May 2, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) leans on the dugout bench during the game against the San Francisco Giants at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves: Upgrading the Bench from Within!

An Atlanta Braves OFF DAY….Boooooo! Tomahawk Take articles…YAY!

It’s an off day and the Braves are still STREAKING!!!  When a team wins 7 in a row, it seems hardly time to discuss making some changes, and it’s likely that changes won’t come until the team takes a downturn.  The Braves seem to have some sort of formula for clubhouse chemistry and rely quite hard on keeping all 25 players comfortable with each other. Gavin Floyd mentioned this in an interview at the beginning of this year discussing the absence of “clicks” inside the clubhouse and how it seemed the 25-man group was a cohesive unit. This is one of the components of the Braves that has long been my favorite aspect of the organization as it makes it easy to root for a group of guys that are well-behaved and seem to enjoy each other’s company.  With that being said, there are still some improvements that the Braves could be looking at internally.

Essentially, the Braves have ran out the same bench the entire year: Gerald Laird, Ryan Doumit, Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer, Dan Uggla/Tyler Pastornicky.  Thus far, here has been the line from our bench players in 146 plate appearances: .208/.261/.308. This is bad.  Fixing the bench is a must.

Another aspect that needs fixin’ is the Braves’ performance against right-handed pitching.  The team collectively has a .657 OPS against RHP, bad enough for worst in the league.  Finding a hitter that can hit RHP off the bench, or in a spot start is also a must.

The Breakdown

The Braves need a few players that can come off the bench, mash RHP, or spot-start for players struggling against RHP.  Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Atlanta Braves Internal Bench Candidates

Mark Hamilton- An unlikely choice as many view his bat as Quad-A, but his numbers against RHP are no joke: .292/.403/.476.  He’s a high strikeout, high power, high OBP kind of guy.

Steven Lerud- Also an unlikely choice as he’s been the backup catcher at Gwinnett until Christian Bethancourt‘s promotiom, but he has really hit well against RHP: .286/.400/.500.  These numbers are likely false hopes as he’s never been known for his bat.

Brandon Boggs- A switch-hitter that hits LHP better than RHP, but still puts up a respectable .750-ish OPS against right handers.

Cedric Hunter- Having a remarkable year at Mississippi, Cedric’s OPS sits at .924 through 68 games and his power (8 HR) does not come at the expense of contact as he’s only struck out 28 times in 250 plate appearances.  He has a reverse split for a left-handed batter, but it’s more likely a small sample than anything else.  I’m not sure why he’s not getting more press as he’s only 26 and was a highly regarded prospect.

Kyle Kubitza- I’ve spilt enough ink on Kyle, but his bat speaks for itself as he continues to hit.  His OPS is up to .884 and he hits both RHP and LHP well.

So, who would be your choice internally?  Is there someone I left off? Let’s hear it!



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Tags: Atlanta Braves Brandon Boggs Cedric Hunter Dan Uggla Gerald Laird Jordan Schafer Kyle Kubitza Mark Hamilton Ramiro Pena Ryan Doumit Steven Lerud Tyler Pastornicky

  • Ryan Cothran

    My personal choices:
    Replace Jordan Schafer with Cedric Hunter
    Replace Dan Uggla with Kyle Kubitza

    Use Kubitza off bench and spot starts at 3rd base against RHP
    Use Hunter off bench, spot starts against RHP, and on rest days for any OFer

    • carpengui

      I don’t think either of those guys is ML-ready. If you want to promote anybody for hitting purposes, it’s either Hamilton or Phil Gosselin.

      The next point “Uggla Watch’ dates (yes, I am surprised he’s still here) are between July 16 (the day after the ASG) and August 1st (the day after the trade deadline). If nothing happens on the trade front, he’ll be with us for the duration. If something pops, then he may have to be released for roster purposes. Gosselin is the logical choice, then, if space is available.

      It might have been a good idea for Uggla to have developed a mysterious illness to get some minor league ABs via rehab, but … oh never mind.

      • Ryan Cothran

        Phil Gosselin is having a career year but promoting a career .688 OPS Minor League player for offensive purposes doesn’t sound promising. With Pena’s ability to cover the entire infield defensively, I’d like to see the Braves put a pure bat on the bench.

        Also, I understand the caution on Kubitza, even though it might seem like I don’t with all the posts about him, but why Cedric Hunter? He seemed like he stalled out in the Padres organization at 21 years old but has really hit his stride this year, after coming off a good year in Cleveland’s organization. His Ks are low, his walk rate is good, his SLG is above average. Why do you not consider him Major League ready (or at least more major league ready than Jordan Schafer)?

        • carpengui

          My thoughts on Gosselin are contingent on a couple of things:
          1. Uggla’s departure.
          2. His flexibility. Gosselin can play virtually anything except CF, C, and maybe SS.
          3. The bat – something seems to have ‘clicked’ this year and he’s better across the board… sustained now over 80+ games.

          Regarding Hunter, maybe the phrase isn’t “ML-ready” so much as “ML-capable.” His stats show someone who has consistently been unable to sustain decent production above the AA level. I’m just not at all convinced that he’d outplay Schafer even offensively, and he’d have to be a real stud with the glove to do so defensively.

          • Sealift67

            All interesting yet doubtful we would see changes of this type
            with the team playing well. Gosselin seems to be viewed solely
            as an injury fill in. Kubitza is being developed, at this point,
            with goal of full time ML. Schafer is a known quantity and knows
            what his role is.

  • Matt Talbert

    Or a possibility Phil Gosselin who is having an excellent year — not sure of his splits, but he would definitely upgrade over Strugs ;D

  • John Adcox

    I’d start with Cunningham and Phil Gosselin. No roster issues.

  • fireboss

    A move of this kind is complicated because none of our current bench bats have options so they would have to be DFA or traded. Assuming the GM would do that the next thing is looking at who might logically succeed.
    In general terms the young players don’t make great pinch hitters because it’s hard for them to keep their stroke with one at bat every four days or so. Looking at the list of pinch hitters with 25 PA this year – chosen because that’s less that Doumit and Schafer have – the younger players who are more successful get regular starts. There are 26 players in the list with Doumit is 14th in BA, 13th in Slugging and 21st in obp while Schafer is 19th in BA, 23rd in slugging and 20th in OBP. So the replacements would have to do better than that. If I was choosing from within I’d first look at Boggs and Hamilton but neither has shown the ability to hit major league pitching and are with the system largely as minor league depth in positions we don’t have prospects that are promotable.
    I agree with Alan that Kubitza is at least a year away. Hunter is interesting but his OPS drops 300 points when he moves above AA and since this is his eighth minor league season the sample size is meaningful. As you point out Lerud is a catcher and wouldn’t be considered. Gosselin would make sense but he would displace Pena, isn’t as versatile a player and leaves us without a backup shortstop. He’s also has little power. Last year JoeyT was the choice but he’s looking more and more like a career minor league guy. One man not listed that I’d consider from within is Seth Loman. A big power hitting first baseman/outfielder whose glove probably won’t make it but who has always hit for power – and led his league in getting hit by pitches. Other than that we are almost certainly looking outside the system if we upgrade the bench. I’ve like Chris Denorfia for a long time and San Diego is selling. I know he’s RH but his splits are better than their left handed counter part Will Venable. Jake Goebbert woudl also be an option and likely an inexpensive one.

  • Levoy Hemphill

    Joey Trudoslovich or however you spell it.

    • fireboss

      Joey’s bat disappeared his current slash is .237/.322/.356/.678.

  • BravesBeliever

    I noted something interesting during this home stand and I’ve heard it before: Last night and multiple times throughout the season, during post-game interviews, leading players (stars) on the Braves have said, “Well,
    we just finally locked in and that made the difference.” What someone needs to do- either a player who is a reliable and respected leader (which the Braves need badly) or Fredi Gonzales and, preferably both- is to KEEP the Braves on focus, “locked in” AT ALL TIMES and bring a more competitive, “every bat/every play” attitude to this team. It seems to me when they are ahead whether it be in an individual, particular game or even when they are in the standings lead with first place, the Braves let up and do not stay focused and “locked-in” and do not play with that “do or die”, season-long, perpetual insistence on winning not just every game but every bat, every play and every inning! I do not see that level of excellence with this team even though they are fully capable of consistent, brilliant play. I see sparks of it….highlights of it and when I do, they are unbeatable. But, in order to get in, make a run in and, ultimately, win in the play-offs/post-season, this is an attitude and a competitive spirit which must be perpetually present and, unfortunately, I just don’t see it most of the time with this marvelously talented team and I think that is what leaves so many people scratching their heads in bewilderment. It is the reason why such a fabulously talented team can play so lackluster about 60% of the time.