During the season, I like to throw out some numbers that have piqued my interest. Spring training stats are not the most reliable numbers to utilize due to sample size and competition, but it’s all I got so here you go.
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[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Jace Not On Base
While his spot is pretty much set in stone, Jace Peterson has struggled to open this spring. Despite receiving the most plate appearances of any Brave, Peterson has only reached base six times (four singles, two walks) and comes into Saturday’s play with a .200 OBP. He has stolen two bases, though, and has looked passable at shortstop – a position he’ll likely be counted on to provide depth in 2017.
My Curve Is Better Than Yours
One of the first things I looked up after purchasing Baseball America’s 2017 Prospect Handbook was “Best Curveball” in the Braves’ farm system, which full of devastating hooks. That honor was given to Max Fried and the former Padres prospect has looked excellent this spring. In four innings, he’s surrendered a hit, walked three, and struck out five – many with the curveball I just referenced. While Fried wasn’t going to jump from Rome to Atlanta come opening day, his success may help convince the Braves that he’s ready to advance to Double-A rather than head to the Florida State League to begin his Age-23 season.
Short Sample Size Basher Part 1
Johan Camargo hit .267/.304/.379 last year with four homeruns while playing in Mississippi. It was actually the first season since the Dominican Summer League in 2012 that his ISO ventured over .100 while the four homeruns matched the total of his previous four seasons. Flash forward to this spring and Camargo has excelled with a .261/.370/.609 slash. It’s only 27 at-bats and Camargo seems unlikely to continue his success, but for Camargo, this spring was never about playing his way onto the 2017 opening day roster. It was about putting himself in contention to get a quick call-up if an injury takes down one of Atlanta’s middle-infielders. So far, so good.
|By Keith Allison on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons|
Ready to Play
While veterans like John Danks and Blaine Boyer have struggled this spring, one minor league free agent pickup has handled the load pretty well. Eric O’Flaherty has struck out six over 4.2 innings and allowed just three hits and a run. After a rough 2016 that ended with elbow surgery, O’Flaherty re-Braved for a third time this winter with no easy path to making the roster. So far, his sinker has some life on it that was missing last year. He’s been mostly utilized for late-inning assignments which limits his exposure to better major league players. If he continues to pitch well, though, he’ll likely get bigger challenges as he tries to secure a bullpen spot.
Short Sample Size Basher Part 2
He’s been a professional ballplayer since 2004, but Matt Tuiasosopo has made just two opening day rosters (2010 and 2013). Could 2017 be a third? Well, probably not, but Tuiasosopo has gotten off to a good start while taking advantage of the increased playing time in the wake of Freddie Freeman‘s play in the World Baseball Classic and the Braves losing Christian Walker on waivers. In 24 PA, Tuiasosopo has belted a team-high three homers and his OPS sits at an even 1.000 coming into play on Saturday. Naturally, the question is if that will be enough to put him into the conversation for a spot on the Braves’ bench. Tuiasosopo does have legitimate power (68 homers in his last five full-time stints in Triple-A), but his numbers in the bigs are pretty abysmal (32% strikeout rate, .288 wOBA). To be fair, his longest stretch in the majors was 191 PA with the Tigers in 2013, but it still seems a stretch to think Tuiasosopo will be anything more than Gwinnett-bound.
The Constanza Effect
I mentioned this on Twitter several days ago, but I believe there is a thing called The Constanza Effect. Named after Jose Constanza, it’s the fear that Braves fans have that a player – who probably shouldn’t be on a major league roster – will get lucky at the right time and receive more playing time. This player typically gets labeled gritty and commentators will prop up his intangibles that sabermetrics just cannot measure. This year, the Constanza Effect is in full bloom with Emilio Bonifacio. Formerly a valuable utility player, Bonifacio has been abysmal over his last 125 PA in the majors (-1.3 fWAR). Sure, it’s a short sample size, but in four of the last five years (excluding 2014), Bonifacio has been worth -0.2 fWAR. Bonifacio is the guy who you say “Just cause he can play this position, that doesn’t mean he should.” However, Bonifacio has hit .294/.400/.529 over nine games this spring. Micah Johnson, another primary player in the fight for a bench spot, has also held his own, though Bonifacio looks more natural in the outfield due to experience than Johnson right now. Johnson’s status on the 40-man roster could help his case, but Atlanta will find room for Bonifacio if they want to.
Coming into this spring, I felt Chaz Roe was a bit safer in his effort to keep his bullpen spot than Jose Ramirez. Roe’s metrics last season – especially after coming over from the Orioles – were superb. In 20 innings with the Braves, Roe had a 1.75 FIP, 2.75 xFIP, and a 2.52 SIERA. He always had an arm that teams were interested in, but it looked like Roe had finally started to put it together. Not so fast, kids, as Roe has had a rough go-of-it this spring. In just three games, he’s recorded six outs and allowed a dozen batters to reach – seven of which scored. He did work a game two days ago and left the outing with no runs allowed, but still loaded the bases with two outs before striking out Pete Kozma. It’s still early, but Roe needs to turn the corner soon to avoid the unemployment line.
Feast or Famine
You have seen the best and worst of Adam Walker in limited opportunities this spring. 11 PA, 2 HR, BB, 6 K. But whereas we are getting strange short-sample sizes out of Tuiasosopo and Bonifacio, it’s nice to see the predictability of Walker.