Thoughts from Lakeland

When some scouts were comparing Jordan Schafer to Grady Sizemore last year, I didn’t exactly see the comparison.  But I guess that’s why they’re paid to project and I’m paid to use their thoughts in an attempt to display intelligence. 

While Sizemore and the Indians have abandoned their former Spring home of Winter Haven, his clone returned to Polk County on Wednesday and showed why Baseball America has rated him the game’s 42nd-best prospect and the seventh-best center field prospect.

Schafer showed off his arm with a strong first-inning throw, displayed his speed with a fifth-inning stolen base and then flexed his muscles while hitting a seventh-inning homer.  

“There isn’t a tool this kid doesn’t possess,” said Matt Diaz, who spent the winter training with the young prospect who is going to bring Schafe-mania to Georgia next month. 

One exhibition game obviously doesn’t change the fact that in some ways it makes sense for Schafer to start this season at Triple-A Gwinnett.   But at the same time, when you see how natural this kid looks when he’s on the diamond, you can’t help but wonder how long the Braves can seriously keep this gem at the Minor League level.

<b> Garret update:  </b>  Garret Anderson worked out at Disney today and Cox thinks his new outfielder might be able to make his exhibition season debut early next week.   I’m still of the opinion that Anderson was a solid pickup and possibly the best bargain of the offseason. 

But when you just get a taste of what Schafer can do on the field, you get a better idea about why some of the Braves felt they would be fine if GM Frank Wren didn’t land an additional outfielder.

<b> Here comes Hanson:  </b>  This is my ninth season covering the Braves and never before have I been more excited about seeing somebody pitch.  Tommy Hanson is scheduled to throw two innings against the Astros tomorrow and when he takes the mound, it might mark one of those rare occasions when every media member is simultaneously actually paying attention to what’s going on during an exhibition game.

<i> Baseball America </i> has rated Hanson as the top right-handed pitching prospect.  He ranks fourth on the overall list, just one spot ahead of Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who is rated the game’s top corner  outfield  prospect. 

The five Braves listed in BA’s top 100 list include: Hanson (4), Heyward (5), Schafer (42), Gorkys Hernandez (62) and Freddie Freeman (87).

Brandon Hicks, a non-roster invitee who hasn’t received enough attention during the early days of camp, is rated as the game’s 10th-best shortstop prospect. 

“He’s a Major League shortstop,” Cox said while Hicks was showing his power potential during batting practice on Wednesday.

  

31 Comments

I will have the tivo set to record the game tomorrow. Unfortunately, that means I won’t log on here to give my thoughts during the game., which I thoroughly enjoy. I will choose to stay in the dark until I get home from work and watch it.

I hope Frenchy rebounds from the 0-4 / 3 LOB performance. I must admit I am paranoid that a slow start will amount some unneeded pressure.

Can’t wait to see Tommy Hanson!

A bunch of words meaning one thing can describe this game. Some of them happen to be pathetic, horrible, terrible.

Yeah, bravo tough start for Jeff. But Bobby and Chipper both indicated it might take a week or two or three for Jeff to get comfortable with his new approach. We’ll obviously wait a little longer before making any sort of judgment. With statistics meaning nothing down here, this is the setting where Jeff can comfortably stay with one stance and one approach without feeling any pressure. Let’s see how he looks in a week or two.

Was Frenchy hitting dribblers and pop ups or hitting the ball hard?

In Frenchy’s first at bat there were runners at 1st and 2nd 2 outs and he might as well have taken the ball with his hand and rolled it like a bowling ball. No, he wasn’t hitting the ball hard. Though he didn’t strike out.

I didn’t realize John Kincade was blogging with us. They play one practice game and everyone is alarmed by what they saw? Conclusions are written at the end of the story for a reason. Try some decaf, and enjoy the fact that baseball has returned. Doom doesn’t have to be the first option EVERY time.

Thank you rother! I have faith in Frenchy. If Chip says he’s impressed with him, then we should just wait it out. He’ll find it!!!

I definitely didn’t want to come across like “Chicken Little” in my comment on Frenchy. I just want him to have a good day at the plate to lighten the load. A big problem last year was the weight of it all and I’d hate to see it start building right out of the gate. It was way premature on my part to even hint at it. He has a new stance and a new approach. No one is expecting a huge start right away… especially in his first spring training game. For me, other than checking out the youngsters, my biggest spring concern is Frenchy. I can’t wait to see those guys on Sunday night!!! Anyone else besides Mark going to be there?

…and by Sunday night, I meant Sunday afternoon at 1:05…

As these weeks progress, let’s remember that young kids like Schafer are trying to impress and Francoeur is just trying to get comfortable with his new approach. As I said before, we’re not going to start making judgments for at least a few more weeks.
Moving to another topic, what do you guys think about Gregor Blanco’s decision to play in the WBC? The odds of him making the Atlanta roster had already seemed slim. Now with the possibility of being away from camp for a few weeks, he might want to start looking for a place to live in Gwinnett County. But before criticizing this decision, don’t forget about the pressures he might have faced from the Venezuelans who want him to compete.

I would bet you Gregor is more of a candidate for release than AAA Gwinnett. What is the market for a guy with no power, an average arm, and that doesn’t steal bases? He is at the WBC to show somebody else that he can play. His ticket in Atlanta has been punched already. If it wasn’t for a miraculous run at the end of ST last season, he would have never come out of AAA in the first place. AAA is littered with Blanco type guys that have a nice game, but don’t measure up to Major League standards. Not to mention he was considered a hot dog up until last season and not even on the radar. Trade bait for single A prospects is all he has left here. end of spring he gets released.

Just like Ryan Lagginghands, Bryan Pena, Pete Orr, etc. They are what is called AAA+ ball players. Good at AAA, never gonna make it in the Bigs. Add Mike Hessman to that list as well.

…and don’t forget Corky Miller. How the heck did that guy get called up to the show? Surely there was another catcher of his caliber defensively… and even if there wasn’t… how many times to he come up to the plate when we needed him to get a hit. Did he ever get above .100?

There is a difference between not ready yet, and can’t do it at that level. Corky falls into the second category. Jo Jo may still be in the first category, but he has cranked off management, so watch and see. He didn’t pitch day 1 because WE want to see him. He pitched day 1 because we want to SHOW him. I bet he finds a nice home with a West Coast team, and we get a prospect or two.

Mark,
If a long term player was available, like an Alex Rios from Toronto as an example. A guy that we could keep for 10 years. Do you think the Braves would pull the trigger if the price was right? I’m searching in my mind for the last time they did that.

Assuming the Braves current rotation plus Hudson and Hanson are to be around for the next 3 years, that pretty much makes every one of the AAA pitchers trade bait. The Braves could get a pretty big time long term player for a part of that pile of arms. By the time they need another arm, it will come from the crop that is currently (2008 anyway) High A and AA. There will be a lot of “move them or lose them” scenarios come up as the current AAA guys have all been effectively blocked for their window of opportunity with Atlanta.

Someone had written a comment on one of the stories saying how we blew it by not getting Andruw back. I would’ve liked to have seen him back as well, but the person said he hit a double and crushed an opposite field homer yesterday. I got pretty bummed out, so I checked the box score: Andruw was 0-2, 2Ks, 3 LOB. HA!
I can’t believe they stuck with Corky Miller for so long last year. I mean, he was way more solid defensively than Brayan or Sammons, but COME ON! His batting average was below .100 for a lot of the season. I would’ve paid the Braves to have a one-armed Javy Lopez as the backup instead of Corky.

Mark,
What is TommyMANIA like down there this morning?

I really hope they keep Hudson past his current contract. If he’s healthy, that is a NASTY rotation.. and might happen by the end of the year.
Hudson
Lowe
Vasquez
Hanson
Glavine

Glavine won’t be in that. He will be golfing and watching little league games next year.

Hey vivabeta don’t forget Jurjens when you list that staff! He was afterall our top winner last year. The future looks very bright! GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where did Jurrjens go from the list?

Kawakami is signed for 3 years as well.

If Kawakami won the Japanese CY Young in a season when DiceK was still there, he can pitch.

It will be fun watching the hitters try to make the adjustment from catching the butterflies Campillo throws up there to hitting Hanson’s stuff today. I sure wish I was there.

haha. you’re right. i totally forgot about Jair. Pretty tired at work. How many years are left on Vasquez’ contract? He’s definitely the odd man out if Hudson sticks around, Hanson excels, and Kawakami doesn’t flop. Oh, and did DiceK pitch in the Japanese Central League with Kawakami? OK then..
1. Hudson
2. Lowe
3. Jurrjens
4. Hanson
5. Kawakami

I think the award was bigger than just the Central league for it to be the Cy Young equivalent. But I’m not the authority on Japanese baseball. The talent level there is such that only studs win those awards. Think about the guy the Red Sox outbid us for. He hadn’t even gone pro yet. It will be interesting to see how he fairs in the bright lights of Boston.

The fun part is that there actually ARE 7 or 8 names to work into the list instead of, well 2 or 3, we had last season. Nice upgrade Frank.

Agreed ealier rother,nice job of calling out the doom and gloomers. Way too early for that stuff.

That said I have to disagree with your take on Blanco.

He’s a serviceable MLB 4th outfielder.

He’s a bigger asset for some clubs as oppossed to others depending upon their respective roster construction.

Would help for him to be a backup on a power laden club.

His OB% skills though assure him of being able to help.

Needs to polish his baserunning abilities and defensive footwork. Still can help in the right situation.

I suspect that if Anderson has a good ST then Blanco may start in Gwinnett. He could still help this organization at some point though. No way is he released.

Kind of wish Anderson had his(Blanco) batting eye and plate discipline.

Also something else to keep in mind the Braves 4th OF competition is going to be interesting to watch unfold.

If Anderson is the starting CF then it becomes more important that our 4th OF be able to play a serviceable CF.
We all know Infante can, but he’s too valuable elsewhere.
Also factor in that BC will undoubtedly pinch hit for Anderson late against certain loogys.

Can’t wait too see Hanson toe the rubber today.

Bowman do you have the lineups yet?

Thanks!

Rother: I don’t think the Braves are too interested in searching for Rios-type players that they can keep around for an extended period. Instead, I think they’re just looking for the opportunity to keep Schafer, Heyward and Gorkys together for as long as possible. Obviously some of these prospects that are currently generating excitement are going to fizzle. But right now, there aren’t too many other organizations who seemingly have a brighter future. Plus I just posted a new blog that talks about TommyMania and addressed Chipper’s reaction to the comments about him managing.

The teams carrying the Blanco types are not the winning teams. They are the Kansas City Royals of the world. If he actually was aggressive on the bases it would make a stronger case for him sticking, but one attempted stolen base per eleven times on first base is really bad. He hit 1 or 8 all season, and had less SB ATTEMPTS than Lance Berkman. Come on that doesn’t cut it at all. For Blanko to stick, Diaz or Norton would have to go away. I’m assuming that won’t happen. We’ll see. If Blanco does sit in Gwinnett all season, who do you forsee him eventually beating out on the big league club? Brandon Jones is the better option there as well.

Josh Anderson does look overmatched against power lefties for sure. But he will also be a great PR off the bench on the days he doesn’t start, which Blanco would not be.

I’m glad it isn’t my choice to make.

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