There’s no sense in focusing on scores when discussing Spring Training. Sure, it’s somewhat fun to win, but winning means nothing and I’m not going to write about nothing even though I wrote the word nothing 3 times in this sentence. Moving on from nothing…
In today’s piece, we will be discussing breaking stories, players that are catching eyes, and how some of the roster battles are playing out.
Dennis Santana Didn’t Sticka
It’s odd when a player, who’d settled his contract prior to going to arb (for $1MM) gets DFA’d. It’s even more odd when it’s a pitcher, who’s projected to be pretty effective, and hasn’t yet been able to show it for his new team. It’s an odd move, even from AA, who is a mastermind at stashing players and I got a feeling it wasn’t a performance based move. Santana’s now a Twin, who quickly claimed him off waivers. If healthy, the Braves bullpen now has what I’d consider 6 solid Opening Day arms in Collin McHugh, Raisel Iglesias, Joe Jimenez, Lucas Luetge, A.J. Minter, and Kirby Yates. Jesse Chavez seems like a shoo-in should he remain healthy, and that leaves Nick Anderson, Seth Elledge, Michael Tonkin, and Jackson Stephens to battle it out for the 8th spot. There’s always a possibility that AA grabs someone else, or works out split contracts for players that are out of options.
Edit: Justin Toscano reported that Santana was not going to make the MLB roster and requested a trade. Also, I keep unintentionally disrespecting Dylan Lee and I think itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve already got him starting at AAA due to options and that just isnâ€™t a fair assessment. He belongs in the bigs and I shouldâ€™ve listed him.
Dodding the Corners and Strengthening the Vines
On Saturday, the Braves held their Grapefruit League opener at CoolToday Park. It was an odd one, ending in the bottom of the 9th due to a clock violation (more on that later). However, there were 2 really strong pitching performances from prospects Dylan Dodd and Darius Vines. Both pitchers threw 2 scoreless innings, Dodd giving up 0 hits and striking out 3, while Vines gave up 1 hit and also struck out 3. Dodd’s fastball peaked at 97 and seemed very at ease on the mound with a 15 second pitching clock. Vines showcased his disappearing slider and a 94-95 MPH fastball to sit 6 down. Yes, it’s early in spring, but it was nice to see that our farm isn’t fully barren of talent, and IMO, Dodd could be a force if he can maintain that velocity.
Can’t Spell Eddie Rosario Without 2 Eyes
Early reports from camp (and Kevin Seitzer) is that Eddie CAN SEE and has put in a lot of offseason work to be ready for the season. And while it’s early and there’s a lot that can happen, I’ve seen some hard hit balls and an Eddie that’s right will help alleviate a lot of fan anxiety when discussing left field.
Braves Signed Matt Swarmer to a MILB Deal
At 28 years old, Matt Swarmer finally got the big league call last year and it didn’t go very well. In 34 games, he pitched to a 5.03 ERA and his BB-rate and K-rate were just way to close to be effective. He’s been a starter for years, but will have to make it in an MLB bullpen first before getting that chance. His bread and butter is a slider that carries a high release point, and while it doesn’t have a lot of movement for a slider, it’s shown to be effective due to it’s odd release point. Swarmer will likely spend all year as depth at AAA but the slider is supposedly good enough to fool hitters for an inning or 2.
Ian Adds to Repertoire
After Ian floundered in 2022, Braves Journalers took to their keyboards about his arsenal and how it lacked another pitch. Well, lucky for Ian Anderson that he reads Braves Journal (hello Ian) as he took to the offseason to develop a slider. If Ian can maintain a 94-95 MPH FB and add a plus slider, then his changeup can once again become a real weapon.
Still No Jordan Luplow
Braves have played 3 ST games now, and while it isn’t too odd to see players sit the first few games due to minor ailments, it is odd that there’s not been a scrap of news on OFer Jordan Luplow, who was signed to a $1MM guaranteed contract. If it was injury-related, there would’ve been talk, but there’s been crickets. And while it’s only a guess, it’s an educated one, and it’s highly likely Luplow is getting a swing adjustment courtesy of Kevin Seitzer.
Edit: It’s worth noting that Justin Toscano said there was some oblique soreness, but I have an inside scoop that said… “Well…you’re not wrong”.
On the Pitch Clock
Well, the Braves will go down in spring training history as the first team to ever conclude a game with a pitch clock violation. On Saturday, in the bottom of the 9th, Cal Conley strolled to the plate after Red Sox pitcher Joey Stock melted down on the mound where he went Out, Single, Double, Single, Walk, Walk, Walk. I’m sure it was a relief when he was relieved by reliever Robert K (he has more letters in his last name, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to make sense of the phonetic structure, so K it is) who collected a strikeout and Cal Conley comes to the plate with the bases loaded and works the count to full.
Before we go further, let’s bullet point the new pitching clock rules
- A 15-second timer will be in place with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.
- The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer or a ball will be automatically called. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike
- Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike.
- With runners on base, the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff or steps off the rubber.
- Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
- If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
- Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts do not count as a disengagement.
- If a team has used up all five of its allotted mound visits prior to the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.
- Umpires may provide extra time if warranted by special circumstances. (So if, as an example, a catcher were to be thrown out on the bases to end the previous half-inning and needed additional time to put on his catching gear, the umpire could allow it.)
Now back to it. Conley gets in the batter’s box around the 11 second mark, but doesn’t look up until the time reads 7. The umpire raises his hand, Conley thinks he’s walked, then goes full surrender cobra when he sees he’s been called out in the bottom of the 9th with a 3-2 count in a tie ball game for a clock violation.
But here’s what bothered me the most.
In the video, you’ll see that the catcher isn’t set. And not only is he not set, he’s not even standing behind the plate and doesn’t make the adjustment to move behind the plate until the clock reads :07. There’s nothing about this that makes sense. Are catchers going to be allowed to do this? Will they be able to stand alongside the ump, then quickly squat down and quick pitch a hitter? My guess is no, because that would be absurd, but if the rule isn’t clarified that the catcher has to be behind the plate at the 8th second and at some point, someone will be smart enough to manipulate the rule and then we’ll all get to tell Rob Manfred what we’ve all wanted to say.