Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gus Schlosser - Braves Rookie Reliever

Gus Schlosser made his Major League debut yesterday against the Milwaukee Brewers and already had an immediate impact in the bullpen. Following up fellow rookie, Ian Thomas, Schlosser induced an inning ending double play. Throughout his career in the minor leagues, Schlosser has been great at stranding runners on base and his career he has had a very high LOB% (which ranges from 78% in 2011, 67% in 2012, and 78.1% in 2013). Given these numbers, it's apparent that he'd be great coming into games and getting important outs with people on base. Another advantage Schlosser has is his excellent control, his career WHIP in 335.5 innings in the minors is 1.130, and he averages 7.6 SO/9 and only 2.2 BB/9 which is good for a 3.44 SO/BB ratio. Personally, I feel like the most important thing for a relief pitcher is to limit walks and throw strikes. Throughout his entire minor league career, he has only allowed 14 home runs and when you don't walk many batters and don't allow many home runs, you're in a great position succeed on the mound in high leverage situations. Obviously, he's only made one career appearance and there's not enough of a sample size to make any assumptions about his role moving forward, but if he's able to duplicate his minor league success, you'd have to think the Braves have another late inning reliever in their arsenal of impressive bullpen arms. In the image below, it demonstrates the movement on his slider and Schlosser's ability to generate ground balls.

He has a very unique delivery and his slider breaks so much that Rickie Weeks can only muster a weak ground ball off the end of the bat. He pitched 1.2 innings in his debut and struck out a batter while also inducing an inning ending double play. The Braves already feature Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Craig Kimbrel, and will eventually be getting Jonny Venters back as well. The Braves continue to produce above average relievers and they'll need them more than ever with the question marks surrounding the 5th starter spot in the rotation. If the Braves can have a lead going into the 6th inning, you'll have to like their chances to win moving forward this season. I'm very excited to see Gus Schlosser continue to grow and get chances to impress manager Fredi Gonzalez at the Major League level.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's Official: Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the Yankees.

The Yankees continued their busy off-season by signing the best available pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka. Last season, the Yankees struggled through injuries and off the field distractions (have you heard about this A-Rod guy?) and had to endure seeing their bitter rivals in Boston win the World Series. The Yankees went to work this off-season and in my opinion, they've done a great job to improve their ball club.

(Koji Watanabe/Getty Image)
Fast forward to today and the news about Masahiro Tanaka. It's been a hectic few months, but the Tanaka sweepstakes are finally over and the Yankees got their guy. I feel like Tanaka has the mental mindset and ability to do great things in New York, but Yankee fans need to be patient with him. He's not a "savior" or some magical pitcher who's going to go undefeated next season (it would be amazing if he did, but you let's be real here!). When you think of the transition from NPB to MLB, it's not always as simple as it sounds. Most people make the NPB out to be the "minor leagues", but it's far from it. It's one of the most passionate and competitive leagues in all of sports. To me, the transition from NPB to MLB is more about work loads and sticking to throwing programs. I feel like the Yankees need to let Tanaka be Tanaka and not try to change his mechanics or alter how he goes about his bullpen sessions. Instead of forcing him to embrace things here, they should embrace how he wants to do things. After this huge deal, the fans in New York are going to have massive expectations for Tanaka, but he's not going to always be perfect. He's going to have his ups and downs, but I feel like he's going to be worth much more than his $155M contract.

Are the Yankees truly the best fit for Tanaka?

That's the $155M question... I do feel like Tanaka has the ability to do great things in New York, but I do have some concerns. Not with Tanaka's ability, but the team around him. The Yankees infield does have it's flaws and unknowns. Robinson Cano is gone, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are coming off numerous injuries, and there's questions surrounding who's going to play 3B and 2B. Masahiro Tanaka isn't going to strikeout 13+ batters a game and relies on his defense to make plays behind him. The Yankee outfield should be alright, but the infield is a huge concern for me. Derek Jeter's range has been on the decline for the past few seasons before his injury and you'd have to think he's going to be even more limited now. Kelly Johnson may be asked to play 3B and he has little to no experience over there. Brendan Ryan is an excellent fielder, but his bat is a huge liability. This isn't just a concern for Tanaka, but also the other pitchers on the Yankee staff as well. If they can't have Tanaka's back, he may not put up the stats that Yankee fans are wanting out of him and it's unfair to talk badly of him when the defense around him may let him down.

Masahiro Tanaka is a great pitcher and will probably be slotted behind Sabathia and Kuroda in the Yankee rotation. I think he's going to be able to handle the pressure of pitching in New York and my only concerns aren't with his ability, but the team around him. Personally, I would have liked to of seen him sign with a team that has better infield defense, but all reports indicate that he's excited to join the Yankees and they desperately need him.

Are you excited to see Masahiro Tanaka pitch with the Yankees? I know I am.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thoughts on the Braves acquiring Justin Upton...

I’ll start off by saying that Martin Prado was one of my favorite players and I’m really sad to see him traded.

(Ralph Freso/Getty Images North America)

Now, if I get the fan side of things out of the way….

Martin Prado is a great player, but the Braves did him a disservice when they moved him from second base. He was an above average second baseman, but his offensive game didn’t translate well to third base or LF, but he still fit the Braves well and his mix of contact and defense worked great for a #2 hitter. He was a great leader and he impacted the game on the field and off the field, but the reasons for trading him go beyond what most people see on paper.

Justin Upton signed a team friendly deal to stay in Arizona and he’s still under contract until 2015. Martin Prado is entering his last arbitration eligible year and will be a free agent after the season. The DBacks are working on an extension with Prado, but he will be earning more money than what Justin Upton is currently making and the Braves budget probably wouldn’t allow them to sign him long term.

So, enter Justin Upton. He’s under contract until 2015 and is making $9.75M next season and just over $14M in 2014 and 2015. The most important thing about his contract is that he’ll only be 27 years old at the end of his contract… Martin Prado is entering his age 29 season and will demand a large payday after this season. When you take in account the ages and salary, getting Justin Upton at this price is a great deal by Frank Wren and the Braves.
Let’s compare the stats:

Player A: .301/.359/.438 .796 OPS 114 OPS+
Player B: .280/.355/.430 .785 OPS 107 OPS+

When you compare the stats last year, both players had similar years. The only difference is that last year was a “down” year for Justin Upton and Martin Prado had one of the best seasons of his career. So, even when Justin Upton is injured and having a “bad” season, he’s still playing at the level of Martin Prado.
When healthy, Justin Upton has been a player to average .295/.368/.531 .900 OPS 135 OPS+
So, when he’s healthy and playing up to his potential, Justin Upton is one of the best offensive players in all of baseball. His down years are more like the better seasons from Martin Prado.

You also have to take into account that Justin Upton is only 24 years old… With Jason Heyward (23 years old), Freddie Freeman (23 years old), Andrelton Simmons (23 years old), and B.J. Upton (28 years). The Braves have some of the best young talent in all of baseball.

In closing, I will always be a fan of Martin Prado and all he did for the Braves. I just can’t see how this is a bad move on the Braves part though. When you take into account the age, money, and potential, the Braves did very well for themselves. That’s not even including getting Chris Johnson, who is a pretty solid Major League player. I like the deal for the Braves, but I’ll miss Martin Prado. I’m also happy for the prospects the Braves traded because they’ll finally get a legitimate chance with the DBacks.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is B.J. Upton A Fit For The Braves?

With the rumors circulating around that the Braves are "making a push" for B.J. Upton, I decided to take a look at Upton versus the Braves incumbent centerfielder, Michael Bourn.

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)
Since being acquired from the Astros in the summer of 2011, Michael Bourn has become a fan favorite in Atlanta. His speed and defense gave the Braves a look at the top of their lineup they haven't seen since the Rafael Furcal days. Bourn also filled the void in centerfield left by Andruw Jones after the 2007 season. Mark Kotsay, Jordan Schafer, and Nate McLouth all had their chances, but either didn't produce at the level the Braves needed or had injury issues.

When the Braves traded prospects Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu, and Jordan Schafer for Bourn many felt like the Braves got a steal when you consider what the Astros received for Hunter Pence. With his agent being Scott Boras, the Braves knew the odds were slim that could extend him before he reached free agency and that brings us to B.J. Upton. 

Since Michael Bourn no longer fits into the Braves budget, they have (according to sources) set their sights on B.J. Upton. Some fans want to point to his low batting average or low on-base percentage, but let's compare his stats to those of Michael Bourn. 

I want to do a blind eye test here, just for the sake of making this argument better:

Player A: .274/.348/.391 .739 OPS 99 OPS+ 42 SB 13 CS 104 wRC+

Player B: .246/.298/.454 .752 OPS 109 OPS+ 31 SB 6 CS 107 wRC+

Player "A" is Michael Bourn and Player "B" is B.J. Upton. 

Earlier, I mentioned how some fans want to point to Upton's lower on-base and batting average, but he makes up for that with a higher slugging percentage. He also possesses the same speed threat as Bourn, but he gets thrown out at much lower rate. 

There's also something else B.J. Upton could bring the Braves and that's a nice speed/power threat from the right side. With a lefty heavy lineup, Upton could break up Heyward and Freeman. Andrelton Simmons, Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton would give the Braves a nice mix of right handed batters. 

The only real downside to B.J. Upton against Michael Bourn, would be on the defensive side of things. Without overloading on stats, Michael Bourn is an elite defender. B.J. Upton isn't in the same ballpark as Bourn on defense, but he certainly won't embarrass himself out there either. 

Both batters strikeout at high rates (Bourn 21.3%) (Upton 26.7%), but far too often Michael Bourn seemed to be a leadoff hitter who couldn't get on base. With B.J. Upton, you're at least getting a guy who is a legitimate 30/30 player and when you throw in Jason Heyward, it would be great having two guys in the same lineup who are potential 30/30 players. 

I think the Braves would be wise to make an offer to B.J. Upton. Josh Hamilton is too pricey and the other candidates wouldn't bring what B.J. Upton could bring the Braves. He may not be the "perfect fit", but who is in this free agent class? The Braves would be getting a player who is in their prime and could benefit from not only changing leagues, but also having a change of scenery. 

We'll see what Frank Wren and the Braves decide to do, but I think B.J. Upton would be a nice addition to the Braves. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mike Fiers: Sleeper NL Rookie of the Year Candidate.

If the season ended today, my NL Rookie of the Year award pick would be Mike Fiers of the Milwaukee Brewers. 
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Interview with Braves prospect J.R. Graham.

A few weeks ago I was able to set up an email interview with J.R. Graham of the Atlanta Braves. If you're unfamiliar with J.R. Graham, he was the Braves 4th round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Santa Clara University. 

Credit: Steven Mantilla/Register & Bee

As of 6/11/2012, he's 7-1 with a 2.58 ERA and averaging 5.75 K/9 and only 1.76 BB/9. Graham is known as a power pitcher and can touch 98-100 MPH with his fastball. He compliments his fastball with an above average slider and a changeup. 

Now that you know the basics with J.R. Graham, let's get to the interview questions!

Brandon Greene: Which player(s) did you look up to when you were younger? 

J.R. Graham: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Tim Hudson. 

BG: At what point did you realize you may have a future in baseball?

J.R.: I've always had the dream of playing professional baseball, but I don't think it really hit me until my sophomore year of high school 

BG: You were a two-way player early in your college career. Do you ever miss playing the field?

J.R.: I do miss it from time to time. That's the nice part of being on a national league team they let us bunt and swing it from time to time. So I get my hitting fix. 

BG: Have you ever been compared to other players in MLB? If so, which stands out the most?

J.R.: I've had a few comparisons. Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt, but the one that stands out most to me and I don't know where it came from was a young Greg Maddux.

BG: What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make over the course of your young career?

J.R.: Going from a thrower to a pitcher. I used to get on the mound and just throw as hard as I could and let my stuff take over. 

BG: What were your thoughts when the Braves selected you in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft?

J.R.: I was in disbelief. I hadn't talked to them much before the draft. Once I saw my name going to the Braves I was extremely happy because of the rich history they have of developing pitchers and being a first class organization. 

BG: Do you read into any of the new age stats (Sabermetrics)?

J.R.: Not really. I just go out and play the game. 

BG: What do you like to do in your free time?

J.R.: I like to watch movies and read on occasion. I also enjoy going out on the boat. 

BG: What’s the one song on your iPod or MP3 player you can’t go without hearing?

J.R.: Too many songs to pick from. I love music. Right now my song would be Chiron by All That Remains. 

BG: Do you have any hobbies outside of baseball?

J.R.: Even though I'm not good at it I like to golf. 

BG: Do you ever get compared to Tim Lincecum? 

J.R.: The only comparison I've had with Tim Lincecum is being an undersized pitcher.  

BG: What’s more satisfying? Hitting a home run or striking out a batter?

J.R.: That's a tough one! I'd say striking out a batter. 

BG: Do you have any superstitions?  

J.R.: I have to sleep with my glove the night before I start. 

BG: At the time of this interview, you’re 5-0 with a 2.33 ERA. What do you think has been the key to your success? 

J.R.: Attacking hitters and not letting them get comfortable. 

BG: How do you prepare for a start? (Mentally, physically, etc.)

J.R.: Mentally, I visualize what I want to do the night before and I visualize each pitch I throw. I do this every night before I pitch. Physically, I have a lifting and running routine I stick to. So, when the game comes I know I am physically prepared to preform. 

BG: Last question, what piece of advice would you give to a young pitcher that’s hoping to be drafted someday?

J.R.: Follow your dreams.

Thanks again to J.R. Graham for the interview. He's one of the nicest players I've ever spoken to and he's off to a great start to his career. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who I think the Braves will draft in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft... 
After researching the players eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft, I think the Braves will go with either: Richie Shaffer, Stephen Piscotty, Victor Roache, or David Dahl.
I would assume Shaffer or Piscotty would be higher on the Braves list since they need to start getting realistic in replacing Chipper Jones. It’s questionable that Richie Shaffer or Stephen Piscotty would even available when the Braves make their pick (21st), but those are the two players I think they should target.

Richie Shaffer (GREENVILLE NEWS - OUT.)
Victor Roache played at Georgia Southern and he’s one of the best OF power bats in the draft. I think he might slip on some draft lists because of the school he went to and the fact that a lot of teams want to go with unpolished high school players. I think Roache could be a steal, much like Mikie Mahtook was to the Rays last season.

  David Dahl is a high school player out of Alabama who could appeal to the Braves. I think he’ll go early in the draft, but could fall because teams worry about his power ceiling. He’s athletic and has good tools and some have compared him to Johnny Damon. He would be an excellent choice (if he falls) because the Braves aren’t likely to re-sign Michael Bourn.

To sum it up: Stephen Piscotty and Richie Shaffer would fit the Braves mold of drafting college players that can play sooner, rather than later (Mike Minor, Sean Gilmartin, Navery Moore, etc.). They need a realistic option at third base after Chipper Jones and Shaffer and Piscotty are about as good as it gets in the draft this season. If they choose to look in the outfield, Victor Roache would give the Braves what they’ve been missing for the past decade (a power hitting, right handed, outfield bat). David Dahl would be a high value pick if he were to fall, but the odds of that happening are slim.

I guess we’ll see what happens on Draft day!