Ace unlikely in cards for Braves, who say that’s OK
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason. One of us scribes asked,
“You could have used an ace down the stretch, is that something you would look to add from outside?”
To which the GM replied:“Unfortunately, aces or top-of-the-rotation starting pitching is the most rare commodity, whether it’s the trade market or free-agent market. And you look at this year’s free-agent market, there really isn’t one of those guys. Whether there’s going to be one in the trade market, I don’t know. But we recognize that that’s an area of need.”
Two or three days later, manager Fredi Gonzalez did an interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, wherein the discussion came around to the Braves’ division-series loss and postseason teams that were still alive.
“All those teams that are in the playoffs now, they have a legit No. 1 guy, a top-of-the-rotation, No. 1 guy,” Gonzalez said. “I think potentially our guys could develop to that – (Julio) Teheran, (Mike) Minor and (Kris) Medlen – but I think to go deeper into the playoffs, I think you need an ace, you need a bona fide No. 1.
“That’s something that we’re going to look at and talk about in the (organizational) meetings. Easier said than done, because you’ve got trades and free-agent salaries and all that kind of stuff. But I think that’s what we’re missing. We’re missing a guy that’s going to be a horse for you.”
Braves Notes: Heyward To Lead Off, Gattis Is The Starting Catcher, O’Flaherty Could Be Back
It will be interesting to see how Gattis handles the role of a starting catcher in the major leagues, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. I’m not convinced of anything with the big fellow just yet, but he has great potential with the bat, and if he can clean up his defensive game just a bit, the power he will provide can make him a valuable player.
It is nice to know that Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt are both available if need be, but I’d definitely prefer leaving Bethancourt alone for as long as possible so he can continue to refine his offensive game.
Fantasy Baseball Cracker Jacks
Jason Heyward: Evaluating Outfielder’s 2014 Fantasy Value
I’ve poured through Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and even the plucky little guy,Baseball Cube. While I found a ton of data, I can’t pull any sort of narrative out of it. I’ll simply share 5 “hunches” regarding Jason Heyward in 2014, and I invite you to pull from it anything you might find useful.
Hunch 1: Jason Heyward will never steal as many bases as fantasy analysts first expected. Hamstring injuries aside, manager Freddie Gonzalez doesn’t seem eager to run with all the strikeout heavy, but home run hitting batters in the Atlanta Braves lineup.
And while Heyward had 21 steals in 2012, his success rate wasn’t that good, and his 2 steals versus 4 times caught in 2013 was abysmal. While projecting stolen base totals is never super accurate, my hunch is that 21 was the best we’ll ever see from Heyward and that he won’t approach more than 12-15 in 2014.
Hunch 2: Jason Heyward will continue to be an OBP machine. Sure it’s a limited sample, but Heyward’s strikeout rate was down to 16% in 2014 after spiking to over 23% in 2012. Expect it to sit around 20% in 2014 and to be coupled with around an 11% walk rate.
That’s actually very nice plate discipline for such a young player and shows that Heyward hitting very high in the lineup is not a bad idea. He’ll continue to be good in OBP leagues and also look for him to have a great run total in 2014.
Hunch 3: His recurring shoulder issue coupled with his youth have monkeyed with his swing. His batted ball profile is all over the place. I intentionally mentioned youth because he’s got all the time in the world to rediscover his groove and we saw a glimpse if it in 2013.
AB R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG August 2013 66 9 4 10 .348 .419 .621
Heyward actually had a line drive percentage of 21.4% in 2013, which was a career high. Unfortunately, he also had an infield fly ball percentage of 16.7%, which is awful. If he can turn just a few of those pop ups into line drives or long fly balls he’ll get himself back on track.
It’s odd but Heyward is developing a weird every other year pattern where his typical 8% pop up rate turns into a 16+% pop up rate. If you believe in astrology or weird every other year patterns, then Heyward is due for a nice season in terms of hitting solid line drives and fly balls.