Mississippi Braves 2018 Roster Analysis

Mississippi Braves 2018 Roster Analysis

Yesterday, I looked at the Rome Braves and Florida Fire Frogs rosters. Both Rome and Florida followed by winning their season openers. I feel as if I must have played some small part in that. Management might be rushing me up the ladder before I’m ready, but here we are in Mississippi ready to look at their roster. Mississippi played without my expert review yesterday, defeating the Tennessee Smokies.

Pitchers: Corbin Clouse, Max Fried, Josh Graham, Jason Hursh, Chase Johnson-Mullins (DL), Michael Mader, Adam McCreery, Wes Parsons, Tyler Pike, Ricardo Sanchez, Touki Toussaint, Jacob Webb, Matt Withrow (DL), Kyle Wright
Kyle Wright | Jeff Morris – @JeffMorrisAB

Let’s start with the rotation. Kyle Wright started on opening day and will be followed by Touki Toussaint, Tyler Pike, Max Fried, and Ricardo Sanchez to form one of the deepest Double-A rotations you’ll ever see. Wright, the fifth overall selection last June and a consensus Top 50 prospect, was on a very strict pitch count both last year and on opening day. The book on Wright is simple – he’s damn good and just about major league ready.

Toussaint remains an enigma. When he’s on, which he was for 13 starts from June 5 to August 19 last year, he’s striking out a small village (91 K’s in 76 ING) and not giving up much solid contact. The problem is when he’s off, it gets ugly. He’s still trying to find that sweet spot between natural gifts on the mound and pitchability. An improved command will be the thing to watch for in 2018.

Another prospect the Braves liberated from the Mariners, Pike was nearly unhittable with Florida to open the 2017 season before coming back to Earth in the Southern League. His command crashed back to pre-Braves numbers and then some. Pike has the stuff to remain a starting option, but he’s going to have to throw more strikes and be able to utilize his changeup better. Fried is a surprise member of this roster after pitching in Atlanta last summer. There are two possible reasons for this – the Braves want him to work with Dennis Lewallyn in Pearl or they didn’t have enough innings for him in Gwinnett.

Finally, there is Ricardo Sanchez, who is the youngest player on the Mississippi roster to open the season. His story is similar to Pike. Great stuff, great two-pitch selection, iffy command, needs a better handle on his changeup. Both pitchers, who are southpaws, could transition later to the bullpen.

Here are the other arms Mississippi will be utilizing early in 2018…Corbin Clouse has faded a bit in prospect circles, but over a two-year career, the former 27th rounder has a 2.06 ERA and 125 K’s in 87.1 ING. The control can be spotty, but the southpaw is one to keep on if you’re looking for a guy who might rise quickly to the bigs. Josh Graham received a non-roster invite, which was a little surprising. The former Oregon Duck appeared ten times in Double-A last year. Overall, he has good control (though he can be prone to losing it) and knows how to get some K’s. He even nailed down a save in the season opener.

It feels like Jason Hursh is 35-years-old. Last night, he made his 97th appearance for Mississippi since 2014. And despite the fact that Hursh has had little success – including a dozen innings in the majors – he still has a 40-man roster spot. Another fixture in Mississippi is Michael Mader, who joined the M-Braves after being acquired from the Marlins in 2016. He appeared 35 times last season with one start. A move to full-time relief only hurt his command. Another lefty, Mader has a nice curveball but will need to locate better in 2018.

Speaking of control issues, let me introduce Adam McCreery and his career 5.6 BB/9. The Braves still coaxed a 90-K season out of him despite the control issues. That was at two A-ball stops. Atlanta likes his arm – they protected him during the Rule 5 draft – but the control has to be fixed. I feel like Wes Parsons has been around forever and then I remember he was on the 2014 Lynchburg Hillcats with Jose Peraza and Kyle Wren. Parsons finally pitched in Triple-A last year but did his best work in Mississippi as a swingman (2.71 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 8.6 K/9).

Jacob Webb has pitched extremely well over 63 games in the minors. Only Tommy John Surgery has appeared to put a half to his climb up the latter. He’s already a veteran of Double-A, having spent 24 innings with Mississippi last year. His control can be suspect from time-to-time. Starting the year on the DL is Chase Johnson-Mullins and Matt Withrow. The former is yet another lefty who is equally good as he is massive – and he’s damn big. Withrow is the brother of Chris Withrow, who was Luke Jackson before being Luke Jackson was cool. What does that even mean? I’m not really sure. Anyway, Withrow has decent metrics but was limited to just 79.2 innings last year.

Catchers: Sal Giardina (DL), Alex Jackson, Tyler Marlette, Jonathan Morales

Sal Giardina has an excellent mustache. That’s about all I have to say about that.

Alex Jackson can hit the ball a long way. Last year was proof of that when he bashed 19 home runs between Florida and Mississippi. What we really didn’t know is just how good of a catcher he could become. Those that watched him this spring learned that Jackson has some real instincts behind the plate. He has an improved understanding of his responsibilities and even shows a solid ability to frame pitches. Jackson is not ready for prime time – not yet. But he’s showing the kind of skill level that could land him a long-term gig in the majors.

A perfect minor league catching backup, Tyler Marlette is a good glove man with pop. He’s yet to play above Double-A during his seven-year career. Early on in the 2016 season, Jonathan Morales looked like he might be a huge find deep in the draft. However, his bat started to decline and bottomed out last year. He’s a decent option behind the plate, but his offensive issues don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Infielders: Alay Lago (2B), Daniel Lockhart (UTIL), Austin Riley (3B), Cleuluis Rondon (SS), Michael Snyder (1B), Luis Valenzuela (IF)
Austin Riley | Jeff Morris @Jeff MorrisAB

Obviously, the star of this group is Austin Riley. The big thing with Riley is simply progression. We all know he has plenty of power after back-to-back 20 home-run campaigns in his first two full seasons. He has an average-to-above-average hit tool and is a better defender than most people think. But to become the prospect many of us believe he’s capable of becoming, Riley will have to continue to improve. Becoming more selective at the plate could be a start. Either way, with Jackson, Mississippi has a pair of powerful thumpers for the middle of the lineup.

Alay Lago was signed out of the Mexican League last offseason after beginning his career in Cuba. He hit .303 for Florida. He’s decent all-around, but not much of a prospect at this point because he’s 26. Keith Lockhart‘s son, Daniel, is a bit like his father. His numbers won’t jump off the page, but Daniel works his butt off and does a bit of everything. Unfortunately, his dad’s offensive skillset was a bit better.

Cleuluis Rondon can play defense. He can’t do much else, but Wright, Toussaint, Fried, and company will love having him at shortstop. Signed after two years in the Atlantic League, Michael Snyder was once an Angels product. He started his career well but floundered when he reached Double-A before being released in 2015. In two years on the independent scene, Snyder slashed .290/.373/.543 with 50 home runs in 910 PA. That landed him a second shot in affiliated ball. With little competition for time at first, Snyder could be a quiet, but effective, contributor for Mississippi this season.

Acquired a long time ago for Jonny Gomes, Valenzuela is useful and injury-prone. He rarely sees a pitch he doesn’t want to swing at but has a hit tool that plays up well. Expect him to sneak starts from Lago and Rondon.

Outfielders: Travis Demeritte, Connor Lien, Tyler Neslony, Michael Reed

That first name may surprise you. It surprised many of us when we saw the lineup posted yesterday evening. Let’s get this straight – this has nothing to do with Travis Demeritte’s defensive skills on the infield. He’s a great second baseman and looks good at third base as well. Demeritte in the outfield is about flexibility as much as anything as the Braves attempt to turn their power-hitting second baseman into a utility player. All of this is for not if Demeritte doesn’t bounce back in 2018 after a terrible year with Mississippi last season. He improved his contact rate but was generally worse for it. It’ll be interesting to see what he does in 2018.

It wasn’t that long ago that Connor Lien had prospect hype and was pushing his way up the rankings for the Braves. A few years of stagnation at the plate and an improved system has demoted Lien to fourth outfielder.

Tyler Neslony is not without his supporters. He was an excellent college-ball hitter at Texas Tech but hasn’t flashed much power since being drafted. Neslony can hit and he’ll sneak a few doubles in, but will it be enough to get noticed? Defensively, Neslony won’t embarrass you, nor impress you. I guess there is a reason that Nick Markakis fans also get attached to Neslony.

Unlike most players on this roster, Reed already has major league experience after 30 PA between 2015-16. Reed has always been high on tools, but results have always held him back. He’s fast, defensively sound, takes walks, and will occasionally flash power. The hit tool isn’t great, but if he maximizes his other skills, he could be a guy that ends up in the major leagues again.

Overall, Mississippi is a mix of some big-time prospects (starting rotation, Jackson, Riley) and hired guns around the field. That should make the team competitive in the Southern League during 2018. By the way, if you haven’t already, consider purchasing the 2018 Atlanta Baseball Preview. I used it as a quick reference for this article. Take it to the game with you this year to give you the ability to quickly know what to expect from most of the Braves’ minor league players you’ll see this year. Also makes a great gift!


Tommy….GREAT JOB writing up on The Braves Minor Leagues. I’ll write a more detailed ‘opinion’ post regarding each of the teams/prospects later.

Needlesstosay…I DID NOT expect The Braves to start the year off 4-2 (especially when factoring in Flowers/Suzuki both getting hurt early, Gohara still being out, NOT ONE of our Starting Pitchers making it past 5 1/3 innings in the 1st 6 games). However BOTH The Offense AND The Bullpen have been OUTSTANDING! They have bailed out our Starting Pitching…so far.

The early off days have really HELPED our bullpen not be at risk of getting overworked. As the season wears on…we’re going to have stretches where we play 20 games in 21 days. The Starting Pitching HAS to get its act together and AT LEAST pitch 6 innings while giving up 2-4 runs (as long as our offense is raking….we dont need our Starting Pitching to be ‘super’).

The unexpected win over Scherzer on Wednesday…gave The Braves a little ‘cushion’ when it comes to this 9 game road trip (three in Colorado, three in Washington, 3 in Chicago). If we can go 4-5 on this trip..I’d be ‘happy’ (sure, it would be nice to go 5-4 or 6-3…however I’ve been watching MLB long enough to know that when a team has to basically ‘cross the country twice’ in one road trip…it’s going to be HELLA TOUGH to grind out a winning road trip).

Ideally, I’d like to go 2-1 in Colorado (there are winnable games this weekend)…then 1-2 in both Washington and Chicago (again, I’ll be rooting for us to ‘do better’….however I’m a realist). The main thing is that we DO NOT get swept in any of these series! Getting swept in a 3 game series..means that you have to go 2-1 in three straight series…just to get those three losses ‘back’!

Today’s and Sunday’s games are what I hope will be ‘winnable games’ for The Braves (if Sanchez starts tomorrow….that may be a game that Snitker only uses the bullpen “scrubs” in, especially if Sanchez get rocked early).

Sure, sometimes the ‘unexpected’ happens….and you have to adjust accordingly (just like what happened on Wednesday when the game against Scherzer became ‘winnable’). But, in general, the ‘unexpected’ does not regularly happen. It is ESSENTIAL that Snitker manages the bullpen PROPERLY (especially if our starters ARE NOT going to be routinely going 6-7 innings each night)!

I’m a realist, The Braves are one year away from being LEGIT World Series contenders! However, a teams like Milwaukee and Minnesota TOTALLY surprised MLB last year (Minnesota made The Playoffs while Milwaukee battled to the last week). The Braves look like a team that could ‘surprise’ this year (that’s why I posted that we will win 86 games back when you guys all made your predictions). At the end of Spring Training..I ‘switched’ when I saw some ‘unexpected’ things throughout Spring Training that led me to ‘switch’ from my ‘we’re going to SUCK in 2018’ to ‘we can win 86 games in 2018’ (whether that is good enough for a Wild Card..will depend on whether other teams are willing to ‘mortgage their future’ in order to win The Wild Card…something I hope that AA DOES NOT do).

We’re up 4-1 in the top of the 3rd….hopefully McCarthy can get us 6 innings today! We’ll see! Winning the 1st game of this trip would be FANTASTIC!

Your thoughts, Tommy?

I’ve said that I think a conservative/realistic view has the Braves winning 77-78 games this year. But all they needed was a few things going right to add on 5-10 wins to that total. It’s not impossible. Of course, things are going at an unsustainable rate so far as far as scoring runs and so on. There’s no predicting how many wins will do it, but certainly, this team could be in the playoff hunt.

Saddle up, because – apparently – AA has never signed a big FA. He’s made all his bones by being a wheeler-dealer trader. The biggest reason for optimism for the big league team, as I’ve oft mentioned, is that there is not a whole lot of true chaff to get rid of on the active roster. Plus, before the trade deadline, the Braves are going to doubtless need to free up a few 40-man slots. There may be a few worth trying to pass through waivers but better to try to get some value in return for a bundle. All of this means that the trading will begin sometime this summer. Assuming the Braves are performing decently and in some form of contention, I can’t help but believe that AA will try to make an impact move. I predict he’ll try to bring in an impact power bat (3B or OF) and an impact reliever. I hope he deals only out of what should be dealt (Markakis, Wisler, Blair, Sims, Ruiz, etc…) but you have to give value to get value. He may not have to give much if he only goes after a rental and then decides to play in the FA market next year. But competing for FAs has not been his history. Interesting idea for a rental – Adrian Beltre – if TEX falls out of contention.

Roger….Toronto didnt have nearly the amount of payroll flexibility…that The Braves will have once The 2018 Season ends!

Here is what he’ll have to deal with:

1. Freddie owed $21 mil
2. Inciarte owed $5 mil
3. Teheran owed $11 mil (if he isnt traded)

Totals $26 mil if Teheran is traded…$37 mil if he isnt!

Arbitration eligible players:

4. Folty (owed approximately $5-$6 mil)
5. Sam Freeman (owed approximately $2 mil)
6. Vizcaino (owed approximately $5-6 mil IF he isnt traded)
7. Dan Winkler (owed approximately $2 mil)

Totals approximately $9-$10 mil IF Vizcaino is traded…$14-$16 mil if he isnt.

Own Free Agents that will likely be re-signed:

8. Tyler Flowers (owed approximately $4-$5 mil)
9. Kurt Suzuki (owed approximately $4-$5 mil)

Totals approximately $8-$10 mil IF both are re-signed..$0 if NEITHER are re-signed.

Given their ages…AA should convince both Flowers and Suzuki that they can extend their careers a number of years…IF they were to share the catching duties. One could start 80-90 games while the other catches 70-80 games. $8-$10 mil for a catching duo who brings the WAR that those two combined bring….is a GOOD DEAL for The Braves!

Pre-arbitration players:

10. Luiz Gohara (approximately $550k)
11. Mike Soroka (approximately $550k)
12. Kolby Allard (approximately $550k)
13. Kyle nWright (approximately $550k)
14. AJ Minter (approximately $550k)
15. Shane Carle (approximately $550k)
16. Ozzie Albies (approximately $550k)
17. Johan Carmago (approximately $550k)
18. Dansby Swanson (approximately $550k)
19. Preston Tucker (approximately $550k)
20. Ronald Acuna (approximately $550k)

Totals $6 mil if we keep all 11 pre-arbitration players….which gives AA a total of $49,000,000 for 18 players (if we trade both Teheran and Vizcaino AS WELL as if certain salaries are on ‘the low end’) OR $69,000,000 for 20 players IF we keep both Teheran and Vizcaino AND if certain salaries are on ‘the high end’).

Either way..that leaves anywhere between $81,000,000-$101,000,000 in AVAILABLE PAYROLL DOLLARS to direct towards taking advantage of the INFLUX of cheap, young, high ceiling type players set to FLOOD The Braves Roster the next few years! Needlesstosay…AA has NEVER had this kind of MONEY/Payroll Flexibility to work with!

Obvious needs to be filled via Free Agency:

21. 3rd Base (you all know that I’ve allocated $35 mil a year for Machado)
22. Left Field (you all know I’ve allocated $35 mil a year for Harper)
23. Closer (you all know I’ve allocated $18 mil a year for Kimbrel)

If The Braves have to go up to $40 mil a year for Machado/Harper..they should! The Braves could very well have THE YOUNGEST starting rotation in all of MLB going into 2019…and having an offense that can score AND a bullpen that is ROCK SOLID..as well as having a defense that can RAKE with the glove…..will take A LOT OF PRESSURE off our young guns! Our rotation will provide The Braves with some SERIOUS value over the next 3-6 years (we have prospects in Class A…could could very well be pushing some VERY GOOD starters OUT of The Rotation come 2020, 2021 and/or 2022!).

Players that AA can either get to fill via trade OR from within The Organization:

24. 3rd catcher (I like the idea of having a minimum wage/defense 1st catcher who can play IF Flowers/Suzuki has to pinch hit when the other is starting that game).
25. 5th outfielder spot (Lane Adams, Ryan Flaherty, who can also play infield defense, whoever else comes up that AA may feel can round out the roster effectively, yet cheaply, lol).

The 2018 Free Agent Offseason will be HELLA EXCITING for The Braves! Just wait dude….I have FAITH that AA will do an AMAZING JOB once he has ‘enough information’ (which he will have by the time The 2018 Season ends. We still have to see how our valued prospects play/pan out during The 2018 Minor League Season….in addition to how things play out on The Braves Roster during The 2018 MLB Season).

Already 7 games in….Preston Tucker, Shane Carle and Ryan Flaherty have been BIG TIME Suprises….as well as Dansby Swanson coming back from his HORRIFIC 2017 Season! I know….only 7 games in. However, at least with a 5-2 record to start off the season…..there is MORE HOPE than we’ve had since the beginning of The 2014 Season!

I’ve read post after post on other sites where AA has been BITCHED AT/crucified for scouring the ‘bargain bin’ for ‘bargains, lol! We’ll…it looks like AA has found some DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH, lol!

Time will tell if these small sample sizes HOLD UP! McCarthy showed tonight that he has it in him to pitch 6 DECENT Innings on a day where it was HELLA COLD outside! We needed those 6 innings today! What happened today (with McCarthy and the offensive production today) allowed Snitker to only use Moylan, Ramirez and Carle to close the game….saving Vizcaino, Minter, Freeman and WInkler for EITHER tomorrow’s game (with Sanchez pitching) or Sunday’s game (with Newcomb pitching).

Not sure how tomorrow is going to play out. If Sanchez pitches well AND if our offense continues to shine…..Snitker could very well manage this game like it’s an important ‘playoff game’. However if Sanchez ‘blows up’ (similar to how Newcomb BLEW UP against Washington on Tuesday), then Snitker needs to only use the BULLPEN BUMS in order to save our best bullpen arms for Sunday’s game…which is a HELLA winnable game! Leaving Colorado with a 2-1 series win…..would be A GREAT WAY to start a 9 game road trip!

With an off day coming up after The Washington Series (I’d love to avoid a sweep,settling for 1 win out of 3 while in Washington….while supporting our efforts to win more than that 1 game!)….The Braves bullpen should be rested for The Chicago Series (goal is to take at least 1 of the 3 games..while trying to win more games)!

How we perform on this 9 game trip…will set the table for what kind of team we’re going to be in 2018..ESPECIALLY when it comes to what we’re going to do with RONALD ACUNA when he’s eligible to get called up! Tucker and Markakis are making a SOLID CASE with their hitting…to stay in the starting lineup!

I’m just going to sit back and enjoy this weekend…and then see how Washington’s fans react to us when we come into their home field Mon-Tues-Wed of next week! I hope that our players continue to play HELLA AGGRESSIVE (yet be patient when it comes to taking pitches that works their starting pitchers into deep counts! Their Bullpen is kind of shaky!

As good as The Braves have played so far…..Ronald Acuna, Luis Gohara, Johan Carmago and Tyler FLowers are not on the field for The Braves! Imagine how much better we could be…if we had those 4 players in our lineup/pitching staff?

We’re a HELLA YOUNG/high ceiling team…with MORE coming on the way! The next 4-5 years will show MLB that The Braves are one TOUGH ASS TEAM to beat!

With regards to AA, you gotta get your cause and effect right. Toronto didn’t have payroll flexibility because AA traded it away. He brought in more payroll by trade than the Yankees or the Red Sox in FA. He traded away the Braves’ payroll flexibility this year (legitimately so). And remember, this is the guy that traded Thor for RA Dickey – which was considered to be a questionable trade at the time even. He might trade Soroka for Rick Porcello. You could argue that he signed Encarnacion as a FA but that was after waiving him a month earlier. You could argue that he signed JA Happ as a FA but that was only after trading for him and trading him away. He has had very few draftees pan out. All of his successes have come via the trade route. One of the things he has done well, it seems to me, is that he managed a few huge trades where he traded several marginal 40-man players out and got some decent value back. I’m hoping he can do that this summer even if it is just for a really good rental type (like an Adrian Beltre).

You have to forget about Machado. He just gave another interview yesterday where he said he would only sign to play SS. Harper, maybe, but he’s a Boras client and the Nats have a special relationship with Boras. Besides, signing Harper would imply trading Pache on the back end. Blackmon is off the table now. Since AA just came from the Dodgers, I think he’ll set his heart on Kershaw if he opts out. And that is what he should do. That would be the best player to sign. If he’s going to go after a closer, my guess is that it will be trading for Osuna, who would be cheap (financially) and controllable and one of “his boys”. Maybe he goes after Donaldson but I think that would be foolish if Riley continues to develop.

I agree, and have from the first post here, that this year’s Braves are going to be good and have the potential to be better than anyone expects. You have to promote getting better not just standing pat and seeing what happens. I am absolutely flummoxed to think that AA doesn’t already “know what he has”. Isn’t he paid to know? He’s been on the job for six months; how slow a learner is he? I hope Tucker pans out, but Flaherty and Carle are just fodder that are having a good stretch. I am not so sure any more that Flowzuki can repeat last year’s performance even half as good. I hope they do but it’s not looking good. I hope Jackson comes along more quickly than expected but that’s not usually the case for catchers. Maybe AA, can target another one of “his boys” and bring in Yasmani Grandal, either at the trade deadline or as a FA.

Roger….AA spent a few years with The Dodgers (who, since they have been under current management, have drafted well AND held onto their best prospects). I seriously doubt that AA is going to FORGET what he learned during his time with The Dodgers: That you BUILD YOUR CORE via The Draft/Internally…as well as making astute trades that DO NOT involve giving up your best prospects!

The fact that AA basically was ‘willing’ to punt on 2018 (even though he ‘sacrificed’ payroll flexibility for 2018..he’s still out ‘scouring’ the bargain bin for potential ‘diamonds in the rough’ who can provide The Braves with some production…UNTIL Acuna, Gohara, Flowers and Carmago make their way back to The Braves)….shows that he’s a different GM from his time in Toronto. He also publicly stated that he’s going to WAIT until after he gets to know what he has in The Braves Minor League System…before making trades involving them.

AA will soon find out..that he has A GOLD MINE potentially in historic terms..when it comes to starting pitching prospects! While it will be HELLA TOUGH to top what he had with Smoltz, Glavine and Avery (Maddux signed as a Free Agent after The 1992 Season)…..I feel that come 2021, our Starting Rotation will be HELLA YOUNG/potentially THE BEST in all of MLB…#1-#5 (with several more either in The Bullpen OR at Triple A).

Starting pitching (as well as Starting Pitching DEPTH)..is HELLA HARD to come by AND HELLA EXPENSIVE! A smart GM DOES NOT just trade away what FOOLS deem to be ‘excess Starting Pitching’, lol. Injuries/attrition/ultimately being unable to adjust to MLB hitters/etc…happens all the time! You hold onto them LIKE GOLD until after you’ve built your rotation FIVE DEEP!

As far as Machado…if he insists on staying at Short, then we sign him as a Short Stop and move Dansby to 3rd, lol…simple as that!

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