In part 6 of the 7-part series, we have quite an interesting lineup; a flamethrower, the talk of offseason Winter Ball, and Brandon Beachy squared. If you’re new to the series, parts 1-5 can be found by clicking below:
For whatever reason, the United States seems to be absolutely fascinated by the number 100. This has led me to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist in reasons we, as a country, have never adapted to other countries’ norms. Sure the metric system is much simpler, but our football fields are 100 yards. What would that be in meters? 91.4 meters…not as sexy, huh? And the oh so dreaded 100 degrees Fahrenheit….so HOT! Wait…what? That’s only 37.8 degrees Celsius? That doesn’t sound so bad. The weatherman would have a hard time hyping up 37.8 degrees Celsius in America. The list could go on…coaches telling kids to give 100%, children’s eyes lighting up when Grandma gives them 100$ for birthdays, 100/A+ on a spelling test is sported around like a trophy, and the biggest pitch in the history of baseball:
The 100 MPH fastball.
Atlanta Braves’ Juan Jaime
Juan Jaime has a 25% chance to make the Opening Day roster- Jaime, a 26 year old Dominican, is starting his 3rd year in the Braves organization. Signed by the Nationals in 2006, Jaime can bring the heat, but you might ask, “Why would the Nationals let him go?” Like many Braves’ pitchers, Jaime knows Dr. James Andrews. He missed all of 2010 and 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals tried to pass Jaime through waivers in 2010, but he was claimed by the Diamondbacks. In 2011, the Diamondbacks didn’t learn from the Nationals mistake, and tried to do the same. Jaime was then claimed by the Braves, and was finally healthy again.
Like Ryan Buchter who I wrote up earlier, Jaime hasn’t quite mastered “effectively wild”. While his K-rate is eye popping (almost 13 per 9-innings for his minor league career), so is his walk-rate (6 per 9 innings). The biggest con against Jaime has been his curveball, and he seems adamant about keeping it in his repertoire. As a relief pitcher, this seems unwise, especially considering he has 2 other pitches that are outstanding; the aforementioned fastball and a nasty 80-83 MPH slider. Really, that’s all he needs…ask Craig Kimbrel.
When it comes to pitchers, Jaime has been the talk of camp. In an incredibly small-sample, he has been dynamite, but don’t let 5 innings fool you. In order to be a Major League pitcher, Jaime has to start limiting his walks. He didn’t show he was capable of that in the Minors last year, nor in the Winter Leagues. However, if he ditches that curveball (and who knows, he might have this Spring), Jaime could be a very effective “effectively wild” reliever. Does Juan Jaime have what it takes to make the ideal 25-man roster? My answer: No.
Atlanta Braves’ Luis Vasquez
Luis Vasquez has a 40% chance to make the Opening Day Roster. It’s hard to look positively at a 7-year Minor League pitcher who has spent most of his time in relief, and has a career ERA approaching 5 with a 1.65 WHIP but that’s what the Braves are doing with this year’s proverbial “diamond in the rough” Luis Vasquez, and actually, it’s quite warranted. Last year, after 6 years of “same ol’, same ol’ “, Vasquez changed to a 3/4 arm slot and something clicked. While his walk-rate stayed about the same, his K-rate went drastically up to 11.6/9 innings and his ERA dropped down to 2.52. The Dodgers apparently still found the walks troublesome and seeing as he’d already surpassed 6 years of Minor Leagues, Vasquez became a free agent. The Braves wasted no time, picking him up and adding him to the 40-man roster.
The Winter Leagues, which were going on before, during, and after the Vasquez signing was where this new arm slot really looked like a keeper. In 17.1 innings for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican League, Vasquez had a 1.56 ERA with 19 strikeouts and only 3 walks. Whether that is a real turnaround or just a small sample showing its head, only time will tell.
With an electric fastball and slider, Vasquez has the pitches to make this year’s squad as the ROOGY (relief pitcher specifically designated to get right-handed hitters out), but he has to show the walks are a thing of the past first. Frank Wren called Vasquez, “Peter Moylan plus 5 MPH”. That’s quite a compliment considering Moylan was one of the most successful relievers for half a decade with the Braves. Does Luis Vasquez and his new arm-slot make his way on to the ideal 25-man roster? My answer: No….well, at least not yet.
Atlanta Braves’ Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas has a 40% chance to make the Opening Day Roster. I love these stories. Like Brandon Beachy, Ian Thomas was a professional baseball afterthought. As an undrafted college pitcher from the Virginia Commonwealth, Ian found a career in the Independent Leagues. While he found serious success playing for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, it took him 3-plus years before any big league team noticed him enough to give him a shot. That team was the Braves.
At the ripe old age of 25, Ian began his career as a Brave in Rome where he pitched 45.2 innings of 3.15 ERA baseball. Good…but not great for a 25 year old in Low-A ball. Where Ian started opening some eyes was the next year where he skipped High-A altogether and was promoted to AA. As a Mississippi Brave, Ian was fantastic. He started out as a reliever, but wound up starting the 2nd half of the year. His line for 2013 was altogether impressive: 2.76 ERA 1.04 WHIP 10.6/K per 9 and only 3.2/BB per 9. The more impressive stat was his line against left-handed hitters: 1.98 ERA with a .192 batting average against.
What I like most about Ian is his control combined with the High-K rate. Many of the bullpen candidates have one or the other. With a 3-pitch arsenal that features a low-90′s fastball, a plus curveball, and a good changeup, does Ian Thomas provide value to the ideal 25-man roster? My answer: Yes!
Tune in in about 2 days time for the last of the 7-part series and the big reveal of the ideal 25-man roster. Thanks for reading!