• Joe Terdoslavich

    Grading future Braves talent (part-2): Infield

    By Jim Pratt

    Editor’s note: In part-1 of his evaluation of future Atlanta Braves talent, BravesWire’s Jim Pratt graded the Braves’ young pitching talent. You can see part-1 here

    The strength of the infield is unevenly weighted on one side of the diamond. As you can see below, only one out of the top 10 infield prospects in the system is on the right side of shortstop. There are some strong up-the-middle defenders on their way to Atlanta in Christian Bethancourt and Andrelton Simmons. There are also plenty of options to replace Chipper Jones after his possible retirement at season’s end, but only one of those prospects will be close to MLB-ready by next year.

    C – Christian Bethancourt (Grade – A): There have been signs Bethancourt’s raw tools are beginning to mature. After posting solid, yet unspectacular numbers over two minor league levels last year, he had a coming out party of sorts in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) where he hit .306 with five homeruns in only 72 at-bats.

    His arm is in the elite category, and his “pop-time” has been recorded at 1.7 seconds. (Pop-time is the period of time from the instant the ball hits the catcher’s glove to the moment it touches the fielder’s glove on a throw down to second base.)  The average pop-time for a big league catcher is about 1.9 seconds, and 1.8 is considered excellent.  When you get down to 1.7 seconds, you’re in “Pudge” Rodriguez territory.

    He still needs to refine some of his actions behind the plate, but he has plus-ability as a defender. If he can carry his offensive success from the AFL to Double-A this season, he could be on track to arrive in Atlanta at about the same time Brian McCann’s contract expires.


     

    SS – Andrelton Simmons (A): Another plus-defender in the middle of the diamond, Simmons has spent the early part of Spring Training making enough of an impression that he has turned what was considered by most as an outside chance to fill the vacant shortstop opening into a position battle that will likely last until the end of camp. He is fundamentally sound with the glove, has terrific range and a rifle for a throwing arm. Scouts rate throwing arms on a scale from 1-80, and some scouts are calling him an “80-plus”. Not surprising for a guy originally drafted as a pitcher with a 98mph heater.

    Even though he won the Carolina League batting title with a .311 average, his bat is still considered the biggest question mark. If Simmons can be a competent eight-hole hitter in the major leagues, his defense is good enough to make him a possible All-Star at the position.

    3B – Joe Terdoslavich (B): Now on the Braves prospect radar, Terdoslavich hopes a strong spring camp will provide him the opportunity to get a call-up when Chipper Jones needs multiple days off during the season. His bat was hard not to notice last season as he hit .286 with 20 homeruns and 82 RBI for High-A Lynchburg, including a Carolina League-record 52 doubles. He has continued to swing a hot bat through the AFL (.321 AVG, 11 XBH) and Spring Training (5-18 with 2 doubles). Because his offense will likely advance him through the minors quickly, the Braves are attempting to transition Terdoslavich from first base to third base as a possible replacement for Chipper. His defense has previously been a liability, but early reports out of camp have been positive.

    3B – Edward Salcedo (B): Salcedo has the raw tools both offensively and defensively to be a major leaguer, but it is all projection at this point. Even though he is vulnerable to breaking balls and at times the outer half of the plate in general, he did show an improved approach at the plate in 2011. He still has some work to do as a third baseman, but the ability to play the position is there. Although, some scouts feel he will eventually be a corner outfielder. A breakout season is on the horizon, whether that is 2012 or not remains to be seen. He should start the season at High-A Lynchburg.

    SS – Tyler Pastornicky (B-): He has the ability to be a big league starter, but Pastornicky profiles more as a super-utility player for a playoff contending team than a starter. His best tool is his speed, which should result in at least 20-25 stolen bases once he is in the majors. He has above-average range defensively and can consistently make the routine play at shortstop. He makes enough contact to have a decent average, but that will come with empty power numbers. Solid skills across the board will make him a valuable contributor in the major leagues. He was penciled in as the Opening Day starter for Atlanta heading into the spring, but Simmons’ play has force the Braves to question those plans.

    SS – Nick Ahmed (C+): A second round pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, Ahmed is a solid defender with average range. His speed and arm qualify as above-average tools. He has shown gap power with the bat. His ability to stick on the left side of the field will go a long way in determining his value.

    3B – Brandon Drury (C+): After struggling in his first professional action in 2010 (.198/.248/.292 in 52 games), Drury made tremendous strides at the plate last season (.347/.367/.525 in 63 games). He has plus raw power that should develop as he matures physically. He also has the ability to make contact even though he is a free-swinger at the plate, walking only six times in 265 at-bats. He is solid enough at third to stick there, but it will be the development of his bat that decides his fate moving forward.

    C – Evan Gattis (C+): As promising as Gattis’ offensive game is, he hit .322 with 22 homeruns and 24 doubles at Class-A Rome last season, his defense behind the plate needs just as much work. His arm is strong enough to throw runners out consistently, but his actions behind the plate need to be quicker. After being out of baseball for four years, he just needs continuous repetitions to become adequate enough defensively that he can stick at catcher, where his bat will play up. Where he starts 2012 will depend on where Bethancourt lands. The Braves want Gattis to get regular playing time behind the plate.

    3B – Kyle Kubitza (C ):Kubitza profiles physically as a classic third baseman, but he has work to do defensively if he plans to remain there. He amassed 22 errors in 55 regular-season games at Texas State. Kubitza is a left-handed hitter and while he makes good contact, he currently lacks the power of a corner infielder.

    2B – Tommy La Stella (C): A bat-first prospect, La Stella had a terrific debut at Low-A Rome hitting .328/.401/.543 with nine homeruns in 232 at-bats. His bat profiles as plus if he can stay at second base, but his sub-par defense could send him to a corner outfield spot where his bat then becomes suspect. At 5’11 and 185 pounds, his size would also come into question as he moves up levels if he is converted to the outfield.

    Infield — Overall Grade: B

    By the way, if you haven’t heard our mid-spring Southern Fried Baseball podcast, you can hear it here.

    Also, before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

     

     

    Braves lose game-2 of spring 18-3, but the good news is…

    By Kent Covington

    RHP Randall Delgado

    So… day-2 of the Grapefruit League season didn’t exactly go as planned. Of course it ‘s just spring training (and very early in the spring at that), but an 18-3 loss is always ugly.

    To say it was a disappointing day for the Braves top-2 pitching prospects, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran, doesn’t begin to describe it.

    Delgado gave up 4 earned runs, including a homer, on 2 hits and 2 walks in an inning of work. Teheran gave up 7 earned runs, including 6—yes SIX—homers, on 6 hits and a walk. The wind was blowing out, but 6 homers in 2 innings has to sting.

    The good news is that none of it counts for anything, and the young Braves hurlers have plenty of time to find their groove in the competition for that 5th spot in the Braves rotation.

    Other good news: 

    Braves pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin looked good in a scoreless inning of work, as did Atlanta bullpen candidate Jairo Ascencio, who also pitched a scoreless inning.

    Martin Prado was 2 for 3 on the afternoon. And Braves infield prospect (and Chipper’s heir at 3B?) Joe Terdoslavich hit safely in both of his at-bats.

    But if you still need a little something to wash the taste of that 18-3 loss out of your mouth, here’s a fun video for ya (below). Seems like it’d be a lot of fun to just sit down and have a cold beverage with these two guys. Class acts, both.

    By the way, the Spring Preview Fried Baseball podcast up now. You can hear it here.

    Also, before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

     

    Glimpse of the Future (part 2): Braves 2014 Outfield

    By Jim Pratt

    Editor’s note:  Last week in part-1 of his look at the 2014 Braves, Jim Pratt gave us a look at the Braves infield of the future. See part-1 here

    Continuing our look at the Braves roster of the future, today we forecast the 2014 Atlanta outfield.

    Outside of who will replace Chipper Jones at third base once he decides to start the clock on his Hall of Fame candidacy, the rest of the Atlanta Braves infield can already be penciled in for the next two seasons. The same can’t be said for the future of the outfield, which at this point, has more questions moving forward than any of the other part of the roster.

    Right Field: Jason Heyward (Depth: Todd Cunningham, Joe Terdoslavich and Jose Constanza)

    Braves RF Jason Heyward

    Let’s all step back for a moment and realize the lofty expectations that have been loaded upon the shoulders of this 22 year old kid. The simple fact that Hank Aaron’s name was mention alongside of Heyward’s upon his arrival in Atlanta was unfair and Turner Field itself couldn’t hold the expectations placed on him once he hit a homerun in his first big league at-bat.

    After an injury to his shoulder just rubbed salt in the wound of a sophomore slump, Heyward has been working hard this offseason not only on his swing, but the mental part of his game as well.

    Positive signs from Heyward this season could mean he is on a path similar to the one taken by fellow prodigy Justin Upton, an Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder who struggled to live up to expectations in his first couple seasons. Last year was Upton’s fifth in the major leagues, during which he hit .289/.369/.529 with 31 HR and finished top five in MVP balloting.

    If Heyward’s career mimics that of Upton, his 2014 season might look something like .285 AVG, 25 HR and 90 RBI and set up what could be his first run at an MVP the following year.


    Centerfield: Michael Bourn
    (Depth: Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham)

    There are two things that, when added together, can make any general manager in baseball cringe: Scott Boras and free agency. Michael Bourn is eligible for free agency following this season, and guess who is agent is.

    Braves CF Michael Bourn

    We’re going to take the road less traveled with this prediction and say Bourn re-signs with Atlanta. Using Cot’s Baseball Contracts as a reference, the money to sign Bourn should be available if a five-year deal worth $50 million is an acceptable number by both sides.

    A quick look at a few of the major salary changes for 2013 suggests Chipper Jones’ option , a decrease from $13 million into the range of $7-9 million, will be offset by Brian McCann’s club option increase of $8.5 to $12 million.

    Unless the Braves decide to buy out Tim Hudson’s 2013 season for $1 million, he’s salary will remain the same at $9 million. Also remaining the same will be Dan Uggla at $13 million.

    Taking into consideration the normal arbitration increases, along with Derek Lowe’s $10 million coming off the books and the possible trade of JairJurrjens ($5.5 million without incentives); the resigning of Bourn is possible.

    With Bourn atop the lineup, the Braves will be one of the few teams in Major League Baseball to have a true leadoff hitter with Gold Glove capabilities.


    Braves minor league OF Todd Cunningham

    Left Field: Todd Cunningham (Depth: Joe Terdoslavich and Jose Constanza)

    The left field position falls under the assumption that Joe Terdoslavich will be at third base awaiting the arrival of Edward Salcedo. That will eventually push our 2014 incumbent, Todd Cunningham, into a fourth outfield role being replaced by Terdoslavich.

    Cunningham slugged a lowly .353 for Class-A Lynchburg last season and does not profile as a corner outfielder. In the majors he projects as a top of the lineup guy that can hit for average and provide double-digit stolen bases.

    He gets the nod in these projections because of his defensive skill set. He is considered by Baseball America as the Braves’ best outfield defender in the minor leagues.

    The best case scenario would be for Salcedo to progress a year quicker than expected or for Atlanta to sign a cheap one-year placeholder so that Terdoslavich can become the answer in left field.

    The pitching staff is next. Will Arodys Vizcaino be a member of the bullpen or the rotation? Who will be listed as the Opening Day starter for the 2014 season?

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

     

     

     

     

    Glimpse of the Future: A Look at Braves 2014 Lineup

    By Jim Pratt

    Major League Baseball is in that early-February lull that comes each offseason between the whirlwind of trade activity, but prior to pitchers/catchers reporting. With the current roster basically set heading into Spring Training, this would be a good time to fill that seasonal void by discussing what the future holds for the Atlanta Braves.

    The front office has made it clear they have a specific direction for the organization moving forward and they have no intention of altering that plan for a quick fix solution. Building depth and talent through player development in the farm system is priority number one. That doesn’t mean they won’t make a deadline deal, as they did last season for centerfielder Michael Bourn, if it means improving the team without sacrificing the future.

    For this particular discussion we will explore what the roster could look like two years from Opening Day, the 2014 season.

    Remember that this is a completely speculative exercise and for entertainment purposes only. With that said, BravesWire would be interested to hear any comments or suggestions regarding Atlanta’s future lineup possibilities.

    Catcher: Brian McCann (Depth: Christian Bethancourt)

    The next two seasons for Brian McCann will provide a glimpse into whether or not he is on the path to a Hall of Fame type of career. Catcher is such a physically demanding position; injuries will likely play a key role in determining his Hall of Fame candidacy. As long as he can remain on the field for 130-plus games a season, there is no reason to think he won’t continue to produce offensive numbers worthy of being in that type of conversation.

    If Christian Bethancourt continues along his progression rate, he will be splitting time between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinett during the 2014 season. Depth on the major league club will come from a David Ross type bench player, but if the McCann is lost for a significant period of time it’s possible Bethancourt’s talent will be too hard to ignore.

    Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman

    First Base: Freddie Freeman (Depth:Joe Terdoslavich)

    Freddie Freeman is coming off an impressive rookie campaign by leading all National League rookies in seven of the major offensive categories. The power ceiling for Freeman is likely in the 25-28 range, but it’s his all-around offensive potential that makes up for the lack of “prototypical” first base power.

    His 142 strikeouts in 2011 can be attributed to facing Major League pitching for the first time. That number should decrease over the next two seasons which will affect his batting average in a positive manner. The 2014 season should be the beginning of consistent production of a .290-plus AVG, 24-28 HR and 90-plus RBI.

    Joe Terdoslavich is listed as the depth here because of the uncert
    ainty of not only his position moving forward, but the uncertainty of what the bench will look like in 2014.

    Second Base: Dan Uggla (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky)

    Dan Uggla followed up a miserable beginning to his Braves career (.185/.257/.365) with apromising second half of the season (.296/.379/.569). In 2014, hewill be in the fourth year of his five-year $62 million deal.

    A consistent 30-plus homerun power threat, his average will lie somewhere between last season’s first and second half splits. Uggla will establish himself has the clean-up hitter as early as 2012 and should reach the 100 RBI plateau for the second time in his career within the next two seasons.

    Defensively, Tyler Pastornicky will take over the utility infield role for the middle of the diamond and third base. His biggest offensive asset off the bench will continue to be his speed.

    Braves INF prospect, Andrelton Simmons

    Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky)

    Using the 20-80 grade scale, Andrelton Simmons has an 80 grade arm and the glove to match. It will be that Gold Glove ability that will fast-track him to the big leagues at some point late in the 2013 season, which will set him up to become the starter in 2014.

    The concern with Simmons has always been his offensive upside, but he began to put those doubts to rest last season when he won the Carolina League batting title with a .311 average.

    For a more in-depth look at Simmons, take a look at this recent column written for Bleacher Report.

     

    Third Base: Joe Terdoslavich (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky, Edward Salcedo)

    Chipper Jones will play this season at 40 years old and has recently stated he could play into the 2013 season. If that’s the case, it will likely be his farewell tour around the league.

    Braves INF prospect, Joe Terdoslavich

    For the sake of this exercise, we are going to assume Atlanta’s willingness to deal Martin Prado comes to fruition at some point and he will not be a member of the 2014 roster.

    Following the Braves track record of building a team from within, Joe Terdoslavich will man the hot corner for at least the 2014 season. He only played three games at third for Class-A Lynchburg last year, but he will be given an opportunity this season at Double-A Mississippi to prove he can play the position. His defense skills are a question mark, so he will only be a one or two year placeholder as Edward Salcedo matures in the minors.

    It will be Terdoslavich’s bat that allows him to play third in the interim. This past year at Lynchburg, he hit .286 with 20 HR, 82 RBI and broke a 65-year Carolina League record hitting 52 doubles.

    He followed that up in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .321/.424/.548, including 6 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs in 84 at-bats.

    Next up will be the outfield. Will Bourn still be in centerfield? Who will be in the corner opposite Jason Heyward?

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.