Atlanta has invited a handful of top prospects to spring training to let them show their stuff. The first prospect is Jason Heyward. Heyward is a 6’5” hitting machine. He is Atlanta’s top prospect and is ranked #3 in all of minor league baseball.
In 120 games at A Rome last year he hit .323 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. His statistics don’t show but he is rumored to have tremendous power. He is having great success while only being 19 years old. Heyward will most likely start the season at AA Mississippi but it should be fun to watch him hit against major league pitching.
He may not make the major league roster but the experience of spring training will do him good. Hopefully he will show a little more power at AA.
Atlanta’s 2nd ranked prospect is Tommy Hanson. Hanson is the only pitcher to be named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Hanson toyed with fellow top prospects during the AFL and could be fighting for the 5th spot in the starting rotation. Hanson has only pitched at AA but has shown such dominance that he could be major league ready. Hanson is a huge 6’6” power pitcher that struck out 114 batters in only 98 innings at AA Mississippi. His fastball can reach the upper 90’s and he has a knee buckling curve ball. He needs to bring those with him if he will make the major league roster.
Freddie Freeman is 4th on Atlanta’s prospect list and is 38th overall. Freeman is a tall first baseman that had an even better year than Heyward. In 130 games last year at A Rome, Freeman hit .316 with 18 home runs and 95 RBI. Freeman has also shown he can find the gaps as he crushed 33 doubles and 7 triples in his first full season.
Freeman and Heyward could be a home run mashing duo in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup in a few years. Both will start the season at AA Mississippi and could move up the ranks of the minors league together. Both should be about ready for Atlanta in 2010.
Jordan Schafer, Atlanta’s #3 ranked prospect, has been criticized for his suspension for suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. Here is an interesting article that compares the 2007 or “steroid” season with last year’s season. The statistics show he arguably got better after he “got off the roids.” Schafer will be competing for the starting center fielder job as soon as spring training starts. Schafer is just as good if not better defensively than Gregor Blanco and Josh Anderson, but he provides power that both Blanco and Anderson lack. If Schafer wins the job he would most likely be placed at the top of the lineup followed by Yunel Escobar in the #2 spot.
Despite the success in the starting rotation Medlen may have to move back to a middle reliever as Atlanta is stocked with top starting pitchers. He did well in the Arizona Fall League which is traditionally known as a hitter’s league, but it doesn’t look like he will make the team as Atlatna already has a strong bullpen.
With all the acquisitions made this off season the Braves still have two voids to fill in the outfield. Jeff Francoeur seems to be entrenched in right field for at least the 2009 season which leaves two spots open. Atlanta has shown interest in both Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, though Swisher appears to be the favorite.
Nady is the superior player both offensive and defensively but Swisher would come at a bigger discount. Nady also happens to be a Scott Boras client and will hit free agency after the 2009 season. Jason Heyward could be Nady’s replacement in the likely hood that he departs, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready in time.
Heyward is already a tremendous talent but Atlanta does not in anyway want to rush him. He has been invited to this year’s spring training but is not expected to make the roster.
Atlanta’s beat writer Mark Bowman has said that the Orlando Hudson idea died about a month ago. Atlanta let the idea go over defensive worries. I don’t really buy that idea as before last year he won consecutive Gold Glove awards. Hudson was also injured for part of last year so that may have effected his range factor, which has provided concerns for Atlanta. The signing of Hudson could have made Kelly Johnson expendable and led to a possible trade for Ryan Ludwick.
I would like a trade for Swisher if Atlanta didn’t need to include too much value. It would take less to land Swisher than Nady, but Swisher is also under contract for $22.5MM over the next 3 seasons. Swisher had a down year last year but did hit 24 home runs. Swisher is also a switch hitter which gives him a lot of value to the Braves.
If Atlanta can’t land Swisher it looks like Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco could be battling for the spot in left field. Center field is also up for grabs with Blanco, Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer all fighting for the spot.
When this is all said and done I think Atlanta can land Swisher and that Jordan Schafer will win the starting spot in center field. Schafer is just as good defensively as Anderson and Blanco but can provide more offense. Atlanta was in desperate need of offensive production from the outfield last year and Schafer is the most likely to provide it out of the three.
Till next time,
Atlanta’s off season has been somewhat of a success, though it could have been better. With all the additions to the pitching staff the Braves still need to add a left-handed reliever. Will Ohman is still out on the market so there is no reason for Atlanta to not resign him. There is mutual interest between both parties, so a deal should get done. Anything less and it will just add to the long list of blunders made by Atlanta’s front office this off season.
As we look forward to spring training Braves fans should be excited about the young talent showing up. Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Jordan Schafer, and Kris Medlen have all been invited. The only problem I see in this group again is that all three position players bat left-handed. Expecting all of them to someday be a starter that would give the Braves at least five left handed bats with Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson also on the roster. I’m not a big fan of having five left-handed bats in one lineup. When facing a right-handed pitcher it is ok but when a lefty comes in it could be a long day for Atlanta’s offense.
Despite that little issue I’m excited about getting to see some of these guys play. Heyward and Freeman can be a great duo that drives in runs in bunches in the middle of the lineup. Schafer has the potential to be a lead off hitter with a little pop. Tommy Hanson could have the biggest impact in the regular season as he has the best chance of making the roster but that would again pose a problem, an all right-handed pitching staff. The strategy of right-handed and left-handed players is extremely underrated and Atlanta could have problems with it this year.
I don’t think Heyward, Freeman, and Medlen will make the roster but Hanson and Schafer have good chances. I think Schafer could make the roster because Gregor Blanco and Josh Anderson don’t provide much offense. Schafer is just as good defensively and could be much better offensively. He just needs to play well and he can make the opening day roster, maybe even as the starting centerfielder. Schafer has had big league experience before attending spring training last year, so this year he knows what he is up against. Braves fans can only hope he is ready for the task ahead of him.
Till next time,
I am ecstatic that the Braves signed Derek Lowe. He was their last option to try and salvage a disastrous off season. Atlanta signed him to a 4-year deal worth $60MM. A little more than I would like but the Braves ran their way into a corner. Frank Wren couldn’t trade for Jake Peavy, couldn’t sign A.J. Burnett, and couldn’t sign Rafael Furcal.
When the off season looked like a complete failure Wren pulled some moves out of his bag and made the Braves contenders. He signed Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe to bolster the staff. He signed Greg Norton and Omar Infante to come off the bench. And don’t forget about the trade for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
Now Atlanta needs to try and add a power bat to put in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. I think that guy could be Xavier Nady. The Braves had interest at the break last year but the Pirates opted to trade him to the Yankees. The only problem is that Nady happens to be a Scott Boras client so come next off season when he is a free agent he is going to want him money.
I’m actually not even worried about trading some prospects and potentially losing Nady in the off season. The Braves have Jason Heyward who is making great strides in the minors and could be major league ready for the 2010 season. The kid can flat out mash the ball and he has good speed to boot. He is also turning out to be an above average defender so I am definitely looking forward to seeing him in 2010.
I know the Braves want to land Nady, but maybe the solution to the power drought is already on the team. Remember that Jeff Francoeur guy? He had one down year and is still only 24 years old. Last time I checked he still had a good 2 or 3 years before he is even supposed to hit his prime. Give the kid some time.
Every Atlanta fan and most other fans know he has the potential to provide a ton of power, hit for average, play Gold Glove defense, and maybe steal 10-15 bases. If he can just stop the free swinging and be more disciplined I think things will turn around for him. You can’t swing at 9 out of 10 pitches and expect to see anything worth hitting.
If the Braves can add a bat or Francoeur can turn things around I would not write them off of winning the division. The Phillies may have won the World Series but that just means everyone is going to be gunning for them. And everyone already guns for the Mets just because, well, they play in New York.
Philadelphia 24 Arizona 27
Baltimore 10 Pittsburgh 21
That move could have opened things up for the Braves. Furcal could have played second base and Kelly Johnson could have been used as a trade piece. The Cardinals are apparently interested in Johnson, but I don’t really see the Braves moving him. I heard rumors about Johnson and a pitcher going to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick, but that deal is dead. Rick Ankiel is a possibility, but he is left handed so I doubt the Braves would pull the trigger.
I was really looking forward to having Furcal back. He provided the speed at the top of the lineup that the Braves have lacked since he left. He was a great guy in the clubhouse but obviously things weren’t going to work out. I blame a lot of that whole signing on Furcal himself, if he wanted to come back to the Braves he would have. I think he is just greedy at this point. He passed up going somewhere he could have been really happy for a bigger contract.
A minor signing I would like to point out is that of Greg Norton. He may not be a super star but he is a switch-hitting pinch hitter that can knock in runs when they are needed. He can play the corner outfield positions and first base. He was a clutch hitter for the Braves after they signed him. I was hoping they would bring him back and they did. Next I want Atlanta to bring back Will Ohman. It may take more than they wanted but we all know the Braves have been saving up as they have done almost nothing this off season. Ohman is a top notch lefty that will come a lot cheaper than Brian Fuentes.
I still think the Braves should take a shot at Pat Burrell. I was not high on him at the beginning of the off season but the Braves have cornered themselves into this position. Burrell could be a short term solution before Jason Heyward is ready for Atlanta. Burrell is a right handed, power bat that Atlanta has been looking for. I like Jermaine Dye better, but I would think the Braves would have traded for him at the same time as Javier Vazquez. It just makes sense.
If Atlanta went into the season today, I would be hoping for 3rd place in the division, at best. They don’t have a power-hitting outfielder. They don’t have an ace. They don’t have an established lead off hitter. The outfielder may not be needed if Jeff Francoeur can bounce back, while Jair Jurrjens is no ace. He has the potential to be one, but he isn’t one now. Josh Anderson has the potential to be a legitimate lead off hitter, but I want to see him do it over the course of an entire season. I would almost rather take my chances with Jordan Schafer, who can be a 5-tool player. Gorkys Hernandez also has the potential to be a 5-tool player, but I think Schafer has a little more power.
I actually like Atlanta’s bullpen. Mike Gonzalez is great at the end while Peter Moylan is an excellent set up man. I would like Rafael Soriano to be the set up man, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy. I had thoughts that he may be faking his injuries since the trainers couldn’t find anything wrong. Every time he said he was healthy, bam, he is hurt again. I was actually beyond frustrated with him. Blaine Boyer is not as bad as people think, he just was overworked.
If things stay the way they are I think the Braves can compete, but not win anything big. I’m not going to sit here and tell myself the Braves are a lot better than they are. I’m not going to sit here and tell all of you the Braves are better than they are. Right now they are mediocre at best. If they stay pat, 85 wins is a good season.
Over and out,
I have become very frustrated by the fact that people do not consider the other half of the trade, the Padres.
Fellow Braves fans, if you want someone good, you need to give up someone good. It really is that simple. No illusions or tricks, value gets value. Crap does not get you value. Unless you are the Yankees and somehow give up nothing for the best players every year. (GM’s on the Yankees payroll?) Who knows. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I would like to clear something up. The Padres want 2 starting pitchers and 1 major league ready outfielder. Relievers don’t count as starters so stop trying to include them. Jo-Jo Reyes has zero value, stop trying to include him because you don’t like him.
As for the outfielders, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez, Jordan Schafer, and Jason Heyward are the possibilities. One needs to go if you want Peavy, get over it. The only reason the Padres want Yunel Escobar is it is their attempt to dump Khalil Green’s salary. Replacing Escobar with Brent Lillibridge will not get it done. Escobar is better, hands down, no contest.
This continues to the fact that Martin Prado and Kelly Johnson may be included in the deal. San Diego could move one over to shortstop. That one would be Kelly Johnson as he came up as a shortstop. I don’t think Prado has the range to play shortstop so I doubt San Diego does either.
San Diego may want Tyler Flowers, but I doubt it. There hasn’t been any official talk about so I don’t think they want him.
Finally! Please think things through! Before you go saying your trade think to yourself, “would I make that trade?” If you say no, then the Padres won’t do it either as they have more knowledge about these players than any one of us fans. The trade HAS to be fair for BOTH teams. Giving up mediocre players will NOT get you Jake Peavy. So please, just stop it.