Tuesday, July 09, 2013

What is Robby Hefflinger?

Is he the second coming of Cody Johnson or is there more to him than just a slugging corner OF? 

Well the short answer to the question is, no he isn't Cody Johnson. Not by a long shot. If you don't know who Cody Johnson is just click that link up there. Actually I will give a short explanation. He was a first round draft pick in 2006 who most people considered a reach at the time in a thin draft. Power was always his calling card and he had it in bunches. The problem, as with most power hitters, is he completely sold out for power. But really in a way that no one else did. His lowest strikeout rate at any stop, at any level in the minors was 26.7%. So yeah, contact problems. 

Robby Hefflinger. Since being drafted Hefflinger has always been said to have good raw power. The problem was, unlike Johnson, it never really showed up in games. You don't have to look far to see why he has raw power: he stands 6' 5" and weighs 235. He's an athletic big guy as well, serving as a backup catcher in college on top of being a pitcher. But all that size and athleticism has taken time to develop in to in game results. He has shown steady improvement each year. In 2009 he posted just .288 wOBA in 240 AB with Danville. In 2010 he made the Rome roster, but had just a .298 wOBA (.132 ISO). 2011 saw him return to Rome for a full season, but he still showed little improvement with .303 wOBA and .151 ISO. His strikeout rate was 26.7% and his walks dropped from 8.1% in 2010 to 5.2% in 2011. 

Hefflinger made one last trip to Rome in 2012 and something clicked. In 296 AB there he hit 12 homers (already a career high) and had a .200 ISO. His strikeouts dropped to 23.8% and his walks jumped to 11.2%, both of which were career bests. That season just set up his breakout in 2013. His 23 homers are obviously already a career high, and his .293 ISO is nearly 100 points better than his previous high. He has even kept his K rate below 25%. His walks have suffered some, but that can probably be attributed to him just hitting the ball so well. 

So what do we have here? At 23 he isn't a young guy, but the Cardinals are proving that everyone doesn't have to be Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper or Julio Teheran to be a useful player. Hefflinger has enough power in his bat that I think he could be a useful player in the majors. Maybe even a starter. He has made the adjustments necessary as he moved up the ladder, even if he spent a couple years on one rung. His K rate has lowered as he has moved up, which I LOVE to see, and his walks have fluctuated but remained solid enough. I wouldn't be surprised if he flamed out in AA or AAA, but there is enough potential here to have a nice player in a couple of seasons in case one of our OFers disappears. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Braves First Round Pick Jason Hursh Makes His Pro Debut

The Braves took Jason Hursh in the first round with the 31st overall pick in this June's draft. He signed for $1,704,200 which was exactly slot value for the pick. He made his debut last night in the Sally League against the Asheville Tourists. He pitched two innings and struck out three while walking one and allowing zero hits. Not a bad debut, especially considering a nearly two hour rain delay.

The Hursh pick was met with lukewarm reception from many of the Braves fans I know, which honestly befuddles me. Is he a perfect prospect? Well he has already had Tommy John surgery, but his 98 mph fastball seems to indicate that is behind him. Early scouting reports indicate that while his fastball is excellent, he is in need of better developed secondary pitches, but the fastball is so good he might just be able to get by  with just average secondary stuff. He is 21 years old (22 in October) and Julio Teheran is 22. So no he isn't young by many prospect standards, but I don't expect him to be in the minors for more than a season and a half. Some people wanted us to go for a bat in this spot, but this draft was so thin to begin with I just don't know if you have anyone out there who can be an impact player that late in the first round. Hursh can be an impact arm.

I think we got a guy who has a fairly high floor as a hard throwing reliever and a high ceiling if he can leverage the secondary offerings into something more. One thing the Braves are lacking is a top of the rotation starter. They have several solid pitchers who make good #2 or #3 pitchers, but I'm not convinced that even Teheran is a top of the rotation guy. Hursh has that live fastball that can't be taught. If his secondary stuff comes around he could be a very valuable guy in a couple of seasons. I think with J.R. Graham's injury, Hursh jumps to the top of our prospect list.


I'm Back with a little Joey Terdoslavich on the side

It has only been 7 years right? Why am I back after such a long hiatus? Because I love Braves baseball and I love minor league baseball. And those two things were pretty much everything this blog was supposed to be about back when I decided to start in many, many years ago. So where have I been you ask? Long story, but I wrote for another Braves blog (Talking Chop) for about six years as their minor league recap guy. That was fun until it became more job-ish than I really wanted. I left for a year and then was asked to return by Martin, the site manager. But then he left after two months and that was my queue to leave as well. I still visit TC, and it really is the best Braves blog out there, but it was just too rigid anymore for what I wanted to do. 

So I took time off and realized that I still want to write, that I had been doing it so long, that I guess I needed to keep doing it. And then I checked the cold, dead husk of this, my original blog, and saw that it had 26 hits on July 4, 2013. WHAT?!?! And that reminded me why I wanted to do all of this in the first place: people want info about Braves minor league players and there still aren't a ton of places to find it. So I am making a comeback, and I am older and wiser than I ever was before (well at least a better writer anyways). 

Lets talk about Joey Terdoslavich shall we? The Braves just called up "Terdo" (on the record? I hate that name, but unfortunately it looks like it will stick) and I am sure a lot of people are wondering what we have with him. I've always been a fan of the guy because I just have a thing for doubles hitters. He was drafted out of Long Beach State as a power hitting third baseman, and I am sure the Braves would have loved for that to work out, but Terdo is terrible in the field just about anywhere he is. They tried him at third in the minors for a couple of years but eventually he got moved across the diamond to first and then to the outfield where he has found a home. 

Back to the doubles thing: he can hit them and hit a lot of them. In 2011 at Lynchburg he set the Carolina League record for doubles in a season with 52. He also hit 20 homers that year which also isn't bad. After a disappointing start in Gwinnett in 2012 he was shipped to Mississippi to get things on track and put up similar numbers to his Lynchburg campaign. He returned to Gwinnett for 2013 and put together a fantastic half season with a .318/.359/.567 line with 18 homers and 24 doubles. His June stats were the most impressive with 10 of his homers coming during the month and adding 13 walks (he had just 9 in the first two months of the season). 

So what are the negatives? Well he can't really hit lefties that well (.235/.304/.382 so far in 2013). We already talked about how he can't field. And he doesn't take many walks. Although he has gradually gotten better throughout his career (going from a 6% rate all the way up to 8.8% this season). He doesn't strike out a ton either which can offset the lack of walks. Aaaaand the only positions he can play are currently manned but Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman. Even if he could play third it isn't like Chris Johnson has been a gaping hole at third. 

So what we have now is a guy who could be a nice pinch hitter against right handers and someone who can spell Freddie Freeman, the corner OFs or even fill in at DH until Evan Gattis gets back.. but may not have a place on this team in the future. 

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mississippi Braves

Well Mississippi could largely be considered a dissappointment solely on the shoulders of Jarrod Saltallamacchia's first half performance. The consensus top catching prospect in baseball ended the first half going on the DL with an batting average south of .200 and only 4 homers (none since may). Surprisingly many people in the Braves organization (and outside it) haven't even given up hope. Salty has said he is working on his defense, but that seems skeptical. He went on the DL with a wrist injury. I wonder how long he has had that, because wrist injuries can be significant. Also reasons for optimism are he was HUGE in the second half last year at the Beach and maybe that injury will heal just right. Again, I'm not giving up hope, just worried right now. There have been some bright spots for the M- Braves, who finished 31-38 in the first half standings. Matt Wright has been outstanding, starting the AA all star game for the Southern League. He went 7-3 with 84 Ks in 89 inn. pitched against only 28 BBs and a 2.22 ERA. Now he is a little old for AA at this point (24) and recently got a promo to AAA. We'll see how that goes. Yunel Escobar has been steady for Miss. but without much power. His slg. is .383 but his OBP is .373 with a .284 average; so he is taking some walks while playing some 3B and 2B. Brandon Jones (one of my fav prospects) has also held his own recently since a promo to AA. Even flashing a little more power than expected. It seems his power comes in spurts but throughout the season he has maintained his good plate discipline while learning the nuances of the game. Matt Harrison was recently promoed to AA while Anthony Lerew was demoted. Lerew has pitched well since being reunited with Bruce Del Canton and Harrison has been stable. We'll see how both of those play out in the long haul.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mid-Season Reviews

Richmond

Well the only bright spot for the R- Braves was Scott Thorman and now he is becoming a bright spot for the A-Braves in left field. I have always liked Scotty and think he could be a solid 30 homer, .280 guy in left field (which would be huge). As far as the rest of the team the only other player that could be called a prospect is Martin Prado. He was sent to Richmond after a bried call-up earlier in the season to Atlanta. He has held his own batting .262 but with limitted power and speed production. I don't know what the Braves will get out of him later. Bobby loves him but he is going to have to hit for an incredibly high average to be valuable. Local walk machine Wes Timmons is hurt and rehabbing in the complex and Kelly Johnson spent some time at Richmond before succombing to Tommy John. It will be interesting to see what happens with him and Thorman when he recovers. I would love to see thor get the 1B job and Kelly hold down LF for the next 6 seasons. Tony Pena JR. has been servicable just recently getting his average up over .270 but with no plate discipline and very little power. This team is historically bad with the poor pitching and lack of offense. Almost all of the Braves talent is in the bigs or the low minors. More to come on the other teams.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Wow

I haven't been in such a long time it is mind boggling. I don't even know what has spurned me to come back right now other than I have been in a huge baseball mood of late. Minor braves teams are having some interesting seasons. Rome won the first half title on the surprising offensive display of Kala Kaaihue and a couple others bolstered by some strong pitching. They are slumping a bit in the second half. And Scott thorman was probably one of the best hitters in the minors in the first half until he was promoted to the big show. More on the teams and prospects later.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Andruw Jones for MVP?

There has been a lot of clamoring about Andruw for MVP lately, and with due reason. Andy's season has been spectacular. He had the breakout season that everyone was projecting for this year (and many years in the past for that matter). He is producing at right about the level that was expected of him in the minors. He is playing above average defense (although I don't know if its still as top notch as a couple years ago) with an average that fits right in with his minor league numbers (although i do think he can hit for higher average) and exceptional power and RBI numbers. He has become a true force in the middle of the order and maybe the top power hitter in all of baseball. But is he the MVP. He's got a good case, but Pujols has had another spectacular year. He is almost a shoe in every year for .330/40/120 and he is going to pull that again this year. The only problem against Andruw really is his low BA at .274 he is significantly lower than the other three candidates (Pujols - .338, Lee .345, Cabrera - .333) who all incidentally rank 1-2-3 in the league. If Andruw Jones eventually leads the league in RBI and Homers with, say, a 53/140 line does that make him a sure fire MVP? Not really. Because he will lead two of the triple crown categories (which are important, no matter what some people say) but will be outdone by the other three in all other categories save maybe Slugging. And that is gonna be close because of Andruws odd lack of Doubles. (Although A-Rod doesn't hit many double either). What could win Andruw is his close and late numbers. His poor avg w/RISP has been documented @ .222 for the season. But his close and late numbers are .295 with 9 HR and 17 RBI. He also has something like 19-20 game winning RBI, which can be misleading since if he hits a solo homer in the first and that is the only run of the game that is considered a GW RBI. But he has been clutch, which is decidedly anti-Andruw from most other years. I know how valuable he has been to the Braves this year in the absence of Chipper and any other real threat in the line-up, but not being a Cardinals, Cubs, or Marlins fan i can't tell you how valuable the other guys have been to the other teams. I know the Cards have been depleted this year but they have a huge lead in their division. Cabrera has been amazing at 22 years old but his team has floundered. Lee, has a good shot still but the Cubs are out of it. I think Andruw will probably win the award in the end because of some huge moments he had, almost like the Heisman moments they always say a Heisman winner should have. But Pujols probably deserves it for a more consistent and overall body of work. I don't think this will be either one of their last chances though.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Final Standings

Well the minor league seasons have all come to an end save for the playoffs but unfortunately Braves fans in all cities don't have to worry about that now.

Richmond 56-88

The R-Braves finished the season with the worst record in the league. Throughout the season they had Andy Marte, Scott Thorman, Anthony Lerew, Kyle Davies, Brayan Pena, Carlos Duran, James Jurries, Chuck James, Joey Devine and Josh Burrus. If that had been the team all year they may have had the best record in the league, but with the big club relying so heavily on the minors this year only Jurries spent the entire year at the AAA level. It will interesting to see which of these returns here next year. (Crosses fingers against Marte).

Mississippi 36-34 (First Half) 28-34 (Second Half)

The M-Braves had to cancel the last 2 weeks of the season in their first year in Pearl in the wake of the Katrina aftermath. This team was hit hard by promotions also seeing the entire middle of the order (Francoeur, McCann, Thorman) get the call up and also seeing some of the better pitchers get promoted out (Lerew, Boyer, James). Some good things came from this club though. Martin Prado established himself as one of the better hitting 2B in the minors and maybe a future incumbent of Marcus Giles. Luis Hernandez started slow and was streaky for the rest of the year but wasn't completely horrible as a hitter in AA and actually did well when put in the #2 hole. Brian O'Connor was also among the league leaders in ERA for most of the year. Carlos Duran was hurt again this year but spent most of it here not doing too poorly.

Myrtle Beach 33-37 (First Half) 28-42 (Second Half)

The Beach had several of the players with the best all around seasons in its confines at one point or another this season. Chuck James started here dominating and left after only 8 starts. Jarrod Salty Dog (not typing that name if i don't have to) was the best catcher in the minors in the worst hitters park hitting .314/.394/.519 on the season with 19 bombs and 81 RBIs and rave reviews on his improved defense. Now the question is does he surpass McCann in a couple years or does someone switch positions. Tough call for the Braves. Brandon Jones also finished here on the season and I love him. I think he is the best OF we have in the minors right now and could end up being a very solid LF. He'll push Kelly Johnson in a couple years. Also Carl Loadenthal, Steve Doetsch, and Matt Esquevil all bear watching in the outfield as they move up to a more hitter friendly eviron next season. Diory Hernandez could go big too. More on the pitchers later.

Rome Braves 39-29 (First Half) 33-36 (Second Half)

Matt Harrison emerged as the next lefty tradebait for the Braves. I don't think all the Braves lefty's serve as trade bait, I think Chuck James is the real deal, but Harrison doesn't seem all that exciting to me. James Parr Does. At 19 he posted a sub 3.5 ERA and he sports a good mid 90s fastball. We'll see. Yunel Escobar is good enough to maybe make the leap to the majors next year. They like him that much. Matt Young, i don't even know who he is, but he hit .312 with excellent plate disc. Jurich didn't do as well as I had hoped but he did take a ball to the face to start the season. JC Holt was horrible for 4 months, but was brilliant the last month to reestablish himself as a great 2B prospect. I still like him a lot.

Danville 47-20 (lost to Elizabethtown in a three game series for the Championship)

The only minor league affiliate to make the postseason and oddly enough against the Twins. Why is that Odd? The Braves and twins are the two clubs who focus the most on drafting HS players. Also both teams are opposed to MLB eliminating some of the low minors like the Appy League because it would hinder their draft philosophy. Anyways, Eric Campbell made this league his bitch. He led the league in Homers, RBI, slugging, and everything you can think of. Max Ramirez wasn't far behind leading the league in AVG as a catcher. Jon Owings (Brother of Micah from Gat Tech/Tulane fame) was an above average hitter with Ovandy suero providing speed and AVG at the top of the order. Jairo Cuevas was dominant in the rotation posting 69/55 K/IP ratio and a 1.95 ERA.

GCL Braves 24-28

I don't know much about most of these guys cause they all got drafted this year. The most notable was Elvis Andrus. He is a 16 year old SS, 16...years....old. He hit in the .350 range for much of the season and then tailed off near the end to hit .295. He didn't hit for much power, but that is to be expected of a 16 year old. He had very good plate disc, again especially considering his age. Most people considered him the best prospect in the GCL and the Braves have been raving about him since spring training. It'll be interesting to see where he goes next year.