Once a Brave, Always a Brave – NL Central

Once a Brave, Always a Brave – NL Central

I considered doing a special version of this series with the All-Star Game, but that would have been pretty short with, by my count, just two former ex-Braves in the All-Star Game. So, let’s move on to this week’s target, former Braves in the NL Central. As usual, this list should not be considered exhaustive. There might be – and probably are – a few misses. If you notice them, feel free to comment below.

Chicago Cubs
P James Russell – Released shortly before the season because the Braves liked their options in-house better and Russell had displayed reverse splits last year, the Braves could have used Russell after all. He quickly hooked back up with the Cubs and after a short run in the minors, he has been a pretty decent option out of the pen for Chicago. His peripherals don’t look so pretty, but it’s hard to put a negative spin on a 1.71 ERA.

P Rafael Soriano (AA) – Nobody was anxious to bring Soriano on board last winter and now, he’s working himself into game-shape for an eventual promotion to the Cubs’ pen. So far, he’s appeared in four games for Tennessee. I assume he’ll be in the mix once the MLB schedule gets going again.

C David Ross – There were a lot of people who wanted to bring Ross back this offseason. In the first half, Ross has hit a miserable buck-89 with no homers. That said, he has always been good behind the plate, though his caught stealing percentage has been well under 30% the last two years. He does remain a great option at pitch framing and Statcorner ranks him sixth among catchers. That’s pretty good considering he’s caught 2000 less pitches than the top five. He also tossed a scoreless inning earlier this year.

2B Tommy La Stella – He’s missed most of the year with an oblique/ribs injury that he suffered after just two games. Considering how Jace Peterson has effectively replaced him, TLS had no place in Atlanta. With young Cubs firmly entrenched at second-and-third, TLS will likely be stuck playing backup whenever he is able to get back.

Cincinnati Reds
P J.J. Hoover – After a rough sophomore year, Hoover has bounced back to be the best Reds reliever not from Cuba this year. He’s done something new this year, though. I personally watched him three or four times when he was a Myrtle Beach Pelican a few years ago and the one reason I never bought into him was that he routinely got the ball too high, where it got blasted. This year, he has a GB% of 43% which is about a 15% climb over his previous work. It’s cost him in terms of strikeouts and SIERA hates him for it, but I like it.

P Jason Marquis – Unfortunately, Marquis is no longer a Red. His return to the bigs after missing 2014 lasted nine starts. If you’d like to read more about Marquis’s career, read my Random Ex-Brave report on him from May.

OF Jason Bourgeois – Hard not to love a guy like Bourgeois. He’s never logged more than 252 PA in a season in the majors, has played in 257 games in parts of eight years in the majors, and turned 33 last January. But here he is…still struggling to stick. He never played for the big-league Braves, but did spent 119 games with Richmond in 2005. If I recall correctly, he had a decent spring and some thought he could stick, but he didn’t. The only positions he hasn’t played professionally are pitcher, catcher, and first base.

OF Jose Constanza (AAA) – Yeah, the bat licker lives. He’s hit just .256 in 41 games with Louisville after the Braves cut him before the season. Before that, he had spent four years with the franchise – mostly spent at Gwinnett. He did get into 112 games in the big leagues and routinely played ahead of Jason Heyward in 2011.

Milwaukee Brewers
P Jaye Chapman (AAA) – A long, long time ago, or 2012, the Braves traded Arodys Vizcaino to the Cubs for a pair of major league veterans in the form of Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm. Joining Vizcaino was Chapman, a 16th round pick back in 2005 who was a draft-and-follow (meaning he signed the next year). Chapman got into 14 games down the stretch for the Cubs and posted a 3.75 ERA. He hasn’t been in the majors again since. Instead, the reliever missed most of 2013 with injury, pitched 50 games with Bridgeport of the Atlantic League last year, and has gotten the call 36 times over two different levels this year.

2B Pete Orr (AAA) – Orr has been around so long that he played for the Jamestown Jammers back when the Braves had a short-season A ball team. Orr was part of the Baby Braves movement in 2005 when he hit .300. Subsequent efforts over the next two year were steadily worse and Atlanta released him following 2007. Unlike a lot of AAAA filler, he hasn’t been in a new uniform each year. He spent three years in the Nats’ system, three with the Phils, and is in year 2 of the Brewers organization. He is a career .266 hitter in the minors and stole his 200th career base last year.

OF Kyle Wren (AAA) – Traded away because he had Wren Stink all over him, Frank’s son hasn’t homered since 2013. But after hitting well in AA, he was promoted to Colorado Springs. Despite hitting in what is a hitter’s league with the thin air of Colorado Springs, Wren has struggled over his first 23 games in AAA. Still, he is a career .298 hitter with 106 steals in 268 games so I imagine he’ll get it going.

Pittsburgh Pirates
P Jeff Locke – While his All-Star season was impressive (at least until after the break), Locke has been pretty average since then. He still walks too many and the arbitration-pending southpaw will be an interesting decision for the Pirates to make. They’ll probably give him a long-term deal like they gave to…

P Charlie Morton – Morton is still owed at least $9M. He’s good enough when he can stay healthy, though he has never made 30 MLB starts in a season and won’t buck that trend this year. Now 31 years-old, Morton has pitched in parts of eight years in the majors. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Guess I’m getting a little old.

UT Wilkin Castillo (AAA) – One of Jose Constanza’s teammates on the 2011 G-Braves, Wilkin is an interesting guy to have around. Over a career that began in Missoula as part of the Diamondbacks organization in 2004, Wilkin has played every single position and finished the feat this year with Indianapolis as he pitched for the first time. With Gwinnett, he hit just .262 being mostly utilized as a catcher, though he did play 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF as well.

3B Edward Salcedo (AA) – Maybe the biggest international signing bust during the Frank Wren era, Salcedo was traded to the Pirates after Wren’s firing. He’s hit just .233 with ONE homerun this year. He has added 1B, LF, and even pitcher to his positional flexibility. He walked three (included one intentionally) and surrendered a one while retiring one of five batters. Unlike most hitters who pitch out of need, it wasn’t a bloodbath Salcedo was finishing. It was an 18-inning game on June 11th where both sides were out of pitchers. Getting the win was Brock Stassi. He’s usually a first baseman, but he did throw three innings that night.

OF Gorkys Hernandez – The final player the Braves gave up for Nate McLouth in 2009? Gorkys. He would make his debut with the Pirates in 2012, but was soon traded to the Marlins, who traded him to the Royals, who sold him to the White Sox. Anywho, last offseason, he signed with the Pirates and recently was promoted to the majors where, for the first time, the Pirates have all three of the guys they got for McLouth on the roster at the same time. Baseball’s fun!

St. Louis Cardinals
P Adam Wainwright – Tore his achilles back in April, but he apparently wants to pitch again this season, especially once the Cards head to the playoffs. That’s a tough guy. The Cardinals obviously need him…with their 2.71 ERA this year and all.

P Jordan Walden – He got off to a good start, pitching in 12 games where he allowed just one run, but bicep inflammation has had him out of action since the end of April. He has yet to appear in a rehab game, but might be back before the end of July.

OF Jason Heyward – More of the same for Heyward, though he has been healthy. Great defense in right field, amazing speed on the bases where he also adds smart baserunning, and just okay offense at the plate. Some of the power is back (two homeruns off last year’s total), but some of his walks have been sacrificed for power. Overall, the soon-to-be free agent is going to have a tough time convincing someone he deserves $200M without a 2004 Carlos Beltran-like postseason.

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