Welcome back to the increasingly infrequent Transaction Tuesday, our rundown of all of the moves from the Dominican Summer League to the majors. This week, we cover a few pitchers beginning their rehab assignments, the return of a former possible third baseman of the future, and other assorted moves. If you missed it earlier, I also covered the signing of Tyler Flowers to a contract extension. Give that a look after you read this article.
Promoted: Rio Ruiz…It was a bit frustrating that the Braves waited until late August to make the switch – with a brief interlude involving the next player – to Rio Ruiz. Not that Ruiz is still an intriguing prospect. Though just 24, Ruiz has stalled over the last three years. At best, he won’t make enough effective contact to get on base enough. He also hasn’t flashed the kind of power many projected him to have. But he also still has some hope left in his bat. Not a lot, but some. That’s more than we can say about Ryan Flaherty.…So, how has Ruiz’s 2018 season gone? He started out extremely poorly, sporting an OPS around .665 when June hit. He’s slowly pulled out of this dive and was hitting .290/.366/.460 over his last 142 PA before his promotion. Overall, he has a .714 OPS on the year, but again, has been better lately. He’s also moved away from third base – though he still plays it occasionally. Ruiz is capable enough at third base – something he’s worked hard to become. He’ll also move around to first base, where he looks much less lost than he did last season. Surprisingly, he has even worked 26 starts as a corner outfielder. He’s likely below-average out there and probably badly so, but it does give him the positional flexibility he didn’t really have the last two seasons.
…Ruiz’s trade value is super low and he’s not really pushed by anyone, which serves him well because he has an option remaining. However, Ruiz is also one of those bubble guys the Braves might have to make a decision on because he does have something of extreme value that’s become quite scarce in Atlanta – a spot on the 40-man roster. A nice September would go a long way to keeping Ruiz around. Expect him to get a number of pinch-hit appearances like the one he had on Sunday, in which he walked.
Contract Selected and DFA’d: Chris Stewart…Called up after Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch, Stewart wasn’t used and was quickly shoved back off the roster. Stewart is hardly any great shakes – most major league teams don’t have much ready to help out at Triple-A and have a Stewart of their own. That said, Atlanta is probably hoping he passes through waivers again and finishes out the season with the Stripers. Stewart could be re-added to the 40-man at that point and provide the team with a backup with experience who knows the Braves arms.
Demoted to and promoted from Mississippi: Xavier Avery…He didn’t appear in a game for Mississippi so I assume this was a roster thing. Avery has been much less dynamic than he was in 2017, slashing a productive but underwhelming .262/.343/.369 over 74 games. The Atlanta-native might stick around if no better offers come his way and Atlanta wants him back. He did post a .816 OPS in 2018 and brings some major league experience (2012 with the O’s).
Promoted from Mississippi: Sal Giardina…With Stewart getting a brief call-up, Giardina moved up to Triple-A. I mean, we know Giardina by now. 80-grade stache and, well, that’s about it.
Promoted from Florida: Connor Johnstone…It’s been a back-and-forth season for the former Demon Deacon. He’s thrown 48 innings with Florida, 17.1 innings in Double-A, and another 16 with Gwinnett. His best luck came with Florida, which is of little surprise since he was just a 21st round draft choice last season. Johnstone is at his best when hitters are smashing his cutter into the ground for easy outs. I’m not sure if there is a starter here, but Johnstone could be a decent reliever.
Promoted to Atlanta and demoted back to Gwinnett: Michael Reed…His third promotion in less than two months lasted a day. He continues to hit .344/.453/.527 in the minors, which I’m told by reliable sources is good. He’s also 2-for-6 in the majors.
Rehab: Brandon McCarthy…With a pitching adjustment to help him gut it out through some knee tendinitis, McCarthy is hoping to provide the Braves another useful reliever in September and maybe the playoffs. McCarthy worked his second game yesterday, which gave him just one day of rest between appearances. Hard to say if he was sharper or less so, but he did give up a pair of hits in his second outing. Atlanta would probably love to see him go back-to-back, but that might be asking too much. McCarthy has announced his plan to retire at season’s end.
Rehab: Peter Moylan…Old Aussie, whose on the DL with – wait, does it matter? – has worked a pair of scoreless innings during his rehab with three hits allowed, a walk, and three strikeouts.
Activated: Carlos Franco…It doesn’t look like Franco will set a new personal high in homers for the second consecutive season after he smacked 21 last season. Sixteen is still not bad. Franco has been around so long that Frank Wren was the general manager when he signed and Roy Clark was the Scouting Director. After a decade in the minors, his time with the Braves might be coming to a close. Then again, we could say that at the end of the last couple of seasons and he keeps returning.
Activated and Optioned: Max Fried…Fried started his rehab assignment on the 17th with 4.1 wild innings with Gwinnett so this was more-or-less procedural. His second start was even worse as he gave up six hits and walked three over two innings. The hopes are still very high with Fried, who has the stuff and a plus-plus curveball to be an effective reliever with a chance for more. Just need to see some better results.
Optioned: Bryse Wilson…A surprise call-up, Wilson – like Touki Toussaint before him – only helped himself during his major league debut. He went five innings as he struggled with jitters, but got a heavy dose of groundballs and K’d five. He even worked through a jam and would have picked up his first major league hit had he not been thrown out by the right fielder.
…The 109th overall selection of the 2016 draft is far from a finished product. The Braves will continue to work on his change-up because, right now, it might be the only thing that keeps him from being a middle-of-the-rotation starter with a chance for more. The velocity and control are already a plus. Just needs that extra pitch to work deeper into games at the major league level (note: that observation is not based on his debut). I’m hopeful it can get there.
Outrighted: Ryan Flaherty…After a strong start that had many people confused as to the player Ryan Flaherty really is, he’s been freefall. After the month of April, he had 0 wRC. Yet, for some reason, he was usually the only left-hand bat off the bench the Braves had and often utilized as a pinch-hitter, something he was just 4-for-30 with three walks at. While many people blamed Brian Snitker – even Brian Snitker – for Flaherty’s lack-of-production, this is who Flaherty is. Career .279 wOBA and 72 wRC+. The fact the Braves even got a good month out of him was shocking.
DL’d: Danny Santana…Hitting the DL now is pretty unfortunate for Santana, who has hit .264 with a .791 OPS and 16 homers this season with Gwinnett. While many of us believe he shouldn’t sniff a spot on the major league roster, if the Braves were considering a spot for Santana, an injury will make the decision a non-starter.
Activated: Brandon Downes…Picked up earlier this year after wearing out his welcome in the KC organization, Downes is hitting .202/.256/.290 this season – well below his career norms. He flashed some good power in the Carolina League with Wilmington in each of the last two years, but really struggles to make contact and doesn’t walk much. He does play a decent outfield, though, and will provide depth – along with Connor Lien – behind Travis Demeritte, Cristian Pache, and Tyler Neslony.
Promoted from GCL: Albinson Volquez…With the Fire Frogs needing a spot start, Volquez made his A-ball debut and though his control was iffy, he was credited with a quality start. Volquez flashed some potential last summer after joining the GCL roster (2.19 ERA, 2.3 K/BB), but struggled in a return to that level this season (5.06 ERA, 2.2 K/BB). As he depends greatly on his defense, he’s a guy who would benefit from the better fields and defenses the Braves have above rookie-ball. Right now, he’s still just a guy, though.
Promoted from GCL, Demoted to and promoted back from Danville: Filyer Sanchez…What a fun journey for Sanchez, in his fourth professional season. Sanchez began the week on the GCL roster where he has been for most of 2018, returned to Florida, demoted to Danville, and returned. His week is actually much more interesting than his results. Sanchez put up decent, though not overwhelming, numbers the previous three seasons – almost entirely spent in the DSL. He’s more of an organizational piece with fairly good control.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Corbin Clouse…This is a weird one as there appears little reason for the move. Clouse was excellent in 38 games to open the year for Mississippi, including a 2.20 FIP and 32% strikeout rate. Finally, earlier this month, he was moved up Gwinnett and while his ERA is nearly two runs higher, his FIP and xFIP are a little bit lower. Only thing I can think is with the added rehab relievers in Gwinnett, the Braves moved Clouse down for room.
…Clouse is unlikely going to be in the mix for a spot next month after rosters expand but seems like a very good bet to compete for a major league spot next spring.
Demoted from Gwinnett: Josh Ravin…During the first weekend of the season, both Rex Brothers and Ravin were on the team. Now, neither is in the Gwinnett bullpen. To be fair, Brothers pitches his way down to Double-A while Ravin is effectively in a rehab stint, I believe. He hasn’t pitched since June 14 after being struck in the head by a liner. It was a shame for Ravin, who strung nineteen consecutive outings together in Gwinnett without allowing an earned run. In 18.2 innings for the Stripers, he has 30 K’s and just nine walks. He likely would have been brought back to Atlanta this summer considering the revolving door we have seen.
…In full disclosure, I am guessing that he’s rehabbing. He’s listed as Active on the Florida roster.
Demoted from Florida: Walter Borkovich…This is likely another move that was more about numbers than anything. In three starts – his first three starts of the year – The Bork was dominant with the Fire Frogs. I’ll get back to this blurb in a second, but the sentence I just wrote is weird. Seriously weird. Anyway, Borkovich allowed 12 hits, walked nobody, and struck out a dozen in 17 innings. His return to Rome may also be to help them in the playoffs. He made his first SALLY start against West Virginia and gave up his first run as a starter in seven solid innings. Overall, Borkovich has a 1.51 ERA in 71.2 innings this year.
…This is more of the same as he did last year, when he breezed through two levels of rookie ball before looking wonderful with Rome. In fact, in 99 career innings, the Bork has a 1.73 ERA. He doesn’t have a big arm – that’s why nobody drafted him out of Michigan State last summer. But as I always this, this is a results-driven business and he’s bringing the results.
DL’d: Jasseel De La Cruz…After beginning the year with some real hype, De La Cruz has essentially had a lost year where he’s spent nearly as much time on the DL as he has active. If he doesn’t pitch again (Rome has clinched a playoff spot so he’ll have extra time), he could take a little solace in his final two starts. He pitched twelve innings in those two games with ten K’s. Now, the eight walks are ugly, but he has just five starts this year with a 60 or better Game Score and 40% of those games were the final two starts he made.
…It certainly wasn’t the Age-21 season anybody hoped for De la Cruz, who set the world on fire last summer in the GCL. But don’t get down on the near 5.00 ERA too much.
No moves beyond Filyer Sanchez‘s journey.
Demoted from Florida: Victor Cavalieri…Plucked out of the 36th round from Houghton College in New York, Cavalieri is a southpaw who…well, impress is the wrong word. In 14.2 innings with the GCL Braves, he gave up eleven runs, walked a dozen, and struck out ten. He logged five pretty awful innings in Florida before being returned to the GCL roster. I can only imagine a coach wanted him to keep working on something or the Braves simply cared less about the 1,072nd pick compared to a more productive option they invested more in.
Former Braves Spotlight: The Evansville Otters activate Carlos Castro
Carlos Castro is what happens when you’re productive, but don’t impress enough eyes to earn a longer look. Signed as part of the 2011 International Class, Castro made his debut in the DSL the following year with a .254/.277/.356 slash. He’d go on to spend an additional two seasons in the Dominican, maxing out in 2014 with a .308/.378/.450 run that included 17 extra base hits in 49 games.
2014 was also the last year that Castro appeared as a catcher. In 2015, he jumped the GCL to hit .319/.340/.412 with Danville as their full-time DH. It garnered some attention, though it was muted by his age of 21 and experience of three seasons of pro ball before the season. The following year, he finished second to Austin Riley with 17 homers as the Rome Braves won the South Atlantic League title. Castro’s overall numbers were quite impressive Only Jared James (27 games) and Ronald Acuna (40 games) had a higher OPS on the team than Castro at .809.
The following season, 2017, Castro moved up to Rome and while he was productive, belting ten more homers, his OPS fell to .727.
Atlanta chose to not bring back Castro for 2018 and he found work in the Frontier League, signing with Evansville. He’s yet to homer for the Otters but is hitting .429 in 51 PA. He’s sharing some first base duties with Austin Bush, who the Braves cut this year after the 2017 15th rounder hit .238/.303/.400 in 353 PA with the organization.