If anything happens to Brian McCann or David Ross, it would seem that J. C. Boscan has replaced Clint Sammons (no longer in the organization) as the guy they’ll call up. Nothing better happen to them. Boscan, proof that not every player who comes out of Venezuela is good, can’t hit; his minor league career line is .227/.316/.313 and there are no sample-size issues there; it’s over 14 seasons, mostly in the Braves’ organization. He has a good defensive reputation, which is just another way of saying he can’t hit. He got into a major league game last season, which is nice, and walked and scored.
Down the road, Panamanian Christian Bethancourt is supposed to be the catcher of the future, but I have my doubts. He hit just .251/.276/.331 last year in Rome, but is just 18 so he has time yet. At any rate, he’s a long way away. I’m am guessing that if someone is needed to backup McCann or Ross for a long time, Jesus Sucre is who the Braves are counting on to fill in. Sweet Jesus, another Venezuelan, hit .253/.272/.381 last season split between Myrtle Beach and Mississippi, two notoriously tough places to hit, and did better in AA. With his Francoeuresque walk rates, he has to hit at least .270 to be useful even as a backup. All these guys, plus Wilkin Castillo and Braeden Schlehuber, are NRIs. You have a lot of pitchers in spring training, so you need a lot of catchers, because as Casey said, otherwise you’ll have all passed balls.
Brooks Conrad really doesn’t have a place on the team, as became apparent after the Braves signed Joe Mather and re-signed Eric Hinske. The Tragic Folk Hero simply doesn’t hit as well as Hinske, and since he’s pretty clearly demonstrated that you don’t want him on the field either, he’s supernumerary to the team’s present needs. He’ll probably get a callup sometime whenever someone gets hurt.
Brandon Hicks will be in spring training and may get called up at some point, which only goes to show you how desperate the Braves are for anything resembling a shortstop in the higher levels of the system… Ed Lucas, a minor league lifer out of the Royals organization, has good on-base skills and more power than some, but a shaky glove rep. Basically, he’s Brooks Conrad minus two years, several clutch home runs, and a high-profile defensive meltdown. He’s mostly played third base in the minors, but has 115 games at short to his credit. Another Ed Lucas is described by Wikipedia as a “blind sportswriter” who has covered the Mets. I think we’ll all agree that if you have to cover the Mets, you don’t want to see them…
Speaking of the Mets, Canadian third baseman Shawn Bowman is one of their former minor leaguers, signed after hitting 22 homers in 106 games for the Blue Jays’ AA team last year. Yes, even the Jays’ minor leaguers were hitting homers. Both Lucas and Bowman were brought in by Frank Wren due to the catastrophic state of the Mississippi and Gwinnett ballclubs last season and are basically minor-league depth. And there’s a good chance that one of them is going to wind up starting at third base at some point if Martin Prado has to stay in the outfield when Chipper goes down. Tyler Pastornicky, acquired in the Yunel Escobar deal last year, projects down the road as a future utility infielder, and with an impressive enough showing might be in place to supplant Diory Hernandez by the end of the season.
I mentioned most of the outfield possibilities in my prior post. To give notice to the ones I blew off in a sentence or two… Wilkin Ramirez is still just 25 and had a cup of coffee with the Tigers a couple of years ago. He’s a low-average hitter with some power and some walks, and could be a decent fourth outfield type if he could play center, which he really can’t. The Braves like another ex-Tiger, Brent Clevlen, more, and probably rightly, though he’s trying to overcome a severe knee injury and a bad season in AAA. He has better on-base skills and is a better outfielder than Ramirez, but lacks the same power… Willie Cabrera didn’t get an NRI, I’m not quite sure why. He’ll be 24 this season and was one of the better hitters on Mississippi’s roster last year (.306/.369/.454) though that isn’t saying much.