Atlanta Braves Winter League Report
1B Mark Hamilton is a veteran minor leaguer (with a couple of cups of coffee in the bigs) who recently signed with the Braves as a minor league free agent after stints with the Cardinals and the Red Sox organizations. Known more for his on-base ability than his power, Hamilton had a good 2013 with Pawtucket and is showing his veteran savvy in the Mexican Winter League with a .254/.377/.429 line with eight doubles and seven home runs in 177 at bats.
Australian-born catcher Matt Kennelly is returning to the Braves on a minor league contract for 2014 and is playing very well for the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League, hitting .319/.373/.514 with four home runs in 72 at bats. Kennelly appears to be a light-hitting career-backup catcher in the minors and only totaled 96 plate appearances between the Braves’ Triple-A and Reds’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season.
Another first baseman, 28-year-old Ernesto Mejia, is plying his trade down in Venezuela this winter, hitting .267/.384/.465 with 11 home runs in 202 at bats after a 28-home-run season with the Gwinnett Braves in the Triple-A International League. He’s been in the Braves’ organization since 2002 and had a career-high in home runs in 2013 but struck out 152 times.
Mexican native, 21-year-old outfielder Joey Meneses, is hitting .324/.381/.541 with a pair of home runs in 37 at bats as a part-time player in the Mexican Leauge after a decent season in Class-A Rome.
Bullpen Breakout/Washout: NL East
David Carpenter was traded to the Blue Jays in 2012 as a minor part of a larger overall package for back-end Houston Astros’ starter J.A. Happ. Later, as a part of an organizational-politics trade of John Farrell between the Blue Jays and the Red Sox, the Sox ended up with Carpenter for a brief time in the offseason before designating him for assignment to be picked up by the Atlanta Braves. David Carpenter would go on to post the fifth highest ERA amongst NL relievers, backed up by a robust 0.9 fWAR and 2.83 FIP in his 65.2 innings, and help his Braves to a playoff berth. After never posting a positive fWAR mark at any point during his career, Carpenter established himself as a force out the Atlanta bullpen, striking out an excellent 28.9% of the batters he faced and walking less than 8%. He was used by manager Fredi Gonzalez in increasingly high-leverage situations as he continued to establish himself, eventually setting up mostly exclusively for the King of Saving* through September. It’s safe to say that David Carpenter likely caused at least an organization or two to re-examine their evaluation practices in regards to young relievers, as the Braves clearly were able to extract something from Carpenter than previous orgs had missed. By FanGraphs FIP-based WAR measurement, he was the 19th most valuable reliever in the National League.
Fishing the NL East: Who Will Win the Division?
With us being done with the heavy lifting of the off-season, I think it’s a fair time to try and see how the division will fare in 2014.
The Braves have to been seen as the early favorites in the division, despite having another short post-season run. Until they are defeated, they are still the NL East Champs. The Nationals seem to be improved on paper, but that was the case before they turned in a poor 2013 season. The Phillies should take a step back and I’d expect the Mets and Marlins to improve in 2014.
How do you guys see the NL East shaping up next season? Vote on the poll below and drop a comment with your thoughts:
Who Will Win the NL East?