Unit Recap – Bench

One thing clearly apparent from the playoff series against the Dodgers is that the Braves bench has a long way to go to be playoff quality. While the Dodgers were at various times bringing the likes of Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, and Brian Dozier off their bench, the Braves were reduced to carrying the dead weight of 3rd catcher Rene Rivera just to free up the bats of Kurt Suzuki or Tyler Flowers.

If the Braves front office had any expectation, or really even any intention, of contending on March 29th, it was not evident from the construction of the bench. From the opening day roster (excluding catchers) of Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Culberson, Preston Tucker, Peter Bourjos, and Lane Adams, only the 27 year old Tucker offered any kind of real upside (narrator voice: he delivered no upside.) The rest were predictably going to be bad, and only Culberson turned out to be any kind of positive surprise.

(Check out Rob’s Outfield Recap for additional info on the outfielders.)

The 29 year old Culberson led the bench players with 296 at-bats, and posted a .270/.326/.466 line with 12 home runs. He now stands at .248/.295/.383 for his 6 major league seasons. Flaherty and Tucker were the only others with as many as 60 at-bats, with 161 and 129 respectively. Flaherty posted a .217/.298/.292 line in his age 31 season, and Tucker went .240/.303/.411, adding 4 home runs.

Not including catchers, the Braves used 12 players apart from the starting 8, and only 24 plate appearances went to players under the age of 27 (Rio Ruiz 15, Michael Reed 7, Dustin Peterson 2.)

To their credit, the Braves did make various efforts to improve the bench as the season went on, starting with addition by subtraction when Ronald Acuna Jr. was promoted from AAA, and Johan Camargo was activated from the D.L while 37 year old Jose Bautista was brought in to play 3rd base. As was the most likely result, Bautista could not defy the aging curve, and was released after a month, with Camargo added to the starting lineup.

The Braves also made a couple of significant attempts to add depth for the playoff push, adding Adam Duvall from the Reds at the trade deadline (and just before his 30th birthday) for Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler, and Tucker, and by purchasing Lucas Duda at the end of August from the Royals (Tucker was purchased back from the Reds on September 2nd.)

To paraphrase Rick Blaine, Duvall had a season just like any other Duvall season, only more so. The .230 career hitter, coming off consecutive 30 home run seasons, managed only a .195/.274/.365 line between Cincinnati and Atlanta, and 15 home runs in 384 at-bats. Duvall’s low average game requires at-bats to provide sufficient opportunities for offsetting power, and in a limited sample he did not prove to be suited for the platoon or bench role, managing only 53 at-bats and 0 home runs in his 2 months here.

The 32 year old Duda went .241/.313/.418 with 14 home runs between Kansas City and Atlanta; only 18 of his 328 at-bats coming here.

Also participating: Danny Santana got 28 at-bats.

For most of the season, the Braves elected to go with a 3 man bench, plus a catcher. This limits the number of things a manager can do, making it difficult to pinch hit early in games, and difficult to carry a player with only one special skill. IF the Braves decide not to go all-in on a high priced free agent, they could do worse than to spread some money around to some flexible, multi-talented bench players – let’s say to go with not 8, but 11 potential starters. It would be helpful also to assemble a starting pitching staff that did not require an 8 man bullpen.

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

88 thoughts on “Unit Recap – Bench”

  1. How did the Dodgers get Max Muncy and we got Ryan Schimpf? Can anyone tell me where the Muncy manufacturing facility is?

    That being said, the only potential “Muncy’s” we had were Peterson and Reed and they went *poof*.

    I agree with Rusty that we need to have more than 8 players capable of starting, at least 9 or 10. I’d like to think Duvall could make a good enough comeback to be one. Culby did pretty well when he started for Acuna in LF. I’ve, of course, been jones’ing for Derek Dietrich to be Culby’s LH counterpart.

    Honestly, if Riley becomes a starting force then Camargo as a Super Util solves the bench problem. Having, say, Culby, Dietrich, Camargo, and Duvall as bench options would satisfy me. If we include Riley in a trade then bringing in Donaldson on a one year deal could have the same effect.

  2. Quite a few little tidbits:

    Luiz Gohara has lost about 35 pounds while working out this offseason at #Braves minor league headquarters in Lake Buena Vista, GM Alex Anthopoulos said.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) November 6, 2018

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    Gohara last pitched August 22nd, so he’s had close to 2 1/2 months to get into better shape. 35 pounds would seem like a lot even during that time, and 35 pounds would mean he’s a different person all together. So if this is indeed true, then you have to re-think his place in the organization.

    #Braves interested in adding a closer, GM Alex Anthopoulos confirmed. Craig Kimbrel, a third-round pick of Atlanta in 2008, is among the available free agents. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 6, 2018

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    There’s a bunch of closers on the market, so it could be a soft market for them. Kimbrel may get his big deal, but the less proven commodities like Ottavino may not get a huge deal.

    Sources: Free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos has drawn interest from #Braves and #Twins. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 7, 2018

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    Would be an upgrade over Suzuki. Buuuuutttt…

    Sources indicate the Braves have a strong offer on the table for Marlins All Star Catcher J.T. Realmuto. MIA may prefer him dealt outside of NL East, but at this point team is operating as though a trade is likely to happen.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) November 7, 2018

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    Sources also indicate Marlins are asking price on Realmuto is a high end young pitching prospect and a position player. A potential two for one.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) November 7, 2018

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    DOB and Jon Heyman are refuting this, but Craig Mish is pretty dialed in on the Marlins. He’s a fantasy baseball guy by focus, but he seems to break a lot of Marlins stuff. If it’s a high-end pitching prospect and position player, then gee whiz, sign me up.

    Despite reports that link #Braves to several available 3Bs, Anthopoulos said again they don't consider infield a need; they're pleased with their current INF. Needs are catcher, RF and bench, and they're still open to re-signing Markakis and/or Suzuki as they consider all options— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) November 6, 2018

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    So in lieu of adding a 3B and putting Camargo on the bench or shifting to SS, they seem to like Camargo at 3B and Dansby at SS. I’d have to think this could be posturing.

  3. I’m not a fan of Zunino or Chirinos, but I also wasn’t a fan of Flowers or Suzuki (or Pierzynski before that) and I was proven wrong. Hopefully we get Realmuto and I don’t have to worry about being right or wrong.

  4. @4,

    The last 4 years, Zunino is a better hitter against righthanders than lefthanders. He is a lesser version of 2017 Suzuki, for Braves. If Braves couldn’t make a better move, then maybe.

    Package him in with Haniger or Diaz or Paxton and then that would be pretty good.

  5. If the cost of Realmuto is down to two players in trade, rather than a Texeira-like suite of talent, then I say make it happen. Posthaste!

  6. It may not be fair to take it overly literal, but Mish said that it’s a high end pitching prospect and a position player. I’m choosing to differentiate “position player” from “position player prospect”, which tells me it’s a major league position player. The only two position players I could see us trading are Ender and Dansby.

    I would also be interested to see what they consider to be a high end pitching prospect. Wilson? Gohara? Anderson? Wentz? Muller? Fried? Or is that reserved for Soroka, Wright, and Touki? I would think Allard is assuredly not at this level at this juncture.

    So what if it’s Wright and Ender? Or Soroka and Dansby? While only two, those would be hard deals.

  7. Or……. How about Wright and Camargo? Then install Riley at 3B. If one thinks Camargo has exceeded his ceiling then this would be a good trade.

  8. This piece argues that a fair deal would be:
    Soroka, Newcomb, Allard, Bryse Wilson and Alex Jackson for Realmuto. I think Ryan C writes for this site so I’ll be as kind as I can. That is an insane package for 2 years worth of Realmuto. I typically am not a fan of the pieces that start with how much surplus value a player has based on the FA value of each WAR anyway, but even if you allow that Realmuto can provide $54 million in surplus value over two years, you don’t give up 29 years of control for that. I’d say Newcomb, Allard and Jackson would be fair or perhaps Newcomb and Riley. Maybe I’m way off base.

    https://thesportsdaily.com/2018/11/07/identifying-the-proper-trade-value-of-j-t-realmuto-wow11/

  9. Bowden, suggests 2 of these 4: Gohara, Touki, Anderson or Bryse Wilson. It’s Bowden so do with that what you will, but Wilson and Gohara seems reasonable. Hate to give up one of the other two, but maybe if it’s Anderson and Allard I could see it.

  10. To be as kind as possible, I’m quite confident the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club will not be trading Mike Soroka, Sean Newcomb, Kolby Allard, Bryse Wilson and Alex Jackson for Jacob Tyler Realmuto. I don’t hate the surplus value assessments, and obviously I’ve dabbled in them a little bit, but I really, really disagree with his/her value assessments and that he will cost more to the Braves. But regardless, I will tattoo Realmuto’s number on the stern of the ole SS Copenhaver if that happens.

  11. If Allard and Anderson works then I’ll drive them there myself. Sadly, I don’t think teams are going to value Allard that high.

  12. Allard isn’t a mess of catfish, but he’s probably a mess of catfish and an 96 Ranger bass boat right now.

  13. Don’t everyone miss the point that the Marlins are insisting on one of the pieces be a hitter. That’s where the Braves are more stuck. We’ve got four good pitchers for every hitter. And Alex Jackson is not likely their idea of a hitter. To get Realmuto, we might have to give up one of Camargo, Riley, Pache, Waters.

  14. Mike Fast…

    TC in ecstasy….*

    Much more of this and I may have to reconsider everything…

    Sig Mejdal…literally a NASA rocket scientist…will he come too?

    * ‘I don’t know what I’m doing compared to Mike Fast or anyone even remotely in his atmosphere.’
    ITG.

  15. Lol now trade Gohara for Zunino.

    EDIT: I believe Gohara has set the land-speed record for a “best shape of his life” offseason story. Sell sell sell!

  16. I’ve heard we’re interested in Sonny Gray but I’m wondering what the Yanks want for Clint Frazier?

  17. Sonny Gray had extreme splits, home/on the road. He could not handle Yankee Stadium, ERA around 6. Could be Julio 2. But excellent on the road.

  18. Sonny Gray has had a rough few years spanning back to Oakland. I understand the temptation to buy low on guys like this when there are some obvious fixes, however I wouldn’t stock my rotation full of these types of question marks (meaning, we already have Gausman). I would have to believe that Teheran is gone if we acquire Gray. Seems like a neutral move.

  19. The problem with retaining Markakis is that he is likely to get a raise when, if I’m the Braves, I wouldn’t do it. He’s not going to produce last season again. Unless he’s in the market for a 1-year deal, why do it?

  20. On a championship team, Markakis would make a great 4th outfielder and pinch hitter. I’ll be good if that’s what we use him for, but with an 11+ million price tag I don’t see it.

  21. I’d literally rather trade Kyle Wright than re-sign Markakis. Trading Wright would be a win-now move and it would almost certainly bring back a player of extremely high quality. I don’t like the thought of losing him but at least it would indicate they’re being proactive.

    Spending a dollar on a complete waste of space like Markakis would indicate they have no interest in winning in 2019.

  22. I never like DOB and he consistently proves that his idea is not interesting. I never find his reporting to be insightful. This is just another prove and I will not be bothered with what he thinks.

  23. On a separate note, I think Boras will surprise all of us and send Bryce to an AL team. He will pitch to an AL team that the DH role will help lengthening Bryce’s career and justify a 14 year contract…with couple op outs at age 29 and 32.

  24. https://theathletic.com/636256/2018/11/06/dale-murphy-an-advice-column-for-gms-heading-into-the-offseason/

    Bullpenning, like launch angle, is all the rage these days, but unless baseball moves to a season-long 40-man roster, it’s not sustainable for long-term success.

    I understand wanting to play matchups. I understand that starters can struggle their third time through the order. But you cannot rely on your bullpen for four or five or six innings every night over the course of 162 — or even when you’re playing a seven-game series in nine days.

  25. @38 I don’t disagree with trading Kyle Wright, but they should definitely get a player who could be the very best at his position so long as his position isn’t catcher or reliever/closer.

    Short of that, I think they should hitch the entire success of the rebuild on Soroka, Wright, and Touki. If Folty and Gausman happen to become TOR quality starters, well the more the merrier if the above 3 all pan out too.

    I’d just hate to roll the dice on either Soroka or Wright and have the one we keep fail and the one we traded explode into an elite TOR while we talk about that catcher we traded for near the cliff drop of his career.

  26. I haven’t talked to Adam yet, but I would think that both he and I would have to be firmly back in on Gohara being right up there with the rest of the prospects with TOR potential. So with that said, I think it makes it easier to trade someone like Soroka, Wright, and Touki because a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy Luiz Gohara is a very, very valuable pitcher. Remember, we thought he was a rotation fixture at the end of last year, and only a tragic year was what set him back. IMO, he’s right back to where he was.

  27. And before anyone asks: yes, Folty is basically a TOR starter. I’m not kicking sand at him. He’s well on his way at this point. Love the Foltzy.

  28. Been reading about Mike Fast. We stole one of the best statistical analysts away from the World Series winners of a year ago. That’s a big get.

    And we shared the distinction of being one of two teams with more than 2 Gold Glove winners with the Red Sox. These two points correlate, IMO.

    For the first time maybe ever, we might be one of the smartest FOs in baseball. I think there’s an element of run prevention that is very much a secret and highly analytical and the smart teams are embracing it and the dumb ones are not willing to.

  29. @43, I would certainly market Gohara like a potential ace if I were trying to trade him.

    The question marks for him are about his attitude and conditioning, and whether that’ll lead to more leg injuries. He seems to be addressing those concerns, so that’s good.

    My wild guess: it might be wisest to trade him now, but if he’s not dealt, Gohara’s could be a Haderesque force out of the bullpen.

  30. Trying to be the smartest will always be an arms race. Stockpiling really smart guys like Mike Fast is never a bad idea, but the key is the same as always: try to make sure that we’re better at what we’re best at than anyone else is better at what they’re best at.

  31. Sadly, I can see the Braves deciding to continue with Markakis in the outfield while pursuing J.T. Realmuto and another bat for the infield. I wouldn’t be disappointed if they included Dansby Swanson in a trade for Realmuto (if it meant we turned loose of a lesser top pitching prospect), moved Camargo to SS, and signed Donaldson.

    What I figure will happen, though, is the Braves will “win” J.T. Realmuto and resign Markakis on a 2-year deal. The deal for Realmuto costs Kyle Wright and Christian Pache. Braves consider the offseason “won” and wonder what Braves fans could have possibly expected considering the Braves financial situation and need to leave room in the budget for the future. Or something.

  32. Reading tea leaves, they’re going to overpay for Realmuto and re-sign Markakis. I doubt they even make an offer to Harper or Machado.

    If this IS the case, I’d just as soon keep ALL of the young pitchers that are left, roll the dice, see which 1-2 of the 20 pan out and move on.

  33. @50 You know if the Braves get Dietrich included in the Realmuto deal (for some minor prospects) than that would not be a totally terrible offseason. I wouldn’t give it an “A” but I wouldn’t give it an “F”. I think some trade will have to include Teheran; I just don’t see him on the team next year. Maybe some trade with Teheran headlining and other pitching prospects for some ace-like pitcher then the offseason would be “won” even if the signed OF is Markakis.

  34. Acuna goes 2 for 5 incl. double in first Japanese exhibition game. So does JTR but one of his left the park.

    Game on MLB tonight at 8.

  35. Imagine if the personalities in the Byrds were able to find some consistency or singularity of purpose.

    Spending a dollar on a complete waste of space like Markakis would indicate they have no interest in winning in 2019.

    Can’t be said enough. It’s hard to imagine upgrades at other positions of need that are large enough to make this palatable.

  36. @53. He has always been one even back in his AJC days. He always acts like he knows a lot about the game but in fact he is just another mouth for the Braves. And he always thinks he is smarter than everyone else.

  37. Can anyone tell me the logic behind Markakis winning a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove???? Wouldn’t Acuna been more logical as a Silver Slugger or Soto or Cain or Harper even?

    We keep talking about a GG and SS winner like he’s cheap hamburger. Something just doesn’t seem right about that.

  38. That was my favorite Byrds lineup. They actually became a good live act and showed amazing creativity on the albums, even if virtually no one recognized the genius involved at the time.

    Skip Battin wrote the song, “Citizen Kane”: nuff said.

  39. Clarence White on guitar? Bluegrass flatpicker who crossed over and later invented the B-bender telecaster.

    Here he is playing with some bluegrass royalty:

  40. @59 I think the problem many fans have with Nick Markakis is that he’s average. His signing was (more or less) a necessary evil because someone had to be a competent warm body in RF and the money needed to be spent on a baseball player. Therefore, Nick Markakis is a Brave. Many were counting down to his contract expiration, and then he went and had a contract year. Naturally, there’s going to be unfair backlash at even the notion of the Braves retaining him to be the starting RF.

    Of course, it also doesn’t really help that there are actually people who think Markakis is somehow the heart of the Braves and think it’s absurd to consider moving on from him. I don’t think these people are actually Braves fans but just people DOB pays to follow/RT/comment on his tweets. If the Braves are sub .500 next season, they’re not losing any sleep.

    Markakis had a good season even if he did wear down. It’s just that at his age, what’s a reasonable expectation for him next season? Is it 1 WAR? Is it 2? Should he be starting for the Braves? Is it unreasonable to consider him a 4th OF after all these opinion awards?

    I hate that this is even becoming a controversy because this team really deserves better in RF.

  41. I don’t think we can actually describe Markakis as “average.” He had a nice year last year — but it was worth nearly as many WAR as his previous three years combined. Between his iffy range and his lack of power, he’s basically a below-average player if he hits below .290. And he’ll be 35 next week. He’s gonna keep hitting below .290.

  42. I hate that it’s become a controversy because you have a large swath of fans that aren’t real excited that our RF has cleaned up in certain award categories. But for being one of the most vanilla, boring, milquetoast players we’ve had, Nick is so divisive because of the 4-year deal, not ever trading him, then a strong but difficult properly evaluate year in the last year of his deal. He’s a weird guy, Ace.

  43. @67 I agree with you and think he’d be an above average 4th OF and PH. Not for $12M AAV though.

    But he’s got “iffy range” and a GG and a “lack of power” and a SS. Is this an indictment of the awards or the rest of the OFs in the league? Is he getting the SS because he nearly led the league in hits?

  44. @67 And this is what infuriates me reading DOB’s twitter (which I should know better). There’s this alternate reality where Markakis is somehow seen as better than average going on over there, and people who are rightly irritated at DOB’s nudges that the Braves are going to stick with Nick are meeting the fury of… Nick Markakis’s fan club?? GTFO. Nick ought to be happy to be on the Braves roster next year let alone in the starting lineup.

  45. There’s just a lot of weight given to Nick’s leadership, consistency, and steady-as-she-goes approach, which people are going to like up and above the statistical analysis. Which is fair, though I disagree.

  46. If we bring in Realmuto and Donaldson for right-handed power, Nick ‘s bat would fit nicely in the lineup. And in that case we’re committing what, 80 mil over two years for three players?

  47. I think the awards and whether or not we should keep him are two separate things that a lot of people are needlessly lumping together.

    He had an outstanding season which came pretty much out of nowhere. He was an integral part of a division championship team, and without his efforts, we probably don’t win it. He was among the league leaders in hits and batting average all the way through. Whether or not he deserved the Silver Slugger, I don’t know, but he certainly at least deserved major consideration for it.

    However, he’s 35 years old, this year appears to be a complete outlier, and we have a chance to seriously upgrade the position. We should do that. The likelihood that he will ever produce a season like this year again seems very low…to me, at least.

    Giving him another contract would be a mistake, and acknowledging that fact shouldn’t do anything to deter from the season he had. On the other hand, just because he had a great season shouldn’t mean that everyone should be OK with having him jammed down their throat. You should be able to separate the two things.

    As far as DOB, Nick is the type of player that he seems to completely fall in love with on occasion. In these instances, I’m never sure if he’s trying to get across what he thinks the front office opinion is or if he just likes covering the player and wants him re-signed for that reason.

    Finally, I’m sure there’s some push from inside the clubhouse to re-sign him, so that might be something of a factor, at least with DOB.

  48. Is this an indictment of the awards or the rest of the OFs in the league?

    Both. I’m sure a lot of the voters just straight up like Markakis and “the way he plays the game” — and also want to stick it to the stat nerds.

  49. Well, since what Bill James said is only a couple degrees removed from what some sabers actually think, and the players have perceived sabers to have always thought what James thinks, then can you blame them?

  50. They voted before James’ comments, but yeah, generally, I feel like I can blame people for cherry-picking the dumbest arguments they can find and turning them into straw men to beat up on because it’s convenient.

  51. Gold Gloves are basically devoid of meaning. Nick Markakis has a strong arm and looks like he knows what he’s doing out there, but he’s an old guy, he’s slow, and his defensive metrics have been mediocre to bad for years and years and years.

    By far the best year of his career was in 2008, a decade ago, when he was 24. Since then, from 2009-2018, he’s at -22 defensive runs per B-Ref, and -20.1 defensive runs per UZR.

  52. @76 Read the second part of my first sentence which was my attempt to account for the timing. They’ve thought people like Bill James think that since Bill James came around.

  53. ‘devoid of meaning’
    ignore the greening
    just ask and they’ll award
    now be a good Greek and fall on your sword.

  54. Cubs are open to trading Kris Bryant. This offseason is so unique in the sense that every player on the market via trade or free agent could conceivably be acquired. It’s not like the last 3 years where “we weren’t in our competitive window” or we didn’t have the money or the prospect capital.

  55. I tell you this, though, if they do trade Bryant, they played this perfectly. The whole “don’t hold the guy down for the two weeks because he may not re-sign with you” doesn’t really become an issue if you trade him for a haul halfway through.

  56. I’ll believe they have money when they actually spend it. I’ve got this feeling that the payroll won’t touch $120 million by opening day. There’s just a lot of emphasis on trades and trading from the pile of prospects rather than spend and spending from the pile of executive bonus money.

  57. Big concert up in these parts tonight…

    Full symphony orchestra plus 140 person chorus…

    Just the one work…guess?

    Have fun, we will.

  58. @64–I had tickets last week to the Roger McGuinn and Chis Hillman Sweetheart of the Rodeo 50th anniversay tour. Marty Stuart is part of the act and he’s playing Clarence White’s original B-bender telecaster. Much tribute paid to Gram Parsons in the show.

    Alas, I got sick and couldn’t go.

    (I’m happy to discuss music on this blog when it’s from my era and something I like—but as you see my era is a long time ago!)

  59. @85 I saw Marty Stuart a few weeks ago. He called his lead guitarist “one of the best guitar players in the world.” I dare say I would put Marty in that same category. He was playing a B-bender for most of the show.

    When I was leaving I overheard a young country bro refer to him as “some old dude in an ugly blue suit.”

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