Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Braves Week 1 Minor League Review

Yeah I am doing a weekly review on Tuesday because that is how my work schedule falls. So I am just going to look at who the best pitchers and hitters were each week for the Braves minor leaguers. I will also try to highlight some guys who we may not talk about but have been performing well. Without further ado here is my first week's review for 2016:


Austin Riley - 3B - Rome Braves
           Stats - .318/.348/.636 - 1 HR, 4 2B, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K
In the first week of the season Riley has been exactly what we had hoped. The strike out rate is high so far, but at 19 years old he doesn't appear overmatched early on. I am really high on him and I think he might be one of the best hitting prospects we have had since Freeman and Heyward came up. 

Dansby Swanson - SS - Carolina Mudcats
            Stats - .400/.483/.600 - 5 2B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 SB
Swanson's first week as a Brave was a great one. It will be interesting to see how long the Braves can keep him in A ball, and with the issues at SS in Atlanta how long they can keep him out of the majors. The only problem with him playing in Atlanta is there might be someone else in his way.....

Ozzie Albies - SS - Mississippi Braves
             Stats - .346/.393/.385 - 1 2B, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS
Albies hasn't started off white hot, but after an 0-4 start to the season he has a hit in every game and has been on base multiple times in every game except tonight's contest. He hasn't shown much power yet, and most likely he won't show a ton, but he has some pop for his size. His eye will almost certainly improve going forward as well. Still this is an excellent start for a 19 year old in AA. There is a very good chance he will be in the majors at 19. I believe the last Brave to do that was Andruw Jones. 

Keith Curcio - CF - Carolina Mudcats
           Stats - .462/.500/.692 - 4 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
I honestly didn't know much about Curcio until this week when he was tearing the cover off the ball. The 23 year old, drafted in the 6th round of 2014, spent the first part of last year having his way with Sally League pitchers before a promotion to Carolina slowed him down some. That appears to be his M.O. as he did the same thing the year before between Danville and then Rome. He returned to Carolina to start this year and after a week of work he appears to have a handle on things. Curcio is the kind of player many would consider a 'grinder' as he has small stature and lacks tons of tools, but he gets the job done. I feel like he could be a guy that never shows up on prospect lists but could get a few years of play in Atlanta as a very solid 4th outfielder. 

I'll continue tomorrow with the pitchers.....

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Alright I am bringing this site back. The Braves have an interesting farm system for the first time in years and I am excited about. There isn't much in Atlanta to be excited about this year so I am going to use this blog to channel my Braves energy. I'll also probably be trying to learn how to use blogspot again, so over time I expect this to evolve as I get more comfortable with the layouts. I'll start the year with my top 10 Braves prospects. I'll follow up with something more in depth later. (Also I like to use tiers to separate players so you'll be seeing that a little below):

Tier 1
1.  Dansby Swanson - SS/2B - Dansby is a pretty clear cut #1 for me and he gets his own tier. I'm not sold he is the building block of the Franchise like so many people think he is. Brendan Rodgers was the clear cut best talent in last years draft, but Swanson was taken first due to his higher floor.

Tier 2
2. Sean Newcomb - LHP - He is the closest thing the Braves received to a top of the rotation starter in all of their trades, but he comes with his own warts. He has strike-out stuff, but very little idea where it is going most of the time. He might be a left handed Mike Foltynewicz which is scary

3. Ozzie Albies - SS/2B - Albies has been gaining ground as one of the top prospects in the game over the last year and a half and he hasn't done much to dampen the excitement. He showed in spring training he might be closer to being ready than previously thought. He combines solid defense at SS with strong contact ability and plus speed. All things that give you a high floor in the big leagues. Even if he doesn't get much better he is already a useful big league piece.

Tier 3
4. Aaron Blair - RHP - Blair was another piece that came over from the D-Backs in the Shelby Miller trade. He might be a similar pitcher to miller with a heavy 4 seam fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s, He is close to the majors and should make his major league debut this season.

5. Austin Riley - 3B - I am all aboard the Riley train. Granted the Braves have had guys tear up the Appy league before and never really do much (Eric Campbell, Robby Hefflinger, Cody Johnson), but Riley doesn't appear to have the huge swing and miss in his game that those three had. Fingers crossed he turns into a middle of the order guy.

6. Kolby Allard - LHP - Allard might have the most potential of anyone in system. He was rumored to be in the mix for the top pick last June, but injuries pushed him down to the Braves. He has electric stuff from the left side and looks to be in full swing coming into the 2016 season. Hopefully the Braves can strike gold like the Nats did with Lucas Giolito.

7. Hector Olivera - LF/3B - The much ballyhooed deal that brought Olivera to Atlanta rests on the shoulders of Olivera. Pretty much everyone agreed that Olivera had a major league ready bat when he signed with the Dodgers, but that hasn't born out in his time in the US. He really only needs to be a 3 win player to justify his salary, but right now there is not telling where he ends up.

8. Mallex Smith - CF - Smith is a tough one for me. At his peak he seems like he could be a better version of Michael Bourn, with above average defense early in his career and plus-plus speed. He has a slap hitting approach that could see him get on base with his speed and his walk rates have been solid in the minors. I have a hard time getting excited for this type of player, but he has performed all the way up the ladder so he deserves some attention.

Tier 4
9. Lucas Sims - RHP - I have a soft spot for Sims. He has good stuff and has been pretty durable in the minors (outside of missing time from a bus accident). His profile reminds me a little of Kevin Millwood which may be while I stay excited for him. Also he is still only 22 years old even though it feels like he has been around forever.

10. Mike Soroka/Touki Toousaint/Max Fried - RHP/RHP/LHP - I could go a ton of different ways here. The Braves minor league depth right now is a little absurd and there are a lot of guys down in the 10+ range that could make huge jumps this year. These three I think are the most likely, all with different reasons why they aren't higher (injury, glaring control issues, not enough exposure yet) but I feel that anyone one of the three (or all three) are good bets to make significant strides this season.

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


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


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.