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Why Yasmani Tomas Is a Poor Fit for the Atlanta Braves’ Offseason

The latest object of nearly every major league team’s desire is a Cuban baseball player—more specifically, a Cuban slugger. This craze was started by Yoenis Cespedes, then put into high gear by the “Wild Horse,” Yasiel Puig, and capped off by last season’s American League Rookie of the Year, Jose Abreu.

Their calling card is power, but they also bring athleticism and excitement to the field and the lineup. So it makes sense that the next big athletic slugger to come out of Cuba would be heavily sought after.

Outfielder Yasmani Tomas is that kind of player—athletic and powerful. Just about every team has scouted this guy, and there is a large amount of buzz that the Atlanta Braves are one of the teams most interested. But I say Tomas is a poor fit for Atlanta, and here’s why.



The Braves have operated with a tight budget for nearly a decade, and Tomas is reportedly seeking a big monetary commitment, according to Jesse Sanchez of

The slugger is believed to be seeking at least a five to seven year deal with an annual salary near $15 million, but the Tomas’ camp has not ruled out the possibility of signing a short-term, high-value deal that would allow him to return to the market sooner rather than later.

While that dollar figure per year is less than what free-agent-to-be Justin Upton will likely command next offseason, it is still a substantial sum of money to commit to a player who has never taken a swing in professional baseball.

Surely the Braves front office is too gun-shy to spend that wildly on an unknown player when they will be paying B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla each that much next season. And surely they still remember the bad free-agent deals given to Derek Lowe and the (similarly) unknown Kenshin Kawakami several years ago.

Committing that much money, more than 10 percent of the team’s salary, to an unknown player is not something the Braves can afford to do. Some teams can gamble like that, but the Braves should not.



The last thing the Braves need is another player who strikes out a lot. The 2011 Braves set a franchise record for strikeouts. The 2012 Braves broke that record, and the 2013 team broke it again. This year’s club came just 16 strikeouts short of setting yet another new record.

Though the 2012 and 2013 squads made the playoffs while striking out a ton, those same bad habits led to epic collapses in 2011 and 2014. The Braves need to move away from that “swing for the fences or strike out trying” approach.

One of the big knocks on Tomas has been his propensity to strikeout. Since he hasn’t played against professional talent for any extended period of time, we don’t know how pronounced his whiff problem might be, but scouting reports paint a grim picture.

Here is what Baseball America’s Ben Badler had to say about the swing of Tomas (subscription required):

Tomas can hit towering home runs but it comes from an uppercut swing, which can be fine for a power hitter but also creates a swing plane with holes. That leads to swing-and-miss tendencies even in the strike zone, and Tomas’ penchant for chasing pitches off the plate only exacerbates that problem. The power arms on the U.S. college national team gave Tomas all sorts of trouble with mid-90s velocity, especially high and tight.

He has also shown—against Team USA, in the WBC and in Cuba—that he’s susceptible to swinging through offspeed pitches, both in the zone and off the plate.

If college pitchers are giving Tomas “all sorts of trouble,” imagine how the vaunted pitching staffs of the National League East will carve him up.

While Badler quotes a scout as saying Tomas will probably be a .260 hitter with 25-30 home runs, there is no mention of how much he might strike out.



If the Braves are itching to sign a slugger to a long-term deal, then they need not look any further than their own roster. Justin Upton is a slugger with power (who also happens to strike out a lot), and unlike Tomas, the Braves have the benefit of having seen what kind of player he is for the past two years.  

The unknowns with Yasmani Tomas are too great to take a risk. Much of his power comes from his big body. According to Badler, Tomas is listed at 6’1″, 230 pounds but was as heavy as 250 pounds last year.

While he is said to still possess athleticism in his thick frame, is that the type of player a team should give a huge contract? Badler puts it best when he calls Tomas “arguably the riskiest Cuban player yet to hit the open market.” This is a bad way for the Braves to tie-up a lot of money while they are trying to rebuild their major league team and their minor league system.

While I have focused on the possible negative outcomes, there is also the possibility that Tomas could exceed his projections and become a first-division All-Star for many years. But for my money, and the Braves’ money, I wouldn’t take the risk. This team simply cannot put that much money at stake for a gamble.


All stats used for this article come from

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Atlanta Braves’ Unresolved Offensive Problems Will Prove to Be Their Downfall

Watching the Atlanta Braves for the past couple of months has been like watching a train wreck in super-slow motion. Every few games, you can see a few fans jump off in anticipation of the inevitable crash. Every time a runner is left in scoring position, a fan changes the channel.

To the daily TV viewer, the tomahawk-clad team has seemed like a team incapable of scoring runs. But just how offensively inept this team has been cannot be truly “appreciated” unless one looks at the stats.

While the Braves have traditionally been built on pitching, they have also usually had an offense that was league average or better. While their pitching has been solid this season, their offensive woes have been, and will continue to be, their downfall.

I could tell you about this 2014 Braves team, a team drawing fewer walks per game than any Atlanta team since 1990.

I could tell you about this Braves team, a team built around hitting home runs, which has hit fewer home runs per game than any Atlanta team since 1989.

I could tell you about the lowest slugging percentage since 1989. Or the lowest batting average since 1989. All of those awful stats this season have conspired to keep their offense from scoring runs. The Braves’ 3.69 runs per game this year is the lowest in any year since 1989, when they scored 3.63 runs per game.

The futility of Atlanta’s offense has been especially noticeable lately. Entering play on Monday, the Braves’ last nine games were against two sub-.500 teams—the Marlins (six) and Phillies (three). During that span, they were shut out four times, including getting no-hit once, while posting a losing record of 4-5.

The numbers from month to month don’t paint a trend. The Braves offense hasn’t gotten noticeably better or worse as the season has gone on.

The offense is instead prone to extreme streaks, with prolonged stretches of wins and losses. There have been five winning streaks of four or more games and four losing streaks of four or more games.

Last year’s team struck out more than any team in Braves’ franchise history. The 2014 squad may not break that record, but they’ll come mighty close.

Last year’s team got on base more often and hit more home runs, making the strikeouts tolerable. This season’s club has retained the bad habit of the strikeout without the benefit of the additional walks or consistent power.

The power outage might be the most troublesome stat of all. When the Braves signed Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, they knew they would be adding strikeouts, but they also hoped that the home run power each player brought with him would offset the whiffs.

The struggles of those two players have been well-chronicled, but they also struggled just as much last season. This year, the offensive output from other key members of the lineup is also down, with Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons performing well below their numbers from a season ago.

A good way to measure overall offensive output is with weighted runs created plus (wRC+). This is a rate stat that takes into account all facets of offense and adjusts for park and year, with a wRC+ of 100 being league average.

Last year, the Braves had five lineup regulars with wRC+ of over 100 and three key role players over 100. Even guys like Simmons and Uggla had a respectable wRC+ of 91. That 2013 team averaged 4.25 runs per game, which was fourth in the NL, compared to this year’s 3.69, which is second to last.

This season, just four lineup regulars have wRC+ of over 100, with just about everyone else languishing below 90. They have a core of players—Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis—creating above-average offensive outcomes but virtually no supporting cast around them approaching league average.

Atlanta was 17-8 in April and has been 57-61 since then. The offense has not improved since April, and it wasn’t particularly good that month either. The difference in April was an otherworldly performance from the pitching staff, which posted a 2.59 ERA.

While the pitching has been decent since April, and generally better than league average, it has not been good enough to cover up for the woefully deficient offense.

With shutouts against Atlanta becoming increasingly more familiar, it’s hard to imagine the offense suddenly finding their hitting shoes. The pitching will keep them in games, but until the eight other guys in the lineup start adding another run or two per game, the team’s worst offense in 25 years will prove to be the downfall of the 2014 Atlanta Braves.  


All stats are through the games of September 7 and taken from and

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Baseball’s Most Exciting Division Race No One Is Talking About

Entering play on Friday night, the largest division lead in the National League is owned by the Washington Nationals. So why should we consider the National League East to be the most exciting division race in baseball? After all, the Nationals were supposed to win the division, and here they are with a 4.5 game lead.

But their current position atop the standings is not the story. The Nats only just arrived at the top two weeks ago. For most of the season, the NL East lead has belonged to the Atlanta Braves.

While the Nationals may currently have a lead, the division will be decided in the final weeks of the season and in the numerous head-to-head matchups NL East teams still have left to play. If the script plays out as baseball planned it when the schedule was made, the NL East will not be decided until the season’s final week.

For 60 days this season, the Nationals have not been in first and have been chasing the Braves. For 17 games throughout the season, they’ve been tied with Atlanta.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since the Nationals regained sole possession of first place in the National League East but not because of their own stellar play. The Braves have lost eight straight games, a stretch during which Washington has only picked up four games in the standings due to its own lackluster play.

The Nationals have not taken advantage of the Braves’ West Coast swoon like they could have, and with a three-game tilt between the two teams at Turner Field this weekend, Atlanta could erase much of the Nationals’ lead.

With seven wins in 10 head-to-head matchups so far this season, Atlanta has reserved some of its best work for Washington, a trend that has carried over from last season, when the Braves were 13-6 against the Nats.

While on the surface this division seems like a race between the Nationals and Braves, the Marlins could sneak into the mix (and possibly even the Mets). This is the result of all the head-to-head games left to play among these teams, especially in the final few weeks of the season.

When a team is trying to make up ground against an opponent in a playoff race, it helps to play the leading team (or teams) often. In the final two-plus weeks of the season, the NL East contenders will have plenty of opportunities to pick each other off.

In the Nationals’ final 11 games of the season, they play the Marlins eight times. Expand those final games played for the Nationals to 21 games, and Washington plays the Braves six times as wellthat’s 14 of Washington’s final 21 games against teams looking to snipe it out of its first-place perch.

And remember, two wild cards mean that teams that previously might have given up on chasing a playoff spot will be playing deep into September.

The Mets might even consider themselves in this race. They play the Nationals in seven of their last 16 games of the season.


Glass half…

The Nationals are certainly in the best position to expand their lead. They’ve stayed relatively healthy most of the year but still need Bryce Harper to find his form after missing time with a thumb injury. They recently lost Ryan Zimmerman for six weeks with a hamstring strain, but his return in September could give the team a jolt down the stretch.

The Marlins have battled pitching injuries recently, and they lost ace Jose Fernandez early this season. But Miami has played better in close games than any other NL East team, using a strong bullpen to propel them to a 26-17 record in one-run games.

And then there’s the Braves. By most accounts, Atlanta should have already thrown in the towel. With three of its top starting pitchers lost for the season (Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Gavin Floyd) and Mike Minor unable to get anyone out, it’s hard to believe that Atlanta has spent the most time leading the NL East this season.

While one team could get hot at any point, no NL East team has shown any signs of playing well enough to distance itself from the rest of the division. The largest division lead for any team this season is Washington’s current 4.5 game lead.

So much of what will make this an exciting race is that no one knows what to expect out of these teams. The Nationals were expected to run away with the division but haven’t. The Braves could find new life if their offense stops trying to channel Dan Uggla. The Marlins could ride their young pitching and hot-hitting outfield to more and more victories in close games.


Could my team get a day off?

Another factor that could affect these teams down the stretch is the presence of days off (or in the case of some teams, the lack thereof). While the Braves have only three days off in September, the Nationals and Marlins have just two.

Furthering the difficulty of the final month is a doubleheader between the Marlins and Nationals in the season’s final series. Over the final 23 days of the season, the Nationals will play 23 games with just one day off. The Marlins’ schedule is identically unkind.

In this seesaw of a division with no team yet taking charge, the race for the NL East will come down to the final few weeks of the season. And with so many head-to-head matchups in the final weeks, there could be leads lost and won several times over if the teams are close.

It may be easy for Nats fans to bask in a four-and-a-half-game lead, or for Braves fans to abandon ship after an eight-game losing streak, or for Marlins fans to get excited that their team is adding players at the trade deadline rather than selling them off. But in the months ahead, with all the head-to-head matchups, a three- or four-game lead may only be a weekend series away from disappearing in the most exciting division no one is talking about: the NL East.

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2nd-Half Predictions for Every Braves Starter

The second half of the season officially begins for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. In the slides ahead I’ll look back at the numbers put up by each player in the Braves lineup during the first half, then I’ll offer up a prediction for what each player might do in the second half.

Predictions are a tricky business, but that’s what makes them so fun. Begin the slideshow to see my predictions for the second-half Braves, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.


All stats are accurate up to and including June 25, and are taken from and

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Predicting the Braves’ Top Targets on the 2014 International Prospect Market

The MLB international signing period begins on July 2, and the Braves could make a splash by signing some high-dollar talent. This, despite being constrained by MLB regarding how much they can spend.

Much like last month’s draft, MLB has limited the amount of money that teams can spend on players. While the details are a bit different, the amount of bonus-pool money allocated to teams uses the same system of reverse order of the previous season’s regular-season winning percentages that the draft uses.

That leaves the Braves with a total of $1,897,900 to spend on international free agents, per Ben Badler of Baseball America, while a team like the Marlins, who finished with the worst record in the NL East and the second-worst record in all of baseball, has $4,622,400 to spend.

The Braves have traditionally done very well in regards to signing and developing international prospects. On their current big league squad, Julio Teheran (Colombia) and Luis Avilan (Venezuela) were international signings. Four of their top-10 prospects are from the international ranks as well: catcher Christian Bethancourt (Panama), second baseman Jose Peraza (Venezuela), RHP Mauricio Cabrera (Dominican Republic), and outfielder Victor Reyes (Venezuela).

Even with limited bonus-pool money the last few years, the Braves have done a good job of signing players who could have an impact. In 2011, they signed LHP Luis Merejo for just $65,000, and the very next year Baseball America listed Merejo as one of their Ten Breakout International Prospects To Watch.

The last time the Braves signed an international player for more than a million dollars was in 2010, when they gave then-shortstop Edward Salcedo a $1.6 million bonusthe highest bonus for an international player in club history.

While Salcedo has slowly worked his way to Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves minor league system, he is not considered a top prospect. His defense forced a move to third base, and it may eventually force another move to the outfield. At the plate, he’s a free-swinger who doesn’t make a lot of contact, and he has never put up the eye-popping numbers that the Braves were hoping for.

It has been rumored by Badler that this year the Braves will once again give a seven-figure bonus to an international player: Venezuelan third baseman Juan Yepez. Atlanta is thought to have the inside track on Yepez since his trainer’s brother is the Braves assistant director of Latin American operations.

The scouting reports on Yepez are mixed, which can often be the case with young international talent. There are concerns that his skills at the plate haven’t translated into performance in games. There are also questions about whether he has the range to stick at third base.

Those uncertainties about Yepez sound a lot like the imperfect prospect that the Braves ended up getting in Edward Salcedo. Keep in mind, though, that international prospects are always more of an unknown commodity to both organizations and scouts.

With the Braves having such a close affiliation with the trainer of Juan Yepez, perhaps they know something that other teams do not.

Beyond Yepez, the Braves international signings will most likely include players from lesser known baseball countries. While most teams stick to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to find their talent, the Braves also mine lesser-known baseball countries like Panama, Colombia and even Nicaragua.

Atlanta also scouts the Caribbean Islands for talent, and it signed three players last year from Curacao. The Braves best-known international successAndruw Jonescame from that small Caribbean island.


The Long Shot

The Braves last-minute spring-training signing of Ervin Santana apparently put the screws on an already tight payroll. In an interview with Mike Ferrin and former GM Jim Duquette on XM Radio’s MLB Network Channel 89 (h/t Alan Carpenter of, Braves GM Frank Wren admitted that the Atlanta front office had to ask ownership to increase payroll in order to complete the signing.

This cash-strapped position of the big league ballclub could have the Braves pursuing a different strategy than signing a high-dollar international free agent. Instead of going big into the international market this year, they may instead seek to accomplish another item on their overall organizational wish list: trading Dan Uggla.

Teams are able to trade international signing slots, and over the past few years we’ve seen a few of these slots get included in trades. (Click here for an explanation of how these trades work from Baseball America.)  

This could be a perfect opportunity for the Braves to rid themselves of the burdensome contract of Dan Uggla. The no-hitting second baseman is signed through next season, leaving approximately $20 million remaining on his deal.

Atlanta could attempt to trade a high-dollar international slot (or two) to a team that wants extra slot money to sign a prospect. In return, that team could take Dan Uggla and most of his contract off the Braves’ hands, sending a minor prospect back in return.

With Major League Baseball limiting the money available for teams to use to sign international players, that money now carries additional value. Essentially, the Braves would be trading “potential players” in exchange for salary relief.

The team acquiring Dan Uggla’s contract (and also Dan Uggla) would be taking on salary that they would have spent on international talent in previous years but which is now constrained by MLB rules.

That scenario is a long shot, but with Uggla sitting on the bench taking up 10 percent of the Braves’ payroll this season as well as next season, extraordinary steps may need to be taken in order to get him off the team’s books.

While the Braves may not want to sacrifice a large chunk of their limited international bonus-pool moneyor the future prospects who could be signed with that moneyif there is an opportunity to unburden their payroll from the Dan Uggla mistake, then they should take it.

But again, that’s a long shot, and it’s pure speculation on my part. Atlanta will most likely sign a dozen or so good international players this year, several of whom we’ll probably be listing on top-prospect lists in a few years.

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3 Relievers the Braves Should Target to Help Fix the Bullpen

The Atlanta Braves have already signaled they would like to add a reliever or two to their bullpen. General manager Frank Wren was clear about that when he spoke with SiriusXM radio host Jim Bowden earlier this week:

As the Braves seek to acquire another reliable setup man, fresh in the mind of the Atlanta front office is the predicament the team found itself in at the end of last season when Jordan Walden went down in mid-September. While he returned for the playoffs, he was rusty and ineffective, essentially leaving the Braves without their top setup man.

Walden was likely third on the setup-man depth chart to open the 2013 season. Atlanta lost Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty earlier in the year to Tommy John surgery.

This year the Atlanta front office seems to be signaling that it will not let an injury to a reliever dictate how its postseason unfolds. Acquiring another setup man for Craig Kimbrel—to supplement Jordan Walden and rookie Shae Simmons—will be a key goal for the team in the upcoming trading season.

The Braves may also want to acquire another quality reliever to address a more immediate concern:

Walden has already missed 32 games this season because of a hamstring injury. So clearly his absence from the relief staff is a factor in the Braves’ ability to close out the final innings of a game.

Atlanta added two relievers last season via trade: Luis Ayala from the Baltimore Orioles and Scott Downs from Anaheim. But neither of those two relievers could really be considered a setup man or someone who could be counted on almost every night to pitch shutdown innings.

As the Braves look to bolster this year’s pen they should also do so with an eye toward next year and beyond. While the spring training signing of Ervin Santana signaled the team is fully committed to winning this season, the endless procession of multiyear contracts the team has handed out signals that the Braves expect to contend for many years to come.

In order to acquire a reliever who could be considered an impact reliever, the Braves may have to part with some good prospects. In doing so they need to ensure whatever reliever they acquire can be useful beyond this season.

Here are three impact relievers the Braves should consider.


Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

While Davis is underpaid for a decent starter, he is overpaid for a good reliever. That could prompt the Royals to try and move him for a more cost-effective option and/or prospects.

The tale of his career is that of two different pitchers: the lackluster starter with the 4.57 ERA and the dominant reliever with a 1.99 ERA.

The Braves could use the services of Davis in the pen this season, then give him a chance to return to starting next spring. In Atlanta he would be facing mainly National League lineups for which his 3.43 ERA vs. the NL is better than his career ERA against all major league teams of 4.12.


Alex Torres, San Diego Padres

The Padres seem to always be in rebuilding mode, and Torres might be one of those guys they want to (re)build around. They acquired him this offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays along with a prospect in exchange for a bunch of prospects.

Should San Diego be willing to trade Torres, he would satisfy two stated needs of the Atlanta pen: (1) a setup man capable of pitching important innings late in a game and (2) a left-handed reliever capable of getting out tough lefties.

The Braves would need to part with a pretty good prospect in order to acquire Torres, but Atlanta would get a reliever in return who would be under team control through the 2019 season. Torres may also be able to convert to a starting role next spring.


Jonathan Broxton, Cincinnati Reds

While Broxton offers the Reds protection against an injury to Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati may see an opportunity to fill other needs by moving him.

Yes, Broxton is having a terrific year and even closed out games when Chapman was injured early in the season, but the Reds are closer to the bottom of their division than the top. Moving a guy like Broxton could clear salary and bring back a good prospect.

The Braves could feel confident in trading a good prospect for Broxton knowing that he is signed through next season with a mutual option for 2016. He would not be just a one-year rental.



Certainly Atlanta does not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1997 Seattle Mariners who parted with several future All-Stars in order to add a few relievers. The Braves aren’t that desperate yet, but they should up the ante from their mediocre acquisitions of last season.

In order to get better relievers in a trade, Atlanta has to be more willing to give up better prospects in return. The team has already given up a first-round pick this year in exchange for Ervin Santana. The last major piece of the puzzle for this team is another setup man, and filling that void will come with a cost.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Atlanta Braves’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 8

It was another good week for Atlanta Braves prospects. The two hitters at Triple-A, Tommy La Stella and Christian Bethancourt, are really starting to swing the bat.

Meanwhile on the mound, the organization’s top prospect seems to have righted the ship, and several other pitchers on this list are doing better than the basic stats seem to indicate. We’ll use advanced stats to find the truth behind the numbers.

No. 5 prospect Mauricio Cabrera is still on the disabled list, so everyone below him moves up a spot and the next prospect in line from the Beyond The Box Score consensus Braves prospect list will stick around for a little while longer.


Season stats through the games of May 25th are taken from FanGraphs. Weekly stats run from May 19th through May 25th and are taken from Minor League Central.

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Atlanta Braves’ Top Prospects at Each Position

As the minor league season begins let’s take a look at the Braves prospect depth at each position. Atlanta uses its minor league system as much as any other major league team. The Braves didn’t open the season with one or two rookies in the bullpen; they opened up with three rookies playing important roles in the bullpen—Gus Schlosser, Ian Thomas and Ryan Buchter. 

On the following slides, I’ll highlight the top prospects around the horn and on the mound. You can expect to see almost all of these players in Atlanta in the near future.

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