that it makes it difficult to stay afloat. You would still like for Dominguez to have hit better and developed more than he has, but he hasn’t exactly failed anywhere, either. Dominguez does have some things going for him offensively. He can hit for decent power, doesn’t strike out all that much, and walks at an average or better clip, and though his swing has a long, tricky load, the swing itself isn’t too bad. The chances of him being a star, especially offensively, are limited, but I don’t see a major reason that he can’t be a solid starter in the majors. Age means a lot in regard to prospects, and Dominguez is still very young.

But the real question when it comes to acquiring talent outside of the organization is what it will cost. John Sickels labeled Dominguez as a B- player, which has a value somewhere around $5 million. If the Braves were to trade straight prospect-for-prospect, someone like JJ Hoover or Zeke Spruill might do the trick, and if it would do the trick, I’d make either deal without too much hesitation. The Marlins might also want to continue to bolster their bullpen, and the Braves have any number of those to choose from, though the big guns are obviously off the table. We, unfortunately, do not know how the Marlins truly value him, but we do know A) the two teams have made in-division trades before and B) the Marlins have no real need of Dominguez.

Dominguez certainly has his weaknesses. He hasn’t hit at an elite level since 2008, and he flopped in the majors (48 plate appearances) in 2011. And his biggest asset - infield defense - isn’t something the Braves’ rotation would particularly need. But he’s young, has potential, and plays outstanding defense regardless. I won’t say it’s a certainty that the Braves should go for him, but I think this is a possible opportunity that the Braves should pursue for a cheap “Third Baseman of the Future” that is currently better than any of their other options within the organization or through free-agency.

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Did The Atlanta Braves Need A Big Offseason?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Here is a summary of the Braves' offseason moves:

-Traded Derek Lowe for salary relief and no players of consequence
-Fired Larry Parrish, replaced him with Greg Walker
-Nontendered Peter Moylan and Brooks Conrad
-Picked up Eric Hinske's 2012 option
-Let George Sherrill and Alex Gonzalez walk away as free agents
-Named Tyler Pastornicky as starting shortstop

Nothing on that list screams "high profile" move, with the exception of the Lowe salary dump. With all the talk this offseason about trading Martin Prado, trading Jair Jurrjens, getting an impact bat...the Braves have done absolutely nothing. Here's a look at ESPN's free agent tracker, with the Braves selected as the free agent's new team.

bravesfa 
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's January 8th, and the team hasn't signed one free agent. This really isn't a bad thing, because the team is essentially saying that they're going with what brought them to the dance last year. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all. 

Martin Prado, or Adam Jones?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

These god forsaken Adam Jones rumors JUST WON'T STOP, so I figured I'd briefly touch on them. When it comes down to Martin Prado or Adam Jones on the Braves, the two players are rather similar. Prado made $3.1 million in 2011, and has two more seasons of team control. Jones made $3.25 million, and also has two more seasons of control left. 

Neither player has great plate discipline. Jones walks at 4.8% for his career, while Prado is at 6.6%. Prado strikes out a lot less, 11.3% of the time, compared to Jones and his 19.7% rate. Jones has more power, with a .161 ISO compared to Prado's .141.

Defensively, Prado is a +12 over his career at first, second, third and left field (and a brief tenure at short), with +4 of that coming in the outfield. Jones is a +16 in his career, all coming in the outfield. He had a positive mark every year of his career until last season, when he was a -9 in center.

If Jones is shifted to left field, I think he provides a much higher ceiling defensively than Prado, a converted infielder. Remember, the majority of Jones' defensive numbers have come in center, with more ground to cover. He could be a phenomenal defender in left, where he's a +3 in just 119 innings.

If you look at just the past three years on offense (which excludes the early part of each player's career when they were still maturing), the battle becomes a little closer. Jones holds a slight edge with a .338 wOBA compared to Prado's .334. Their walk rates also come a little closer, with Jones at 5.0% and Prado at 6.3%. The ISO gap also widens, with Jones improving to .174 and Prado remaining relatively constant at .144.

Looking at things from an overall player standpoint, Prado's versatility gives him an edge over Jones due to his ability to play three of the four infield positions. But the Braves are looking for a left fielder right now, not a bench player. If you compare them just as outfielders, I'd give Jones the edge due to his potential superstar defense in left. We know he's historically been good in center, and that should translate well to left.

Neither guy is an ideal fit due to both players having an adversity to the base on balls. But I think in an even, one for one swap, Jones would be the player I'd prefer. Apparently, the Orioles want more than just Prado for Jones, which is a deal I'd balk at. In a straight up deal though, I'd probably end up taking Jones. 

Braves Release Crim, Richardson, Cabrera

Written by Joe Lucia on .

A couple tidbits from the minor leagues, courtesy of Baseball America editor Matt Eddy on Twitter. The Braves have released minor league pitchers Matt Crim and Dustin Richardson, and outfielder Willie Cabrera.

Crim was drafted in the 21st round of the 2009 draft after attending The Citadel, and was the 2009 Appalachian League player of the year for the Danville championship team. It was his finest season as a pro, going 10-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 48 strikeouts, and 10 walks in 68 innings. In 2010 for Myrtle Beach, Crim went 7-11 with a 4.87 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 59 walks, and 15 homers allowed in 149 2/3 innings. This past season, Crim was used mainly out of the bullpen, starting just 11 games between Lynchburg and Mississippi. Combined at the two levels, he had a 5.83 ERA with 26 walks and 57 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings. Crim is 24, and when you have peripherals that bad in the low minors at that age, there's not much hope for a turnaround.

Richardson is a former fifth round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2006 draft, and was acquired by the Braves in the middle of 2011 from the Marlins organization. During his tenure in Gwinnett, he had a 6.00 ERA in 30 innings, walking 22 and striking out 29. He was roster filler, and nothing more.

Cabrera was drafted in the 14th round of the 2005 draft by the Braves, and was a postseason All-Star in 2006 with Danville and 2008 with Myrtle Beach, and a midseason All-Star with Mississippi in 2010. 2011 was the worst year of his career, with a slash line at Gwinnett and Mississippi of .256/.303/.352. His best two seasons came in 2008, where he had a .289/.344/.469 line in 125 games for Myrtle Beach and Mississippi, and 2010, where he had a .298/.359/.439 line in 107 games for Missisippi and Gwinnett. As a 25 year old who struggled in a pair of brief tenures with Gwinnett (8/50, 13 strikeouts), it seemed like there wasn't much of a place for him in the upper levels of the organization. One strong suit about Cabrera is his inability to strikeout, as the highest strikeout total he posted in his career was just 59, over a 511 at bat season.

EDIT: Marcus Lemon also released. He was acquired from the Rangers last season, and had a .254/.303/.333 line for Lynchburg and Mississppi over 108 games. He was a former fourth round pick of the Rangers (who got a seven figure signing bonus), and has now posted sub-.700 OPSes for three years running.

Do the Padres and Braves Match Up For an Outfielder?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

After the San Diego Padres traded for Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox this past weekend, they seem to be flush with outfielders. Are the Atlanta Braves a good match for one of their several corner outfielders?

Maybe, maybe not. It's established that Cameron Maybin is going to be starting in center field for them in 2012, as he should. I think at this point in time, he's the best player on the team. That leaves the team with several possible trade candidates, including Quentin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Kyle Blanks. Let's take a look at them, one at a time.

-Carlos Quentin. Quentin will be the most expensive one of the bunch by far, but also is the most established player. He'll be making at least $5.05 million in arbitration (probably in the $6-$7 million range), which could be a little bit out of Atlanta's price range. There were rumors circulating earlier this morning that the Padres were actually looking to sign Quentin to an extension, which would make sense after acquiring him (without giving up much in return). It'll be interesting to see how Quentin fares in Petco Park after moving away from the cozy US Cellular Field, but as I noted in the above piece, his road OPS was 300 points higher away from the Cell, with an ISO nearly twice as high. I'm not saying those numbers will hold at Petco (in fact, they probably won't at all), but it's an interesting footnote.

Dale Murphy: Not a Viable Hall of Famer

Written by Joe Lucia on .

With Hall of Fame announcements on the horizon (next Monday, for those scoring at home), many Braves fans are jumping on their proverbial horses and championing the "Murphy for the Hall" cause. I hate to break it to you all, but Murphy isn't getting in this year. 2012 will be Murphy's second to last year on the ballot, and the highest percentage of votes he's ever received is 23.2% in 2000. His support has steadily decreased since since, sitting at 12.6% last season. It would require some sort of Herculean effort for Murphy to even get within sniffing distance of the Hall, but to be honest, he doesn't deserve to be there. And here's why.

The Big Question about Beachy

Written by Mark Smith on .

2011 was another stop on the feel-good story tour for one Mr. Brandon Beachy. After not being drafted in 2008, Beachy went to the independent leagues, where a Braves scout took note of his 94 mph fastball and signed him later that season. Beachy entered the Braves’ system as a reliever, but a month or so into 2010, the Braves moved him into the rotation, ending the season in Atlanta. He succeeded and rapidly moved up prospect lists, and by the end of this past Spring Training, he had won a spot in the rotation. Other than an oblique injury, Beachy pitched 140 innings of excellent ball. With a strikeout rate of 10.7 and a walk rate of 3, the only issue with Beachy’s peripherals was his fly-ball tendency that allowed 16 home runs. Even with that, he contributed about three wins to the Braves’ season, which was good enough for third-best on the team.

But that brings us to the subject of this post. Can Beachy continue this into next season and beyond? Was his rookie season a fluke of sorts, and will teams begin to hit him the second and third time around? Let’s first take away the initial concerns centering around his BABiP and HR rate. His BABiP was .307, so that was in line with what we’d expect. His HR/FB was 9.8%, so that’s also about what we’d expect. When we look at his FIP and xFIP, they were 3.19 and 3.16, respectively, so his 3.68 ERA was probably a bit high for what he deserved. With that, none of our initial concerns about his performance seem fluky, but is there more?

When you see disbelief in regard to Beachy, the usual suspect is his strikeout rate. Having a 10+ K/9 when your stuff usually suggests a third or fourth starter causes skepticism. To continue this, he needs a pitch or two that are above-average in order to be so good at striking out hitters. Otherwise, he may simply have ordered them somehow to get more strikeouts than his talent level dictates. It’s not exactly “luck”, but if he doesn’t have the stuff, you can expect the league to simply adjust and hit him better the next time around.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers, Beachy’s whiff rate on his fastball is 22%, which is above the average 16%, but considering his fastball is straight as an arrow, I wouldn’t expect that to continue, even though he has above-average command and velocity. It’s not that it won’t be above-average, but I wouldn’t expect it to remain that high. Beachy’s slider was even better, netting a 42% whiff rate way above the average of 32%, and this is where he made his bread-and-butter. He has an excellent slider due to its ridiculously late break, but that’s a lot to hope for every year. The rest is much more normal. His change-up gets whiffs 28% of the time (30% average) and his curveball 20% (28%). Here’s what we know. Beachy has an above-average to plus fastball and slider, an average change-up, and a below-average curveball that he may want to just junk. What we still don’t know is how the league will react to him.

It’s a crucial question because the initial swings-and-misses may be partially due to batters not having seen Beachy. So the next thing we can do is ask how he performed against teams after his initial bouts.

 

Beachy_2nds

The chart above shows how he did in his 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. times against those teams in his major-league career. If you scan down to the bottom, you see that his strikeout rate has dipped slightly and so has his walk rate, and his FIP even went down. Now, we need to be very careful. This is only 13 games worth of data, and that is not enough to glean sufficient conclusions. They are interesting, however, and at the very least, he isn't getting nailed the next time through.

What do we ultimately learn from all this? Nothing conclusive. We do, however, get more evidence for Beachy being a very, very good pitcher, and we even have some evidence that it wasn’t just some rookie fluke. What I would guess will happen is that Beachy will see a significant drop in his strikeout rate, not to 7 but I’d be somewhat surprised if it’s over 9 again, and we’ll also probably see a slight decrease in walks as he simply gets better from repetitions and more innings. In effect, I would expect something more along the lines of the FANS predictions than Bill James. While that isn’t an “ace”, that’s still a guy that fits comfortably in the middle or top of a rotation. Now, we just have to wait-and-see.

A Few Words About This Site's Future

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Happy 2012 everyone. I just wanted to keep everyone updated on the future of this site, as it's been pretty dead around here over the past couple of months.

We are still operational, and now that the calendar has turned, one of my new year's resolutions is to get things back on track. I've been very sidetracked with my work over at The Outside Corner and my day job, and this site has suffered as a result. The lack of activity by the Braves this offseason hasn't helped matters. The Braves have signed a total of ZERO major league players this offseason, and have lost three free agents: Alex Gonzalez to Milwaukee, Nate McLouth to Pittsburgh, and George Sherrill to Seattle. I touched on Gonzalez briefly when it was announced that Tyler Pastornicky would be the starter in 2012, but the other two really weren't post worthy. I also didn't think that the nontendering of Peter Moylan (a fan favorite, despite being very ineffective since blowing his elbow out) and Brooks Conrad (a bench bat) were really worth posts, though I did have a nice video post up for Conrad that the Joomla fairies ate the HTML for.

I don't know what the staffing for the site is going to look like in the coming months. I'm not sure if I'm going to be bringing anyone on staff at all, or just rolling with the crew I have. I can tell you though, that game recaps will no longer be featured here. This is going to be all analysis, no filler crap that other sites do. That is my promise to you readers in 2012: to put out the absolute best Braves blog that I can, and not be just another one in the crowd. My goal is to make this *the* site for top notch Braves analysis, with all due respect to the current clubhouse leader at Capitol Avenue Club

Thank you for all your readership over the past year, and here's to a more productive 2012. 

Tyler Pastornicky to Start in 2012

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez just broke the news on MLB Network Radio: the team plans to go with rookie Tyler Pastornicky at shortstop in 2012. The starter in 2011, Alex Gonzalez, was not offered arbitration by the team this offseason.

Pastornicky seemed to be the favorite for the role. There was a high ceiling with the shortstops on the free agent market this offseason, with players like Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins lurking. But the dropoff after those two was severe, and you were looking at guys like Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt, both of whom scare me for a variety of reasons. 

I was in favor of either keeping Gonzalez for around the same salary he was getting in 2011, or giving the job to Pastornicky. A raise for Gonzalez was completely out of the question in my mind, due to his anemic bat. Sure, the glove is great, but I can't get past his sub-.300 on base percentages in the last three years. Even at the bottom of the lineup, that's unacceptable.

As for Pastornicky, his starter's role in 2012 will mark the fourth straight year that a rookie position player will be starting for the Braves, following Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, and Freddie Freeman in the three years prior. The Schafer experiment didn't work out well due to a broken wrist, but Heyward and Freeman were smashing successes in their rookie seasons, though Heyward dropped off a bit last year due to a balky shoulder.

Pastornicky had a .314/.359/.414 triple slash in 459 at bats for Mississippi and Gwinnett, along with seven homers and 27 stolen bases. I calculated Pastornicky's major league equivalents a couple of months ago, and determined that he could provide roughly the same or better offensive value as Gonzalez did.

With the shortstop question not a question anymore, the attention will turn to moving Martin Prado and/or Jair Jurrjens in search of an impact bat. Apparently around a dozen teams are interested in Jurrjens, and half the league is interested in Prado, so there is plenty of interest to go around. It might simply be a matter of picking the package that best suits his interests for Frank Wren at this point in time.

Peter Moylan Takes on Nickelback

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

This is quite the Hot Stove season for Braves fans, huh? It's not every year that you trade one player (Martin Prado) to all 29 other teams in baseball, plus a few minor league affiliates, for every guy over the age of 21 who's ever stepped foot in the outfield or on the dirt between second and third base. And Jair Jurrjens! In the course of just a few weeks, he became a 25-year old ace, then a mid-rotation starter of fair value to an injury-wrecked mess who wouldn't even fetch Martin Freaking Prado in a trade. And I'm pretty sure Tyler Pastornicky died, which is too bad.

Yes, folks, it's been a wild couple weeks of rosterbation, but one can hardly blame us fans for that, right? After all, the Braves are a team that was on the verge of playoff baseball last season, and are just a couple pieces away from being a legitimate World Series contender, and some of the marquee free agents are starting to sign, and GMs are bathing in scotch at the Winter Meetings and I'm pretty sure I read on Twitter that one guy (not to name names) loudly yelled to everyoen present that he'd be willing to hand over the contract of ... well, "Hoy Ralladay" (wink wink) if someone will JUST BRING HIM SOME GODDAMN BARBECUE AND A BIB and oh hey did you guys happen to notice that Peter Moylan and Nickelback took to chirping each other on Twitter the other day?

You probably did, since there's, like, literally nothing else newsworthy going on. The closest we've come to meaty stuff is that DOB is probably going to violently eviscerate (is there another way?) the next person who @s him on Twitter asking whether the Braves are going to make a run for Rollins, and while that's certainly a juicy scoop that we'll run with once it becomes reality, we're the kind of Serious Journalists who won't dare speculate on something like that. So, take it away, Pete!

moylan_nickelback 

If you don't know, Chad is Chad Kroeger, the lead singer of the band that, despite being generic hard rock pablum writ large, is probably the most divisive cultural force in America. Relationships have been shattered by people finding out their friend/spouse/pet (somehow) enjoy Nickelback, and given that they've sold more records than all but ten bands over the last decade, that's a lot of broken hearts. Such is life when Canadians get involved.

And so but the story does not end there. Chad Kroeger, ladies and gents, is an international rock star, and he'll be damned if he's going to take that chirp lying down. Clear the way, everyone: Big Bad Chad is comin' through!

nickelback_moylan


Ahem ...

Lakers oh snap
 
Ok, so three points here. First, as Moylan himself said, he is, by definition, watching Kimbrel from either the bench or TV since one cannot have two pitchers on the mound at the same time. Frankly, I thought that rule would've held up the CBA negotiations for months on end, but I guess I'll just keep dreaming. Second, the two have gone on to tweet that it was merely chirping and not a sign of a real Twitter war, which I would think was plainly obvious, but whatever. 

Third, though ... the judges (me) are scoring that as a win by decision for Nickelback (or whomever runs their Twitter). And that, obviously, cannot stand. So let's hear it, commenters: whom should Moylan go after next? @ChrisBrown is a good target, but he's also a loose cannon with an army of rabid supporters (for reasons that escape me, but that's not a discussion for here). One incisive Rihanna comment could very well set Moylan under the knife again, except less in the nice, sterile, surgical way than the motel bathroom way. Plus, @JennyJohnsonHi5 has that beat covered pretty well. There's always @KimKardashian, who's good choice, since lord knows weddings take a long time to plan, and she's been single for an awfully long time by now. My personal favorite choice is @DarrenRovell, whose unique brand of earnest idiocy, self-promotion and incessant interest in business minutiae overrides any inkling of common sense in his brain.

But since we all need something to latch onto, what say you, commenters? Who in the Twitterverse is ripe for some Braves beef oh god that was awful look just share your choices in the comments and we can get back to holding hands and lighting candles, praying for something interesting to happen. 

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