Transaction Tuesday: Biddle, Pache, Soroka, Allard

Transaction Tuesday: Biddle, Pache, Soroka, Allard

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

Atlanta Braves

No moves. The Ryan Schimpf/Josh Ravin moves occurred on 3/5.

Gwinnett Strippers

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.

Mississippi Braves

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.

Ricardo Sanchez | Jeff Morris @Jeff MorrisAB

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.

SP Mike Soroka
SP Kolby Allard
SP Aaron Blair
SP Lucas Sims
SP Max Fried

RP Caleb Dirks
RP Shane Carle
RP Jason Hursh
RP Akeel Morris
RP Jesse Biddle
RP Chase Whitley
RP Phil Pfeifer
RP Josh Ravin

C Alex Jackson
C Chris Stewart

1B Carlos Franco
2B Christian Colon
SS Luis Valenzuela
3B Austin Riley
IF Sean Kazmar Jr.
IF Tyler Smith

OF Ronald Acuna Jr.
OF Dustin Peterson
OF Jaff Decker
OF Xavier Avery


Tommy…..that Starting 5 (potentially) for Triple A Gwinnett….could very well be Major League worthy within a year!

My Projected 2019 Braves Rotation in Atlanta by Opening Day:

1. Mike Folty…….vs……1.Mike Soroka
2. Luis Gohara…..vs…..2. Kolby Allard
3. Mike Soroka….vs……3.Aaron Blair (if he’s able to turn his weight loss into something that makes his stuff play while on the mound)
4. Kolby Allard….vs……4.Lucas Sims (if he’s able to buckle down and develop a true OUT PITCH, kind of like how Mike Scott with The Astros in THe Mid-1980’s developed a spit-fingered fastball that became the most LETHAL PITCH of The 1980’s!
5. Kyle Wright….vs…….5.Max Fried (if Fried can limit his injuries/blisters….can get past needing 100 pitches plus to make it to the 5th inning each night…he’ll have a chance).

To be honest, why arent you including Tooki Tousiant in The Mix for a Spot in The Triple A Rotation? Kyle Wright should be in there by early May, at the latest!

“To be honest, why arent you including Tooki Tousiant in The Mix for a Spot in The Triple A Rotation? Kyle Wright should be in there by early May, at the latest!”

Simple. I was running out of roster spots. That left Touki with his eight Double-A starts and Kyle Wright with his zero to headline the Mississippi rotation in next week’s projected roster.

I might be misunderstanding what you posted, Paul- but I have zero faith in Aaron Blair becoming a viable ML pitcher. I just can’t see any value in him, outside of the fact that he’s a guy you could burn if the big club needs some garbage time innings.

I do, however, agree with you on the those other four guys. There’s a lot of potential there. I’m especially high on Allard.

King….I said ‘potentially’ (not really sold on Aaron Blair, however the whole ‘he’s lost 40 pounds/in the best shape of his career/he’s rediscovered his slider/etc. etc. etc.. has many a Braves fans ‘hoping’ that Blair has regained his prospect status’)!

Maybe I’m wrong about Blair and he has ‘discovered’ his former prospect status. Either way, it looks like he’ll get a chance to start in Triple A. Perhaps the competition from those other arms…will spur him to rediscover himself.

Not betting on it…just pointing out the possibility and my reasoning behind it. Like you, I’m more concerned with how those other 4 starters in Triple A perform.

Tommy….I’m a little ‘conflicted’ when it comes to evaluating Folty’s Spring Performance. 14 innings of scoreless ball while only giving up 3 hits and 4 walks combined.

Pretty impressive no matter whose it against…however it’s Spring Training and he’s faced VERY FEW ‘legit 1-8 MLB lineups’ in Spring Training! Regardless, if a pitcher isnt able to get outs/keep the walks down against ‘lower level’ hitting overall in Spring Training…then it’s virtually impossible for a pitcher to ‘do that’ against legit MLB hitters during The Regular Season.

Folty pitched well for 2/3rds of the season in 2017. He just ‘lost it’ mentally the last 2 months of 2017. His problem wasnt his stuff/arm. Whatever it was, it looks like Folty is off to a GOOD START in 2018 when it comes to trying to prove that he’s a LEGIT TOR candidate for The Braves to put faith in trying to lead our staff!

I’ve been saying all winter that I feel that both Teheran and Folty will have decent/good 2018 seasons. However, I feel that come the trade deadline, it will be Teheran who will end up being traded to a contending team who needs what Teheran ‘excels’ at (eating up innings/being a really good 3/4 guy on a playoff contending team).

Yet on a team with the kind of starting pitching talent like The Braves have…Teheran simply will not be good enough to hold his spot in the rotation, as early as the beginning of The 2019 Season….but most definitely by 2020 Opening Day. I feel that trading Teheran after he’s rebounded this year/by The July Trade Deadline is simply in The Braves best interest: 1. Opens up a slot for the soon incoming trio of Soroka, Allard and Wright. 2. His value to another team will still be high (he’ll only be owed a prorated portion of $8 mil for 2018, $11 mil in 2019 and a team option $12 mil in 2020 with a $1 mil buyout.

When Tyler Chatwood is getting $39 mil over 3 years….and especially when you see what Kershaw and others will be getting during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason….Teheran will be a GREAT BARGAIN. Signing someone like Teheran to a 2 year/$23 mil contract that covers his age 28-29 seasons, in addition to getting him for the rest of 2018 during a playoff run… a ‘steal of a deal’. If AA is worth anything as a GM, he should be able to get a real nice return for Teheran, presumably prospects to fill the lower levels of The Braves MILB System).

If things work out like I hope/expect them to, Folty should be the ace going into 2019 (I was hoping that Gohara would use a full 2018 of starting games for The Braves to assume that mantle…however with his health issues, he may have to ‘settle’ for the #2 in 2019, when he’ll be competing with Soroka to be the ace going into 2020).

If 2018 proves to be a really good season for Folty, then 2019 will be an even more important year for BOTH Folty AND The Braves. He’ll be in line to be a Free Agent after The 2020 Season, meaning that The Braves will need to decide whether to 1. offer Folty a long term deal. 2. let him do the arbitration thing until he becomes a Free Agent. 3. Trade him while his value is HIGH (especially if someone from the 4some of the Wentz, Wilson, Anderson and Davidson have shown by The July 2019 Trade Deadline that they are going to be TOO GOOD to not compete for a spot in The Rotation by Spring Training 2020).

How The Braves end up handling Folty…is where AA will EARN his paycheck as GM of The Braves. He’ll have to make A HELLA TOUGH DECISION on what to do with Folty. This type of why it is ESSENTIAL that a team can NEVER have TOO MANY QUALITY starting pitching prospects! I have NO PROBLEM with paying a quality starting pitcher a pricey long term contract…IF he is simply better/will be better than anyone in our system who could ‘potentially’ replace him! I feel that Gohara and Soroka will be two prospects who The Braves should have NO PROBLEM with paying big money to IF they have proven down the road that they are ‘who we think they are’!

With Folty, consistency and his mental makeup….are issues that any GM should be wary of. That’s why the next year and a half is HELLA ESSENTIAL when it comes to Folty and what direction The Braves should take with him. Unless Folty elevates his game to TOR status….AA should look to start trading Folty around The 2019 July Trade Deadline.

With Teheran, Folty and McCarthy having good Spring Trainings…it should be interesting to see how that parlays into the opening months of The 2018 Season. Newcomb has also had a decent Spring. He’s kind of kept his walks down some too.

Those 4, in a week division, have the makings of decent Starting Rotation. The key word is ‘DECENT’ (meaning that ‘decent’ is FAR from ‘EXCELLENCE’..which is what the likes of Soroka, Allard, Wright, Tousiant, Weigel, Wentz, Wilson, Anderson and Davidson all have a chance to provide down the line for The Braves). I bring this up…because AA could very well find that The Braves are ‘in the running’ for a Wild Card spot after The ASB. Given that The Braves have basically SUCKED since the end of The 2013 Season….many Braves fans will be thirsting for a summer/fall where The Braves could be chasing for a playoff spot. However, I CANNOT emphasize ENOUGH….how important The 2018 Season is….for the LONG TERM prospects of The Braves Organization!

I could CARE LESS about some ‘one game playoff PIPE DREAM CHASE’. What I CARE seeing The Braves lay The Groundwork….for potential DOMINANCE starting with The 2019 Season! A LOT has to happen….between Opening Day 2018…and Opening Day 2019…for that potential DOMINANT RUN to begin!

On occasion, I play dominoes. There’s a couple of ‘sayings’ in dominoes. 1. ‘Not all money, is good money’. 2. ‘Dont sell your soul, for a jellyroll’! Translation: in your quest to be the 1st to score 150 points….strategy is VERY IMPORTANT when playing dominoes. If you have a hand full of blanks (while your opponent has a hand full of 5’s)…dont use your blank-5 domino to score after your opponent has scored (especially when you know there’s a good possibility that he may have double-5 in his hand). Turn up the blanks (by passing up the 10 points)..and you’ll likely be positioned to make your opponent draw from the boneyard (meaning that when you domino, you’ll get A HELLA LOT OF POINTS from his hand)…and end up winning the game!

Sure, if a number of things happen in 2018, The Braves ‘could’ be a playoff contender. However, even if we ‘squeaked in’ as a Wild Card..and somehow won our play-in game. We’re NOT going deep in The Playoffs in 2018. We simply ARE NOT built that way in 2018. HOWEVER, if we utilize The 2018 Season SMARTLY (in other words dont ‘sell our soul, for a jellyroll’), then we’ll get some nice prospects to restock the lower levels of The MILB System for The Braves (when we trade Teheran, McCarthy, Kazmir, Vizcaino….as well as whatever non-Minter bullpen piece that a contender craves for)….in addition to giving VALUABLE ‘cups of coffee’ starts to Soroka (who looks like he could pitch now..however AA is playing it HELLA SMART with Soroka. Not only is he delaying his Free Agent Clock..but he’ll also be able to delay his Arbitration Clock by not calling him up until after The Trade Deadline. In essence, The Braves will get 3 1/3rd seasons of Soroka before arbitration kicks in for him…whereas The Braves will only get 2 7/8ths seasons of Acuna before arbitration kicks in for him), Allard and Wright.

If AA plays The Long Term Game here…then The 2019 Starting Rotation will look something like:

1. Folty
2. Gohara
3. Soroka
4. Newcomb
5. Allard/Wright (if both excel in the last part of 2018, they could make Newcomb expendable UNLESS Newcomb shows in 2018 that he’s a TOR type pitcher who doesnt need 100 pitches to get through 5 innings)

However, if AA caves in to pressure from Braves fans and make seemingly ‘minor moves’ to help shore up a contending Braves team…then the following will be The Braves 2019 Opening Day Rotation:

1. Teheran
2. Folty
3. Gohara
4. Newcomb (even if he’s struggling..because the others have yet to prove themselves)
5. Soroka (kind of hard to start 3 pitchers with NO MLB starting experience).

If The Braves take The Long View in 2018, Management will have SO MUCH MORE INFO on how to properly plan for 2019. Plus…by promoting Soroka, Allard and Wright to Atlanta by August…that creates rotation spots in Triple A..for those who started The 2018 Season in Double A and even in High A ball who PROVED themselves (similar to how Gohara and Acuna ROSE UP in 2017 and forced The Braves to promote them aggressively).

To close, Ronald Acuna is making it HELLA HARD for The Braves to basically ‘sacrifice’ the 1st 2 weeks of the season offensively (his presence in the lineup makes A HUGE DIFFERENCE) in order to gain an extra year of control over him. While I totally get why they are doing it….it’s still tough to do it! With that said….it’s a NO BRAINER for The Braves to open 2018 with Acuna in Triple A (because like I’ve said all along….2018 is about preparing The Braves to DOMINATE LONG TERM. Having Acuna for an extra year of team opposed to him ‘helping’ The Braves compete for a Wild Card in 2018 for a full 162 games (as opposed to approximately 145 games if he opens 2018 in Triple A)…will greatly impact our Long Term capability.

Or AA could start picking up retreads and never-beens on the waiver wire…. like Anibal Sanchez or Ryan Schimpf….. oh, wait…..

King and Roger…..AA signed Sanchez…in case something happens to a member of our current rotation. The idea is to NOT call up Soroka, Allard and Wright..until they are READY to ‘stick and stay’ long term! Sure, Soroka ‘looks’ like he’s ready to open 2018 in The Starting Rotation. However, he’s only 20…he could benefit 20 or so starts in Triple A (in addition to The Braves NOT WASTING a pre-arbitration season of Soroka in a non-playoff season).

Ideally…Teheran, Folty, McCarthy, Newcomb and Kazmir (when the 5th spot of the rotation is needed) will pitch effectively enough AND stay healthy enough to pitch until The July Trade Deadline (when AA has had enough time to decide what who he wants to keep for 2019 from those 5..AS WELL as giving Soroka, Allard and Wright enough time to basically ‘work their way’ into earning those precious ‘cup of coffee’ starts in August/September for The Braves).

Sure, Luiz Gohara (hopefully at some point in May) will be ready to show Braves fans why he’s capable of being a TOR WORKHORSE for years to come for The Braves (presumably pushing Kazmir out of The Rotation…UNLESS something unexpected happens to either of the other 4). I’ve been watching MLB long enough (heck, how can any of you FORGET how in a SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, The Braves went from a young/bright future rotation of Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy….to POOF…..Coppy being forced to trade away our offensive stars after The 2014 Season).

That why a GM like AA signs an Annibal Sanchez…why a GM like AA keeps around the likes of Wisler and Blair in Triple A. If one or more of our current rotation mainstays gets hurt/becomes obscenely ineffective during the 1st 4 months of the season….Sanchez, Wisler, Blair (possibly even Sims and/or Fried) gets the nod OVER Soroka, Allard and Wright.

Assuming that Gohara’s injury isnt ‘that serious’….The Braves actually have 6 starters for 5 slots (not even counting Sims…who, with Fried getting sent down, is probably ‘a lock’ to open the season as the long man/spot starter arm in the bullpen). I just dont see Blair being on The Opening Day Roster. Sure, Wisler has had a mostly ‘decent’ spring…however at the end of the day, he’s just too ‘hittable’ (especially against legit MLB hitters, lol). Sims is mentally a stronger pitcher/will battle when things get tough against him!

If players like Schimpf and anibal that costs the braves zero. Zero. Get a ‘look see’ and maybe in a new environment figure something out and can be useful or not—what’s the harm? They are worst AAA fillier—at best lightning caught in a bottle. Why not?

I caught that. If that’s the best offer they had, I have a hard time the believing the Braves couldn’t have easily made a better offer without giving up anything of major value. I imagine AA was busy hammering out that deal with Sanchez though, and didn’t have time.

It baffles me why they’re signing SP, when there’s already guys such as Aaron Blair in the system who could go out there and be just as bad as Sanchez, or possibly… (gasp)… better? When there’s a chance to gamble on a need though, and add some power to the OF… AA wants to sign Blue Jay cast offs.

I know, off topic here….just wanted to illustrate WHY I feel Acuna should be batting #2 upon his promotion to Atlanta come mid-April:

Runner on 3rd with 1 out in the 3rd inning against The Astros today (a little early to play ‘in’ but with it being Spring Training, The Astros were probably trying to ‘work’ on that situational play to prepare them for something like coming up in a regular season game).

Anyway, Acuna is up and Gerrick Cole throws an inside pitch and Acuna muscles a ground ball that is barely out of Correa’s reach to get on base via a single (knocking in the 1st run of the game).

Here’s why Acuna should be hitting #2: In the following at-bat, Kurt Suzuki is up to the plate and pulls a hard hit double to the wall in left. Acuna is FLYING towards home from 1st upon contact. The relay was a VERY GOOD RELAY by The Astros..and Acuna slides in ahead of the throw (made it look HELLA EASY).

Of course the next two hitters make out…stranding Suzuki at 2nd. However, if it wasnt for Acuna’s blazing speed…it’s a 1-0 game instead of 2-0 (because it would have been 2 runners stranded instead of 1).

People keep talking about having Acuna hit behind Freeman to provide Freddie with ‘power protection’. Freddie will be JUST FINE with the Flowers/Suzuki combo (who hit a combined 31 homers/knocked in 99 RBIs in 2017. I’m not saying that they are going to duplicate those numbers in 2018…I’m saying that by having MORE RBI opportunities/more runners on base in front of them when they come to the plate…Flowers/Suzuki will have PLENTY of opportunities to knock in runs in 2018).

What’s MORE that Acuna’s SKILL SET (which his speed is a BIG PART of) gets utilized in the best possible spots of the order. If Acuna is hitting 4th or 7th…Acuna will get VERY FEW opportunities to steal bases (or even take the extra base….ESPECIALLY when he’ll either have Freddie on base in front of him OR either Flowers/Suzuki if they are on base in front of him).

I know that Tommy Poe DOES NOT really feel that ‘the order of the batting order’ really matters over the course of a regular season. Look, I LOVE stats too. I feel that stats/analytics matter! However, I contend that there are still SOME ‘intangibles’ that stats/analytics DO NOT either measure OR measure properly! That DOES NOT mean that I feel that ‘ALL STATS’ are ‘unreliable’…I’m saying that just as with science….people in the field need to WORK HARD to ‘refine’/understand the truth!

I feel that there has yet to be ‘a proper stat’ that ‘measures’ THE PRESSURE a player puts on the opposing pitcher (or even the opposing manager when it comes to how he manages with a particular opponent in mind VS. how he ‘normally manages’ REGARDLESS of who the opponent is)! Acuna is one of those SPECIAL PLAYERS..that managers will have to account for/manage different against/recognize the PRESSURE that his skill set puts on the opposing pitcher (even if Acuna wont be coming up to bat 2,3 or even 4 hitters later, lol).

Again, just imagine the skill set/power opportunities that having Albies hitting #1 and Acuna hitting #2….routinely getting on base IN FRONT of Freddie? Any regular double Freddie hits….NO DOUBT results in 2 RBI’s (NOT any of the 2nd and 3rd CRAP with only 1 run knocked in that routinely happens with The Braves). Also, when there’s a runner on 1st (with either Albies or Acuna on 1st and Freddie up)…..if Freddie gets a single (90% chance that runners will be on 1st and 3rd.

Just being able to take that extra base 50% of the time (I feel that it will be higher with Acuna on base in front of Freddie)…CHANGES innings! The mental pressure it puts on a pitcher to prevent potential big innings….affects opposing pitchers BOTH mentally AND physically. Just because there has yet to be a stat that can measure ‘that’…DOES NOT mean that I am wrong!

Acuna will no doubt have a great rookie year in 2018. However, missing those first 2 weeks….will probably prevent him from having a real HISTORIC Rookie Year! If Acuna stays healthy (and if Snitker moves Acuna up to the #2 spot of the order by The ASB)..I predict Acuna will be a 6 WAR player (maybe more)! But 6 WAR no doubt..even after missing the 1st 2 weeks while in Triple A. He should still be able to play 140-145 games (if healthy) in 2018 for Atlanta. That’s still more games than he played in The Minors in 2017!

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