Bits and Pieces: Pastornicky, Constanza and Boscan (written by JonathanF)

While I am old enough to have attended an Atlanta Crackers game (and my first favorite baseball player was Sandy Valdespino, a player who had a .909 OPS for the Crackers in 1964) I am not a follower of minor league baseball. So when I come to Braves Journal and find people avidly dissecting Gattis and all the others I come from a state of almost full ignorance. I do know from Bill James that minor league play is broadly predictive of major league play (although the 1964 Sandy Valdespino was a bit of an anomaly) but I just don’t follow Gwinnett (or Richmond, as I’ve still been known to call them on occasion).

What I do know is that guys come from there and some of them look like ballplayers and some of them don’t. Chipper Jones looked like a ballplayer; Brad Komminsk didn’t. (Of course, Jeff Francoeur looked like a ballplayer for a while, so it’s tricky.)

It’s early, and we still have no idea which partners in the eclectic law firm of Pastornicky, Constanza and Boscan will make the team. But here’s a little about each of these minor league players from someone with a purely major league perspective.

Let’s start with Pastornicky, because I guess it can be argued that he’s not a minor league player anymore. Argued, but not convincingly, IMO. He was given the job of shortstop at the start of the season and couldn’t hold it. If he’d fielded like Simmons, we’d never have seen Simmons no matter how poor his bat was. If he’d hit like Simmons, I suspect his poor fielding would have been swept under the rug somewhat, though I’m less sure about that.

But while I know that defensive statistics are still a work in progress, neither statistics nor my aging eyes suggest that Pastornicky is a very good defensive shortstop. TZ ratings have him giving up an extra 92 runs per year while Simmons is saving 54; that’s a 146 run spread. I have no idea whether that’s right or not (it almost couldn’t be, could it?), but I also know it comports with the ocular test. When you combine this with his OPS+ of 65 (to Simmons 101) you have at best a backup, but more likely a starter in Richm… err… Gwinnett until you can find a replacement level shortstop.

And I’m quite sure that everybody in the Braves front office would rather back Simmons up with a solid-fielding no-hit Paul Janish (or someone like him) than a poor-fielding low-hit Tyler Pastornicky. Now Pastornicky is only 22, and maybe he got rushed up here a little too quickly because the Braves thought it would be a good idea to play somebody between 2nd and 3rd to stop all those dribblers from getting through, and had to address the problem without spending any money, but he is not ready right now even to be a major league backup.

Now to Koko. Constanza, so I’m told (if you think I’m actually going to look at the minor league stats, you’re mistaken – I have my pride) won the International League batting crown this year. (I no longer even know who’s in the International League.) He is not ever going to win a batting crown in the National League, though he currently holds a postseason OPS of 4.000. A triple in one AB. That said, he has everything you really want from a fourth outfielder: speed, an OK arm, some batting skills, an age that should make him comfortable on the bench and a major league minimum salary for the foreseeable future. I will be astonished I he doesn’t make the team.

His biggest controversy, of course, isn’t his fault – Fredi played him for a month or so in 2011 when he was hitting and Heyward wasn’t. The resulting Civil War threatened to split Braves Journal in two. Constanza will be 29 next year, so he’s not a long-term answer to anything, but I don’t think anybody, not even the biggest Heyward fan-boys, will begrudge him a 4th outfielder spot.

The more interesting question is whether, if the Braves pay big money for a center fielder and move Prado to 3rd, do you give Constanza the everyday left field job? I take a Pastornicky approach to this. If he’s the best you’ve got, put him there until it’s apparent he can’t hold the position – he’s earned that much at the major league level. And if he wins the NL batting crown all you minor league watchers can say “I told you so!”

Finally, J.C. Boscan. Boscan is a 33 year old catcher who can’t hit. He comes up whenever one or both of Ross and McCann are injured. But McCann will be injured until — ?????. I am of the opinion that you cannot start the season with Ross and Boscan, unless Boscan catches Medlen and you plan for nothing but shutouts when Medlen pitches. But I’m not sure addressing catcher is feasible under the current cash constraints.

A lot of this depends on what they do with McCann. As I write this today, the team is apparently mulling over even whether to pick up McCann’s once dead-certain option year. It depends on the interpretation of a bunch of MRIs that I haven’t seen and couldn’t judge if I did. If they pick up the option and lose a half-season of McCann, they will need to look around, but they have been known to go with a Boscan-type and hope for the best. Whoever’s writing up Ross can fill me in on how much use he can sustain before he hits worse than Boscan.

98 thoughts on “Bits and Pieces: Pastornicky, Constanza and Boscan (written by JonathanF)”

  1. Great post!

    Regarding Pastornicky, once the Dodgers take on Uggla’s contract, could we get Glenn Hubbard back on the payroll and teach him how to play second? That’s a lot of ‘ifs’, but it worked for Prado and Kelly Johnson.

  2. Great job, JonathanF! I too was taken to a Cracker game. I remember the magnolia tree and Sandy Valdespino. My dad was a tough old coot, but he took me to my first game at Crosley Field, and when we moved down here, he took me to Ponce. I still remember cigar smoke for some reason.

    Wren will get us a catcher to split time with Ross. I also think they will work out a deal with McCann. I agree the Rev should be at Richmond. They are AA now, and some other organization.

  3. Twins want SP? There are numerous options to look into on the Twins roster…
    1. Denard Span- average defensive CF, coming into his peak, base stealing threat, team friendly contract
    2. Josh Willingham- dude’s good and underpaid, enough said.
    3. Ben Revere- improving OBP, can handle CF and leadoff, born in Atlanta, cheap as dirt.
    4. Ryan Doumit- 3rd catcher type (could split time with Ross until McCann comes back), switch hitter, can play C, 1b, and corner OF

    Out of this crew, who is the most appealing?

  4. If Boscan and Constanza are in important roles for this club to start 2013 it’s going to be a very long year. Ideally, your bench should be full of hitters who can’t field, not fielders who can’t hit. People who can’t do either are particularly well are especially not helpful. I suppose I could sort of see Georgie as the 25th man, but really, we can do better.

  5. Nice post, JonathanF. Thanks for representing us senior citizens so well.

    I hope the Braves can work out a three year deal with BMac at maybe $10M per. I hope the Braves strike a discounted deal with Bourn. Most of all, Ipray Bethany’s post goes from her keyboard to Gods To-Do list.

    Fire up the stove, Wren. Make winter happy.

  6. I don’t disagree with you spike, particularly about Boscan, but last season started with the obviously unqualified Pastornicky and it didn’t cost us much in the end, unless you think we’d have caught the Natspos and beaten the Cardinals in a longer series. The Wren methodology seems to be that you can do better by adapting than by trying to put your best possible 25 on the field in April…. and he’s made it work out so far.

    Plus… who are these good hitting, no field bench players you’re talking about? Hinske? Baker? Reed Johnson is aleady 35.

  7. I think Spike is saying it’d be nice if we had more hitters who can’t field, like Hinske used to be, like Baker was supposed to be, like Johnson, like Brooks Conrad. The problem is when you stock your bench with “defensive replacements” like Boscan who can’t hit Pastornicky’s weight.

  8. According to Venezuelan baseball media Gattis is “Zulia’s best slugger” (“al mejor toletero de la tropa zuliana”).

    Check out this video from last night’s game, an interview and highlights of Gattis start at the 6:50 mark. Physically, Gattis is an absolute beast.

    Venezuelan beisbol looks like fun. Apparently beer costs 25 cents a bottle and fans celebrate by throwing it (sans bottle) whenever they feel inclined. This article makes it sound awesome:

    http://mopupduty.com/venezuelan-baseball/

  9. Going to the Ga/Fla game this weekend for the first time. Any tips from fellow Braves Journalers?

  10. Going with the wife and my 15-year old daughter, so hopefully jail won’t enter the equation, but you never know.

  11. Ryan C. at 3,

    1. Span isn’t as good as Bourne, but when you look at the money, he is worth giving something for (particurly something that can be replaced by money).
    2. He wanted to come to Atlanta last year. if Wren hadn’t extended Uggla, and then moved Prado to 2nd and signed Willingham around the numbers he signed (3 years, 21 million) just think how much better off we would have been. He has some nagging injury risk and isn’t a GREAT player, but he could definitely hit 4 between Heyward and Freeman.
    3. Revere is the replacement for Span, so no way both go.
    4. Does Doumit have contract left? Particularly considering where we are with McCann, that is an interesting option. He is a lesser version as a hitter of “good Hinske” with overall better defensive uses and is much better than “bad Hinske.”

    How big would a package have to be to get all 3 of those?

  12. If you could spend Wren’s money on any ballplayer’s next five seasons, could you do better than Jason Heyward?

  13. #15
    Just pretend you’re at the zoo, or entering a modernized version of “Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom.” Don’t feed the animals.

    Try to ignore the drunks, don’t engage & just keep on walking. The level of stupidity can be kind of astonishing at that game. I once got cussed out by a 70-year-old man. My offense? I was wearing a red-and-black button bearing the number 34.

    Even when I was a student, the actual game was the thing I enjoyed most, not so much the dum-dum fest around the stadium. And no matter who wins, chances are you’ll see somebody doing something idiotic afterwards. Drunk + angry + fan-baiting = bad behavior. As I said, just keep on walking.

    Good luck & go Dogs.

  14. The Giants (that’s the World Series-bound Giants) did alright with Gregor Blanco starting in LF.

    Playing Constanza in left isn’t ideal (Ryan Braun, for example, is ideal) but it beats the living stew out of a lot of other options.

    Pastornicky at 2B is a pretty good idea, but he needs consistent at-bats – a decent hitter that could become a good hitter if handled right.

    Bethany hasn’t been this excited about a player (Gattis) since Beachy went down. Hope she’s right.

    Speaking of Bethany, I have a question – would you be happy with Petrino?

  15. Mouse in my pocket tells me Wren is working on a trade with the Pirates. Tommy Hanson and a lower level prospect for Garrett Jones.

  16. Do we really think that Constanza and Pastornicky are ready to replace Chipper and Uggla in this lineup? Id rather give Gattis the first shot in LF if we are staying internally, than have Constanza playing everyday.

  17. @24 Yes, I’d be happy with Petrino, but I’m not sure he’s the best option Auburn could get. Petrino would be a great low-buy for a lesser… struggling… gah, Auburn is all of those things. And they weren’t able to attract (or didn’t want to hire) any high level coaching talent for their last several hires, including Chizik, so I don’t know. Petrino is a great offensive mind who is good at milking the talent he has, but he’s also a jerk and a flight risk.

  18. Nothing wrong with having a lefthanded bat that can hit righties with power, especially when you already have a perfect righthanded platoon partner.

  19. Constanza is a decent bench bat, pinch-runner, defensive replacement in LF, and Pastornicky is fine in the utility and pinch hitter roles. He probably makes more sense than Janish, unless you plan on frequently replacing Uggla for defense. Otherwise Janish simply won’t play enough for his defense to help. Prado and Simmons are going to be in the lineup every day, and Uggla too if he hits. I doubt Wren lets Boscan split time with Ross for 3 months.

  20. Petrino is by far the best coach Auburn could get. It just depends on if Pat Dye would allow it to happen. If Auburn was smart they would fire Jacobs, kick Dye out of his office, and then start all over.

  21. I’ve had my fill of everyone’s meddling with the program, including Dye. I’ve been dying for them to fire Jacobs for awhile now.

  22. re Petrino — I remember talking myself into Jim Harrick once upon a time. There are certain coaches for whom you have to factor in not only the state of the program while they’re there, but how long it will take to wash the stink off once they leave. Mendacity is a character trait, and if a guy like Petrino keeps landing on his feet, why change?

  23. Re: McCann’s shoulder: Matt Kemp just found out that his shoulder was a lot more messed up than they thought, too.

    Kemp, the runner-up to Ryan Braun for the 2011 National League MVP, injured the shoulder banging into a wall in Colorado on Aug. 28. He batted .214 with 15 RBIs in 28 games after hurting his shoulder.

    “I already asked the doctor, ‘If I played on it, could I damage it any more than it’s already damaged?’ and he said ‘No,’ so I kept playing on it,” Kemp said. “They went in and were surprised I was still playing on it. They said it was worse than they thought. They sewed it back together, and I’ll start my rehab.”

    In the 60-minute procedure on Oct. 5, team orthopedist Neal ElAttrache repaired a partially torn labrum and rotator cuff damage. Kemp said Wednesday the shoulder is still sore.

    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/mlb/story/_/id/8546584/matt-kemp-los-angeles-dodgers-said-was-surprised-extent-shoulder-damage

  24. Gattis isn’t the solution. And if Pastornicky and Constanza are taking Chipper and Uggla’s spots, we’re not even gonna get to complain about the one-game playoff next year.

  25. I imagine we’ll add one bat this winter to replace Chipper. Otherwise, probably a lot of those at bats will go to Francisco.

    Hopefully, next year the role of Dan Uggla will be played by the 2nd baseman formerly known as Dan Uggla.

    I won’t deny Fredi will be tempted to give at bats to Constanza.

  26. Mr. McCutchen should demand to be traded to a more suitable outfit in need of his services right away.

  27. @38
    There’s nothing in his numbers that suggests he couldn’t be a solution. He hits for power, has a good walk rate, and seemed to suggest to LF quickly. His numbers don’t scream 4A. If the Braves were able to re-sign Reed and have backup plans for LF, it’d tickle me pink to see Gattis in LF on opening day.

  28. Not sure where “suggest” came from. Is an edit button really that difficult to add? My posts are much stupider without it.

  29. @49 Agree completely. And I would add to that the fact that the people who matter most in this discussion–the Braves front office–clearly think he has a good chance of being the solution as well, and sooner rather than later. Otherwise, no reason to shift him to LF, and no reason to send him to Venezuela. Guys like Zeke Spruill and Nick Ahmed they sent to the Arizona Fall League. But for Gattis, as an anglophone facing a big cultural adjustment while also getting his first tastes of AAA-level pitching and a high intensity ballpark environment, if he can thrive in Venezuela it means he’s ready. Thus far he’s putting up a 1.022 OPS.

  30. I’m not sure what the Braves did to make such an impact on Ryan Buchter’s control, but he’s another player that has been sent to the AFL with obvious intentions. If Venters were to get traded, I’d expect Avilan to fill Venters’ role and Buchter to be a candidate for Avilan’s.

  31. OK,

    So – how does this look?

    Pagan CF
    Prado 3B
    Heyward RF
    Freeman 1B
    Gattis LF
    Uggla 2B
    Simmons SS
    Bethancourt C

    Rotation
    Hudson
    Medlen
    Maholm
    Minor
    Hanson

    Bench
    Francisco
    Ross
    Constanza
    Pastornicky
    R. Johnson

    Pen
    Kimbrel
    O’Flaherty
    Venters
    Avilan
    Gearrin
    Martinez
    Random Overpaid Veteran Presence (ROV-P for short)

    That is probably close to what we’ll see coming out of Spring, with Bethancourt getting first shot to replace BMac, perhaps with him splitting time with The Best Backup Catcher Ever. We make a secondary move for Pagan, as we whiff on Bourn, and Wren decides to see if Gattis’ bat can hold down LF.

    Plus, we get the always exciting four days of “Why did we pay a million to THAT clown?” posts for the ROV-P slot, which always secretly delights me.

  32. Although, if we resign Reed Johnson, and IF Garrett Jones can play LF, a roster where Gattis starts in Gwinnett and we see if he can hit AAA pitching, and Delgado (who, if you remember, will be ‘third-starter-good’ next year) wouldn’t be bad. Especially if the Braves think Beachy will be back before August 1st.

  33. I would think Reed would make Constanza redundant. With Gattis as emergency catcher, Ross could get used a bit more, but that is an awfully light hitting bench otherwise. A Good Hinske type of LF/1B would be more useful more often than a PR type, but reasonable minds can differ on the 25th man, I suppose.

  34. @53

    I still want some more pop. I am not sure that Gattis is the guy. He is doing well in winter ball, but that wrist injury was a big set back for him.

  35. Smitty, I agree with you about having more power off the bench, but I’m not sure where we’d get it. IF we pulled off a trade for Garrett Jones, then we’d have Johnson or Jones on the bench, with Francisco there as well. And if Gattis is ready, we could have a bench of:

    Ross
    Johnson
    Gattis/G. Jones
    Pastornicky
    Francisco

    which would be a lot better than what I had in #53.

  36. If Gattis makes the roster, and we also trade for a lefthanded power-hitter like Garrett Jones (Choo would be ideal, but Jones is more likely I think), then Reed Johnson is not likely to be resigned. Makes more sense to keep Constanza at 500K. You’d have Pastornicky, Ross, Constanza and Francisco, plus either Jones or Gattis.

  37. Say Pagan costs 5/60 (or more). Would we rather do that if we could otherwise trade O’Flaherty and prospects for Peter Bourjos? Or one of Delgado/Teheran plus additional prospects for Dexter Fowler? I admit being pretty taken with the idea of Bourjos. He seems like a complete wildcard with the bat, but defense like his never slumps. Wren would have tons of money left over. Is that necessarily bad?

  38. 61/csg: From everything I’ve heard, Liberty essentially takes the attitude that the Braves can spend what they make. So I don’t think the team’s payroll takes a cut just because Wren decides not to spend to his limit one year.

  39. A lot of talk about Gattis. Doesn’t the guy have to hit better above High A ball to be considered MLB material? I think he is at least a year away.

    Its a shame that its the dang outfield we have to get players for since we are so dang good at obtaining outfielders. The caveat of course is that prevailing opinion is that Prado serves the organization better as a 3B than a LFer. I do.

  40. Gattis ended with an .865 OPS at AA this year, but prior to wrist injury, he was over 1.000. Gattis is 26 years old and seems to be the offensive equivalent to a Beachy type. He’s been well overlooked by everyone except the Braves, and I’m not sure what else he needs to prove offensively. I’m glad the Braves didn’t let prospect rankings get in the way of the decision to give Beachy a legit chance, and I hope they do the same with Gattis. If it fails, so be it. If Gattis is successful then we have a cost-controlled player that will play all of his peak years in an Atlanta uniform. What would be awesome? If Josh Hamilton were to take less money to play in an Atlanta uniform.

    *I’m not posting the following to spark a discussion on religion, but merely pointing out some inside info I know about the Braves (from a friend of Frank Wren, which oddly enough I ate dinner with in Panama City at Angelo’s).

    I know Josh is an outspoken Christian and I also know that the Braves are a team that has had many outspoken Christians on their team. Furthermore, the Braves have a very active Chapel service on Sunday’s prior to game. If Josh is serious about wanting to play for a team that is away from the media and also play for a team with a strong Christian background, maybe he takes a smaller deal to play in Atlanta. I mean, how cool would it be for the Braves to have a LF and a CF that have battled serious drug addiction and won? My dream opening day lineup…

    Simmons
    Heyward
    Prado
    Hamilton
    Uggla
    Freeman
    Gattis
    Ross
    Medlen

  41. 72 Smitty

    Good line, but the Braves had 4 of the top 40 in pitches per plate appearance so not sure what more you want in battling a pitcher:

    13. Uggla 4.18
    14. Bourn 4.15
    31. Heyward 4.03
    39. Freeman 3.98

  42. Well Uggla did tie for the NL lead in walks. I know he had a dreadful season, but I usually think of making a pitcher work and throw a lot of pitches when I think of battling. Also McCann came in at 3.99 but didn’t qualify and Prado was at 3.93. We had some guys who would make the pitchers work, though it didn’t always pay off I grant you.

  43. The reason that pitches per plate appearance doesn’t always translate into offensive performance is that it doesn’t say anything about the actual plate approach of the player in question. We all watched Dan Uggla take a lot of pitches, but he wasn’t always taking balls and swinging at strikes. Sometimes he took strikes and swung at balls.

    Ideally, you’d want to combine P/PA with looking at the batter’s O-Swing% and Z-Swing%, and their percentage of strikes looking versus strikes swinging and strikes fouled off. Uggla saw a decent number of pitches, but he didn’t have a good plate approach.

    We need guys who have a good plate approach.

  44. Uggla is very durable, he has a good walk rate, and he has good power for a second baseman. But his strikeout and swinging strike rates are both climbing, and his infield fly rate is skyrocketing.

    Dave Cameron has a roundup here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-rapid-fall-of-dan-uggla/

    (Cameron wrote that in early September, before Uggla improved his fortunes slightly with a good final month.)

    That’s not to mention his questionable defense (I know that his UZR was +2.0 this year, but his career UZR/150 is -4.5).

    Uggla’s still a useful player right now. But the trendlines are very much not good. And his strikeout-heavy plate approach is very worrisome.

  45. Mouse in my pocket tells me Wren is also talking to the Padres about Kyle Blanks as the other half of a Garrett Jones platoon, leaving Gattis in AAA for a few months to get some additional experience and to avoid Super Two. Blanks can also spell Freeman at 1B against lefties.

  46. I know the FJM used to hate this as a criticism of players, but sometimes it just fits: Josh Hamilton is miserably inconsistent. He ended up with a really good but not great 4.4 fWAR on a .387 wOBA in 2012. The problem is that while he started the season ridiculously hot (.486 wOBA, 208 wRC+ in March and April, .479 wOBA, 203 wRC+ in May), he hit the skids in June and then had a transcendently awful July (.255 wOBA, 49 wRC+, 13.8% IFFB%).

    Anyone who can put up numbers that bad over a full month without a medical excuse warrants all sorts of caution. The thing is, his overall numbers and his track record mean he will get a big offer (e.g., 5 years, $100 million) from some team. I really hope that team isn’t the Braves.

  47. 71, LOL, yes.
    Hunter Pence is a dead ringer for Donald Sutherland as Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes. Now I wish he were a Brave.

    ?w=604

    Never really seen him before this postseason.

  48. Agreed with Anon21 for no Hamilton.

    He has that streakiness we all hate in Freeman and used to hate in KJ, but with higher highs and lower lows. If he were a Brave, he would be way too talented to be the Whipping Boy of the Year, but he might lead the team in Whipping Boy of the Week Awards, presented by Braves Journal.

    I could deal with all that if he didn’t cost a najillion dollars and get hurt all the time.

  49. I meant ‘bajillion’. Or ‘bejillion’ or something. Damn this lack of an edit button causing me to misspell a made up word I don’t know how to spell anyway!

  50. Pence looks like a figure out of Russian literature, Levin, say, in Anna Karenina. Either that or he’s the spawn of Ginger Baker.

  51. 84: Yeah, I guess I heard something about that. He’s always had a really free-swinging plate approach, though, and his summer just seems to be that to an extreme, plus pitchers make conscious decisions not to give him anything in or over the plate.

    I suppose if it really is eye trouble, and the problem is 100% fixed, I’d soften my evaluation somewhat. I do wonder if that kind of things gets 100% fixed, though. Seems like McCann’s eyes still bug him sometimes.

  52. The Braves already have McCann and Freeman with vision problems, Hamilton would be a third Brave with bad eyes.

  53. I’ve heard that Cubans will have freedom of travel beginning next year. Does that mean that Cuban baseball players are now free to sign for an US Team? Some Cespedeses left over there, that the Braves might be interested in?

  54. anon21,

    One thing that says “eyes” on Hamilton is that before this year, he had awful splits in favor of night versus day. he siad his early start was that he was seeing better in the daylight and the splits showed that.

    I am not sure how that played the rest of the year.

    Bottom line is the Braves can’t afford to make a mistake. So, it isn’t good practice to go for the big money guys.

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