Braves Needs, Wants and What May Be Available

I’m awake or nearly so after staying up to watch the Bravos rebound against the Angels. Last night’s win was a good one against a team we should beat and hopefully sets us up to win the series today.  The problems for this lineup remain getting the top of the order on then hitting with RISP – heck getting two hits in the same inning is a good start – the slow start by Dan Uggla, the relapse of Nate McLouth 2011 into version 2009.5 and base running that at times looks really odd.

The hitting concern is a mix of injuries, slow starts and possible a change in hitting philosophy under new hitting coach Larry Parrish. There’s no question that our OBP – currently .311, 13th in the NL – is a huge problem and part of that low OBP is lack of walks. Last year we led the league in walks, today we are sixth. I know that doesn’t sound like a big difference but it’s a lot of base runners we never get while pitchers work from the windup instead of the stretch. Dave O’Brien’s article yesterday suggested Parrish and new Skipper Gonzales might be part of the reason.

But in the bigger picture, the Braves  seem to have placed less emphasis on walks this season under new hitting coach Larry Parrish and manager Fredi Gonzalez, and more on being aggressive and looking for any hittable pitch. (Maybe I’m wrong; if I am, I’m quite certain Fredi will tell me as much.)

I don’t think you’re wrong and haven’t seen anything from the Skipper that suggests he disagrees. I’d understand some hitters blindly following that idea but Uggla , McLouth and Heyward should know that getting on is better than striking out. Uggla is particular looks lost and unsure unless he gets a cookie.

Heyward’s injury poses the question will we ever get a right handed outfielder for the bench. I know Mather is hot  but at his best he projects 15 and 50, that’s not enough for a corner outfielder. Besides in McLouth keeps slumping Mather may (hopefully)end up in center field. (As I was writing this Nate McLouth injured himself and left the game with Mather moving to center. The bench gets thinner) Eric Hinske has been hot but playing daily will wear on him and we really need a right handed option. I looked around the league and to see who fit and of that bunch who might be available.

I looked for right handers with a .275 OBP and batting average and a couple of home runs that had at least 75 plate appearances. It’s a short list, 10 to be exact. Of those some are obviously not available – Matt Kemp, Adam Jones, Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista – and one is already ours; Martin Prado. There’s been lots of speculation about the Astros and Hunter Pence parting ways but most agree the new owner won’t want that to happen. While the Cubs may be persuaded at some point to trade Marlon Byrd, unless they take McLouth back I don’t believe the Braves will take on his $5.5 million salary for this year and $6.5 million for next. If you lower the batting average you can get down to the Upton brothers but they too are not realistic midyear pickups for us barring a significant change in philosophy or a serious injury. The two remaining players are in their walk year and have affordable contracts. Here are their lines, which would you choose.

Chris Denorfia .333 .386 3 81 12 5 6 10 .506 .893
Jeff Francoeur .282 .335 8 170 22 27 12 33 .512 .847
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2011.

I know some of you are groaning about seeing Frenchy there so I’ll talk a little about Chris Denorfia.

The 6’0” 195 pound Denorfia was drafted in 2002 by the Reds and had two seasons with them. He resurfaced in Oakland in 2008 and has been with the Padres since 2009. He’s been hot in the last month .340/.380/.489/.869 with a homer but only two RBI. The lack of RBI isn’t that surprising, the Padres don’t score a lot of runs.

His career line .283/.350/.424/.774 so he’s more of a leadoff hitter than a power hitter but in the last half of 2010 he hit seven homers and drove in 21. His arrival would move Prado into the two hole and brings more balance to the lineup. He’s arbitration eligible next year but shouldn’t be too expensive should we decide to keep him. The Padres just got Cameron Maybin to play center and with Will Venable and Ryan Ludwig as their regulars Denorfia seems to be the odd man out so he should be available and not too expensive.

If you want someone with more power however, see above. . .

Note: The game is still in progress of course but McLouth’s oblique injury added to Heyward’s shoulder issues and Chipper Jones’ meniscus issue means a move will certainly be made quickly. That will probably mean Jordan Schafer or Matt Young return so they have time to evaluate bit and decide a long term plan. Wilkin Ramirez and Jose Constanza are hitting better but neither is on the 40 man roster.

Tags: Chris Denorfia Dan Uggla Fredi Gonzalez Jason Heyward Nate Mclouth

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