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.
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 know, I know. He is 36 years old. Big freaking deal. That Randy Johnson guy has been like 40 for like 15 years now and he has been doing ok. Derek Lowe will be fine. Not only is he the veteran arm the Braves have been looking for he would be taken away from that “other evil empire.” You know, the one that rhymes with Bets.
Signing a player that would contribute to the Braves and hurt the Mets at the same time would make my week. The Braves need to make this move. For the fans, the players, and the most of all the team. Frank Wren, sign Derek Lowe, you won’t be disappointed.
The only reason the Braves aren’t pursuing Lowe more is his age. He is 36 but he is durable. The guy can flat out take the mound every 5th day and throw 7 strong innings. Last year he was only 14-11 but he had a 3.24 ERA and threw over 200 innings. Sounds like a winner to me. He is exactly what the Braves need. The money should not be an issue in this deal as the Braves have been saving money this whole off season. Indulge a little, please, the Bravo Nation is begging you. Frank Wren, if you make this move and it backfires you can blame it on me. I’ll take one for the team. Just do it.
If Atlanta doesn’t get Lowe then the pitching market gets a whole lot smaller, again. Jon Garland who I have said would be a good fit is still on the market. But I like Lowe a lot better. Lowe has the playoff experience and would be able to give advice to young hurlers like Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
Garland may be a little more multi-year contract friendly but Lowe is the better pitcher. Age is also on Garland’s side but like before, Lowe is the better pitcher. Lowe had just as many wins, a better ERA, more strikeouts, and more innings pitched in 2008. A 4-year contract would put Derek Lowe at age 40 and most likely the end of his career. I see nothing wrong with that. A 5-year deal would be too much but I see nothing wrong with a 4-year deal.
The Braves may not hold onto him and that is just one more gapping hole in Atlanta’s rotation, unless they sign Derek Lowe. If he can come back and produce then the rotation is looking pretty darn good to me. Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and maybe Tommy Hanson. Come on Wren, get it done!
Till next time,
I just wanted to say happy holidays to everyone and I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I hope everything you wished for is under your tree and you have a great time with your family. We all know some people got everything they wanted and more, cough, cough Yankees, cough. Just remember that the holidays are about spending time with your family and loving life, not presents. Presents are great and all, but family is better.
What do I want for the holidays you ask? The Braves to not suck next season. They may not land any big names like Derek Lowe or Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, but I think they can get some mid level guys that will contribute to the team.
I think signing Will Ohman would be a great piece to have come back. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is going to come a lot cheaper if they sign him before Fuentes lands somewhere else. Ohman was great last year as a lefty out of the bullpen and I think the Braves need to bring him back.
Ohman will be a solid piece to help anchor down the bullpen which I believe is the strength of the team. Mike Gonzalez is an excellent closer and Rafael Soriano is another closer caliber pitcher that will set up Gonzalez.
Peter Moylan is a great right handed pitcher that I think will come back from elbow surgery and dominate again. The Braves will have 3 players that could close on a lot of teams and that is their strength. Blaine Boyer is also a solid reliever but was just overworked to the point where his game suffered greatly. I think this boils back down to the weak starting pitching last year.
The starting pitching issue I think can be somewhat solved with Jon Garland. I know, I know, he isn’t a great pitcher with a sub 3 ERA. What he does do is eat innings and keep the team in the game. That is what the Braves need. Garland and Javier Vazquez will night in and night out go and throw 6 or 7 solid innings so when the bullpen does need to be used they are fresh and on top of their game.
The Braves have some young talent like Charlie Morton and Tommy Hanson. They are going to stumble in games and need the bullpen to bail them out. That bullpen will be fresh after they get a few days off after Vazquez and Garland pitch. Morton pitched hurt most of the season which caused a lot of his bad numbers. Hanson has been dominant but we cannot count on him to do the same at the major league level. If we do we are setting ourselves up for disaster, again.
I honestly don’t think the Braves will win the World Series next year. I don’t think they will make the playoffs. I hope they do, more than anything. But unless Atlanta lands a few more players and plays out of their minds it doesn’t look good. The Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Dodgers are all going to be really good. So that means the Braves have to be better. Hopefully they can at least make it competitive.
Be safe and happy holidays,
The Braves need to make a move on Peavy. The Cubs have apparently found a third team to help snag him. Lou Piniella said they don’t need him but that doesn’t mean they won’t get him anyway. Wren, stop playing hard to get and just give in to it. Playing hard to get seems cool but it will get the Braves smashed by the rest of the National League next year.
Next, sign Rafael Furcal. He wants to come back to the Braves and Atlanta would need to replace the recently traded Escobar. This would also give the Braves speed at the top of the lineup while keeping the defense at shortstop. Anyone else remember how Furcal is a switch hitter? Yea, he is good stuff.
Next up, trade for Jermaine Dye. Atlanta has more than a surplus of pitching prospects. The White Sox apparently are looking for pitching, well the Braves have it. As long as the Braves have Tommy Hanson in the end, Atlanta will be fine.
Finally, sign A.J. Burnett. Give him either his 5 years or if he will accept, 4 with a player option. Atlanta would have added Jake Peavy, Rafael Furcal and Jermaine Dye. That creates an ace at the top so Burnett could be the 2nd guy. It also creates a stronger lineup to give him run support. Chipper Jones is a big fan so it would all fit. Don’t worry about him getting hurt, it won’t be worse than Mike Hampton so you will get over it.
Atlanta would have a great lineup while still having their top three prospects. I haven’t done the math but I’m pretty sure Atlanta has more than enough money. If they have some cash left over, use it to give Jurrjens a long term contract. Keep that kid locked up as long as possible.
Just imagine a Jake Peavy, A.J. Burnett, Jair Jurrjens rotation. Oh yea, the Braves get Tim Hudson back later in the season for an added boost. Furcal was always a great guy in the clubhouse and Jermaine Dye would provide that power outfielder the Braves have been looking for. If Wren does this and it falls through I will take all the blame. I really just want this to be done.
Stop messing around Wren, this is ridiculous.
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
A few minutes ago I was checking up on Atlanta’s young studs in the Arizona Fall League.
Pitching wise they have been doing excellent. The only run allowed by the 3 pitchers was by Stephen Marek. That run also happened to be unearned.
I checked in on Van Pope and saw his power numbers are still low, but that can change. Next I checked in on the budding star Tyler Flowers.
In 39 at bats he has 11 runs scored, 16 hits, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, and 8 runs batted in. Pretty impressive huh? As I go along the stat line I find my way to strikeouts. Whoops. 12 K’s in 39 at bats. We have a problem my friends.
That comes out to an average of a 30% strikeout rate. As in 3 times per 10 at bats. That is not very good. Already he is showing signs of becoming a Ryan Howard type player. Not in the sense of hitting baseballs that have changed area codes. But in the sense of racking up strikeouts. Already he has about as many K’s as Peyton Manning has commercials. That is not good.
I know, I know, he is young, things can change. But before we go saying how amazing he is we need to take everything into consideration. This could be either a lack of experience or a sign of things to come. Hopefully it isn’t the later of the two.