Monday, June 29, 2009

Vazquez for Swisher?

A little food for thought for Monday morning. What about a deadline deal of Javy Vazquez for Nick Swisher? Only if Huddy is about ready to come back, of course. We will have 6 starters, and I think Javy is the most likely to be traded. Swisher gives us lots of the things we are lacking in RF right now - toughness, solid OBP, power, etc.

I know it seems we should be able to get more for Javy because he has been so dominant, but if we do the deal straight up, the Yanks will probably be willing to pay all of Javy's remaining salary this year. That would then open up the payroll, which as of now is not flexible enough to acquire anyone of significance. We could then look to upgrade in other places, like maybe a Kelly Johnson + prospect for Felipe Lopez?

The question is are the Braves going to be in the mix (3-6 GB) in the next few weeks? If they are, I say do what you have to do to get better to make a run. There is not a dominant team in the NL and with Hanson's emergence and a potential Huddy return, 2 hitters could make the Braves the best team in the NL.



That team, with Prado and Infante of the bench along with the Gonzo/Rafa closer combo makes the Braves legit contenders. Just got to hang on a few weeks and stay in the mix as long as possible...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Braves thoughts...

It has been 1 year since RSM ranked the top 10 Braves prospects and it is time to revisit the list. If you click the link to last years list, the funniest one you will see is #7 - Thomas Hanson. When reading his description, you can clearly see how he went from this type of ranking to #1 or #2 in all of baseball. He added those 3-4 MPH to his fastball and by winter ball was a dominant force that every GM coveted. Good to have him up in the rotation now, he looks like a stud. Brandon Jones is now off the list because is is 26 and has yet to homer this year in almost 200 at bats. Good hitter, possibly a decent major leaguer, but no longer a top prospect. Also, Jordan Schafer is off the list after making the club out of spring training this year. Lets look at this years list...

1) Jason Heyward - Heyward is a stud. Even if Francoeur is not dealt during the season, Heyward is getting close to the RF job being his. Probably 2011 or even next year Heyward will be in the middle of the Braves lineup for a good while. How do we know he isn't just another Francoeur? Heyward has consistently been a .300 hitter (.316 career) in the minors and his OPS has been high 800's to 900's. Francoeur was a high-200's hitter (.285 career) with a low OBP and OPS (700's). Heyward is just a damn good hitter that is going to be, again, a stud.

2) Freddie Freeman - Freddie has really come on in the last year and is probably the Braves next 1st baseman as soon as Kotchman becomes eligibile to make $$$. He is hitting .318 in advanced A ball and has some real good pop. Shaky glove at 1st, but a solid prospect nonetheless.

3) Cody Johnson - Cody is a big-time power hitter and former top draft choice. Cody is a left-handed hitter that is 6'4 and his power keeps improving. His HR totals have gone from 17 in 2007, to 26 last year, and he already has 20 this season. He also hits for a higher average against lefties. Look for him to get some serious looks as he develops (still only 20).

4) Mike Minor - Gotta throw our recent #1 pick and highest draft pick since Mike Kelly. Very live left handed arm and once signed, Minor will be on the fast track. Not sure if he will remain a starter or if the Braves will make him a reliever. But, a good prospect no matter what.

5) Cole Rohrbough - Cole is a hard throwing lefty that currently is in Myrtle Beach. He still projects as a 2-3 starter in a couple of years with his plus fastball and slider. Outside of one outing this year (2.2 IP, 10 ER), Cole has been pretty dominant.

6) Brett Devall - Brett is another left-handed pitcher that was drafted out of high school last year. Currently in Rome, he is 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA, but is still years away from the big leagues at only 19 years of age.

7) Randall Delgado - Hard throwing RHP that is a big-time strikeout pitcher. He was 2nd in the Appalachain League last season in K's and has a really high ceiling. Not a pretty record (1-6) so far this year, but still a really strong prospect.

8) Brandon Hicks - Hicks was a high draft pick a few years ago out of Texas A&M and has turned into a pretty good player. Hits for power and has a good glove (can play 3B, SS, 2B) and is likely a major league utility player or maybe an everyday second baseman. Needs to cut down on K's and get the average up, but at 23 is almost ready.

9) Craig Kimbrel - Craig's stock has dropped a tad after his recent promotion to Myrtle Beach. Out of the bullpen, Craig finished last year with an ERA under 1 in 35 games. Then, to start this season, complied a 0.90 ERA in Rome before his promotion. He has given up at least 1 run in 7 of his 8 appearances, but hopefully he just needs to adjust to his new surroundings.

10) Zeke Spruill - Spruill is a hard throwing righty (95+) out of Marietta, GA. Zeke went 7-0 last year after getting drafted and is already 7-2 this year in Rome with a good ERA. I think he projects as a reliever, but he looks pretty good as a starter so far. At 6'4, this 20 year old RHP makes the list as a guy I really like.

Biggest theme in these rankings is the lack of hitters. Trading away Lillbridge, Flowers, Hernandez, etc the last few years has cut into the Braves hitting prospects tremendously. Hopefully 2009 picks Mycal Jones and Rob Hefflinger can turn it up soon and get the balance back in the system.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Go on USA!

They've done it! Losing 3-1 and 3-0 to world powers Italy and Brazil and fresh off the Costa Rica debacle, USA soccer seemed in trouble. However, one brilliant game against Egypt and an Italian collape later, new life was born. The Americans took advantage and pulled an enormous upset Wednesday by defeating Spain, the World's #1 team. Now, even with another loss to Brazil, the US will have some great momentum heading into the 2010 World Cup. That was what I wanted to see in RSA this summer, quality soccer against the world's elite. Get experience playing over there, gain confidence, and settle on 11 that can advance out of the group stage.

The 2-0 result Wednesday is one of the best in US soccer history. The team played extremely well and never looked imtimidated against the powerful Spanish squad. The future of the US team looks solid, with Jozy Alitdore poised to break all the records Landon Donovan is currently breaking. Michael Bradley is exceptional in midfield and Benny Feilhaber and Simon Davies are all under 24. Freddy Adu and Maurice Edu will be in the mix soon and don't forget Dononvan is still in his prime.

Things certainly look promising for the US as the Gold Cup defense is next month and the Confed Cup final is in their immediate future. Brazil is playing well right now and crushed the Americans just a week ago, but you never know...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday thoughts...

Wimbledon starts today...always a fun event to watch. 2009 winner? Let's go with Andy Murray. He's playing well right now, Nadal is out, Djokovic is struggling, and England is due for a local winner. Maybe Federer has a little bit of a letdown after winning his 1st career French...

Watching the final round of the US Open right now. Ricky Barnes is in the middle of a major meltdown. Not much better than watching this event on the final day with Tiger and Phil making moves on the back 9.

NBA Draft is Thursday and the Hawks need help. Assuming they are not revamping the roster by not re-signing Bibby and Marvin, they need help at Guard and Center. The draft is point guard heavy and I would like to either get one of the top guys at 19 (Holiday, Jennings) or wait until the 2nd and get Douglas, Lawson, or Collison. DeJuan Blair is somewhat intriguing if he is on the board...

After Griffin, I really like Flynn, Henderson, and Earl Clark as the best prospects. Biggest 1st round busts? BJ Mullens, Terrance Williams, James Johnson, and Sam Young...

Look for LSU to win easily in the CWS Championship Series. They have been the best team all year and have all their arms rested against a Texas team that is not as good as people think.

What a Sunday it was for the USA National Team. Advancing out of their group in the FIFA Confederations Cup is an awesome accomplishment no matter how ugly the 1st 2 games were. I believe if the 2 red cards given are yellows in the 1st two games that they get a point from Italy and play Brazil to within 1 goal. Gotta stick around with Spain and not get behind early like they have recently.

I think the Braves could really improve themselves if they acquired Mark DeRosa. He is so versatile and now even hits for power from the right side, which they desparately need. Pitching has been strong and Kawakami is finally settling in and looking sharp. Acquire DeRo and get Infante healthy and they can make a serious run. The NL East is not very good this year. Philly is struggling bad now and has Joe Blanton as their #2. Awful.

August 1st is the first date to go see Falcons training camp. Anyone interested in going that morning and then taking it another 70 miles afterwords to Harrah's casino? Just a thought...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Draft recap...

Well, the Braves didn't get either of the local high school players I had hoped they would get, but getting a college pitcher with a lot of upside isn't too bad of a consolation prize. Mike Minor is a 6'4 lefty with pretty nasty stuff and projects as a top of the line starter in the major leagues in 3-5 years. I would have preferred Mike Leake from ASU or Alex White from UNC, but these guys are more polished and teams usually feel the need to get a player that "projects" rather than someone that has maybe peaked.

UGA had the most players drafted from any school with 11. I think Poythress, Joey Lewis, and Matt Cerione are likely gone for the minors, but the other underclassmen will probably stay. Zach Dodson from Effingham County HS is the most likely recruit to sign, and he is dang good - saw him last year and he is a good looking LHP. Joey Lewis got somewhat of a raw deal going in the 41st round. Way too good of a player to be passed on that many times.

The Braves overall had a pretty good draft, selecting a lot of local players as usual. Second round pick David Hale from Princeton and the Walker School in Marietta was a curious pick. He was far from dominant in the Ivy league but must have some qualities not seen by statistics. Some other local guys that I like that the Braves took were Chris Masters (Kennesaw Mtn HS) and Western Carolina and Robert Hefflinger from Georgia Perimeter. Hefflinger is a former UGA player that has a real live arm and is very signable.

I also like what the Rangers did in the draft. They took the consensus top prep lefty pitcher in the 1st and then Tanner Scheppers in the 2nd. Scheppers is a top 10 talent that has had some injury issues and has signability issues. If they sign him, that is a big steal - the guy hit 99 in his final start for his independent league team last month. Also, Texas took last years CWS MVP Tommy Mendonca from Fresno and local prep star Braxton Lane from Sandy Creek. Throw in the likely Georgia high school class AAAA pitcher of the year Catlan Kendrick late on, and it appears Texas is quite familiar with the southside of Atlanta.

Now it's time to track the bonuses and who signs and doesn't before the August 15th deadline. The Strasburg negotiations will certainly be interesting with Boras reportedly looking for up to 50 million guaranteed. But if anyone can get it, it would be him...