Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

04 Dec

My 2017 Series to Remember. Yours? Some gold in the dross. (by blazon)

If you’re retired and live deep in the country where beauty abounds and distractions are few, you saw almost every game the Braves played this year. A month after it all ended we became spectators of the same game played at a significantly higher level by others. What remains of the Braves year has become a fading blur. Ninety losses doesn’t help.

Strangely though, without trying, there was one series that came to mind and stayed there. It reminded me of the pleasure, the surprise I got from it at the time so it has hung around to the point I wanted to see how much/little detail of what happened could be recalled. What follows is all from memory and all too brief. There will be howlers but so what? This is what pleases, as I write this on a 25 dark degree Sunday morning.

We went out west for a road trip somewhere in the second half of the season and stopped by at the Coliseum. Ho hum I thought, neither team was going anywhere and wasn’t this all being played at a dump, a much reviled setting?

It was a 4 game series as I remember; we — most surprisingly — won 3 of them. The game we lost, the second I think, we faced Sonny Gray and even then we were ahead late. Individually and collectively we played some of our best baseball of the year. I tried to rack my memory of the highlights that must have prompted me to this conclusion: here’s a few.

I remember Dansby, had to be his best game maybe. Good D but some sensational hitting in the clutch in the game we were behind late and his two back to back doubles in the 8th and 9th tied and then won the day. Each was an elevated line drive to the left field corner, something he spent most of the year trying to duplicate and failing. What was moving was his infectious delight after the second. He was transformed.

Then Danny Santana. Brought on to pinch run he ran them ragged, then and later, he stayed in the game. The A’s were flustered, he must have been so happy to be achieving something positive. Kurt Suzuki. This might have been the series when we had to start taking him seriously as a power hitter. He had two I believe, maybe in the same game. There is nothing more fun to watch than somebody who doesn’t hit homers hitting homers. There were other homers we hit in this series but danged if I can remember by who.

So that, absurdly, is all I can be reasonably sure about over 4 games of individual efforts. Trying to recall this you come to realize what makes it so difficult is not just who did this or that but was it really in this series or another. Lines get blurred, names transposed. But in this instance there was one other thing, never to be forgotten, the stadium itself. Wow.

Dirty, worn, totally devoid of people the huge shell far away beyond left field was awesome, I loved it. Those giant names, magical, better here than at Cooperstown. All the seats quite empty of course, what a lunatic idea. And more coming with a new, bloated mixed user somewhere, yuk. Looking at the reduced arena where we actually played you couldn’t but help and admire the spectators too. Blue collar, raucous, knowledgeable, generous. The antithesis of Cardinal garbage.

So that’s my favorite Braves series of 2017. We won this one but there’s nothing to say yours could not be a tie or a loss even. We had plenty of those and many of them still contained individual good memories. Please, I would love if you would share yours.

28 Nov

Where Do We Go From Here? Position Summary

Since the series began, we’ve hired a new GM and lived through the Acoppolypse.  For your shopping convenience, here’s an overview of the position players in one shot.  First, a brief look at where we (think) we know we’re going, followed by a summary of my earlier thoughts on the question marks.

Freddie Freeman turned 28 in September, and as he continues through his prime years, it is logical to pencil him in for another .300/.400/.570 slash line, such as he turned in at ages 26 and 27.

Ozzie Albies posted a .286/.354/.456 in 244 plate appearances in his major league season.  We’ve been burned before on small sample sizes, but a couple of things separate Albies.  At age 20, Albies is years ahead of most prospects.  However, despite his youth, Albies also has a decently sized minor league record to parse, including significant AAA time.  Albies has 695 career AAA plate appearances, batting .272.  I see Ozzie batting around .265 in his first full MLB season, and increasing from there.

Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki will be 32 and 34 respectively in 2018, and combined for 31 home runs in 2017 (12 for Flowers, 19 for Suzuki.)  At least one internet rando could not have been more wrong in assessing the Braves catching for 2017.  There are enough other problems to address that it makes sense to continue with these 2 for 2018, but at the ages involved, the catching position will have to be addressed before too many more seasons.

One possibility for addressing that is Alex Jackson.  Jackson will play the 2018 season as a 22 year old, and in 2017 hit 19 home runs in 402 at bats, mostly at the A+ level.  Let’s watch what kind of on base rate he can produce in this first full season above A+, and if he can continue to develop defensively.  He looked good in the Arizona Fall League, which is better than looking bad in the Arizona Fall League, and that’s all I’ve got to say about the Arizona Fall League.

Previously on “Where Do We Go From Here?”:

  • The Braves finished 11th in the National League in runs scored, and need to get better offensively in right and left field, and at 3rd base.
  • If you think a Johan Camargo / Rio Ruiz platoon looks good, it is only because you have been watching the Braves for too long.  For comparison, these are the 3rd basemen on the National League playoff teams:  Justin Turner. Kris Bryant. Anthony Rendon. Jake Lamb. Nolan Arenado.
  • I think the Braves should be prepared for the possibility that Austin Riley is not ready for 2019 and should make a 2 year plan accordingly.  I would like the Braves to gamble on a 3rd baseman with upside, even if it means through a trade.  I like Wilmer Flores and Maikel Franco, among others.
  • I do believe that Ronald Acuna will be ready to solve one corner outfield spot in 2018.  See Alex’s thoughts here.
  • I would love to see the Braves bring in more players in Freddie and Ender Inciarte‘s cohort, and rumors are that Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna are available.
  • Dansby Swanson now has 696 career Major League plate appearances with a .246/.322/.348 career line, which I feel represents the 24 year old’s floor.
  • Johan Camargo’s offensive career to date mimics Swanson’s, with their initial MLB seasons exceeding their minor league records.  Camargo took the shortstop job temporarily before injury, and it will be interesting to see how much leash Swanson has with Coppolella gone.
  • The Braves top shortstop prospect is Kevin Maitan.  Hopefully, he is also the Braves top shortstop prospect in 2019.  (Narrator voice:)  He wasn’t.

Make a move, make it soon, it’s too quiet in this room.

27 Nov

Retrosheet needs help! Got any Launching Pad scorebooks from the ’70s?

Related to my comment @37 in the previous thread, I got a few emails from Jay Wigley of Retrosheet, who asks for our help:

I wonder if you’ve ever asked that community (your readers, other Braves fan contacts) whether they have any early 70’s scorecards or scorebooks with scores games in them? I’m a sometime-volunteer for Retrosheet and boy, do we need Braves games from the late 70’s.

In particular, there is a game in late 1973 that is the ONLY missing game from the whole season. It was a game versus the Astros where Hank Aaron was nearing 714 home runs (I think he was at about 710 at that point in 1973), so maybe if fans who have scored games from Aaron’s run up to Ruth, that might trigger some of their recollections?

But I don’t want to limit their attention. :) We need any/all scored Braves games from 1973 and before. Even if Retrosheet already has one scored account, it’s wonderful to have more than one since some fans capture details that others miss (even the club scorers miss details).

As you know if you’ve been around the baseball internet for a while, Retrosheet is invaluable. Please help if you can! If you want to get in touch with Jay Wigley directly, you can email him at jaywigley at me dot com. Or you can always just email me at the address in the upper right. Thanks again!

26 Nov

A Sport In Which A Team That Lost To Troy State May Become National Champions

At home.

I figure most of the non-DOOOOOOOMED! cross talk will be about the semi-professional football league that exploits 18 year old Americans the way MLB exploits 16 year old Columbians.

Do as you will. Get too over hyped about UGA for the inevitable shattering. Or ride your War Eagle. Or pretend that Bama didn’t play a cupcake schedule on par with a B1G program for 3/4 of the year. Or talk about how the Vols… Actually, you should probably move on to basketball if you Vol. You know. Like Vandy and Kentucky.

20 Nov

Pivot Day

Just throwing up a new thread to handle any coming sturm und drang re: Coppallellagate. Figure it’s worth it just to segregate the blow back from today’s (assumed) news releases out into their own holding pond.

If they get out of this with just losing Maitan, some picks and money, I think we have to call it a win, considering how much doomsday prophecy we’ve seen to date. YMMV of course.

14 Nov

Alex Anthopoulos

The first good news I’ve heard in a very long time. Alex Anthopoulos is just about the best possible General Manager the Braves could have chosen, for two reasons:

1) In Toronto, he made a lot of very good moves. Some of them didn’t work out, but the process behind all of them looked really solid, at least from the outside, and he built that team into a perennial contender in the toughest division in baseball.
2) He is a French-speaking Canadian who has never worked in the Braves organization in any capacity. He is the outside voice that the team has so badly needed for so long, and rather than hiring him into a vague “special advisor” capacity like Hart, or a vague apprenticeship like Coppolella, the team is quite publicly handing him the reins. Thank goodness.

We still don’t know quite what the final fallout will be from the Braves’ infractions in the Latin American market, and it’s possible that players now in the Braves organization will not be there come 2018. Ultimately, that has to be priced into the Coppolella era. Later this offseason I’ll try to write a retrospective on him, maybe along the lines of what I wrote here; it’s hard to reach full emotional closure without knowing the full extent of the team’s crimes and the degree to which he was operating entirely outside the knowledge of the rest of the team’s upper management. (I find it hard to believe that Schuerholz, Hart, Cox, and McGuirk were unaware of anything improper whatsoever, considering that it was an open secret throughout all of baseball that the Braves had reached an agreement with Kevin Maitan long before he was of legal age.) But that’s hard to know for now.

I am fairly ecstatic about Anthopoulos, whom I at one point believed was the best GM in baseball. He made his share of bad moves, but he made a hell of a lot of good ones. The contrast with his predecessor is extraordinary.

The Blue Jays he inherited in October 2009 were not a very good team in the majors or minors, after a decade of indifferent management and terrible drafting by J.P. Ricciardi. The Jays went 642-653 in Ricciardi’s eight seasons, finishing in 3rd place four times, in 4th place twice, and once in 2nd place and once in last. It was Ricciardi who gave out Vernon Wells‘s comically disastrous contract extension and B.J. Ryan‘s terrible free agent contract. As John Sickels wrote a couple of months after Ricciardi got axed:

The Jays under former general manager J.P. Ricciardi took a lot of flak for focusing in polished college players in the draft. However, even when they brought in tools players, such as the high school hitters drafted in 2007 and various Latin American investments, the results were poor, leading me to wonder if the problems are as much in player development and coaching as much as in the drafting. The debacle of the 2009 draft is a huge blow: failing to sign the second, third, and fourth round picks speaks to serious problems with the Jays organization as a whole and hampers depth at the lower levels of the system for ’10 and beyond.

Worst Move:
• December 2009, Roy Halladay to Phillies for Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor
Anthopoulos’s first move as GM was possibly his worst move as GM. Two months after assuming the job he traded away the team’s most recognizable and valuable asset, the late Roy Halladay. (God, I hate having to write that.) As the Toronto Star wrote years later: “Upon taking the reins from Ricciardi, Anthopoulos’ first order of business was trading franchise ace Roy Halladay, who would only consent to a deal to Philly. At the time it looked like Anthopoulos made out alright, netting a trio of highly touted prospects. But this deal has soured in hindsight. While Taylor was flipped for Brett Wallace, who was traded for Anthony Gose, who was traded for Devon Travis, and d’Arnaud was part of the package for R.A. Dickey, the centrepiece of the deal, Kyle Drabek, flamed out and was released by the team this season.”

That said, this trade looks a lot worse in retrospect than it did at the time. Immediately after he made it, Toronto’s farm leapt from 28th place to 18th place in Baseball America’s rankings, an indication of just how bad shape it was in, and also of just how highly regarded were those prospects. The elementary-school-lunchbox series of swaps that turned Taylor into Travis was a really nifty bit of work. But Drabek did what young pitchers too often do, and d’Arnaud starred in perhaps Anthopoulos’s second-most unfortunate move, when he sent him along with Noah Syndergaard to the Mets in return for 38-year-old Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. Dickey was decent, and d’Arnaud was injury-prone, but Syndergaard turned into a bona fide ace of the kind that Drabek simply didn’t.

That’s the bad stuff. Here’s the good stuff:

2010: Aaron Sanchez (1st round), Noah Syndergaard (1st), Justin Nicolino (2nd)
2011: Daniel Norris (2nd), Anthony DeSclefani (6th), Kevin Pillar (32nd)
2012: Marcus Stroman (1st)
2013: Kendall Graveman (8th)
2014: Jeff Hoffman (1st)

Not all of their top picks panned out, but they got a lot more guys into the farm than they had when he took over. He had some extremely noteworthy trades, of course:

Best Trade:
• November 2014, Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Franklin Barreto, and Sean Nolin to Athletics for Josh Donaldson
Lawrie was an enigma who rarely seemed to live up to his talent, but it was still remarkable to see him as the centerpiece of a deal for Donaldson. The previous season, the 27-year-old third baseman had played his first full season in the majors and finished fourth in the MVP ranking; two years later, he won the MVP for his new team. Barreto’s still a good prospect, but it’s hard to trade for an MVP candidate in his prime at any price, let alone at Costco prices.

Most Unbelievable Trade:
• January 2011, Vernon Wells to Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera
Prior to this, Wells was viewed for years as having a literally immovable contract, with $86 million remaining on his contract after his age-32 season in 2010. He had a resurgent year that year, hitting 31 homers, more than double his total the previous year, and Anthopoulos jumped at the chance to give him away to Arte Moreno. Most incredible of all was that he got a very good player back in Napoli. Anthopoulos outthunk himself a couple of days later, turning around and trading Napoli to the Rangers for closer Frank Francisco; Francisco had a fine year, but Napoli bashed 30 homers and hit .320/.414/.631 in the friendly confines of Arlington.

Most Important Overall Transactions:
• December 2010, Signed Edwin Encarnacion as a Free Agent
• February 2011, Signed Jose Bautista to a Five-Year Extension

Anthopoulos may not deserve all the credit for acquiring two of the best power hitters in baseball for next to nothing (and a third, Donaldson, for virtual scraps), but he deserves a hell of a lot of it.

Encarnacion spent the first part of his career in Cincinnati, and came to the Blue Jays for the first time in a deadline trade for Scott Rolen in 2009. He had some power but was an indifferent defender, and the Blue Jays left him exposed to waivers, and the Athletics selected him off waivers in November 2010, then granted him free agency just weeks later. The Blue Jays got him back a few days after that. In 2011, he hit 17 homers. In 2012 he hit 42 homers and turned into Edwin Encarnacion. In the middle of the summer, as he was in the middle of his breakout, the Jays signed him for an absurdly cheap three-year, $27 million extension with a two-year buyout.

Bautista, likewise, was originally acquired under Ricciardi, and he likewise took a couple of years to blossom. He came over from the Pirates in August 2008 for a PTBNL. In 2009, he hit 13 homers. In 2010, he hit 54 homers and turned into Jose Bautista. That offseason, they offered him a five-year, $65 million extension.

A Whole Lot of Other Trades:
You could describe Anthopoulos’s style as frenetic. In November 2012 he traded a bunch of prospects (Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclefani, Adeiny Hecheverria, and Jake Marisnick, along with Yunel Escobar and Jeff Mathis) to the Miami Marlins for higher-salaried players the South Florida cheapskates had mostly soured on: Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio.

That didn’t work out that well, but Reyes and Buehrle played decently, and in a playoff push in July 2015, Anthopoulos made Reyes the centerpiece of a 2015 deal for Troy Tulowitzki, and two days later traded prospects for a three-month rental of David Price. Thad led the Jays to their first 90-win season (not to mention their first division championship) since 1993, when they won their second consecutive world championship. They lost in the ALCS, but it was hard to argue it hadn’t been worth it.

He had no compunction about trading players who had been with the team for years and appeared to hew to Branch Rickey’s adage that it was better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late. In 2011 he traded Aaron Hill, who had been drafted in 2003 and was an All-Star for the team in 2009, along with backup infielder John McDonald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson; Hill was great in 2012 but has struggled to produce and stay healthy since then. (So has Johnson, for that matter.) In 2014 he traded Adam Lind, who had been with the team for a decade, to the Brewers for Marco Estrada; Lind has remained an occasionally very good backup 1B/OF while Estrada has given the Jays 90 starts of 111 ERA+ ball.

But none of that holds a candle to the magic of trading Shaun Marcum, a soft-tossing 3rd-round draftee from 2003, for Brett Lawrie. Marcum underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009, came back and went 13-8 in 2010, and Anthopoulos traded him to the Brewers for Brett Lawrie, at the time a highly-regarded Double-A prospect who had been taken in the first round two years prior. Flashing power, defense, and speed, but not often at the same time, Lawrie tantalized in Toronto four two years before Anthopoulos flipped him for Donaldson. Meanwhile, Marcum simply could not stay healthy, and after a wonderful 200-inning season in Milwaukee in 2011, he only tossed 237 1/3 innings over the rest of his career, which included shoulder surgery in 2014.

Then there was the huge trade with the Cardinals in July 2011, where he sent over Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson, and Marc Rzepczynski and received Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, P.J. Walters, and Colby Rasmus. Miller, Tallet, and Walters didn’t do much, nor did Patterson. Dotel, Jackson, and Rzepczynski pitched pretty well for St. Louis, who appreciated the help en route to a world championship. But Rasmus had the talent to be the best player in the deal, and at least in 2013, he lived up to the billing, producing five wins and putting together the best year of his career. The rest of the time, of course, he was Colby Rasmus, but you can’t win ’em all.

In the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox had absurd amounts of money, and after years of being division doormats, the Rays and Orioles had by the early 2010s emerged as well-run and fierce competitors. To survive in that environment, Anthopoulos needed to get lucky — as he did with Bautista and Encarnacion — and he needed to try moonshot after moonshot. Playing it safe simply wouldn’t have been enough. So I don’t fault him overly for his failures, because I think they were the product of the right process: high risk, high reward.

The Bottom Line
No, Anthopoulos wasn’t perfect, and by the time he and the Blue Jays parted ways, plenty of people were willing to remember his failures as much as a lot of his successes. But if you want someone who will be willing to take chances and push his chips to the middle of the table as soon as he sees an opportunity, he’s your guy. I couldn’t be more excited.

11 Nov

Where Do We Go From Here? Outfield

The Incumbents

The incumbents should be familiar; they are the same incumbents as last season – Matt KempEnder Inciarte, and Nick Markakis.

In his 3 seasons as the Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has hit 24 home runs in 2040 plate appearances.  This seems like a potential area for improvement.

Markakis turns 34 on the 17th of November, and although he has not posted fWAR above 1.5 while in Atlanta, at least he has managed not to decline too much, so far. The 2017 offensive numbers include a .275/.354/.384 slash line, and 1/3 of his career Braves home run total.

Matt Kemp dropped from 35 home runs in 2016 to 19 in an injury plagued 2017. Kemp turned 33 in September, and his age and injury history makes a complete bounce back less than likely.  He posted a .275/.318/.463 and a calculated fWAR of -0.5 in 2017.

Ender Inciarte turned in a .304/.350/.409 slash line, and nabbed his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove in center field on his way to posting a 3.0 fWAR in 2017.  Inciarte turned 27 in October, and is in the prime of his career.


Lane Adams got his first significant MLB playing time in 2017, at age 27.  After 3519 nondescript minor league plate appearances, Adams posted a .275/.339/.468 slash line in 122 plate appearances in Atlanta.  He stole 10 bases and played all 3 outfield positions.  His background suggests that his career may not be long, but at his peak he seems to be an adequate 4th outfielder.  The Braves would do well to acquire some more upside guys in their primes.

Danny Santana posted a 3.2 fWAR for the Twins during his rookie season in 2014; he hasn’t posted a positive fWAR since.  Santana also played all 3 outfield positions, as well as some 2nd base, and has MLB experience at SS and 3rd base.

Santana just turned 27, and someone may want to take a gamble that he can regain his rookie magic.  Even if he did, his offensive skill set is redundant on a Braves team with Inciarte and Ozzie Albies, and his career high 7 home runs would not be what the Braves need from a corner outfielder or 3rd baseman.  He could battle for a bench spot.


Ronald Acuna rocketed through 3 levels of minor league ball in 2017, recording a .325/.374/.552 slash line across 612 A+, AA, and AAA plate appearances, with the A ball numbers actually dragging him down.  I trend toward the cautious side with prospects, but it’s hard not to get excited about Acuna, who looks like he could be a legit .290 MLB hitter right now, at age 20.  Acuna hit 18(edit) 21 home runs in his 632 plate appearances, which indicates initially he may be more of a mega-Markakis, although it is reasonable to expect him to grow into even more power.

Defensively, Acuna has the ability to play center field, although that is not where the Braves’ current need is.  His bat should be sufficient to play a corner position if wanted.  Acuna is the Braves top prospect according to, and the #5 prospect in all of baseball. 2017 Top Prospects

Cristian Pache is the Braves 11th ranked prospect. 2017 Atlanta Top Prospects  Another center fielder, Pache spent 2017 as an 18 year old at low A Rome.  He can reach our destination, but he’s still a ways away.

Dustin Peterson is the Braves 15th ranked prospect, and spent 2017 as a 22 year old in AAA.  My hope was that Peterson would improve on the 12 home runs he hit in 524 at bats in 2016 at AA Mississippi.  Instead, Peterson broke a hamate bone at the beginning of the season and managed only 1 home run in 314 at bats in 2017.  Presumably, Peterson will repeat AAA in 2018, and is probably at least 2 years away from demonstrating the kind of power desirable in a corner outfielder, if he ever does.

Free Agents

The top names are J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce, relatively young at age 30, and coming off 45 and 36 home run seasons respectively. Apparently Martinez is attempting to parlay 232 at bats in Arizona into $200 million.  Another tier includes Carlos Gomez, Lorenzo Cain, and Carlos Gonzalez.  Familiar, aged, zero upside names include Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth, and Curtis Granderson.

With Acuna on the way, it seems unlikely to me that the Braves sign a big ticket free agent outfielder unless they can dump both Kemp and Markakis.


If the Marlins want to trade Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna, we should stop whatever it is we are doing and help them accomplish that.

The Braves will undoubtedly try to continue to trade Kemp and/or Markakis. Ryan C. collected some possibilities for Kemp here.


The Braves could stand pat.  Although it is widely expected Acuna will force their hand, he could have a rough spring training, or the Braves could decide to jerk him around.  (You know spring training doesn’t mean anything, and I know spring training doesn’t mean anything, but someone forgot to tell the people running the 30 clubs who make decisions based upon it every year that it doesn’t mean anything.)

More likely, Acuna joins the outfield at some point, in which case options include to trade or otherwise cut one of Kemp or Markakis, or use Kemp and Markakis in some kind of platoon.  Another possibility would be to trade Inciarte, who would actually fetch a return, and hand center field to Acuna.  I would favor that option only if it solved another immediate need.  Players in their prime are who we should be acquiring.

If we get greedy, we could also hold out hope to sign a free agent or make a trade, and be shed of both Kemp and Markakis.

I’m tired of zero upside placeholders.  Get it done, yet to be determined front office leader.

03 Nov

Where Do We Go From Here? Shortstop

The Incumbent

Dansby Swanson played 142 games at shortstop for the Braves in 2017, interrupted by a July demotion to AAA Gwinnett, at which point he was hitting .213.  Swanson only got 11 games at AAA (batting .237) before a Johan Camargo knee injury prompted his recall.  He finished 2017 with a batting average of .232, which is pretty much in line with what one would expect from a .261 AA hitter (333 at bats in 2016,) and added a .312 on base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage.

Although Swanson tied with Orlando Arcia of Milwaukee for the National League lead in errors with 20, his career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) is calculated as -0.6, which is essentially league average.  His career 0.9 WAR calculation rates somewhere between replacement level and a starter.

His most similar batter through age 23 is – wait for it – Andres Thomas.  (In fairness, Jay Bell is 2nd.)

Still, Swanson showed offensive promise in limited MLB at bats in 2016, and he now has 696 career Major League plate appearances with a .246/.322/.348 career line.  Like any 24 year old, Swanson should continue to develop offensively, and I feel pretty good these career numbers represent his floor.


Johan Camargo was previously discussed in the 3rd base segment of “Where Do We Go From Here.”  He started 23 games at shortstop as well, essentially taking the job when Swanson was sent to AAA.  Camargo’s career hitting numbers mimic Swanson’s, albeit a year behind.  Both posted unremarkable minor league numbers, followed by an initial major league season that sparked optimism (.299/.331/.452 for Camargo, .302/.361/.442  for Swanson.)  In fairness to Camargo, he had just over double the MLB plate appearances in 2017 that Swanson had in 2016, and he also hit well in AAA in 2017.

Second baseman Ozzie Albies is capable of moving back to shortstop if Swanson and Carmargo both implode.


The Braves top shortstop prospects are Kevin Maitan, at age 18, the Braves number 5 prospect and 8th rated MLB shortstop prospect according to, and Derian Cruz, age 19, the Braves 20th rated prospect.  Hopefully, they are also the Braves top shortstop prospects in 2019.

Free Agents / Trades

The leading free agents are Zack Cozart and Eduardo Nunez.

It is unlikely that the Braves will be in the market for a shortstop, either by free agency or by trade.  As a former #1 pick by the Diamondbacks in the amateur draft in 2015, Swanson will undoubtedly be given a long leash, although it will be interesting to see how long that leash is under the new regime, who will not be personally invested in him.  If the Braves do not go with Camargo at 3rd base, there should be a competition in the Spring for the shortstop job.  It is possible that Swanson would benefit from some more time at AAA; I think he would benefit more from seeing more Major League pitching.  Regardless, if Swanson does go back to AAA, if he is any good, he will be back.  It will be a relief in 2018 if we can see from Swanson some empirical evidence to justify the offensive scouting reports.

30 Oct

Where Do We Go From Here? Third Base

It’s complicated.

It gets that way when you don’t have a General Manager in place, or really even know what your front office is going to look like, or how many of your prospects are going to be cast into free agency.  One thing that is clear is that the 2018 Braves need to get substantially better in every area.

Focusing on the offensive side, the Braves finished 2017 11th in the National League in Runs Scored, largely “fueled” by a 9th place finish in On Base Percentage, an 11th place finish in Slugging Percentage, and a 13th place finish in Home Runs.  Third base is the position, for good or ill, where the new leadership has the most flexibility. It will be disappointing if the Braves don’t try to upgrade their power numbers here.

The Incumbent(s)

Before we start, let’s remind ourselves what a 3rd baseman on a playoff team looks like (since it’s been awhile.)  Justin Turner. Kris Bryant. Anthony Rendon. Jake Lamb. Nolan Arenado.

Got it? Now let’s talk about Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz, and Adonis Garcia. The trio played 43, 41, and 39 Major League games respectively at 3rd base last season, representing no single true incumbent.

Camarago had the best season, coming out of nowhere to produce some impressive numbers in a limited number of appearances. He had a .299/.331/.452 batting average / on base percentage /slugging percentage “slash” line in 256 plate appearances, and accumulated 1.1 WAR. Camargo had not shown much offensive promise before 2017, hitting .267 with 4 homers in 446 AA at bats in 2016, and .258 with 1 home run in 391 AB at A+ Carolina in 2015, and with no AAA record at all.

The switch hitting Camargo will turn 24 in December, and has played mostly shortstop in the minors. The Braves could do worse than to turn some positions over to some guys with some upside and try to get lucky. My preference here is to have Camargo battle for a middle infield spot where his bat would play better, and to try to to get lucky with a guy with more power potential at 3rd base.

Rio Ruiz will also be 24 in 2018. The left handed hitter delivered some needed improvement at AAA in 2017 in his power numbers, hitting 16 home runs in 388 AB, although his OBP went down somewhat. Ruiz got 150 AB in Atlanta, batting only .193 with 4 home runs. He still managed a .283 on base percentage in Atlanta, and he has consistently displayed a skill at getting on base throughout his minor league career. Ruiz now has 853 AAA at bats, slashing .260/.340/.461 with 26 home runs. None of this inspires much confidence that Ruiz is ready to provide the power to be the 3rd baseman the Braves need in 2018, but it will be interesting to see how he develops as he gets closer to his baseball prime 2 – 4 seasons from now.

At least Ruiz falls into the category of guys you might get lucky with. Adonis Garcia will be 33 in 2018. Plagued by injuries in 2017, Garcia was not able to duplicate his passable 2016 season where he hit .273 with 14 home runs in 532 at bats. At age 33 in 2018, it’s unlikely Garcia will ever exceed those numbers, were he to be given the chance. Contra Ruiz, Garcia consistently provides little additional value through OBP. He could be a useful right handed bat off the bench, but provides little position flexibility for a bench player, beyond a little left field. He could also be a right handed platoon partner for Ruiz, but I will be disappointed if the Braves go with any of these internal options.


How you feel about how aggressive the Braves should be in the Free Agent or Trade market probably depends on how you feel about Austin Riley. At age 20, Riley got his first taste above low A ball in 2017, and matched his age in home runs. Eight of those came at AA Mississippi, in 178 AB. Riley tacked on 306 AB at A+ Florida, and produced a combined .275/.339/.446 slash line. I’m concerned about how Riley’s on-base numbers at that level will translate to the Major League level, and I’ll be interested to watch if Riley can get on base at the next level at a sufficient rate. If so, he will likely be in Atlanta by 2019. At 21, he’ll be young for his league in 2018, whether he is in AAA or AA, so I would not consider it a disappointment if he is not ready for Atlanta in 2019. Riley is the 10th ranked 3rd base prospect according to,and 10th overall in the Braves system.

Travis Demeritte is another player like Rio Ruiz, who the Braves would be wise to keep an eye on and see where he stands when he is closer to maturity. Currently a 2nd baseman, Demeritte has the power and arm to play 3rd, if he is blocked at 2nd.  At age 23, coming off 15 home runs in 458 at bats at AA, and with a long history of inability to get on base, he will not factor into any Major League plans in 2018.

Free Agents

The trouble with most free agents is that they are already past their prime. That does not mean that you can’t pick up a useful player in his 30s, it just means that at best get what you pay for, and at worst you get Melvin Upton. There’s no upside to it.

You can check out available free agents here:

The marquee names are Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier. Moustakas actually won’t turn 30 until September of next year, and is coming off a career year in home runs with 38. A .314 OBP and the first negative dWar of his career contributed to a calculated WAR of only 1.8 though. For his career, Moustakas has a .251/.305/.425 slash line.

Frazier hit 27 home runs between the White Sox and the Yankees, in 474 at bats, and managed a .344 OBP despite a .213 BA. Frazier will be 32 in 2018. With a career batting average of .245 and OBP of .321, his 2017 season could be a warning to watch for Bill James’ old adage that an older player starts to walk more when he realizes he can’t hit any more.

Danny Valencia and Mark Reynolds posted competent seasons. Valencia will be 34 in September, and I don’t project him to be a huge upgrade over a Ruiz/Garcia platoon. Reynolds has not played 3rd base since 2015.  The rest of the list is old or uncompelling, or old and uncompelling.

It is possible that we will look at bringing Brandon Phillips back as a 3rd baseman. I enjoyed watching Brandon play. Bringing him back would be a clear signal the Braves do not intend to get any better in 2018.


Once upon a time there was a Plan, and the Plan involved trading established ballplayers for prospects, with the idea some would succeed, some would flame out, and some would be traded for established ballplayers. I’m not sure the Plan understood the conservation of mass, but now the Plan is dead. Long live the Plan, whatever it is.

Here are some players with variable levels of upside who may or may not be acquirable for various sized packages of prospects and/or money, all dependent on what kind of splash the new management wants to make, if any.

Maikel Franco, Philadelphia.  Turns 26 in August , and has regressed each season, posting -0.2 WAR in 2017. Franco has a .247/.300/.426 career slash line and hit 25 home runs in 2017. The Phillies need to make room for J.P. Crawford, probably by trading Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez, but one can ask.

Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati.  Suarez will be 27 in 2018, and had 3.7 WAR in 2017.

Miguel Sano, Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota
The Twins don’t need both these guys, right? Escobar will be 29 for the 2017 season, and would be a placeholder.  Realistically, we are not getting Sano.

Wilmer Flores, Mets.  Has always seemed underappreciated in New York.  Will be 27 in 2018.

Cory Spangenberg, San Diego.  Will be 27 in 2018.  Might be worth a shot to get him out of Petco.

Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis.  Will be 30 in 2018.  No upside left really, but better than what we have, and probably available.

And so they lived happily ever after.  Get it done, _______.

17 Oct

The Long Autumn

Coppy’s out. The Nats are out. The new spring training complex is in. There’s not a whole lot to do till February other than root against the Yankees and Dodgers.

Starting after the World Series, we’ll do some offseason content — the usual WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? posts, player previews, SEC football, music, and so on. Anyone want to request something in particular, or volunteer to write something specific? Please email me at the address in the upper right.

Here’s a great German punk band from Dresden:

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