#AskCoppy for February 24: Demeritte, SunTrust Park, Kemp, and more

#AskCoppy for February 24: Demeritte, SunTrust Park, Kemp, and more

One of the coolest things in baseball social media is #AskCoppy. If you’ve never heard of the hashtag, it refers to an hour or two where John Coppolella fields questions from Atlanta Braves fans. It’s a fun way to get some insight into the mind of the Braves’ general manager. Obviously, twitter limitations keep the responses to a minimal, but considering that Coppolella doesn’t have to do this at all, we will take what we can get. Here are some of the highlights from yesterday’s edition of #AskCoppy.

Jason Cleghorn asked: What do we know about how Suntrust might play?  Pitchers park, hitters, neutral? How strategic was the design? #askcoppy

Coppy’s take: If you are a hitter it’s a great hitter’s park; if you are a pitcher it’s a great pitcher’s park — jk — will play similar to Turner Field

Kyle Hess/Beam/Atlanta Braves

Analysis: Nobody really knows how STP will play until we actually see it in action. That said, there are a few differences between STP and Turner Field that should be fun to watch. One of particular interest is right field, which I covered last year. Not only will the right field alley be 15 feet shorter than Turner Field, it’ll include a 16-foot wall beginning in the alley and extending to the right field foul pole. Also, the wall will include 10 feet of padding and the rest will be exposed brick, which could be fun to watch to see how the ball caroms off the two different parts of the wall. The picture on the right is from October, but I feel it gives you kind of an overview.

Kacey Johnson asked: Is Travis Demeritte a potential long term answer at 3B? Also, thanks for being the coolest GM in MLB! #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Thanks for the kind words!  Travis has looked awesome early in camp and we feel like he could play everyday @ number of spots

Analysis: “Number of spots” is very intriguing. While Demeritte has played shortstop and third base in the minors, 81% of the innings he has played in the field have been at second base. Typically, that means he doesn’t have the range and/or arm to play elsewhere on the infield, but it’s not always true. In fact, Demeritte has wonderful range. His arm is a bit more of a question mark, but could it be good enough to play third base? Quite possibly. In addition, Demeritte could see some outfield time if the Braves want to keep their options open.

Jason Reese asked: Any chance you sign Angel Pagan and/or Pedro Alvarez for bench or are you content to go with what you have? #askcoppy

Coppy’s take: It wouldn’t be right for me to drop names, but we are in contact with a couple of potential adds — but would have to be NRI @ this time

Analysis: This is not too surprising. I’ve mentioned my fondness for Pagan before and the Braves have been linked to both Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur the past few weeks. While I would love a double signing of Pagan and KJ to fill out the bench, it seems like a pipedream as they try to wait out the market and get a better deal than the NRIs, or non-roster invitees, offers they have received to this point. Meanwhile, the Braves are ready to try to wait out the market and get the best possible deal.

Jesse Russell asked: what’s the ceiling for Sean Newcomb? Can he be our “Jon Lester” in the rotation soon? #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Sean has as much talent as any young pitcher we have, but we just want him to be @SeanNewk — we love who he is and what he can be

Analysis: I was one of the few people this offseason who devoted a prospect list to the Braves’ system and ranked Newcomb as high as I did (#2). I agree that Newcomb has as much talent as any other young pitcher in the system. In fact, from a ceiling standpoint, Newcomb has few peers. That said, he has a long way to reach that ceiling and it’s fair to say that the likelihood is extraordinarily low that his career mimics that best-case scenario. Not sure I really see the Lester comp for Newcomb, though. An older, but possibly better comparison might be Sam McDowell. At his wildest, McDowell was dangerous. But once he was able to get his walks per nine inning under 5.0 in 1965, he became one of the game’s finest pitchers for the next half-dozen years.

Kevin asked: the people need to know. Better band: Alice in Chains or Nirvana? #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Blasphemy, I know — but I LOVE AIC

Analysis: He’s not wrong. I’ll even go further. Pearl Jam is better than both. Oh, and Foo Fighters are better than all of them. Don’t @ me.

Joe Lucia asked: how would you rate Matt Kemp‘s fitness this spring?

Coppy’s take: Matt has been tremendous on our club, in great shape & working hard.  Great person beloved by teammates.  We are lucky to have him.

Curtis Compton/AJC

Analysis: One of the most talked about and covered subjects this spring has been Kemp’s efforts to get his career – and specifically his work ethic – back on track. Soon after acquiring the former All-Star, Coppolella mentioned in an interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that, “He’s 31-years old. He is not in shape and that’s something we need to work on with him. He’s been told about it. We are going to talk to him more. It’s the kind of thing where, for him, you can’t really do that during the season. It’s not like you can drop 30 pounds during the season and keep playing.” It was a frank assessment of Kemp and one that had all the potential in the world to backfire. However, it appears to have worked out wonderfully as the picture on the right, courtesy of the AJC, shows. While it is too much to expect Kemp to return to his near 40-40 days of 2011, if the work he put in this offseason turns into big results at the plate and in the field, Kemp could not only be an x-factor for the 2017 season, but a marketable asset should the Braves try to move him.

Dan Horton asked: What did you like about Sanders Commings that made you want to give him a shot? #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Terrific talent & even better person.  Totally committed to baseball & willing to work.  You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Andy Sadler asked: what’s the plan with Sanders Commings? What level might he start at and what position will he play?

Coppy’s take: No plan.  Come in & see how he performs.  He could go to 2A or he could begin in extended ST.  It’s about whatever is best for the player.

Analysis: If you missed the news this week, the Braves signed Sanders Commings, a former University of Georgia defensive back who was selected with the first pick of the 2013 fifth round – right ahead of Denard Robinson. Commings, who didn’t play baseball in college, made it on the field for two games his rookie year, but injuries hounded him during his 2+ years with the Kansas City Chiefs before they ultimately waived him before the ’15 season. Now, Commings will give a baseball career a chance. During his senior year of high school, he hit .520 with 15 homers, which prompted the Diamondbacks to select him in the 37th round. To say the least, this will be much less of a media circus than the Tim Tebow experiment.

Mdubs8 askeddo you believe you were close to acquiring an ace at any point this winter? #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Not really.  We flirted, but nothing even resembling a hookup and certainly not marriage.

Analysis: Some good insight here. The Braves were linked to – at different times – Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Jose Quintana this offseason. From a logical standpoint, it did not make a lot of sense. While adding an “ace” seems like a no-brainer, there were financial concerns with adding much more salary to the rotation. Further, while there is good reason to be optimistic this year, there are some questions that need to be answered to know if the window to compete has been thrown open. Of course, the Braves did their due diligence, but the price it took to trade for Sale was way over what they felt comfortable with.

Noah Goodman asked: #AskCoppy how do you feel about Jesse Biddle?

Coppy’s take: Jesse has been tremendous early in camp — kudos to Billy Ryan & Matt Grabowski & our entire front office — look for big things in ’17

Analysis: In a shrewd move, the Atlanta Braves grabbed Biddle last spring off waivers and stashed him away as he rehabbed from injury – similar to what they are doing this year with Jacob Lindgren. Now, the Braves are looking to take advantage of that move by adding Biddle to the mix. I believe he’s destined for Gwinnett to at least start 2017, but Biddle was once a top prospect who could still pan out for the Braves. For more on Biddle, here is my scouting report.

Gil Elliott asked: #AskCoppy: Do you agree a lot of stolen bases are really on the pitcher but the catchers bear the brunt of the blame?

Coppy’s take: Yes — I think it’s like 75-25 — great point

Analysis: If you were wondering why the Braves did not feel pushed to improve their starting catcher situation beyond Tyler Flowers, this might help explain it. While Flowers had a terrible season throwing out runners (3-of-63), the Braves were willing to look past that because of the other things he brought to the table (pitch framing, a good year with the bat). While the Braves certainly flirted with Jason Castro, they ultimately did little but add a veteran backup to the mix in Kurt Suzuki. Many fans that look at traditional catcher defensive stats won’t consider Flowers a competent catcher. The Braves realize that he’s not the biggest person responsible for stolen bases.

Chris Jervis asked: How much do #Braves value pitch framing & game calling? Flowers has been very good w/ these, even if more ‘traditional’ areas lag.

Coppy’s take: It depends who you ask in our front office — we argue about it a lot, but it’s healthy discussions that make us better

Analysis: Interesting answer to a good question. All winter, we heard that the Braves were valuing pitch framing more than previous years. In the end, they added Suzuki, who has not graded positively based on publicly available pitch-framing metrics (the Braves may have their own they use). Based on the answer, you might think that Coppy isn’t thoroughly convinced that pitch framing is very important, but the pursuit of Castro says otherwise. I would love to be a fly on the wall as they debate the merits of pitch calling. By the way, remember to follow Jervis over at outfieldflyrule.com.

Easy D asked: #AskCoppy Most smart people agree that Parks & Recreation is watchable, but not really great. Agreed?

Coppy’s take: Thought it was pretty funny — not Workaholics funny, but pretty good

Analysis: I can only assume Coppy was being nice here. “Most smart people?” Parks & Rec was one of the best shows of the last 15 years. Yeah, I said it. I challenge you to watch this and not agree that Parks & Rec is truly great.

Nolan Ryan Alexander asked: What does Adam Brett Walker add to the system? Where do you see him fitting in? @braves #AskCoppy

Coppy’s take: Power!  May have the best raw power in baseball and he has a chance to help us at MLB level depending on his development.

Analysis: So, I think I may have a name and face to an anonymous account that has talked up Walker both before and after the Braves acquired him. I only suggest that because of the full “Adam Brett Walker” reference. To be honest, because I allow anonymous commentators, it could have been more than one person. Either way, Adam Walker has power as Coppy suggests – a lot of it. The question is can he develop enough while already in his mid-20’s to translate his big power into results at the major league level.

Some lasting thoughts…Coppy said Johan Camargo has opened some eyes early this spring. Camargo has never had much of a bat, but has flashed a good glove. He was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40-man this winter and if Coppy’s love for him says anything, he’s likely to stay for a little while…Coppy also mentioned that SunTrust Park and the surrounding buildings and facilities could be a selling point with free agents next winter as they try to show them around all of the fun things the area has to offer….He thinks Luke Jackson will play a factor for this year’s squad. I agree….Rio Ruiz continues to work to improve his body and has been impressive so far.

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