A pretty quiet week transaction-wise for the organization with only one move in the majors and three other teams showing zero transactions for the previous week. Nevertheless, we did see a couple of the Braves’ best relief prospects get a push up the ladder while a few other unpopular veterans moved down a level. Like I started last week, I’ll finish this recap by looking at a former Brave who was involved in a transaction this week.
Recalled: Michael Reed…We talked to Reed at the beginning of the month and I definitely recommend reading that. It’s been a big season for the right-hand-hitting outfielder, though his BABIP has been insanely high along the way. Part of that is due to a just as insanely high line drive rate of about 30%. So, what do you get out of Reed?
…Walks. A lot of them. Reed has been a double-digit (10%+) walk guy throughout his professional career. He combines a little speed with the occasional jack, and bam, you have a productive bat. Why, then, was he available for a minor league contract with an invite to spring training? Well, he never hit this well. In parts of eight seasons, Reed has slashed .267/.381/.394. Good marks, but not great ones – especially without a signature weapon like speed or defense. Oh, he can play defense, but he’ll never compete for a Gold Glove or anything.
…Reed is in his Age-25 season and may have figured something out this season that he didn’t know before. Or he may be riding the best string of good luck his career has ever seen. Whatever the case, the Braves would be smart to find some looks for him.
Promoted from Mississippi: Chad Sobotka (#36)…Somebody’s on the fast track. After a woeful 2017 season where he finished with a 6.09 ERA, Sobotka has once again found the stuff that made the Braves all too happy to take him in the 4th round back in 2014 despite being injured at the time. With Florida, he carried a 37% strikeout rate and a 9% walk rate. With Mississippi, where he struggled badly last summer, Sobotka had a 1.93 ERA to go with his 33% K-rate and 11% walk rate. Now, for the first time, he gets a taste of Triple-A. Who knows? With the struggles of the major league pen, he might get another promotion this year.
…Sobotka is your typical power reliever. He comes out of a high 3/4’s delivery and throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball. He relies on his two-seamer with a good downward plane, helped a good deal by his 6’6″ height. If he has good control of his slider – and he has this year – Sobotka is very tough to make solid contact against and he will rack up the strikeouts.
Activated: Miguel Socolovich…While Braves fans will be happy to never see Socolovich pitch in Atlanta again, the righty has been impressive for Gwinnett with a strikeout an inning, great control, and a 2.45 ERA in 33 innings this year. His return to Gwinnett – and the addition of Sobotka – makes a good bullpen even better.
DFA’d & Outrighted: Danny Santana…After passing through waivers, Santana had not yet earned the right to refuse an assignment to the minors and the Braves were happy to keep the versatile utility player. Though he lacks a major league bat, Santana has been a big bat in the Gwinnett lineup with a .364 wOBA.
Promoted from Florida: Thomas Burrows (#34)…After seemingly stagnating with Rome because the organization refused to promote him, Burrows is now on the fast track. In 29 games with Florida, Burrows walked a few too many hitters but pitched to a 3.28 ERA and 3.22 FIP over 46.2 innings. He was probably a bit lucky in that his groundball rate has tumbled to a shade under 40%, but he allowed zero home runs. Nevertheless, Burrows continues to put up big-time numbers. His first game in Mississippi had a bit of drama as he allowed two hits, but he also struck out three over his one inning of work.
Rehab: Max Fried…I’m reminded of Fried starting the year in Mississippi simply to open up innings for the southpaw. He appeared once there, made two starts with Gwinnett, and got back to the majors just three weeks into the season. He’s been on the Gwinnett/Atlanta yo-yo ever since, including a dominating 11-K performance for Atlanta against the Cardinals on June 30. He landed on the DL soon after with a blister issue.
…In his second start during this rehab cycle, he toyed with Southern League hitters to the tune of 10 K’s in 6.2 innings while allowing just a hit and a walk. It sets him up nicely to rejoin the Braves roster, though the rain out in Washington could delay the decision to bring up a fifth starter until next Monday. If that happens and if the Braves want to go with Fried, he’ll go a week without throwing a pitch in a game. On the other hand, Atlanta could push back Sean Newcomb or Julio Teheran this weekend against the Dodgers and bring back Fried for a start.
…Either way, I do like Fried more as the fifth starter over a guy like Luiz Gohara. With Fried, it’s about controlling his stuff. With Gohara, it’s about not having a third pitch.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Rex Brothers…He opened the year with the major league roster, walked the only two batters he faced, and died and went back to the minors. After 32 ugly games where he walked over a batter an inning, Brothers received a demotion last week. I’m not sure why they are keeping the lefthander around. Wait, you don’t think the fact that he throws lefthanded has anything to do with it, do you?
Demoted from Gwinnett: Elian Leyva…The Cuban-born righty has logged 62.2 innings between Gwinnett and Mississippi this year. The only real difference in production is that his K rate takes a minor dip when he’s facing International League batters. He appears to have good stuff, though his numbers aren’t overwhelming. I think if the Braves could afford to give him a look this season, they’d see if the 29-year-old can hang, but with a playoff race going on, they need more sure things rather than more wild cards.
DL’d: Tyler Pike…This has been a season to forget for Pike, who opened up some eyes with a dominant dozen starts with Florida last year. The stuff has always been there for the former third rounder, but the lefty can’t consistently throw strikes or at least hasn’t to this point. Hopefully, a trip to the DL will be short, but also effective in turning around his year.
Demoted from Mississippi: Sean McLaughlin…It’s been a tough run for McLaughlin, who loses his spot in the Mississippi pen to Burrows. After starting the season with Florida (a return gig for him), McLaughlin received a promotion after a 1.75 ERA in 25.2 innings. He hasn’t had nearly that good of luck in Mississippi with an ERA of 7.50 over 18 innings. This was the third season he started the year in High-A and his run in Double-A was a first for the 2015 19th rounder out of Georgia. McLaughlin is a fine minor league arm, but neither his low 90’s heater or hard curveball are plus pitches.
Rome, Danville, and GCL
Assigned: Jorge Bautista…A J2 member from this class, Bautista is just 17 years-old out of the Dominican Republic. His listed weight is 155 pounds so the righty has some growing to do. In his first professional game, he filled the stat line with 1 ING, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 1 K.
Restricted List: Joselin Vallejo…Signed just last month very near the end of the 2017-18 J2 class, Vallejo has shown a wild arm (seven walks in 9 innings), but has avoided big knocks and struck out six. No idea why he landed on the restricted list, but the righty has good size and turned 18 last month. As always, it’s hard to find much coverage of DSL players short of being big international pickups and, of course, that won’t be coming the Braves way for a while.
Every week, I’m going to try to scour the transaction pages for an interesting Braves-related move. This week, it’s the demotion of Joseph Odom from Tacoma to Arkansas. Odom was a 13th rounder out of Huntingdon College by the Braves back in 2013. Known quickly for his defense, Odom skipped A-ball and joined the Lynchburg Hillcats to open 2014. He didn’t show much of a stick, but did flash good plate discipline and smacked the occasional homer. Odom would stick in the Carolina League as the Braves switched affiliates to the Carolina Mudcats.
He spent most of the next two seasons with the Mudcats before earned a promotion to Triple-A on the heels of a career-best .849 OPS with Carolina in 2016. Injuries would limit him in 2017 as he played just 28 games, though he hit fairly well (compared to his career numbers) and even got a cameo in Triple-A for the first time.
Odom was likely ticketed for a return to Triple-A in 2018 before the Mariners took him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He’s spent most of 2018 in the Texas League with Arkansas, hitting .275/.344/.395 with three homers. He recently played a couple of weeks in Triple-A, though only managed three singled in 21 trips to the plate while striking out ten times. The 26-year-old seems like a minor league lifer, but who knows? A good run here and there and he might reach the bigs.