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Atlanta Braves: One Team Not Following Major League Trend

The Atlanta Braves organization has always been one to either stand out from the crowd and wait for someone to knock their crown off; or it’s been one to fly under the radar and not really be recognized as a playoff contender.

The Braves are going into 2011 with some great off-season moves (Dan Uggla in particular), but they’re also going into this new season with some unproven rookies.

Atlanta is essentially breaking the rules of a larger market team and sticking with what they know best: the farm system.

In 2010 the Braves went into the season with 1 primary position (Right Field) being filled by a rookie, Jason Heyward and another rookie, Johnny Venters, basically in the bullpen to provide depth. Both of these rookies excelled beyond what the organization had hoped and now they’re essential to our 2011 campaign, Venters is now an asset to our bullpen and Heyward is becoming the face of the ball club. 

2011 will look a bit different from last season with 2 key positions being filled by rookies: First Base & Closer. The Braves have seen their share of closers & first basemen but they’re hoping that these two are different from the rest.

Craig Kimbrel is expected to step right in and take over where Billy Wagner left off. As we all know the closer’s role is one of immense pressure, so there’s a question of whether or not Kimbrel can handle the pressure (without surrendering too many BBs). But as the Braves have done in the past, they’re going to hand the ball, and bat, to a rookie and let them prove themselves.

First base is a position, throughout Major League Baseball, that is being filled with the “bopper” types: Pujols, Fielder, Penã, Howard, and Gonzalez are just a few names that come to mind. The Braves have decided to let Freddie Freeman take over first base and excel, hopefully, as much as we can imagine.

The reason I say that the Braves aren’t following the trends we see around Major League Baseball is because they’re willing to completely hand over primary positions to highly touted prospects.

The trend around baseball, especially larger market teams, is to buy, sell or trade your way to the biggest names in baseball.

We’ve seen many examples during this off-season. Just think of the players that have either been involved in big trades or signed as free agents: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Zach Greinke, Cliff Lee.

Rather than give up the farm for Adrian Gonzalez or Zach Greinke; and rather than unload the payroll on Crawford or Werth, the Braves decide to stick with young talent they’ve been grooming for years. 

Although the Braves never seem to make the “sexy” moves like a Boston or New York team, they’ve been able to solidify their lineup through cheaper trades. The trade for Dan Uggla was one that I never saw coming and especially not a move that would allow us to keep our rising stars like Martin Prado or our young talent like Beachy, Minor, Teheran and Freeman. 

But Frank Wren was able to pull it off. He snatched up a 30+ home run hitting second basemen for a utility player and lefty reliever (whom we received in a trade the previous off-season). This can all be tracked back to their ability to keep the farm system intact. Rather than having to go out and buy a first basemen, they look to Freeman. Rather than going out to buy an outfielder, they make a smooth trade for a second baseman and move Prado to left. 

I will go ahead and make the bold statement that the Braves are one of the most resourceful teams in baseball, by far.

It still amazes me how the Braves are able to rely on their farm system to get them through. Yes, it would be fantastic to have Ted Turner back to sign the paychecks but it isn’t going to happen. Right now the Braves are making their way back to the top of the NL East, and they’re bringing loads of talent with them.

I’m sure that some of you will argue that the Marlins, Rays, Jays and other teams have been doing this; but I’m mainly talking about larger market teams. To be a larger market team the Braves are being frugal and relying primarily on their farm system.

What are your thoughts?

How do you think the Braves have faired with a payroll like this?

Do you think that relying on the farm system is a great way of going about this?

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Mike Napoli Traded To The Texas Rangers: Breathe Easy, Blue Jays Fans

Well, the Blue Jays have made a move, not one that will help out our lineup, but one that will add some depth to the bullpen and free up more money in the payroll.

They’ve traded their newly acquired C/1B Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for RP Frank Francisco and cash.

The Jays followed a trend that is increasing all throughout the Major League ball clubs: Strengthening and adding depth to their bullpen.

If you’re unfamiliar with Frank Francisco, he’s a name you should get to know. Although anytime a team adds a relief pitcher it isn’t the most exciting thing, Francisco is the real deal. He started 2010 closing for the Rangers and was replaced by the AL ROY Neftali Feliz (for obvious reasons) and became the primary set up man.

Francisco may have missed the entire last month of the season and playoffs with a strained side, but he should be good to go in Spring Training and ready to compete.

Let’s do a little comparison with the guy he’ll be competing with for the closing role: Octavio Dotel.


2010 Statistics:

                        W   L   ERA     G    IP       SV     BS    SO

O. Dotel             3    4    4.08   68   64.0     22      6      75

F. Francisco        6    4    3.76   56    52.2      2      4      60


Now, I know that Dotel had an off year last year and was shipped around to three different teams, but Francisco has shown that he can be and has been a legitimate closer and setup man.

Both of these guys have ERAs that need to come down, but Francisco has a fantastic K/9 average the last three years at almost 11. In that same time span, he’s averaging a 1.17 WHIP.

Like I said, it’s not the most exciting move but Francisco will either be our closer or our primary set up man this season, now that Anthopoulos has opened it up for competition.

If you’re a Jays fan, smile and be happy; if you’re a fan of another AL East team, beware because our bullpen just got that much better. 

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Vernon Wells Aftermath: More Trades for the Blue Jays?

There’s word going around baseball that the Blue Jays may be on the verge of another trade. Now if you’re yelling at the computer screen, asking “Why?” just calm down. There is an obvious abundance of DH/1B types on the roster. After the Vernon Wells trade the Jays now have four, yes four, players who can comfortably fit at DH. The great thing about this is that the Jays have many options and directions they can go; they could stick Napoli at 1B, Arencibia at catcher and use Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind or Juan Rivera at DH. In my opinion I think that Arencibia should start with the team this year rather than in Vegas. He’s a young hitter which means there will be many steps he’ll need to take (along with many slumps) but he’s the future for the Jays and he’s basically dominating the minors with his 53 home runs in 2 seasons at AAA.

If Anthopoulos has to trade someone away it should easily be Rivera or Encarnacion. They’re two players that are reaching the end of the line in their careers, unlike Napoli. Although Napoli isn’t the big bopper type that you’re looking to carry the team, he’s still young, (just turned 29), which means he still has a lot of upside. Adam Lind absolutely needs to be in the lineup everyday, his 23 home runs and 72 RBI are much needed in this lineup, I don’t think there’s much talk about not having him in there. He can easily cover the DH spot or help out Napoli at 1B when he’s needed. The one position that the Jays are reportedly looking at is 3B, if they’re able to land a third baseman, then the outfield will be set with: Bautista, Davis & Travis Snider. Since the Jays have already stated that Rajai Davis will be starting in Center the fact of the matter is that Juan Rivera is too expensive to be a bench/pinch hitter, so he’ll likely be the odd man out.

With the Wells trade the Jays freed up quite a bit of payroll which means they could actually go after a bigger name third baseman rather than an unproven type of player. I don’t know about you but I would be much more comfortable with an infield & outfield that looks like this:


C – Arencibia

1B – Napoli

2B – Hill

SS – Escobar

3B – ?

RF – Bautista

CF – R. Davis

LF – Snider

DH – Lind


This depth chart is much more reliable than having Rivera or Encarnacion on the field and having to stick Bautista at 3B or 1B. If they make the right move it could really make a difference not just in the lineup but for the future of the franchise. So lets all sit back and see what Anthopoulos’ next move is. 

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