Braves Moving ‘Em On Up

Braves Moving ‘Em On Up

When the opening day rosters for the Braves’ minor league clubs were announced, a bit of a narrative was born. While it would be easy to suggest that the narrative was related to the demotion of Ronald Acuna Jr. to Gwinnett to open the year, that was really just a small part of a bigger picture. The previous spring, fans who follow the Braves’ minor leagues were excited about the hyper-aggressive promotions of Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard from low-A to Double-A. As the season progressed, Luiz Gohara and Acuna Jr. breezed through the system with the former pitching in the majors.

John Coppolella and his team were seen as willing to push players fast if they showed they could handle it. As a result, guys were getting promotions left-and-right. Even teenagers like Kevin Maitan, Drew Waters, Jean Carlos Encarnacion, and Jefrey Ramos were only given a few weeks in the Gulf Coast League before being thrown at college-age arms in the Appalachian League. The message was simple – produce and be rewarded.

That’s why some opening day assignments were of particular interest this spring. And the new narrative was simple: under Alex Anthopoulos, it looked like the Braves would be more restrained in their promotions. Guys would be on less of an accelerated timetable. This went well beyond Acuna Jr. Thomas Burrows, who had a 2.49 FIP in 38 games with Rome in 2017, was back on the opening day roster for the South Atlantic League squad. Top Rome starters like Bryse Wilson, Joey Wentz, and Ian Anderson were only bumped up to Florida and none of the trio received a Soroka/Allard-like push.

The most shocking of opening day assignments may have been that of William Contreras. Named the Danville Position Player of the Year last summer, he was nowhere to be found on the Rome roster. Rather, Drew Lugbauer, who ended the year with Rome after an aggressive promotion, was in the way. As were two other catchers – Brett Cumberland and Alex Jackson – who were given repeat assignments with the team they finished 2017 with. Even Austin Riley, who had a .408 wOBA in 48 games with Mississippi last year, was scheduled for a return trip.

But that narrative of slowly moving players through the system has been declared false by not just the moves that followed the trade deadline, but throughout the season. This current regime is just as aggressive in their promotions as the previous one. In fact, it could be argued that under Alex Anthopoulos, the Braves are even more aggressive. Under previous regimes, teenagers often played out their first year of full-season ball in Rome or even Macon before it. Chipper Jones had a .925 OPS with Macon in 1991, but the Braves wouldn’t promote him. A couple of years later, Jermaine Dye had a .818 OPS. No promotion. Andruw Jones had a .884 OPS as an 18-year-old. No promotion.

A number of top prospects have performed admirably well with Rome but couldn’t earn a promotion, including Ozzie Albies, Riley, Soroka, and Touki Toussaint. As I mentioned, you can add the 2017 trio of Anderson, Wentz, and Wilson to the list.

But you can’t add Contreras to that list. Despite missing the first few weeks of the season, he received a promotion following a .293/.360/.463 run over 82 games. He’s not alone. Waters joins him despite still playing high school baseball 14 months ago. Waters hit .303/.353/.513 with 20 steals over 84 games. Huascar Ynoa recently received a promotion up the ladder as well. Kyle Muller only made six starts before getting his own promotion from Rome.

Waters won’t join Cristian Pache in the Florida outfield because the still-just-19-year-old is headed to Mississippi after his OPS jumped 63 points compared to where it was in Rome during 2017. He would have joined Cumberland, but the latter was just traded. He also would have joined Alex Jackson, Kyle Wright, Riley, or Toussaint, but they’re all in Gwinnett now.

Chad Sobotka opened the year in Florida but is now pitching out of the Gwinnett pen. To be fair, his promotions aren’t quite as notable considering he was drafted in 2014 and had twenty games with Mississippi before this season.

Bryse Wilson | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB

The same can’t be said about the rocket-like climb of Bryse Wilson. He won’t turn 21 until December 20, was the fifth pitcher selected by the Braves in the 2016 draft, and is scheduled to make his Triple-A debut this week. He opened the season in Florida, a natural promotion after 26 starts in Rome the previous year. After five starts, the Braves pushed him up to Double-A out of mercy for Florida State League hitters. With Mississippi, Wilson struggled at first. He then found his way over a dominant July. He’s now 1/5th of a Gwinnett rotation that also includes Gohara, Wright, Allard, and Toussaint. Oh, and Max Fried and Wes Parsons will likely help out as well.

And then, there is Thomas Burrows, who opened the season with a save against the Hagerstown Suns, including a strikeout of Juan Soto. He immediately received a promotion to Florida where he had a 3.28 ERA over 46.2 innings. Recently, he earned a second promotion to Mississippi. From forgotten arm to accelerated timetable.

Even the draft has been full of guys on the move. Greyson Jenista quickly joined Rome after a brief layover in Danville. AJ Graffanino signed late but had a similar quick cameo in Danville before joining Rome. Justin Dean received a promotion yesterday after a .308/.419/.454 beginning to his career. CJ Alexander, plucked out of the 20th round, is already in Danville after starting in the Gulf Coast League and seemed primed to get a promotion to Rome before missing over a week of action. Brendan Venter, Brooks Wilson, and Michael Mateja have all received promotions to Rome. Mateja has even played for both rookie-league clubs already.

Our good friend, Andy Harris, of Outfield Fly Rule pointed out that two-thirds of his mid-season Top 30 have received promotions since the beginning of this year. We recently updated our Top 50 and I did the math. About half, or 26 players, have received a promotion up the ladder from where they started the year. That said, our numbers are far more comparable with Andy if you just look at our Top 30 where 19 have received promotions.

To be fair, top prospects throughout baseball are rising up organizations faster than ever so what Anthopoulos and his team are doing isn’t unique to him. That said, after a lot of talk about the Braves adopting a more conservative approach to timetables for their prospects, the quickness guys like Wilson have flown through the system makes it clear that the organization is far from conservative. Play well, get promoted. Even if you don’t wow the organization, sometimes you’re given a sink-or-swim moment like Alex Jackson. But above all, it doesn’t matter where you start, if you impress enough people, you might be a call away from the majors.

Talk about an incentive!

11 Comments

At the beginning of the year, a big logjam starting at Gwinnett. Promotions to the majors started making some holes but trading our long-term holdovers that were near Rule 5 eligibility (or holding down 40-man slots for prospects that will need to be protected) has created an upward sucking sound in the organization. Now, they have had no choice but to make some aggressive promotions. But, overall, I agree that if the performance is strong enough, promotion should follow. Youth at the MLB level is being stressed and relied upon more and more. I think orgs are tired of seeing expensive assets decline and analytics have proven the value of cheap kids over expensive veterans. Other than the Jackson promotion, does any one of them seem inappropriate or unwise? There may also be some merit to applying the Peter principle. If you promote these kids to their level of incompetence then they can more readily see the areas they need to improve and, maybe, wipe away any cockiness. They may be more coachable. The logic of keeping someone at a level until he masters that level and then moving him up is still applicable – some appear to be mastering levels at a rapid rate.

If The Braves can stay close (or even have The Division Lead come September 1st)…I feel that The Braves will have THE BEST CHANCE to win The NL East.

While everyone knows that MLB teams can expand their rosters come September 1st….I feel that with THE PLETHORA of high upside pitching talent that is at AAA for The Braves…there is a decent chance that AA will call up the likes of Tooki Tousiant, Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, Bryce Wilson and Luis Gohara to be bullpen options for The Braves once Gwinnett’s season is over!

Just imagine how effective those 5 pitchers could be…if they could come in and go all out ONE INNING at a time (or if say Julio Teheran has to be pulled after 2 or 3 innings because he simply doesnt have it that night….one of those guys can come in and pitch 4-5 innings, in effect saving our bullpen/giving our offense a chance to come back)! Our bullpen would be HELLA DEEP and not at risk of being OVERWORKED during September! Plus our young guys would be getting MLB exposure/experience that would definitely help them come the offseason when it comes to knowing what they need to work on in order to stick at The MLB Level!

While The Phillies and Nationals will also be able to expand their bullpens come September 1st, I DO NOT feel that either team can come close to matching the above names I listed when it comes to strengthening their bullpens on September 1st! I hope that this is AA’s plan come September 1st!

I for one am super excited to see wright-Gohara-Wilson—Touki all in AAA. Paul’s right—about the pen and the starters. Soroka I hope can make it back. Watching Allard pitch to contact with no curve ball since the ball was so wet—I like him but I hope his fastball moves up a bit. With Pache in AA and contreas and waters going to high A—Ian seems like he will be in AA esp after his last 7.2 hitless—and man does the future seems bright.

Guys, don’t count on the whole AAA roster being called up. Every guy that gets called up still has to be on the 40-man roster. Currently, there is one spot available i.e. one new guy not yet on the 40-man. You will definitely see Allard, Gohara, and Parsons as they are already on the 40-man. Beyond that you’re likely to see Rio Ruiz, Chad Bell, Ricardo Sanchez, Adam McCreery, and the return of Viz. Even Soroka would have to be added back to the 40-man because he’s on the 60-day DL – so not likely. To add more of the guys you suggest like Wright, Touki, and Riley, the Braves would have to DFA three guys. Now I can count at least that many or more that I’d DFA but the Braves might not act the same way. Plus you have to consider who needs to be protected from Rule 5 and add those guys first. I am sure that Riley and Wright don’t need to be protected – not sure about Touki. I don’t think we will see either Wright or Touki unless they need Rule 5 protection anyway.

Roger…I’m not counting on Soroka coming back in 2018. What’s happened with him and Gohara (NO ONE could have predicted that BOTH would have had their 2018 Seasons turn out this way! Gohara simply got FUCKED a variety of different ways, from off the field issues to nagging Spring Training injuries that took away ‘Spring Training’ from him…..as well as Soroka, who did not have any history of injuries, being put on The DL TWICE for shoulder issues this summer).

I’d rather just leave Soroka alone..and give him the offseason to work on getting TOTALLY HEALTHY for 2019 (he’s that important to our future).

If The Braves are AT LEAST 3 games within 1st place on September 1st….they simply have NO CHOICE but to call up Tooki, Wright, Allard, Gohara and Wilson (if Wilson shows that he can be effective against AAA hitters the last 2 months)…as soon as The AAA season ends (Gwinnitt is not making the AAA playoffs).

AA has no choice but to work around The 40 man Roster issues! All 5 of those arms, if used properly during September, can provide some MUCH NEEDED production for The Braves! NONE of those 5 pitchers, would need to start (unless some injuries hit our Starting Rotation).

I’d LOVE to see Snitker call on those guys (depending on the situation), to face either one hitter to end a rally (with the exception of Allard, the other 4 have ‘swing and miss’ stuff)…OR if one of our Starters has to get pulled early, one of those guys could come in and pitch 4-5 innings (saving our bullpen).

Every game in September is going to be IMPORTANT! Why not manage EVERY GAME like it’s Game 7 of The World Series (especially if you can LOAD UP your bullpen with GREAT ARMS)? Philly and Washington WILL NOT be able to match The Braves when it comes to the quality of arms that they can call up from their MILB Systems come September 1st!

AA said that he ‘owes’ it to the current players to give them EVERY OPPORTUNITY to try and make The 2018 Post Season! There are a number of BUMS (like Rex Brothers and a few others) who can be LET GO to make room for calling up Wright, Tooki, Wilson (and Austin Riley….which would lead to the release of Ryan Flaherty…who I will not miss one bit, lol).

Rio Ruiz?…

**shudders**

I believe Roger is probably right about the 40 man issue. It’s great to see all of these guys moving up through the ranks, and laid out like this it really shows you the depth. The other part to the equation though is how many arb clocks do you want to start at once?

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense about The Braves just ‘hanging in there’ until September 1st….and they’ll be ‘the favorites’ to take down The NL East (as long as they are within 4 games of the lead)! Sure, I’d love for our position to be ‘better’…however as long as we’re within striking distance, we’ll have a chance to overcome any ‘small’ lead that Philly (unless Washington, AT MINIMUM, takes 3 of 4 against The Braves next week in D.C…they have LITTLE CHANCE of running down The Braves by September 1st, remember, they are currently 6 games behind The Braves in the more important ‘loss column’) have on September 1st.

A lot of players/teams will be playing on fumes/dealing with every sort of nagging injury imaginable to MLB! The pitchers who have survived being victimized by season ending injuries..have had to pitch on days where they really needed to rest! Given the quality of MLB hitters, being able to expand your rosters in September simply IS NOT enough come September 1st. You need arms that have ‘swing and miss’ stuff…..pitchers who have the stuff to come in and end a rally!

Normally, with a 25 man roster, managers cannot afford to use 8-10 pitchers on a nightly basis (without risking blowing out your bullpen)! However, with the expanded September 1st Rosters, I feel that The Braves will be better positioned to do PRECISELY THAT come September 1st!

Just imagine having the following bullpen options starting September 1st:

Late inning closer: AJ Minter (possibly having Adrodys Vizcaino as a righty closer on certain nights, depending on matchups going into the 8th/9th innings….would make for a potentially LETHAL combo. However, until Vizcaino has proven that he’s capable of pitching at an elite level in 2018, I’m assuming that he CANNOT be counted on for ‘anything’ the rest of the way…just like I’ve ‘counted out’ expecting anything from Mike Soroka in 2018).

The past two nights have given me reason to ‘possibly change’ my position that Minter ‘may not’ be ready to be a PRIME TIME closer come 2019. He’s pitched very well the past 2 nights (a closer has to be able to pitch on ‘back-to-back nights’…EFFECTIVELY, if a team has a chance to be ‘playoff-worthy’).

While Brad Brach pitched well Thursday night in his Braves debut (in addition to having closer experience, if The Braves have a lead that needs protecting in the bottom of the 9th tomorrow night, Brach will probably be called on to pitch….still too early in the season to risk having Minter pitch three days in row), I’d rather see if Dan Winkler can ‘regain’ that 8th inning role! Tonight, he located his pitches like he did earlier in the season (I feel that a combo of Snitker using Winkler A LOT earlier in the season…along with this being his 1st full season back from his surgeries…contributed to Winkler ‘hitting the wall’ in late June/early July!

Jesse Biddle, on the other hand, may be in the process of SEIZING the 8th inning setup man role! Dude can NOT ONLY get hitters from BOTH sides of the plate out…he’s a multi-inning MONSTER! I love that he can either come in and GET ONE HITTER OUT…or….pitch 2-3 innings of shutdown relief (saving our bullpen/giving our offense a chance to win the game)!

Closer: Minter
8th inning: Winkler, Biddle, Bach
7th inning: Carle, Venters.

Youth infusion to be used ‘depending on the situation’: Tousiant, Wright, Wilson, Allard…and Gohara! All of these guys are YOUNG, versatile, have good stuff! 40 man roster spots be damned…..these guys can help The Braves be A TOUGH TEAM to beat in September! Sure, a number of these pitchers WILL NOT be eligible for post season play (you have to be on the roster on August 31st in order to be post season-eligible). However, Robinson Cano is ALSO INELIGIBLE for post season play (because of his PED suspension during The Regular Season). YET do you think that Seattle will refuse to play Cano once he’s ineligible for reinstatement starting tomorrow? If Cano can help them make The Playoffs….they will deal with how to ‘compensate’ for his absence AFTER they get in!

What’s more of a concern during the next few weeks…is what to do about Dansby’s lack of offense! It’s going to do little good to make The Playoffs…if we cant get ‘any production’ from Swanson offensively! If Austin Riley starts driving the ball/hitting homers in the next few weeks at Gwinnett….I’d support Riley getting promoted a few days before August 31st (in order to make him PS-eligible)…while designating for assignment Ryan Flaherty (and benching Swanson). I’d play Riley at 3rd…and move Carmago at Short!

Sure, Swanson is the better defender at short. However, we need offense! Riley had power….and Duval provides power as well on days that a lefty is pitching against The Braves (meaning that Inciarte is on the bench while Acuna moves to Center to make room for Duval in Left Field).

Look at the following lineup post September 1st:

Righty on the mound:

1. Acuna….Left Field
2. Albies…2nd
3. Freeman…1st
4. Markakis….RF
5. Riley….3rd
6. Carmago…SS
7. Flowers/Suzuki…C
8. Inciarte….CF

Lefty on the mound:

1. Acuna….CF
2. Albies….2nd
3. Freeman….1st
4. Markakis…RF
5. Duval….LF
6. Carmago…SS
7. Riley…3rd
8. Flowers/Suzuki…C

If Snitker was willing to put a righty power hitter in between Freeman and Markakis in the 4th spot…I’d have a really nice lineup that would be HELLA BALANCED (lefty-righty balanced that would provide serious matchup problems for the opposing managers). Regardless, Swanson’s bat has to go. Swanson can be used as a late inning defensive replacement in games where we have a lead that need protecting. The next 3 weeks from Austin Riley will say a lot when it comes to what I’ve just proposed offensively for The Braves!

While the 3 doubleheaders…AS WELL AS what were off days, now rainout make up games have The Braves scheduled to play 58 games over the last 60 days of The Season, The Gwinnett SHuffle could help make some of this ‘rash of games’ more ‘bearable’ to deal with (especially given the talent of starting pitching that we currently have at Gwinnett)!

There is NO REASON why Folty, Newcomb, Sanchez, Gausman and Teheran will have to pitch on anything less than ‘4 days rest’! Max Fried, Kolby Allard and Luis Gohara all can be called up to pitch (along with whoever is scheduled to start on that day) in the double header that needs to be made up…then sent back down for bullpen help (like Parson…and some others like Corbin Clouse, whose been excelling in AA in 2018).

AA has positioned both AA and AAA to do what it takes to prepare their prospects to be SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS for The Braves..when it’s time to call upon them!

I really feel that AA is going to take EVERY ADVANTAGE of the rules that MLB has in place when it comes to the LIBERAL USAGE of ‘September Call-up’s/Expanded Rosters’!

Other than Austin Riley (if he’s able to prove himself to be A SIGNIFICANT UPGRADE over Dansby Swanson..A BIG IF)..for any of this to make sense, it’s going to have to come from our “Young Guns’ at Gwinnett! If AA is able to convince Snitker that how he uses those pitchers…The Phillies are going to have A HELLA HARD TIME keeping ahead of The Braves.

Sure, it’s been disappointing that The Phillies were able to thwart The Marlins both nights to stay in 1st place by 1/2 a game over The Braves. However, we still have the next 2 games this weekend……then The Phillies will play 3 games in Arizona..followed by 3 games at The Padres (I know, easy)…then 2 straight hosting Boston. Philly will have to beat some VERY GOOD TEAMS if they want to hold off The Braves as September 1st approaches!

As long as I dont have to hear anything resembling Tousiant/Wright/Wilson/Gohara/Allard/etc heading to The DL List…..I’ll be anticipating what lies ahead come September 1st! These arms (and AA’s willingness to use the September Roster Expansion Rules to The Braves Advantage) will give The Braves an huge advantage over The Philles and Nationals (and other NL teams competing for either A Wild Card Spot OR for Home Field in The NL Playoffs (if The Braves end up winning The Division..OR…if having homefield for “The One Game Play-in Game’ gives The WC team with the better record a better chance playing in front of their home fans/having the last at-bat…to advance to The Divisional Series by WINNING The Wild Card Game!

Those young pitchers we call up when September 1st arrives..could very well be THE ESSENTIAL KEYs to The Braves chances for playoff glory come 2018! Remember…that I, Paul Lentz, Jr…of sound mind, living in San Francisco, age 46 years old, DIE HARD Braves fan since 1982 (I was 10 years old, living in Arkansas, following The Braves on a 2-13 push button hand me down tv that, among the channels we watched, were The Braves on TBS on Channel 8 (around 6:35pm central time, right after reruns of Sanford & Son, which started at 6:05pm each night!)…made this VERY PREDICTION of how I feel that the rest of The 2018 Season will play out for The Braves (assuming no HORRIFIC/Catastrophic injuries wreck havoc onto The Braves pitching staff during the next few weeks) when it comes to how our GM, AA, will utilize the high ceiling young talent that is knocking on the door when it comes to making their MLB presence known, YET not ‘currently’ on The 40-man MLB Roster (as of yet). These young guns are simply TOO GOOD to not utilize this way! It’s within the rules of the sport to use! Might as well be The Braves that make them work TO THEIR FAVOR…for a chance..instead of it always being ‘New York or Boston’ who ‘exploits’ a seemingly ‘loophole’ (when, in fact, it’s been there for all to see for MANY YEARS)!

By this time next week, we’ll know a lot more when it comes to where The Braves, Washington and Phillies ‘lie’ in The Divisional Standings! The next 8-9 games are VERY IMPORTANT!

So Touki is eligible for Rule 5 this year so you’ll likely see him in September. But not Wright or Riley. You’re more likely to see Demeritte and Alex Jackson who are also both eligible for Rule 5 this year. I’m sure that’s why Jackson got his unexpected promotion to AAA. And, as I said before, guys like Gohara, Allard, Parsons, Peterson, Ruiz, Whitley, and Chad Bell who are all already one the 40-man. But AA could make some of this moot with an August trade to get something back for several of the guys in the minors on the 40-man. Like a LH hitter.

And, for what it’s worth, you will not see Swanson benched. His defense is just a shade below Andrelton Simmons and he is integral to keeping our pitchers’ ERA down. He saves at least as many runs on defense that a good hitter would add on offense so there is 100% no way he is benched for more than a rest one day a week or every two weeks. His hitting is now worse and may be better than guys like Simmons or Ozzie Smith at this stage. Go back and look at most HOF SS (not named Ripken or Rodriguez) and see what their OPS was in their second year. Simmons didn’t really crack 100 until this year and Smith took about 8 years before his OPS hit 100.

Roger…..I see no reason why AA cant add Wright and Riley EARLY to The 40 man Roster! Dumping the BUMS/Deadwood off the 40 man (players who have NO PART of The Braves Future) should be NO PROBLEM!

Sure, I like Dansby’s defense….however he’s simply DEADWOOD offensively at this point. The Phillies addressed their lack of production at short, by getting Cabrera from The Mets (while his defense isnt what Kingery provides…his bat is LIGHT YEARS better). The Phillies know that they need offense down the stretch!

Dansby isnt even hitting against lefties lately! I give him 3 weeks to turn it around…OR AA should call up Riley to play 3rd (and move Carmago over to Short) IF Riley can show that he can hit with some power at AAA in the next 3 weeks (he was injured for a bit until recently, he needs to get his stroke back).

I was all for ‘being patient/2018 being all about ‘developing for 2019’! HOWEVER, when Washington REFUSED to part with Victor Robles and Keiboom for JT Realmuto…..that gave The Braves (and The Phillies) A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to win The 2018 NL East! Realmuto would have done WONDERS to solidify that Nationals Team! He can play defense and is a beast offensively! Having Eaton and Realmuto hitting at the top of that lineup (setting the table for Harper, Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman/Murphy, Turner….lol).

I’m just glad that Washington FOOLISHLY thought that they didnt NEED to make that trade. Sure, Robles and Kieboom are highly touted prospects who could very well be All-Star type players in the future. HOWEVER Washington was built to win The NL East in 2018 AND contend for a World Series…IN 2018!

Whether it is in mid-2019 or mid-2020, AA may very well have to make a trade like that to shore up a World Series Contending Braves team! If it will help The Braves contend for a WS…you make the trade! I know that a lot of people keep bringing up The Mark Texiera Trade in 2007…however that trade NEVER made sense, because The Phillies were CLEARLY the class of The NL East that year! The Braves still had HOLES on that team even after Tex improved the middle of the order power that we lacked after Chipper Jones!

Washington has a bullpen (could use another starting piece, however could have still swung a trade to get a JA Happ-type after they did what was needed to get Realmuto)! However, it is TOO LATE for them to make a run at EITHER The Braves or Phillies. They dont have enough AND NEITHER The Braves NOR The Phillies are THAT WEAK anymore!

It’s us and The Phillies the rest of the way! We need 1. OFFENSE from short ..2. Bullpen help from our YOUNG GUNS…..come September 1st! All addressing those issues will ‘cost’…are ’40 man Roster spots’!

really poopey games with colorado so far…might be good later,,,,,hot take alert: Braves really need to get this last game with the rockies

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