Mar 16, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella (84) hits an RBI double during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training - What Do We Know Now?

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A collection of observations and thoughts about Spring Training 2014 for the Braves.

 

First Thought

  • I strongly recommend Ben’s write-up about out-of-option players… for two reasons.  (1) Option expiration has very often been the deciding factor regarding who gets put on the roster and who does not.  The Most Interesting Name on that ‘risk’ list for this year is that of Cory Gearrin.  (2) If the Braves need another pitcher – and yes, they need another pitcher - then watch carefully the performances of those guys Ben mentioned, particularly those of Scott Diamond and Randall Delgado, since they were in Braves organization originally.

 

The Hitters

  • I had predicted this, but frankly, even I didn’t think he’d get this much game time this year:  Tommy La Stella has not only been getting a lot of innings, he’s been getting quality innings – easily more than any other non-roster invitee.  That means you are seeing the best pitching of the day in most cases.  His torrid start has therefore faded a bit, but he’s still hitting .293 in a team-leading 47 plate appearances.  That matches the average of Chris Johnson.  6 walks and 6 strikeouts are also gonna get you noticed.
  • In the field, La Stella has been charged with 2 errors, though one of those was questionable.  Still, his fielding percentage sits at .975, which matches Dan Uggla‘s.
  • Braves third baseman Edward Salcedo (85) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    I pretty well characterized the Spring for Edward Salcedo as a make-or-break time for him.  The verdict so far is… not very good, but not awful, either.  He’s made 2 errors, though that while playing in just 9 games.  He’s hitting .263, though by stark contrast to La Stella’s time, Salcedo has been getting mostly ‘garbage’ time – facing minor league pitching.  Not sure whether I’d peg him for AA (again) or AAA this year, but he’s in danger of being passed up in the pecking order.

  • Christian Bethancourt has been getting some game time, but not nearly as much as I’d have expected so far.  9 games, getting just 17 ABs and hitting a scant .176.  Guess he’s going to AAA, depending on the extent of Ryan Doumit‘s hand injury.  Do watch for Bethancourt’s playing time to increase this week, though.
  • Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton.  Uggla has also cooled lately (down to .226, , though of the pair, he’s my candidate to bounce back – a little this year.  The reason is because of fewer ‘moving parts’ that have to be in sync to work.  He started off hitting around .300, but strikeouts (13) are starting to mount.
  • That said, somehow B.J. Upton is now hitting .297.  But then he was around .333 at this point in 2013.  The reason for my continued concern?  He is leading the team in strikeouts – with 14.  Of note:  he’s also leading in stolen bases (4, with 1 caught stealing).
  • It is interesting to note the guys who can take a walk:  Uggla, of course, does so and he leads the team with 9.  La Stella and Joey Terdoslavich have 6 apiece.  Nobody else has more than 4, as of today.
  • Is it time to worry about Justin Upton?  He’s hitting .156 with one homer and one double.  How about Evan Gattis?  .189  (3 doubles, 1 homer).
  • Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are being Heyward and Freeman.  Averages?  .350/.343 respectively.  OBP?  .409/.425.  Yeah.  They’re good.
  • Very quietly, Ramiro Pena have sneaked up on the board, too:  .345/367 in 11 games.
  • Tyler Greene has gotten a lot of playing time so that the coaches could see what he can do.  He did well early; cooled considerably lately.  Down to .214 now.  This is mostly due to 12 strikeouts, which would likely lead the team in strikeout rate since he only has 28 ABs.
  • If the Braves played in the AL, Ernesto Mejia would make the team as DH.  “Pujols Jr.” would probably make most other clubs, too.
  • Finally, Mark Hamilton.  He had a golden opportunity to strut his stuff after Mat Gamel was re-injured and subsequently released.  Hamilton’s response?  .158 average in 19 AB. Yikes.

 

The Pitchers (those still throwing)

  • Braves pitcher Gus Schlosser. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    This has been the nightmare, but the starting rotation is going to be sorted out by attrition – or maybe via a roster cut elsewhere, as suggested earlier.  Looks like we open the season with Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana (maybe), Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia, and David Hale.  By the time a fifth starter is needed, we’re hoping that Santana or Mike Minor will be ready to go.

  • Bullpen:  the locks are Craig Kimbrel, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Anthony Varvaro.  I think Luis Vasquez will join them, and there’s a chance that Gus Schlosser could leapfrog everybody else to be the “long” man in the pen.
  • Why Schlosser?  Because given the shakiness of the rotation, it’s going to be vital to have choices for eating up innings.  Schlosser not only gives that, but can spot start.  He’s also been pitching pretty well:  1.93 ERA in 9+ innings.
  • I’m surprised to say this, but Hector Rodriguez could get a look, too.  His line is virtually identical to Schlosser’s… though Gus has seen the tougher innings so far.
  • Unfortunately, that’s about it.  Cory Gearrin has stunk, Mark Lamm has stunk, Lay Batista has been meh, Ryan Buchter has been mediocre at best, and the trio of Cody Martin/Wirfin Obispo, and Atahualpa Severino have been abysmal.  No one – except Schlosser and Vasquez – has really stepped up.

 

Most Interesting Battles Still Remaining

  • Atlanta Braves infielder Tyler Greene (7) dives back to first base. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

    Tyler Greene vs. Joey Terdoslavich.  We have two backup outfielders… kinda… in Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit.  For the infield, we only have Ramiro Pena.  That’s why Greene has the best chance… unless Tyler Pastornicky can make a serious impression in the next couple of weeks.  Offensively, he might.  Defensively?  Not so much.  Joey T. is actually hitting worse than Greene this Spring (.143 vs. .214), but the team does know what he’s capable of.  Oh, and everybody involved still has options.

  • I think Vasquez makes the team – and he’s already on the roster, so that’s an easier call.  Schlosser is the wild card, since he would have to be added.  I think I’m in Fred’s camp on Cory Gearrin:  I think he’s just been in the doghouse and hasn’t been able to work his way out of it.  Thus the Braves could end up cutting ties with him all together.
  • Another wild card:  La Stella.  Clearly, he has out-played all backup infielders, excepting maybe Ramiro PenaCould La Stella make the team?  The Braves would prefer to: (a) not start his arbitration clock yet; and (b) give him AAA time instead of gathering splinters in his posterior.  Thus he’ll most likely be in AAA.  If Greene, Pastornicky, etc. force the team’s hand (in a bad way), then maybe Phillip Gosselin or Elmer Reyes pops up as backup infielder… but I doubt it.  Right now I think it’s Greene’s job to lose… though he’s trying to do just that.

 

The State of The Pesky 40-man Roster

  • There are 40 names on it… I’m still trying to figure who was removed after Ervin Santana was added…
  • Within the next few hours, we’ll know the fate of Brandon Beachy.  He and Kris Medlen could be put onto the 60-day DL, which would allow roster flexibility.  Thus if a pitcher needs to be added, that’s how it could be done.

 

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