(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.
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.
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.
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.