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!
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Ranking The Teams 30-25: My Version: The Dreaded Bottom

Another solid start by Matt Garza is wasted

 

Every year around mid-February ESPN’s David Schoenfield has done his ultimate preseason power rankings.  Last year I followed.  Now over the entire February Break, starting today, I’m doing it again.  So welcome to my 2nd annual preseason power rankings. We start with the easiest teams to rank, the bottom ones.  Alright, now for #30.

30. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Welcome to the bottom Rockies.  So, this team has focused their off season mainly on pitching, trying to fix a horrible rotation.  The rotation still sucks real bad.  The bullpen is what has improved.  Signing guys like Jason Motte and Chad Qualls and trading for Jake McGee isn’t going to help the rotation much.  They do however have some young guys in the rotation, which is a sign of an upcoming rebuild, which could be a good thing for the future.

But with some of the signings they made, they weren’t supporting that.  Guys like Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to last as long as say, Jon Gray.  Those were the biggest signings this off season, and a lot of the bullpen guys are a little washed up, too.  This is still a very old team, and they are in serious need of a rebuild.

Even if they did snag a couple of good hitters, the guys in the Rockies lineup that are still young don’t know how to hit.  Well, some of them pay off in the field, like DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, even hard hitting Carlos Gonzalez is a stellar fielder.  But in the end this team is still a washed up mess who’s starters are only going to last a few innings and even in a batter-favored ballpark, still lacks hitting in some parts of the lineup.

Projected Record: 67-95

 

29. cleveland-indians  Cleveland Indians

The Indians were a mediocre team in 2015.  What happened?  Three major things happened to this team.  First, some guys like Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are getting old and washed up.  Signing Mike Napoli didn’t help much either, Santana’s only older by a few years.  Also, they lost a few players to free agency and didn’t sign enough players to make up for it.  Ryan Raburn, Jayson Aquino, Chris Johnson, Mike Aviles and Gavin Floyd were lost this off season. Their only signings, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  Third, injuries are really affecting the team.  Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are still recovering from their injuries.  Trading away Michael Bourn, David Murphy and Nick Swisher last July also hurt.

But there are places I could be wrong.  I am like the only person ranking the Indians this low, and I have good reasoning, but there’s a whole other side to it that I just don’t believe.  Here’s some of it:

The Indians had a really good farm system going into last season, and they have some of those guys in their lineup, like Francisco Lindor, Abraham Almonte and Giovany Urshela.  Losing Ryan Raburn hurt though, and they don’t have any more major prospects coming up soon to replace him.

Even though they didn’t sign many people, they traded for their fair share.  They acquired both Kirby Yates and Joey Butler via trade, and they only had to give up cash considerations.  That cash did however help the Rays sign Steve Pearce to replace Butler.

Even though those players are recovering from injuries, they’re the stars of this team, maybe they’ll pick up the pace and shine late in the season. But don’t be too too hopeful for the Indians, they need to get really lucky if they want a chance at anything.

Projected Record: 68-94

 

28. milwaukee-brewers  Milwaukee Brewers

This is another team that needs a lot of good luck if they want to do well.  Even though in my projected standings, the Brewers are in dead last, worst in the MLB, they just have more of an opportunity to improve in the future, unlike the two teams below them in the ranks, that completely screwed themselves for the next few years likely.  This is the point in the ranks where you’ll start to see some rebuilding teams that have room for improvement down the road.  They’re the worst team this year.  In the future, that could change.

They do have a decent, somewhat young lineup.  Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are very intriguing.  Orlando Arcia could be a future star.  But especially after trading Khris Davis, they have some serious holes.  The outfield will have to work with Domingo Santana, Ramon Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to fill the spots not taken up by Braun.  Chris Carter and Scooter Gennett aren’t the most intriguing, and either Aaron Hill or Will Middlebrooks will have to step it up at third base.  Don’t even get me started on the pitching.

Matt Garza and Wily Peralta will compete for the team ace, even though neither of them has any ace qualities.  Then you have lately acquired Chase Anderson, followed by Taylor Jungmann, and then Jimmy Nelson.  Alright, I’ll give them credit for the lower rotation.  But the bullpen really sucks.  After trading both K-Rod and Jonathan Broxton, they are left with Will Smith, Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg as closer options.  Zach Davies or Tyler Cravy will be the long reliever, but the rest of the bullpen is out of place.  So maybe this year will be a long year, but the Brewers actually could improve in the future.  They have more prospects like Brett Phillips on the way after Arcia, and this team looks to be in full rebuild.

Projected Record: 65-97

 

27. atlanta-braves  Atlanta Braves

If the Braves want to succeed, they need some serious luck.  Actually, even though they have future potential, that just won’t happen this year, it’s nearly impossible.  Especially with the rotation they have.  After trading Shelby Miller, the Braves are left with Julio Teheran as an ace, Bud Norris as an SP2, and they have to depend on Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez, Kyle Kendrick and David Holmberg to fill the other spots.  The bullpen’s even more of a mess.

The lineup isn’t great either.  Freddie Freeman is really the only major bat, even though Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar have some power.  Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio need a breakout year if they have any hopes of doing anything, and platooning outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn need a wake up call. they were once everyday starters.

Despite being owners to the #1 farm system in the MLB, signing all washed up veterans his making less room for these prospects who could one day make the Braves great again.  The Braves need to stop stockpiling on older players and let the young minor league stars take over the lineup.

Projected Record: 66-96

 

26. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Alright, this team may be ready for a better year, but they kind of sabotaged their future.  They were in a good rebuild exiting 2015 and might be a little better this year, but signing veterans to short-term contracts is not helping this team for when they could be good enough to win a pennant if the prospects live up to their name.  For a couple of years, despite my much better predicted record for this team then the teams just above it in the rankings, they’ll be stuck in this position.

What they did this off season is fix their rotation by signing Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, and trading their young closer Ken Giles for Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez.  Okay, Velasquez could be a long-term solution, but not the other guys.  They also snagged Peter Bourjos, Edward Mujica, Andrew Bailey and Ernesto Frieri, all somewhat close to retirement.

What should they have done this off season?  Traded away all their older players for more prospects to support their farm system. Ryan Howard still is around.  At least the rotation looks a lot better, but unless they get some more prospects, that won’t last very long.  The only good thing that comes out of is a couple years where the Phillies get like 10 more wins.

Projected Record: 75-87

 

25. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Halos have some big holes, and need a lot of luck if they want to even be in the playoff race at all.  Their rotation is not very promising.  Jered Weaver is going nowhere but down, I have a feeling Garrett Richards‘ performance in 2015 might have been a one time thing, I don’t know how well Tyler Skaggs and C.J. Wilson will come back, Andrew Heaney isn’t quite ready, and Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker are all washed up.  They also have holes in left field and second base, unless Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry create an efficient platoon.  Besides Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar, they don’t have much of a lineup.  They are just a washed up team that needs to rebuild.

 Projected Record: 71-91

 

So that’s all for today with my preseason power rankings.  Be on the lookout tomorrow for Part Two, 24-19.  I also will be releasing my NBA Midseason Report soon.  So who will be in the next wave?