Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves ink veteran backstop Suzuki to a one-year deal

The Atlanta Braves biggest priority coming to the off-season was finding a catcher to go along with Tyler Flowers. On Saturday they filled that need signing veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki to a one-year 2.5 million dollar deal. This isn’t a sexy move for one of the big names we either weren’t comfortable signing or someone just beats us out, but I really like this signing for us at this point.

Suzuki 33 hit .258 with nine home runs and 49 RBIs in 106 games with the Minnesota Twins last season. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but decent considering the catching position has become being good at defense or offense not both. Those are serviceable offensive numbers for a backup catcher, which is likely the role he will have with the Braves.

Most importantly, he is very durable since the 2014 season Suzuki is one of six catches to make 2,900 appearances behind the plate. A remarkable stat considering the amount of punishment a catcher takes from foul tips and blocking balls in the dirt. He definitely provides a reliable option if Tyler Flowers were to go down with an injury or needs a day off. Who knows? Suzuki could revert back to his All-Star form he had in 2014 with the Oakland Athletics, but regardless he is a great cost friendly option for the Braves.

Additionally, Suzuki is a great clubhouse addition, especially with all the young guys in this organization. They will be able to pick his brain and watch how he goes about his business on a daily basis. The Braves pride themselves on having a great clubhouse and cohesiveness between players and personnel Suzuki is a great in that regard as well.

The Braves have done an excellent job this off-season adding veteran players that will help this young nucleus develop both on and off the field. The best part about it is most of the deals we have done this off-season are 1 to 2 years, which means they’re not blocking our top prospects they are just great stop gaps until the young guys are ready.

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Wisler putting it together for the Braves

The Atlanta Braves are wearing the struggles of the 2016 season the team currently has just 12 wins in their first 45  games to begin the season. No that’s not a typo, I wish it was, but it’s not! This is what happens when your farm system is bone dry and your big-league team has too many bad contracts and players are underperforming a teardown happens.

The positive thing about this whole situation is the team has been very active in revamping the organization from every angle doing everything in their power to get this team back to their winning ways. The team has made over 100 transactions since this process began in 2014.

The biggest improvement is the farm system, it was frankly nonexistent over the last few years because we were in a win now mode and we fell woefully short of the ultimate goal. Currently we have a system ranked in the top three in baseball with many top prospects that are knocking on the door of big-league stardom. Some of those prospects are in the big leagues right now and thriving I know that might be hard to believe with 12 wins in 45 games, but it’s true trust me!

Matt Wisler one of the key pieces that came back in the Craig Kimbrel Melvin Upton Jr trade. He has been awesome for this pitching staff and looks to be a centerpiece of the Braves starting rotation for many years to come. In 2016 he has a record of 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA.

Those numbers don’t indicate how well he’s pitched this entire year because he is dealing with an offense that couldn’t hit a beach ball right now if they tried. Wisler has pitched into the seventh inning for straight outings and into the eighth inning four times during that span. He has figured out that he belongs in the big leagues and he has that bulldog mentality that a starter needs every time he tows the rubber.

For every young baseball player there is an AW-HA type of moment where something clicks and they never look back. For Wisler I believe it was when he came out of the bullpen against Washington something happened and he just started attacking hitters and just said here it is try and hit it.

He’s taken that mentality ever since then and he is not scared of hitters making contact. Whereas before I believe the pressure of coming to a new organization and living up to the big expectations of being a top prospect caused him to try to hard and nimble around the strike zone because he wasn’t sure of himself and that got him in trouble with big-league hitters.

He is now oozing with confidence and that death stare on the mound showing opponents, he is not backing down at all. He also is willing to learn anything that will help them improve he talked to Braves legend Tom Glavine about his changeup and got some great tips that he’s brought out to the mound adding another weapon to his arsenal. At just 23 years old his willingness to learn and evolve as a pitcher shows commitment and determination to become a perennial All-Star and prove the Padres were wrong to part ways with him.

The team is no doubt wearing the results of the 2016 season in preparation for the future. The fact is, no one is enjoying how the season has played out so far, but slowly but surely we are seeing the pipeline produce great talent that will be in the big leagues for a long time. Watching  Wisler  develop and mature has been amazing to watch and I can’t wait for the other prospects to breakthrough and become mainstays in Atlanta for decades.

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Top Storylines for Each NL East Team to start the season

The MLB season is just two away an exciting time for fans and everyone involved with the game! Every team has a reason for optimism when the season starts because there is a clean slate and anything can happen because games aren’t played on paper. I thought it would be interesting to go through each division and give each team’s top story line to begin the year. I’m going to start with my team’s division the NL East.

The National League East is probably going to be a two horse race once again between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. To be honest it’s probably the weakest division around baseball with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies hitting the reset button and trying to rebuild into a perennial contender once again.

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The Washington Nationals : Will they get along?

There’s no question the Washington Nationals have great talent on their roster and play on the field is not really a question its team chemistry because there are a ton of big personalities in the clubhouse and that was their undoing down the stretch of last season.

The turning point of their season is when GM Mike Rizzo decided to trade for hotheaded closer Jonathan Papellbon. It was a head-scratching move at the time because their current closer Drew Storen had an All-Star first half and the Nationals were primed to win the division. However, Papelbon said wherever he was traded he had to be the closer. I believe that threw Storen’s rhythm off and he struggled the rest of the season and it was downhill from there for the entire team.

There’s a saying in sports sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make and I firmly believe if the Nationals wouldn’t have acquired Papelbon their season could’ve had a different ending. Chemistry and camaraderie are huge and sports and especially baseball because it’s such a long season, it’s important to have good relationships with all teammates. When Jonathan Papellbon choked Bryce Harper it was clear the chemistry wasn’t where it needed to be to make a run at the playoffs.

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This off-season it was obvious the leadership needed to change in the dugout and the Nationals hired veteran manager Dusty Baker who had been out of baseball since 2011. I think this is the perfect hire because Baker has great experience in dealing with huge personalities that included Barry Bonds. Baker understands how to handle hostility and shaken chemistry in a clubhouse. With that being said, I don’t think he will tolerate Bryce Harper dogging it at times or hostile confrontations in the dugout. He is a very smart baseball man and will put the Washington Nationals in the best position to win every game on and off the field.

Chemistry was the dagger to the Nationals playoff hopes last season, hopefully for their sake a new voice and leadership style will prevent clubhouse tension and just focus on winning baseball games. The fact is they have all the talent in the world to make a long playoff run.

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New York Mets: Matt Harvey’s Health

This year and the New York Mets look to build off of the National League Championship and the World Series loss to the Kansas City Royals. It’s no secret how they did it dominant starting pitching led by Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler who is coming off Tommy John surgery.

They live and die with these young studs because their offense has been pretty inconsistent even with the addition of Yoenis Céspedes who can carry a team for a three-week stretch, but also can go ice cold for that same period of time. However, with this starting rotation you don’t really have to score a lot of runs to have a great chance to win games.

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Unfortunately, Harvey’s opening-day status is uncertain as he deals with kidney issues. Injuries are something you can’t control, but certainly can derail a career. A quality-starting pitcher like Matt Harvey doesn’t grow on trees so the Mets must be absolutely sure he is 100% healthy. The Mets have had a history of being very cautious with the young guys because young fireball pitchers are like precious jewels and must be put in the best situation for them and the organization to succeed.

For Matt Harvey he is extremely important to the Met’s success this season so if he must miss a few starts in April to get this kidney situation under control that’s much better than a longer-term injury popping up in the heat of a pennant race. Harvey the bell cow of this rotation and if he misses any significant time it will throw the other young starters out of whack because a lot of them haven’t pitched over 200 innings yet in their careers. The Mets success is predicated on the starting rotation health and especially Matt Harvey if they want to battle for a World Series title again.

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MiaMi Marlins : Can the Team Stay Healthy ?

The Miami Marlins have an opportunity to be very pesky and annoying to play throughout the 2016 season. The biggest key for them throughout the season will be the overall team health. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton and Ace José Fernandez headline that list. Stanton is one of major league baseball’s most prolific home run hitters hitting absolute moon shots. However, he’s had terrible luck with the injury bug he’s been hit in the face and the wrist that have cost him the bulk of the last two seasons.

As we’ve seen the team has suffered mightily when Stanton is absent because the fear factor is nowhere to be found for pitchers and opponents. If Stanton could stay on the field 150+ games his numbers would be absolutely ridiculous and the Marlins lineup would stay scary all season. Stanton has averaged 30 home runs in his first six seasons and was on a record pace last season with 27 home runs in just 74 games.

The Marlins lineup features Dee Gordon leading off wreaking havoc on the base paths distracting pitchers along with Christian Yelich who can be a hit machine when healthy. The reality is a Stanton can stay on the field everyone on the Marlins gets better and have more opportunities on the offenses side of the ball.

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The other player they can’t afford to miss significant time again is ace pitcher José Fernandez. His 2015 season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery, prior to the injury he was 6-1 with 2.92 ERA on his way to a very impressive season. After the injury the starting rotation suffered understandably and Stanton was injured shortly after derailing the rest of the season.

Fernandez has a bubbly personality and has fun doing his job something that irks his opponents, but he is one of the best pitchers in the league so he’s allowed to have some fun. Overall he is an astounding 22-9 with a 2.40 ERA and has yet to lose in his home ballpark at 17-0. Amazing numbers for a guy that is just 23 years of age with a lot of innings left on his arm, assuming the Marlins will be judicious with his innings and preserve him for the long-term. If they’re able to keep the core on the field the team will have a chance to make a playoff push year after year.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Spring Training Workouts

Atlanta Braves: The Pitching Staff

The Atlanta Braves are in the middle of a massive rebuilding project that is seen 24 transactions involving 86 players since the start of the 2014 season. It’s probably going to be a very long year, but the future is very bright for this organization. As for the 2016 season the biggest question is who is going to get opponents out. There are just two days before the games count and the Braves still have so many roster questions involving the pitching staff.

The final decisions on the rotation have been made Williams Perez will be in the fourth spot and Jhoulys Chacín will be called up on April 12 once the team needs a fifth starter. A major concern in the bullpen is the fact we are only carrying one left-handed pitcher, but the reality is that there wasn’t anybody pitching well enough to add to the roster.

2016 Starting Rotation

  1. Julio Teheran
  2. Bud Norris
  3. Matt Wisler
  4. Williams Perez
  5. Jhoulys Chacín

This rotation is not one that will scare a lot of people off when looking at it on paper, but games aren’t played on paper, we will just have to see how it goes when the games really count. On a positive note, all of these guys had a strong ending to a roller coaster spring for all of them. Williams Perez struggled a little bit against the Astros, but proved that he was healthy and able to give all he’s got while on the mound. I’m not saying I’m not concerned because we went 6-20-6 in the spring and a handful of those games we blew late leads, but let’s just see what happens while we wait for the young guys in our system to develop.

The key phrase I will use while watching the season play out is trust the process and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just remember we are way ahead of the pace last year our farm system was ranked 29th now it is rated top three in baseball some have it ranked number one overall so there is reason for optimism. This season might just be a little difficult to watch, but we all know that so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Hopefully the pitching staff and the team shock the world!

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees

Philadelphia Phillies: Maikel Franco

The Philadelphia Phillies are also involved in a massive rebuilding project, but they have definitely found their third baseman for a long time.23-year-old Maikel Franco has taken Major League Baseball by storm, in just 304 at-bats during his rookie season he hit 14 homers and had 50 runs batted in before his season was cut short due to a wrist injury.

This spring training, he picked up right where you left off hitting an MLB leading nine homers and driving in 23. This kid is going to be special for a long time, especially in that bandbox of a home ballpark.

The Phillies like the Braves might not have a lot to look forward to in 2016, but the Phillies get to watch this guy for an entire season and continue to watch him become a star in the big leagues.

Conclusion

The National League East might not be the powerhouse division in baseball but there certainly a lot of intriguing storylines to watch play out. It’s perceived and probably will be a two-team race between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets

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MLB

My reaction to the Simmons trade

The Atlanta Braves continue this massive rebuild that has become extremely painful for fans; the best way I could describe it is taking punches to the gut every single time a fan favorite has been traded in the last year and a half. This continued yesterday as the team shipped defensive wizard 2- time gold glove winner Andrelton Simmons to the Angels for Erick Aybar and the top two pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.

This trade shows the team has a plan and are sticking to it I definitely respect that. I really am going to miss Simmons and his masterful glove work this one is really hard to swallow. The reality is his bat never developed as we had hoped and his contract was going to get pricey very soon. Those are some of the reasons the front office felt this deal had to be made. I don’t necessarily agree with the move, but think about it, we had Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons on the team at the same time and we still weren’t able to become a serious contender in that time. It was time for something to change and the team has taken a very active approach in restocking a dried up pipeline to the major leagues.

The New Braves 

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This trade is similar to the others, we were able to acquire the Angels top two pitching prospects and a stopgap shortstop who is solid in Erick Aybar. Sean Newcomb is 6’5 240 pound left-hander who has an electric fastball 93 to 97 tops out at 99 with a changeup and a curveball to go with it. Many baseball experts say he has ace potential and will more than likely be up in the majors next season. He is just 22 years old in the minor league career, he is 9-4 with 2.75 ERA. He has a very high upside and I’m very excited to see what he can do when he gets his opportunity.

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Chris Ellis is a 23-year-old right-hander that I would compare to Kris Medlen because he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he said to have a really good changeup experts say he needs a little more time to develop and figure out if he is best used out of the bullpen or as a starter he could be up in the middle of 2016 or more likely to 2017. These two guys have great upside and are great additions to a now stacked minor-league system. We now have a lot of options to sort through and figure out what’s best for our organization and the ability to flip some of these top prospects for major league talent specifically offensive players to go with this young pitching we have accumulated.

By no means am I happy getting rid of fan favorites and good baseball players, but the reality is it’s a rebuild and nobody is safe. We clearly have a plan and are sticking to it even though it’s hard for fans to swallow. This is just the first week of a wild and wacky off-season to come brace yourself Braves fans there could be more punches to come. We must trust the process and don’t forget we do have $30 million in cap space to spend so who knows what we have up our sleeves stay positive! Go Braves!

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