Atlanta Braves

Three Headlines for 2017: Atlanta Braves

Similarly to the Cincinnati Reds (featured yesterday) the Atlanta Braves are in rebuilding mode. This organization probably has more to be excited for beyond 2017, but this season should provide some glimpses of the future while also reminding fans of why baseball is the best damn sport on Earth.

1. “Big Sexy continues to defy the odds”

Bartolo Colon is beautiful. The guy has a waist size like an offensive lineman, but the moxie of the crustiest veteran. Despite throwing fastballs 90% of the time (and they aren’t even that fast) he pitches to contact, allows the defense to work and eats up innings. The young Atlanta staff will learn a lot from Big Sexy as he continues to be an effective Major League pitcher in 2017.

2. “Newcomb proves to have the makings of a future ace”

Sean Newcomb, rated as the organization’s 6th best prospect by MLB.com, should debut at some point in 2017. The southpaw will turn 24 this June, and his time is coming.

Sporting a sizzling fastball and a plus slider, many cite Newcomb’s inability to locate  only needs to refine his control in AAA before making the leap to the Majors. However, in 140 innings at AA last year Newcomb only walked 71 batters while striking out 152. The excuses may be more about controlling his service time clock than the reality of his control. Either way, expect Newcomb to join the Braves and show that he can be an ace down the road.

3. “Swanson to Albies to Freeman”

Tinker to Evers to Chance? So, this may be a little premature (maybe more appropriate for 2018) but I’m just too excited to see it. The Atlanta Braves are coming, and it starts up the middle with shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Ozzie Albies. Swanson showed off his talents last year and will start the season as the team’s starting shortstop. Albies will start off in AAA, but it is likely that Brandon Phillips will be dealt at some point this season and when he is, Albies will be brought up.

Check back later today for “Three Headlines for 2017”, Cubs edition!

 

Scouting Report: The NL East is oozing with young shortstop talent

The NL East is loaded with young shortstop talent. While they have been acquired through different means, these four young prospects are sure to excite fans up and down the east coast for the next decade and a half. Sorry Marlins fans, this one isn’t for you.

  1. Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

Acquired in a 3-team deal in December of 2014:

Nationals Acquired: SS Trea Turner, RHP Joe Ross (from SD)

Padres Acquired: OF Wil Myers, RHP Gerardo Reyes, RHP Jose Castillo and C Ryan Hannigan (From TB)

Rays Acquired: C Rene Rivera, RHP Brunch Smith, 1B Jake Bauers (From SD) and OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott (from WAS)

2016 Review:

Trea Turner, despite Dusty Baker’s best efforts to keep him in the Minors for all of eternity, was an absolute stud in his rookie campaign. Turner burst on to the scene to the tune of a .342 AVG., 13 HR’s, 40 RBI’s and 33 SB’s in only 73 games.

Turner finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting while playing out of position. While Turner appeared in 45 games in CF and 42 at 2B last year, he will take over at SS this season. The fact that Turner was playing a new position (CF) and still producing offensively tells me that the kid is mentally tough.

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Trea Turner by Keith Allison

In 2015, MLB Pipeline rated Turner as a 55 Arm and 50 Fielding, which equates to him being an average to above average MLB shortstop. Combine this with his unique offensive skill set, Turner is sure to be an All Star caliber player in the nation’s capital.

2017 Preview:

Turner is primed to lead the Nationals from the top of the line-up as they look to defend their NL East crown. With hitters like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy following Turner in the line-up, he should be in the mix to lead the National League in runs scored this season. I would not be surprised to see him finish in the top-10 of the NL MVP voting this year, the kid is that good.

Comparison:

Turner’s skill set makes me think of Jose Reyes in his prime, with the potential to be a Jimmy Rollins type of game changer. (By the way, check out J-Roll’s numbers, he is a borderline HoF candidate. Seriously.)

2. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

Acquired via trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks:

Braves Acquired: Swanson, RHP Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte

Diamondbacks Acquired: RHP Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier

2016 Review:

Swanson made his MLB debut last season and ended up starting 36 games. In that time, Swanson hit .302 with 3 HR’s and 20 runs scored.

In 2016, MLB Pipeline rated Swanson with:

        Hit: 60         Power: 45          Run: 60         Arm: 55         Field: 55          Overall: 65

While the pressure of being a #1  pick will always follow Swanson, he handled the pressure well last season. Swanson displays a level of grit and leadership that is rare at such a young age.

2017 Preview:

As the Braves open SunTrust Park this year, Swanson is destined to be the face of the franchise. The Braves won’t compete this year, but with their #1 ranked Minor League system, they are not that far away. Swanson will flash a stellar glove, provide some pop and keep the southern belles wanting to run their hands through his serious flow. This guy plays hard and will lead the Braves in their rebuilding process.

Comparison:

Swanson reminds me of a more talented Brandon Crawford, but not quite a Derek Jeter. I think that the fans in Atlanta (East Cobb, whatever) would love if Swanson could be Robin Yount. 

3. Amed Rosario, New York Mets

Acquired by the Mets via International Free Agency in July of 2012 (1.75 million dollar signing bonus).

2016 Review:

Rosario continued to dazzle in his fourth season of professional baseball. Rosario, as he has throughout his career, competed against players who were much older than him in A+ and AA, but he excelled. Rosario hit a combined .324 AVG with 5 HR’s and 19 SB’s.

Rosario was recently ranked by MLB Pipeline as:

Hit: 50         Power: 45          Run: 60         Arm: 65         Field: 55          Overall: 60

While he is projected to have a better arm than Swanson, he is not seen to be as good of a hitter. However, Rosario has continued to hit at a higher clip as he climbs through the Minor Leagues (.342 AVG in AA in ’16) and is making noise in Mets camp this spring.

2017 Preview:

Despite hitting well in Spring Training (currently 5-for-16) Rosario is destined to head to the Minors to start 2017. He is only 21 years old. But with the long history of injuries to nearly all of the players that Mets have penciled in for their infield, Rosario could find his way to Flushing sooner rather than later.

Comparison: Rosario reminds me a bit of a young Edgar Renteria or Starlin Castro. I think that is his basement, with the potential to be a Barry Larkin type of player.

4. J.P. Crawford, Philadephia Phillies

Acquired via the 2013 MLB Draft, 1st Round, 16th Pick.

2016 Review:

Crawford is listed by MLB Pipeline and a number of other scouting services to be the Phillies top prospect, but he struggled in 2016.In his age 21 season, Crawford scuffled to hit .250 between AA and AAA while socking just 7 HR’s. Because Crawford fell short of expectations, he never made it to the Majors last season as many had expected.

Crawford was recently ranked by MLB Pipeline as:

Hit: 60         Power: 40          Run: 50         Arm: 60         Field: 65          Overall: 60

If all else fails, Crawford should provide gold glove defense up the middle for the Phillies sometime this summer. Not bad.

2017 Preview:

While it was disappointing to see Crawford flatline in 2016, the Phils are hoping it was a temporary setback. Crawford is destined to be in the Majors by mid-June and should play everyday for a team that is a few years away from competing. Crawford will dazzle Phillies fans with his glove, but must advance with the stick this season. Crawford is hitting under .200 in Spring Training, but this should not delay his promotion. Crawford has more pressure on him in 2017 than any of the aforementioned shortstops. 

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J.P. Crawford by Ian D’Andrea

Comparison: This one is tough after such a letdown of a year. Best case, maybe Omar Vizquel? A common comparison could be someone like Adrelton Simmons. I see more of a Shawon Dunston or Royce Clayton type of career for Crawford.

Conclusion: 

As a fan of the NL East, I am drooling just thinking about not one, but two of these guys on the same field on a regular basis. While all have serious talent, Turner is the most proven, Swanson the best all-around, Rosario with the highest ceiling and Crawford seems (at this point) to be a step behind. It sure will be fun to watch.

Comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions to share.

**Rosario photo credit to slgckgc of Flickr **

Sunday Morning Six Pack: Top pitching performances, walk-offs and one beer for a few tears

Two Beers: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Verlander had an interesting day yesterday at home against the Astros. Verlander was straight dealing for the first eight innings and entered the 9th with a 1-0 lead. Verlander would quickly surrender the lead and stood to take the loss as the Tigers took their turn at-bat in the bottom of the 9th. However, his teammates picked him up and scored two to give Verlander the win and propel the Tigers to their fifth straight win. After such a stressful day, we at BoT believe that Verlander should go home to his fiance, supermodel Kate Upton, and enjoy a couple of cold brews.

One Beer: Wade Miley, Seattle Mariners

Miley was dealing yesterday against the powerful Cubs offense in Wrigley. Miley did not allow a hit until the bottom of the 7th when Kris Bryant singled. The southpaw struck out nine en route to his 7th win on the year.

One Beer: Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres –> Atlanta Braves

Matt Kemp’s life kind of sucks today. He woke up playing for a team that is 14 games under .500, but at least he had the chance to live in one of the most beautiful cities in America, San Diego. Now, Kemp and his albatross of a contract, are headed to Atlanta, Georgia to play for the AAA Braves. Listen, Atlanta is a nice city, but when the team is 32 games under .500 and 25 out of first, the 92% humidity isn’t that enjoyable. Grab yourself a beer on the plane, Matt Kemp.

One Beer: Adam Rosales, San Diego Padres

In the bottom of the 10th, with the score tied at 1, Adam Rosales sent a 96 MPH fastball from Jumbo Diaz deep into left centerfield to give the Padres the win. Rosales was 2 for 4 on the night.

One Beer: Mitch Moreland

In Texas, Moreland slammed a walk-off homer on a night where Michael Young was inducted into the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame. The homer was Moreland’s 17th and the Rangers now sit five games above the second place Astros in the AL West standings.