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. 

50 Comments

i cant agree more mark! Soriano has been incredible espec since we’ve used him as our full time closer? I would love to see he and mac together in St. Louis! I wonder now that manny acosta seems a little more comfortable and reliable, if we use him as our 8th inning set up man and use gonzo as trade bait? i dont necssarliy think thats what we should do, but it seems like a possible option considering there are a lot teams looking for bullpen help! Off the topic im getting very frustrated with philly, they have had 2 walk off wins this weekend and came back from being down 7-3 in the ninth last night! i wish we were able to make up some ground, especially with how good we are playing….its only a matter of time, we just need to keep playing our game and it will all work out…keep up the intensity, GO BRAVES!!!!

Hey mark, Although Freeman and Heyward get a lot of justified fanfare. i dont see much written on Cody Johnson at Myrtle Beach. His number there are pretty awesome. What do the Braves think of his future within the organization?

Soriano has been outstanding all year long…last night was yet again another example of how he has dominated opposing batters all year long. Buster Olney of ESPN has reported that Matt Cain, Trevor Hoffman, and Yovani Gollardo are getting strong consideration. That is a bunch of crap why would you add a starter?! They don’t specialize in pitching one inning! I understand the Hoffman consideration but not the other 2. It should be Soriano and Hoffman being considered.

VMAN: The reason that Cody Johnson is never written about is because he was constantly overshadowed by 2 top prospects (Heyward and Freeman). Although his stats are intriguing, his strikeout total is not. That is the reason that he was not included in the promotion that Heyward and Freeman recieved. It was stated that the orginization felt Johnson needed more time at MB to fine tune a few more things then he would move up.

What braves10 said. Just an update. Zach Duke replaced Matt Cain and Trevor Hoffman replaced Broxton on the all-star rosters, so Soriano won’t make it unless another pitcher pulls out. Personally, I hope Soriano, Gonzalez, Jurrjens, and Vazquez take it more than personally and beam a few Phillies in the head. And Charlie Manuel too. Oops, the ball slipped.

Me too, Rother. Charlie Manuel is really doing us a favor. Not only is he resting our best pitchers but he’s making them mad. And you don’t want to make them mad….

I have to say that I think Soriano should be an All Star. But I have to admit I like the thought of all of the Braves relievers getting 3 straight days off.

Line-up:

McLouth CF
Prado 1B
Jones 3B
Anderson LF
Church RF
Conrad 2B
Ross C
Hernandez SS
Medlen RHP

It’s a day game after a night game and McCann doesn’t get a break, he’s playing in the ASG. I would sit him today too. It’s not like Ross is Corky Miller, he’s a legit big-league starting catcher.

Isn’t it a little weird that McCann is getting a day off right before the All Star break? I figure with us trying to get back to .500 and with Medlen pitching, you wouldn’t want the backup out there.

I would have liked Soriano to get the nod just so he could say: “Nah, we’ll get you in the second half, Chuck.” For the record, he’s pitched more innings than Broxton, Bell, Cordero, or Hoffman. He’s got the lowest ERA of the bunch. He’s got the second most strikeouts. He’s tied for fewest walks allowed. He had the lowest WHIP of the group. Only Broxton had a better FIP. Too bad from a personal achievement standpoint, but like rother said, it’ll be nice to know all our pitchers are getting a few days of rest.
http://tomatalk.mlblogs.com/(some all-star break ’08-’09 did you knows are up)

So IDK about the rest of you but I’m ready to sit back, relax, and watch Jason Heyward show the world what is to come in the next year or two

Yep. I also can’t wait to see a 29 (we’re told) year old in the Futures game.

Canizares batting clean-up.

Haha ESPN said that Canizares was 19

After talking to Heyward and some scouts I got back to my seat about two minutes before the rain delay…Heyward put on a show during batting practice and it was nice to see how much he enjoyed hanging out with the other prospects this morning. This kid has been following the Braves throughout his life and it was neat to hear him say this morning that his Spring Training experience has led him to now truly consider Chipper, Diaz, McCann, etc. as teammates.

That would truely be an amazing experience being 19 years old and be able to consider yourself as teammates with guys you watched on tv only a few years before!

Where do the braves rank with respect to their farm system? And which team is thought to have the strongest, and the weakest farm system?

For a minute or two, this storm reminds me of the night that tornado came through St. Louis when we were here in 2006…From afar, it seems like Mac just got the day off today and Kotchman is still sick…I know some might have been surprised that the Braves held onto Norton and sent Blanco back to the Minors today. But over the past few days, it became apparent the Braves were more interested in giving Norton another chance, rather than continuing to carry Blanco…Church’s ability to play CF likely played a part in the decision.

Adding to the All-Star game selection shenanigans…..Zach Duke was selected to replace Matt Cain. I’d assume Vazquez was out of the running due to his oblique injury, but no Jurrjens? No Soriano? I guess Chuck really wants the Braves staff healthy and rested to make a run at his team in the second half….
http://tomatalk.mlblogs.com/

It was interesting to hear what Ralph Kiner said about Frenchy during the Mets broadcast. He said that French should stand in the bullpen when the pitchers warm up and just watch pitches go by to judge balls and strikes. He also said that he thinks that he will be a tremendous ball player in the future. He had 2 seasons over 100 rbis and he’s only among a handful of current players who have done that.

Why don’t the Braves give Freeman or Heyward a chance to play? They bring players up right out of high school in basketball. I’m surprised that never changed in baseball. I could see pitchers taking more time to develop. But if a person can hit and field, why waste years if they could help the big league club now (aside from business reasons)

It’s a bit more complicated than that longballhitter. The professional game of baseball is so vastly different from lower levels that the development of a player just tends to naturally take a lot longer. Think about some of just the most superficial changes…..aluminum to woods bats, larger ballparks, heightened competition. Many hitters don’t really know “how to hit” coming out of high school. They have the tools and natural athleticism, but they rarely if ever deal with pitchers who throw more than 2 quality pitches. Pitch recognition and plate discipline quite simply take repetition to adequately develop. Some players do spend very little time in the minors, but if there’s any doubt, why start the “arbitration clock” while a player is learning to be a professional hitter at the major league level?

I was hoping someone wouldn’t give me those reasons tomatalk. I am aware of all those things. I don’t disagree with you, I just asked the wrong question. Why don’t people take more of a chance on players and gain more years on their major league career? (that would be the answer to the reason of bringing them up early). I’d rather see a player learn how to hit major league pitching instead of learn how to hit minor league pitching. The arbitration clock shouldn’t be the biggest deciding factor.

Thanks!

I’d like to hear success stories and failure stories with guys who were brought up quickly.

Yeah, didn’t mean to just spout off the normal rhetoric to you if you already knew those answers. Sometimes it’s tough to know what folks are searching for. I suppose in some ways I’d want to know what you mean by “success” rather than “failure.” If a guy comes up quickly and struggles his first 3 or 4 years but then seems to put it together, does that count as a “success” in the quick call-up or a failure? There might be too many variables and chances for false cause-effect analysis to have a real clear picture, which perhaps is why the “bring him up slowly and keep him cheaper for longer” philosophy prevails because it leads to safer results.

Yeah, great point. struggling in the majors for 3 or 4 years would be quite a big failure. Another factor that one must consider is the people a team would have to give up to take such a chance. Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin are two of the younger players, but they proved themselves in the minors already. It’s hard to know how well it would work because it’s never happened. I wonder if anyone will take such a risk. I guess we’ll find out with Strausburg. He’s the guy that got me thinking about it.

Here’s a list of “straight to the majors” guys:
http://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/feats9.shtml
There are numerous others who did not spend much time in the minors….Ryan Zimmerman and Gordan Beckham come immediately to mind. Not sure what you can infer from these examples though.

Because if you bring up a 19 year old kid by the time he hits his prime he’ll have hit free agency and will sign a 10 year contract with the Cubs or Yankees or someone. Controlling players in their prime and getting the most out of them is what the minor league system is all about.

Wow, that’s awesome. thanks! Zimmerman seems like he has just recently turned into what he has been expected to turn into. Don’t know about Beckham though.

MARK, I’d like to know if you support replacing Gregor Blanco with Greg Norton. If the lackluster energy of Garrett Anderson is aggrivating, watching Greg Norton ground into a double play or strike out for the pitcher late in the game is a complete momentum killer. Throw in the fact that Norton is not valuable in the field, and I’m astonished that the Braves are unwilling to give the quicker, younger and more energetic Blanco the job off the bench as a fifth outfielder.
I’m glad that Brooks Conrad hasnt been overlooked in the same way. Just because Blanco has options doesnt mean he should bounce back and forth, forced to feel expendable rather than fired up to be a sparkplug off the bench for a competing team.
Blanco’s stats (8 for 43) arent attractive, but its all relative when comparing him to the Norton’s .098 (4 for 41).

Mark any word on when the game will resume? I would really like to watch Heyward play…haven’t really gotten to watch him since spring training. Canizares seemed to have a very nice at-bat there in the 1st.

Man. It’s going to be hard to keep Brooks Conrad out of the lineup every day.

From Joe Posnanski: “On April 18, 2008, Conor Jackson led off with a triple against the great Greg Maddux.

Next time up, he homered off Maddux. So, now, he HAD to be thinking cycle.

Next time up, he singled off Maddux. So here it was, he only needed the double for the cycle. Seriously, how often is Conor Jackson going to hit for the cycle in his career?

Fourth time up, facing Maddux one more time, he hit a long fly ball to center. Understand, the Diamondbacks were already leading 7-0 ? and the hit scored another run so really the score was 8-0 ? and Conor Jackson tore around the bases. He got to second base and ? he kept going. And he got his second triple of the game.

?Yeah, I thought about it,? Jackson told reporters afterward as quoted in the Arizona Republic. ?I?m not going to lie ? of course it crossed my mind. But one out and a runner on third is pretty appealing, I think, for Mark Reynolds.?

Now, THAT GUY is either the world?s greatest team player or, well, something.”

I bet Conrad would do the same thing.

bravomania, I definately agree! He has come up and really impressed …if they send him down when omar infante comes back I think I will be rather disappointed.

Still no word on when the game will resume…It’s still pouring here and from what I understand, it might continue to do so for at least another 30 minutes…in response to the Blanco vs. Norton issue, when I look at Blanco’s results, I basically see what I expected…when I look at Norton’s numbers, I don’t necessarily see them as being indicative of what he could provide during the season’s second half. Last year Norton hit .232 during the season’s first half and .323 in the second half…As soon as I attempt to formulate the argument that getting regular at-bats with Gwinnett will help Norton, I remember that he had plenty of Spring Training at-bats that didn’t help him when he recorded 1 hit in 15 April at-bats this year…Really this simply came down to the fact that Cox has always shown tremendous patience with veteran players. If this doesn’t work over the course of the next couple of weeks, they can still bring Blanco back. They wouldn’t have had that option if they’d simply said goodbye to Norton.

It’s just a rare thing. And pretty cool. Trivia.

Haha, awesome story PWH. I dont understand the obsession with the cycle. I would much rather my guy hit 3 home runs and a single than hit for the cycle. I say good on jackson in that scenario, A game with a homer, two triples and a single is more productive than hitting for the cycle. Logically, it is idiotic how much we value the cycle, sure its kinda cool, but people often have more productive games

I hope brooks stays, and we send norton down when infante is back. I agree with not keeping blanco on the roster, am not a fan

Yes the cycle is neat to see happen…but to me the only way I am truely impressed by it is if the homerun portion is a inside the park homerun. I may sound a little picky but that is much more impressive to me.

Gregor Blanco became a player of favor for me when I watched him hit triples and race around the outfield while playing with his native Venezuelans, a team that had a place for him. His performance against the Phillies, combining with Martin Prado to win the game for the Braves, showed his ability. Gregor is a young player who, I think, will improve on his performance in the Majors given more time. Comments in this article mentioned how some players could get better if they face more Major League pitching, rather than Minor League talent, and I believe Blanco can turn the corner if groomed in the Majors, rather than being the default 4-A centerfielder that can’t get a break.
In hindsight, Blanco should have been on the roster opening day, with Josh Anderson in center, and Jordan being the kind of player who DOES need more time in the Minors.

So you were in favor of using Blanco over Diaz as the 4th OF? If not, whose place on the roster does Blanco take? Norton? Norton had hit ~.315 in pinch-hitting appearances the previous season. David Ross? No back-up catcher? Infante? Prado? No, no matter what the CF situation was, unless Gregor won the job out of ST there was no place for him.

Did anyone else know other than me that Moylan would give up two runs? I knew he would blow it as soon as I saw him come in. Of course we can’t really blame him for everything considering we decided to play little league baseball in the 7th.

Forgot to mention that Heyward’s dad told me that Jason sent him a text saying that he definitely caught that ball that was ruled a trap way back in the top of the first inning…The four-hour-plus delay is over. None of these innings will start after 7:30 p.m. ET.

Where was Soriano today? The Rocks bring in their closer for the 9th and Cox sends in a kid who has never thrown a pitch in the majors. What a frustrating team! Uuggghh…

Well, at some point the Braves are going to have to win some games without throwing the same relievers out there day in and day out.

I have to agree with Heyward that he caught that ball. Thought it was a little strange he was batting 8th. Also strange that Baseball America came out with the mid-season prospect rankings and nothing has been said about them. It’s a little frustrating since Heyward is #1.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

We just didn’t get starters deep enough into games during the Rockies series. Hanson went 5 innings, Lowe and Jurrjens both went 6, and Medlen just 4+. Additionally, Kawakami had only gone 6 in the final game of the Cubs series. Vazquez was the last starter to give us 7 innings (in the second game of the Cubs series). That eventually caught up with us today. O’Flaherty was pitching in his 4th straight game. Acosta was pitching in his 3rd straight game. Had the Braves used Soriano that would have been his 3rd straight game. Tough loss to take since we held a lead for nearly the entire game, but I’d rather us use Valdez even if it cost us today rather than running out Soriano in a tie game where using him would not guarantee a win anyways.
http://tomatalk.mlblogs.com/

Tomatalk: that’s a good point, and here’s another thing for folks to remember … we don’t hit the ball well at all, and this by its nature forces the BP to get used a lot. When you don’t have a lot of blowout games either way, your front-line bullpen guys are gonna get used a lot.

That’s why it’s silly to look at any one facet of a team and say it’s completely to blame for a lack of success — it all connects together and you have to look at the big picture.

Improve the offense and I would argue the BP issues will recede a bit as well.

My concern with the bullpen is not so much the players,but I am concerned about Bobby’s use of them.Could someone explain to me why Bobby had Logan start the inning and after he struck out the first batter which was a lefty,he replaced him with Acosta to pitch to a lefthander?The next 2 out of 3 next batters were lefthanded.I don’t understand why he made the change and with a lead at this point it seems he would have used Valdez instead of Acosta.He going to pitch poor Peter to death.

Peter Moylan should be demoted ASAP. God he stinks.
Batters are hitting .272 against him. Why does Cox keep putting him out there?

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