Scouting Report: Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are still clearly in rebuilding stages, but have a very strong farm system and topped it off with a few veterans.  Their roster looks to be a good mixture of older guys and top prospects ready to take over the majors.  The choice of veterans might be a problem though, some because they only have a few years left before retirement, some just don’t have it anymore, some never have had much and some just aren’t the right fit.  Here’s a breakdown of how the Braves tackled the off season.
Off-Season Review
The Braves clearly weren’t going after any big name free agents, but they needed to fill up the patchy spots in their young team, and unfortunately, some of that had to be done by signing veteran free agents.  They did as much as they could via trade, but got desperate at times.
They started by quickly resigning their catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.  This was mandatory as they didn’t have many other options.  Then they hit the trade market.
They started by swapping shortstops with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Basically, they traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels for Erick Aybar.  But the full move is a lot more complicated.  They additionally traded a prospect of theirs, Jose Briceno, and got Aybar tied to prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis plus cash.
Just one week later, they sold centerfielder Cameron Maybin to the Tigers for relievers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier.  They signed some more free agents as the non-tender deadline approached.
Starter Bud Norris, reliever Jim Johnson, and after the deadline, David Holmberg, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio were signed.  A couple days later, they got Jose Ramirez from Seattle for a PTBNL and cash.  The next week they got D-Backs No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson with outfielder Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.
The next day they traded Christian Bethancourt to the Padres for Casey Kelly and a prospect.  On December 16, they signed Tyler Flowers to replace Bethancourt as backup catcher.  On January 7th they brought in Alexi Ogando, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Kelly, Alex Torres, Jhoulys Chacin and Ozzie Albies to minor league deals and spring training invites.  The next day they signed infielder Kelly Johnson to a major league deal.
Carlos Torres and Jeff Francouer also got later minors deals and invitations towards the end of the off season.
The Braves spent the late off season on a bunch of free agent veterans, most on minors deals, but the trades they made early in the off season will really pay off.
Spring Training Storylines
How will the new rotation be?
The new rotation won’t be great, but if things go right, it can go uphill from last year.  Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler need to have good seasons and start emerging into the higher rotation positions they have been put into.  Bud Norris and Kyle Kendrick need to have a big bounce back year, unless David Holmberg or Williams Perez can handle a rotation spot.  The rotation doing well really depends on the older players looking like they did back when they were younger.
Will the veterans pay off?
Depends on the veteran.  Really, this is just going to have to be a prediction.  I think Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres have a lot of potential to take good major league relief roles this season.  I personally believe in Emilio Bonifacio fitting in nicely.  I think Bud Norris can kick some serious butt again.  For vets they already had at the trade deadline, I think Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher are underrated and could be in starting positions.
The Braves have some veterans with a lot of potential, but some like Gordon Beckham, Kyle Kendrick and Alex Torres have never had anything that impressed me and need to prove to me that they can fit well into their positions. Otherwise, I have them spending some time in the minors.  But they have a good chunk of vets that could boost the team.
The only issue is, when the prospects are ready to hit the majors, will they be better?  We won’t know unless they sit quality vets, which could be an issue.  We could never know.
When can we expect the prospects in the majors?
Guys like Dansby Swanson and Sean Newcomb could make their debuts by June, especially if the veterans don’t pay off.  But in the positions where the Braves have good and developed, but young players, the prospects in those spots might get some more insurance and may not appear till September.
Who are some key non-roster invitees?
Personally, I think this is a similar question to the last one.  My list includes relievers Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres along with some other pitchers young and old, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has seen Braves major league time, young infield prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and outfielder Jeff Francouer.  There are many more, but these guys highlight my list.
Which trades did they win and which one will pay off most?
Some trades they won, others they didn’t.  They clearly won the one with the D-Backs where they acquired Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, despite giving up Shelby Miller.
The one with the Tigers was questionable, Gabe Speier was later traded again, so it was basically Maybin for Krol, which the Tigers clearly win.
The Jose Ramirez trade wasn’t necessary, even though they barely gave up anything, and the shortstop swap was a win because of the additional acquisition of Sean Newcomb.  The Christian Bethancourt trade was a win, cause Bethancourt didn’t develop as expected and they got some pitching insurance in their farm system.
The best trade for the Braves was the D-Backs one, it helps both their farm system and their major league roster.
So, I think that’s about all for what to watch for in spring training now for my roster and record projection.

Atlanta Braves Projected Roster

Rotation                            Bullpen
Julio Teheran                   Jason Grilli (CL)
Bud Norris                       Williams Perez
Mike Foltynewicz          Jim Johnson
Matt Wisler                     Ian Krol
Kyle Kendrick                 Jhoulys Chacin
                                           Alexi Ogando
                                           Carlos Torres
Lineup                                   Bench
C: A.J. Pierzynski               Tyler Flowers
1B: Freddie Freeman         Jace Peterson
2B: Gordon Beckham       Ender Inciarte
SS: Erick Aybar                   Emilio Bonifacio
3B: Kelly Johnson               Jeff Francouer
LF: Nick Swisher
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: Nick Markakis
Projected Record: 66-96
So that’s all for today.  Catch my Orioles scouting report later today!

Red Sox Pass Blue Jays, Estrada Collapses

The Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays 4-3 by pouncing on them early.  In the top of the 1st, Betts reached on an error by Devon Travis.  Then, after walking four batters with two outs, it was 2-0 Red Sox.  Swihart struck out to end the inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first home run since May 31, 2014.  3-0 Sox.  And in the 3rd, David Ortiz crushed his 13th homer of the year high in to the right field stands of the Rogers Centre.  Jays pitcher Marco Estrada left the game after only 2.1 innings, giving up 2 homers, 4 walks and 4 runs, 2 of them earned.

Meanwhile, Eddie Rodriguez held the Blue Jays scoreless, until the 4th inning that is.  Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground rule double to center field.  Chris Colabello singled him in, advancing to second on the throw.  Rodriguez went six innings with only one earned run.  But when Tommy Layne came in on relief, there was trouble.

Kevin Pillar singled and advanced to second on the ground out that followed.  With two outs, Jose Reyes knocked a ball into the bullpen for a home run.  Alexi Ogando settle the Blue Jays down, and Koji Uehara finished the game, earning the save.  The Red Sox edged the Blue Jays 4-3.   They will play a day game today at 1:00 that I may cover in my free time at Multi-Media camp.

Red Sox Edge Rays In 10

The Boston Red Sox Edged over the Tampa Bay Rays in the 10th inning. Betts just kept up his hitting streak to score the final run with a double, and single by Holt. The Sox had won it 4-3. But how did they get there? Let’s go back all the way to the 2nd inning.

In the 2nd, Napoli led off by walking. On the next at bat, De Aza doubled to score Napoli, and give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. He advanced to third on a ground out by Blake Swihart. Jackie Bradley Jr., who came up after working a lot harder to hit in Pawtucket, hit a sac fly and De Aza came home. 2-0 Red Sox after just two innings. Pretty amazing.

The Rays struck in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Logan Forsythe singled, then Asdrubal Cabrera did the same, and Forsythe was on third base. Marc Krauss, a new first baseman for the injury struck Rays, doubled to score Forsythe and send Cabrera to third. 2nd and 3rd, 2-1 Sox. They blew the inning with two RISP.

The Red Sox scored again in the 4th inning. Napoli walked again, then Blake Swihart singled. 1st and 3rd, 1 down. Then, Napoli and Swihart attempted a double steal. Swihart was out at 2nd, but Napoli, who isn’t a base stealer, made it home and it was 3-1 Red Sox.   It was a pitchers duel for the next couple innings, between Porcello and Alex Colome. Napoli walked a third time solo in the 6th, and stole another base!!! Was he changing his hitting style? Was he becoming a base stealer despite the fact he’s slower than most? So many questions.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Rays tied the game. Joey Butler singled, and Longoria then doubled to make it 2nd and 3rd. David DeJesus hit a sac fly to score Butler. 3-2. Then Porcello had blown things for a long while when he threw a wild pitch that Longoria scored on.   He was pulled from the game in the 7th, and Tommy Layne came in on relief. Kevin Jepsen also relieved Colome to begin the 7th. Both pitchers pitched 6 full innings, giving up three runs. Pitcher after pitcher came in for the Sox, from Tazawa to Breslow to Ogando, but it was very quiet, and nobody gave up any more runs.

In the 10th, it was still 3-3, but not for long. Off Steven Geltz, Mookie Betts doubled, and Brock Holt saved the game for the Sox after Porcello’s collapse with an RBI single to score Betts. The Red Sox took a 4-3 lead. Koji Uehara earned the save with a 1-2-3 10th for the Rays lineup, and the Red Sox went on to win. See my post on today’s 4:00 game as Wade Miley faces Rays elite ace Chris Archer.

Also, try out MLB Connect. It’s a fun game where you connect four correctly predicted plays. You get automatic tiles, or you can swap them out for your own predictions chosen from multiple categories, and you play live during any baseball game. It’s a free app and for me, it’s replaced MLB PrePlay. You will see me as Andrew if you play during the Red Sox game today.

Orioles Defeat Red Sox With Early Lead

Are you serious?  This is now my 2nd straight Fenway loss.  The Sox haven’t won when I’ve attended a 2015 game.  Well,it’s the Orioles lineup to blame.  Besides, according to a story I wrote at the start of the school year, my luck ended last year.  I’d made up a myth that somebody else brought the luck (AKA, My Monkey Story).  It’s worked against me since.

In the 2nd inning, it was bases loaded on three singles given up by Joe Kelly to Chris Davis, Travis Snider and J.J. Hardy.  Ryan Flaherty hit a sac fly to score Davis.  Then David Lough hit a bomb into the Red Sox bullpen and all of the sudden it was 4-0 Orioles.  Chris Parmeelee, a fairly new major league player, had also tripled in the first inning.

But for the Red Sox, things didn’t come together until the 3rd inning.  So far, Ubaldo Jimenez had only given up 1 hit and 1 walk.  But that would change.  Sandy Leon singled, and Mookie Betts doubled to make it 2nd and 3rd.  Then Pedroia grounded out, but Leon scored, and Betts went to third!!  Sadly, no more runs occured in that inning.  4-1 Orioles.

The Orioles had their moment again in the 4th inning.  Hardy singled, then David Lough gorunded into fielder’s choice and Hardy was out.  Lough reached first.  Machado singled, and it was 1st and 2nd.  Robbie Ross Jr. came in on long relief for Kelly.  He was responsible for the earned run as Jimmy Paredes singled Lough in.  5-1 Orioles.

In the 4th, the Sox also struck.  Ramirez singled.  He advanced to second on a wild pitch.  Then when Panda came up, he singled Ramirez in and it was 5-2.  The Red Sox were starting to come back.  In the 5th, it was first and second with walks by Pedroia and Ortiz. Ramirez singled Pedroia in.  5-3.  Were the Red Sox really coming back?    Nope.  Bogaerts ended it all with a strikeout, preventing any more runs from scoring.

In the 6th, Flaherty walked.  Lough sacrificed him to second, and when Alexi Ogando came in, Manny Machado doubled Flaherty home.  6-3 Orioles.  From there, it was pretty quiet.  Little to no hits every inning, up until the bottom of the 9th.  Betts walked, and Dustin Pedroia doubled as Betts crossed the plate.  6-4 Orioles.  But Big Papi ended it all with a line out to the shortstop and the Orioles won 6-4.  Joe Kelly just isn’t good enough for the Red Sox.  When Justin Masterson returns, hopefully in time for Kelly’s start, they should send Kelly to the bullpen and let Masterson take his place n the starting rotation.

E-Rod Shines Again, Sox Smash Royals

Eddie Rodriguez’s unbelievable pitching was able to work with the Red Sox lineup for a 7-3 blowout.  The Red Sox had a huge 5 run rally, scoring first in the second inning.  The Sox are great when they score first, they just don’t do it too much.  Bogaerts singled, and Sandoval hit a monster double to center, stopping Bogaerts at third.  One more hit was enough to score.  The thing is, Mike Napoli was up next.  Guess who hit an RBI single right then?  That’s right, Napoli did.  Bogaerts and Sandoval scored, giving the Red Sox a secure 2-0 lead.  But they weren’t done.  De Aza walked.  1st and 2nd.  Swihart then hit an RBI double, and Napoli and De Aza scored to give the Sox a 4-0 lead.  With two outs, Betts knocked in one more run with his RBI single.  5-0 Red Sox after only two innings.

It was a quiet game, and Rodriguez had only given up two hits.  In the 5th inning, Ramirez’s solo shot added a run to the Sox’s lead.  In the 5th, Rodriguez gave up his first earned run, also his first on the road of his major league career.  Yup, that’s how good he can be in 4 starts.  Infante got safely to second on his hit, and Escobar knocked in a run by doing the same.  6-1 Red Sox.

In the 7th, the Sox struck again with their hottest hitters.  Holt walked, and Betts singled to make it 1st and 2nd, no outs.  Then they pulled off a double steal.  Holt stole third and Betts stole second on the same pitch.  Ramirez singled to drive Holt, but sadly not Betts, in.  7-1.

Aftergiving up his 6th hit, Ogando came in.  The relievers didn’t have as good of momentum.  Ogando was fine, finishing the inning, but Robbie Ross gave up a home run to Eric Hosmer in the 8th to make it 7-2.  In the 9th, Steven Wright gave up another run.  Colon, who had replaced Alcides Escobar, doubled and Mike Moustakas drove him in with a second double and it was 7-3.  But Wright finished the inning cleanly, and the Red Sox won 7-3.

If the lineup can stay hot, and pitching is at least okay, then I think the Sox have the power to at least partially turn it around.  Their lineup leads the MLB this month in hits, and they can score big bundles of runs at a time.  All year, they also have stayed at a good pace with home runs.  The Red Sox aren’t quite as bad as some people may think, but I wouldn’t call them a team in the wild card race either.  They still are at the bottom this month in my monthly power rankings, coming soon.

Napoli Homers Twice to Boost Red Sox Past Angels

The Red Sox ended up creaming the Angels 8-3.  Napoli smashed two homers high into left field.  One nearly hit a target saying, it’s my birthday, hit it to me and the other nearly left Fenway.  The game started off slow in the top of the 1st for Steven Wright and the Red Sox.  Erick Aybar led off with a single.  Then Albert Pujols hit a ground rule double into the bullpen and Aybar headed for third.  Kole Calhoun followed with a double to left to score Pujols and Aybar, and all of the sudden it was 2-0 Angels. Wright was able to finish with the two outs he needed on David Freese and Matt Joyce.

There wasn’t much action over the next few innings, but Napoli hit is home run to the birthday sign to break up what would’ve been a 1-2-3 2nd inning.  The Red Sox struck again in the 3rd inning.  Holt led off with a walk, followed by a Dustin Pedroia single, as Holt chugged along to second base.  Betts hit for Shane Victorino, who had gotten injured in the 3rd inning.  Betts followed through with a line drive single to left, sending Pedroia to third and scoring Brock Holt, to tie the game 2-2.

Through the 4th, 5th and top of the 6th, only one hit by L.A., and one walk by Boston.  But it was time for the Red Sox to strike.  Ramirez was on first with two outs.  “Andrew, watch Napoli’s second home run, my dad had said to me.”  About 10 seconds later, I watched Napoli’s bomb fly over the monster and onto Lansdowne Street. Ramirez scored along with Napoli, making it 4-2 Red Sox.

Ogando came in on relief in the seventh and threw a lot faster than Wright did wit his knuckleballs, making it hard for the Angels hitters to transition.  He worked around a walk given up by Wright to earn himself two more outs.  As Wilson left the game in the bottom of the 7th, the Red Sox struck again, this time on Angels reliever Mike Morin, to start at least.  Swihart led off with a walk, followed  by a Pedroia strikeout.  But Betts reached first on a right field error by Kole Calhoun, the guy who earned the two Angels RBIs.  Swihart advanced to second.  Then Ramirez got a base hit to load the bases.  The Angels were onto their third pitcher of the inning when Bogaerts got a base hit to score Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts, making it 1st and 2nd, while the Red Sox took a 6-2 lead.

The Angels scored on Tazawa though, as Aybar doubled followed by a Mike Trout single to score him.  6-3 Red Sox.  The Sox scored again in the bottom of the 8th,  Holt singled, and Swihart followed with another base hit where Holt came all the way around to the plate to score and Swihart advanced to second on a throw.  With two down, Betts singled to score Swihart.  8-3 Red Sox.

Koji Uehara came in.  When I say that Uehara gave up two consecutve walks, you might think he blew it, but he worked around it to earn him the save.  The Red Sox pounded the Angels in an 8-3 win to tie the series 1-1.   The series finale is to be played at 1:35 pm today.  I might be on with another post later today, especially if they win the game, winning them the series.  Napoli has now had 4 home runs in 4 games, and if he continues to ditch his slump, he may finally have a batting average over .200 and help the team win.  Wade Miley is on the mound for the Sox today, facing Angels starter Hector Santiago.  The Sox also play a 2:00 game tomorrow against the Twins at Target Field.  It’s during the day because of Memorial Day, and Target Field will host Memorial Day ceremonies.