Results tagged ‘ Brandon Jones ’

Back to life and back to reality

Nate McLouth provided an immediate upgrade and he’ll undoubtedly prove to be an asset to the Braves over the course of the next few years.  But as we’ve seen through the first week of his career in Atlanta, his five-tool talents aren’t great enough to serve as the solution to his new team’s offensive woes. 

When the Braves were shutout during the first two games of the McLouth era, they opted to move their new center fielder into the leadoff spot and magically they found themselves scoring 19 runs during a three-game span that began on Sunday.

But stealing a line from the old Soul II Soul song, the final two games of the Pirates series brought the Braves back to life and back to reality..
 
When the Braves prevented Tommy Hanson from losing his debut on Sunday, they (or Chipper Jones specifically) took advantage of Manny Parra, who has an 11.90 ERA in his past four starts,  and an over-taxed Brewers bullpen.
   
The majority of Monday’s seven-run uprising came at the expense of Zach Duke, who was charged with six runs and 11 hits in six innings.  But this was nothing new for the Braves.  Back in April, when Brian McCann couldn’t see, they actually pounded the left-hander with 12 hits and six runs in six innings.
 
Then Wednesday night, they botched the opportunity that was provided when Charlie Morton’s early exit prompted the impromptu entrance of Jeff Karstens, who had suffered the loss during  Monday’s 15-inning marathon with an 18-pitch outing.
 
With a quick rebound, Karstens allowed one run over 4 1/3 innings and set the stage for Paul Maholm, who allowed one unearned run over seven innings on Thursday afternoon.  Maholm till hasn’t surrendered an earned run in the 14 innings he’s tossed against Atlanta this year.
 
“I thought Maholm pitched another great game, but, we’re saying that too much in here,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. 

Chipper Jones said that Thursday was actually a day when the Braves justifiably had to tip their caps to Maholm.
 
While respecting Jones’ opinion, I’m sticking with Cox and holding the belief that Mike Hampton likely would have already damaged his wrist if he had to tip his hat as frequently as the Braves hitters have this year. 

While hitting .224 on this recently-completed nine-game homestand, the Braves were limited to two runs or fewer five times.  Making matters worse is that they went winless in the four games that their starters allowed two runs or fewer. 

Over the course of the past nine games, the Braves starters allowed 26 earned runs and posted a 3.90 ERA.  Take away Tommy Hanson’s debut and that ERA drops to 3.33. Regardless, either way you look at it, this span should have included more than four wins.

While the Braves were able to at least enhance their feeble outfield production with the acquisition of McLouth, they’ll need to do much more to make the necessary improvements to a lineup that still relies too heavily on the production of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. 

” If (Brian McCann) isn’t playing and I go O-fer, we’re in trouble,” Jones said. “If I’m not playing and Mac goes O-fer, we’re in trouble.”  

While there was no doubt that this lineup would be centered around Jones and McCann, the Braves obviously were counting on more from Garret Anderson and Jeff Francoeur, whose fourth-inning single on Thursday provided him just his fourth hit in his past 31 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
 
Anderson is who he’s always been minus the power that he displayed during the early years of this decade.   When they signed him, the Braves knew about the fact that he’s a far from vibrant personality.  But it’s safe to say that they envisioned him hitting better than .254 with a .373 slugging percentage through his first 40 games.
 
Anderson’s struggles have only magnified those of Francoeur, whose .621 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) is actually 32 points lower than the mark he produced during last year’s disappointing campaign. 

Courtesy of the disappointing statistics he’s produced over the past two years, Francoeur has been forced to face the reality that he’s subject to regular criticism. 

While being one of the many who have been critical of his production, I would certainly never question Francoeur’s determination and passion for the game. He’s still the same great kid that arrived on the scene four years ago. But he’s currently not the same great player we had envisioned. 

As things currently stand, it’s tough to envision Francouer being back with the Braves beyond this season.  But at the same time, it’s not like Frank Wren is going to his team’s outfield woes by trading him.

While there’s still a chance that the Braves could deal Francoeur at some point this season, they certainly aren’t going to do so until they have somebody capable of filling the right field position.
 
Thoughts of Matt Diaz playing right field every day are erased by the reality that Anderson isn’t capable of playing left field on an everyday basis.  Plus with Jordan Schafer and Brandon Jones currently ailing, I don’t see any other internal options developing any time soon. 

So with limited available funds, the Braves will continue to evaluate the trade market with the hope that it produces a solution before it’s too late. 

To get the return that they are seeking, they will have to supply something significant.  While dealing Javier Vazquez would provide the opportunity to gain some financial breathing room, the Braves may be reluctant to deal him before having a better feel about what they could expect from Tim Hudson during the season’s final two months and next year. 

Without a suitable replacement, it’s also tough to envision trading Yunel Escobar.  But for every sensational contribution the shortstop provides, he seems to further bother his teammates by habitually committing mental mistakes and displaying the flashy personality that infuriates opponents and umpires.    

Wren’s task isn’t an easy one.  But as it becomes harder for him to watch his anemic offense there’s certainly reason to believe he’ll be further motivated to improve it.      

Will it be Minor or White?

When I called B.B. Abbott this morning, I jokingly asked him if his Draft party was going to be similar to the ones that Drew Rosenhaus throws for his top prospective NFL clients.

Before he could even provide an answer, he received another call from a scout and provided every indication that he’s among the many agents, who are going to be swamped today while fielding calls from clubs that are investigating the signability of the players they’re advising. 

Based on what I’ve seen from the video that MLB.com has provided, it’s a shame that the Braves likely won’t have the opportunity to grab Zach Wheeler, the lanky right-hander from suburban Atlanta’s East Paulding High School. 

Instead while serving as Wheeler’s advisor, Abbott is likely to find himself negotiating a bonus with either the Orioles or Giants, who are selecting directly in front of the Braves, who will be making the seventh overall pick tonight. 

If Wheeler is gone, the Braves could grab the University of North Carolina’s Alex White, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who some consider to be the second-best collegiate pitching prospect behind Stephen Strasburg.

But within his final Mock Draft, MLB.com’s Draft guru, Jonathan Mayo predicts that Braves director of scouting Roy Clark will pass on taking a fellow Tar Heel and instead grab Mike Minor, a left-hander from Vanderbilt University.

Take a look at these videos to make your own comparisons between Minor and White.

I’m going with what Mayo projects because as Clark said yesterday, “Jonathan really knows his stuff.”

While heading the Braves scouting department since 2000, Clark has gained a strong reputation as being one of the game’s top talent evaluators. 

With his contract expiring at the end of this year, the Braves will need to do whatever possibile to keep him and consequently prolong the link to Paul Snyder, the great scout who was instrumental to the rebirth of their organization during the late 1980s.

While doing some research on Garret Anderson last week, I learned that that Angels took him with the 125th overall selection in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft.  With their fourth-round selection coming 22 picks earlier, the Braves grabbed an outfielder named Johnny Walker. 

This leads me to wonder if Clark and his staff started sipping some Johnnie Walker after grabbing Chipper Jones with the first overall pick that year. 

Speaking of Jones, the dude is currently on fire.  When he singled in the fifth inning last night, it marked the eighth consecutive plate appearance during which he reached safely.  It also made him 6-for-6 since encountering that dizzy spell on Saturday night.

Last week, Jones said that the summer would make Turner Field more suitable to the Braves offense and once again his words have proven prophetic.  Since totaling eight homers during their first 22 home games, the Braves have hit 10 homers during their past seven game at The Ted. 

It was encouraging  to see Kris Medlen allow just one hit over three scoreless innings and notch the win last night.  It seems like the rookie hurler has overcome those nerves that marred his first two career starts and he now finds himself in a position where he could prove to be a key reliever during the rest of this season.

When we’ve talked about making trades that take advantage of a particular area of strength, we’ve been referencing moves like the Pirates made last week when they dealt Nate McClouth to the Braves with the confidence that Andrew McCutchen would be capable of handling their center field duties.

While recording two triples and finishing about 15 feet short of the homer he needed to record a cycle during Monday four-hit performance, McCutchen certainly had to calm the emotions of those Pirates fans who were furious last week when they learned that McLouth had been dealt.  

With his talent, McCutchen isn’t going to be one of those speed demons like Emilio Bonifacio, who energized the Marlins lineup for about a week before falling victim to Major League scouting reports.

Those same reports, which also played a part in Jordan Schafer’s struggles,  will soon start to affect McCutchen. But from what I saw last night and during Spring Training, my dad and friends might want to stop bashing the trade and simply enjoy the fact that they’ve still got a potential superstar in center field.     

Speaking of Schafer, he felt some discomfort in his left wrist during a swing on Friday night and was evaluated by a doctor on Monday.  I should have some more information tonight, when the Braves may also reveal the results of the MRI exam Brandon Jones underwent with the hope of finding out what is causing his left knee discomfort.   

Is Griffey truly the best fit?

Many of the Braves have publicly endorsed the idea of signing Ken Griffey, Jr. to serve in a left field platoon with Matt Diaz.  But others have privately wondered whether “The Kid” would truly be their best fit. 

Because of his respect for Bobby Cox, Griffey likely won’t have any problem with temporarily ending those days of turning his hat around and wearing earrings while on the field. 

But these are just a couple of the Griffey-related minor issues that the Braves have to worry about while wondering whether signing the outfielder would create a negative clubhouse distraction.

As one of six Major Leaguers to reach the 600-homer plateau, Griffey is indeed one of the true legends of the game.  In fact the belief that he’s never used any illegal performance-enhancing substances lead me to consider him to be the greatest player of this generation. 

This obviously leads me to wonder if he truly could remain happy while serving in a platoon role over the course of an entire season.  But at 39 years-old, it might be time for him to realize his statistics prove that it’s time to make this concession.

Over the course of the past three seasons, Griffey has hit .284 with 53 homers and an .886 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers.  In 444 fewer at-bats against left-handers during this span, he’s hit .216 with 22 homers and a .689 OPS. 

While Griffey undoubtedly seems to be the best left-handed option in a left field platoon, his presence would certainly complicate matters for the other younger left-handed-hitting  outfielders  — –  Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones –  who could also fill that role. 

Anderson is out of options and because of this he’ll be given every opportunity to win the starting job in center.  If he does win this job, Griffey would likely occasionally spell him in center.  The way the roster currently stands, this would also likely mean that Jones, Blanco and Schafer would all begin this season in the Minors. 

There’s no doubt that Jones, Blanco and Schafer could benefit from additional seasoning at the Minor League level.  But Schafer certainly has the potential to be Major League-ready early in the season and it would be a shame if Griffey’s presence blocks his path. 

But with this being said, when this time comes, the Braves will have options.

They could either attempt to pass Anderson through waivers.  Or if the decision to promote Schafer has something to do with Griffey’s performance, they could always decide to part ways with the legendary outfielder, who likely won’t come at a cost of more than $1.5 million.

Given the already-youthful makeup of their roster, I understand why some in the Braves clubhouse are wondering whether it would be best to give some of the young outfielders a chance to prove what they can do at the Major League level. 

But I’m of the mindset that when you have a chance to win now, you do what’s best for the immediate future.  Because of that, Griffey seems to be a bargain gamble that the Braves should make.

- Mark Bowman

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