State of the Minors (AAA) and Draft Day Thread!

The Gwinnett Stripers Offense

The Gwinnett Stripers are destroying baseballs. Every night, there are multiple lineup heroes and it’s quite refreshing to watch. Unfortunately for them, there are literally 0 spots available on the MLB squad unless someone like Johan Camargo gets optioned or the club decides to go to a 5-man bench. Let’s take a look at the noteworthy performers.

Ryan Lamarre- .843 OPS with 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 HRs.

Not a prospect anymore, but a serviceable 4th OF type that can play all 3 OF positions. That’s what the 30 year old has been doing for Gwinnett. He’s not in danger of getting called up anytime soon as there are several in front of him in the pecking order, but he’s the kind of guy that’s great to have around in the upper minors. Funny stat on Lamarre, he’s got 1.2 innings of pitching under his belt at the MLB level and was even clocked at 96!

Travis Demeritte.991 OPS with 15 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 HRs.

Who knew that when “The Trap” would leave Pearl, MS, a ballpark that is historically notorious for zapping power from the strongest of superheroes, he’d find his groove again. Demeritte was once a slick fielding infielder, but now he’s primarily a corner OFer (although he’s logged at least 200 innings at each of 2B, 3B, SS, RF, and LF). Demeritte is very much showing he’s ready for an MLB trial as he’s decreased his K-rate to below 25% while maintaining HUGE power and a BB-rate above 10%.

Sean Kazmar, Jr- .823 OPS with 7 doubles and 8HRs.

I’m guessing that Kazmar retires soon and it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a manager for one of the Braves MiLB affiliates. This is his 7th consecutive season in Gwinnett and he’s having his best year to date as a 34 year old. However, like Lamarre, he’s not remotely close to a call-up. This might be the biggest testament to the difference that the MLB ball is making at the AAA level.

Andres Blanco.887 OPS with 1 triple, 13 doubles and 9 HRs.

Blanco is a 35 year old infielder that’s a plug and play type, similar to what we saw in Martin Prado at the MiLB level. He was the Kazmar equivalent for the Phillies, but now he’s in Atlanta’s system and could have the same future as Kazmar. He’s breaking out this year…at 35. Like Lamarre, he’s also got some position player pitching experience at the MLB level. I don’t expect Blanco to be called up for any reason, but it’s my gut feeling that he’s in front of Kazmar in the pecking order.

Rafael Ortega– .894 OPS with 3 triples, 16 doubles, and 11 HRs.

So many breakouts at Gwinnett and 28 year old Ortega is right among them. Atlanta is his 6th organization in a 12 year career and his best minor league season to date. I’ve watched Ortega quite a bit on MiLBTV and I’ll say that it looks like he’s bought into the whole launch angle thing, and that could be the difference maker here (or it’s the ball). This is something to keep an eye on as it’s quite possible that we see an influx of late bloomers at the MiLB level over the course of the next few years with the aid that technology and streamlined training can now provide. With Duvall and Demeritte both in the system, I cannot imagine Ortega gets any real shot in MLB, unless something unfortunate happened to Ronald Acuna before Ender Inciarte had a chance to return.

Alex Jackson– .809 OPS with 2 doubles and 11 HRs.

I still have faith that AJax can be a good catcher. The Mariners need a swift kick in the nether regions for moving him off of C, but now that he’s back there, he looks pretty good behind the plate and it’s the bat that has catching up to do. I’ve also watched a TON of AJax on MiLBTV and there are 2 things I’ve noticed: the baby fat is gone replaced with hard muscle and his contact is REALLY loud. He’s going to strike out, but he’s also going to walk. In a rebuild year, Brian McCann wouldn’t be here and AJax would be splitting time with Tyler Flowers. Fortunately for us (and unfortunate for AJax), that’s not the case and he’s going to have a hard time getting MLB reps.

Adam Duvall– .997 OPS with 12 doubles, 2 triples, and 17 (you serious, Clark?) HRs.

Let’s be honest. If you were Adam Duvall, you’d be upset. Yes, he’s getting paid millions of dollars to play at AAA, but he does not deserve to be there. His walk rate is up. His K-rate is WAY down, and he has a SLG% of .634!!!! Duvall, a Type 1 Diabetic, has huge month to month splits and it looks as though when the heat cranks up, the numbers go down. That’s something to keep an eye on should he get the call back up to the bigs.

Thanks for reading! Long live, Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

111 thoughts on “State of the Minors (AAA) and Draft Day Thread!”

  1. New thread! Let’s talk draft and how much the Gwinnett Stripers are destroying the baseball!

  2. Nice summary Ryan. Appreciate the little T1D “hat tip” on Duvall. It’s crazy home many bombs Gwinnett is hitting, but as you said, there’s no where for any of them on the ML roster without a significant roster move. Maybe some of them could/will get moved to other teams so Atlanta can pick up some bullpen depth. Guess we’ll see.
    Nice work buddy.

  3. LaMarre is a great dude and comes from the high school my kids go to and his sister played volleyball for me. He has been blocked in every organization he has been with…Cincy, Boston, Minnesota and ATL but seems more like a regular AAAA player than a MLB regular. I agree though, a great player to have in the upper minors

  4. I think Demeritte is trade bait. He is blocked and deserves a shot somewhere.

    Alex Jackson has a low batting average even now. He’s probably going to be a low on base type but with some pop at the MLB level. If his defense is passable he can have a major league career.

  5. Re: Smitty (6)
    The last time they did that, they got BJ Upton.

    Re: Smitty (9)
    I’m not gonna judge the 3rd pick until we see who gets drafted today. I think it’s more about the slot money than the player himself. Having the pick means having the money to move around the board. If they’re able to get some over slot guys in the 3-5 rds, then we could end up with some gems after all. There’s still lots of top 30 talent that hasn’t been drafted yet.

  6. BOG! Thanks for stopping in. This is a great place for good Braves conversation and I hope to see you stick around here.

    What are your thoughts concerning Duvall and the heat? There were other T1D on Twitter that chimed in on the affect heat has on them and that it really pulls out all their sugars and lows are much more frequent. Would you agree?

  7. @12
    I truly hope not, but I don’t think there’s a way to avoid it. And thanks for stopping in, MBF! Stick around!

    @13
    Are you buying into the juiced ball theory? If what MLB says is true, it’s the same ball MLB uses.

  8. Welcome BOG.

    Stu – On your spreadsheet, you already have a value in for Philip’s signing bonus exactly at slot. Do you know something we don’t?

  9. $23M for one year of Josh Donaldson, making him the highest-paid player on the team, should be an example of going nuts and blowing money, IMO.

  10. @11
    Thanks Ryan. I’ll pop in when I can. As for the T1D stuff, I can 100% vouch for how the heat of the southern summers can mess with sugar levels. If your sugar levels aren’t 100%, it can be hard to focus. Being in intense heat performing crazy athletic things can quickly take a major toll on your sugar levels – you could be fine one minute, the next your sugars are tanking and you can’t focus on anything but getting some food into your body ASAP.

    @16
    Nothing matters, eat Arby’s ;-)

  11. A one-year contract is the antithesis of going nuts and blowing money.

    Yeah, the ball is “juiced,” in that the ball itself is different than it was several years ago when nowhere near as many homers were being hit in the majors or minors. Could be that the seams are lower. Could be that the core is springier. I don’t really care how they have done it.

    But the ball is literally part of the reason that slugging is up across MLB and MiLB and little banjo hitters are poking a lot more balls over the fence.

  12. I remember sitting in the chop house a couple years ago for that game against the Blue Jays where we were going to retaliate for them hitting Freeman. They ended up destroying us by like 10 runs, including an opposite field HR by Marcus Stroman (their pitcher) that went 20 feet over my head. That was my “clue” that the juice was on. 5’8″ guys hitting 400 ft opposite field dingers didn’t happen back in my day…

  13. @19 If the Braves sign 10 1-year deals at $23M per for guys that are realistically worth $20M, I would much prefer that than signing a 10-year, $200M deal. Why does the total dollar amount of the contract influence fan opinion on whether the team is Trying(TM)?

    What if we just signed Mudge Upton to a 1-year, $17M deal?

  14. @19
    There’s a counter-argument there, and I’ll admit that it’d take much more research than I’d want to do, but the average velocity has went up throughout baseball in the U.S. due to technological advances, and players are also revamping swings to add launch angle.

    So…more to the point. I’m not sure it’s the ball.

  15. 22 – Probably more accurate to say you are not sure it’s just the ball. There is little doubt that the new ball is having a great impact, but you rightly point out that there are other factors (high velo, LA revolution, etc.) that may be contributing and possibly much more than we give them credit for.

  16. Yeah, about the ball…

    I don’t like modern baseball compared to what it was. Pitchers are all throwing harder than they used to. Starting pitchers struggle to pitch 6 innings. Pitchers get hurt a lot more than they used to. Hitters generally don’t get base hits as much as they used to, but they draw a lot of walks, strike out a lot more, and seemingly hit more home runs than you would expect. Defenses are more valuable than ever, and defensive placement is taking away a lot of line drive (105+ mph) laser beams before they can leave the infield (gee, thanks defensive shift).

    It all combines for a very boring set of frequent outcomes: strike out, walk, or a home run. Expect to see 5-7 pitchers from both teams.

    So the game is taking too long, you say? 3+ hours is too much? So you messed with the baseball and are now experimenting on moving the mound? WTF! I’d really like to see what data MLB is looking at that is leading them down the paths they’re on regarding modified baseballs, pitch clocks, and relocating the mound. None of these sound like the reasonable solutions one would expect to see to get baseball games wrapping up more quickly. IMHO, of course.

  17. @Alex
    I think Dusty hit on more that what I was saying as I’m trying to cram my thoughts into a small lunch break. I remember that piece going out in 2015, but it also came with the beginning of launch angle, which, for all intents and purposes, has caused more over the fence power and more K’s due to the bat crossing planes.

    So…yes, you’re likely right but I think there are more factors than just the ball.

  18. The ball’s definitely juiced, which is pretty interesting. They started tracking LA in 2014, right? Has anyone around the interwebs ran the numbers?

  19. Oh there are always factors other than the ball. Hitters are selling out for power (including changing their swing plane, which used to be known as an uppercut) because strikeouts are no longer shameful; pitchers are throwing with higher velocity, which leads to higher exit velocity thanks to Newtonian physics; and so on.

    But the ball’s a salient factor.

  20. In the 3rd round the Braves take….a high school pitcher from Georgia, Michael Harris ranked #248 on BA (Philip was #254).

  21. Pitch speed has very little impact on batted ball exit velocity. It’s all about the bat speed. Maybe we should be looking at the bat technology changes over time.

  22. I try not to be overly critical of the team’s drafts, especially given how little I know vs what the team knows and especially given the draft isn’t finished – but while I like the first pick and am okay with the second pick, these last two have been quite underwhelming when reading the prospect guys and seeing the rankings.

    I’m hopeful that there is some overslot prize to be had at the end of the day (or in round 11 when those tend to happen) but count me worried at this point.

  23. Let’s look at the data:

    SLG% as of now is .425. That’s bound to decline as the year progresses as players stats usually decline.

    The post-steroid data SLG% average (not including this year) is .413.

    There’s a small amount of evidence this year that the ball is juiced. However, even if you take the evidence that was collected in that article (from 2015-2018), it still lands around the same SLG%: .414.

    That’s not much evidence.

  24. 15—No, you can ignore those numbers at this point. They’re just placeholders so that I can remember how my calculations work from previous years, since I only look at that spreadsheet for about 1/12th of the year. :)

  25. @32 One would assume that by “underwhelming”, you mean the talent is low. So unless you think the Braves are going to pay all these guys slot, then that means there’s lots of money left to spend elsewhere. In other words, you’re rushing to judgment without all of the facts.

    Has a team ever just taken the philosophy of “go crazy underslot in your first dozen picks and then flash a ton of cash at ‘unsignable’ guys later in the draft”?

  26. If we cheap-out on this draft can we spend the money elsewhere? Or is the draft pool money single-purposed / sunk-cost?

  27. It’s a draft-only budget. I mean, they can spend those dollars elsewhere, but failing to spend them in the draft would be very stupid, because that would mean they left talent on the table.

  28. 33 – Good discussion, but I reject the premise that slg% usually goes down. I looked at the last 4 years and the top slg months were always June, July and August (April and Sept usually the worst).

    In 2015 the slg% went up 20 points from the 1st half to the second half.

  29. @Dusty
    I didn’t do the numbers, rather just made what I thought would be a common sense judgment. Well…that was wrong.

  30. It’s stuff like this:

    4th round Braves draft Texas A&M pitcher Kasey Kalich rated #225 on BA with the 127th pick. Next pick TB takes Graeme Stinson from Duke ranked #84 on BA and #70 on MLB.

    The rankings aren’t gospel to be sure, but they can be a decent guide. I know they know more than I, but Stinson would’ve been something to get excited about.

  31. 41—I take the point and am underwhelmed at present by the Braves’ draft, apart from Langeliers, but Stinson is a major health risk. I don’t mind passing on him, specifically.

  32. Fair point on Stinson, he had a bad year and carries health concerns – but – he was also thought to be the best pitcher at the start of the year, so at least there is some real upside to dream on.

    Even a Zack Hess at this point would give something to be excited about.

  33. I don’t love the Langeliers selection. It felt as if the Braves drafted for what they perceived to be a “need” versus taking the best player available, which is a no-no. You don’t draft for need when there’s so much projection involved. What if his bat doesn’t evolve into a league average bat? Well then they took a defense first Catcher who can’t swing it with a top 10 pick. Someone on the broadcast likened him to Austin Hedges, which doesn’t thrill me.

    Bishop should’ve been the selection, as he has a lot more upside. I know the Braves have strong depth in the OF, but it shouldn’t matter. If he develops as you hope, you’ve got a trade chip down the line. I’d have been cool with Stotler, too, given the Braves could use some more MIF depth in the system. Then they could’ve gone a different direction late in the 1st.

  34. 45 – I actually couldn’t disagree more. Bishop looks like a bust to me, Langeliers is a solid pick. A sure thing catcher from the defensive perspective and a decent bet to be an asset offensively as well.

    Wouldn’t have minded Manoah or Carroll there but those were my personal top 3 that were available.

  35. 5th round – Braves go way off board picking up Stephen Paolini CF high schooler from Connecticut who was not ranked in the BA 500.

  36. Re: The Demeritte entry in the original post: Is there something to have a Double A park like Mississippi that is brutal on hitting power that’s actually a benefit to player development? You can humble power hitting guys (and especially guys who think they’re power hitters) and force them to work on other aspects of their hitting abilities, while also giving them a mental/confidence boost when they reach AAA and things seem so much easier in comparison? I don’t know if there’s anything to that or not. Just struck me as I read about Demeritte.

  37. @46 – Also, since he can only move diagonally, word is that Bishop’s outfield routes were not super efficient. (His baserunning is fine, though.)

  38. Thanks, Ryan, for your posts; it’s good to have you back.
    I don’t have enough information to offer an opinion on the draft. But as to Duvall and Demeritte, I have followed their careers. Travis has made a big step forward this year. He’s always had power and speed and a good glove, but he struck out way too much. Getting the K rate below 25% is huge. And Duvall has proven, to me at least, that he can be the productive hitter he was from 2015-2017. I’d like to see one or both on the big league club soon, even if it means carrying one fewer reliever. Touki and Newky can go multiple innings more often.

  39. 6th Round – Braves go outside the BA 500 again with Tanner Gordon, college junior pitcher from Indiana.

  40. 57 – It’s not that I don’t like it actually, it just seems he would’ve been available a couple of rounds later, so unless there’s a big overslot guy coming in round 11, it doesn’t make a ton of sense.

  41. Even the prorated version of Keuchel’s $17.9MM qualifying offer for value checks in close to $11.5MM, and few teams have that type of money budgeted this time of year. The Braves, for instance, are “uncomfortable” with that price point, per Sherman.

    So much for all that financial flexibility. Its time to shine and we get this.

  42. @60 I still just can’t tell if this is posturing or if we legit just draw our line in the sand after Donaldson and said, “Nope! No more paying market value.”

    This has been a long 7 months of wondering how the Braves will spend money. It’s just been weird.

  43. thanks but blacked out…guess it’s because Pittsburgh is the nearest ball for us here apart from Reds who have a separate subscription service. Thanks anyway.

    PS MLB Gameday just informs us Melky Cabrera has taken Max Fried deep for 2 runs. Of all people!

  44. @64 It could be, it could not be. Who’s to know? Was Philly posturing or Not Trying(TM) when they took forever to acquire Realmuto? And you could say the same with whoever ends up signing Kimbrel and Keuchel. I suppose the best I can tell you is that I’ll let you know when they sign.

    But man, 30 teams had months to figure out what they’d do once the picks got lifted, and now… nothing. As a fan of baseball, that’s disappointing. But it takes two to tango.

  45. There is no ex-Brave I hate more than Melky. If a meteor hit his posterior — which wouldn’t be hard, it’s a massive target — while he stood at first, it would be the highlight of the season.

  46. Melky—my all time least favorite player. Terrible with the Braves, but kills the Braves when he plays against them. Every season since 2010 Melky has been better than that season with the Braves.
    Cox was known for the many players who had their best season(s) playing for Bobby. Sure didn’t work that way with Melky.

    Or even better what @74 said

  47. This has got a helluva lot to do with pitch calling. They mention that the Pirates don’t strikeout which is true, but the Pirates are also last in the league in walks. An unusual team. You need to get them to 2 strikes and then stop throwing strikes.

    Not to mention that, in the first, after hits on two curveballs, they kept throwing it. For crissake, mix it up some. Lord knows, the ump might call a pitch off the plate a strike. Anything on the plate is getting smashed.

  48. Fried is pitching on six days rest. That is not likely the issue.

    It’s just another freaking Tuesday night. We’ve only won once this year (1st wk of April) on Tuesday. Take out Tuesday and we’d be the Dodgers.

  49. What idiots; swinging at every first pitch when a guy has 75 pitches after two innings and two on base in the 3rd. Grrrr. There has to be a way to fix Tuesday.

  50. In the 3rd, Fried threw more pitches off the plate and got a lot of weak contact. Much better.

  51. I definitely wonder what Ender is thinking right now. I think he’s on Zillow looking at houses in other baseball markets.

  52. Thank the Lord for our Austin – he makes my day.

    That Winkler guy was not so bad. Right back on track.

  53. There are very few players in baseball that if they stepped off the field after tonight’s game and never played another mlb game I would rejoice. Melky is one of the rare few.

  54. Surely what Riley is doing is approaching historic levels of awesome. After years of complaining, I finally get to watch a Klesko-clone in LF.

  55. It would be awesome if someone could fix the formatting so that YouTube videos didn’t change the size of the screen, if possible.

    Also, Donaldson sucks, and we should get rid of him.

  56. Damn donaldson always getting his HR’s in garbage time after riley already did the heavy lifting
    ;)

  57. So, if the Pirates have been averaging 7 runs per game then the Braves pitching has done well tonight.

  58. 101 — It was a slider off the plate that Riley somehow poked the other way into the right field seats.

  59. Remember when we called Oscar Villarreal the Vulture? Well, Touki just picked up his 4th win out of the bullpen.

    Edit: I’m an idiot, the Braves actually took the lead in the 7th, so Winkler is the “winning pitcher.”

  60. Me too, braves14, me too.

    We are momentarily tied for 1st place in the NL East.

    Doomed, indeed.

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