A pretty quiet week transaction-wise in the majors with one pitcher replacing another, but a lot of movement on the farm. I eluded to some of these moves in last week’s report because they were rumored, but not yet confirmed. We also have a few releases, an international free agent signing, and even some movement with the rookie league teams. We’re just a couple of weeks away from the Dominican Summer League’s season beginning and just over a month from the Danville and GCL squads opening their 2018 seasons.
Promoted from Gwinnett: Luiz Gohara (#2)…As if the Braves were reading Brittni Swanson’s recent article, Atlanta brought Gohara to the majors in a reliever role. Some have suggested that the role might be the best spot for the pitcher, who is still struggling to find a consistent third delivery. In his first – and, so far, only – outing last week, we didn’t even see the changeup. Instead, he ran his fastball in from 94 mph all the way up to 97. He sprinkled in his plus-plus slider as well.
…He worked three innings in Thursday’s blowout win over the Marlins, picking up a save because save rules are inherently stupid. He wasn’t great as he walked a pair and gave up a homer. But he looked a bit more confident on the mound than the guy we saw with Gwinnett. That’s a plus. Now, Brian Snitker has to find Gohara some innings. Piggy-backing games where the starters don’t have it is not ideal. That requires the starter that day to suck. Waiting for blowouts is also not ideal. The Braves offense is good, but laughers are just too rare. Snitker is going to have find ways to work Gohara into medium-leverage games here-and-there.
…Speaking of the pen, Gohara gives the Braves yet another arm capable of going more than one inning. Eight of Shane Carle‘s 18 appearances have seen him go over an inning. Four of Jesse Biddle‘s nine games have also gone over an inning. Dan Winkler and Sam Freeman have a few outings like that, too. It gives Snitker options to not have to stick to the idea that relievers are one-inning guys and everyone has to have a strictly defined role. The one guy who really doesn’t seem to fit in this bullpen is Peter Moylan, who has allowed 5-of-11 runners he’s inherited to score.
…But back to Gohara, I’m anxious to see what happens next. The changeup still needs to be developed and utilized if he’s ever going to have a future as a starter, but the fastball/slider is going to be plenty good to give him a chance to be effective out of the pen should he locate the pitches.
Promoted from Mississippi: Wes Parsons…I feel like Parsons has been at this for 10 years, but this is just year six for the undrafted free agent out of Jackson State Community College. The reason why it feels like he’s been around forever is that he skipped rookie ball and made his high-A debut in his first full season. Injuries have been an issue for Parsons more than performance. When he’s been healthy, he’s been – at worst – good. Yeah, at worst. This season, he was off to a tremendous start with Mississippi with just a tremendous 1.23 ERA.
…Parsons has very good control, keeps the ball down (career 0.4 HR/9), and strikes out enough batters to be effective. He doesn’t have the high-level stuff to compete for headlines with some of the bigger arms in the system, but he has an ERA under 3.00 above A-ball. I mean, that’s good, right?
Activated: David Peterson…Speaking of guys who have been around forever, Peterson has been pitching for the Braves since he was an 8th-round pick in 2012. That draft, which produced Alex Wood and Shae Simmons, has only two other Braves still in the system from it – Lucas Sims and Connor Lien. Peterson is…an arm? He’s kind of Wes Parsons-lite without the ability to start games.
Outrighted: Luke Jackson…He’s on the 40-man roster, he’s off. On. Off. On. Off. Luke Jackson’s new nickname is Yo-Yo. Jackson is still young enough, but it’s hard to believe he’ll get many more chances with a 5.79 career ERA in 70 innings.
Released: Christian Colon…There was a brief moment this spring where people suggested Colon might be a good option for the bench. Colon, who sports a career 1.000 average in the postseason (2-for-2), faded and never hit for Gwinnett. In 16 games, he had a .204 average and a .204 slugging. I’ll have to consult my Baseball Prospectus glossary, but I believe that’s not good.
Promoted from Florida: Bryse Wilson (#12)…Well, that was quick. After it was assumed that the new front office would be more deliberate and conservative with their placements of prospects, Wilson slid up a level after just five starts. To be fair, he was friggin’ unreal in five stars with Florida and the whole Florida State League chipped in and sent the Braves a thank-you basket for taking Wilson away. He’s been “meh” in two starts with Mississippi, averaging 50 in his Game Score. He worked five innings both times, often pitched from the stretch, and wasn’t getting as many whiffs on his pitches.
…But he’ll adjust and be fine. Wilson won’t turn 21 until next December. As long as he holds his own against the Southern League, I’ll be happy. If he does more, it’ll put him on a Mike Soroka-like track for the majors.
Activated: Sal Giardina…Sal and his perfect stache seem to me like a player/coach. When a spot opens up, he’ll get a chance to play. When there’s no room, he’ll magically end up on the DL.
Promoted to Gwinnett and demoted back: Andres Santiago…After starting the year with Gwinnett, this is the third time he’s been demoted to Mississippi this season. He made a spot start with Gwinnett this week, throwing six pretty decent innings in a losing effort. That’s just his role. He’ll fill in where needed.
DL’d: Tyler Pike (#27)…On the bright side, Pike has allowed just three hits and one earned run in 8.1 innings this year. On the negative side, he’s walked 13 batters. He missed a dozen days earlier this year on the temporarily inactive list, which helps explain his low innings total. He’s also coming out of the pen after making 22 or more starts in each of the last five years. But he’s going nowhere fast until he can find a way to locate his pitches.
Florida Fire Frogs
Promoted from Rome: Kyle Muller (#19)…It’s easy to forget about Muller. He didn’t have the aggressive track like Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz. Bryce Wilson, picked after Muller, zoomed by the tall lefty in both prospect rankings and organizational level. But Muller has now caught up with Anderson and Wentz as he slides into the spot vacated by Wilson. To be honest, I’m not really sure why and Muller’s first start went pretty miserable.
…Muller was always more of a project than the more mature arms of Anderson and Wentz. I felt Rome was a good place for him. He was certainly looking better than he did with Danville the previous season as far as control, though his strikeout rate was down and his xFIP was near 4. Of all the aggressive promotions, this is the one I like the least. He will bounce back, though, as he keeps pitching with Florida. Hitters had a .539 BABIP against him in his first start. That will change. And to be fair – I didn’t really understand the Austin Riley promotion to Mississippi last summer and he’s done nothing but hit since.
Activated: Jared James…After skipping Florida last year on his way to a .351 wOBA over 113 games in Mississippi, James has a shot to shine with the Fire Frogs and should he remain healthy, that seems like a good bet. Over 18 games, James is slashing .318/.370/.545. The BABIP is a bit high, but the extra base knocks are a good sign after a .135 ISO last season. James is a borderline talent and doesn’t profile to be a starter in the majors, but he could become a decent platoon bat.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Jon Kennedy…After a brief two-game, 6.2 inning cameo in Gwinnett, Kennedy returns to Florida where he was off to a tremendous start out of the pen. The Australia product has impeccable control and has carried a sub-3 FIP since the beginning of last season. Another lefty arm, Kennedy is right with Corbin Clouse and other lefty relievers trying to work their way to the majors as a viable option. Going in Kennedy’s favor is his brief run while holding his own in Gwinnett (his ERA would have been better if not for a 50% LOB%).
Released: Oriel Caicedo…DL’d all season, Caicedo will not have a chance to build upon a career season in 2017 between Florida and Rome when he had a 3.42 ERA over 105.1 innings. No game was more special than August 12 when he was one out away from a no-hitter. It was part of a big final run where he allowed just two earned runs in 30.2 innings. Caicedo’s main skill is control and keeping the ball in the yard. However, he never really wow’d anyone – which is why his near no-hitter was so surprising.
Promoted from Danville: Cutter Dyals…He has one of the best baseball names for a pitcher and now he has four scoreless innings in his first try at pitching above rookie ball. Dyals was a 17th rounder last June and one of the most reliable arms out of the Danville pen. He’s a sidearmer who delivers a steady diet of cutters. Which makes sense. He could be a quick riser as a situational righty.
Activated: Drew Waters (#14)…After a hitless game in his return, Waters has knocks in each of his last five games including a pair of home runs. However, because only one of those games is a multi-hit outing, he’s still struggling to get his average closer to .250. He’s making more contact than he did with Danville last summer, but he’s also not walking. But you try not to get down on 19-year-olds for not looking like college-tested veterans in the South Atlantic League. He’s going to take his lumps, but he’s flashing a powerful stick so the ride isn’t too bad so far.
Demoted from Florida: Dilmer Mejia…A fill-in so far, Mejia has pitched twice out of the pen for Rome and most recently made a spot start with Florida, going four innings with a run allowed. Mejia has been around since 2014. He’s another control artist in this system but has flashed some decent strikeout ability. The problem is he has struggled to put it all together for a full season, which has kept him – along with some injuries – from building on what was a wonderful debut in 2014. I’d like to see him land a spot with the Rome roster to stay rather than return to Danville to open their season. He has zero left to prove in rookie ball.
Demoted from Florida: Shean Michel…Also known as “Ray” or even “Raysheandall,” Michel filled in with Florida during Jared James’ absence. He struggled over nine games, OPSing just .437. A far cry from the .326/.378/.424 line he put up in just over a month of action with Danville last summer. Michel may never develop enough pop to be considered anything more than a best-case scenario fourth outfielder, but the ball jumps off his bat when he’s rolling. He was one of my favorite guys to watch last summer.
Demoted from Rome: Jose Bermudez…Similar story to Michel, though Bermudez has yet to play in Danville. That will likely change in a bit over a month. Bermudez is one of those potential sleepers that could break out this season like Isranel Wilson did last year. To do that, he’s going to have to make much better contact. His line-drive rate in 2016 was a mediocre 18.9%. It fell six percent last year and was a shade under 8% in his brief cameo in Rome. While power may never be part of his game, making poor contact is a sure way to lose traction in this system.
Released: Zach Rice…Picked in the 18th round in 2016 out of North Carolina, Rice repeated Danville after a woeful first summer in the Appalachian League. To be fair to the lefty, he improved in every regard. To be even fairer, that was easy to do because, in ’16, Rice had a nearly equal strikeout-to-walk rate in 17.2 innings. He walked 18 and struck out 20. He cut the walk rate in half while bumping up the strikeout rate in 2017. But Rice was just another lefty bullpen arm in a system that has collected such arms over the last couple of years. That put him on the bubble. His last outing with Florida on April 27 was actually very good (2 ING, 0 H, BB, 4 K). But the Braves may have still felt the time was right to move on.
Promoted from DSL: Miguel Pena…We’re starting to see some movement at the lower rungs of the minor leagues for the first time this season. Pena was signed in February of 2017 out of the Dominican Republic and pitched in 15 games with the DSL last year. He didn’t flash much swing-and-miss potential but did look like a guy who knew how to throw strikes. Poor defense led to nearly as many unearned runs as earned and he finished the season with a 3.96 ERA.
Promoted from DSL: Walner Polanco…Like Pena, Polanco is a right-handed arm and he’s friggin’ huge at 6’7.” He signed in September of 2016 so both of these guys remained in the bloodbath of the 2016 international signing bonanza. Last summer, Polanco logged 22 games out of the pen and was the complete opposite of Pena. He struck out 36 in 34.2 innings but also walked 27. Obviously, the last number must change for Polanco to be successful state-side.
Released: Justin Morhardt…His grandfather, Moe Morhardt, played for the Cubs back in the early 60’s and was blessed with just a wonderful name for baseball. In 2017, his grandson was a 22nd-round selection. He had ridiculous numbers in college but struggled in 92 PA with the GCL squad last summer. He walked at a good clip, though 23-year-old college players are expected to have a better idea of the strike zone than the high school kids they are facing. But he only managed two extra-base hits and struck out at a 29% clip. Morhardt, who can catch or play first and isn’t particularly gifted at either, must not have impressed the Braves this spring enough to keep him around.
Signed: Brandol Mezquita…So, this is interesting. Last summer, the Braves signed Mezquita for a reduced amount while inking other free agents Mezquita’s agent/trainer at the time represented for inflated bonuses. As a result, Mezquita, like a dozen other international signings, was declared a free agent in the bloodbath last winter that ultimately led to John Coppolella being banned from baseball. But while those other players signed elsewhere, Mezquita never went elsewhere. While the Braves probably crossed their fingers and hoped a higher-regarded player fell through the cracks, it’s worth noting that they at least kept one of their lost prospects. Who knows…maybe this outfielder will become the best of the group?