Braves Ready For Spring Training?

Written by Jonathan on January 13, 2010 – 8:18 am

Not long after officially adding Troy Glaus to the 2010 roster, the Braves added Eric Hinske to serve as a pinch hitter and bench player.  The plus side to having Hinske on the roster is that he can serve as a backup to Troy Glaus; allowing for some much-needed off days to reduce the risk of reinjury.  Additionally, he can play the corner outfield and back up Chipper at third, who we all know will miss a few games here and there.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s an improvement over Greg Norton.  Besides, he’s been on a team in the World Series the past three seasons; why would the Braves want to break that streak?

With Hinske signing a one-year, one-million dollar contract earlier this week, it looks like the Braves are pretty much done with new signings for the offseason.  That’s not to say that Frank Wren won’t still come up with some trade (I can think of a few that I wouldn’t mind seeing), but as far as allocating money for new players, we’re pretty much spent.  Look for something to happen with Brandon Jones in the next couple of days; he was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man for Hinske.

As expected, we didn’t see the front office go after a  big-name offensive power, but instead spread the money around on a few different players.  Melky Cabrera for $2 million, Troy Glaus for $4 million and Hinske for another million.  Was this a good use of our available $7 million?  To be determined.  The success of these moves hinges heavily on Glaus managing to stay healthy and Hinske’s ability to produce from the bench.  I’m confident he’ll have a solid year in a backup role.

In other news, Mark McGwire did steroids…..who knew?!

But anyways,  it looks like this is pretty much the squad the Braves will be taking to Florida in 36 days when pitchers and catchers report.  Thoughts on the offseason moves to this point?  I think we’re better off in a couple of spots, worse off in a couple, and there is a ton that is yet to be determined.  It’s getting to be that time of  year when we’re all just itching to see baseball start back up again.  I know I can’t wait.


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Looking To End On A High Note

Written by Jonathan on April 26, 2009 – 11:57 am

Halfway through the road trip, it looked like there was no hope of having a decent road trip for the Braves.  The first five games yielded a 1-4 record, including two shutouts at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Since then however, they have compiled a three-game win streak and are looking for the sweep today in Cincinnati to complete a winning road trip.  After  yesterday’s 10-2 win, the Braves have a 9-8 record on the season.

Today, Kenshin Kawakami (1-2, 4.76 ERA) faces off against Micah Owings (0-2, 5.59 ERA) to close out the series.  Brandon Jones will make his first start in left field since being called up to replace the injured Garret Anderson.  It’s still not clear how much time Bobby Cox will have Jones spend in the field, but it’s good to see him get the opportunity to gain some playing time. 

Stay with us for in-game updates as the Braves look to take the sweep and come back to Atlanta with a winning road trip.

Braves: 2          Reds: 8

Top 9th: Matt Diaz singles with one out. Kelly Johnson strikes out. Escobar singles up the middle. That’s the ballgame. Reds win 8-2.
Bot 8th: Parr gives up two singles but no runs.
Top 8th: Chipper Jones with a leadoff double to left field. 3-4 on the day. Brandon Jones singles and scores Chipper. 8-2 Reds.
Bot 7th: James Parr gets the Reds 1-2-3 in the inning.
Top 7th: Ross with a solo home run to left with one out. 8-1 Reds. Johnson singles. Yunel singles to right but is thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Bot 6th: Buddy Carlyle gives up a single to Micah Owings, but nothing more.
Top 6th: Chipper singles to lead off the inning. He has two of the Braves’ three hits today. Nothing further from the offense in the inning.
Bot 5th: Hernandez singles to right and Janish is hit by a pitch with no outs. Owings singles off of Hernandez’s foot, who’s out on the interference call. Taveras singles to load the bases. Votto doubles to right to scores three. 5-0 Reds. Phillips singles to right, scoring Votto. 6-0 Reds. Jay Bruce with a two-run homer, his second of the day. 8-0 Reds.
Top 5th: David Ross draws a leadoff walk but never advances past first base.
Bot 4th: Joey Votto puts the Reds’ first hit on the board with a one-out double down the right field line. Votto to third on a wild pitch. Jay Bruce sneaks a two-run homer in by the left field foul pole. 2-0 Reds.
Top 4th: Brandon Jones hits a two-out single but Schafer strikes out. We need to start getting some guys on base with less than two-outs.
Bot 3rd: 1-2-3 inning for Kawakami. 33 pitches through 3.
Top 3rd: Braves down 1-2-3 in the inning.
Bot 2nd: Jay Bruce walks to lead off the inning and is thrown out on a fielder’s choice by Encarnacion. Ross throws out Encarnacion trying to steal second and Hernandez grounds out softly to end the inning.
Top 2nd: Brandon Jones draws a one-out walk. Schafer strikes out and Ross tacks on a two-out walk. Kawakami can’t help himself out however and strikes out.
Bot 1st: Kawakami hits Votto but no offense from the Reds in the first.
Top 1st: Chipper sends a two-out single to right field. Kotchman grounds out to end the inning however.

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Anderson to DL, Braves In Cincy

Written by Jonathan on April 24, 2009 – 6:12 pm

After a couple of days of nursing his reaggravated left quad, Garret Anderson is headed to the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20th.  Brandon Jones has been called up from AAA Gwinnett to take his spot on the roster.  It’s unknown when Anderson will be ready to return as he has been nagged with this injury off and on since early March.  I’m sure we’ll have more updates over the next few days.

Today is Chipper Jones’ 37th birthday.  In his career on his birthday, Chipper has a .500 average (18 for 37) with 4 HR, 8 RBI and 10 R.  Let’s hope he can keep that up tonight.  Brian McCann was also a late scratch for the game with further eye issues.  David Ross will take his spot in the lineup.  Here’s to trying to get a win streak started tonight as the Braves kick off the last series of the road trip in Cincinnati.

Stay with us for in-game updates, looks like great weather in Cincinnati for baseball.  Javier Vazquez brings his solid season performance, averaging 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings, to face off against Edison Volquez.  Volquez is 2-1 on the season, but showing a 6.46 ERA.  Hopefully the Braves offense can show up for the game tonight and help Javy out.

Braves: 4          Reds: 3

Bot 9th: Gonzalez on to close it out and try to get the save. Taveras strikes out looking. Hairston grounds out back to Gonzo. Votto strikes out looking. Gonzo was dominant. Braves win 4-3.
Top 9th: One-out single to left field for Kotchman. That’s about it for the Braves in the inning. Only 4 hits for the offense all night.
Bot 8th: Soriano in to pitch. Jay Bruce leads off the inning with a double into the right field corner. Encarnacion walks. Hernandez bunts the runners over to second and third. Sac fly for Gonzalez scores Bruce. Encarnacion stays at second. 4-3 Braves.
Top 8th: Kelly Johnson hits a two-out single to right. Yunel can’t move him at all however.
Bot 7th: Moylan on to pitch for the Braves. He gives out a two-out walk to Dickerson. Votto reaches on an error by Moylan, but he avoids any runs scoring.
Top 7th: Yunel walks to lead off the inning and Chipper gets him over to second. Francoeur draws his second walk of the night. Diaz singles up the middle to plate Escobar. 4-2 Braves. Masset is replaced on the mound by Herrera. Schafer grounds out to end the inning.
Bot 6th: Encarnacion singles with one out to left. The defense puts away two more. The night’s likely done for Vazquez.
Top 6th: Schafer draws a leadoff walk off of Nick Masset who has taken over for Volquez. No further offense for the Braves though.
Bot 5th: Votto singles past short with two outs. Vazquez strikes out another two. That’s 9 for him.
Top 5th: Francoeur with a two-out solo homer. Braves’ first hit of the night makes it a 3-2 Braves lead.
Bot 4th: Phillips walks to lead off the inning. Hernandez with a two-out single to put runners of first and second. Gonzalez singles up the middle scoring Phillips. 2-2 Game. Vazquez has 7 strikeouts of his own.
Top 4th: Kotchman walks to lead off the inning. Francoeur walks. Kotchman strikes out. Schafer and Ross walks to load the bases. Vazquez walks to bring in a run. 1-1 Game. Johnson walks to bring in another. 2-1 Braves. Volquez has struck out six but walked seven.
Bot 3rd: 1-2-3 inning for Vazquez. Good to see him getting hitters to keep the ball on the ground.
Top 3rd: Yunel hit by a pitch with two outs. Yunel is not happy and has some choice words for Volquez. Benches and bullpens empty. Chipper grounds out to end the inning.
Bot 2nd: Hernandez doubles off the left field wall with one out. Two more Ks for Vazquez.
Top 2nd: Francoeur and Diaz with a one-out walks. Schafer grounds out but moves the runners up a base. Ross strikes out, Volquez’s 4th.
Bot 1st: Taveras leads off with a single and reaches second on a passed ball. Votto singles and Taveras scores. 1-0 Reds. 3 strikeouts in the inning for Vazquez.
Top 1st: 2 strikeouts and a quick grounder gives Volquez a 1-2-3 inning.

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Remaining Roster Needs

Written by Colin on January 14, 2009 – 9:18 pm

The Braves went into the offseason with several needs:

Two Starting Pitchers

We’ve acquired three. Ace-to-be Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami signed as free agents. The third, Javier Vazquez, was acquired via trade from the White Sox. The three pitchers will augment the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens as the four regular starters (all can eat innings), and we’ll likely see Jorge Campillo, Charlie Morton, and perhaps Tommy Hanson fight for the fifth rotation spot. Now that we’ve got a stable rotation, look for the Braves not to rush Hanson to the big leagues, though he’ll be ready in a year or two to start regularly. When Tim Hudson comes back from Tommy John surgery late in the season, he’ll provide the Braves with one of the best rotations late in the season, if he’s true to form. The Braves’ rotation won’t be something to sneeze at, even though it’s not going to be the best rotation in the history of baseball.

An Outfield Bat

I’d imagine the Braves are still looking to fill this need. Even though we’ve got Jeff Francoeur, Matt Diaz, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Jones, and Jordan Schafer as options, we need a bat to help replace the hole left by Teixeira’s departure and to protect Chipper in the lineup. If the Braves do sign someone, it will only be for a year or two, because in addition to the players I already listed, Gorkeys Hernandez and Jason Heyward are outfield prospects in the minor league system, just two-three years away. Maybe Heyward switches to first, but there’s still a glut of good prospects waiting to play outfield for the Braves. I don’t know if we fill this or go with young talent, but if we want to compete in the NL East, we probably need another bat somewhere in the lineup. Left field is a logical position for that bat to play. If I were Wren, I’d look at Bobby Abreu for this role.

Extending Chipper’s Contract

Please, Braves, do this now. Smoltz didn’t retire here, but Chipper needs to. We’re starting to get a reputation for getting the best years out of our players, making this their home, and sending them elsewhere to die. See Aaron, Murphy, Justice, Maddux, Glavine (though he left of his own free will), and now Smoltz. Don’t let it happen to Chipper.

A Backup Catcher

Done. It flew under the radar, but the Braves signed Dave Ross to a two-year deal to back up Brian McCann early in December. He’ll make ~$1.5M each year he’s here. The Braves have been resting McCann once a week or so to try and save his knees, so we’ll see some time out of Ross. Ross hit .225 with 3 HRs and 13 RBI last year for Cincinnati and Boston in 142 at-bats in 60 games.

Summary

The Braves will now turn to signing a bat for the outfield, extending Chipper’s contract, and re-signing Will Ohman. Once that’s done, I’d say we’re set for this offseason. I don’t think we’ll see the Braves sign any more starting pitchers. Setup arms in the ‘pen will come via Campillo and our farm system. Think I missed anything? Made bad assumptions? Make a comment and we’ll have some discussion about it.

Ignoring The Bad

By the way, I’m ignoring everything that didn’t go right. Rather not talk about it – no reason to dwell on it!


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Center Field Options

Written by Colin on August 20, 2008 – 7:58 am

When the Braves consider next year’s starting outfield, they have a bevy of players from which to choose.  It’s just the first year the Braves will be plagued with this problem as they have tons of promising young outfielders in their farm system.  Today we’ll look at some of the options in center field.

Mark Kotsay – The Incumbant CF

Kotsay’s contract expires at the end of the 2008 season and he may or may not be resigned.  Kotsay has been effective in Atlanta, batting .299 with 37 RBIs, 6 HRs, and a .346 on-base percentage in 83 games.  He’s been on the DL with back issues (he had back surgery in Oakland that knocked him out for most of last season) but for the most part has been healthy.

Gregor Blanco – The Rookie

Gregor Blanco has played the most time of the young Braves’ outfield prospects, batting .258 with 27 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and a .371 on base percentage.  Blanco is speedy – he’s currently ranked second in the NL in bunt hits with 14.  Blanco has been slowed recently by a bone spur in his ankle, which is growing worse as the season progresses.  He’s doing a pretty good job batting leadoff and has impressed with his time in Atlanta.

Josh Anderson – Rising Star

Anderson has played most of the year in Richmond, but is absolutely tearing up the baseball there. He’s batting .316 with 37 RBIs, a .361 on base percentage, and a whopping 40 stolen bases.  He’s cutting down on strikeouts when compared to years past, and and should definitely be considered when the Braves look at their outfield after the season.  It’d be great to see some speed come back to Atlanta, where we have a history of speedy outfielders.

Jordan Schafer – Once The Future King

Schafer was once heralded as a sure lock for the Braves’ starting center field spot in 2009, but a run in with an HGH suspension (he says there’s a side to the story that hasn’t been told) has limited his playing time and knocked him back a step or two.  He’s batting .269  with 46 RBIs and 9 HRs in just 71 games and has an OBP of .371.  I’d be surprised to see him make the jump from AA ball to the big leagues, but it’s not impossible.  He still has a future with the Braves organization, I’m just not sure it involves a role in center field in 2009.

Who do you think the center fielder should be next year?  Kotsay or one of the youngsters?  I’m excited about Josh Anderson and want to see him in the bigs next year for the Braves, be it in Center or Left.  But with potentially Kotsay, Anderson, Blanco, Brandon Jones, and Matt Diaz competing for three outfield slots, it’s going to be competitive – and fun to watch.


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Second Round of Cuts, Javy Retires

Written by Colin on March 22, 2008 – 7:11 pm

The Braves cut Javy Lopez and six other players today from their Spring Training roster, prompting Javy to announce his retirement and end his comeback bid.  Bobby Cox revealed that Javy lost the battle for the backup catcher position because his arm wasn’t strong enough.  Cox spoke with the catcher about starting the season in the minors, but Javy decided against it and announced his retirement.

Fans will be disappointed to see Javy go – his seasons in the late 90s with Atlanta will be remembered as his prime, when he consistently made the All Star team and put together a reputation based on his offensive firepower.  He’ll retire with a .287 average, 260 home runs, and 864 RBIs.  Javy, thanks for the great seasons from 1992 through 2003.

Also cut from the roster today were outfield prospect Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones, Ryan Drese, Jorge Campillo, Francisley Bueno, and of course the woeful Jo-Jo Reyes.  None of these are very surprising – they all need more work before they can compete at the big league level.  We’ll hope the bad spring won’t discourage Jo-Jo Reyes, who has potential but cannot for the life of him put together a decent string of outings.  We’ll see Schafer here next year (or towards the end of the year) for sure.  Brandon Jones is talented but needs more patience at the plate before he’s ready.

On we move through spring training – we’ll have more on cuts as they come.


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Handicapping The Outfielders

Written by Colin on March 13, 2008 – 12:43 pm

We all know that Jeff Francoeur and Mark Kotsay have their positions locked down. Francoeur remains the face and future of the Braves’ outfield, and Kotsay is the veteran bridge until Jordan Schafer is deemed ready for big-league play. Over in left field we’ve got a slightly different situation. Matt Diaz platooned last year with Willie Harris and put up some decent numbers of his own (a .338 average, a .368 on base percentage, 12 HRs and 45 RBIs).

The question this year is whether Diaz gets his own starting gig in left or platoons with another player. The lead candidate for the possible platoon, at least prior to the start of Spring Training, was Brandon Jones. He’s left-handed, and he has had success in the minors. This spring though, he’s seemed anxious at the plate, striking out too frequently (7 times in 24 at bats).

Some would argue that even had Brandon Jones not written himself out of the playing situation that Diaz deserves to play a full season by himself. He’s certainly a capable offensive player – and even though Terry Pendleton says he wouldn’t teach anyone to start batting the way Diaz does, something has to be working.

Here’s an interesting statistic.  Since the start of 2006, out of all players in the majors with at least 650 at-bats, the players with the highest batting averages are as follows:

Ichiro – .3365 Diaz – .33282 Jeter – .33280

This suggests that Diaz is among one of the better hitters in the game. Now most of his starts come against left-handers, but he’s not half bad against the right-handers either.  In 2007, he went 51-146 with 6 HRs for a .349 avg against left-handers. Against right-handers, he went 37-110 with 3 HRs for a .336 avg. His OPS (on base plus slugging) was .932 against lefties and a respectable .813 against righties. I think Diaz is ready for a full-time job, and I believe Cox thinks he could handle it. We’ll see how it unfolds, but right now I think there’s a higher probability he finds himself in left permanently.

We recently had a question to the mailbag about whether or not Josh Anderson could outplay Mark Kotsay for the center field job. I don’t think that’s even a possibility at this point – Kotsay may not have the range Andruw had (or Anderson has), but he has a great arm and the Braves will give him his opportunity. I know some of us are concerned that he’s going to hurt his back playing hard, but he’ll get the starting job out of spring training. I think Anderson will be one of the four players coming off the bench heading out of spring training.

I’ve written enough – but those are our outfielders. Diaz, Kotsay, and Francoeur should be our starters, and we’ll go from there. I expect Anderson will be the main backup, with maybe Jones playing another role. But he needs more development time. A little more patience wouldn’t hurt him.


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Stompin’ the Phillies: 10-1

Written by Colin on March 4, 2008 – 10:15 pm

Tim Hudson once again gave up one run in his outing today, but the Braves’ bats made sure that the earned run was forgotten in a 10-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.  Led offensively by Mark Teixeira, who went 2-3 with 2 RBIs, and helped by Brent Lillibridge’s 3 hits, 2 runs, and 1 RBI.  Kotsay also contributed with a hit, run scored and RBI, and Francoeur knocked in a couple as well.

The pitching was great on our side as well – Hudson gave up one run and four hits, but beyond that the staff was almost untouchable.  Will Ohman – the left-handed import from Chicago – pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one.  Buddy Carlyle faced 6 batters and had a perfect two innings with three strikeouts.

In addition, Brandon Jones walked twice and scored two runs – looking good on his part.  I really think he gets the job in left field, though Josh Anderson was 1-2 with a run scored.

Good to see the Braves whip up on the Phillies.  Glad to see that we can hold our own – even if it’s against the second-hand pitching.

Keep up the work, boys.  Francoeur took yesterday off because he played golf with Smoltz, Glavine, and none other than Tiger Woods.  Talk about living the big life.


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Braves 10, Dodgers 3

Written by Colin on March 1, 2008 – 8:09 am

The Braves squared off against the Dodgers – and then teed off in a 10-3 win yesterday.  We’ve got a few observations here and there as a lot of players got some playing time.

Jair Jurrjens started and looked very sharp (though he gave up one run).  He kept his balls low in the zone and induced 5 ground outs and got one called K.  He worked both sides of the plate and was very impressive in my opinion.  Buddy Carlyle also looked strong in his outing.

His first time up, Javy absolutely tore into a pitch low in the zone and knocked it out of the park in left for a two-run homer.  He had two throws down to second – one that was a little to right field, and another that went straight into center because neither of the infielders covered second.  At least the second throw looked good.

Brandon Jones and Josh Anderson looked good – but Jones didn’t hustle after botching a catch in left and didn’t hustle down the line on an infield ground ball.  I’d prefer to see him sprint down the line even if he knows he won’t make it.  I’m sure he’ll have opportunities to redeem himself though.

We tagged the Dodger pitching staff up pretty good in the bottom of the fifth.  Any time we can put a 7 spot on the board, it’s a good time for all involved.  Speaking of having a good time – Chipper seems to be happy to have Teixeira hitting behind him.  Francoeur is a bit anxious still at the plate but he’s developing into a fine young ballplayer.

Braves win, good game.  Great start to the season for us – we can’t wait to be sitting at the ballpark for the home opener.


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Braves’ Decision: Left Field

Written by Colin on February 26, 2008 – 9:05 am

I answered this question from PhilliesFlow.com in our perspective trade a couple days ago, and I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on some decisions the Braves have to make. From the article:

What do you see as the biggest decisions the Braves will make between now and the start of the season?

The fourth and fifth rotation spots are crucial. Having a solid back end of the rotation to compliment the Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine trio is something we need to know can hold their own. Be honest, a Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine/Heatlhy Hampton/Jurrjens or James rotation is about as mean as any out there. If everyone is healthy, it’s not a one-two punch. It’s a one-two-three-four punch. Now, it’ll only work for a year or so, but it could be nasty.

I think the other crucial decision is who will fill out the bullpen. We have more pitchers overall than we did last year and I think the bullpen will be stronger than it was, but we need to get our guys picked out and they need to embrace the roles they’re given. The only other key question to be answered is who will fill out the left field platoon with Matt Diaz. I think we’ll likely see Brandon Jones out there, but Josh Anderson also wants a piece of the platoon. That’ll be interesting to watch.

With Kotsay playing Center, we’re going to see some interesting competition for the left-field slots. Matt Diaz has the inside track on one half of the platoon, but we are going to see Brandon Jones (bats from the left side of the plate) try and take Willie Harris’ slot as the other half of the platoon. Of course, speedster Josh Anderson is a very talented outfielder also ready for the big time.  If we throw Jones in the platoon with Diaz, we’re sending a very talented center fielder back to AAA ball.  Something has got to give – we have too many outfielders given the positions we need to fill.  No matter whether we end up with Anderson or Jones in the outfield, they’ll be a good compliment to Diaz.

What do you think will happen with our outfield situation?  Who makes the big league team out of spring training?  Will we trade some of them for bullpen help or will we keep them all on hand?


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