Busy week in transactions for the Braves and this report won’t include three other moves that are reported, but not yet confirmed. One is the rumored promotion of Luiz Gohara to the majors for today’s game. As if the Braves have been reading our blog, Gohara was scratched from a Triple-A start and the plan seems to be to bring up north where they Atlanta can utilize him out of the pen. The other two are Kyle Muller to Florida and Bryse Wilson to Mississippi. While I have no reason to doubt that these two moves will occur, there hasn’t been an official word so I’ll wait on talking about it. Nevertheless, plenty of intriguing moves to speak of this week so let’s dive in.
Promoted from Gwinnett: Jose Bautista…Well, this didn’t go so well. Bautista had a TOOTBLAN and definitely looks the part of a guy playing third for the first time in a decade. He did reach base five times last weekend. Unfortunately, fans – many of whom hated the signing to begin with – found a quick target to blame for a sweep at the hands of the Giants. It’s ridiculous to suggest that Bautista hitting and not Ryan Flaherty killed the Braves’ mojo, but that hasn’t stopped fans by any means.
…As for Bautista, I’m as indifferent to the signing now as I was when it happened. Actually, I’m more of a fan, but that’s a result of the fan base losing their ever-loving mind when it comes to Bautista. I think his bat is probably still a bit too slow for the number of fastballs he’ll see, but I hope he changes my mind.
Promoted from Gwinnett: Luke Jackson…What’s the record for being designated for assignment by the same team in one calendar year? Whatever the record, Jackson is gunning for it. It’s already sitting at two. We know that Jackson posts some lofty strikeout numbers in the minors. We also know he struggles to throw strikes – unless he is in the majors struggling to strike out batters like we saw in 2017.
…I really don’t know what to think about Jackson anymore. He throws a boring, Manny Acosta-like straight fastball and while his slider flashes plus ability, he has to get ahead to make it effective. When you look at Jackson, you see glimpses of what other scouts were fond of. But when you see the results, you wonder what they were high on.
Promoted from Gwinnett: Mike Soroka (#4)…It was a bit surprising to see Soroka brought north this early into the season. It was less surprising to see him excel against the Mets, scattering six hits over six innings, including a solo home run. He struck out five in his debut and walked none. Five days later, he struggled in his follow-up and that will happen when the other team has a .438 BABIP and Soroka surprisingly walks three batters. He’ll be fine and has a good shot at being the second-best starter currently in the majors for the Braves. He doesn’t turn 21 until August 4.
…Just wanted to point that out.
Optioned and Promoted: Preston Tucker…And the award for quickest promotion following a demotion goes to Preston Tucker. Just a couple of hours after being demoted, Tucker was brought back. He’s slowed down notably since his quick start but really didn’t warrant a demotion outside of having an option. (One Option remaining.)
DL’d: Dansby Swanson (sore wrist)…Wrist injuries are tricky. They can be very difficult to come back from and can linger even when it seems like you are healthy. More, it puts a damper on Swanson’s bounce-back campaign. Now, there are some things that are still worrisome about Swanson. His .388 BABIP is unsustainable, his walk rate has been nearly cut in half, and he’s done nearly all his damage against fastballs. He’s also hit the ball better than he did last year so there’s that. Plus, his defense looks much better. Hopefully, he comes back healthy and we can see more of the solid production that had Swanson already at 1.0 fWAR.
Lost on waivers to Texas: Carlos Perez…Though he’ll be known by Braves fans for one weak defensive effort, Perez is well regarded behind the plate. He served his purpose after Tyler Flowers‘ injury and the Braves won’t shed any tears they couldn’t keep him.
Signed: Peter Bourjos…After hitting a buck-20 over 25 AB, Bourjos lost his job in the bigs. Finding little interest outside Atlanta’s organization, he came back under a minor league pact. For Gwinnett pitchers, that’s a great thing. Bourjos is an accomplished defender who is a better center fielder than Ezequiel Carrera and Danny Santana – the primary CF’s to date. In the meantime, Bourjos gets an everyday gig that likely comes complete with a promise to send him to another team should the interest materialize. Ultimately, it’s a win-win.
Claimed off waivers and Assigned: Philip Gosselin…Well, that was unexpected. First, let’s look at why this move was made. Before Swanson’s wrist issue, I firmly believe the Braves were going to DFA Charlie Culberson after Bautista was brought up. The issues with Swanson first sent Tucker to the minors and then the DL trip saved Tucker from spending more than a couple of hours in Triple-A. Goose was brought in to essentially replace Culberson. Goose, unlike Culberson, had options and could be sent to Gwinnett. Which he was after joining the Braves.
…As for the player, Goose is forever intertwined with Braves’ culture after he was traded to the Diamondbacks for Bronson Arroyo‘s contract and Touki Toussaint in 2015. Goose would finish on a high note with the Diamondbacks (.927 OPS in 76 PA) before slashing .277/.324/.368 over 240 PA in 2016. Arizona jettisoned him to the Pirates and he hit .146 with Pittsburgh and Texas. This season, he was with the Reds and not hitting for much (.125/.250/.250). Goose is who he is – a utility infielder with an okayish hit tool and not much else. Or, essentially, a slower version of Culberson. (Pending final option, 10 days remaining)
Recalled from Gwinnett, Optioned Back: Lucas Sims…Sims is maddening. He’ll look unhittable in one exchange and then look like a lost puppy next. The problem with Sims, in my mind, is two-fold. One, his control remains suspect as hell. I’m not talking about walks. I’m talking about an inability to hit the catcher’s mitt. Nothing comes easy for Sims that way. His other problem is that his heater is just boring. I used that description about Luke Jackson and while I think Sims has more stuff, the same problem persists. When you don’t have a fastball that will create swing-and-misses, it makes your control an even bigger need. (Second Option Used)
Promoted from Mississippi: Austin Riley (#7)…All he did with Mississippi over parts of two seasons was slash .321/.391/.570 with 14 home runs in 312 PA. I stressed patience last winter despite his finish, but how can you be patient when a guy’s wOBA is well over .400 at a level? The move to Triple-A may be really good for Riley, who will face a lot more junkballers at this level. They’ll show him new bends to breaking balls and a better awareness of when and how to throw a changeup. It’s the next step in his development and will be something to watch. Riley went 1-for-5 in his Triple-A debut yesterday.
Promoted from Florida: Jon Kennedy…The control artist from Australia jumped Double-A to make his Triple-A debut last week. After 2.2 innings of scoreless ball, he took Luiz Gohara’s start last night and in his second professional start, Kennedy was blitzed in the third frame for four runs. Kennedy won’t put up gaudy strikeout numbers, but when he’s controlling his pitches to his liking, he’s a tough guy to elevate the ball against. Might get shifted off the roster for a fresher arm so don’t be surprised to see Kennedy show up in next week’s report.
Optioned from Atlanta: Max Fried (#5)…I’m not sure Fried has had one outing all year where he’s had complete control over his curveball. That’s a shame because it’s worth the price of admission. In four games with the big league club, Fried struck out seven in six innings, but also walked three and allowed a trio of homers. That won’t play at this level. He’ll head back to Gwinnett as a starter, though much like Sims, I’m less inclined to see him in the rotation much more. Would prefer a full-time move to the pen in more of a multiple-inning, high-leverage role. (Second Option Used)
Optioned from Atlanta, later DL’d: Chase Whitley…Whitley’s debut with the Braves wasn’t very memorable. He got dinged for a homer and two runs in just an inning of work before joining the Atlanta/Gwinnett Shuffle. In five games with Gwinnett, including one start, he has a 2.65 FIP in 9.1 innings. Overall, Whitley maxes out as a swingman/long reliever with good control. I’d like his chances a lot more if he got more grounders. (Pending final option, 4 days remaining)
Activated: Xavier Avery…Finally healthy, Avery will try to break through once more. Avery actually has major league experience, appearing with the Orioles for 32 games back in 2012. He was a teammate of Nick Markakis, Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth, Wilson Betemit, Luis Ayala, and Dana Eveland. That’s a weird collection of players, I admit. Avery played in 121 games with Gwinnett last year, slashing .259/.361/.456. He strikes out a ton and also walks a lot. The pull-happy outfielder can also swipe a few bases.
DL’d: Dustin Peterson (#22)…Real shame for Peterson, who has been on fire, to hit the DL when he did. After four 0-ffers out of the gate this season, Peterson was hitting .342/.398/.566 with eight doubles and three home runs. I talked about how Peterson had made some adjustments at the plate. I believe those adjustments, and a full recovery from last spring’s broken hamate, have Peterson back on track. Low-end projection, I could see Peterson being a lefty masher in the bigs. A higher-end production is as a second-tier starter in left field – a David Peralta type. I may be selling him short, though.
Released: Jaff Decker…For the 2018 Atlanta Baseball Preview, I looked up the Jaff People of Iraq and Iran. Now I feel like it was hardly worth it. In 15 games, the bearded Decker hit .271/.407/.458 so he had hardly played his way off the team. But when the Braves brought back Bourjos, Decker was the guy who got the boot. Unfortunate for Decker, who had seven extra-base hits out of 13 overall.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Andres Santiago…Shocker – Santiago was on the move again this week. He’s bounced between Mississippi and Gwinnett several times this season and has an ERA of 3.26 over 30.1 innings.
Florida Fire Frogs
Signed: Taylor Murphy…Former MLB player Geoff Blum‘s cousin, Murphy has shown some on-base skills and pop since signing as an 18th-round pick in 2014. Still, he is a career .257/.359/.391 player. He has experience at third base but has spent most of his professional career in right field. Murphy opened the year in Akron, going 2-for-9 before being cut. I guess somebody liked what they saw from the 25-year-old.
Activated: Oriel Caicedo…Last August 12, Caicedo was one out away from a no-hitter when Mason Davis singled. An infield single later and a runner scored to tie up the game at 1. The next inning, Cleuluis Rondon, who currently plays for Mississippi, won the game with a single that got away from Alay Lago. For Caicedo, it was game 2 of a five-game swing to end the year where Caicedo was pitching lights out. Over 30.2 innings, he gave up just two earned runs while walking five and striking out 23. He’s finally healthy enough to pitch for the first time this year and will look to build on how he ended 2017.
Promoted from Danville: Dilmer Mejia…On the bubble between rookie ball and A-ball, Mejia has appeared twice with Rome. He logged a hitless two innings on April 10th with 2 K’s, but struggled in middle relief six days later and gave up four runs, three earned, over 2.2 innings. He did K five batters that day. Yesterday, he made his first start of the year with Florida, giving up four hits and a run over four innings. He walked three and struck out two.
…Mejia has good control and, especially out of the pen, flashes some good strikeout potential. But he struggles too often to limit the damage. Part of that is playing on worse fields with poor defenders, but that’s not the whole story. He needs to show an ability to get out of innings quicker. So far, meh results.
Released: Anfernee Seymour (#38)…One of my favorite descriptions of Seymour came from the 2016 Baseball Prospectus. “A local high school product, shortstop Anfernee Seymour was popped in the seventh round in 2014 because he’s fast. He swiped the second-most bags in the New York-Penn League also because he’s fast. He’s fast.”
…And that, my children, is about all that needs to be said about Seymour. He’s fast but lacks a notable trait beyond that. Moved away from shortstop because he was peppering the first-base stands on throws, Seymour was an adventure in the outfield because he never looked like a good fit beyond his speed. Speaking of his speed, with pitchers and catchers better able to deal with the run game, Seymour’s base-stealing skills were neutered. He hit .282 in 2017, which nearly got him his first .700 OPS season, but he fell one point short. A suspension before the Arizona Fall League certainly didn’t help his placement in the organization, nor did a .195/.242/.287 start with Florida this year. He’s still fast, though.
Traded to Giants: Tanner Murphy…I’ve said this before, but in the spring of 2015, Murphy was a bit of a niche prospect. Eddie Perez was in love with him and there was hope, with the graduation of Christian Bethancourt, that Murphy would ascend to the top catching prospect title. Instead, he couldn’t hit. He flashed some nominal power and decent on-base skills but is a lifetime .211 hitter. Defensively, he’s good, but not good enough to get to the majors on glove skills alone. In an organization with a number of solid catching prospects, Murphy’s opportunities at playing time were limited. Hopefully, a run with the Giants will help. No word on the return for Murphy.
Nothing to speak of.
Signed: Dan Lietz…As the #145th overall selection of the 2013 draft came, the Alex Anthopoulos-led Blue Jays landed on a lefty out of Heartland Community College in Normal, IL. Five years later, that same lefty will try to resurrect his career in Anthopoulos’ new organization. Lietz has always had the same problem – can’t find the strike zone consistently enough. His walk rate has regularly been in the double digits since 2014 and his K-BB% has trended closer to 0% rather than double figures. You simply can’t sustain any level of success like that.
…Lietz would appear like a guy Anthopoulos loved who is getting a second shot to find it. Lietz works off a low-90’s heater that has nice sink and will work in a changeup and slider. Will Lietz throw strikes? He hasn’t yet but is still a month shy of his 24th birthday so perhaps there is a bit more here.
(That’s it for this week’s Transaction Tuesday recap. Some of you may have noticed I’ve been MIA lately. A stomach virus, balky knee, and just life have been in the way. The first two have been dealt with. No promises on the third, but I definitely will try to get things accomplished in terms of WOW.)