Where Do We Go From Here: Help On The Way

While the Braves do enjoy the envy of every other franchise – 30th farm system out of 30! – such things do not necessarily mean a bleak future or that no one on the farm can play. What these rankings actually mean is that the system is lacking in upper level talents with star potential and I’m certain that isn’t correct either as we have several breakout candidates, some ready as early as next year. In this “Where Do We Go From Here” piece, we will look at those Minor Leaguers who could be called upon during the 2023 season.

Braves Minor League

OK, this area is a bit bleak but there are a couple potentially useful guys and one possible breakout, so even here there is hope!

Position Players
1. Rylan Bannon’s mother can tell you he is on the Braves 40 man roster even if nobody else knows it. He projects as minor league depth with a bit of pop but too much swing and miss to ever be even a decent backup in non-emergency situations.
2. Greyson Jenista was a 2nd round pick dog years ago who has been working on a swing change for the last 2 seasons. Limited to corner OF or 1B he really needs to start hitting to have a future. As it is he is another guy who projects to strike out 40% of the time in the show but can make pitchers pay if they groove one. Is Rule 5 eligible this year and may get taken just because of the power. I can see him doing about what Travis Demerritte did last season.
3. Braden Shewmake, SS, suffered a PCL tear in his knee due a collision with his left fielder and missed much of the minor league season. He started out cold (batting under .100 for April and most of May) before righting the ship and hitting about .260/.340/.420 the rest of the way. Tall and rangy, he does not take advantage of his long levers to generate power although the organization keeps trying. He makes contact, but not good contact, so the future is limited despite his plus D at short. I cannot see him as an alternative to Dansby, even in an emergency but he may come up should Arcia get hurt.
4. Justyn-Henry Malloy, however, is the guy. A 6th round draft pick from G Tech who barely played at Vanderbilt, scouts are unanimous on two issues with Malloy: he will have a high OBP with decent power and he has no defensive position. A third baseman when drafted, Malloy was shifted to the outfield where he looked as natural as the proverbial fish on a bicycle. Hope he works on this during the offseason! Spending some time at A+, AA and AAA during 2022, Malloy put up a .289/.408/.454 in parks that are not at all conducive to that kind of thing. While he got just 9 games at Gwinnett the Braves have shown they don’t worry about such things too much and they have sent him to the Arizona Fall League for some outfield reps. I’m guessing AAA to start the year unless Ozuna goes bye-bye and then up by the All Star break or as needed.

Starting Pitchers
We don’t look to need too many of these, but the team may be looking to corner the market on 5th starters.

Group 1: Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, Mike Soroka are the ones we know well. There’s not much to say here other than Muller is the minor leaguer most likely to go all Kyle Wright on the league in 2023. I wish I had optimism on Anderson and Soroka at this point but we just may decline arbitration on both of them.

Group 2: Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd, Nolan Kingham, Darius Vines are others that have great potential. . Shuster needs to find 2 MPH on his fastball to be a factor but he just might as he threw much harder in college. Dodd is another lefty whose repertoire is eerily similar to Shuster’s. He could use more oomph too. Kingham is a groundball guy who looks like the perfect swingman/opener/long reliever hybrid. He could free up Jackson Stephens for higher leverage usage in ‘23. Vines is a thin guy who has the classic league average stuff/slightly better than average command who could thrive in a 5-inning starter role. I’m surprised Tampa or Oakland hasn’t traded for him as yet.

Relief (or Tums?) Pitchers
Our in house selection is mostly old, injured, or velocity impaired so we shall concentrate on the few with future potential.
1. Freddie Tarnok was finally moved to the pen midway through this last season. 96-98 in relief with good secondaries he would project as a good set up man.
2. William Woods has been up a couple of times and throws 100mph but his movement has been diminishing and he is currently being pounded in the AFL. Woods has a great arm and he could be something if he could both get his movement back and control it.
3. Indigo Diaz, in addition to having a great name (and can you imagine the scene if he actually found El Pulpo…), was a fast moving righty until he stalled this year in Mississippi due to control issues. If he gets his mojo back I can see him getting a chance in the 2nd half.

52 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here: Help On The Way”

  1. Couple of things from the end of the previous thread:

    1) I won’t be rooting for the Astros exactly, but them winning is what needs to happen…and I think it will. I promise to feel happy for Dusty Baker and to try to ignore the fact that I think virtually every other part of that organization should be shot out of a cannon if it’ll help the process along, but this Philly team can’t win the freaking World Series.

    2) I found it pretty easy to justify our run last year by falling back on us being one of the best teams in baseball (maybe the best in terms of record? I can’t remember) from Aug. 1 on. No, we didn’t have 90 wins, but we did have possibly the best team for the final third of the season. The Phillies do not have that. They were very meh the whole time up until the ninth inning of Game 1 of the Wild Card series in St. Louis. Plus, we won the division last year, so it’s not like we didn’t “deserve” to be in the playoffs. Is this all cheap rationalization on my part? Possibly.

    3) Honest question (and maybe it’s a stupid one, I dunno): Would Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel have been allowed to have the careers they did if they came up in today’s MLB? I think there’s a non-zero chance their teams would’ve said, “Yeah, that’s nice, but do we really need the best defensive shortstop of all time if he can’t hit a lick?”

  2. Henry-Malloy looks like he’s going to be a star. I’m excited about him. If he hits in Arizona, then I could see him being a wild card to play in Atlanta next year.

    I’m not really interested in any of the other position players.

    Between Soroka, Anderson, and Muller, I think there’s a 5th starter in there. But while I think Strider is the man and I admire everything about his lifestyle and preparation, I think it’s fair to question whether this spike of innings this year has an effect on him going forward. And Morton will be 39. So I think it’s entirely possible that we need two from these lists. Bryce Elder also certainly played his way into consideration for the 5th spot. Ynoa might play into the equation too.

    I like where we are on the rotation overall. You probably have 162 starts between Fried, Wright, Morton, Strider, Soroka, Anderson, Muller, Elder, and Ynoa. We only had 3 guys make 30 starts last year, and we had 10 guys make at least 2 starts. So I like that we have the depth that we will likely need.

  3. @1

    @ #3:

    Ozzie Smith had a 84 wRC+ in his rookie year, finished second in the RoY, and had a 2.7 fWAR. So I disagree with Alex that his bat wasn’t serviceable when he came up, especially relative to his position and how great he was defensively. It’s that he stayed that bad with the bat his entire career that is the noteworthy aspect of this.

    Vizquel is definitely the example Alex is going for. Vizquel had a sub-70 wRC+ 4 of his first 5 seasons in the bigs, and no, I definitely don’t see that happening again.

    Jorge Mateo with Baltimore is a good example of what a team might be willing to do with a no bat, all glove shortstop. Mateo had his first full season in the bigs at the age of 27 this year. He had a 82 wRC+, but played such good defense and stole so many bases that he accumulated 2.8 fWAR.

    Trent Grisham had a 83 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR off great defense. But he’s had close to 800 PAs before that of around 110 wRC+, so they’re undoubtedly hoping his bat comes back.

    Only 9 players qualified for the batting title with a lower wRC+ than what Ozzie produced in his rookie season. And no one was as bad as Vizquel was with the bat earlier in his career and qualified this year.

  4. Thanks Karl.

    @1 – Nowadays someone like those guys would probably get traded for 3 bums right before reaching his prime.

  5. @4 Ha! But that’s the thing, Andrelton never hit much higher than he did in Atlanta. Andrelton’s 85 OPS+ was barely exceeded while in his prime with LAA (96 OPS+).

    Actually, now that Andrelton’s contract has ended and Sean Newcomb has been traded, someone can definitely do an autopsy on that trade now.

  6. @2
    My personal thoughts on your thoughts:

    Soroka: Not even sure they keep him. 2 torn achilles and elbow inflammation is a lot for a dude that hasn’t pitched in 2 years.

    Anderson: Better spend the offseason developing a good 3rd pitch. His spin rates are awful.

    Muller: Biggest ceiling here among shuttle guys, but likely lowest floor too. Could transition to bullpen and dominate.

    Elder: That Maddux-esque cutter that sneaks its way back to the outside corner is unhittable when he locates it, but I think he needs to add about 3 MPH of velo to the FB, because there’s no separation between that and his cutter.

    Ynoa: Will never be the same

    Henry-Malloy: Braves need him in their lineup.

  7. Well, I decided I’d do a quickie, since I think it’s quite clear that I just don’t feel like working right now:

    Andrelton produced 11.1 bWAR for LAA for $53M. He left as a free agent at the end of his deal.

    Sean Newcomb produced 4 bWAR for Atlanta for $2M. He was traded for Jesse Chavez, who produced 1 total bWAR for $700K.

    Chris Ellis did nothing for Atlanta, and he was a part of the trade for Jaime Garcia, who produced little surplus value, and John Gant was the centerpiece of that deal anyway. So I’ll just leave Ellis a wash.

    It appears Atlanta paid all of Erick Aybar’s $8.5M contract, and he miraculously produced a -0.1 bWAR despite being terrible. But he also traded for Mike Aviles, who was only making $2M. So there has to be some sort of proration for Aybar’s salary that I don’t feel like doing. I say Aybar cost Atlanta $7M net, and I’m calling it a day.

    Newcomb + Chavez + Aybar: $9.7M
    Production: 4.9 bWAR
    Cost per WAR: $1.9M

    Simmons: $53M
    Production: 11.1 bWAR
    Cost per WAR: $4.7M

    So…. did Atlanta win the Andrelton Simmons trade????

  8. @7 – Thanks for that Rob.

    I think if Coppy looked at those numbers, he would say we won the trade, and I think if AA looked at them, he would say we lost it.

  9. Also, if we’d kept Andrelton, we’d probably have another year or two of control over Dansby. Although, certainly at some point we get to a timeline too complicated to calculate.

  10. @7

    I generally don’t care about cost under the “not my money” principle, particularly when the other side of the ledger is so crappy that the crown jewel of it is Sean Newcomb. So no, we didn’t. Not directly anyway. But Simmons certainly would’ve been jettisoned for Dansby by the time we got competitive again. And if we want to get super analytical with it, you could find yourself wondering if we make the trade for Dansby if Simmons is still around. So long story short, it’s not a bad trade that wound up hurting us any in terms of the rebuild. And you could talk your way into thinking it kinda sorta maybe helped us in a roundabout way. But it certainly didn’t help us in any direct way.

  11. @11, I don’t have the energy or patience to rehash defensive WAR for the thousandth time, but I think you can make a case that getting rid of a SS that can’t hit and eventually replacing him with one that can (kinda/sorta) was a pretty good outcome for us. It’s not so much who we traded him for, it’s that we didn’t get stuck with him in the first place. I’d call that good GM’ing.

  12. I guess I’m inclined to lean more toward straight WAR.

    Look, let me put it this way: One team wants a starting shortstop and the other team wants prospects.

    The team that wants the shortstop gets him and, though he doesn’t turn out to be as good as everyone involved had hoped, he is their everyday shortstop for the next four years and has two really good seasons. And for it, they give up nothing that they remotely miss.

    The team that wants the prospects has the direct replacement for the SS they gave up flame out in such mind-bogglingly spectacular fashion that they have to rush the prospect SS they just traded for, and then has the two pitching prospects also badly fizzle out. The best of the two pitching prospects is just enough of a tease to make you think he may turn the corner, but he never does, and is eventually (years later, after turning from rotation hopeful into middling lefty bullpen guy) traded for a middle reliever that gives a World Series team solid (but not spectacular or decisive) work during their playoff run.

    And you’re telling me that the prospects team, the team that had all the prospects they got in the trade fail at a variety of speeds but all miserably, won the trade? I’d say that’s maybe why cost per WAR isn’t really the best metric to use here.

    I think there’s certainly an argument that, per krussell above, the trade worked out for us in that it allowed us to eventually replace Simmons with the superior Swanson. But that’s a really long and winding road, especially since Dansby was not affiliated with this trade in any way and it’s not even a sure thing that we don’t get him even if we still have Simmons. And that’s the only argument for this trade working out IMO. On the merits, this trade was an absolute mess.

  13. This is a great discussion. The best one in a while. I’m in the trade sucked camp, but I respect the reasoning that it didn’t.

    I’ll say this: I watched a lot of Ozzie Smith through the years. I saw him at Shea a bunch. Simmons was a significantly better shortstop. I don’t know who else could have bested Simmons. Honus Wagner? It’s a short list of there is one.

  14. It’s pretty moot in the end because by the time the Braves were good again, Andrelton was not. That’s the one trade that most sticks out to me though, because I thought we should be acquiring 25 year olds, not trading them.

    In my timeline, the Braves keep Andrelton, maybe don’t suck as bad for a couple of years, get a little extra gate revenue as a result, keep Dansby in the minors for a couple of more years, where he gets even better when he gets to the majors than he already turned out, plus we’d be looking at 2 more years of control.

    I really believe the Braves management wildly underestimated how much revenue they were going to lose by going into full tank mode, and I think that is part of the reason it took so long to come out of it. I had the distinction of attending the first game of the Hector Olivera era, and I’ve never seen a ballpark so dead, and I’ve been to multiple games at the much-maligned Tropicana Field.

    Sorry Karl, I should be looking at where we go from here, but one answer is NOT BACK THERE.

  15. I remember seeing Simmons play with AA Mississippi when they came to Pensacola to play against the Reds’ affiliate, the Blue Wahoos. He charged a hard grounder–I mean, it was ripped–fielded it with one hand, and beat the runner by three steps. Absolutely fearless. Gifted with a strong arm, quick reflexes, and wide range, his fielding was otherworldly, but what put Simmons in a league of his own was his situational awareness (e.g., putting the glove between his legs to tag out the runner sliding into second). John McPhee, in writing about a young John Havelicek, described this ability as having “a sense of where you are.” Simmons knew what to do and where to go when the ball was hit, having entertained every scenario. He kept track of baserunners like a prison warden. Watch the highlights. Placing a glove on a runner at second to make him believe he still had the ball, thus preventing him from advancing to third. That’s well beyond having your head in the game. What about those catches he made in LF and CF, going back on balls? What about the “infield fly”? Simmons was the best shortstop I could ever hope to see.

  16. @17 – I may have mentioned this story before, but there was a runner on 3rd one day and the batter popped a foul behind home plate. The catcher went back to the screen, but the ball dropped into the stands. When the camera zoomed out, Andrelton was walking back to short from home. He’d been covering the plate in case the ball was caught.

  17. Is it my imagination or was the amazing defense of Simmons hurt by the shift. I know he had some highlight reel plays with LAA, but I expected more – I could never get enough. Could he be a decent alternative to Adrianza as a late inning defensive replacement next year?

  18. I will not post the clip here since it’s part of a bigger 13 minute clip, but there is a play that Simmons makes against Philadelphia that has to be my favorite (probably in 2015). The ball is hit past the 3rd baseman and caroms off the wall in foul territory where it juts out, at about 250 feet from home plate (in Atlanta). Simmons runs at an all out sprint, slides to pick up the ball, then throws out Cameron Rupp at 2nd. The arm, combined with the all out hustle and speed is just unmatched.

  19. A Sense of Where You Are was about Bill Bradley, not Havlicek.
    I’m with coop. Dansby can field his position really well. Ozzie Smith was one of the best fielding shortstops ever. But Andrelton Simmons is the only guy I would pay money to watch play defense even if he’d never gotten on base in his life. Maybe that’s inadequate to generate wins, but it sure as hell generated entertainment.

  20. After the tear-down, Andrelton was the guy that I genuinely missed the most. He was something. That said, I’m glad everything worked out exactly as it did.

    Belanger was a defensive marvel. IMO, the SS from his ’60s/’70s era who approached his profile was a guy named Ed Brinkman, who played mostly for the Senators & the Tigers. Career OPS+ of 65 and a career dWAR of 20.4. Not as good as Belanger, though he had a little more pop. Similar.

    Brinkman set 2 records that illustrate what kind of player he was. He played 72 consecutive games w/o an error (an MLB mark since broken). Also, he set the record for fewest hits in a season (82) with a minimum of 150 games played.

    And if you want the most extreme example of a defensive SS who’d never get a sniff of the show now, check out Ray Oyler. He was the starting SS of the World Champion ’68 Tigers w/ this slash line in 247 PA: .135/.213/.186.

  21. Pee-yew! I know you watched a lot of Belanger, Ububba, growing up loving Brooks Robinson. But I didn’t know about Oyler. That’s genuinely extraordinary. Just for comparison, Oyler’s career OPS was .175/.258/.251, and he played from 1965-1970. Bob Gibson’s OPS against, from 1965-1970, was 68 points higher: .216/0.275/.302. That’s jaw-dropping!

  22. #28
    Yup, Aparcio’s another, but a better offensive player than Belanger & Brinkman. Plus, he stole a ton of bases in his prime. (Of course, Belanger replaced him at SS in B’more.) I only saw Aparicio play his last few years with Boston. I just remember that he wore his hat funny — like it was too high on his head. Looked like he was balancing a tin can on his noggin.

    Yeah, Gibson was a pitcher who could hit, and so could Oyler’s Tiger teammate Earl Wilson (7 HRs in ’68).

    I used to play the ’68 Tigers a lot in APBA (a table baseball game similar to Strat-o-Matic) & I’d pinch-hit often for Oyler (sometimes with Earl Wilson). But Oyler was in the lineup b/c he was one of the AL’s highest-rated defensive shortstops. (Eg. – Defensive ratings for SS in APBA went from 6 to 10. Oyler was a 9, Belanger was the very rare 10.)

    And if you wanted to replace Oyler, your choices weren’t great. They were essentially utilitymen Tommy Matchick, who was .208/.243/.286 in 244 PA, or Dick Tracewski, who was .156/.236/.236 in 240 PA.

    In real-life, it got so bad for the Tigers that manager Mayo Smith began to play OF Mickey Stanley at SS (who had never played the position professionally) at the end of the season and into the WS vs. St. Louis (MLB’s very last WS-only post-season). Things certainly worked out in the end, but it was considered a helluva gamble.

  23. Obviously he wasn’t Oyler or Belanger, either defensively (he was worse) or offensively (he was marginally better) but Belliard’s .223/.260/.265 in 671 games was put up in a much better offensive era. (OPS+ 41!) (Belanger had a career OPS+ 0f 68 and Oyler’s was 48 and he played fewer career games than Belliard.)

  24. Actually I wasn’t writing about Hoot’s batting line, but the OPS that he allowed! Oyler made every single pitcher he faced better than Bob Gibson.

  25. @34 I was there at that game! I think he tied it and it went into extra innings. Those were good times in the late 90’s.

  26. Looking at yardbarker.com .. looks like the Braves could have squeezed themselves out of getting Swanson back and another front line starter .. should have saved the 20 mil for Morton and gotten more important business done .. then go there … although Strider gets a 1 MIL for a couple years ..ballooons to 20 MIL in 2026 for 3 years ..alot for a power arm that could blow anytime ..already had a TJ surgery so some big risks taken on longevity …

  27. By the way, who ranked our farm 30th out of 30? I knew it was bad but didn’t realize it was that bad.

  28. The interesting thing about the system is that it could flip quickly if any of last year’s international signings show legit prospect potential. Factor that in with last year’s draft and it could be a big rebound year for the farm. So much unknown at the Moment.

    And we hope to have a new post sometime today.

  29. I mentioned this the other day, and I am guessing I’m in a minority of 1 but I really don’t know why the Braves resigned Charlie Morton for next season. I mean, why. He’s nothing more than a league average pitcher at this point, snakebit and clearly in decline. Yes he went 9-6 but his ERA, FIP, ERA+ and peripherals were not good, Bob.

    Seems like 20M is alot for a league average pitcher…

  30. @41 I don’t think you are in the minority, especially if his signing precludes us from doing other things

  31. @17 Remy just explained perfectly why fans root for a team with players they love to watch. You don’t see any fans at the ballpark arguing over who will win a Trade/WAR battle five years from now. Fans use the Eye test. I’ve been a Braves fanatic since 1953, and Andrelton was the best shortstop the Braves have ever had.

  32. Didn’t you watch this season? Once players sign long-term contracts, they lose their motivation and play poorly, duh.

  33. Charlie Morton is a smart (and talented) pitcher. It was weird timing to resign Morton before the season was over but all the Braves really did was lock in the $20M option for 2023 that they were already going to exercise (and pick up a team option for 2024). Given AA’s propensity for short term deals for free agent pitchers (Strider’s anomalous deal notwithstanding), Morton on a 1-year contract for $20M next season is entirely in keeping with his roster composition strategy.

    Charlie was really good in 2021 and not very good in 2022 – I bet he’ll be much improved in 2023 (but likely not as good as 2021 Charlie). Maybe something like a 3.6 ERA. I’d definitely take that for a one year, $20M deal.

  34. I disagree a bit with the $20MM price tag, but if you don’t bring Morton back, you’ve got a rotation of Fried, Strider, Wright, and two of Muller/Odorizzi/Soroka/Tarnok/Elder/FA. Historically, AA has not sought out FA pitchers on big deals, so who exactly are the FA pitchers who aren’t going to cost more than $20MM in total? Are those options really all that better? At least Morton will be there to take the ball every fifth day, and there’s a good chance he will be appreciably better than any of the in-house options we have. That’s worth at least $12-15MM.

    I also don’t think AA would have given Morton $20MM if that priced him out of finding a shortstop. Doesn’t make sense.

  35. @48, But keep in mind that, while long-term contracts clearly BAD, one-year market-value contracts ALSO BAD.

    And so at last we arrive at the inevitable, logical conclusion: DOOOOOOOOOOMED.

  36. Yeah, Morton feels like a maybe slight overpay, but what’s a couple million bucks between friends? He’s a known quantity, and it’s probably worth the extra couple of million to have the roster spot taken care of.

    I defended the option being exercised when it was made, and it might look slightly worse now given how poorly he pitched in the LDS, but the logic is basically the same. It’s maybe slightly more expensive than market rate but not by much, and the extra knowledge that the Braves have of Morton compared to other free agent pitchers probably makes that extra money worthwhile.

  37. I’ve just posted the most recent installment in the “Where Do We Go from Here?” series, this time on starting pitchers.

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