Transaction Tuesday: What a Week It Was!

Transaction Tuesday: What a Week It Was!

It was a very eventful week for the Atlanta Braves’ system so no dilly-dallying. Let’s dive in.

*The moves covered in this edition of Transaction Tuesday cover July 10 to July 17. A number in parenthesis represents the player’s ranking in the midseason WOW Top 50.

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Atlanta
Activated: Sean Rodriguez…From a possibility to miss the season to making his Braves debut on July 17. Say what you will about the Braves, but their players don’t seem to miss as much time as other teams. Much has been made about Sean-Rod’s brief and ultimately unproductive rehab stint for the Braves as he went 3-for-39 with 12 Ks. But don’t get caught i[ in the stats too much when it comes to rehab stints. It’s all about timing and the Braves likely felt his timing was back – plus he didn’t have much time left available to rehab. Moving on, where does Rodriguez fit in? When originally signed, Rodriguez looked like a possibility to share time at second base and third base – along with filling in elsewhere as needed. The Braves now have Brandon Phillips at second base and either Freddie Freeman or Johan Camargo available to play third base. Regardless, Rodriguez should be used frequently when a left-hander is on the mound (.332 wOBA, 111 wRC+ against LHP the last three years). That could mean playing third base like he did yesterday evening or spelling Nick Markakis, who hasn’t hit lefties much at all over the last two-and-a-half seasons. Rodriguez is a great player to have on your bench for what he brings to the team and fortunately, this version of the Braves can use him properly as previous year’s teams would have overexposed him from playing him too often.

Activated: Danny Santana…During his three-game rehab stint, Santana enjoyed his stay with Gwinnett. In the second game, he went a spectacular 5-for-5 with a double and a steal. He added two more hits the next day before returning to the Braves. Santana has been better with the Braves than he was with the Twins, but much of that is due to Santana being awful with Minnesota to open the season. Santana is a decent enough fit for the Braves, though. He’s a switch-hit bat who can play a number of positions and provides a little bit of a speed factor off the bench. Plus, for fans of the Braves, it helps that his name isn’t Emilio Bonifacio.

Transferred from 10-day DL to 60-day DL: Armando Rivero (strained right shoulder)…We haven’t heard from the hard-throwing righty all year. Some of this may be gamesmanship, but Rivero has been stuck on the DL since early this spring and there has been almost nothing written about it. No ramping up for a rehab stint. No updates on progress. Nothing. Don’t plan on seeing Rivero this season.

DL: Jason Motte (back strain)…The Braves have been fortunate this year with a number of players who’ve had results that were much more favorable than their metrics. Motte is one of those players. With a 3.76 ERA over 31 games, one might say he’s been serviceable. When you add in his 18% strikeout rate, 9% walk rate, 17% HR/FB rate, and 30% hard-hit ball rate…you start to get concerned when you see him get the call from Brian Snitker. And to be honest, Motte has been this guy ever since Tommy John surgery took him out of commission in 2013 while with the Cardinals. In the three years before 2017, spent with three different teams, Motte had an 18% strikeout rate, a 7% walk rate, a 12% HR/FB rate, and a 35% hard-hit ball rate. His ERA during that time was 60 points higher. The smart money is on Motte’s ERA getting that high again.

Gwinnett

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Promoted from Mississippi: Ronald Acuna (#1)…This one was a biggy. Acuna began the year in Florida and after a month of doing well (but not overwhelming awesome), he received a bit of a surprising promotion. He followed that up by destroying the Southern League to the tune of .326/.374/.520. At the ripe old age of 19, he was a Double-A All-Star and if you weren’t already paying attention, he put a show on in batting practice at the Futures Game and in the field during the game. Acuna only played 40 games in Low-A last year and now, he could be an injury away from being called up to start in the Show. Not one to rest on his laurels, Acuna went 6-for-21 over his first five games at Triple-A with two doubles and a pair of home runs. It’s easy to overhype prospects, but Acuna keeps reminding us that occasionally, the prospect deserves the hype.

Rehab: Arodys Vizcaino…Placed on the DL last week with an index finger strain, Vizcaino’s rehab assignment is not planned to last long. He threw a perfect inning to start Monday’s game and struck out one. Returning to Atlanta healthy and productive won’t just help the Braves, but also revisit some early July rumors about Vizcaino being a target for contending teams. Vizcaino has closer experience, the ability to reach triple digits on the gun, and has great composure on the mound. Surely someone will be interested in him provided he’s good to go. Of course, Atlanta might not be anxious to trade him depending on how the next week goes.

Activated: Caleb Dirks (#40)…Dirks hasn’t been as lights-out as he was before this season. His 3.59 FIP would be a new full-season high and he’s already surrendered four homers this season after giving up just seven over three seasons. That said, he’s still carrying a 29% strikeout rate and a 8% walk rate and that’s very impressive. His activation ends a nearly month-long stay on the DL. It was just his second trip to the DL since joining the organization following the 2014 draft. Dirks has routinely posted very solid numbers in the past and could be in line for a shot at the bigs very soon.

Recalled and Optioned: Jason Hursh (#42)…Five times. That’s how many times Hursh has been optioned to the minors this season. His latest call-up of three days wasn’t even the shortest one of 2017 for the righty. All the while, he’s thrown 5.2 innings while allowing one run, two unintentional walks, and four Ks while a member of the Braves bullpen. He also appeared in 23 games between Gwinnett and Mississippi with five saves and is flowing with a 3.11 ERA and a similar FIP as well. Personally, I would like a much longer look for Hursh. It’s difficult to know which of these borderline prospects are keepers with so little time to impress before being passed over for higher-rated prospects. They need to get their chance and show something very quickly. Hursh has done well when called upon, but can’t seem to stay in the majors long enough to establish himself. The longer this continues, the more likely it is for Hursh to get lost in the shuffle.

Optioned: Micah Johnson…With Johnson healthy, but no spot for him in the majors, he was optioned to Gwinnett. Acquired in a trade in mid-January with the Dodgers, Johnson was on his way to make the roster this spring before a fractured left wrist on a dive took him out of the competition. He’s appeared nine times since beginning his rehab stint and has looked fairly good (11-for-31, 2B, 3 BB, 8 K, 5 SB). A former second baseman, Johnson has only played the outfield this season. As the Braves cycle Acuna all over the outfield, Johnson will likely be the guy playing center when Acuna isn’t.

Optioned: Jace Peterson…For the third time this season, the Braves option Peterson to the minors. He’s been tremendous with Gwinnett so they are happy to have him back. His most recent appearance in the majors includes three games as a pinch-hitter. He made the final one a memorable one, smacking a ball into the Chop House for his first homer since last August 21. That one was pretty memorable, too, as it was a walk-off bomb off Shawn Kelley to beat the Nationals. Despite his mammoth homer on Saturday, he just hasn’t done enough to justify a spot in the majors. He’s a useful player when an injury opens a spot as he can play all over, but he’s earned an AAAA label right now.

Outrighted and traded: Chaz Roe…It’s bad enough to be waived and have no teams claim you. But Roe’s frustrations grew Monday night as he was charged with three runs as the Braves wasted an excellent Lucas Sims non-start (6 ING, 3 ER, 11 Ks in relief of Vizcaino). Roe broke camp with the team this spring largely because he was out-of-options. After a trio of ugly appearances, he landed on the DL with a lat strain. He made four appearances in the minors over two rehab stints (a flare-up stopped his rehab once), but the Braves passed on bringing back to Atlanta. (Update…today saw Roe traded to Tampa for cash.)

Mississippi
Promoted from Florida: Tyler Neslony (#46)…A ninth rounder drafted largely because the Braves needed to cut some corners to sign higher-rated prospects, Neslony was a surprising force at the plate for the Fire Frogs. He slashed .309/.378/.442. Included was an attempt to teach the former Texas Tech star first base. That didn’t go so hot (9 errors in less than 200 innings), but Neslony will continue to move up the ladder. To this point, Neslony has shown a knack for hitting righties (.310/.377/.457) and could develop into a platoon bat who can play the outfield corners and the occasional first base. He’s off to a 4-for-16 start in Double-A with a double, a walk, and two strikeouts since the promotion. He’s played only outfield so far.

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Promoted from Florida: Austin Riley (#13)…A lot of the high-profile promotions last week made sense, but Riley’s was a bit confusing. He wasn’t exactly lighting it up at Florida and, at 20-years-old, was still young for the level. Nevertheless, Atlanta promoted the strong third baseman for a trial-by-fire in the Southern League. With Florida, Riley was hitting .252/.310/.408 with a dozen homers. He’s yet to show improved plate discipline, though he did shave off 5% off his strikeout rate from last season. His ISO was also down 50 points so there’s that. Honestly, this is the one promotion I absolutely don’t understand. Riley’s first five games included four hits, including a home run last night, and two walks along with five K’s.

Promoted from Florida: Jacob Webb…Needing a new challenge, Webb heads up to the Southern League. In 22 games with Florida this year, Webb K’d 48 in 41.1 innings with a 1.74 ERA. For Webb, he’s making up for lost time. After being plucked in the 18th round all the way back in 2014, Webb was solid in 33.2 innings in the GCL. He was a rising prospect before feeling a pop in his elbow on the first day of minor league spring training in 2015. After the dreaded TJS, Webb returned in 2016 to throw 13 innings before being unleashed this season. For more on Webb, check out my Random Prospect Sunday column from early March.

Demoted from Gwinnett: Enrique Burgos…Gwinnett has a blog that regularly gives updates on the team. Last week, they profiled Burgos. Acquired the same day the Braves picked up Matt Adams, Burgos was struggling in the Arizona system. However, he’s been nothing but great with Gwinnett. In 13 games, he’s allowed a single run in 14 innings. For that matter, he’s only allowed three hits. Add in the seven walks and 17 strikeouts and you have a reliever who is flourishing. So why the demotion? The Gwinnett bullpen is getting quite full with veterans.

Demoted from Gwinnett: Stephen Gaylor…This is the eleventh Transaction Tuesday I’ve done this season and Gaylor has shown up four times. Such is the life of organizational depth. Gaylor has split 30 games between Double-A and Triple-A and actually has slightly better numbers in Triple-A. His value to the Braves is in his defense, speed, and the fact the Braves trust him to just do his job no matter how much they jerk him around. These guys don’t get a lot of love in prospect rankings, but they serve a purpose for the organization.

DL: Jesse Biddle (#47)…The former top Phillies prospect has been quietly solid for the M-Braves. Over 27 games, all out of the pen, Biddle has struck out a quarter of all batters while displaying the best control of his career. No word on what pushed him to the DL. He did reach 49.2 innings in fairly quick order. If he doesn’t miss much time – or isn’t on too restrictive of an innings limit – Biddle could be in line for a promotion if the Braves are so inclined.

DL: Bradley Roney…On-and-off the DL. That’s been Roney’s season. The good news is that he’s striking out a ton of batters for Mississippi. And I mean a ton. 35.3%. Of course, with Roney, it always comes down to the but. In this case, it’s a “but, he’s also walked 17%.” Now 24-years-old, Roney has logged just 18 total games this year – 15 in Double-A. He has yet to show any significant advancement. You can’t strike out everyone and you certainly can’t get by walking every fifth batter.

Florida
Promoted from Rome: Justin Ellison…A toolsy 12th rounder back in 2015, Ellison was easy to forget about heading into 2017. Last year, his first above rookie-level, the outfielder batted .247/.304/.370 while showing decent range and good speed (18 steals). However, the triple slash and presence of guys higher on the depth chart kept him in Rome to open this season. His 45-game run in Rome was hardly noteworthy and he was in the midst of some struggles at the time of his promotion, but in his defense, he did flash some strong overall numbers against righties (.271/.321/.481) and was humming before the All-Star Break stopped his mojo. Ellison has worked to cut down on his swing, but it’s still long and with a pronounced uppercut. There are some qualities here that deserve second and third looks, though. He’s a project, but with plus athletism already in his toolbag.

Promoted from Rome: Brandon White…With back-to-back picks, the Braves selected a pair of Brandon White’s. This particular one is the 12th-round variation. The 13th-round one was cut and last played for Southern Illinois in the Frontier League. A righty out of Lander University in South Carolina, Brandon Steven White was solid for Danville last year and so far this season, he’s built on that success while serving as Rome’s closer. His ten saves is five more than second place in the organization. He also struck out nearly a batter an inning and showed solid control. In his first outing with Florida, he surrendered a solo home run and struck out two over a pair of frames.

Demoted from Mississippi: Andrew Daniel…Signed near the end of June, Daniel went 2-for-21 with Mississippi, but his demotion was about the guy he effectively replaces in the Florida lineup – Austin Riley. After a good debut in the Pioneer League back in 2014, Daniel hasn’t shown much offense since. He’ll try to change that with Florida.

Promoted to Mississippi and Demoted Back: Junior Rincon…Speaking of recent signees, Rincon was part of this column last week. He made one appearance during a stay in the Southern League and allowed a run in one inning. His only outing with Florida, which came before the promotion, saw Rincon surrendered three runs over 1.2 ING.

Rome
Promoted from Danville: Ryan Schlosser…Ryan Thomas Schlosser is the oldest-looking 21-year-old I have ever seen. A 32nd rounder a year ago, Schlosser was used as a closer with the GCL squad before a late-season promotion to Danville. He started this year with the APPY club and looked decent enough in six games before this promotion. Schlosser is a sinker baller we are still trying to get a good handle on because we haven’t seen much out of the big kid from the small college. I will say this – he’s a fun guy. Danville recently did a fidget spinner giveaway and he traded a bat to a kid for one of them.

Promoted from Danville: Izzy Wilson (#41)…Is there a faster outfield in the minors than Cristian Pache, Randy Ventura, and Izzy Wilson? Possibly, but these guys are flyers. Izzy came onto the scene with a big GCL campaign in 2015 where he belted ten homers in just 48 games. He also walked a bunch – along with striking out a whole lot. A lot was hoped for when the 2016 season opened for Danville, but Wilson was marred in a season-long slump that ended with a .591 OPS and just two homers. A return assignment was given to Wilson and he did not disappoint. He continued to strike out a lot but got on base at a .338 clip with a nearly .300 ISO over 17 games. The Braves took pity on the Appalachian League pitchers and brought Wilson to Rome. Four games in, he’s struck out seven times. He’s also doubled and swiped a pair of bases. Wilson is a fun prospect because there is a lot here to like. Can he put it together enough to be a Top-30 or Top-20 prospect for the Braves? He’ll have to clean up his game (career .215 hitter so far with 129 K’s in 107 games), but the power and speed combination – along with good defense – should keep Wilson in the discussion.

Danville
Promoted from GCL: Walter Borkovich…Undrafted out of Michigan State, Borkovich was a four-year performer for the Spartans. He was a control artist who didn’t get many strikeouts while in school, which predictably didn’t grab much draft attention. Signing with the Braves after the draft, Borkovich appeared twice in the GCL and tossed four scoreless innings. His first outing in Danville resulted in his first professional win as he went 2.2 scoreless innings with 4 Ks. He’s not a big prospect by any means, but Borkovich was clocked in the mid-90’s in college so he’s not just throwing junk up there. He didn’t do enough to get drafted, but the Braves have a knack for finding undrafted kids and turning them into something useful.

Promoted from GCL: Jasseel De La Cruz…A late addition to the 2014-15 signing class, Cruz struggled in 2015 before shaving off three-and-a-half runs off his ERA last year in a second stint in the DSL. His success warranted a promotion to the Gulf Coast League to finish 2016 and he was dominant with 15 scoreless innings, four hits allowed, a walk, and 12 Ks. It’s a bit surprising he returned to GCL to open this season, but there was a method to Atlanta’s madness. They wanted to change him over to a starter and over four starts, Cruz had a 1.89 ERA. Atlanta ran out of reasons to keep him in the GCL and he heads to Danville. Cruz could be a guy who climbs up the prospect ladder with some strong numbers in Danville.

Promoted from GCL: Kevin Maitan (#4)…Well, that was quick. After just nine games in the GCL, the Braves send the 17-year-old switch-hitter to Danville to continue his professional career. Did we learn anything in the GCL? Well, Maitan did strike out ten times in 37 PA. That’s not great. He also reached base 13 times, which is pretty good for the first nine games of your career. Through two games in Danville, Maitan is 2-for-8 with 3 Ks. He’s also mercifully moved Derian Cruz over to second base, which might be a better spot for the 2015-16 top signee. Between the two, the Braves have spent $6.25M. They’ll gladly spend more if they progress to the majors – especially with Maitan, who is one of those “the sky is the limit” players.

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Promoted from GCL: Drew Waters (#22)…Maitan got nine games in the GCL – Waters received 14. Regardless, the do-everything outfielder was explosive, hitting .347/.448/.571 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. He stole a pair of bases and walked seven times. Not too shabby for the switch-hitting prospect. He added three more hits, including a double, in his two-game run with the D-Braves so far. Our own Stephen Tolbert is convinced Waters will soon be the Braves’ best outfield prospect once Acuna graduates to the majors. So far, he looks right on.

GCL
Demoted from Danville: Gilbert Suarez…Roster spots were needed and Suarez returns to the GCL, where he’s spent the two last two years following his 18th round selection back in 2015. Suarez was excellent for GCL a year ago with only two earned runs in 23.2 ING but was absolutely lit up in six games with Danville. As a team, the D-Braves have allowed 15 home runs. Four have come on pitches from Suarez. His ERA was 12.60 in 10 innings. So, this wasn’t just a roster numbers thing in regards to Suarez. The righty came into professional baseball with a low-90’s fastball, a good-looking curve, and what may have been a changeup. But in his third year, his inability to figure out the APPY League is troubling. Worse, his first game back in the GCL didn’t go so hot as he was saddled with two earned runs in an inning and a third – tying the amount of ER he gave up in 23.2 innings last year.

Demoted from Danville: Ramon Taveras…Just promoted, Tavarez returns to the GCL without toeing the mound for the D-Braves. This is his fourth year of professional ball and he’s yet to appear in a game for Atlanta’s top rookie-league team – let alone progress into A-ball. Nothing really stands out about his numbers. He’s been mostly a reliever and not a very successful one. At this rate, it would be shocking to see Taveras in 2018 for the Braves unless he starts to build some momentum quick.

DSL
All quiet on the Dominican front.

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