An Early Atlanta Braves Rule 5 Preview

An Early Atlanta Braves Rule 5 Preview

 (Pic of Max Pentecost courtesy of Thomson200 via Wikipedia Commons)

Before the storm of Tuesday, the Braves had some roster decisions to make in preparation for the Rule 5 draft in December. If you need a refresher, the Rule 5 draft is a way to ensure that teams don’t hoard prospects. Teams get four-to-five years to decide whether or not a player should be placed on their 40-man roster. If the answer is no, depending on when that player began his professional career, he could be eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

The Braves made their choices on who to protect and now have a number of players, most notably Travis Demeritte and Dustin Peterson, who will be available for other teams to draft. Other teams must keep that player on their active 25-man roster for the whole season. If the player spends time on the DL, the number of days on the active roster needed is reduced to at least 90 days – though the player still cannot be optioned to the minors. If those 90-days aren’t reached…well…read about Dan Winkler.

Other teams went through the crunch the Braves dealt with and here are some of the most interesting options that will be available in December. Currently, the Braves have a full 40-man roster and will need to open some spots to draft anyone, but that shouldn’t be too difficult should Atlanta want to go in that direction. Feel free to add to this list in the comment section or let me know if you really like one or two of these guys.

Pitchers
Nick Burdi – Minnesota

Before the Braves landed Huascar Ynoa for Jaime Garcia, Burdi was the guy being discussed. For Burdi watchers (get it?), that either made you very excited or concerned depending on whether you were a fan of the Braves or Twins. Burdi has an explosive fastball that made him the talk of the 2015 Arizona Fall League when he made guys like Gary Sanchez look awful. It’s a triple-digit burner and he has a plus-plus slider to go with it. Burdi could be a major league closer and a good one at that. The problem with Burdi is similar to Dan Winkler. No one doubts the stuff these two pitchers have, but their deliveries put a great deal of force on the arm. Winkler’s arm has broken down a few times. Burdi has spent much of the last two years on the DL with forearm soreness and Tommy John surgery. The latter should sideline him until late summer. If you want to go for the highest reward from this Rule 5 draft, Burdi might be it. With the injury, you can stash him for awhile as well.

James Farris – Colorado

Picked up just before the season from the Cubs, Farris was on his way to securing a 40-man roster spot before a midseason promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs and the Pacific Coast League. He struggled in a 31-game run there, though the PCL can be unforgiving to pitchers. A senior sign who was drafted in the ninth round, Farris was cruising in the Cubs’ organization with great strikeout numbers, low walk totals, and just two homeruns allowed in three years. That was before the PCL, where he gave up eight. He throws a fastball in the 90-91 mph range with a slider and changeup. Farris has held his own against lefties in the minors. He could function as a decent middle reliever.

Jordan Guerrero – Chicago White Sox

Relying on a very good changeup with a low-to-mid 90’s heater and average curveball, Guerrero outpitched his ERA significantly in 2017. It was his second year at Double-A, but he upped his strikeout rate 4%, dropped his walk rate nearly 5%, and even increased his groundball rate slightly from 43% to 46%. It was a solid year, as his 2.91 FIP and 3.16 xFIP showed. However, his ERA topped 4 and in a great system, he got squeezed out. Outside of a troublesome 2016, Guerrero has maintained good strikeout rates and solid control. The southpaw doesn’t show the kind of platoon differences one might expect for a left-hand specialist and the Braves are flush with left-handed starting options, but Guerrero could be a nice surprise if he makes it out of camp.

Damien Magnifico – Los Angeles Angels

I mean…his name is cool. That’s really all I got.

Kyle Martin – Boston

Before 2017, Martin was a solid relief arm in the Boston organization. In 2015, he had a FIP near 3.00 with a 26% strikeout rate to go with a walk-rate close to 8%. He followed that up with a 2016 campaign at Triple-A where he K’d 29% of opposing batters, walked just 8%, and pitched to an xFIP of 2.98. Last year, things got away from him. His control worsened and his effectiveness waned. He did get to the majors briefly for a cup of coffee, though. Martin works off his mid-90’s fastball and a changeup he has a good feel for. His slider has never been more than average but plays up when he’s spotting his fastball/change well. He could be worth a look.

Jake Reed – Minnesota

Even though Reed has a big-time fastball and above-average secondary options like a slider and changeup, he’s never been able to have the kind of explosive strikeout numbers you’d expect from a pitcher with his stuff. One of the reasons for that is that he struggles with lefthanders, who see the ball better against him than righties. That will limit his ability to throw high-leverage innings. He has experience at Triple-A and seems ready for the next step. Definitely a wild card, but with the right situation and pitching coach, he could turn into an X-factor for a bullpen.

Kohl Stewart – Minnesota

A groundball artist, Stewart would be a reach based on his recent history. That history is full of injuries, which has led to less-than-impressive results. Once the fourth overall selection of the 2013 draft, the arm is there but is the body? If it is, the Braves have themselves a potentially dominant reliever or future fourth or fifth starter. His sinker is nearly impossible to put in the air. He also has a great feel for his breaking stuff whether it be a curveball or slider. The changeup has never been well-loved, but can be a useful show-me pitch. Stewart’s a risk, though not a big one considering the small amount the Braves would have to invest. There is certainly a high reward here regardless.

Catcher
Max Pentecost – Toronto

Selected by Alex Anthopoulos with the 11th overall pick of the 2014 draft, Pentecost has been slowed by injury over the last couple of years. He was a big-time catching prospect out of Kennesaw State, but two labrum surgeries later, that scouting report has changed. He only caught 20 games last year out of the 72 that he played. More, he has yet to get to Double-A. The problem with selecting Pentecost is twofold. If he isn’t a catcher anymore, he’s a first baseman. While his bat still has the kind of projection you’d like to see, the Braves are already pretty set at first. If Pentecost is a catcher, the Braves are also pretty set there for the time being with a few big prospects on the way. You can never have enough talent, but is Pentecost worth the stash? Only if you feel he can stay behind the plate. I’m not that confident.

Outfielders
Jason Martin – Houston

A stat-line filler, Martin does a little of everything and has been quite successful over his five-year career. He finally moved to Double-A in 2017, hitting .273/.319/.483 over 79 games with 11 homers and seven steals. Before that, he hit .287/.354/.494 in High-A with seven homers and nine stolen bases. That’s about par for the course for Martin, who went 20/20 in 2016 as well. His walk rate is typically in the double digits and his strikeout rate has climbed over 20%, but his ISO also moved over .200 with it. His batted ball data shows that he has elevated the ball more while pulling it. This has been something that is working for him. He could make for a nice platoon option should the Braves trade both Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp.

John Norwood – Marlins

Looking for a possible platoon partner for Martin? Enter Norwood, who hit .285/.367/.459 in Double-A last year. Like Martin, he’ll walk a good amount and also K a bunch. Norwood has a big swing, but doesn’t elevate the ball well enough to truly take advantage of it. The power numbers from last year came with a .173 ISO, his single-season best. He’s shown progression and durability to this point, but might not be ready for major league breaking balls right now.

11 Comments

I was a big fan of Burdi when we were talking with Minnesota, and the fact that he has had surgery and is out for an extended period of time makes even more sense for the Braves if they operated in a similar fashion to the front office B.C. (Before Coppy, obviously…). They loved to play the snatch and stash game with pitchers, and Burdi is a textbook case.
Looking over the rule 5 lists, aside from Pentecost the two guys that we left hanging in the wind (Dustin Peterson and Travis Demeritte) are more attractive than the rest of the field from a position player perspective. The rationale used in defending a Pentecost draft pick would be exactly the same for a DP or TD pick by another club, which is why I expect one or both to be selected.
Ultimately I think we pass on this draft and use that 25th roster spot for someone internally that we want to evaluate.

Won’t disagree with anyone listed. Even mentioned Jason Martin as someone we could probably acquire from the Astros in a big trade without them putting much weight in his inclusion at this point.

I’m sure there are a lot of names people will toss into the hat for consideration, but I’d like to point back at the Houston organization one more time for a player who is more likely to stick as an outfielder on a major league roster than Martin.

Jon Kemmer, corner outfielder, most likely best suited to playing left field. Was actually eligible for the Rule 5 last year, but a down 2016 kept him from being picked up. Not the same case for 2017, though. So I’m just guessing the Astros are 1) okay with just losing him for more or less nothing and 2) they feel that he may be overlooked at the age of 27.

Anyway…Kemmer’s a guy that’s had some health issues (broke his leg a few years ago), but has otherwise been a masher in the minor leagues. He doesn’t have too much of a platoon-split, but as a lefty swinger has been more effective against right-handed pitching. Even though it was in the PCL, his .299/.399/.533 line from last season shouldn’t be ignored. Especially since his overall minor league line rests at .286/.364/.500.

Dude might be a left-handed version of Matt Diaz. Or maybe a hell of a pinch-hit threat like Matt Stairs was. After staring him down for much of the summer and doing my research on him extensively, I am convinced the only reason he isn’t taken more seriously is because he played in the Astros farm system and if you’re not elite there, you’re not in their top 20. IMO, there’s a useful major leaguer in Jon Kemmer. He just needs to get out of Houston and be given a chance to stick.

I agree that both DP and TD seem better than any of the other available players. I can’t figure out why Braves didn’t release Rex Brothers and Danny Santana and add both DP and TD. I think this is a pure poker play. Risk losing TD and DP, keep Rex and Danny and drop them later if they find a good Rule 5 to pick up. Winkler is eventually going to make it. Burdi will too – he seems like the best idea. I think the risk is greater than the reward in this game. Kohl Stewart would be a good pick too and Martin might be a good option if Dustin is chosen.

TD had a TERRIBLE year in Double A in 2017. I DO NOT see any SANE MLB team giving a guy who BARELY hit .200 and had way too many strikeouts and not nearly enough homers in Double A in 2017..a MLB roster spot FOR ALL OF 2018. Just not happening, lol!

Sure, TD has power potential/toolsy skills that could translate to a productive MLB career IF he can improve on his contact % AND hit with more consistent power over the course of a season. However he needs time IN THE MINORS to improve on his deficiencies! How is he going to improve himself..if he ends up being stashed away on the bench for most of The 2018 Season? TD needs to play to improve. Simple as that!

Dustin Peterson, on the other hand, may be picked up by another team in The Rule 5 Draft…perhaps given an opportunity to show in Spring Training that he’s regained the power that he lost with his hand injury in Spring Training of 2017. If he were to have a good 2018 Spring Training..he could open The 2018 Season on a team’s 25 man roster. However if he wasnt able to win a roster spot…then the team is only out $25k (he costs $50k to draft, would cost The Braves $25k if we wanted him back).

Regardless, DP is not someone I worry about losing! I just dont see him as being a playoff caliber Left Fielder/power hitter long term for The Braves. Peterson isnt an improvement over Matt Kemp (just cheaper)! I’ve stated before that I’d like to see Kemp kept as our Left Fielder in 2018 (tough to trade him with 2 years left on his contract). Still, if we can keep him relatively healthy, he can hit for power and knock in some runs (with Ronald Acuna providing more range in Right Field in 2018 over Markakis…I’d have Inciarte shade over more towards Left…and order Kemp to NOT dive for any meaningless bloop hits AND order him to quit going ALL OUT on long, line drive hits that would put his hamstrings at risk of being pulled. I know, fans have an ‘addictive need’ to see players ‘hustle/go all out’. However what is more important to The Braves future…is that Matt Kemp MAKE IT THROUGH The 2018 Season relatively healthy/hitting for power…because it would make it MUCH EASIER for us to trade him after The 2018 Season to an AL team in need of a power hitting DH. He’ll only be owed $18.5 mil on the last year of his contract in 2019…and I feel that an AL team would have no problem paying a healthy/power hitting Kemp $10 mil or so to DH in 2019. While eating $6-$8 mil of Kemp’s last year is pricey…it’s better than eating ALL OF IT, which we’d have to do IF Kemp cannot stay healthy/hit for power in 2018)….because either way, Matt Kemp WILL NOT be on The Braves team in 2019…that is, if we are serious about making a playoff push starting with The 2019 Season! The question is, how much of Kemp’s final year will we have to eat? That question will be answered by how healthy/productive Kemp is during The 2018 Season.

After The 2016 MiLB Season, I felt that Dustin Peterson was a candidate to play left field/hit in the middle of the order after Kemp’s time with The Braves ended. After all, he put up decent homer numbers hitting in a canyon of a home park in Double A Mississippi (a number of his doubles could have been homers in a ‘normal’, more hitter friendly park).

However, the SERIOUS dropoff in power at Triple A was troublesome…regardless of his hand injury. Dude basically looked liked a scrub at the plate! The Braves are going to have to either go after a Free Agent like Bryce Harper via Free Agency after The 2018 Season…OR make a trade that brings in a power hitting left fielder (which would cost us precious prospect capital). I’d rather see The Braves spend CASH on Harper..than give up pitching prospects.

I hope you’re right about no one plucking Demeritte, Paul. I’m a little baffled as to why the club didn’t put him on the 40 man because of his power and tools; but maybe, as you said, the Braves are banking on no one wanting to tie the roster spot up with him. I’d hate to see the Braves lose him, though.

Peterson? Meh.

My hope for the Braves in the Rule 5 is that they pick up Jason Martin, use him in a LF platoon with Kemp, and as a late inning defensive replacement. If the Braves trade Markakis, an outfield of Kemp/Martin in LF, Inciarte in CF and Acuna in RF wouldn’t be bad at all.

King…totally agree with your Martin pick assessment.

Once again, dont worry about The Braves possibly losing TD. NO WAY does he get picked (again, he’ll have to be on the MLB roster THE WHOLE SEASON…he’d end up regressing because of a lack of playing time. He needs at-bats…and lots of them if he has any chance of developing)!

Paul et al, you are 100% wrong about TD. Yes, the offense wasn’t great – he had a down year – and that’s why the Braves are playing poker with him but he has shown elite defensive skills at 2B/3B and would make an ideal cheap UTIL player for any team that drafts him. He got lots of attention last year in the AFL for his defense. Any offense he provides would be a bonus to the selecting team. And his upside potential is of a Dan Uggla in his prime with better defense. Lots of HRs, lots of walks, lots of K’s. There is no downside to taking him as a bench/UTIL player for a year and then sending him back to the minors. And don’t forget that MLB teams have major league hitting instructors and daily batting practice. Every reason to believe a team could draft him, teach him, play him as UTIL, and discover a darn good PH. I believe there is about 100% of him being taken in Rule 5.

Also, like I mentioned before, the loss of DP could be compensated by taking a chance on Martin.

I was roundly criticized for believing that Dustin Peterson was never going to make our roster before being declared a MiLB Free Agent the other day. I just think he had a flashy season in 2016 that gave him a helium burst but, in the end, he is a 4th OF at best at the MLB level.

Roger…..we’ll have to agree to disagree. I just feel that there is a 99.9% chance that TD WILL NOT be taken in The Rule 5 Draft in December. Dude simply makes too little contact (and in 2017 DID NOT hit for nearly the power that he hit in 2016).

I’m not saying that TD will never be a MLB player. I’m saying that TD needs MUCH MORE than tips from respected MLB batting instructors during the MLB Season. He needs EXTENSIVE PLAYING TIME. TD needs to REPEAT Double A….the worst thing would be for him to be stashed away on a MLB roster.

What, you really think that with a few tips from MLB hitting coaches..that he’s all of a sudden going to ‘miraculously’ start making contact/hitting 30 homers a year?

TD and DP were the biggest disappointments for The Braves in 2017. Both need playing time if they hope for anything more than ‘a cup of coffee-type MLB career’ (which is what they would be limited to IF they were both selected in The Rule 5 Draft. Young players REGRESS if they are healthy yet play little during a whole year in their prime.

We’ll find out come December 14th who is right. If anything DP has a slightly better chance of being selected (yet would be a prime candidate to be returned before Opening Day IF he does not make The MLB roster). Regardless, I feel that there is NO WAY that either of them ENDS THE 2018 Season on another team’s roster IF they were selected in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. If I end up wrong, I’ll have no problem coming back on here ‘eating crow’, lol!

If you are going to select a player in the Rule 5 draft as a position player, what would you say you’re looking to get? Obviously you aren’t getting a ready-made MLB replacement level starter. Most teams would be looking for a guy to play off their bench either as a backup catcher to a guy who’s going to catch 120 games or a versatile defender with pop in his bat. Demeritte isn’t a backup catcher, but he IS an elite defender at 2B and a plus defender at 3B and SS, and he does have pop in his bat. There are at least a handful of teams that have roster space available that could use a utility infielder who can always bring a threat of a HR to the plate.
Colorado had Alex Amarista who played in 96 games but only started 25. He batted .238 with 3 HR for a playoff team. Greg Garcia started 52 games for St Louis at 3 different infield spots, batted .253 overall with 2 HR. Allen Cordoba with San Diego actually started in half the games that SD played this season and carried a .208 average with 4 HR as a Rule 5 selection last year.
Travis Demeritte could help a team off the bench, especially with the relatively low acquisition cost and risk involved. What’s the worst that could happen? Offer him back to us and lose half the rule 5 draft fee? If he’s bad enough to be offered back to us we might not even TAKE him back. I’d actually see a team selecting Demeritte before DP just based on his versatility.

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