Posted on: February 25, 2012 9:51 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 10:23 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Thanks to the Red Sox collapse, the Braves' September disappearing act seems to have been forgotten by everyone outside of Atlanta and St. Louis. Atlanta led the wild card race by as many as 8 1/2 games in September before conceding the final NL playoff spot to the Cardinals, going 9-18 over the last month of the season, losing their last five and 13 of their last 18. While there were rumors of big changes in the offseason, none of that materialized and the Braves head into 2012 with the same team that appeared to be headed to the playoffs before the final month of the season.
Danny Knobler's camp report: After epic collapse, inaction brings optimism | Likes, dislikes
Major additions: None
Major departures: RHP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Nate McLouth, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP George Sherrill
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Dan Uggla 2B
6. Freddie Freeman 1B
7. Jason Heyward RF
8. Tyler Pastornicky SS
1. Tim Hudson
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Brandon Beachy
5. Mike Minor
Hudson's status for the beginning of the season is in doubt, which would make room for right-hander Randall Delgado
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Set-up: Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen
Important bench players
OF Jose Constanza, 1B/OF Eric Hinske, OF Matt Diaz
Prospect to watch
In three starts and two relief appearances, Julio Teheran went 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA and only struck out 10 batters in 19 2/3 innings, while walking eight batters. But it should also be noted he was just 20. Teheran will likely start 2012 back in Triple-A, where he went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The right-hander has four pitches, including a fastball in the mid-90s. He may not be an ace right away, but few pitchers in the minors have his potential.
Fantasy sleeper: Mike Minor
"His strikeout and walk rates showed he has the skills to become a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher, and with Derek Lowe banished to Cleveland, he suddenly has a rotation spot to refine them. The Braves' decision to clear that spot for Minor this offseason should give the 24-year-old a renewed sense of purpose entering spring training. If his performance during his final nine starts last year, when he posted a 3.83 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning, was a sneak peak at what he can do with a defined role, he'll be a late-round find on Draft Day." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]
Fantasy bounce-back player: Jason Heyward
"He developed numbness in his shoulder in spring training and, in an effort to play through the injury, altered his mechanics. His popout rate was through the roof, which is a clear sign his swing wasn't right. With an offseason of rest and the fresh perspective of new hitting coach Greg Walker, Heyward should be in for a bounce-back season. Expecting other-worldly numbers from him would, of course, not be prudent, but even a return to his rookie form would make him a top-25 outfielder." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]
Everything that went wrong last year -- Uggla's early-season struggles, Heyward's sophomore slump, manager Fredi Gonzalez's overuse of the bullpen -- goes right this year, while the young pitching studs are as advertised. If all that happens, the Braves could win the NL East. Then with their starters and relievers, the Braves would be a tough out in any series.
Uggla plays the entire season like he did last May (.160/.241/.260 with two home runs), Heyward's 2012 is a repeat of 2011 and Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens have a large chunk of time on the disabled list with varying injuries. Meanwhile, the rookies the team is counting on to perform -- Pastornicky and Minor -- struggle and the veteran Jones can't hold up for an entire season at 40. There's plenty that can go wrong and with the improvements made by the Marlins, the growth of the Nationals and the Phillies' pitching, the Braves could battle with the Mets for the bottom of the division rather than searching to avenge 2011's collapse.
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Tags: Alex Gonzalez, Brandon Beachy, Braves, Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Craig Kimbrel, Dan Uggla, Derek Lowe, Eric Hinske, Eric O'Flaherty, Freddie Freeman, Fredi Gonzalez, George Sherrill, Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, Jonny Venters, Jose Constanza, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Martin Prado, Matt Diaz, Michael Bourn, Nate McLouth, NL East, Randall Delgado, Scott Linebrink, spring training, spring training 2012, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Tyler Pastornicky
Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:55 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
In the 90s, the Indians welcomed a new ballpark with a cast of homegrown talent and twice used that to go all the way to the World Series, losing to the Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997. A core of Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, Paul Shuey, Jaret Wright, Julian Tavarez and more helped that Cleveland team become a power in the middle part of the decade before the pieces moved on. Thome went to Philadelphia, Ramirez to Boston and others dispersed or saw their skills diminish as the window of opportunity passed. The current Indians saw the start of a new influx of talent in 2011 with the likes of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, but more talent needs to come out of the system for the Indians to continue the promise of the first half of the 2011 season. The franchise has shown smart drafting and good development can get them to October baseball, and that it's the best way for a team of their means to get there -- and return.
1. Jason Kipnis, 2B
2. Marco Scutaro, SS
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Jhonny Peralta, 1B
6. Luke Scott, LF
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
8. Ben Francisco, RF
9. Jose Constanza, CF
1. CC Sabathia
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Jeremy Guthrie
4. Bartolo Colon
5. Josh Tomlin
Closer - Vinnie Pestano
Set up - Tony Sipp, Aaron Laffey, Danys Baez, Edward Mujica, Rafael Perez, Brian Tallet
Notable Bench Players
There are some bit pieces, but not too much overwhelming talent coming off the bench. The best pieces are Maicer Izturis, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Russell Branyan.
This team could put up some runs, with a heart of the order featuring Martinez, Thome, Peralta and Scott, that's for sure. You've also got Sabathia leading the staff, and as the Yankees showed this past season, that can be enough to win the toughest division in baseball. Carmona is inconsistent, but still has a live arm, while Guthrie could thrive in a new environment and Colon proved he still has a little something in the tank during his 2011 season in New York.
Even if this Indians staff is a slight bump up from the Yankees' of 2011, the bullpen is a step down -- and the bullpen was one of the big reasons New York was able to win with a rotation featuring Sabathia and prayers for rain. The bench here is also thin.
Comparison to real 2011
The Indians were one of the feel-good stories for much of 2011, leading the American League Central for most of the first half of the season before fading and finishing the season 80-82. This hypothetical team has a better offense, better starting pitching and a worse bullpen. It's in no way a complete team, but it would have a chance at a winning record. The Tigers finished 95-67, well ahead of anyone else in the division. No, this Cleveland team wouldn't challenge the Tigers, but it would likely be better than the real 2011 Indians.
Next: Miami Marlins
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Tags: Aaron Laffey, AL Central, Albert Belle, Bartolo Colon, Ben Francisco, Brian Tallet, CC Sabathia, Charles Nagy, Danys Baez, Edward Mujica, Fausto Carmona, Indians, Jaret Wright, Jason Kipnis, Jeremy Guthrie, Jhonny Peralta, Jim Thome, Jose Constanza, Josh Tomlin, Julian Tavarez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Lonnie Chisenhall, Luke Scott, Maicer Izturis, Manny Ramirez, Marco Scutaro, Paul Shuey, Rafael Perez, Russell Branyan, Tony Sipp, Victor Martinez, Vinnie Pestano
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:56 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
The Braves added a familiar face -- getting outfielder Matt Diaz from the Pirates along with cash in exchange for a player to be named. Diaz will be back with the Braves in time for tonight's game with the Nationals.
Diaz, 31, spent 2006-2010 with Atlanta before signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh in December to a two-year contract.
Diaz is hitting .259/.303/.324 this season in 100 games -- below his career totals of .296/.344/.440. However, the Braves aren't hiding the reason they got him, pointing out his average against left-handers in the release announcing the trade. As a team, the Braves are hitting .227/.296/.353 against left-handers, while Diaz is hitting .295/.342/.362 against lefties.
Diaz has also been hitting better lately against lefties, hitting .388 (19 for 49) since June 15, with a .436 on-base percentage.
The Braves are pretty set with their outfield of Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn and Jose Constanza, but can use Diaz in place of Heyward against lefties (Heyward is hitting just .188/.271/.313 against left-handed pitchers) and then off the bench, where he's fourth on the Braves' all-time list for pinch hits with 39.
The Pirates also sent outfielder John Bowker to the Phillies earlier in the day in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 27, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: August 27, 2011 1:45 am
By Evan Brunell
Chris Capuano, Mets: It was a game for the ages for Capuano, who threw a complete game shutout while punching out a career-high 13, limiting the Braves to just two hits and zero walks. It was just the second loss in nine games for Atlanta, throwing 122 pitches in the effort. Capuano had a perfect game through five until Dan Uggla singled to break it up. The lefty had two good seasons for the Brewers back in 2005-06, but missed two seasons starting in 2008, and only tallied up 66 innings last year before moving to the Mets, where he's had a bounceback year with 154 1/3 innings with a 4.43 ERA. Capuano isn't a great pitcher, but he's a capable back-of-the-rotation starter that's providing value to New York at minimal cost.
James Shields, Rays: While James Shields won't win the Cy Young Award, he's making a bid to finish pretty high up in the standings, as he blew away the Royals, allowing just one run in a complete game, whiffing 12 to give him 192 on the year. His ERA is down to 2.96 in 201 innings and set a prestigious record for being the first pitcher to register at least 10 complete games in a season since CC Sabathia in 2008 between the Indians and Brewers. It's also just the second time it's happened since 2000, so Shields has accomplished something quite remarkable.
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Cruz was a beast Friday, allowing the Rangers to take a three-game lead in the AL West. He slammed two home runs and doubles apiece to grab his 27th and 28th of the year, chipping in six RBI to push up to 84 and added three runs on a monstrous 4-for-5 night. He's now hitting .265/.318/.528 on the year, but August hasn't been kind to Cruz thus far. This game snaps a 4-for-23 skid.
Roy Oswalt, Phillies: In Oswalt's last start, he had an outing worthy of landing on the 3 Up. But Friday, he had nothing against Florida, giving up five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, coughing up 12 hits while allowing a walk and striking out just two. "It was pretty much one bad pitch," Oswalt told the Associated Press, referring to Marlins catcher John Buck's grand slam . "[It was] a slider that didn't do what I wanted it to do." Oswalt was surprisingly booed by his home crowd, and now has a 3.77 ERA on the year. He's been touch and go ever since missing over a month with a back injury, and this was just one of these days where nothing quite worked.
A.J. Burnett, Yankees: What can you say about A.J. Burnett these days? His ERA is now 11.91 in August after giving up nine runs in five innings against the Orioles. He also racked up nine hits allowed. That August ERA is pretty bad, but so is his ERA in the second half of the year: 8.64. Phil Hughes isn't exactly doing a great job forcing the issue, but the Yankees need to skip Burnett in the rotation and put him on layaway for a bit. It's time for drastic measures, as nothing is working. Give Hughes a few turns through, and then re-evaluate things. If New York wants Burnett locked in for the postseason, a breather may be the best thing at this point.
Jose Constanza, Braves: Even through the hubbub around manager Fredi Gonzalez sitting Jason Heyward in favor for Constanza, everyone seemed to realize the benching would only be temporary. Eventually Constanza would cool off after a scorching start. Well, after going 0 for 3 with a strikeout against the Mets, it dropped his average to .173 over the last 23 at-bats. The cooling off is starting and should eventually result in Heyward returning to full-time play. Just in time for the postseason, too.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:30 am
By Evan Brunell
Lighten up: Much has been made of Starlin Castro missing a pitch in Sunday's game, with his back to the plate while playing in the field. Understandably, many people -- including ESPN announcer Bobby Valentine -- were outraged, with Valentine excoriating Castro on air.
Also unsurprisingly, Cubs players are rushing to Castro's defense, with Aramis Ramirez the latest to tell everyone to back off. And Ramirez has a pretty good idea what it may be like to be Castro, who is 21 years old. Ramirez made his big-league debut at age 19.
"People need to realize that he's only 21 -- he's going to make mistakes," Ramirez told MLB.com. "He's going to make mental mistakes. ... I made it to the big leagues when I was 19, and I made a lot of mistakes. That's part of [the game]."
Ramirez added that Castro has apologized to the team and everyone's moved on.
"I think [such a big deal was made] because it was an ESPN game, a nationally televised game," Ramirez said. "[But] that stuff shouldn't happen. Starlin would be the first one to tell you that shouldn't happen. Even when you're a veteran, you make mistakes."
Here's the problem, though: Mike Quade had something to say, and it was the wrong thing. Castro was benched Monday in a pretty clear response to his not paying attention to the pitch, but Quade passed it off as a mental day, missing an opportunity to show everyone -- including owner Tom Ricketts, who may fire Quade after the year -- that he's the boss. He missed another opportunity by excusing Castro's behavior for the limelight of being a Cubs player.
"I may agree that too much was being made of it but this is the world we're in and this is the spotlight we're under," Quade said. "You can think what you want, but when you're playing in a market like this at a level like this, you can expect this kind of attention, and you can expect to be under a microscope like this."
Since when did a player's uniform affect attention span? Not paying attention during the game is not paying attention, period.
Back at it: The next outing for Stephen Strasburg will come on Saturday, which will be his fifth rehab start since returning from Tommy John surgery. It's also the first one that will be at a higher level than Single-A, with Strasburg heading to Triple-A, which should allow Strasburg to lock in and focus on executing pitches against advanced competition as he prepares for an early September return to Washington. (Washington Times)
Will Wandy go? Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle says that how the Astros handle the Wandy Rodriguez waiver claim situation will go a long way in determining how new owner Jim Crane will handle things. " Is he really about trying try to build things the right way for sustainable success, or is the endgame nothing more than to dump salary for dumping salary’s sake?" Campbell writes. "If the Astros do nothing more than a salary dump, however, then fans have reason to be afraid — very afraid — for the future. Houston is too big and too good of a market to become the National League’s Kansas City of the South — perpetually turning over the roster with young, cheap players without committing the resources necessary to build a winner."
Best scooper: Eric Hosmer wasn't called up to the majors until May 6, but his 27 scoops at first base (yes, this really is measured) is just one behind Adam Lind for most in the AL, while Carlos Pena leads baseball with 52. Three additional AL players have 27 scoops. “What I had to learn when I got here,” Hosmer told the Kansas City Star, “was, when you pick it, you’ve got to stay through it (with a sweeping motion). You have an imaginary line on where you think the ball is going to bounce. Before, I was just working up and down. Then I learned to go through the ball.”
Capping the draft: There were plenty of big paydays to high school and college players once the dust settled last week on the signing deadline for drafted players. The money is so exorbitant, that it's only deepened commissioner Bud Selig's resolve to introduce a hard-slotting system. But is that good for baseball? (Kansas City Star)
Moneyball: Before long, the blockbuster movie centered around the book that made so many waves in baseball will premiere, with Brad Pitt as A's GM Billy Beane. New York Magazine has a great story out about the movie and how it had to jump through hoops to get made... and what, exactly, Hollywood is taking away from Moneyball.
Game changed: But Billy Beane says the game is different these days, and the gap between the big- and low-money teams is even more pronounced, with the window for small markets to compete that much smaller than just a decade ago, as Oakland has been reduced to taking fliers on players as their only options. “Sometimes, you’re relegated to buying that lottery ticket,” Beane told the New York Times. “Anybody will tell you that the lottery is not a great way to invest your money. But sometimes, you don’t have a lot of options.”
Window closing? Since the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, they have yet to win another postseason game. With Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols and others only getting older and reaching free agency, is it possible St. Louis' window of competition has closed? It seems like it, but how did the window get missed in the first place with strong teams over the last four years? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Brave injuries: Tommy Hanson, one of Atlanta's best pitchers, keeps experiencing setbacks while sensation Jose Constanza is hobbled by a right-ankle sprain. Constanza is day-to-day and could be back as early as Wednesday, but Hanson is a different story. He threw a nine-pitch throwing session on Monday, the first time throwing from the mound since Aug. 6, but the report was sobering enough that his Tuesday bullpen session was canceled. Hanson will now wait for his condition to improve. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Say-Hey Kid: Cameron Maybin received an honor by spending time at the home of baseball great Willie Mays, and Maybin was understandably bowled over by the meeting. Mays has been impressed with Maybin this season and invited him over when San Diego was in San Francisco before Tuesday's game. The Giants said while Mays has been known to go out to dinner with young players, they can't recall an invitation to go to Mays' home ever being extended to a player. “I took him my jersey, signed it for him,” Maybin told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Think of that. My jersey’s in Willie Mays’ house.”
Starting Greinke: The Brewers considered delaying Zack Greinke's next start so he could face the Cardinals, but manager Ron Roenicke may not go that route. Roenicke believes that Milwaukee should focus on winning every game, while Greinke isn't keen on starting a game on eight days rest. Nothing is decided yet, but the outcome appears obvious. (MLB.com)
Web Gems: Last season, Sam Miller of the Orange County Register found an East Coast bias in Web Gems, which may have been in part due to fan voting. This season, though, with tweaked rules, there is no such bias. The top five teams with the most Web Gems in 2011 are the Indians, Rangers, Rays, Brewers and Royals.
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Tags: AL Central, AL West, Astros, Athletics, Billy Beane, Braves, Brewers, Cameron Maybin, Cardinals, Cubs, Eric Hosmer, Evan Brunell, Jose Constanza, Mike Quade, MLB Rumors, Nationals, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Padres, Pepper, Royals, Starlin Castro, Stephen Strasburg, Tommy Hanson, Wandy Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Zack Greinke
Posted on: July 30, 2011 1:36 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
One of the most interesting is the Cardinals having interest in Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
This comes after the Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss tweeted shortstop had become the team's "priority" at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Furcal, 33, is struggling this season, hitting .195/.267/.241 coming into Friday's game but could still help the Cardinals -- which tells you all you need to know about the team's struggles at the position.
• A new hot rumor is that the Tigers are making a push for Ubaldo Jimenez and have offered top prospect Jacob Turner, according to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Turner, the team's 2009 first-round pick, is 3-5 with a 3.48 ERA at Double-A Erie this season. He has 90 strikeouts and 32 walks in 113 2/3 innings. The Tigers would prefer not to deal anyone from their big-league roster.
Towers also said there are six or seven prospects he doesn't want to deal.
• Brewers general manager Bob Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is still looking at deals, but wasn't hopeful of completing another. On Thursday the Brewers acquired Felipe Lopez from the Rays and brought him from Triple-A Durham where he was playing for Tampa Bay before bringing him to Milwaukee to replace the injured Rickie Weeks.
Melvin said the team would love to find another infielder, but isn't seeing many on the market. The Brewers have rumored to have talked to the Dodgers about both Jamey Carroll and Furcal.
However, the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez tweets the Dodgers' conversations about Carroll "have died."
• Orioles reliever Koji Uehara is a hot name, Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweets. He says Uehara will go somewhere. He'll make any bullpen better. However, Rosenthal tweets that it's only a 50-50 chance the Orioles move Uehara. He is 13 appearances shy of a $4 million vesting option for 2012. The Baltimore Sun links Uehara with the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Phillies and Tigers and notes all five of those teams have had scouts around the Orioles in recent series.
• The Rangers are certainly interested in bullpen help, but San Diego may not be their only trading parter. Brady Tinker of Fox Sports Southwest, tweets Andrew Bailey of the Athletics is the "most likely top bullpen addition" by Texas.
• The Braves may be reluctant to make much of a deal at the deadline so they don't repeat the Mark Teixeira mistake when the team sent, among others, Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus to Texas, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The Braves are refusing to give up any of their top four pitching prospects -- Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado or Mike Minor. They could look at dealing from that grow in the offseason when the team could be searching to fill more holes. Atlanta has placed center fielders Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer on the disabled list in the last two days with Jose Constanza starting on Friday, making his big-league debut. Yahoo!'s Passan tweets the team is targeting center fielders. Rosenthal writes Atlanta is looking not only at center fielders such as B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn, but also corner outfielders such as Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Quentin and Josh Willingham.@cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, AL West, Andrew Bailey, Andy Oliver, Arodys Vizcaino, Astros, Athletics, B.J. Upton, Bob Melvin, Brewers, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Carlos Quentin, Clint Barmes, Diamondbacks, Dodgers Rafael Furcal, Felipe Lopez, Hiroki Kuroda, Jacob Turner, Jamey Carroll, Jason Kubel, Jason Marquis, Jordan Schafer, Jose Constanza, Josh Willingham, Julio Teheran, Koji Uehara, Leo Nunez, Marlins, Michael Bourn, Mike Minor, MLB rumors, Nate McLouth, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Phillies, Pirates, Pirates, Randall Delgado, Randy Choate, Rangers, Rockies, Ryan Ludwick, Tigers, trade deadline, Twins, Ubaldo Jimenez