This is part two of a three-part series today reviewing individual performances in the minor leagues for the Braves this year. Of the 18 players reviewed today, these are the negative ones, the guys who we thought highly of going into the season who have simply not produced.
Robby Hefflinger, OF, AA .119/.235/.203, 0 HR, 9/25 BB/K
Hefflinger received a lot of note last season when he hit 21 home runs in 74 games at High-A Lynchburg, but this season has not been a repeat of that. We might have seen this coming as he had only a .170/.227/.319 line last year when promoted to Mississippi, but that did still include a .149 ISO. This year, the power has simply disappeared, rendering Hefflinger questionable in his ascent beyond AA.
Matt Lipka, OF, AA .189/.259/.245, 10/2 SB/CS, 9/15 BB/K
Lipka came into the Braves system very highly touted as a first-round pick out of high school in Texas. He was supposed to have speed to burn and the ability to be a plus defender anywhere up the middle, having had experience at shortstop and center field in showcase events. Instead, Lipka has never really materialized. He repeated Lynchburg last season, and actually did worse than he did in an injury-shortened 2012, and in his fifth year in the Braves system, they moved the 22 year old up to AA, and the results have not been pretty to say the least. The one positive to hold on right now is that when he is on base, Lipka is smart about using his speed, as his 10/2 SB/CS ratio shows, but you have to get on base to run the bases.
Edward Salcedo, 3B, AAA .204/.282/.359, 17 XBH, 7/3 SB/CS 18/50 BB/K
Salcedo has been one of the most hyped toolsy players in the Braves system in many years, but 2014 seems to be another verse, same as the first (and second, and so on). Salcedo offers a rare blend of power and speed, and he’s displayed that again this season with 17 extra base hits while stealing 7 bases. The problem comes in his contact numbers. He’s already struck out 50 times in 54 games, and he doesn’t walk near enough to allow a low batting average to still be playable. Worst of all, his putrid defense has gotten even worse at 3B. He is only 22 and has reached AAA, so there could be some interest from outside teams in a trade this year, but if he’s not moved, it would be wise of the Braves to try Salcedo at other defensive positions to see if he could have some defensive value that way and start to hone his tools into usable big league skills.
Josh Elander, OF, A+ .219/.319/.328, 2 HR, 6/0 SB/CS, 20/32 BB/K
Elander was drafted in 2012 by the Braves out of Texas Christian University and put up gaudy rookie ball numbers after his draft to get a lot of interest going in his future as a power potential bat. His move to the outfield last season went smoothly, as he hit for an .828 OPS across A and high-A, showing power and a surprising amount of speed. He returned to high-A in 2014, and many assumed this was going to be a quick stop on his way to AA, but he’s struggled out of the gate. While he’s walked at a good pace, he’s also striking out at a very high pace, and the power simply isn’t there this year. Elander is still young, but having been a college draftee, his bat was assumed to be more ready than most, and he’s already 23 without hitting AA yet.
Carlos Salazar, SP, Rk/A 10.31 ERA, 36.2 IP, 38/28 BB/K, 2.32 WHIP
Last year’s 3rd round pick was assumed to be a project, a guy who would need multiple years of development to bring his tremendous stuff under control. This year, the Braves started him out in Rome, and the results were not good at all. Most concerning was that he walked more batters than he struck out. Salazar was put into the bullpen in Danville when their season opens, and we’ll hope he can regain his command and move back to Rome by season’s end.
Matt Chaffee, RP, A+ 9.41 ERA, 22 IP, 20/31 BB/K, 2.23 WHIP
Chaffee actually received some talk as being able to hop all the way from A+ ball in 2013 to the majors in 2014 in the bullpen. While having a 4.26 ERA last season wasn’t spectacular, his success in striking out 80 batters in 61 1/3 innings while only walking 28 was notable and seemingly foretold a leap forward in 2014, and as a lefty power reliever, the Braves were certainly hopeful as well. Needless to say that good walk rate went out the door, and while Chaffee is still striking out guys at a similar rate, there are simply way too many men on base at this point. The Braves will be patient with him as lefties who can strike guys out at the rate Chaffee does don’t simply grow on trees, but he’s already 25 at high-A.
Daniel Cordero, SP, Rk/A 8.44 ERA, 21.1 IP, 13/16 BB/K, 2.25 WHIP
Cordero was a signee from Venezuela who got a later than usual start, but he showed some very good skills on the Braves Gulf Coast League rookie ball team last season that got him some prospect helium coming into 2014. The train has come off the tracks this season in Rome, and his first appearance after being demoted back to Danville was more of the same. Cordero did very well last year when he kept the ball in the zone, so regaining that command is vital to a rebound back to Rome again this season.