Soriano deserves an All-Star selection
Well I’ve made it through the first leg of my journey and I’m happy to tell you that there is actually a portion of the early-morning hours when you can walk through Atlanta’s airport without feeling like you are a Detroit Lions running back.
As I sit here and wait for my connection to St. Louis to begin my All-Star Week duties with this afternoon’s Futures Game, I’m still thinking about how impressive it was to watch Rafael Soriano simply dominate the ninth inning during last night’s win over the Rockies.
Soriano allowed a bloop leadoff single and then ended the game with three consecutive strikeouts within a span of 10 consecutive fastballs. He touched 96 miles per hour with one of those pitches, which happened to be just one of the two that were fouled during that span.
Without even factoring Mike Gonzalez’s health into the equation, the Braves have found their sole closer. There’s no longer reason to even toy with the idea of mixing and matching Gonzalez and Soriano.
With the big right-hander, the Braves have found a stopper who has the potential to be just as dominant as John Smoltz was during his days as the closer.
Among National League relievers, Soriano ranks second in four different categories: opponent’s on-base percentage (.238), opponent’s OPS (.450) strikeouts-per-nine innings (12.23) and WHIP (0.89). He also ranks third in batting average allowed (.158) and fourth in ERA (1.48).
Still when it came time for the All-Star selections last week, Soriano wasn’t included. My assumption is that this was basically a product of the fact that he spent a portion of this season having to share the save opportunities with Gonzalez.
But with Jonathan Broxton out of the picture for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, I’m certainly expecting to hear some time today that Soriano will be joining Brian McCann in St. Louis this week.
As we talked to Bobby Cox after last night’s game, he certainly seemed optimistic and hopeful that Charlie Manuel was going to call him today and say that he wants Soriano on his NL roster.
It’s going to be fun to watch Jason Heyward play with many of the game’s other top prospects during this afternoon’s game at Busch Stadium. In case you missed it, earlier this week Baseball America ranked Heyward first among their top 25 midseason prospects. His good friend Freddie Freeman was ranked as the 11th.
Since the Braves promoted them to Double-A Mississippi last week, Heyward and Freeman have continued to pave their way toward Atlanta.
In his first eight games with Mississippi, Heyward has hit .346 with three doubles, two triples and seven RBIs. The 19-year-old outfielder hit .296 with 10 homers and a .519 slugging percentage while playing his first 49 games this year with Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach.
In his first nine games with Mississippi, Freeman has hit .294 with three doubles and four RBIs. During his 70 games with Myrtle Beach, the 19-year-old first baseman hit .302 with six homers and a .447 OPS.
While Freeman won’t be with Heyward today in St. Louis, there will soon come a day when he’s teaming with him in Atlanta.
I don’t see any way that Heyward makes his way to Atlanta before this season is complete. But I’m certainly expecting him to force the Braves to make a tough decision when Spring Training concludes next year.
Once I get to St. Louis and catch up with Heyward this afternoon, I’ll provide some updates about what he’s thinking about his immediate future. But I can already tell you that the highly confident and intellectual teenager is going to say that he’s ready right now to test himself against the Major Leaguers.
I’ve got to get to my gate right now and unfortunately, it looks like the Lions offensive linemen have started their crowd control shift here at Hartsfield this morning.