Once a Brave, Always a Brave – AL West

Once a Brave, Always a Brave – AL West

It’s Tuesday which means it’s another chance to look around the league at former Braves and how they are performing. Today’s division is the AL West. Is anybody still struggling with the idea that Houston is in the AL West?

Houston Astros
P Paul Clemens – Much like last season, Clemens has been on the shuttle between Houston and Oklahoma City. Acquired in the Michael Bourn trade, Clemens was a an okay starter in the minors for the Braves before the trade and has remained simply okay in the minors, though he does have a 0.82 ERA in 22 innings this season. Course, that success is tempered by a 6.08 ERA in 23.2 ING in the majors. Amazingly, in 97 career innings at the major league level, Clemens has given up 21 homers. A.J. Griffin has given up 1.62 HR/9 to lead the majors since the start of 2013. If we drop the qualifications to 90 innings pitched over the last season plus, Clemens ranks second in HR/9 with 1.95 behind Joe Blanton, who retired this April.

P Kyle Farnsworth – A surprising cut from the Mets earlier this season considering he was their de facto closer, Farny landed in Houston, the location of his 2005 meltdown. He has been less productive with the Astros, walking more batters than he has struck out. Since nailing down 25 saves with a 0.99 WHIP with the Rays in 2011, Farnsworth has struggled to regain his stuff and at 38, we may not see him pitch much longer.

P Brett Oberholtzer – Like Clemens, Oberholtzer was part of the Bourn trade that also included Jordan Schafer. He broke camp with the Astros this year, but despite an almost equal FIP, Oberholtzer hasn’t had the same amount of success as he did last season when he posted a 2.76 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Instead, his ERA is exactly three runs higher (4.76) and his WHIP is sitting at 1.39. He’s been mostly cast off to the minors since June and his ERA has been brutal, but it’s the Pacific Coast League. A 31 K/3 BB rate in 31 innings is at least promising.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
P Anthony Lerew – If your first thought was “He’s still pitching?” then you share something in common with me. Lerew was twice ranked in the Baseball America Top 100 as a Braves prospect who made it to the majors in 2005. He was horrible and did himself few favors by playing hurt without telling anyone. The Braves eventually cut him and the Royals did their thing of sifting through the Braves’ trash. Still not successful, Lerew tried his luck across the Pacific with a year in Japan and two years in Korea, the last year as a closer who locked down 20 saves. This season, no MLB team came calling so he pitched the first month with York in the Atlantic League and his 24 K’s in 24 innings attracted the interest of the Angels. However, in six starts with their organization, Lerew has been pretty awful with a 1.89 WHIP. That number would be impressive as an ERA, but mind-boggling bad as a WHIP. Still, remember when he came up for the pitching starved Braves in 2007 and had a good game against the Padres with 7 K’s in six innings? Yeah, that was nice.

P Cory Rasmus – If you can throw the ball hard, you will have a job. Rasmus was a former 38th overall selection out of a high school in Alabama who was sidetracked by injuries before finally moving to the pen in 2012. After that, his live arm garnered attention and a promotion to the Braves last season where he found a way to surrender four homeruns in just 6.2 ING. Acquired at the trading deadline for Scott Downs, Rasmus has bounced between Anaheim and Salt Lake, still struggling to show the promising arm that intrigued the Braves all the way back in 2006. If you’re curious, Rasmus has faced his more famous brother Colby Rasmus once. His older brother doubled off him.

Oakland Athletics
P Jesse Chavez – Seriously, how did this happen? How did a guy go from not being even good enough in long relief to throwing seven scoreless against the Red Sox last Saturday to lower his ERA to 2.71? He was once known as the guy the Braves had to take in exchange for Rafael Soriano after the latter accepted arbitration when everyone thought he was headed to greener pastures. The Braves had already moved on and took Chavez, a below-average reliever in exchange for their closer. After being moved to the Royals in a deal that brought Farnsworth back to Atlanta, Chavez spent 2012 sucking for the Blue Jays and A’s. However, he did add a cutter to his game to go with a curveball as he moved away from a flat slider. By May last year, he started to establish himself out of the pen as a long reliever for the A’s and now, he has been an important part of one of the best teams in the American League. This from a guy who had a 5.89 ERA with the Braves in 28 games back in 2010. Ugh.

P Eric O’Flaherty – One of the most liked Braves relievers once picked up off waivers, O’Flaherty left the Braves via free agency for the west coast after needing Tommy John surgery last season. He made his season debut with the A’s organization on June 6th and recently tossed two innings for the first time on 20 pitches. He has yet to pitch on back-to-back nights, probably something the A’s would like to see before promoting him, but his time in the minors looks to be just about over.

Seattle Mariners
P Zach Miner – It was the year 2000. We had a lot extra batteries because of Y2K. Some Texas Governor who couldn’t keep his foot out of his mouth was running for President. And the Braves drafted Miner out of Palm Beach Gardens High School. Five years later, they sent Miner to the Tigers in a trade to bring back Kyle Farnsworth (that guy is getting a lot of digital ink in this column). From 2006-09, he appeared in 157 games, including 35 starts. Since then, Miner has been on less of a personal journey and more on a journey to keep getting paid to play baseball. Good gig if you can get it. Since 2011, Miner has been in four different organizations, including a return to Detroit, and after having no luck in Tacoma, Miner was a couple of weeks ago. He did get back to the majors with the Phillies last year for 16 games, including three starts, but it was the Phillies. Playing with them is hardly an accomplishment.

C Jesus Sucre – Sucre spent 2006 to midseason 2011 trying to advance to AAA in the Braves system, but was not successful. The defensive-first catcher has played in the Mariners organization ever since. He even played in eight games with the big league club last year, managing five singles in 26 AB. His first plate appearance ended in a double play. Ouch. Sucre is back at Tacoma where he has a .273 OBP. Well, hitting’s not his thing.

Texas Rangers
P Neftali Feliz – What an interesting turn Feliz’s career has taken. In 2010, he saved 40 games and won the Rookie of the Year award. Over the last three seasons, he has appeared in 14 games in the majors, including seven starts, and is back in AAA as a reliever who can’t get back to the majors with a bullpen that has Scott Baker in the bullpen. Nothing against Baker, but you’re telling me Feliz has no role in that bullpen? Of course, Feliz was one of four future productive majors leaguers the Braves surrendered for Mark Teixeira. What a fun…fun…sigh…fun time it was to watch Teixeira play for the Braves.

P Matt Harrison – Hey, Harrison was part of that trade, too. Harrison wasn’t an immediate success like Feliz. It took him until 2011, the fourth season he had played in the majors, for Harrison to start to be successful. His follow-up campaign garnered Cy Young votes. The season prompted the Rangers to sign Harrison to a five-year, $55M contract. Seemed like a no-brainer. Buy out his prime years without needing to bid against other teams. Since signing, Harrison has made six forgetful starts. Back problems have threatened his career and he recently underwent spinal fusion surgery. That just sounds awful.

SS Elvis Andrus – Hey, Andrus was part of that Teixeira trade, too. The 2009 Rookie of the Year runner-up has been to a pair of All-Star Games and played very good defense. He’s twice been a 4 fWAR player, which is pretty impressive. Is he worth the $120M the Rangers invested into him? His defense isn’t that great, I would argue, and a career .686 OPS and 85 wRC+ won’t win any offensive awards.

IF Brent Lillibridge – Ah, Lillipad. Flexibility keeps you around and Lillibridge is flexibility. The only positions he has not started at, or played, in the majors is catcher and pitcher and I’m sure he often got saddled with the role of emergency catcher during his time. Originally a Pirate farmhand, he was picked up by the Braves in the Mike Gonzalez/Adam LaRoche trade before being moved a year later in the trade that brought Javier Vazquez to the Braves. He played in 29 games with the Braves during his one year in Atlanta and has played with the Red Sox, Indians, Yankees, and both Chicago teams since. He hasn’t been overly productive for Round Rock in the Rangers system this year, but he continues to play nearly everywhere on the field, providing a fun last man on the bench for any team.

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