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,
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,
Ok, I thought I would put my two cents in on the HGH subject.
Some Braves fans have had some words about Jordan Schafer who was suspended due to “suspected” HGH use. Braves minor league catcher Tyler Flowers has also been suspended but for a positive test.
Here is the real question, why do players take steroids?
Before you can answer that question you have to know what exactly steroids do. The biggest and most controversial steroid has been HGH. We all know it has been linked to Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and Rafael Palmeiro. Don’t forget that Jose Canseco guy either.
HGH stands for Human Growth Hormone. Basically it helps the player grow, gain muscle mass, or increase their metabolism. Increased growth makes sense for some of the younger players. Some players come up through the minor leagues and don’t quite make it because they are a little short, this would solve their problems.
Now for the muscle growth. Increased muscle mass is great, for football players. If you have a good amount of experience in baseball you know that the ideal player has lean muscle, not bulky. Baseball is more of a speed, not power game. What good is it if you are huge, but can’t run to first base under 10 seconds? It doesn’t make any sense.
Something else that people don’t realize is that HGH is used for injuries. HGH helps various injuries heal faster and get the player back onto the field. The player isn’t using it to get better, they are using it to get back on the field.
What this whole thing comes down to is that steroids don’t make you a better player. If you take steroids to gain muscle, you still have to be able to hit a 95 mph fastball in the first place. Adding muscle won’t help you hit any better. It may help you hit balls further, but you still have to be able to make contact in the first place. Andy Pettitte even said he used it to recover from an injury.
Don’t get me wrong, steroid use is in no way right or ok in any case. It should be punished severely. I just want people to know that even if a player uses steroids it doesn’t mean all of his talent came from steroids. Jordan Schafer’s batting average jumped dramatically before he was suspended. Steroids can help you heal, get bigger, or gain muscle, they cannot however make you a better baseball player.
In the end it is just dumb for any player to use steroids. But please, don’t criticize a player without knowing all of the facts. I know steroids aren’t in any way ok, but don’t jump to conclusions without doing a little research.
It looks like the Braves are getting closer and closer to trading for
Jake Peavy. They have made a strong offer that includes Yunel Escobar,
Charlie Morton and Jordan Schafer. San Diego still wants Tommy Hanson,
but that ain’t happening.
still seems a little iffy about coming to Atlanta. He seems reluctant
because Atlanta would most likely have to give up Yunel Escobar in the
deal. Could Atlanta still compete with the Mets and Phillies without
Escobar? Well, I think so. Escobar has the potential to be a great
player, but so far it is just potential. If the Braves send Escobar to
San Diego, I think they are more than capable of trading for a
shortstop. J.J. Hardy I believe would be a great addition. He hit .283
with 24 home runs and 74 RBIs last year. He doesn’t steal bases but
neither did Escobar. I think it could in a way be an upgrade. So don’t
fret Braves fans.
The next piece is Charlie Morton. I
actually think this is a big blow for Atlanta. Morton pitched hurt for
all but 2 starts last year. In his first start he went 6 innings and
gave up 3 runs. In his second he went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs.
Those aren’t bad for someone who had only been at AAA for a few games
and was prematurely throw in the fire that is the MLB. The rest of the
year he struggled in almost every game. Ok people, Charlie Morton is a
power pitcher. He was only throwing 92-93 because he had some form of
side or rib injury. Morton is supposed to be able to throw in the mid
90’s. He wasn’t able to work off of his power fastball which is not his
game. He struggled because he couldn’t pitch the way he was used to. If
he stays I predict him to one day be the number 3 pitcher in the
rotation, behind Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
final piece of the deal could be Jordan Schafer. I have heard a lot of
talk along the lines of “get that cheater outta here, we don’t want
cheaters and neither does Bobby Cox.” Wrong, get your facts straight
before condemning someone for something they “may” have done. Schafer
was suspended for “suspicion.” There was no positive test. He was
suspected of use and then bam, 50 game suspension. And yes, players
have been suspended for suspicion. By the way, everyone seems to love
Tyler Flowers. He TESTED positive for HGH. Why doens’t anyone talk
about that. Learn the story before saying hateful things about players.
You will look like an idiot.
Schafer may not even be included
in the trade as the Padres interest in him is “lukewarm.” He could be
replaced with another center fielder Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez has
more speed than Schafer but doesn’t have the possibility of being a five
tool player like Schafer does. Overall, I would take Schafer over
Hernandez. We will have to see what happens.
The rumor about
Kelly Johnson being traded for Ryan Ludwick isn’t looking so hot
anymore. Ludwick has been linked to the Rockies in a trade for Matt
Holliday. Sorry guys, if I could trade Ludwick for Holliday or Johnson,
I would take Holliday. That is just an easy decision. All of these
rumors I assume is taking a toll on Atlanta fans. The Braves have not
made a big free agent move since signing Maddux and this has become
very frustrating. Maybe getting Peavy would help motivate free agents
It is time for me to make some bold predictions about Atlanta’s roster next year.
1. CF Josh Anderson/Jordan Schafer
2. SS Yunel Escobar*
3. 3B Chipper Jones
4. C Brian McCann
5. LF Rocco Baldelli/Delmon Young
6. 1B Casey Kotchman
7. RF Jeff Francoeur
8. 2B Kelly Johnson
9. SP see available starters below
*I could easily see Baldelli/Young moving up to the 2 spot and Escobar dropping down to 7 and having Kotchman and Francoeur move up to 5 and 6.
1. Martin Prado
2. Omar Infante
3. Greg Norton
4. Ruben Gotay
1. Jake Peavy
2. Jon Garland
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Jorge Campillo/Tim Hudson when healthy will switch to the 2nd starter
5. Tommy Hanson
Setup man 1. Soriano
Setup man 2. Moylan
Setup man 3. MAYBE Smoltz
Closer: Mike Gonzalez
This is what I think Atlanta will look like next year. Not eye popping or anything, but a strong lineup nonetheless. Atlanta will be carried by a strong rotation and bullpen. They will produce runs with speed at the top and good but not great power in the middle. Sorry if you are upset that Francoeur is batting 7th, get over it. He actually deserves to bat 8th but I really like him.
Well, that’s my team for next year. Share your thoughts and comment away.