Another week of transactions in the book and another surprise release. We also see some movement from the usual players who fill-in where needed along with a player being removed from the 40-man roster. Elsewhere, a player continues his rehab while another gets to see a doctor whose mere name scares Braves’ fans. Yep, it’s another weekly review of the moves up-and-down the organization.
Promoted from Gwinnett: Lucas Sims…No longer a rookie after 57.2 innings last year, Sims had a solid start in his Gwinnett debut with four shutout innings, a pair of walks, and seven K’s. He also got a half-dozen groundballs compared to just two flyball ones. Of course, that’s just one game. He’s never really been much of a groundball pitcher after all. Now, he gets a second shot at the majors.
–If you don’t know the deal with Sims yet, he works off two different heaters – a four-seamer and sinker. Both are in the low 90’s, though he can find a few more ticks of velocity in shorter outings out of the pen. He hit 97 mph on the gun last September against the Marlins. Sims also uses a curveball, slider, and changeup and he mixed all of his pitches very well last year. The change is mostly for lefthanders, but he’ll use all five. None of the pitches, though, are really that great. Perhaps, the curve can be. He might be a guy better off for a full-time move to the pen where he can use a variety of pitches that the hitter only sees once.
DFA’d: Luke Jackson…This could be the end of the line for Jackson with the Braves. After a rough outing Saturday – the elements didn’t help – he was designated for assignment and he has the option to decline assignment and become a free agent. Jackson’s 45 games with the Braves have been mostly meh at best and often pretty bad. He’s one of those arms that has the kind of velocity you dream about, but it’s a dry heat. That’s just a way of saying there’s nothing noteworthy about it. A pitcher with his power arm should strike out more 14% of the batters he faces, but over 70 career innings, that’s what we have gotten.
–If this is it for Jackson, it’s worth looking back at the trade that acquired him. In it, Atlanta sent right-hander Tyrell Jenkins and southpaw Brady Feigl. Many hated the deal because Jenkins was very likable. However, Jenkins was quickly waived by the Rangers and then the Reds before landing with the Padres. He made 17 starts in Triple-A for them but was released. He has since joined Performance Baseball, a travel ball organization. No word if he is officially retired or looking for an opportunity.
–As for Feigl, he was a bit of rising arm during the 2015 spring, but Tommy John surgery limited him to just 7 games after camp broke. He spent last year in High-A and Double-A, striking out a batter an inning but giving up too many homers and hits in general. He’s off to a good start in Double-A this year.
Promoted from Mississippi: Max Fried (#5)…Pushed out of the Gwinnett opening day rotation because of numbers, an injury has chased things and Fried is back in a rotation with Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard like the good ol’ days. Over two starts – one before his promotion to Gwinnett – Fried has worked 10.1 innings, allowed just a run, walked five, and struck out 12. If Fried’s curveball keeps spinning just right, it won’t be long until he receives a second run in the major leagues.
Promoted from Mississippi: Jason Hursh…Did you know his middle name is Brewster? Hursh is off to another good start this season and has already worked six times – split evenly between Mississippi and Gwinnett. In seven innings, he’s only allowed two hits, two walks, and struck out eight. The hits will fall eventually and Hursh makes for a decent minor league arm when he’s on. He’s just a very boring pitcher in the majors. Kind of like Jackson.
Promoted from Florida on Rehab: Chase Whitley…Had Whitley had a better outing in his Gwinnett debut – plus not worked on Saturday – it may have been Whitley and not Sims who was promoted to the majors to replace Jackson. Instead, Whitley remains in Triple-A for now. The control artist – something the current pen could use – has worked five innings on his road back from a spring training pretty much killed by a staph infection. So far, he’s worked three times on every third day, which means he is on tap to work again today. He’s allowed five runs along the way to go with eight hits. No walks, though.
Demoted to Danville from Mississippi and Promoted: Elian Leyva…Last week, I covered how Leyva just showed up after not pitching for the Braves since they signed him before the 2017 season. Now, the 27-year-old has pitched at two different levels. He struck out five over 3.1 innings in his Gwinnett debut.
DL’d: Aaron Blair…Here’s a sentence that is very unfortunate for any pitcher – “shoulder injury and will see Dr. Andrews.” According to Blair’s father on Twitter, Blair suffered the injury throwing a pitch. How serious this ends up is unknown, but Blair has continued to struggle with his control since the trade from the Diamondbacks. In his first 2.2 innings in his first start, he walked five. It’s rather mindboggling what’s happened with Blair considering his reputation for being a control artist before the trade.
Released: Kade Scivicque…Alex Anthopoulos has not been shy when it comes to dropping organizational Top 50 prospects who the Braves acquired for the last few years. A few weeks ago, it was Dylan Moore. This week, it’s Scivicque, who the Braves acquired in 2016 for Erick Aybar. The problem with Scivicque was simple. Atlanta wanted to lean on their veteran catchers at Triple-A in Rob Brantly and Chris Stewart with their younger staff. If the Braves weren’t flush with catching prospects behind Scivicque, he would have been demoted to Double-A, where he has only hit .265/.313/.355 over 71 games. But there was no room there for him. Scivicque has since signed back with the Tigers organization and returned to Double-A.
Activated: Sal Giardina…He’s effectively a player/coach. Over four seasons in the system, Giardina has hit .240/.305/.310 – numbers that typically don’t keep you around without something a bit extra. He brings something extra through his defense behind the plate and his intangibles in the clubhouse. He’s also pitched four times in his career with just one run given up in 4.1 innings. Look for him to get him some time at the corners when he’s active, too.
Promoted from Danville: Enderson Franco…Like the guy who follows him in this report, Franco seems to show up each week. After three scoreless outings to open the year – including a phantom demotion to Danville – Franco struggled badly against Pensacola last night. Again, Franco is just a guy who will log time here-and-there. His real value to the organization is that they don’t really care all that much about his right arm. He’s a hired gun.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Andres Santiago…You can pretty much copy-and-paste Franco’s description here. Santiago has already pitched for both Gwinnett and Mississippi. In fact, he made a start last week and last night, he threw five innings in relief after Kyle Wright‘s poor start. He actually stopped the bleeding and gave Mississippi a chance to come back. That chance quickly died with Franco on the mound.
DL’d: Michael Snyder…Signed out of the independent leagues after flaming out with the Angels, Snyder hasn’t had a good start to this season. Through seven games, he was 4-for-25 with three walks and eleven strikeouts. The team was hoping he would provide some thunder for the middle of the order and he still might if he gets healthy. But the experiment of bringing him back has so far not looked like a winner.
Promoted from Danville: Hayden Deal…One of roughly 20 southpaws the Braves picked up between the draft and the undrafted market last June, Deal spent most of last summer in the Gulf Coast League. He gave up a few too many hits but also had a solid 3 K/BB rate. Last year was actually his second outing for Rome after making one last year. He gave up two runs and struck out three over three innings in relief. I really don’t know too much about Deal partly because he never pitched for Danville and partly because he had zero draft buzz. If you see him, let me know what you think.
Promoted from Danville: Dilmer Mejia…The year was 2014 and a 16-year-old when the season began was making some serious noise. In 14 starts, Mejia had a 2.07 ERA with a 4 K/BB rate. He even jumped to the Gulf Coast League in the final month. Immediately, he was among the Braves’ top pitching prospects. The Braves have added a wealth of prospects since, but Mejia has also fallen off considerably. He has great control, but he’s a bit too hittable. You don’t see intriguing prospects spend four years in rookie ball after all. Mejia could, though, find a second life as a multi-inning reliever. He made his A-ball debut last week with a two-inning, two-K, one-BB outing that also included his second career save. Mejia won’t turn 21 until July 9. He’s still young enough to expect some big progression.
Demoted from Rome and Promoted Back: Odalvi Javier…Demoted to get a fresh arm onto the team, Javier continues to throw quality innings in his return. He matched his relief outing on April 8 with 4.2 innings – this time as a starter. He again didn’t allow a run, gave up three singles, a walk, and struck out seven. Andy Harris of Outfield Fly Rule has a name for Javier. It’s a name I mentioned in the 2018 Atlanta Baseball Preview when I wrote his profile. “Bulldog.” Javier hit a pair of batters in that start and his 11 last year to lead the Appalachian League. That’s not a result of iffy control – he has a career 7.8% walk rate entering 2018.
–No, Javier hits so many batters because he has no fear. He pitches in, out, up, and down. He has more confidence in his pitches than players with twice the stuff than Javier. I don’t know if Javier will end up in the majors at some point, but he’s a guy I refuse to not believe in.
DL’d: Alan Rangel…The Mexican import threw a great inning on opening night, striking out a pair over a scoreless frame. Four days later, he started and it didn’t go so hot for the right-hander. Even more notable for a guy with great control, Rangel threw just 29 strikes out of 53 pitches. I’m unaware of what landed Rangel on the DL, but hopefully, it doesn’t last too long. Rangel should be a nice arm for Rome who can hold down a rotation spot or throw some quality innings in relief.
Demoted from Rome: Jake Belinda…His uncle (Stan Belinda) once unleashed one of the most famous pitches in Braves baseball history. A 10th rounder last June, Belinda struggled with control in Danville and those struggles only intensified early on this season. In 4.1 innings over three games, Belinda walked seven batters. He only allowed a pair of hits, but the control was rough.
Released: Roy Iriarte…I have to believe, without doing any research, that it’s rare to find a Roy who was born in Venezuela. The Braves signed Iriarte as a 17-year-old back in September of 2014 and he made his debut the next year with a 4.43 ERA over 40.2 innings in the Dominican Summer League. Of particular concern was the nearly equal strikeout-to-walk rate. For two years, we didn’t hear a thing about him. No placement on the Disabled List, no suspension, nothing. While other members of that 2015 DSL team like William Contreras, Randy Ventura, and Jasseel De la Cruz moved up the latter, Iriarte was a ghost.
–It makes me think he was basically Milton from Office Space. He was supposed to be released, but some accounting mishap kept him on the payroll. And for two years, he showed up, got paid, and went home. The new regime, with its analytics and attention to detail, saw it and fixed the error. Now, if the DSL complex is set on fire…I’m not saying Iriarte did it, but he definitely did it.
And here’s a bonus section I mentioned on Twitter – a list of independent-league former Braves.
Pan-American – Matt Gonzalez (Rockland).
Atlantic League – Ross Detwiler (York), Kyle Kubitza (Sugar Land), Andrew McKirahan (Sugar Land), Cody Martin (Sugar Land), Danny Reynolds (Sugar Land), Paco Rodriguez (Sugar Land), Ryan Kelly (Somerset), Brett Oberholtzer (Somerset).