Where Do We Go From Here? — In Summary (by Rusty S.)

As an overview of the position players, here’s a brief summary of my findings and opinions from the “Where Do We Go From Here” series.

The hard truth is that the Braves had only 2 position players (Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte) register above 2.0 WAR in 2016. Worse, there are 4 incumbent position players who were essentially replacement level (Matt Kemp, Tyler Flowers, Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson all < 0.5 rWAR) and compounding that problem is that there are 4 positions where the incumbents will be 31 or older in 2017 (Kemp, Flowers, Garcia, Nick Markakis). The Braves again appear set to limp through 2017 with these guys, but these borderline vets are going to have to be addressed before the rebuild is over in 2018 or beyond.

The good news is that the Braves know where they are going at 1B and SS, with Freeman and Dansby Swanson, respectively. Swanson is a good bet to join Freeman and Inciarte in the > 2.0 WAR club in 2017, and Freeman is the oldest of the bunch at only 27. Jace Peterson is approaching what should be his peak years; there is a reasonable chance he will continue to improve for a couple of years. This improvement will have to happen for Jace to be a useful starter, but a healthy Ozzie Albies may at age 20 already be as good as Jace, and eventually well past him. Worst case, Jace’s versatility makes him an attractive bench player. There is a reasonable chance that Dustin Peterson could be a replacement for Markakis or Kemp by 2018.

I am skeptical about both Sean Rodriguez and Rio Ruiz, but platoons at 2nd and 3rd could increase the production there marginally. The Flowers / Recker / Gosewisch combo at catcher is primed for disappointment.

There are some intriguing prospects who spent 2016 in A-ball or lower, including Kevin Maitan, Travis Demeritte, Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, and Alex Jackson. I reserve judgment until we see them in Double-A.

The rebuild continues apace. It looks like we’re not going to get there in 2017, but I’m optimistic the Braves will be better than 2016. The winter is long enough without giving away the spring and the summer too.

Where do we go from here? Hopefully, by 2018 moves will be made so that we’re carrying only one replacement-level position player, max. Finally, it’s only January – still time for some of those moves to be made before April!

153 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? — In Summary (by Rusty S.)”

  1. “The good news is that the Braves know where they are going at 1B and SS, ” Can’t we include Ender in that list? I hope so, after we just signed him to a five-year deal!

  2. The only problem with moving Jackson back to catcher is that he’s at the same developmental stage as a bunch of premium arms, and ideally, those guys would be throwing to Herbert types, about whom there’s no defensive question.

    I think it’s a risk worth taking, but I do think it’s a risk.

  3. @2 The high-ceiling pitchers in the Braves’ system will have the opportunity to throw to various catchers; I am doubtful that Allard or Soroka’s progress would be waylaid by Jackson’s catching skills. If I recall correctly, Jackson actually rated well as a catcher and the Mariners moved him not due to Jackson’s inability to catch but rather a calculated gamble that his bat would play at a corner OF position and moving him would get Jackson to the majors sooner.

    Aside from that, it would be awfully nice to be able to get a sense as to whether Jackson *can* catch the probable future members of the Braves’ rotation ASAP, right?

  4. As I said, yes, it’s a move worth making. And Jackson was not moved due to inability to catch, but the fact that he has not actually caught in two years obviously stunts his development at the position, at least in the short run.

  5. JC’d : Rob @179 last thread:

    Same boat. I’ve got the Fort Myers Miracle and the Charlotte Stone Crabs within a 40 minute drive. Waiting anxiously for the schedule!

  6. @4

    Maybe they start him at a lower level or extended ST for a period and let him focus on catching. Maybe move him up to high A or something in May or June.

  7. @5

    Do the Miracle play at Fenway South? I really liked that stadium, especially sitting in the grass behind right field.

  8. No, the Miracle play at Hammond Stadium. It’s maybe 4 or 5 miles from Jet Blue Park. The Twins have been in Fort Myers (for minors and ST) longer than Red Sox.

    It’s an older stadium, but when they built it, they really did attach recreational fields (baseball, softball, football) for the local Parks and Rec, and they didn’t bulldoze any poor people’s houses to build it! (That was a big controversy when the Red Sox coaxed City of Palms Park out of the city, and was rehashed when they did it to us again after only 15 years.)

  9. No mid-aughts Braves farm product is too mediocre for the Braves to decline contributing to their retirement fund.

  10. @1 – Good point; yes, certainly. It was intended to be implied, but what I wrote was quite unclear about that point.

  11. I would have agreed with others that Inciarte was even more valuable in a trade as a result of the extension (and therefore even more likely), but with the trade of Rock, I mean Mallex, I think that means Inciarte is our guy.

  12. Will the Firefrogs play home games in the eventual spring training facility projected for 2019? Are they playing their games in Lake Buena Vista in 2017?

  13. Willie McCovey
    it’s now all so lovey dovey
    you will pardon him tasking
    what makes it so special at this time of asking.

  14. the Fort Myers Miracle
    where stats are everything, empirical
    the Charlotte Stone Crabs
    who are sometimes required to allot their own tabs.

  15. the Florida Fire Frogs
    how torrid a hire slogs
    will establish his fate
    he croaks if his swing is the slightest bit late.

  16. TC has a Mike Soroka interview up this a.m., and I though it was one of the best Q&A pieces I’ve read in a long time. (Allow me to shill for the site, as I have nothing to do with TC.)

    Really made me wish it was April already.

  17. Yeah, if Soroka doesn’t work out, it won’t be due to a lack of preparation or effort on his part.

  18. the Fire Frogs of Florida
    could use a visit from Tommy Lasorda
    he’d teach ancient dirty jokes to our stud rotation
    recalling them on the mound, they could keep calm in any situation.

  19. My predictions for the HOF results-announced tonight on the MLB Network at 6PM:

    Tim Raines 82.6%
    Jeff Bagwell 79.8%
    Trevor Hoffman 75.0% (Right on the button)

    Ivan Rodriguez 73.0%
    Vlad Guerrero 68.6%
    Edgar Martinez 60.0%
    Roger Clemens 55.8%
    Barry Bonds 54.3%
    Mike Mussina 51.3%
    Curt Schilling 46.6%
    Lee Smith 35.6%
    Larry Walker 21.8%
    Fred McGriff 19.8%
    Manny Ramirez 16.0%
    Jeff Kent 15.9%
    Billy Wagner 12.6%
    Gary Sheffield 12.0%
    Sammy Sosa 8.6%
    Jorge Posada 7.1%

  20. I agree csg

    If limited to 10 I’d go


    Then if allowed extra space I’d put in:


    And would be on the fence about:


  21. I agree only in as much as there is a special place for guys like Bonds and Clemens. Only it’s not the HOF, but in the future Tom Brady and Bill Belichik would be there too.

  22. An argument can be made that Ivan Rodriguez is the best catcher in major league history. I think he’s merely in the top 5, but he should be in on the first ballot. He is the single most deserving (non-steroid-tainted) player of this class.

  23. Well he is somewhat tainted, as Canseco mentioned him in his book and he had a pretty famous response when asked if he failed a drug test when he said “only God knows.” Not rock solid stuff but it’s what is keeping him on the fence for this year. He’ll surely go next year if not this year and deservedly so.

  24. I couldn’t match the name with the voice, but the guy that’s on MLB Network Radio in the afternoon (Brad Lidge, maybe?) today had pretty scathing anecdotes about Pudge showing up 30 pounds lighter for Spring Training the year of drug testing. This is simply going to be such a difficult era of HoFers to judge.

    Apparently next year’s ballots become public? Some are speculating that Chipper will be the first unanimous HoFer as a result. While it’s simply a technicality, that’s a pretty cool distinction to have on your name.

  25. Matt Ryan is wearing a Braves hat in his presser right now. I’ve made it almost a full year without once getting irrationally angry or bummed about a sports loss (due to low expectations for my favorite teams), which has been kinda liberating. I think the last time it happened I was maybe 5? Anyways, here I am feeling barfy with excitement again. Dammit Falcons don’t let me down!

  26. @28 — Given that several writers proudly and publicly turn in blank ballots every year in order to protest… something or other, no one is getting in unanimously barring a rule change.

    Next year’s class looks like Hoffman, Guerrero, Chipper, and maybe Thome. I wouldn’t put Hoffman in, but I’m fine with the other three.

  27. Wonder if the Braves would have any interest in Gose as a backup CF/Kemp defensive replacement/pinch runner?

  28. Chief is doing a triple salchow in his grave over a guy who averaged less than 10 HR per year entering the HOF.

  29. 32—No, sadly, I think all my hot Mahtakes were used up in the year he was drafted by someone other than the Braves.

  30. Did Edward take a divisive, controversial political position or simply make a benign, mildly amusing current-events joke?

    No, I tell you what it probably is. It’s probably that people let Edward and everyone else slide because they have something personal against Sam. I bet every single last one of them is in on it. Being persecuted is the pits.

  31. Edward! We’ve talked about this! No political jokes.

    Oh gosh, I can’t stay mad at you. Carry on. Tell me that one about the inauguration.

  32. Jokes on the periphery
    a sliding slope so slippery
    it was hardly our intention
    to allude to other things we’re not allowed to mention.

  33. Great that Raines, Bagwell and Pudge got in, well deserved. Still doesn’t ease the logjam for 2018 when there are 21 candidates you could make a case for:

    You have the 14 returning-Hoffman and Vlad (should get in) plus Edgar, Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Schilling, Manny, Walker, McGriff, Kent, Sheffield, Wagner and Sosa

    Then add 7 legit newcomers-Chipper and Thome (should get in) plus Rolen, Andruw, Damon, Johan and Vizquel

    They really need to raise the limit from 10

  34. 1273 votes from 442 voters went to player who were either elected or who dropped off the ballot so that clears 2.88 spots per voter for 2018. The average ballot had 8.11 names on it.

  35. To your point, I think Wagner has a stronger case as he was certainly more dominant, Hoffman just did it longer yet Hoffman is at 74% and Wagner is at 10%. Both would fall short of my top 10 if I’m ranking the candidates but both are on the fence for me were I unlimited. At this point it’s an inevitability that Hoffman gets in, so I wish it had happened this year to create more room on the ballot for guys like Andruw.

  36. 601 career saves and under a 3 ERA? That’s pretty elite, especially pitching through the Steroid era.

  37. My heart is filled with pride on what Mallex has been able to accomplish. He has silenced the critics and is now immortal in Cooperstown.

    You people. You laugh at me. Today, I am stupid. Tomorrow, I shall be a genius.

  38. @54

    Not your best, but not bad.

    The Marlins gave up, according to MLB Pipeline, their #5, #9, and #16 prospects to grab Dan Straily. The Marlins don’t have a great system (only 1 player in MLB’s top 100), but if those were the deals discussed for #4 starters, then I’m glad we brought in Dickey and Colon.

    In case you’re wondering, the Nats have 2 prospects in the MLB top 100. Phillies have 4, Mets have 2, and we have 7 (Dansby included). In a cursory overview of known good farm systems, it seems the second team is Boston at 6 (includes Benintendi), Yankees have 6, and Cubs have 4.

  39. Also, an interesting point about depth:

    Of the systems that Sickels have released so far, it seems the Braves are the only system with all 20 prospects grading out at B- or higher. And once again, not exhaustive, but it seems the next highest team has 12. I made the cut at B-, and not B-/C+. I wouldn’t be surprised that even if Albies and Swanson graduate off lists, we will have 8-9 “elite” prospects (like on top 100 lists) by the end of this year, especially if the low minors starters stay healthy.

  40. Hoffman had 35 blown saves in his career. That means of the 636 games he was responsible for closing out, he turned 94.5% of them into wins. IMO, that’s remarkable.

  41. I just realized the flaw in my stat: Blown saves weren’t calculated before 2002. Re-computing might take a while….

  42. FYI they didn’t track blown saves until 2002 so that number is not accurate I don’t believe. Hoffman actually had 601 saves in 677 opportunities. EDIT (I see you caught the error as I was typing)

    Of all players with 300 or more saves (26 players) Hoffman ranked 3rd in save% at 88.77% behind only Nathan 89.13% and Rivera 89.07%.

    Couple of more interesting figures Wagner 85.95% Kimbrel (256 saves) 91.1% Smoltz (154 saves) 91.12%.

  43. Hoffman wasn’t an exceptionally dominant player; he just hung around a long time. He doesn’t have a significantly better case than someone like Joe Nathan or Jonathan Papelbon, in my view, and no one is calling for their enshrinement. It’s just too hard to have an outsized effect on the game as a modern reliever.

    Rivera is the only modern reliever I would vote into the Hall without reservation. If I was restricted to ten votes, as the real voters are, not a chance.

  44. @54, see that’s a good inauguration joke. A bad one would be if Wagner didn’t make the Hall, why are they playing his music?

  45. @ 54,

    This is a highly literate place. It took me a while to get that. To me, that is “wordplay”, not “politics.”


  46. @64

    Our literati
    belong to neither party
    but Marine Le Pen
    has attracted some attention, now and then.

  47. @65
    Marine Le Pen was a French born left handed pitcher from the mid fifties who was originally a professional surfer. He was good enough to earn and hold down a spot in our relief corps but never, jamais, could he earn a start. Toujours le pen.


    @67…Any day we can stay alive is a good day.

    Those hard core empiricists bewildered and dismayed by the recent renaissance of the whimsical should know its origin. Monday represents the 39th of 39 sessions-there’s a stat for you-under the cancer lamp, the threat happily averted for now. Thus celebration is in the air and you will kindly have to indulge me -if such indulgence is called for which I of course would deny. Up or down there is much succor to be found here, it nourishes. Whimsy is alive and well, thank you all.

  48. Blazon,

    As someone who’s undergoing radiation myself, I hereby, as the Self-Appointed Braves Journal Whimsy Commissioner, declare that you are allowed 4 minutes of whimsy whenever you feel good and ready. If anyone gives you grief, then I will banish them to the Diamondbacks for a pun to be lamed and a clerihew.

  49. 68—I’m sorry to hear you’ve suffered, blazon, and I pray that you’ve got it kicked. I wondered where you’d been and how you were doing.

    EDIT: 72—I will be praying for you, too, Seat Painter!

    Both of y’all sure do write well under duress.

  50. From the above Keith Law post:

    There are players in this system with viable cases to be in the global top 100 but struggle to crack Atlanta’s top 10. They just took Ian Anderson third overall in the draft and he couldn’t even crack their top six. Their High-A rotation in 2017 could include four first-round picks and a major international signing, only one of whom will be 21 on opening day. It’s as if someone told Coppolella the axiom that you can never have too much pitching, and he just said, “hold my beer.”

  51. Best of luck on your health to blazon and seat painter. I have a very close friend just now entering into her radiation regime. Needless to say, cancer sucks.

    @77, Nice writeup. Sounds like Law felt it was close to a toss-up between the Braves and the Yankees. Wouldn’t it be something if we get our WS-caliber team back up and running and we have to go through the Yankees again? Ugh.

  52. According to KLaw, Braves have 12 prospects that could be in MLB’s Top-100. I’d guess those are Swanson, Albies, Newcomb, Weigel, Gohara, Allard, Anderson, Muller, Wentz, Acuna, Soroka, Maitan, and Fried. Of those, Swanson, Albies, and Newcomb will likely graduate. If the lower-farm continues to develop, holy smokes. Braves could have 15 prospects in the Top-100 next year.

  53. I think Toussaint is significantly more likely to make a top 100 list at this juncture than Wentz or Muller, but yeah.

  54. Law also proposed “belanger” as a collective noun for shortstops (like a murder of crows or a sneak of weasels) in that article, which I support wholeheartedly.

    ETA: a group of weasels can also be called a “boogle” apparently. Neat.

  55. Thoughts and prayers for Blazon and Seat Painter and any one else who may be suffering in this mostly anonymous crowd. Sometimes I think of names we no longer see here and wonder how many simply lost interest and how many may no longer be with us.

  56. Long time lurker — a couple of web hosts or when Mac had the PayPal drive some years back…

    While the timeline for the prospects may be 2018-2019 I don’t sense that the organization may have that sort of rope to play with. If The Johns don’t have a 90+ win team by 2018 how hot do you think the seats get?

  57. I guess he’s an upgrade on Recker, and it doesn’t look like much money ($1.5 million + incentives), but it doesn’t move the needle much.

  58. I echo thoughts and prayers for you, blazon and Seat Painter. Having narrowly avoided cancer myself last year, I have much sympathy for your struggle. Braves Journal is an enjoyable daily read for me and I appreciate the contributions both of you make to the discourse.

  59. In hindsight, an andrelton of shortstops would have been a more appropriate unit of measure.

  60. …thanks for all those kind words, from the two of us – if I may co-opt my friend.

    Who was it who said – “if I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself?’

    Bartolo Colon?
    Mickey Mantle?
    Woody Allen?
    Willie Nelson?
    Mae West?

    Any others?

  61. With the Braves getting Suzuki it looks to me like they value pitch framing over most other defensive stats for catchers. With Flowers at 3% and Suzuki around 11%, they sure as heck don’t seem to care about throwing out baserunners. I wonder who will catch Dickey.

  62. @100
    But Suzuki is bottom-tier in pitch framing, so factor that in and it’s a real head-scratcher.

  63. Very sad about Marte.

    The only thing you can say about Suzuki IRT Atlanta’s 2017 plans is that he’s better than Recker for not much money. It’s more about how they won’t get Matt Wieters or somebody that might actually make an impact. Oh well.

  64. I remember being convinced that Marte was going to be the next superstar Braves position player. I was furious when they traded him — for a guy coming off a down season, no less! Schuerholz must have lost his mind! Just re-sign Furcal!

    Chipper ended up playing longer than the Braves would have had Marte’s rights for, and his play on the field never really declined.

    @105 — I find it questionable how much of an impact Wieters would have. He’s probably a little better than the current crop of catchers but he’s not leaps and bounds ahead of them; not anymore.

  65. There are catchers out there somewhere, even if the Braves can’t find them. Seems for every Sally there’s a Betty. Where are the Pudges of yesteryear?

  66. @102 – The Braves mlb.com site says that both Suzuki and Flowers register well in the pitch framing department. I didn’t bother to look it up, so it’s probably my bad for trusting Bowman.

    I know he was a little more expensive, but I that was the only reason I could figure for us not picking up Wellington Castillo.

  67. Dirty Birdz. Whatever happens, Matt Ryan has played like an elite QB this season. He deserves the MVP and a Super Bowl appearance.

  68. Bill James this morning published an article objectively sorting players into three different Hall of Fame Groups that roughly correspond to Inner Circle, Good Hall of Famer, and Fringe Hall of Famer. In addition to grouping players already in the Hall of Fame by his method, he also looked at the players who for whatever reason (still active, not eligible yet, languishing on the ballot, no longer on ballot) are not in the Hall of Fame.

    The method included an adjustment for catchers and shortstops, but otherwise defense played no role.

    I am happy to report that even without defense Andruw Jones found his way into the ‘Good Hall of Famer’ category. If you know a voter, make sure you tell him/her next year.

  69. Apparently there is a bidding war between the Braves and the Marlins for the services of Jeff Francoeur.

  70. I really hope Frenchy saves the Braves from themselves here. I can’t think of a more infuriating player to watch, ever. (Maybe Melky Cabrera.) Even last year, when he played semi-decently for stretches and the team stank anyway, I couldn’t bear to watch his ABs.

    I get that he’s apparently a saint in the clubhouse or whatever, but ugh. He makes any team he plays for less watchable.

    In other news, Logan Forsythe for Jose De Leon straight up. That kind of seems like an overpay given the Dodgers made the exact same offer for Dozier and told the Twins to take it or leave it, but TINSTAAPP and whatnot.

  71. Frenchy had a miraculous season last year, barely performing above replacement level. It was the first time in 6 seasons he had been on the positive side of that ledger. I figure him to regress this year.

  72. I don’t understand why we need Frenchy. We need a guy who can play center. Inciarte is many things, durable is not one.

  73. The recently-acquired Luiz Gohara checks in at #77 on Keith Law’s top 100 — he and Newcomb (#81) are the only Braves prospects to have appeared in #s 61-100.

    Given that he ranked it the top system in the game, I’m thinking the top 60 is going to be chock-full of Bravos…which is nice.

  74. It would be surprising, but not unbelievable, that we’d have 10 players in the top 100. We will have a 5-7 year run of elite play if we avoid the 5-prospect-for-1-superstar deal, and field a homegrown position player lineup around Freeman/Swanson/Albies/Inciarte/Peterson and homegrown pitching.

    I really don’t have a problem with the 4-man bench so long as we have the depth in the pen they think they have, and one of the 4 bench members is not Frenchy. I’ve come around on Micah Johnson as the 4th guy, especially with his versatility, and the only reason KJ doesn’t work is that we wouldn’t have a true CF to back Inciarte up in the event of an extended injury. I’m also concerned that with an 8-man pen, you’re essentially saying you’re going to pitch a different guy 7-8-9 every night, and if one of those guys doesn’t have it and gives up 3 runs, then you’ve lost that game. Is this all a reaction to Dickey/Colon/Garcia potentially only giving us 5-6 innings every night (and no other complete game candidate in the rotation), or is this just a trend we’re seeing across the game?

  75. And the only silver lining with the Suzuki signing is that it seems they’re willing to make sure that they simply don’t have the worst player in baseball on the roster for the umpteenth year. Between Flowers/Suzuki/Recker/Goosewich, we should have two guys who can be major leaguers, instead of hoping a 39-year old fat catcher can be the primary bread winner because he hit .300 the year previous. My biggest frustration with the rebuild was how brutally they stripped out the 2016 roster, and they don’t seem to be willing to do that again. Obviously it helps when players actually develop.

  76. Acuna could be on there, but seems like the kind of guy Law would snub due to the hype monster surrounding his Winter League numbers. More than likely, you’re right.

    On the opposite end, Weigel could be the “In your face, groupthink! I had him first!” kind of pitcher that Law would put in his top-50.

  77. If Weigel duplicates his success in AA this year, not only will he be in KLaw’s 2018 top 100, but he’ll be in Atlanta. I dream…

  78. Dang Stu, you beat me by 7 minutes.

    Since KLaw said “Anderson couldn’t break into the top 6,” that tells us that there are 5 more to come. 8 in the top 60. 10 in the top 100.

  79. One neat thing for an old fart like me is KLaw’s most recent posting has Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, Jr.

  80. At minimum, Braves will have 8 prospects in Law’s top-100. At maximum, 11. I’d go with 9. I think Dansby ranks 6th, Albies in 11-15, Allard in 35-40, then one of Soroka, Weigel, or Acuna sneak in at the 30-40 range.

  81. Ryan c.

    KLaw said VERY specifically that Anderson was not within his top 6 Braves (to point out how good the system was on the system rank write up). We now know Fried is in front of Anderson. There are 5 more above Fried, for a total of 10 (or POSSIBLY more than 10).

  82. Swanson, Albies, Allard, Acuna, and Soroka — in that order — would be my guess.

    Outside shot at Toussaint being in there instead of Soroka.

  83. @138
    That’d be by guess too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Weigel replaced Soroka.

    Edit: or Touki, like you mentioned.

  84. @141
    He’s not (at least not that I’m aware of), but I gave him credit for the info @136 and it’s caused quite a flurry. 5 prospects in the top-40 is a pretty big deal.

  85. @138 I think Touki gets in over Soroka. Law made a point to rage on Arizona. My guess is he loves Touki’s upside

  86. Keith Law
    would appear to have all patient pundits in awe
    was ever such consensus
    one single voice to flatter or incense us?

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