Saturday, February 18, 2012

2/18 Morning Buzz: A.J. Burnett, Braves Rotation, Tim Wakefield

Top Story:
Yankees/Pirates - The Pirates and Yankees have agreed to a deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. The Pirates will pay $13 million of the $31.1 million left, and they are sending Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones to New York. Neither of the prospects seem to be major factors.

Braves Bits:
Braves-Nation - Who are the Braves top 5 starters?
FanGraphs - Braves Bet on Regression to the Mean. Eh.
AJC - This time, Venters and Kimbrel will ease into spring. What matters most in this post is the Brian McCann extension talks squeezed near the bottom, which says little but still brings up the point that McCann is a year away from an option year. Whether they will begin talks this season or next is something to keep an eye on.
AJC - The Braves vs. Braves prospects game April 3 will be shown on It pits Fredi Gonzalez against Bobby Cox, so it should be an entertaining game. Thankfully I'll get to catch it now.

MLB News:
Red Sox - Tim Wakefield Announces Retirement. Wakefield came through my town as a light-hitting shortstop the year I was born. That should tell you something about his longevity. I will miss the knuckler.
Yankees - The Yanks will announce deals with Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez after the Burnett trade is finalized.

MLB Bits:
MLB - Empire State Building's tribute to Gary Carter.
MLB - Heyman by the Numbers.
Red Sox - Tim Wakefield getting whiffs with his fastball. I laughed at the Ichiro .gif.
Red Sox - Jason Varitek might also be retiring. It's a new age in Boston, no doubt.
Mets - Johan Santana throws a 25-pitch pen. It's Santana's first mound action since last October.
Yankees - Hideki Okajima failed his physical and will not join the team in Florida. It's tough to see him getting another shot at this point, but you never know.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Andrelton Simmons' Place On Prospect Lists

Andrelton Simmons is one of the most talked about prospects in the Braves system. Why? Because there is a wide gap between thoughts on his projection.

There is the belief that Simmons is the eventual starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, capable of providing plus defense with a serviceable bat. There is also the belief that Simmons won't be anything more than a utility infielder at the major league level, and his ceiling is that of a starter on a last-place team.

Simmons is Exhibit A for the case that Braves position prospects are being overrated because of the lack of depth in the system. Just because Simmons is worthy of a top 10 ranking doesn't mean he's worthy of a starting shortstop ceiling in the major leagues. Yet, far too many are doing just that to him.

He doesn't walk, recording 44 free passes in 839 pro plate appearances, and relies too heavily on BABIP for a high projection. In 269 plate appearances in Danville two years ago, a .282 BABIP resulted in a .276 batting average. He maintained a .340 OBP, but the small sample 5.9 BB% resulted in much of that.

The 570 plate appearances at Lynchburg last year showed his true plate discipline, as he posted a .334 BABIP to the tune of a .311 average and .351 OBP. However, the walk rate declined to 5.1% as he traded a bit of his walks for more power, upping his slugging percentage to .408 with 35 doubles.

Simmons will never project to have power in the upper levels, so in order to have a serviceable bat, he will need to walk and get on base consistently. He hasn't shown the ability to do the former yet, and the latter so far has been largely the result of BABIP.

To cut things short, Simmons' type of bat doesn't project well in the upper levels, and he will rely on his superb defense to make it. That is likely to happen, because his defense already projects as major league ready. He can serve a National League team well with his defense, but I can't help but feel the bat may prevent him from starting.

The bat has to be there to some extent to be more than just a utility infielder, and this season at Double-A should be the true test. If he continues to move up the ladder with good averages, I'll be more than happy to eat my words, because shortstops with plus defense are valuable. But I don't see the projected value being worthy of a top five or six pick on Braves prospect lists yet.

He has to prove his bat in the upper levels before I'm willing to go that high on him. But with the lack of bats in the Braves system right now, he's blindly handed a high selection on lists. Just because a player is one of the better bats in the system doesn't mean he's worthy of a high pick ahead of more projection-type arms and bats. If anything, it shows how poor the Braves system is for hitting.

If I'm forecasting his 2012 season at Mississippi, I would go along the lines of .270/.320/.380. If I'm forecasting his career in the majors, I'm saying the same thing. Whatever he does in Double-A and Triple-A could be somewhat of a predictor for his major league career. It will depend on how he responds and adjusts to advanced pitching with an empty bat.

Simmons' rank on community lists:
Talking Chop - 9th
Capitol Avenue Club - 8th
Chop-n-Change - 9th
Tomahawk Take - 6th
FanGraphs - 6th
Kevin Goldstein - 5th
Keith Law - 5th
Baseball America - 4th

2/17 Morning Buzz: Gary Carter, Bill Walker, Javy Lopez

Top Story:
Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter dies at 57
Reading so many good things about Carter, not just from yesterday following the news of his passing but prior as well, made it an especially sad day for baseball. As Craig Calcaterra said, it was inevitable, but it doesn't make it any less sad. Carter was a true gentleman to his wife and family, and it's something we could use more of in this world.

Braves Bits:
Jerry Crasnick - ESPN feature on new hitting coach Bill Walker.
Mark Bowman - Braves hopes depend on the health of Hanson and Jurrjens.
Mark Bowman - Braves stolen base leaders from 2006-2011...
LoveMyBravos - Javy Lopez to release autobiography; new Braves commercial. I'm loving the commercial.
TimesFreePress - Video of Bill Walker discussing the upcoming season.

MLB News:
Pirates - Garrett Jones lost his arbitration case to the Pirates, earning $2.25 million in 2012. Also, the team and Casey McGehee avoided arbitration with a deal at just above Jones'.
Red Sox - The Red Sox signed Ross Ohlendorf as minor league depth. They also signed former Brave Mauro Gomez to a minor league deal. Gomez can mash but is aging and is an AL-only bat.

MLB Bits:
Red Sox - Shot of JetBlue Park, the Red Sox's new spring stadium.
Nationals - Pitching coach Steve McCatty on the Nats rotation.
Rays - Not sure where this came from, but staring at it too long freaks me out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Look At Extending Michael Bourn

I don't claim to be an expert on the Braves' budget, and I don't know their situation going forward, as far as projected spending room for the next few years. So this post is based on the notion that they can afford an extension, and I'm making this case because of value and stats.

If the Braves can afford to do so, they should give Michael Bourn an extension. Over the past few years, Bourn has been incredibly underrated. Since 2009, he has the third highest fWAR among center fielders at 13.8. He's behind Matt Kemp for first by only half a win, and take a second to think of the names he is ahead of on the list of center fielders: Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino and Andrew McCutchen.

Among the top 10 center fielders since 2009, Bourn is sixth in OBP at .348. This may not seem overwhelming as a leadoff hitter, but he has maintained a 8.7 BB% while keeping the strikeouts below 20%. So he can take a walk and work counts even with the slightly lower on-base numbers.

But the thing to note is Bourn really gets the maximum out of his leadoff hitting abilities. There are so few true leadoff hitters (based on the traditional leadoff type) who can combine the speed characteristics with on-base ability. Bourn's name is right there with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Denard Span and Victorino. And that's pretty much it. That's pretty solid company.

Bourn's value as a base stealer has been recorded multiple times and there's no need to return to that part of the story. The same can be said for his defense, which rates among the best for center fielders. You could say he gets a larger portion of his value from speed and defense, which is his game.

My perception is Bourn fails to get the same recognition as the others on the previous list. Reasons could be team (Houston and Atlanta aren't exactly media hot beds) and he's a pretty quiet fellow who sticks to the right words between the quotation marks.

Of course, I know better than to think the Braves don't recognize Bourn's talent for these reasons. If they thought along those lines, they would sit in last place every season. Frank Wren knows what he has in Bourn, and if he thinks he can afford an extension, he will do it, I'm sure.

Bourn provides a ton of value in a prime position with a set of tools that are constantly overlooked. This is a combination the Braves should take advantage of by keeping around longer. Here's to hoping it can happen.

For a deeper look into what it might take to extend Bourn, check out Ben Duronio's post at Capitol Avenue Club.