Josh Anderson seems extremely likely to make the team, even though he’s not any good. The Braves are likely to carry only one backup outfielder, so they’ll need one who can play center. Anderson has a career .337 OBP on the minor league level, and that’s his strength as a hitter. His slugging percentage is .373, his isolated power a woeful .083. He put up decent numbers in a minor league callup last year, playing his home games in the Juicebox, and he can run around a lot, and twenty years ago that might have meant something. If the Braves actually platoon him with Diaz in left, this will be a clear signal that they’re not serious about winning and we might as well wait for football season.
Brandon Jones will probably start the year in AAA, though I think he’ll finish it on the major league level, playing left at least semi-regularly. His callup was a bit ugly, but minor leaguers who drive in 100 runs don’t grow on trees, especially not in Mississippi, where baserunners go to die. Jones lacks any really top-flight skill but makes up for lacking As with Bs across the board — good averages, some walks, some power, good baserunning. 19 homers last year, joined with 33 doubles and seven triples. Defense is important, but I find it unlikely that the difference between his defense in center and Kotsay’s — even if Kotsay plays at his best level — will be as great as the offensive difference.
Gregor Blanco appears to be screwed. He’s out of options, but the Braves went out and traded for an inferior version of him and appear set to give the new guy the job. Blanco’s minor league batting averages are lower than Anderson’s, but he walks a whole lot more (.373 career OBP) and has a little more power (.377 career slugging, .103 ISO). He hasn’t been as successful as a basestealer, but big whoop.
Jordan Schafer is the long-term hope in center, but hasn’t played above A-ball yet — actually, he began last season in Rome, so he doesn’t even have a full year of high A-ball. He’s a top prospect, but should at least get a chance to see the higher levels of the minors before getting thrown to the wolves.
That appears to be it. Doug Clark, Richmond’s next-most-used outfielder to Blanco, has gone to Korea; Richmond’s other outfielder, Larry Bigbie, is apparently gearing up for an exciting new career as a professional witness. If Kotsay gets hurt in spring training, Brent Lillibridge might get the center field job, but I like him more as an infielder, where no job appears available.
Josh Anderson Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Brandon Jones Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Gregor Blanco Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Jordan Schafer Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Brent Lillibridge Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com