Articles in back-to-back days here as Walk-Off Walk as we work into the final week of April. If you’re new to the blog, Transaction Tuesday is a recap of the moves in the Braves organization from Atlanta all the way down to rookie ball. It’s a simple way to keep track of player movement.
A note on this report – moves referenced today took place between April 18 and April 24. Taxi Squad refers to a Braves minor league team “sending” a player to Danville just to get him off the active roster. In most cases, the player will stay with the team that just demoted him until he is brought back onto the active roster. Prospect Numbers are derived from my preseason Top 50.
Rehab and Activated: Matt Kemp…All told, Kemp spent the minimum ten days on the disabled list dealing with a right hamstring injury. He appeared in one game for Gwinnett, his first taste of minor league action since 2013. He went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout. In four games since being activated, Kemp is 3-for-17 with a homer and two strikeouts.
Promoted and Optioned to Gwinnett: Aaron Blair…With the bullpen tired, the Braves called up Blair last week for a few days before sending him back to Gwinnett. Atlanta didn’t want to get Blair off his regular pitching schedule too much so a demotion was appropriate even though Blair never appeared during his brief return to the bigs. In three starts with Gwinnett his year, Blair has racked up 16 K’s, but still lacks the consistency that made watching him so frustrating for both Braves fans and team management.
Promoted: Matt Wisler…Replacing Blair on the roster was Wisler, who has also made three average starts. The control is superb as usual, but Wisler continues to struggle to set down batters and shorten innings.
Optioned to Gwinnett: Johan Camargo…The switch-hitting shortstop from Panama got into five games during his first stint in the bigs and went 1-for-4 with 3 K’s. His pinch-hit single made Camargo the second Atlanta Brave this year, along with Tyler Flowers, to have a hit in a pinch-hit appearance. Camargo has been a surprise with the bat since spring training began and already has two homers with Gwinnett.
Optioned to Gwinnett: Luke Jackson (#24)…After making a start in his season debut with Gwinnett, Jackson joined the Braves roster after Chaz Roe went on the DL. He worked a trio of games during his time in the majors flashing his swing-and-miss potential. The Braves are working with Jackson to throw more strikes to take advantage of his talented right arm and so far, so good. He’ll continue his quest to get back to the bigs – this time to stay – as he continues his journey with Gwinnett.
Traded to the Angels: David Hernandez…Signed just before the season began after he failed to make the Giants roster, Hernandez had a good beginning to his season in Gwinnett. In seven games, Hernandez picked up four saves and allowed just one earned run in eight innings. He also K’d nine and walked two. Many Braves fans wanted to see him get a shot with the big league team, but he’ll now head west. I have to believe the Braves weren’t enamored and saw a chance to acquire anything (in this case, a player to be named later or cash) rather than watch Hernandez opt out of his contract on May 1.
|By Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons|
Promoted from Extended Spring Training: Ryan Howard…The former Phillies slugger had been working out with some of the youngest Braves prospects after signing with the team and has now finally been activated. In his first game on Saturday, he went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles, a HBP, and an intentional pass. Of course, with the Braves’ bench full of issues, Howard’s success in Gwinnett could push the first baseman to the majors in a hurry.
Promoted from Rome: Enderson Franco…Needing a fresh arm, the Braves brought up Franco for a reinforcement. Franco had begun the year in Rome, a step-down from his 2016 campaign in Carolina. He appeared twice out of the pen in the South Atlantic League, but was immediately put into a starting role last Saturday and worked four good innings in Gwinnett’s 5-2 win against the Pawtucket Red Sox. It was his first outing above A-ball in his eight-year career.
Demoted to Mississippi: Adam Walker…Almost nobody in the Braves’ minor league system can match Walker’s power, but the flaws that have plagued his career were an issue to open the 2017 campaign. He struck out 16 times in 44 PA (36%) and reached base safely via a hit or walk just 9 times. He did have three doubles a homer in ten games. In three games with Mississippi, he’s already smacked a pair of homers and struck out five times.
Placed on Taxi Squad: Caleb Dirks (#34)…No Gwinnett reliever had worked more innings than Dirks when he was pushed off the active roster. In five games, Dirks has allowed four runs in 9.2 innings with eight strikeouts. His control, normally excellent, has been missing with a handful of walks. Hopefully, the mini-break will help him moving forward.
Activated: Joe Rogers…A late signing after the Tigers cut him on March 19, Rogers is a former 2012 fifth rounder out of Central Florida. Injuries have limited him throughout his career to the point that last year’s 36.1 innings stands as his personal high. A lefty, Rogers has just 20 games above A-ball with some miserable results. Well, his numbers at A-ball aren’t that good, either. Rogers is just an arm at this point who, I assume, a scout liked enough to convince his boss that he was worthy of a longer look.
Placed on Taxi Squad: Chad Sobotka (#40)…To make room for Rogers, Sobotka was moved off the active roster. After a fractured back suffered in college kept the 2014 fourth rounder out until the following year, Sobotka has slowly worked his way up. Other ailments limited him to just 15 games in 2015 and 30 games the following year. Sobotka, who is an intimating presence on the mound at 6’7″, has good stuff, but can he shake the injuries to push his way into the big league picture? If so, he’ll give the Braves an intriguing option possibly as soon as the second half of this year.
Florida Fire Frogs
Rehab from Gwinnett: Bradley Roney (#38)…One of the top strikeout arms in the minors, Roney struck out two in two different appearances for Florida this week as he rehabs back from an injury that forced him to miss the beginning of the season. He also walked three, hit a batter, and uncorked a wild pitch. That continues a career-long problem with control for the 24 year-old. From a stuff standpoint, Roney holds his own with any reliever in the Braves organization – including the majors. He simply hasn’t been able to control it. Last September, with a chance to go up two games to none in the Governor’s Cup, Roney hit a batter and walked two before being removed. Maikel Cleto replaced him in body, but not in spirit as he walked in first the tying run and then the winning run. The Braves lost 2-1 despite allowing just one hit. They would get shut out the next two games to lose the series. A week before that, the dominant Roney was on display as he went 3.1 innings with 8 strikeouts as the Braves won 5-4 in the opener of their first-round series against Columbus. I point that out because to this point, sometimes you get the wildly ineffective Roney and other times you get the shutdown Roney. If he can ever show us more of the latter and less of the former, he’s going to be a high-leverage pitcher in the majors.
Demoted to Rome: Raymar Navarro…Signed out of Cuba in the summer of 2015, Navarro made his debut last year with 28 forgetful games in Carolina. He was ticketed for another stay in high-A ball, but a numbers game and a DL stint to begin the year have sent him north to Rome. In his first outing, he K’d a trio of SALLY League hitters in two frames. Navarro is way too old at 26 to be in the South Atlantic League for long, but it’s tough to find many innings for project pitchers in this system.
Placed on Taxi Squad: Josh Graham…A fourth rounder in 2015, Graham transitioned to the bullpen full-time last year and the former Oregon Duck was one of Rome’s best relievers. He K’d 50 over 42.1 innings while walking just 12. That’s a top-notch rate of 4.2 strikeouts per walks. Not a huge prospect, but a good enough one to keep an eye on, Graham opened the season in Florida and the results have been ugly. He’s yet to avoid a run-scoring outing and his control has been MIA. This stint “with Danville” is likely a chance to give him some time to clear his head. If everything is right physically and mentally, I expect Graham to rejoin the roster sometime this week.
Brought back from Taxi Squad: Matt Custred…Like the aforementioned Graham, Custred was a pick in the 2015 draft, though Custred was picked over 20 rounds later in the 31st round. The Texan and former Texas Tech Red Raider has been excellent during his career. Last year, he picked up 64 K’s in Rome over 56.2 innings, though he was a bit wild. With the Florida roster packed, Custred was a surprise return to Rome to open the year and has four outings sandwiched around a brief stint “in Danville.” He’s been great again for Rome with 12 K’s in 8.2 innings, though five walks are still too many. At 23 years-old, he is waiting for a promotion to Florida to challenge himself there.
Placed on Taxi Squad and brought back: Bladimir Matos…The time is running out on Matos. Signed shortly before his 21st birthday, Matos was already old to begin his career considering he was an international signing. To this point, the results just haven’t been there. Nobody doubts he has the stuff to be a professional pitcher with over a K an inning during his career, but the wildness has limited him. That continues with Rome. In nine innings, he’s struck out 13, but walked six and hit a batter. Now 23, Matos has got to show something if he wants to stick around.