After finishing up my bullpen piece, its only natural to follow with a breakdown of the Braves’ bench this coming season. For the most part we know who is going to be there, and while I agree with most of the players there is one I disagree with and a spot that seems to be open at the time. Obviously that spot will be won during spring training but it could be a number of players, and I couldn’t tell you who it is going to be.
We will start with the locks to keep it simple.
Definitely going to be on the bench in 2012
2011 stats: .243/.274/.285 in 232 PA
Sounds like Alex Gonzalez doesn’t it? Well he’s not as good defensively and he’s also not going to be the starter so it’s okay. Arguably the biggest need for the Braves this off season was to find a shortstop. At first we weren’t sure whether we would need a starter or a back up, but once Pastornicky was given the go ahead we only needed to find a glove.
We found one all right. Wilson can’t hit a lick, but he can play good defense at short, third, and second. Plus he is a better kicker than Billy Cundiff. I loved the Wilson signing, because its cheap and he fills the back up shortstop position as well as utility infield spot. He can’t hit but he’s a bench player for a reason. He has a skill, and we are utilizing it in the exact way it should be.
Hinske, Ross, Diaz and others after the break…
2011 stats: .263/.333/.428 6 HR in 171 PA
It was a down year by David standards but I guess he just decided to go along for the ride with McCann, Prado, Heyward, etc. Despite his rough year, he is still the best back up catcher in baseball and I have to think that he could be a starter for some other team. Until then however, we should enjoy him being a bat off the bench and a great defensive catcher when B-Mac gets a day off.
He really should have more pinch hit opportunities but Fredi Gonzalez is afraid to use him as a pinch hitter and not have a catcher on the bench in case of some injury. I understand why he does it, but David could easily provide more value to the team with more AB’s and I’d much rather see him come up to hit than another bench hitter I will name later…
2011 stats: .233/.311/.403 10 HR in 264 PA
Big Damage was yet another player to suffer from the Larry Parrish affect and under-perform, at least compared to his career norms. He will still be the go to left handed beast off of the bench but he’s getting older and I have to wonder how long he will still be one of the game’s best pinch hitters.
He doesn’t really provide any value in the field and must hit well to be valuable to the team. I am not saying I am giving up on him, I expect him to produce at a decent clip this season but the decline is coming, be wary.
Questionable Bench Pieces
2011 stats: .263/.302/.323 0 HR in 268 PA
I like Matt Diaz. He has always been great in Atlanta and some what of a fan favorite, but I think him being on the bench this season will be questionable at best and I can see a lot of people wanting him out before the season is over. He was known for being a lefty killer and there for useful as a pinch hitter or a platoon guy but the power seems to have vanished:
Maybe the change of scenery really hurt him but that’s a pretty significant drop in power from 2009 and 2010:
2009- .488 SLG, .175 ISO
2010- .438 SLG, .188 ISO
The Braves really only need him to be able to hit lefties because that’s the only reason he should be put on the field. Let’s see if his power outage affected that too:
vs. lefties in 2011- .356 SLG, .061 ISO
Yep, it looks like Matt Diaz lost it all in Pittsburgh, kind of like the anti-Nate McLouth. Should he be on the bench? I guess it’s fair to give him a shot at redemption but he should be given an extremely short leash, and if he isn’t producing let him go and give the spot to some one who can help out in one way or another.
Two guys who have the best shot to make the roster in spring training
We are left with an open bench spot and the only need I can think of is someone who could play a bit of center field in a pinch. Enter Jose Constanza.
Now, I’m not going to go all in on Constanza because most of you know him and you either love him or you hate him; there is no changing your mind on the matter*. Regardless of what you think about Jose, he could be a valuable bench piece. He is the only player I can think of in the organization who would be able to play center field right now and he would also be a great pinch runner.
*if you don’t know about Constanza drop a comment and I will explain the controversy to you.
Speed is undervalued in the baseball community and a lot of people think the risk is too great to bother with stolen bases but with guys like Bourn and Constanza I feel like it is easily worth it. I’ll take Constanza running the bases over Hinske/Ross/Diaz any day.
People will criticize his offense relentlessly and it’s definitely not pretty but he has shown he can get on base and help out if needed. He doesn’t need to start or share time with Jason Heyward but he can be useful.
Drew Sutton is player #2 that I think has the best chance of making the roster via spring training performance. The problem with Sutton is that he really doesn’t really fill a need now that we have Wilson in the infield. He can play all over except for center field and has some real potential with the bat, but unless he takes Matt Diaz’s place (I am all for it) he really shouldn’t be on the bench.
Other than Matt Diaz, I like the Braves bench. I would prefer a bench of Wilson/Ross/Hinske/Constanza/Sutton but I guess Wilson/Ross/Hinske/Diaz/Constanza is okay. It isn’t going to be as good as it has been over the years but I would say it is above average compared to the league and well above average compared to our division.
The performance really depends more on Fredi G’s usage of these guys more than anything and that is likely the biggest question mark of all. Let me know what your thoughts on the Braves bench in 2012.