Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Projection Series - Bench

Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier we covered the pitchers on the 40-man that may be a little off the beaten path.  We’re now going to look at the guys on the 40-man who tend to prefer to hitting the stitched white sphere rather than toss it.

Jose Constanza, OF – Constanza is a guy that Braves fans have loved to hate the last few years after he put up a surprising .303 batting average in a short stint in 2011 that seemingly got him way more playing time than he should have seen.  Constanza has solid speed, but even that is down a tick as he’s hit his 30s, and his real role on the team of solid defense, good speed bench outfielder has been usurped by Jordan Schafer.  Constanza at this point has become redundant on the roster, and it’s probably a matter of time before another outfielder bumps him from the 40-man roster.  If Constanza gets significant playing time in 2014, it’s a sign that an injury plague has hit the outfield, and it might be time to pick a favorite AL team to root for as the season plays out.

Todd Cunningham, OF – If he wasn’t already on the 40-man, Cunningham might be the guy to knock Constanza off the 40-man.  He has similar skills and brings the added asset of being a switch-hitter.  Cunningham has low strikeout rates, decent walk rates, and plays solid defense.  Cunningham is nothing flashy, but he plays the role of a 5th outfielder very well.  He would put up solid steal numbers if given extended time, but his most appealing quality on the baseball diamond would be his ability to play all three outfield positions defensively.

Ernesto Mejia, 1B – Mejia is a guy who has a world of power, but he was an odd choice to put on the 40-man roster.  He crushes lefties , but he’s limited to first base only because of his poor defense.  He struggles with righties and really isn’t any better than other internal options the Braves have overall, but there is one thing he has that no other Braves prospect at upper levels seems to have – power.  Mejia can flat crush baseballs, and if he is part of the Braves bench in 2014, it will be to come off the bench and terrorize fastballs.  He likely won’t do much else for average or on base, but he does give the Braves a power option off the bench.

Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Pastornicky, IF – “Rev” has been on the radar of many Braves fans since he was acquired as part of the deal to trade away Yunel Escobar in 2010.  He has minimal power and average base running instincts, but he has flashed good bat-to-ball skills and solid overall speed in the minor leagues.  The problem was that Pastornicky hasn’t translated that to the major leagues to this point.  He was penciled in ahead of Andrelton Simmons in 2012 to play shortstop, but a .612 OPS and very poor defensive range at shortstop cost him the job.  Now Pastornicky’s best shot of impacting the 2014 Braves (outside of blowing everyone’s doors off and stealing 2B away from Dan Uggla) is as a solid utility infielder who can defend adequately at 2B/3B/SS and isn’t a black hole offensively.  Last season, Pastornicky was able to flash some of his solid contact skills in Atlanta, hitting .300+ in a small sample of plate appearances, but he has noticeably lost his eye in the major leagues when promoted from AAA as indicated by an 8.4% BB rate in AAA vs. a 3.0% walk rate in the majors.  Pastornicky has the skills to have a long career as a backup/utility guy, and if Ramiro Pena slips out of the gate, he could have that job all to himself in 2014 in Atlanta.

Elmer Reyes, IF – Reyes was added to the 40-man roster to avoid him being selected in the Rule V draft.  He’s an up-the-middle defender with a fabulous glove, but right now he doesn’t offer much else.  Reyes isn’t a good baserunner, though there is some speed to dream on there.  He’s also not a power hitter by any means, and his contact rate is mediocre.  Reyes is likely nothing to worry about in 2014, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the first guy on this list whose passed through waivers in order to remove him from the 40-man roster.  He is only 23, but having only played at high-A at 23 doesn’t show a lot of growth potential.

Joey Terdoslavich, IF/OF – Terdo is one of those guys that outsiders wonder why Braves fans aren’t more excited about.  All he’s done in the minor leagues is hit, including this past season, when he hit .318/.359/.567 in AAA.  He’s 25, so many have discounted him as a “prospect”, but he jumped from AA to the majors from 2012 to present, and he’s simply dominated winter ball this offseason.  Terdoslavich is a switch-hitter who has seemingly rotated his splits each season, hitting righties better in odd-numbered years and lefties better in even-numbered years.  His offensive production in the major leagues was intriguing as he had never posted a double-digit walk percentage in the minor leagues over a full season, yet he got to the majors and posted a 13% walk rate in 92 plate appearances in 2013.  He still strikes out well over 20% of the time, and to have success at the plate, he needs to be careful to keep a 2/1 or lower K/BB rate.  Terdoslavich would be a huge component in 2014 for the Braves bench, offering a switch-hitting bat that can play both corner outfield positions and first base.  However, it seems the most likely usage of Terdo in 2014 is as a trade chip.  As crazy as it sounds, it may be in the Braves’ best interest to have someone go down for a bit early in the season and have Terdo step in and put up very good numbers to increase his trade value as he’s currently blocked in the major leagues by Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward, not a good trio to be behind!  In pure bench appearances, it’s hard to gauge what Terdoslavich could produce, but a line in the range of .280/.330/.440 wouldn’t be crazy for him if he got some regular appearances.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Take

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