Impressions of Kawakami
Just before Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur started drilling rocket shots off bench coach Chino Cadahia’s batting practice fastballs on Saturday, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones did the same against the ones supplied by Kenshin Kawakami.
But before any of you start to worry, you should know that Chino was just working on a few pitches, trying to find his location and tinkering with his delivery. Or maybe my notes are wrong and that was actually the Japanese dude that’s getting paid $23 million over the next three years.
In all seriousness, I’m putting next to zero stock in what Kawakami is doing on Feb. 21. All that matters is that he’s ready to pitch when the season begins in April. But to guard against shaken confidence, he probably doesn’t need to know that Blanco compiled a .309 slugging percentage last year.
The only National League outfielders who compiled 500 plate appearances and produced lower marks were Michael Bourn and Willy Taveras, who have stayed at the Major League level simply because of their existence as stolen base threats.
At Blanco’s expense, we’ve gained a transition to Anderson, who seems to be in position to beat Blanco and Jordan Schafer in the battle to open the season as the team’s starting center fielder. While Schafer undoubtedly is the most talented candidate, it still appears the Braves might be more comfortable starting him in the Minors.
Anderson’s cause is aided by the fact that he’s out of options. And unless you’re among those who don’t believe that he’s capable of hitting left-handed pitching, he might also be the team’s top candidate to serve in the leadoff role. He’s been successful with 80 percent (247 out of 310) of his stolen base attempts at the professional level.
As I mentioned in an earlier comment on a previous post, I don’t really worry too much about the fact that Anderson has hit .254
with a .299 OBP in 63 big league at-bats against southpaws. He hit .304
with a .352 OBP against them at Richmond last year.
My feelings about Anderson’s capabilities against left-handers improved after talking to Bobby Cox on Saturday afternoon. This conversation also made me think less about the possibility that he might be used in CF platoon with Omar Infante.
“Everybody is going to struggle against certain left-handers,” Cox said. “He’s faced them his whole life. He’s never platooned anywhere that he’s been. All he has to against lefties is make contact. If he hits a dribbler or one in the hole, he’s going to beat it out. Contact is what we’ll preach to him against lefties. If you put it in play, amazing things can happen with a left-handed hitter like (Anderson) who can fly.” <p>
In other camp news, Chipper Jones’ cough sounded horrible on Saturday. But he participated in the workout.
Cox said Jason Heyward hit a ball “a mile” on one of the back fields. While I didn’t see that one, I did see Francoeur drill one of Chino’s fastballs halfway up one of the flag poles situated on the hill above the left field wall.
– Mark Bowman