Rotation Preview

A lot has been made of what the Braves did not do with the rotation, whether it was landing a front of the rotation starter or even re-signing Anibal Sanchez, the Braves return lots of starting pitching from last year’s team.

The Locks

Mike Foltynewicz – Folty broke out last year, finishing with a 2.85 ERA in 183 IP and a 3.9 fWAR. That WAR total was good for 18th in baseball, ahead of noted Aces(TM) Dallas Keuchel, David Price, Marco Gonzales, and Charlie Morton. He’s been shut down, though, since the beginning of Spring Training, so it seems like he could miss some time in the regular season. But we have so much depth right now that he could take a month off and we’d probably be fine.

Kevin Gausman – Gausman would be best described as an inconsistent pitcher from year-to-year pitching in the toughest division in baseball to pitch in before he came to Atlanta. And it was an almost instant transformation going from one of the worst defenses in baseball to one of the best. After 124 IP for Baltimore in which he produced a 4.43 ERA and 1.379 WHIP in 21 starts, his 2.87 ERA and 1.140 WHIP in 10 starts across 59.IP seemed to have proven the Braves right that he would pitch better for us. Overall, he finished 37th in fWAR. He’s made at least 30 starts the last 3 years, so he’s a decent bet to see a full season in the rotation.

Sean Newcomb – Another guy that probably isn’t getting the recognition he deserves as already one of the game’s better starters. He finished 41st in FWAR, and 29th in K/9 last year, and while we’ve been talking about him for a long time since his trade from the Angels, he’s still only 25 years old. He finished last year with a 3.90 ERA and 4.14 FIP. As mentioned, his K rate is one of the best in baseball amongst starters.

But we all know his problem: walks. He was second-worst among qualified starters last year, just behind another hard-throwing young pitcher, Lucas Giolito, and just ahead of Julio Teheran. He did get a little better last year, even, lowering his BB/9 from 5.13 to 4.45. But 3 Braves starters finished in the bottom 13 of qualified starters (Folty being the other one), and the Braves in return fired their pitching coach even after a mostly respectful performance by the staff, so you’d have to think this area will improve staff-wide. Has it worked so far? Hard to tell, but after finished second from the bottom in total walks last year, they are 9th in fewest walks allowed this spring.

Julio Teheran – If anyone says they can guarantee you a financial return or a Julio Teheran prediction, be very leery of that person. Overall, is Teheran is considered a back-end starter making back-end money, then he’s about where you’d like him to be. While it’s not particularly exciting for him to be making another Opening Day start, it’s not like he’s going to be sharing game 1 of a playoff series responsibilities like your other Opening Day starters. He doesn’t appear to be the 3+ WAR starter we thought he would become, but he’s a candidate to get you about a 2 WAR, sub-4 ERA, 175+ innings pitched season this year. But with a young staff, it’s very important that he’s exceptionally durable. He’s made 30 starts six years in a row. And while he’s not the 200+ IP horse he was earlier in his career — and frankly, that might be the reason he’s in the position he’s in — he’s still someone that is a fixture in a rotation of otherwise volatile assets.

Fighting For the Last Spots

Touki Toussaint – Speaking of volatile assets, what do you expect from this 22-year old this year? ZiPS has him pitching 153 innings, a 4.17 ERA, and a 1.6 fWAR. He could do that, he could struggle completely, or he could be lights out. I would bet against him being much better than his ZiPS projection considering his walk rate though: he walked 6.52 BB/9 in his 29 inning debut last year. It’s gotten better in Spring Training this year (2 BB in 14 IPs), but in return, he’s been hit a little harder (12 H in those 14 IPs). We shall see, but it’s very possible Touki is both tantalizing and enigmatic, and he may benefit from some more refinement in the minor leagues at some point.

Kyle Wright – It didn’t seem that he was almost a lock to make the rotation out of Spring Training, but between Folty and Gausman’s injuries and his dazzling performance, it looks like you can pencil him in. He has absolutely looked the part in Spring Training, striking out 16 against two walks in 12 IP. Our #2 prospect, Jim Callis from MLB.com thinks he could be our best starter this year:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do9NYeE_kwU

Whether or not he gets anywhere close to that, my interest is piqued. He’s hitting 100 MPH, he looks polished, on point, and he has 3 pitches that he can locate for strikes. Not sure if he can handle a full season, but whatever he can do, I’m optimistic that it’ll be enough to win.

Max Fried – And Fried is probably a good example of the front office’s rationale. Whether it’s Fried or Folty or Wright, or whomever, whoever takes the rubber is probably a good bet to be better than just about anyone else the other team throws. And whether Fried pitches out of the pen or he’s needed in the rotation, he can get outs. In 59.2 career innings over the last two years, he has a 3.32 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 10 K/9, including a 2.94 ERA in 33.2 IP last year. He’s another guy, though, that’s been bitten by walks, as his 4.8 BB/9 won’t cut it either.

Other Potential Difference Makers

Luiz Gohara – Hard to say here right now. Injuries and weight control have been his issue. But he’s a lefty throwing 98 with a good slider, so while Kyle Wright is doing his best to prove me wrong, he was my pick for breakout candidate for 2019. Still only 22, Gohara will undoubtedly benefit from getting reassigned to minor league camp early in Spring Training and getting on a regimen to find some consistency and success. He did all of the right things before Spring Training losing 30+ pounds, so I think we’ll start hearing more about him as he gets some innings under his belt as Gwinnett starts their season.

Bryse Wilson – Wilson has been getting a lot of innings in Spring Training — so far more than any pitcher other than Touki — so the Braves are definitely giving him an opportunity to make an impact. And while he may not crack the roster as a stater, Mark Bowman speculates he might break camp in the pen. I’m not sure, though, that I would rush him a whole lot. He’s only had 18 starts above A ball, and at the age of 21, they shouldn’t be looking to rush him to the majors with how much pitching we currently have. I would expect him to spend the majority of the season in AAA, though he may get a couple-few starts at the big league level.

How the Starts Could Divy Out:

Folty – 27
Gausman – 29
Newcomb – 28
Teheran – 28
Touki – 20
Wright – 20
Fried – 5
Gohara/Wilson – 5

Of course, someone could get injured, or someone like Fried, Gohara, or Wilson could break out and demand more starts. But like I said, I think the Braves probably feel like between the first 7 names on this list, there’s a pretty good bet that they can throw someone out there almost every night that is good enough to win, especially with our offense and defense. You’ve got at least one Cy Young candidate in the rotation, and at least one Rookie of the Year candidate, and everyone else in the rotation other than Teheran has #2 upside. I’m excited.

169 thoughts on “Rotation Preview”

  1. I…. I…. I totally forgot about Mike Soroka. I started writing this thinking I was going to project the opening day rotation, then decided to just turn it into a preview for the whole season, and I think in so doing, he just got forgotten as I added names to a whole season outlook.

    If you want to give me the benefit of the doubt that I thought he wouldn’t be effective this year, I appreciate that, but I think he at least makes 5-10 starts, unless he’s much worse off than he indicated in his recent interview.

    We have a lot of pitching.

  2. And this is of course why signing a non Ace makes no sense. Even signing Anibal for 2 years made no sense. There aren’t enough starts to go around as it is and signing a mid-rotation guy just blocks the stud prospects. I know injuries and non performance will happen, and you could certainly argue that trading 2-3 of these guys for a Kluber is the optimal strategy, but again, short of an ace, I’d rather just see which of our guys is going to turn into an ace.

  3. It’s funny. I was going to write about Mike Fast, the pitch framing stuff, Flowers being considered an excellent pitch framer, and why that was all going to lead to a big pitching year for the team, but the post was getting long. And now I’m seeing on Twitter that Fangraphs have updated their WAR calculations, presumably including pitch framing. And Flowers has now been increased to a 5.6 fWAR in 2017:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9134&position=C

  4. I’d rather just see which of our guys is going to turn into an ace.

    That’s really where I’m at. It happened last year (Folty is an ace; stop hating), and someone else will probably turn a corner. Either Gausman will put in a full season as he did after the deadline for us (i.e. ace material), Newcomb will cut down on his walks, or Fried, Touki, Wright, Gohara, or Wilson will show out.

    They so clearly think they have a rotation full of potential aces and a wildcard in Teheran that they don’t feel obligated to pay for a proven ace, and I can live with that. They do need Kimbrel, though. They don’t get a pass on that.

  5. @5 That’s wild. Just don’t think I can believe that on Flowers. If he was that good at stealing strikes, we’d have had a lot fewer walks last year. I could swear we got screwed on an awful lot of strike calls based upon the Gameday box.

  6. @7 I am still really insistent that Fried needs to get more starts than your projection. He is gonna turn in a lot of results like today’s if he could just get the chance. Don’t we think that, under any circumstance, Bryse will be better than Luke??? With Folty and Soroka on the shelf, we need to have all of Wright, Touki, Fried, and Wilson on the roster. I can’t believe we’re not smart enough to rotate through, say, a six man rotation and let the guys relieve on their off-day bullpen days. Especially in April when most times the SP will only go 5 anyway.

    Oh, and, as good as Parsons has been, I’m gonna pull a “Sam” on you and tell you his Oppo Qual is 6.6….. Even if Sobotka starts at AAA, we’ve got to have a few guys on short leashes like S. Freeman and Carle (not including Luke).

  7. Gohara..I remember the first pitch he threw in the major leagues – a lovely big, slow curve that locked the knees. Also his second game when the gun started at 101 and went on up to 107. There was an awkward silence all round – could we believe our luck? – then one of the booth guys said, hesitantly, must be the gun?

    Maximum Fried…Alex, is this a reference to the quality of the cooking at the Varsity?

    Flowers uses a V-10 Viper as his daily driver, Including to the grocery store. Such histrionics make for razor sharp framing.

  8. “We got so much pitching, some idiot over at Braves Journal couldn’t even remember them all.”

    I definitely agree about Fried. All the talk right now is about Touki and Wright, and Wright is well-deserved, and Touki is very exciting. But Fried absolutely deserves to have more of a presence. And with today’s outing, maybe they’re stretching him out to be in the rotation. And he’s a lefty. I love my lefties.

  9. @10 I thought Gohara could touch 98 but sits 95-96, but you’d probably know better than I do. Of course, he was touching 98 as a 20-year old. Gosh, I’m just dying to see what he can do with a healthy season at this juncture.

  10. If he was that good at stealing strikes, we’d have had a lot fewer walks last year.

    Perhaps that was further reason to dismiss Hernandez. That we were that good at stealing strikes last year, and yet we still walked the league.

    The pitch framing/strike stealing thing is definitely a part of their strategy. Focusing on pitching, focusing on catchers who frame well, not trading for Realmuto, dismissing our pitching coach, bidding up for Mike Fast, it all connects, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if I sound like a fanboy, I like our pitching. A lot.

  11. Suzuki was among the worst in the game at framing last year and Flowers had a slow start to finish barely above average. He’s healthy at the moment so I wouldn’t worry about it. McCann was an excellent framer when young and apparently is putting in the work to get back some of that.

    By the by, late Boomer who loves soccer

  12. I know Newcomb has great stuff but given his control issues, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his starts drop to the low 20’s – either because of injury or ineffectiveness. Maybe he’ll turn a corner, but I’m still not convinced, yet.

    In the bullpen, I don’t understand why Sam Freeman could have such a horrible year last year and still be on the team. The guy had a 4.29 ERA and a WHIP of 1.45. He’s 31 years old and has had a few good years, but I don’t see him getting much better going forward. I hope I’m wrong on both accounts.

  13. Sam Freeman would only be on the team because O’Day, Minter, Dayton, and Sobotka are all either injured or Sobotka’s lost control of his limbs again.

  14. I understand how/why Rob put together the “locks” category, but I’d take the under (way under) on starts by Gausman.

  15. @20 If the lag in FA means anything, I hope it means that teams will be more interested in offering these extensions and players will be more interested in signing them. It’s hard to root for a team when the guys a fan particularly likes move from team to team so there is little sense of who one can root for other than the team itself. All of our HOFers from the 90s/00s stayed with the team nearly their entire career. That’s one of the things that made the team so fun to root for. I hope the collapse of FA brings the return of the lifer. (Note: I’m talking 90% here, having Aaron spend a couple of late years in MIL is not a big deal or Glavine on the Mets).

  16. @12, I definitely wanted to give the name of one Atlanta institution to a man I hope will be another – I wouldn’t use the word to describe the quality of the Varsity’s cooking, so much as the métier.

    Long as I live, I’ll never find anything better than their onion rings, although the less of them I have, the longer I’ll live.

  17. Eternal strife
    indulgence/our life
    go for what’s there
    the other ethereal, He wouldn’t dare.

  18. Brandon Lowe, a versatile prospect for the Rays with 148 PAs in his rookie season last year, has signed a 6YR/$24M deal with two club options.

    Alright, I’m so ready for some Braves extensions. There are so many players we could lock up past free agency.

  19. I don’t believe Gohara or Wilson will make a start for Atlanta this season, and I’m not sure Touki gets anywhere near 20. I think it’d be more likely that Fried and Sororka see 15 starts apiece.

    What path do you see Touki picking up so many starts? Prolonged 6 man rotation?

  20. @26 I wouldn’t extend anyone, outside of Acuna and/or Folty, yet. Next offseason would probably be a better time to start doing extensions, when there’s a bit more clarity as to whom some of these players are.

  21. Btw, anyone see the Fulmer news? Tommy John. I remember when the Braves were heavily interested in him, and it’s really good a deal never materialized. That’s probably why teams don’t typically extend young pitchers, too.

    Another little Tigers blurb I caught, former Brave Dustin Peterson was cut. He had a good spring for them, too.

  22. Next set of FG projections has the Braves at #9 at 3B and #6 at C. If Donaldson fully returns to form then we may even end up higher at 3B.

    Looking at FG’s articles and statistics on framing, it’s pretty obvious that Flowers and McCann are both framing darlings. And Suzuki is not. Also more evidence why Ross is the ideal definition of backup catcher – good framer/defender with a few HRs added in.

  23. I’m glad that Henry Aaron got to finish his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, since he came up with Milwaukee.

    But if Craig Kimbrel goes to the Brewers, I’m going to be highly annoyed. There is no planet on which they should be able to outbid us for one of the greatest Atlanta Braves ever.

  24. @34. Exactly. The Brewers already have an elite pen, and are still looking to add. Meanwhile, we have Sam Freeman, Luke Jackson, and closer by committee (with two quasi-injured closers). And a lower payroll than last year despite being rid of all that dead money. It’s infuriating.

  25. The Brewers are doing what I’d wish the Braves would do: Make opportunistic plays on high-upside talent, even if it’s not a perfect fit or has an associated cost. They did it last year with Cain and Yelich, they did it again with Grandal, and they might do it yet again with Kimbrel. None of those acquisitions could be considered The Perfect Fit (TM) (the Brewers had three starting outfielders when they got Cain and Yelich, and they traded a top prospect for Yelich), but they were all good players acquired for reasonable prices who made their team better regardless.

    The Braves kind of did that with Donaldson, but ever since they’ve been waiting for the fucking-A deal to fall into their laps, and they’re fielding a worse team for it.

  26. The Braves don’t have to get Kimbrel, but they badly need at least one reliever. Is there any reason we shouldn’t be able to get at least one proven reliever for Wilson or Allard?

  27. Ryan Flaherty opted out of his contract with the Indians, so brace yourself for that inevitable signing.

  28. Sounds like Duval may get cut and we will sort through the scrap heap for an OFer.
    Peanut is preparing a “Someone the Braves have long coveted and really wants to be here…” article

  29. I think Gohara profiles better as a reliever anyway. But he needs to prove he can get Triple A hitters out again before that.

  30. Ya know, it’s really hard to lose a trade when the best player you give up is Matt Wisler, but somehow we managed to do so.

  31. Part of me hopes the Brewers sign Kimbrel for one year and $10 million, just so Bowman has to explain why that was too much for the team to pay.

  32. Josh Tomlin it is! Whee!!!

    The Braves just effectively traded Kimbrel for Tomlin if the Brewers sign Kimbrel.

  33. We should be signing washed-up vets to minor league contracts all day. I don’t see Josh Tomlin as particularly different than Josh Collmenter. What’s annoying is not that we guaranteed that we would pay Josh Tomlin an extremely small amount of money, it’s that Tomlin’s our biggest acquisition in months.

  34. “Tomlin is someone the Braves have long coveted and really wants to be here. He is blown away by the talent here. That is coming from someone who was in a recent World Series and just left the Brewers!”

  35. Ya know, it’s really hard to lose a trade when the best player you give up is Matt Wisler, but somehow we managed to do so.

    We traded a B+/C outfield prospect and a noone-but-his-mom-had-heard-of-him lottery ticket arm for one of the better starting CF’s in baseball at the time, and the guy that turned out to be valuable was Charlie fucking Morton.

  36. One of the greatest things about baseball is that if you live long enough you’ll see just about everything, including the phrase “one of the better starting CF’s in baseball at the time” accurately applied to Nate McLouth.

  37. @12

    For Gohara read Newcombe…the pitch is still crystal clear in the memory, the hurler apparently not so. Ah well, I’ll take that.

  38. In 15 innings with the Brewers this spring, Tomlin allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits, 3 of which were homers.

    In other words, so we don’t have a young pitcher anywhere in the system capable of posting an ERA in the high 4’s to low 5’s?

    I mean the move itself isn’t atrocious, in a vacuum. The fact that we have a rotation full of options though, and we sign some “depth” there; while we have a bullpen full of questions, and do nothing, is puzzling, at best. Frankly, it’s a bad look that they’re not negotiating with Kimbrel. I mean didn’t we commit to Nick in RF again so we’d have the flexibility to do other things?

  39. @51 Ditto.

    Selfishly, I wish the guy would play into his 50s. There maybe isn’t a more perfect way for him to cap his career though than in this series, in a M’s uniform, in his home county. Bravo on a great career, Ichiro.

  40. The thing about baseball that makes it such a cool game is there is such diverse skillsets that can make you both an elite and exciting player. Knuckleballers, submariners, extreme power pitchers, 5-tool players that do it all, switch pitchers, switch hitters, defensive wizzes, and then Ichiro, a slap-hitting guy that can still get a hold of one, plays Gold Glove defense, and has a rifle for an arm. And he also plays the game with the traditional Japanese stoicism that endears him to anyone who watches him. And he was truly an elite player, an inner circle Hall of Famer, maybe one of the top 75 players in the history of the game.

    He was special. I wish I had enjoyed him more as I get older and appreciate the great players who put their own flavor on the game.

  41. I don’t know why you guys are upset about us signing Josh Tomlin. The guy knows how to win. Despite having a career ERA of 4.77, he has 61 wins. That is only 2 less than Kimbrel, Venters, and Vizzy combined. Just think how many wins he would have if had a decent ERA and peripherals.😁

  42. I’m pretty much ok with the Braves signing anyone they want to minor league deals. Zero risk, slightly greater than zero reward.

    But yea, if we’re not in on Kimbrel at this point it’s bordering on professional malpractice.

  43. Guys, the Braves are totally in on Kimbrell. As long as he’s willing to play for less than he’s worth. That’s fair, right? I mean, it’s not like the Braves really need a top tier relief pitcher, right? Right???

  44. Just as a general rule, let’s try to keep the gratuitous cuss words to a minimum only for when Jose Urena plunks our star or other similarly upsetting situations.

  45. Nate McLouth’s hitting ability really fell off a cliff in 2010.

    I fear that the same thing has happened to Duvall.

  46. Beat writers are comparing this to signing Anibal Sanchez. This annoys me. The difference is that Anibal had actually been a good pitcher at some points during his career. Tomlin in his prime was a #5 starter.

  47. Yeah, even Josh Collmenter, also at one point a good pitcher, is generous. He might be Cristhian Martinez if Driveline Baseball has reinvented him. He’s filler. Whatever.

  48. Well, uhh, Newcomb…?

  49. This is concerning. Is he this fragile?

  50. It’s entirely normal for high-quality players his age to be treated like this during Spring Training.

  51. @65 The only way to surprise me at this point, Alex, is if you actually sign someone to a major league contract before opening day.

  52. I wish Ichiro had participated in the ASG’s Home Run Derby. He might have surprised a few people.

  53. Practically the only thing we don’t have a small/meaningless sample of in Spring Training is people’s tendency to read way, way too much into small/meaningless samples of things that do or don’t happen Spring Training.

  54. Unlike regular season games where a team charters a flight and stays in an opponent’s city for 3 day stretches, ST games are out-and-back trips that could easily mean 5-6 hours on a bus for the sake of playing one game. That’s why all the teams have slowly vacated central Florida to be closer to each other and the Braves won’t be playing there past this year. I mean when’s the last time anyone here worked a job where they had to commute between 4 and 6 hours on alternating days?

    https://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/baseball/os-sp-atlanta-braves-leaving-disney-spring-training-0317-story.html

  55. @74 You’ve got to be willing to allow young pitchers to work through the transition. We didn’t sign any veterans for the rotation, and unless you’d rather sit and watch Newcomb do that every 5 days… I don’t know what else one could expect.

  56. @77 Yeah, just a rough day for him. It happens to every pitcher at some point and like was brought up earlier, the travel situation is not comparable to regular season travel and prep

  57. @68 — It’s also cute for AA to declare “Service time won’t be a consideration; we’re taking the guys we think give us the best chance to win” when he transparently manipulated Acuna’s service time this time last year.

    It’s more trying to put a positive spin on “We didn’t acquire any depth this offseason, so we’ve backed ourselves into using young guys no matter what transpires.”

  58. As soon as a pitcher is clearly ready for the majors, it pays to get value out of him as soon as possible, whether via trade or running him out there. Service time considerations don’t matter as much when the guy could implode at any time and probably will before free agency. With position players, you can usually afford the risk of playing service time games.

    So, yeah, AA is being disingenuous here. But IMO the benefit of motivating prospects to show their stuff over the next week makes it worth it.

  59. Newcomb has walked 15 guys and struck out just 9. I think he has all 3 option years, so they may in fact send him to Gwinnett.

  60. Chien-Ming Wang..

    Just released on Netflix a new full length documentary on a Taiwanese pitcher who came to the US young as the country’s best and quickly worked his way up to getting the Yankees attention where he soon had back to back 19 win seasons,

    Then he broke a foot and developed major shoulder issues. His sinker disappeared. Cut, he went the rounds trying to get back to the Majors ending up a few years later with Gwinnett who released him mid-2015, there may be more. Wife and two young children, tough going.

    Nice guy, good film.

  61. I haven’t weighed in yet on the signing of Josh Tomlin and now that I think about it I’ll just pass.

  62. I can’t believe we’re signing washed up nobodies like Tomlin and cutting guys we need to develop, like Sam Freeman.

  63. Boy, Chien-Ming Wang sure was good for a few years there. He was also a real feather in the cap of the Yankees’ player development and international scouting staff — a relatively unheralded prospect who starred on the biggest stage in the world.

  64. Also, Sam Freeman is 31, he was drafted in 2008, he’s pitched seven major league seasons, and he’s appeared in 563 games as a professional across the majors and minors. So I’m not honestly sure how much the guy can “develop.”

    Weirdly, he’s a lefty who’s much better at getting RHB out. So maybe the team wants a lefty who can kill lefty hitters.

  65. Had intended on going to the last ST game at Disney, then the first in Northport, but we instead decided to go to the game tonight, then the one in Northport. So I’ve now made it to 4 games this year, a new personal best. It’s hard getting to that many games in one month.

  66. Tomlin’s periphs in small sample were pretty good considering he wasn’t going to end up being carried on their roster. If he was working on stuff he learned at Driveline Baseball, which is legitimately a revolutionary baseball development program, then you weren’t going to see zeroes in Spring Training. Nothing wrong with that. If they think he’s made an adjustment as a result of very forward-thinking development, then let it play out. You’re certainly more likely to find a reclamation project that actually works that way vs. just grabbing a journeyman who had good stats in 10 Spring Training innings. If that was the case, we’d carry that De Paula guy.

    Personally, it would make me happy to know that AA is forward-thinking enough to be in communication with Rob Friedman at Driveline asking who could be a sleeper. Odds are Tomlin is not, but it’s a good process.

  67. @100 Just thinking out loud about the last guy on the 40 man roster possibilities. I didn’t realize shreve’s control was as bad as it; maybe Atlanta won’t want him if the regime really is emphasizing throwing strikes.

  68. Brad Miller for the bench, thoughts?

    It’d give the club a LH bat off the bench, with some pop. He had a good spring. Also, he’d be another swiss army knife type.

  69. Flexibility intensifies
    gives us management the chance to incentivize
    you’ve got a week
    find something you can do, just leave out the pique.

  70. I sincerely hope “financial flexibility” sticks around as a meme, especially if the team does poorly this year. Maybe fans at SunTrust can have Braves jerseys with that as the name on the back, because we know Financial Flexibility, not Michael Brantley or whoever, is the real MVP for the 2019 Atlanta Braves.

  71. Why release Freeman and keep Jackson, especially if Freeman has reverse splits? I’d rather have Shreve than either Freeman or Jackson (or Tomlin). I recall we let him go for almost nothing. He and Shae were the Clouse and Burrows of yesteryear.

  72. I see today’s game is at 6:05 PM and as it happens I will be traveling to Atlanta from PCB during that time. Does anyone know any radio stations along the way (especially Alabama) where I might be able to pick up the game?

  73. I think Freeman, being under arb, had to be cut by opening day or his salary would be guaranteed for the year. Jackson doesn’t have that issue.

    Not that I’m saying Jackson doesn’t need to go as well….

  74. This has the power to make or break my opinion of DOB. If Bowman counters in a little bit with, “Braves have not even realized Kimbrel is a free agent, so therefore couldn’t possibly be in on him. AA says team has all the pitchers it needs for the foreseeable future into the mid 2020’s #GOBRAVES” I may just… go sit on the side of the interstate and bawl.

  75. The Braves could be saying they’re in on Kimbrel to DOB just to make it appear like they’re trying. Or they could be in on Kimbrel when DOB asks and then be out by the time Peanut asks. Or they could find it in their interest to downplay their pursuit to Peanut when in fact they are still negotiating.

    I really don’t get the desire to shoot the messenger. If your problem is that DOB is a jerk on Twitter or Peanut is a bad writer, then say so.

  76. That’s really what it’s about. They’re just doing their jobs.

    Donaldson with a nice play at 3B. Showed good range.

    Personally, I wouldn’t like the bus rides from Orlando to the Tampa Bay Area either.

  77. Unless you’re travelling with that super hot girl with daddy issues that you dated for like three weeks maybe, back in the 90’s, long bus trips are generally bad ideas regardless of the reason you’re taking them.

  78. Wes Parson’s spring:

    13.1 scoreless innings
    15 K’s
    1 BB (!!!)

    Yes, yes, Spring Training results don’t matter, but when you convert someone to a reliever at age 26 and they’re throwing darts, you release Sam Freeman and carry him.

  79. @120 I hope Parsons is the answer to dropping Freeman and Kimbrel is the reason for dropping Jackson. I could live with the testing and uncertainty in the rotation if Kimbrel was at the back end.

  80. Matt Joyce on a minor-league deal.

    The Joyce from a year or two ago (left-handed power-hitting outfielder with a good eye, can fake center in small doses) would have been a near-perfect addition. Who knows if he still has it in him, but being released twice in a single Spring Training doesn’t bode well.

  81. There’s no reason to spend tons of money on a closer when you won’t be leading many games in the late innings…flexibility.

  82. When you look at today’s box score, don’t look at Touki’s and Winkler’s lines. At least not if you are anxiety-prone.

    I’m old and I’ve been around; I know that spring training stats don’t matter. So I’m not worrried. Not at all. Nothing to see here.

    But if AA asks for my opinion, I say give Kimbrell all the money. Or perhaps save some of that money for Keuchel.

  83. I think Josh Tomlin might be the answer. Certainly better than Touki or Winkler. Although Touki may have just pitched himself back to AAA for a while.

    On the other hand….. Acuna Matata!!! It means no worries.

  84. @122 Well, Joyce might be a step up from Duvall if he can’t recover his hitting ability. At least Joyce gives us a LH PH on the bench and can play defense. 89 WRC+ is better than Duvall has been for a year and a half.

  85. Well, at least they swapped out the RH sucktitude on the bench for some LH sucktitude. There’s that.

  86. Joyce is interesting. With his power and walk rate he has some value if he can hit around 250. Of course if he hits 208 like last year, we might as well keep Duvall.

  87. Joyce gives us more Financial Flexibility that Duvall, so you can guess how that is going to go.

  88. Anyone notice that, at the same time the Braves traded with the Giants for Joyce, the Giants turned around and traded for Michael Reed. We should have kept Reed instead of any of the other options.

  89. In looking at Joyce’s splits, he should never bat against a lefty. When rosters expand next year he would theoretically be a good option as a 26th man. This year I’m not so sure. At least Markakis can hit some versus lefties.

  90. The Giants desperately need a righty to cover centerfield. Joyce just doesn’t fit their current configuration (the platoon in cf means they can’t put platoon bats, i.e., Matt Joyce, in the corners.)

  91. I’m thinking that between Camargo and Culberson, they can get by in April with the off days with the starters not getting much time off. A lefty-hitting RHP-masher who’s a butcher on defense is fine, IMO. Steamer has Joyce at a 102 wRC+, which undoubtedly is based on him hitting almost exclusively against righties.

    Duvall’s OF defense, I think, is less vital with the way the roster is constructed. Really need someone who can hit.

  92. @132 – I don’t know how you do much better than Reed did last year in the minors. It was puzzling to me that he never got a real chance in Atlanta. Letting him walk was one of those moves where I had to think the scouts knew something that no one else did. If he has a good season in San Francisco it will not be a good reflection on our scouts/ management.

  93. Anyone know if Duvall gets his full salary if he is on the 40-man roster or just on the 25-man roster? If we keep him and option him to AAA, does he still get paid his full salary?

    If we DFA him, I’m not sure anyone will pick him up anyway and he could be outrighted to AAA. Wherever he ends up, he can’t possibly expect anyone to give him a ML roster spot without proving himself at AAA first.

  94. @140 I think that’s why your original question won’t be an issue. I don’t think he gets a major league spot elsewhere, and he’s looking at proving himself in a minor league assignment anyway. So whether he wants to do that in Atlanta or elsewhere, the cost would be irrelevant. And if someone wants to give him a major league spot, well… good for them.

    Headed to CoolToday Park, another Atlanta Braves home with a corporate sponsorship name. We are a long ways from Turner Field. Though you could make the case that was also a corporate sponsorship name, since it technically is.

    Sobotka looks good for the last few outings. Parsons has looked great. Here’s my Sure To Be Inaccurate Pitching Staff Prediction:

    Teheran
    Newcomb
    Touki
    Wright
    Fried

    Vizzy
    Venters
    Winkler
    Biddle
    Sobotka
    Carle
    Parsons
    Tomlin

    That isn’t a great Opening Day roster, but you’ll probably see one of the three prospects switched out one-by-one by Folty and Gausman by at least the third week of the season. And then you have some hard decisions to make. One of them will undoubtedly be pitching well, so if/when Soroka is healthy, what happens? You are right back where you were when everyone is healthy: one spot for Fried, Wright, Touki, and Soroka or two with a six-man rotation.

    Wilson really belongs in AAA. He has far too few innings in AA or above. Let him spend the entire season in AAA.

    When Minter and O’Day return, I think we first Parsons optioned then Tomlin DFA’ed if he’s not pitching well. I could then see someone with options, even if they’re pitching well, get optioned like Sobotka or Carle. Short-term injury blips aside, it’s still a crowded staff.

  95. @143 That’s why I asked. Since Duvall has an option, does keeping him on the 40-man trigger his full salary or not? I would think he will be paid at the full rate for any days spent on the 25-man roster, but paid at the MiL standard for AAA work. This way they keep control of him and if he makes a comeback, he can be immediately promoted.

    Also, since Joyce is on a MiL deal, I suspect we might take 11 position players for the first few weeks until Joyce or Duvall get hot at AAA. If Pache and Waters go back to AA then Joyce, Duvall, Ortega, and Lamarre are the Gwinnett OF. Riley will play 3B and some OF.

    Also, apparently, Spring Training stats might mean something. It can’t be a coincidence that Touki and Winkler went down after their last outings. It’s hard to believe Winkler needs more time in the minors. He’s done awfully well in all his ML time up until he got exhausted late last year.

    I have though for a long time now that Duvall would end up at AAA to see if he can get straightened out.

  96. Also, apparently, Spring Training stats might mean something. It can’t be a coincidence that Touki and Winkler went down after their last outings.

    It’s not the stats (or the results), it’s the underlying performance (or the process).

  97. I wonder if there’s a prorated amount they would pay if they just kept him in AAA for a month to see if he could get his stroke back. And if they didn’t, they’d just release him.

  98. @145 Stats/results = performance. Why else would we have data nerds everywhere? If both those guys had been lights out in that one outing, neither would have been optioned. The only time results don’t matter is if the player was never going to make the team (Pache/Kazmar/AJax/Blanco/Wilkins) or if he had a sufficient track record that he was going to make the team regardless (Culberson/Donaldson/Camargo – basically same or worse stats as Duvall)). Elsewise, every result matters in Spring Training.

  99. I don’t think we can identify a “5th starter” per se. The opening rotation will be Teheran, Wilson, Wright, Newcomb, (Teheran), Fried. In that order because they want to throw RHs at Philly. I think the first pitcher down depends upon how well they have performed when Gausman or Folty first needs to pitch. If all four of Gaus, Folty, Minter, and O’Day go to the IL then both Tomlin and Jackson might make it. I still think there’s a chance they take 11 position players and 14 pitchers.

  100. Stats/results = performance.

    Over the long run…

    Why else would we have data nerds everywhere?

    You need a larger sample than one spring training outing for those nerds to tell you something that scouts who watched the game couldn’t have told you.

    If both those guys had been lights out in that one outing, neither would have been optioned.

    Put it to you this way: Wright also bombed in his last start. But he made the team. By your logic, he shouldn’t have.

    Elsewise, every result matters in Spring Training.

    The hottest of takes — or perhaps another way of saying that no result matters in Spring Training?

  101. Good thing we’ve got all that Financial Flexibility for mid-season upgrades. Game 2 technically counts as “mid-season,” right?

  102. The FO’s strategy of doubling down on the kid pitchers will either look brilliant or foolhardy in a couple months time. Until then can we not enjoy the hope of a new season? It’s strange that I have less faith in the holdovers in the rotation than I do the kids…

  103. Gausman starting today and then Bryse starting on Saturday leads me to believe Gaus will take Bryse’s spot two go rounds from now.

  104. @158 But then Bryse might just go to the pen and Jackson or Tomlin DFA’d.

    @152 so much BS. Wright and Touissant were almost equal overall, but Touki was less consistent. They had to take one and they chose Wright. That does not mean that Touki’s last start was not the deciding factor. And there was nothing in what I said that indicated Spring Training stats were not important. The fact that the importance of ST stats being dependent upon how much other history the player might have does not make them unimportant.

    And the facts of the recent demotions points to the fact that both one bad performance and “what have you done for me lately” have a lot more importance in ST than large sample sizes. Assuming Touki and Wright were both essentially tied until Touki’s last game meant that the tiebreaker went Wright’s way. One game matters even in ST.

    And, yeah, Duvall’s performance would normally indicate he should be released except for his historical performance and the hope he can repeat it is keeping him in the game even if it’s at the AAA level. In my opinion, Adam Jones would have been a better investment than either Duvall or Joyce. Jones, at his worst, would be better than either and represented a real bounceback type potential.

  105. Let me try to explain what I mean because I imagine you’ll agree, Roger. In a Spring Training setting, the stat line can only tell you so much. Part of that is the varying quality of competition, which you alluded to. Part of that is that strange things happen all the time in a small sample in baseball. You make weak contact, a couple balls find a hole, suddenly you’re hitting .400. It won’t last over a season but, hey, the stat line doesn’t lie, right? Or you make your pitch and the batter still gets a hold of it. Or you carve up a bunch of scrubs with stuff that wouldn’t get MLB hitters out. Or maybe your coach wanted you to work on something that day. All I’m saying is the evaluation of players takes this stuff into account. Yes, if a player has a larger sample size to fall back on, all the better. We can guess that Touki will probably walk more guys than Wright. Yes, results aren’t nothing. But evaluators are paying attention to the process because no one’s going to end up in enough situations where fluke hits, etc, will even out.

    Also, stop advocating that the Braves become the Orioles South! It’s bad enough that AA apparently kind of agrees with you.

  106. So at the end of ST, do you feel better, worse, or about the same about the Braves chances this season?

  107. @161 OK, I’m onboard with your logic. Assuming that the coaching staff was putting emphasis on these last few games to go all out for roster competition then the decisions based upon the performances make sense (i.e. assuming one of the other mitigating factors you mention is not involved).

    And, LOL, maybe 2014 version 96-win Orioles South….. Even a 47-win team has some talent – Gaus, Brach, O’Day, and even Jones are not exactly the bottom of the barrel players. And they have a lot of experience at winning. And I sure don’t want any of what’s leftover there now…

    And AA only agrees because that is where the “right deals” are or were…. No other team has been willing to make a “right deal” or give the Braves an AA-discount.

  108. Just going over some statistics at random and I’m impressed with what Carle has done this Spring. He may end up being a great “1st half” player. And he faced the 2nd highest oppo qual of all the rostered relievers. And Wilson’s results were really impressive too. Those two guys no doubt pitched their way onto the OD roster.

    With regards to the Wright/Touissant debate, Wright faced a higher oppo qual than Touki. No idea how much difference that might have made.

    Also, the three guys that faced the highest quality of opposition – Freddie, McCann, and Kakes – all had great numbers during the Spring. That makes me feel better about bringing McCann and Kakes back. Dansby had a great Spring. I sure hope Donaldson comes around and Culby/Camargo haven’t looked good.

    I am at least as optimistic about the season as I was at the end of last year. Still hoping for a late Kimbrel signing. The bullpen feels shaky.

  109. @162 If I follow the injury report, I’d have to let you know in the second week of April.

  110. @162 – Well, their #1 starter along with two of their big three relief pitchers are starting the season on the DL. That’s not exactly encouraging no matter what anyone says about how minor their injuries may be.

  111. @162 I feel better about the Braves right now than I did at the start of ST. The off-season is a long stretch where young players become sort of unknown commodities (again), so it has been reassuring to see:

    1) Acuna is still an MVP candidate coming into this season,

    2) Ozzie should still be an above average bat and the second half of last season was just a mechanical mess for him,

    3) Kyle Wright ought to be a seriously positive impact on this season,

    4) There are a half dozen other pitching prospects vying to make a similar impact on this season as well, and they could do it,

    5) It’s entirely possible that guys like Newcomb and Gausman could find themselves on the outside looking in at the rotation if they aren’t absolutely on top of their game this season (replaceable by Wilson, Fried, Toussaint, Soroka, Gohara),

    6) Teheran has had a good ST that has featured 94 mph (consistent 92-93 mph) and is there anybody on here who wouldn’t take good Teheran all day long with the knowledge and experience this guy has gained during his career? I just hope he doesn’t evaporate when the season begins,

    7) They have babied Donaldson through all of ST, so I’m expecting this guy to go Thanos on opposing pitchers, because obviously they believe tremendously in him enough to keep him in the bubble wrap until opening day,

    8) Freeman is now sandwiched in the lineup by past and present MVP candidates. What other lineups feature 3 MVP caliber hitters back-to-back-to-back? Should be good,

    9) FanGraphs seems to think we maybe have the better catcher between us and the Phillies. I LOL at that, but dat pitch framing! Oh, and McCann used to be the best at that, too. Looks like a trend with the front office,

    10) Christian Pache will make his debut some time this season. Count on it. He’s already probably the best CF defender in all of baseball,

    11) Saw good things from Alex Jackson and Austin Riley. Have to feel good about that too,

    I’d still like to see us add a bullpen arm via major league acquisition. I can suspend belief enough to think that the rotation is going to be above average even if we don’t know what half of it will consist of by July. There’s just a lot of talent there, and whomever the hot hands are this season will take care of the first 6 innings of most games. You just have to believe that. We just need the bullpen to close out the games.

  112. DS, I’m going to re-post your comment in the new thread, which is themed nicely to your comment.

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