Welcome to the first Transaction Tuesday of 2018. During the season, this will be your weekly recap of the different moves the Braves’ organization makes from promotions to releases to injuries. When relevant, I’ll also point out what option year this is for the player. You can find a list of option year information for the Braves here.
As an added bonus, I’ve provided a projected roster for Gwinnett.
Period: 3/6 – 3/12
Optioned: Jesse Biddle…For Biddle, he pitched well enough to stick in his manager’s mind during his brief run this spring, but a move to the minors was inevitable. After Tommy John surgery helped Biddle become a Brave, he finally made it back to the mound last season in Mississippi and did pretty well out of the bullpen as a multiple-inning reliever. The strikeout rate was more-than-solid, but the control was surprisingly good. Biddle had been one of those “if he ever finds the strike zone consistently, look out!” guys when he landed in the BA Top 100 in back-to-back years. He’s no longer a true prospect at 26, but he could still become a solid arm for the Braves. For Biddle, this would be the third-and-final option year.
Optioned: Adam McCreery…A little hit-prone in his four outings this spring, McCreery will head to Mississippi. On the bright side, he didn’t walk any of the 14 batters he faced. Control issues have often plagued the southpaw and even in his mini-breakout season last year, it was still an issue. He’ll try to hit the strike zone a bit more effectively and let his stuff do the trick in 2018. This would be his first option season.
Optioned: Ricardo Sanchez…It seems like Sanchez has been around for a long time, but this is just Year 5 of his career and he’s still a few weeks away from turning 21. His story is similar to another raw, but talented young arm the John Coppolella era acquired – Touki Toussaint. You can look all you want at the ERA and come away thinking why are people so high on these pitchers. Or you can look for progression in the metrics. Last year was the second consecutive season he increased his strikeout rate while lowering his walk rate. In three years, his K-BB% has gone from 5.5% to 12%. Chances are he won’t be dinged by a .358 BABIP like he was last year with better defenses protecting again. Sanchez was a surprise addition to the Rule 5 this winter, but it shouldn’t surprise you if he makes a big jump this year. Like McCreery, this will be the first option year for Sanchez.
Reassigned to Minor League Camp
Kolby Allard…The bad news is that Allard’s velocity was still a bit low this spring. The good news is that didn’t look too shabby on the mound during a two-game run with the Braves. We’ll likely see him pitch another game or two this spring for the Braves when they need an extra arm. Of course, people will fixate on the velocity, but as long as he’s throwing strikes with movement and maturity, the Braves aren’t going to sour on him anytime soon. He’ll open the season with Gwinnett.
Ray-Patrick Didder…The utility player out of Aruba went 0-for-6, though that’s not all that important. Didder could be ticketed for another trip to Florida after hitting just .230/.331/.330 last season, but I imagine he’ll get promoted up to Mississippi. Last season, we saw the Braves completely embrace the idea of using Didder as an utility option as he played 2B/SS/CF/RF during the year. He’ll look to find his 2016 bat (.274/.387/.381) this season.
Tyler Marlette…A decent hitting catcher, Marlette has yet to play in Triple-A despite seven minor league seasons. Over the last few years, he’s played for two high-A teams and two Double-A teams – all in the same organization. I thought that was funny. Marlette would appear to have room in Double-A with Brett Cumberland likely moving to the outfield. I’ll talk more about where the catchers land in a second.
Cristian Pache…Just a couple of singles and some solid defense from Pache before his reassignment. More-and-more people are convinced that the pop is going to come for Pache in a big way and some believe he may have a Ronald Acuna Jr.-like ascension. Let’s cool the jets a little, but there’s no doubt there is a lot of reason to be excited about Pache. He’ll likely head to Florida to open the year.
Phil Pfeifer…A possibility when camp opened to make a run, Pfeifer’s numbers weren’t so hot and he’ll head back to Gwinnett to try to get back in position to make his major league debut at some point. It’s the same story you hear for a lot of these relievers. If they can just throw some more strikes, they’ll be golden. 42 free passes in 59.1 innings aren’t going to cut it. Phil’s got a great story and he has some big-time stuff. We just need to see it hit the strike zone a bit more regularly.
Kade Scivicque…The addition of Chris Stewart was a bit surprising with Scivicque in-house as a possible #3 catcher on the depth chart (while playing in Gwinnett). Of course, Atlanta may see Stewart as not only a mentor to a young Gwinnett pitching staff, but to Alex Jackson – and maybe even Scivicque. Everything about Scivicque screams backup catcher. However, with a young catcher like Jackson, Atlanta is unlikely to bring Scivicque to the majors next year should Jackson also arrive. So, the former Tigers farmhand is in a bit of a limbo. Further, with Jackson and Stewart – should the latter accept the assignment – ticketed for Gwinnett, there won’t be much time for Scivicque. You have to wonder if he’ll head to Double-A and share time with Marlette and Jonathan Morales.
Mike Soroka…Oh, he was impressive all right. In five innings, he allowed two hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five. And Soroka was often getting early-game work when MLB regulars were still in the lineup. Barring injury or surprising ineffective play, the only way Soroka isn’t in Atlanta by this summer is if the Braves are Wild Card contenders and already like their rotation.
Gwinnett Stripers Projected Roster
This is only my prediction based on what we are seeing this spring and the natural progression of players. Triple-A rosters, like major league rosters, are limited to 25 players. I’m going to assume Luiz Gohara sticks in extended spring training for the opening of the season. Also, I am assuming the major league club opens the year with a 4 SP/8 RP/5-man bench setup and Danny Santana is brought north for the time being. Of course, other moves could change things radically. Another thing this assumes is guys like Manny Barreda, Rob Brantly, Rex Brothers, Skyler Ewing, Luke Jackson, David Peterson, Evan Phillips, Michael Reed, Miguel Socolovich, and Kade Scivicque are either released or sent to Mississippi.
C Alex Jackson
C Chris Stewart