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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Scouting Report: Arizona Diamondbacks

 

chris-owings

 

Welcome to my new scouting report series. Before spring training ends, I hope to cover every team. We start with one of the most active teams of the off season, the Arizona Diamondbacks. They went in to free agency as a mediocre team that lacked a rotation and veterans in the lineup. But the D-Backs have some of the best sleepers in the league, an some young stars to happen. What are the D-Backs looking like?
Off-Season Review

The Diamondbacks started the off season very quiet. It looked like their only targets were veteran infielders like Howie Kendrick, and some insurance in the rotation. Besides trading away Jeremy Hellickson to the Phillies for prospects, their November was very quiet.

But as December began, teams really started to negotiate for the top players in free agency, starting with some major aces. The Red Sox made the first major move, they signed David Price to a seven year, 217 million dollar deal. But surprisingly, not the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals or Nats but the D-Backs were first to follow, signing Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to a six year, 206 million dollar contract. Greinke had a breakout in 2015 after eleven subpar seasons between Kansas City, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. He lost in the Cy Young race, but hopes to continue his dominance in 2016.

They shortly after traded Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.

Their rotation was now among the best to match their sleep lineup that boosted them in 2015.

Until February, they were very quiet. More Kendrick rumors were in the air, but they ended up trading Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, Isan Diaz and cash for shortstop Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner.
So that problem was solved, but A.J. Schugel was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, so they signed closer Tyler Clippard, so current closer Brad Ziegler could take his place in a set up role.

The D-Backs close the off season looking better than ever on paper, but their lineup has development questions. Spring training will show a lot about this team’s faith.

Hot Stove/Free Agency Grade: B+
Spring Training Questions

Will the lineup live up to its name?

This is a tough one to answer. Besides Goldy, Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock. David Peralta also is alright, and Chris Owings, Jean Segura and Jake Lamb are still developing. Owings needs to be a better general hitter, Segura didn’t develop very well when he had the chance, and Lamb is good in the field, but needs to improve his bat. It could go either way.

Who are some key non-roster players?

There are a ton of pitchers that could crash the roster like former Reds reliever Sam LeCure, Wesley Wright, Braden Shipley, Matt Stites, Will Locante and Adam Loewen. Former Giants infielder Joaquin Arias and outfielder Jason Bourgeois could make some bench spots.

Is the rotation fulfilled enough?

I think the rotation is just fine. Greinke and Shelby Miller had amazing 2015 seasons and hope to continue, Patrick Corbin has looked fine in his TJ recovery, and the rest of the rotation is filled with young stars Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray. Archie Bradley or Josh Collmenter, maybe even Zack Godley and Daniel Hudson could be spot starters. So it looks like the D-Backs are looking good and their moves paid off, even with the loss of Jeremy Hellickson and Chase Anderson.
Who is the biggest sleeper in the lineup?

I don’t think that the biggest D-Backs sleeper is any of the young infielders. Outfielder David Peralta is among the best, and the veteran hasn’t gotten much attention in the MLB. On the D-Backs staff, he is well known in the lineup, but only Diamondbacks diehards or MLB analysts would call him an MVP contender in the NL. Although this is only his third year, he has really gotten his name out recently.

D-Backs Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Zack Greinke.      Archie Bradley
Shelby Miller.     Enrique Burgos
Patrick Corbin.      Josh Collmenter
Rubby De La Rosa   Tyler Clippard
Robbie Ray                Evan Marshall
Zack Godley
Brad Ziegler

Lineup                            Bench
C: Welington Castillo     Phil Gosselin
1B: Paul Goldschmidt   Nick Ahmed
2B: Chris Owings        Oscar Hernandez
SS: Jean Segura           Tuffy Gosewisch
3B: Jake Lamb              Joaquin Arias
LF: Yasmany Tomas
CF: A.J. Pollock.
RF: David Peralta

Projected Record: 88-74
That’s all for today everyone. See the Braves new look in the next post in this series.

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: Who’s Weaker Than You Think?

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Alright, welcome to Part 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Most of the bad teams have been mentioned, but there are 18 teams left.  The rest of these teams are playoff contenders, but what teams have unclear weaknesses that will cause them to just miss the playoffs?

18. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

So, the Giants did all this stuff in the off season to improve their team and attempt to win their fourth straight even year world series, but what happened?  They have holes.  The rotation has really improved between Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

However,  the bullpen is short on people and the lineup has some missing aspects.  They have a solid closer and set-up crew but beyond that, what is there?  Especially after losing Yusmeiro Petit the Giants are short on extra bullpen insurance.

The lineup also has some issues.  The lineup has some really bold players, like Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Denard Span, but the rest of the lineup lacks power.  Sure, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are all right, and they make up for it on defense, but in the lineup, they aren’t major contributors.  They needed to sign some powerful hitters if they wanted to win another World Series.  So, the Giants may look good on paper, but when it comes to game-time scenarios, they are somewhat deprived.

Projected Record: 84-78

 

17.  houston-astros Houston Astros

I know what you’re thinking.  “The Astros?”  “They’re stacked, and they’re going to be a contender”.  Yes, the rebuild helped this team escape insanely bad times but sometimes there’s such thing as too young.  They don’t have enough veterans.  I think that the young, short duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are overrated.  Some aspects of the lineup are short on power.  Sure, they have a very strong outfield, but the infield players are overrated hitters and don’t contribute as much of the lineup.

The rotation is mixed between very good veteran pitchers and young new guys to the rotation,  The rotation is really good but they do have their weaknesses.  The bullpen needs depth and the lineup is lacking power.  This team looks similar to the Giants, but younger, and some of these once prospects aren’t paying off. causing them to be worse.

Projected Record: 79-83

 

16. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Yankees had a decent 2015, but besides a few trades, they haven’t changed or improved much.  The pitching staff is stacked.  After adding closer Aroldis ChapmanAndrew Miller and Dellin Betances will serve as strong set-up men.  The rotation is also really good but it lacks an ace.  Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, maybe even CC Sabathia may have to share the role.

The lineup is a bit of an issue.  First things first, it again lacks power, they don’t have any all star players to lead the lineup.  Also, the lineup has no youth to it.  It is made of a bunch of washed-up older players.  This whole team is a very old team, the players, even the franchise itself.  Unless they rebuild, working with their strong farm system, it looks like the Yanks will be stuck in this position for a while.

Projected Record: 85-77

 

15. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-Backs were very bold in the off season.  They went from one of the most horrible teams just after a rebuild to a middle ground team that could potentially be a playoff contender.  They now have some foundation to their pitching staff, a good front three starters, and a good closer and set-up man.  New additions to the Diamondbacks pitching staff include Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Tyler Clippard.  They already had a strong closer in Brad Ziegler who will now take the spot of A.J. Schugel, helping Evan Marshall in the 8th inning.  The rotation is looking a lot better, with Greinke, Miller and Patrick Corbin taking the top, and young pitchers with lots of potential, Robbie Ray and Rubby De La Rosa, in the back end.  However the lineup still lacks power.

They might have Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, with David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas making some contributions but there are no solid hitters besides that.  Neither Jean Segura nor Chris Owings have learned to hit much.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, I’ve never been fond of young D-Backs stars Jake Lamb and Chris Owings, and I might be underrating them.  I might  be underrating this team.  If you D-Backs fans and players think I am, show me what your team can do and I’ll give them more credit mid-season.  Could the D-Backs be world series champs of the future, and playoff, even division contenders now?

Projected Record: 88-74

 

14. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners were a very sucky, disappointing 2015 team.  But, they made a bunch of off season moves that made them look a whole lot better.  The lineup still doesn’t have enough strength in it between Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, newcomer Norichika Aoki and others, but they really improved their pitching.

Their bullpen looks a lot better, now led by Steve Cishek and Joaquin Benoit.  Justin De Fratus is another contributing factor along with Charlie Furbush.    The rotation looks better too.  The Mariners re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma and acquired Wade Miley and Nathan Karns to help.  Taijuan Walker also has a lot of room to grow and develop into a high level pitcher.

Between a mediocre lineup with a new look and a completely revamped pitching staff it looks like the Mariners could be contenders.  Their not necessarily going to dominate the postseason, but they could snag a wild card for their first playoff appearance in ages.

Projected Record: 87-75

 

13. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had the best lineup in baseball going into 2015 but didn’t really have much pitching until the trade deadline.  They lost their ace David Price but have a strong back end to the rotation and an acceptable bullpen.  But the Blue Jays lost more than just their ace this off season.  They lost outfielder Ben Revere, and some reserves in their lineup.

Their bullpen still lacks back of the bullpen pitchers and is mostly filled with middle relievers and long relievers who missed the rotation.  Their lineup is a little too old despite a decent farm system ready to take over some of the team and their rotation has no clear SP1 or ace that can be a leader in the pitching staff.  This team has some good players, but what they have doesn’t quite fit their specific needs.  It’s a great team if they have other players to fill the holes and all a stars have a position to play.

Projected Record: 89-73

 

 

So, that’s all for this portion of my preseason power rankings.  Who will be in Part 4?