Tagged: Yunel Escobar

Young guns ready for spring training

Jason HeywardAtlanta 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 FreemanFreddie 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.  

Kris MedlenKris Medlen has also been invited to spring training. Medlen is a hard throwing right-handed pitcher that has been used as a starter and as a reliever. He struggled as a reliever but showed progress when placed in the starting rotation.

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.

~Ben

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Did Atlanta Salvage This Off season?

Did the Braves salvage this off season? To be honest, I don’t think they did. When you look back at what could have been you can picture an Atlanta Braves team with a dominating pitching staff and a powerful offense. Instead Atlanta has an above average pitching staff and a somewhat weak offense. What could have been?

Jake PeavyI think this all goes back to the Jake Peavy rumors. Both sides managed that whole deal horribly. Sure, Kevin Towers may have been asking a little much, but Frank Wren pulled out because of an extremely minor detail. The Padres wanted Jeff Locke to be included and Frank Wren didn’t want to add him. If you do your research you will see that Jeff Locke is a pitcher in A ball that can been called “wild.” The kid can hardly find the strike zone and you aren’t going to add him into a deal to bring in one of the best pitchers in baseball? I think that is a joke.

By not making that trade Wren is showing he is not willing to give talent to get talent. The best players aren’t going to come free. You have to give up quality to get quality in return. The Braves would have given up potential All-Star Yunel Escobar, but they could have turned around and signed Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera to replace him.

A.J. Burnett

If Atlanta brings in Jake Peavy they could make a serious run at A.J. Burnett. Already having a star on the team makes a difference when trying to lure a big time free agent. Another problem was the contract offer. Atlanta basically came up a few million short of New York’s offer. Atlanta can’t put up a few more million to bring in a second ace? That is ridiculous. If you want the big time players you have to put up big time money. It really is that simple. With Peavy and Burnett at the front of the rotation they would be tough to beat in any series.

Javier VazquezInstead of having two All-Star aces at the front of the rotation the Braves have Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez. Atlanta ran themselves into a corner and ended up over paying for Derek Lowe. The Mets weren’t going any higher on their offer, the Braves flat out over payed. Vazquez is an innings eater but he is getting payed over $11MM. If a team is paying a pitcher over $10MM he better be an All-Star caliber pitcher. Vazquez is not that. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Instead of trading for Javier Vazquez Atlanta could have traded for Jermaine Dye. He would have been the power bat they needed at a reasonable price. Dye is getting payed just under $10MM and he is going to give you 30-35 home runs and drive in over 100 runs. That is a bargain if you ask me. Frank Wren is not willing to spend money unless he has his back against the wall. After John Smoltz left he knew he needed to bring in Lowe, at any cost.

Smoltz deserved to be brought back just like Tom Glavine deserves to be brought back. I’m not saying that Wren is a bad GM because he is not. But any Braves fan that says Schuerholz would have done better is not looking into this deep enough. John Schuerholz has just as much influence on the Braves has Wren does, they are both to blame. Wren is not a bad GM, this whole off season was just mismanaged. You cannot be afraid to take risks. Peavy and Burnett are both risks, but their rewards are so great you have to take the chance. You have to in order to be successful.

Kelly JohnsonNow you have to take a look at the Rafael Furcal deal. Why were the Braves trying to bring him in anyway? The Padres deal for Peavy was dead and I doubt Furcal would have been happy playing second. Why trade Kelly Johnson anyway? He is a solid player that has made great strides after he used to play left field. I know, he played shortstop for a long time. But shortstop and second base are different positions. Get over it. Changing positions is not easy at all.

Then the Braves come out and say they won’t work with Furcal’s agency anymore. Peter Moylan happens to be represented by that agency and he is a very good player. Atlanta needs Moylan to come back and be solid in the bullpen for them to be successful. That deal also goes back to the Braves being cheap and not willing to outbid anyone. The times of home town discounts and taking less money to play for your favorite team are just about over. It comes down to money.

I don’t think the Braves salvaged this off season as they should be a lot better. They made strides in the right direction but only when they had their backs against the wall. They were reluctant to spend money and then over payed when they didn’t need to. It just goes to show you that taking risks and managing a team are underrated aspects of the game.

Sincerely,

~Ben 

Now What?

If by some strange reason you have yet to hear, A.J. Burnett signed with the New York Yankees .The deal is 5 years and worth $82.5MM.

That is fine and dandy for the Yankees, but what do the Braves do now?

At this point I think they need to go after Jon Garland and Ian Snell. The only problem in acquiring Snell is what the Pirates would ask in return. I have heard a lot of teams have walked away from them because of their steep asking prices.

Jon GarlandIf the Padres come crawling back with the Jake Peavy deal I think the Braves need to make it clear that Yunel Escobar is off the table. They did not earn him in the last negotiations. In the previous deal San Diego had asked for 2 major league ready pitchers and 1 major league ready center fielder. The Braves offered Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, Blaine Boyer, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke. That is a potentially great shortstop, a major league ready center fielder, 2 major league ready pitchers and a future starter. More than they asked for and they said no. They don’t deserve Escobar this time around.

Pat BurrellIf the Padres do come back and accept the fact they won’t get Escobar I believe the Braves have no other choice but to get the deal done. They don’t have many other options at this point in time. Next is the left field situation. I have the solution…Pat Burrell. Before you snap, key point, 1 or 2 year deal. No long term situation. Continue to read and hear me out.

The Braves have a player named Jason Heyward. He is extremely good and is only 18. He is expected to hit the majors by 2010. If this is the case why find a long term fix now? You don’t. Atlanta can sign Pat Burrell to a 1 year deal with a team option for a second. This is in case Heyward slows in his development which is likely. Burrell is a right handed power bat which the Braves are searching for. He would slip into the 4 spot in the lineup between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann when a right handed pitcher is starting. When a lefty comes in he would slip back to the 5 spot and McCann would bat 4th.

Having a right handed bat play left field allows the Braves to stagger their lineup, as in right, left, right, left. This makes the other team think more about bringing in a specialist from the bullpen in a late game situation. This would be a great strength for the Braves. Burrell could also come at maybe $8MM or $10MM per year. This is a bargain for the statistics he is capable of putting up. Thank you bad economy.

Ryan LudwickThe reason I chose signing Pat  Burrell over trading for  Ryan Ludwick is the simple fact that Ludwick is unproven. He had one really good year. Burrell has had several. Burrell has shown he can produce year after year.

I still don’t love Burrell because he strikes out more than I would like, but hey, you have to make sacrifices. It would also be a short term contract so if he is horrible for one year the team can decline his option, making him a free agent. No more Burrell. This gives the Braves the bat they want and serves as a short term guy to hold left field before Jason Heyward can take over. Let me know what you guys think.

Over and out,

~Ben

Finally Getting Something Done

Well, it looks like the Braves finally made a move. This would send Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the Braves in exchange for Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez. The White Sox are getting a little more than they should in my opinion. Am I liking this trade? Yea. Am I loving it? No.

Javier Vasquez

I’m liking this trade because the Braves are getting a solid middle of the rotation starter in exchange for some mediocre prospects. Just for the record I am including Tyler Flowers in that mediocre comment. I will address that later. Only Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez have had more strikeouts than Vazquez since 1998 while only Livan Hernandez has thrown more innings since 2000. This guy is a workhorse. He may not be an overpowering, superstar ace like Jake Peavy or A.J. Burnett, but he will be a strong piece to add to the rotation.

The Braves also get Boone Logan who was less than spectacular last year. This was the first time I have even heard his name since I don’t play close attention to the White Sox, but I have a strong grasp of the game’s above average players. I don’t feel he should be included in that group of players. What he does provide is a fresh arm to a bullpen that was worn out last year. He is just a fresh face that may be a diamond in the rough, who knows?

Brian McCannOn the White Sox side of the deal they got some nice pieces. Not great, but nice. Tyler Flowers is the centerpiece of the deal for Chicago. Before all the Flowers faithful go haywire, let’s calm down and face reality. Flowers did great in the AFL, which was a hitters league. He should be crushing the ball to be honest.

He is a catcher that can crush the ball. Wait, the Braves have that Brian McCann guy already. I’d say he is pretty good. Can Flowers move to first base? No. Casey Kotchman is better than he played and if that doesn’t work out Freddie Freeman is a better overall prospect and already plays first base. Flowers is just in a bad situation. It happens to a lot of good players. He will get over it and you guys should too.

Brent Lillibridge is a great trade since he is not major league ready. If the Braves trade Yunel Escobar there is no doubt in my mind that Lillibridge would not be able to step in and perform at the highest level. The kid has a great glove but he just can’t hit. If he can fix that then he will turn into a nice piece for the White Sox. Until then, good luck guys.

Jon Gilmore is one of those third basemen that is supposedly capable of replacing Chipper Jones. I have been hearing his name for a few years now and haven’t seen anything spectacular. Santos Rodriguez is a nice pick up for Chicago. He pitched well in both of the past two years but is still a long ways away from hitting Chicago.

Jermaine DyeIn all this was a good trade for both Atlanta and Chicago. Don’t worry about not having the prospects to get Peavy now because I doubt any of those would have been included anyway. This could in fact get Towers to come crawling back because he feels the Braves have moved on without him. It is just a matter of time before Towers comes back. Just a matter of time.

The only thing that disappoints me is that Jermaine Dye was not included in the trade. This could of possibly killed two birds with one stone in getting a starter and a power hitting outfielder. But oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Braves won’t be fixed in a day.

Cheers,

~Ben

MVP and the Heisman Trophy

Ben RoethlisbergerI have pretty much given up all hope for Ben Roethlisberger
winning the NFL MVP. He started out great, then just tailed off after
that Philadelphia game. It isn’t really all his fault as it is pretty
hard to throw from your back. He has been sacked 33 times already this
year. That is unacceptable.

The offensive line as not played
the way they should and they all know it. There is all the talk about
them having to “gel” together but I’m not buying it. It comes down to
the fact that they are getting beat by the D-line every Sunday for most
of the game. The offensive line should be the first need addressed in
the upcoming NFL draft.

Speaking of the NFL draft. Looks
like we may have quite the group of quarterbacks. You have 3 Heisman
candidates in the Big 12 alone. Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell, and Sam Bradford
are all good picks. But who will win? My pick at this point is Sam
Bradford. Check out his stats, they are ridiculous. McCoy does have a
big advantage in the completion percentage but I will address that
next.

Heisman TrophyEveryone
goes crazy about McCoy’s amazing completion percentage. It is great and
all but he is only throwing 5-10 yard passes. He dumps the ball off
over the middle and his receivers run. Every once in a while he takes a
shot down field but not often. If Bradford and Harrell took those short
passes they would be just as good if not better.

Graham
Harrell is by far the best “passer” of the three. While McCoy is the
best runner and Bradford has the best combination of both. So this year
Bradford is going to walk away with the hardware.

So, has anyone been watching that whole Big 12 Championship debacle? Oklahoma got the bid to go in and smash Missouri in the championship. I am by no means a Texas
fan, but they got screwed. Oklahoma got the bid despite Texas beating
them straight up on a neutral site. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Sure,
Oklahoma smashed Texas Tech
but lost to Texas which is what really counts. I also think it is
hilarious that Mike Leach thinks the bid should go to the school with
the highest graduation rate in the conference (Texas Tech is 1, with
Texas at 11 and Oklahoma at 12). Nice try Mike, but it ain’t happening.

I suppose I could get back to baseball. It is so hard sense not
much has been happening. I know the winter meetings are coming up but
there is just so much excitement around football. I’m still waiting
around for Kevin Towers to come crawling back with Jake Peavy. I still believe that Yunel Escobar, Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, Blaine Boyer, and Jeff Locke is more than enough. It fills every need the Padres have and it is just pure greed on Towers’ part.

Escobar, Morton, and Hernandez were all hand picked by the Padres.
Escobar is a young superstar in the making that has tremendous talent.
Boyer is a major league ready reliever who just had to much on his
plate last year. He is also pretty young. Locke is a young pitcher who
has great potential. The Padres are getting the best of the deal here
so I don’t know why they haven’t done anything. To be honest it is just
plain stupidity on their part.

Will A.J. Burnett sign with the Braves?
If they trade for Peavy then yes. If they don’t then it seems unlikely.
Adding Peavy would give Burnett added motivation to come to Atlanta. He
wouldn’t even have to be the ace if he didn’t want to. A Peavy,
Burnett, Jurrjens, then later Hudson rotation would be dominant. Maybe
the best in baseball.

Yunel EscobarIf the Braves trade Escobar then I see them turning around and instantly signing Rafael Furcal.
He wants to come back to Atlanta so welcome him with open arms. It
would also give them a lead off hitter with speed that the Braves have
lacked since Furcal left. It just makes sense. If the Braves don’t sign
Burnett and trade for Peavy I see them going hard for Jermaine Dye and Javier Vazquez. Dye would provide the power bat in the outfield while Vazquez would be a veteran, middle of the rotation pitcher.

If all else fails I would think Atlanta would turn to signing Jon Garland or Ben Sheets.
Garland would just plain eat innings while Sheets could end up being an
ace type pitcher. Garland doesn’t have great stats but he eats up
innings and keeps his team in the game. Ben Sheets can be lights out or
he can be on the bench with an injury. Sheets can either be a big game
pitcher or a monster bust. I’m afraid to find out.

Over and out,

~Ben  

Any Day Now

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.

Jake Peavy

Ok everybody, now hear me out. I have the solution to every need the Braves have. First, trade Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton, Blaine Boyer and Jeff Locke for Peavy. It is a lot but the Braves can handle it. Escobar is the cherry on top while the Padres have all their needs filled. Morton and Boyer are both major league ready pitchers while Locke has tremendous potential. Hernandez is their major league ready center fielder. That is exactly what they want. Change the deal a little if it is needed. Do whatever it takes.

Rafael FurcalNext, 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.

~Ben

Bravos Stayin’ Idle

Not much movement around Atlanta these days. It’s a little disappointing to be honest. Atlanta has so much money but they have yet to make a move.

Jake PeavyIn all honesty I think they are still waiting on Peavy. It really does make sense. If Atlanta wasn’t waiting around to pull the trigger on Peavy why wouldn’t they deal Yunel Escobar or Kelly Johnson somewhere else? I have heard Ryan Ludwick could have been acquired some time ago. Why didn’t they do it yet?

Kelly Johnson has supposedly been asked about by several teams, why hasn’t he been moved? If Martin Prado is supposed to be a strong replacement there is no reason why Johnson shouldn’t have been traded by now.

The Braves have Rafael Furcal waiting in the wings for them. Therefore Escobar is expendable. Tons of teams would give up solid players in exchange for Escobar. Atlanta knows it will take Escobar to get Peavy, so they haven’t made any moves yet. I think it is extremely obvious that the Braves want Peavy bad, but don’t want to come out and say it. They will give up less by playing hard to get and having the Padres come crawling back.

The word on the net is that the Braves are in the final five teams for A.J. Burnett. Cool, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, Burnett is a solid player but five years is a long time for someone who has been injury prone. Should they do it? My answer is they kinda have to. Atlanta doesn’t really have any other choice. Without him or Peavy they won’t win next year. I say this because I don’t think Derek Lowe is an option. He wants to go back to Boston, its that simple.

A.J. BurnettBesides the usual Peavy and Burnett discussions there has been some Jermaine Dye talk recently. I think he is a decent fit. He hits for power but doesn’t sacrifice much in batting average. Last year Dye hit .292 with 34 home runs. The only thing I don’t like is his age. That is the downfall with the Magglio Ordonez idea that was thrown around earlier this off season. I think Dye has a little more power but isn’t the contact hitter that Ordonez is. If I had to chose right now I would pick Dye as I believe he is cheaper and has been a little more durable.

Jermaine DyeIf I had my way the Padres would cave in and trade Peavy to the Braves. Atlanta could turn around and sign Furcal and Burnett. Getting Dye should be on the back burner at this point because pitching wins championships. I also think Francoeur will bounce back. He wasn’t any happier about last season as we were and wants to get back on track. I have faith that he can step up.

A power hitting outfielder is nice but wouldn’t be as necessary if Francoeur can put the power numbers we all know he is capable of. I have also read about Ryan Ludwick. I’m not to fond of that idea since he kinda jumped out of nowhere. Remember Morgan Ensberg? He exploded a few years ago and imploded soon after. That could be the case with Ludwick. Or dare I say he was on the juice? I don’t really think so but his numbers are a little suspicious. His home run count jumped from 14 to 37 in one year. Oh well, we will have to keep waiting and wishing, hoping the Braves do something productive so we can all talk about it.

Till next time,

~Ben