Tag Archives: Craig Kimbrel

Braves’ Prospect Hot Sheet – Week Ending 4/21/2017

Our first Hot Sheet of the 2017 season will encompass the system’s hottest players over the first couple of weeks of the campaign. Going forward, you’ll be able to check back here for the hottest players of each week as usual. As always, this isn’t a “re-ranking” of When Sid Slid’s Top 30, simply the hottest players in the system in any given week during the season.

As is often typical early in the season, the Pitchers tend to be a bit ahead of the hitters – and that’s certainly the case with the game’s most loaded group of hurlers. The arms, they are a coming!!!

So, away we go…

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“Topping Off” The System

Now that the rush of the Winter Meetings has passed, we’ll turn our focus to other potential moves that could be forthcoming as “The Johns” continue their quest to transform the organization’s system into the best in the game. The question recently being asked by many in the industry has been “Why not go ‘all the way’ while you’re at it?” In other words, now that you’ve “mailed it in” in 2016 – and potentially 2017 as well – why not go ahead and gut the big club’s roster and add even more prospects to the impressive pile you’ve already built? While it would sting for a little bit, I’ve been in the minority who have thought that should be the goal for some time now. For the record, I’ve been in favor of beginning a rebuild for a few years – while the team was exciting to watch with the Uptons, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis in the lineup, I also felt that it just didn’t have that “it” that it was going to take to get over the hump and win another Championship, and the window that it had with those guys was rapidly closing if payroll couldn’t be increased.

There are compelling arguments that can be made for either stance as the answer to that question. It’s completely understandable for younger Braves fans to be impatient – 2015 was the worst season they’d experienced in their lives. That said, the older generation saw much worse in the dark days (the late 70s through the beginning of “The Run” with the exception of Dale Murphy’s  two MVP seasons). That crowd tends to feel that sacrificing a couple seasons is more than OK with them as long as they don’t have to go through that again.

Since I’ve already tipped my hand about my view, I’ll explain the reasoning a bit and take a look at what doing so could mean moving forward…

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Everybody Loves A “Blockbuster”

So the Cubs are currently doing background work on a handful of Pitchers to add to their rotation, presumably including Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran. They’ve also been linked to the “Aces” at the top of the market (David Price and Zack Greinke), as well as free-agents on the next tier (Jeff Samardzija and John Lackey) in an effort to build enough pitching depth to get them by the teams in their division and the pitching-rich Mets for the next several years while they have their young offensive stars under control cheaply and trying to finally end the most well-known stretch of futility in professional sports. Theo and Jed don’t strike ANYONE as a front office tandem that will act out of any feeling of desperation now that they’ve overseen Chicago’s return to relevance, but do want to be the ones to finally give Cubs fans at least ONE Championship.

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The Case For Yoenis Cespedes

Another great pitching matchup, another brutal loss added to Shelby Miller’s resume – Miller wasn’t as sharp as he’s been at times during what should be deemed his breakout season, but he was once again much better than the results will reflect after Andrelton Simmons (of all unexpected people) put him behind the 8 ball with a couple boots last night. I really do think it’s time to shut him down in an effort to try to preserve some semblance of sanity following what has to rank up there with the unluckiest seasons for a SP of all time, but that’s not why we’re here today.

This column is another in our series looking to consider directions John Hart & Company could go this winter as they begin to step on the gas and return the big club to relevance by the time SunTrust Park opens in 2017. Even with the great strides they’ve taken to revamp the minor league system, the rebuild won’t be truly “complete” until they make the team a contender again. There are always several ways to do that, but to this point we’ve been investigating the trade route to do so and hopefully lessen the chance that the organization picks the wrong guy and is hamstrung by another B. J./Melvin Upton-like BAD free-agent contract. Of course we also all know that throwing money at someone to fill a position of need is also the best route to keep all the potential future valuable pieces they’ve stockpiled thus far, so we’re going to see what doing exactly that might look like this week.

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2015 Off-Season Tote Board

Just so everyone can try to keep up with the whirlwind winter and early spring Braves’ retooling/rebuilding/etc., here are the deals up to this point in a nutshell…

Braves’ Additions:

Nick Markakis (4 years), Dian Toscano (5 years), Jason Grilli (2 years), Jim Johnson (1 year), Shelby Miller (4 years), A. J. Pierzynski (1 year), Tyrell Jenkins (6 years) (now our #11 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Daniel Winkler (6 years) (now our #27 prospect according to MLB Pipeline),  Max Fried (6 years) (now our #6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Jace Peterson (6 years) (reportedly being given a chance to win the 2B job in camp), Dustin Peterson (6 years) (now our #18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Mallex Smith (6 years) (now our #17 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Aaron Kurcz (6 years), Arodys Vizcaino (6 years) (now our #16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Manny Banuelos (6 years) (now our #12 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Eric Stults (1 year), Josh Outman (2 years) (makes Avilan expendable IF they were being offered a decent return), Ricardo Sanchez (6 years) (now our #10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Mike Foltyniewicz (6 years) (now our #3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Rio Ruiz (6 years) (now our #7 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Andrew Thurman (6 years) (now our #21 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Jose Briceno (6 years) (now our #22 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), Trevor Cahill (3 years), Cameron Maybin (3 years), Matt Wisler (6 years) (now our #2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), and Jordan Paroubeck (6 years) (now our #24 prospect according to MLB Pipeline). Plus $830,000 to spend on International signings (from Cubs) – some of which used to sign SS Isranel Wilson (5 tool projection), OF Leudys Baez, RHP Jhoniel Sepulveda, and SS Alex Aquino (trained with Robinson Cano’s Dad). Plus 2015 draft picks #41 (Padres’ Competitive Balance Round A – slot value of $1,506,400) and #75 (Diamondbacks’ Competitive Balance Round B – slot value of $814,300).

Braves’ Subtractions:

Jason Heyward (1 year), Justin Upton (1 year), Jordan Walden (2 years), David Carpenter (3 years), Evan Gattis (4 years), Anthony Varvaro (4 years), Tommy La Stella (5 years), Chasen Shreve (5 years), Kyle Kubitza (6 years), Nate Hyatt (6 years), James Hoyt (6 years), David Hale (5 years), Josh Elander (6 years), Craig Kimbrel (4 years), and Melvin Upton (3 years).

Mission (Almost) Accomplished

In a surprising (and not so surprising to some) move on Opening Day 2015 (yeah, the one where only two teams play), John Hart and his staff continued their complete makeover of the Braves by trading fan-favorite Craig Kimbrel and fan-punching bag Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Padres in yet another blockbuster. Several pundits had drawn the ire of fans across Braves’ Nation earlier this winter when they pointed out that Kimbrel should be “on the block” to help with the quest to obtain more young, controllable talent  in spite of Hart’s public proclamations that the organization had no intention of trading their All-Star Closer. Many pointed out that having an elite-level Closer was simply unnecessary for a team that looks like it could struggle to win 75 games, and I agree with them.We weren’t telling Hart & Company anything they didn’t know folks – this ain’t their first rodeo. There will be a faction of fans who will absolutely hate the deal, but most of those tend to be younger and speak out because they’re thinking with their hearts instead of their heads – they’ve now seen most of their favorite players traded away and they’re upset. Many of them weren’t around to suffer through the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s when the Braves had little talent on the MLB roster, no help on the way from the farm system, and no defined plan for improvement.

The fact that they were able to include Upton in the deal was probably what sealed it – there were multiple reports all off-season that the beginning point in most of the earlier trade discussions was that you also had to take Melvin/B. J. and a big chunk of his salary if you wanted Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, or Evan Gattis, but none of those ever worked out. You’ve likely read other articles by now that discuss the fact that dumping Melvin along with Kimbrel saves the organization millions by clearing the next-to-last “bad contract” left moving forward (several previous accounting procedures removed the remaining money due Dan Uggla from the payroll, leaving just Chris Johnson as the one player they’d really like to move), so we’re not going to delve deeper into that.

This is more about what the Braves received and what moves they could potentially make going forward in their effort to be more than “relevant” by the time they move into SunTrust Park in 2017. At the MLB-level,  Carlos Quentin was included as strictly a money-swap to offset some of Melvin’s salary, and has already been designated for assignment. The team also agreed to take on Cameron Maybin to also help the Padres, although Maybin will be kept since he’s still relatively young and has flashed upside in the past. He gives Atlanta a bounce back CF candidate who needed a change of scenery that will be easier to stomach if he doesn’t because of the difference in salary commitments. (Note – Cameron’s also a big personal favorite as a local kid who grew up in western NC and attended T. C. Roberson HS along with recent Brave Braxton Davidson.) In the event Maybin returns to form soon, the Braves could release Kelly Johnson and have Eric Young, Jr. slide over to platoon with Jonny Gomes in LF this season while also acting as the backup CF.

Now for the goods. Matt Wisler is a 22 year old SP that was the Padres’ #1 prospect according to Baseball America (#34 overall in their rankings, #53 overall according to Baseball Prospectus, and #69 on MLB.com’s list), and he was widely rumored to be one of Hart’s targets in the earlier Upton deal. Wisler’s yet another sinkerballer who should benefit from Roger McDowell’s tutelage – his fastball sits 92-93 and touches 95, backing it up with a plus changeup as well as both a slider and curve that have graded out as average to above-average at times. Matt is very close to being big-league ready (debuting as the team’s #2 prospect on the updated MLB Pipeline list), and will likely be a rotation option later this season in case of injury or in the event Trevor Cahill or Mike Minor are able to pitch well-enough that a contender is willing to trade a good prospect or two for them. Jordan Paroubeck is a 20 year old switch-hitting OF and profiles as a LF who can handle CF in a pinch that was drafted #69 overall by the Padres in the 2013 draft. Jordan got his first taste of professional baseball in 2014 and impressed with a .286/.346/.457/.803 slash in limited ABs. He graduated from Junipero Serra High in San Mateo, CA – the same program that produced former Al-Star Barry Bonds. Paroubeck comes in at #24 on MLB Pipeline’s updated Braves’ list, joining fellow former Padre Mallex Smith as Atlanta’s highest ranked OF prospects behind 2014 draftee Braxton Davidson. Atlanta also receives San Diego’s Competitive Balance Pick in the 2015 MLB Draft (#41 overall), giving them 5 of the top 90 picks (#14, #28, #41, #54, and #89) to continue restocking the system with.

The goal Hart & Company vaguely outlined when they took over was to return the organization to one deep in pitching as its calling card (check), replenish a woefully thin minor league feeder system (check – the trades have delivered the Braves’ #2, #3, #6, #7, #10, #11, #12, #16, #17, #18, #21, #22, and #24 prospects plus #27 Rule V pick Daniel Winkler who led the minors in strikeouts prior to becoming a Tommy John Surgery victim), and return the team to prominence in short order before the new park opens. With the financial flexibility created with this trade they’ve now put themselves in position to bid on one of the big three corner OF free-agents this winter (Justin Upton/Yoenis Cespedes/Jason Heyward), AND one of the front of the rotation arms that will be available if they so choose (David Price would be quite a nice fit IMO). They’ve also built enough SP depth to potentially transition BOTH Mike Foltyniewicz and Manny Banuelos into late-inning options to join Jason Grilli in the hopes that Grilli can help Folty become the next Kimbrel.

Suddenly it looks like the huge uphill battle the front office faced just a short few months ago can actually be won. Just a few more steps to go.

 

 

 

Pitching, Pitching, And MORE Pitching – Braves Acquire Trevor Cahill From Arizona

The Braves and Diamondbacks have officially announced that Atlanta has received SP Trevor Cahill for 24 year old AA OF Josh Elander. Assuming all the medicals have/do check out, the 27 year old Cahill should round out the Braves’ rotation heading into 2015 (and possibly longer). The club had been rumored to be shopping for another SP in recent days as Hart & Company didn’t seem terribly comfortable with the idea of having similar southpaws Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults follow each other in the rotation. While the trade appears to amount to little more than a salary dump for Arizona – they’ll be picking up $6.5 million of the $12 million due the former All-Star this season – it represents another low-risk, high-reward move for the rebuilding Braves that could pay dividends on several levels beyond this season.

Given health (always an issue when it comes to starting pitching), the move allows recent acquisitions Mike Foltyniewicz and Manny Banuelos to take all the time needed to refine their tools at Gwinnett. It also gives the team another quality option moving forward in the event that either Pitcher doesn’t work out as a starter and has to be transitioned to late-inning pen options. Diamondbacks fans had become understandably frustrated with Cahill in 2014 as he lost his rotation spot while his ERA ballooned to 5.61, but a look deeper inside his numbers suggest that he was a bit unlucky (and not helped by a shaky Arizona defense) as his 3.89 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 3.96 SIERA and .350 BABIP reflect. His strikeout rate increased to a career-high 8.51 K/9 and he should certainly benefit from former sinkerballer Roger McDowell’s knowledge and experience. If McDowell can help Cahill bounce back to form his addition could give the Braves an unbelievably deep staff and pen in 2016 if he is retained (the Braves hold a $13 million option for 2016 and a $13.5 million option for 2017) and Foltyniewicz and Banuelos are transitioned to relievers:

SP- Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, Mike Minor and Cahill

RP- Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, Banuelos, Foltyniewicz, Shae Simmons, Jose Vizcaino, Luis Avilan/Andrew McKirahan

Cahill’s addition likely means one of Wandy Rodriguez or Eric Stults will exercise their opt-out clause today since one won’t be in the rotation as camp breaks, although the Braves could conceivably try to convince the one on the outside looking in to stay and pitch out of the pen until an injury occurs (or Minor returns). It also frees up the option of keeping Cody Martin stretched out in Gwinnett for the same inevitability. If he pitches well and is kept, he’d also relieve any pressure to rush any of the Braves’ other high-end SP prospects such as Max Fried, Lucas Sims, Tyrell Jenkins, and Ricardo Sanchez even if Foltyniewicz and Banuelos are utilized in the pen long-term.

Some fans will initially complain about Cahill’s struggles, but the deal is exactly the type of trade the rebuilding Braves have been looking to make all winter – the prospect cost was minimal, the salary cost is minimal, the upside is huge, and (possibly most importantly) there is almost no risk involved since the team can simply pay the $300,000 buyout following this season in the event Trevor doesn’t bounce back OR one of the other options forces his way into the rotation. When you step back and think about things from a management prospective, you realize that Cahill cost the organization $800,000 and a marginal prospect more than what they’d have had to pay to keep Aaron Harang following his unexpected (and likely not able to be duplicated) 2014 season.