Results tagged ‘ Kris Medlen ’

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.   

Medlen ready to conquer nerves?

Obviously the biggest question going into tonight’s game against the Giants centers around Kris Medlen and his ability to overcome whatever demons haunted him during the fourth inning of his big league debut last week. 
Because he pitched effectively during the first three innings of last Thursday’s game against the Rockies, I didn’t initially buy into the notion that it was solely nerves that caused him to miss the strike zone with 15 of his 18 fourth-inning pitches.
But I certainly can’t discount the likelihood that all of his nervous energy started working in a negative manner once he threw his first wayward pitch during that forgettable fourth inning.  
From what I have gathered from those who have had the opportunity to watch him rise through the Minor League ranks, Medlen is a pitcher who has always been able to utilize his energetic personality to his advantage.   At the same time, he’s occasionally experienced outings where he suddenly struggles with his control and then regains it a short time later.
The Braves can only hope that Medlen is able to channel his great sense of energy when he once again encounters the expected nerves that will be present tonight, when he faces the challenge of outdueling Tim Lincecum. 
Given that the Blue Jays were leading the Majors in a number of statistical categories, I’d argue that Medlen’s challenge against Lincecum is actually less significant than the one Kenshin Kawakami conquered during last week’s duel against Toronto ace Roy Halladay. 
Medlen likely isn’t going to match the dominance that Kawakami showed with his eight scoreless innings against the Blue Jays last week. 
In fact, fading away from the topic for just a second to admit that my timing was great last Friday afternoon, when I said the Braves will regret the Kawakami signing through the end of the 2011 season, I will say that Kawakami’s effort was the second-best provided by a Braves pitcher this year, trailing only the Opening Day dominance that Derek Lowe showed in Philadelphia. 
But (getting back to the original topic) Medlen says that he’s “super pumped” about tonight’s matchup and he expressed this with more than words.  In fact, once he got done moving his hands in countless directions while talking about tonight’s matchup, I walked away wondering if I was supposed to bunt or hit-and-run.
Francoeur provided opportunity:  When Garret Anderson and Brian McCann returned to the lineup, Jeff Francoeur wasn’t happy about the fact that he was primarily hitting seventh, where he says pitchers were less apt to pitch to him because he had Jordan Schafer and the pitcher’s spot sitting behind him. 
With Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar out of the lineup on Saturday, Francoeur moved up to the sixth spot and responded with a three-hit performance that included four solid at-bats. 
But with Jones, Escobar and Anderson out of Monday afternoon’s lineup, Francoeur didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to show his run-producing skills.   While going hitless in four at-bats, he didn’t advance any of the seven runners who were on base when he came to the plate. 
The frustration he felt while striking out with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning increased during the eighth inning, when he again recorded the first out with runners at first and second base. 
During the early weeks of this season, when it didn’t make much sense to evaluate batting averages, the reason to be encouraged about Francoeur stemmed from the fact that he had eight hits in his first 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position.  
But he has just five hits in his last 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position.   His three-run homer against Mike Hampton on May 1 accounted for the only extra-base hit and three of the nine RBIs he’s compiled during this span.
The Braves will continue to shop Francoeur with the hope of getting some substance in return.  But dealing him isn’t going to solve all of their offensive outfield woes. 
While the corner outfield positions aren’t providing any power, Jordan Schafer has essentially done nothing but spend the past seven weeks providing a solid glove.   In his past 39 games, Schafer has hit .173 with a .298 on-base percentage and 51 strikeouts. 
Schafer’s strikeout total ranks as the fourth-highest in the Majors and comes with the contribution of two homers, which were both provided during the season’s first three games.    Each of the three players with more strikeouts this year   —  Texas’s Chris Davis, Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena and Arizona’s Mark Reynolds  —   have all hit at least 10 homers. 
Looking at internal options, the Braves could give Brandon Jones a chance to play right field.  Jones is hitting .315 with Triple-A Gwinnett.  But he still hasn’t homered in 111 at-bats and from a defensive perspective, he would have to be considered a downgrade in comparison to Francoeur, who can still affect a game with his arm. 
As for the internal center field options, they are limited to Gregor Blanco, Brian Barton and Reid Gorecki  and none of these players provide the Braves much reason to be confident about their ability to fare much better than Schafer. 
But from a developmental standpoint, the Braves have to at least wonder if Schafer’s bright future will become clouded if he continues to provide consistent indication that he’s overmatched at the Major League level. 
Braves general manager Frank Wren has assembled a pitching staff that could take his team into October.  But he currently faces the great challenge of finding a way to minimize some of the same outfield concerns that were present last year.

 

Medlen to start Tuesday

Kris Medlen is going to make his Major League debut when he starts in place of Jo-Jo Reyes against the Rockies on Tuesday night. 

During the six starts he’s made for Triple-A Gwinnett this year, Medlen has gone 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average.   The 23-year-old right-hander  hasn’t allowed a run in his past 19 2/3 innings. 

With these dominant stats, Medlen has provided himself the opportunity to make his Major League debut before Tommy Hanson, who is widely considered the game’s top right-handed prospect.   Hanson, who is 1-3 with 1.99 ERA in seven starts for Gwinnett, is  still expected to be promoted to Atlanta within the next month or two. 

Reyes, who is 0-9 with a 6.58 ERA in his past 18 Major League starts, will now assume a spot in the Braves bullpen.  

Waiting on the boys from Gwinnett

Well it’s good to see a Braves pitching staff producing dominant stats similar to the ones that Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine produced back in the day.  Unfortunately it seems like the some of the guys producing these numbers in Gwinnett County are still a few weeks away from making the 30-mile trek to the organization’s home base in Fulton County. 

In their past 15 games entering Saturday, Triple-A Gwinnett’s starting rotation had posted a 1.17 ERA.  That equates to 11 runs in their past 84 2/3 innings, or one fewer run than Kenshin Kawakami has allowed in his past 9 2/3 innings. 

Tommy Hanson has allowed two earned runs in his past 18 innings and Kris Medlen has totaled 13 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his season ERA to 1.17. Charlie Morton limited Durham to one run and six hits in eight innings on
Friday night.  The lanky right-hander has allowed just three runs in
his past 20 innings.  

Obviously it hasn’t been surprising that the two weakest links in the Atlanta rotation this year have been Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes, who has assured himself of going at least 11 months between Major League victories.

Because the Braves decided to give Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract in January, some might have gained the impression that he could prove to be a difference maker.  But at 33 years-old the Japanese right-hander has provided every indication he’s nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.

But with Hanson and Medlen waiting in the wings, it would be hard to argue how Kawakami could fit in as one of the top five pitchers in the Atlanta rotation over the life of his three-year deal, which runs concurrently with Derek Lowe’s.

As for Reyes, he has shown flashes that he has the capability of being solid third starter.  But as his developmental process continues to grow even longer, the 24-year-old left-hander continues to find ways to extend a losing streak that now extends back to June 23.

With improved control and the development of a solid breaking ball, Reyes possesses almost all of the tools he needs to be a successful big league pitcher.  But he’s still lacks the ever-important ability to overcome adversity. 

As soon as Yunel Escobar botched a second-inning grounder during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies, you could basically see Reyes come unwound.  He then issued a four-pitch walk to the .182-hitting Chris Coste before lobbing Cole Hamels’  swinging bunt into right field.

Should Reyes have let Hamels’ slow roller roll foul?  Should he have simply thrown through Hamels to draw an interference call?  Taking either one of these actions might have provided an immediate solution that would have likely prevented the Phillies from constructing their four-run second inning. 

But mistakes like this are going to occur and Reyes’ most glaring sin proved to be how he reacted to the growing adversity that he faced following Escobar’s error. 

I’m certainly not going to be hypocritical and claim that Morton should have been brought to Atlanta before Reyes.  Because he  was injured most of Spring Training, Morton really wasn’t even an option when Reyes joined the big league rotation on April 18. 

In addition, I was among those who believed Reyes was the better choice because he seemed to be mentally tougher.  But if he struggles on Wednesday against the Mets, Morton should be given a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of May.

Obviously, Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen are the top options available in Gwinnett.  But because they aren’t on the 40-man roster, Morton be given the chance to maintain a rotation spot until one or both of those young right-handers are promoted in June. 

Or Morton could at least fill a rotation spot until Tom Glavine is ready to return in a couple of weeks.

Regardless of how you analyze this, Reyes is running out of opportunities to prove himself.   Despite the fact that he’s improved over the course of the past year, it’s hard to see great potential when you look at the fact that he’s 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in his past 18 appearances (17 starts).

While the Braves have the option to move Reyes back to the Minors, they aren’t exactly in a position where they could do the same with Kawakami.  First of all, he deserves more than five career starts to prove himself and secondly, by doing so the organization would be acknowledging the mistake that they made by giving him the lucrative three-year contract.

Things aren’t exactly going to get any easier for Kawakami when he opposes the Phillies at the homer haven known as Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.   Having allowed five homers during the first 25 2/3 innings of his career, the baseball gods have given him the cruel assignment of making consecutive road starts in the band boxes located in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. 

When I drew the analogy that this would be like sending Appalachian State into Ann Arbor on consecutive weekends, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien reminded me that going into Michigan isn’t much of a challenge now that Rich Rodriguez is coaching there. 

And with that, my day has been made. It’s nice to know that non-West Virginians are now making fun of the man that both the Hatfields and McCoys love to hate.  

      

A tip of the cap to Glavine

Tom Glavine says that he’ll wait at least two weeks before determining if he’ll ever pitch again.  But as he spoke yesterday afternoon, it was hard to ignore the belief that he seemingly already knows his fate. 

In fact, I’m pretty sure he had a pretty good idea after he continued to feel some left shoulder discomfort while throwing his warmup pitches before the third inning of  Sunday’s Minor League rehab start in Mississippi. He chose to wait until Monday to discuss what had happened and how he was feeling. 

This uncharacteristic decision made by one of the most accommodating athletes I’ve ever covered immediately raised red flags.  As for the white flag, you could see it waving in the distance yesterday as Glavine spoke about how he currently considers the glass to be half-empty as opposed to half-full.

Throughout his career, which has included 305 wins and 4413 1/3 innings, Glavine has been an optimistic warrior who has battled through regular shoulder discomfort and other ailments that he’s never revealed. 

Glavine was miserable while experiencing his first three career trips to the disabled list last year.  Still his fighting spirit provided him incentive to attempt to spend one more healthy year in the Majors. 

But for the first time in his career, Glavine is facing the reality that he’s encountered a fight that he can’t win.

“This shoulder has logged a lot of innings,” Glavine said Tuesday. “Sooner or later, it’s going to tell me I can’t do this anymore. I hope this is not what it’s trying to tell me. But I’m prepared if it is.” 
 

If Glavine’s shoulder has indeed reached its physical limitations, we’ll all take time to celebrate the career of the fourth-winningest left-hander in Major League history.  We’ll all remember his two Cy Young Awards and his one-hit gem that clinched the 1995 World Series.

But most importantly, we should never forget that fighting spirit that he carried to the mound.  If he has indeed thrown his final pitch, I’ll never forget the grit he showed while limiting the Rockies to three hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings on April 7 of last year.
 
They announced the gametime temperature to be 41 degrees and by the time the third inning arrived you had gained the sense that the Coors Field concessionaires didn’t truly need to line their Silver Bullets in ice.

Yet during what was likely the last start that he’ll ever make without any concerning aches or pains, Glavine once again showed the grit and competitive nature that Greg Maddux recognized during his own retirement speech in December.

“One of the biggest things I learned pitching with Glavine was to realize you don’t have to be 100 percent to win,” Maddux said. “You have to take the ball and you have to go out there. That’s what he taught me.

“Sometimes it’s really easy to say, ‘I need another day or two.’ But in Atlanta, we pitched. Tommy led the way with that. He showed everybody that if you go out there, if you could throw the ball over the plate, you had a chance to win, no matter how bad you felt.”

When it does indeed come time for Glavine to announce his retirement, he’ll be showered with compliments.  But none will be more fitting than the one provided by Maddux.   

Home Sweet Home:  Whatever happens, Glavine will have the comfort of making his decision while being surrounded by his family and the organization that watched develop into one of the game’s legends. 

We saw the love of hometown fans when Ken Griffey, Jr. was showered with cheers when he came to plate for the first time in Seattle this year. 

On the flip side,  this week we’ve also witnessed how an aging legendary figure will be treated when he’s forced to continue playing in a new environment.   Garret Anderson’s Atlanta debut turned ugly last night when after dropping two foul balls, he found himself hearing boos from some Braves fans. 

Had Anderson still been playing in front of the same Angels fans, who had followed him for the past 14 years, he obviously wouldn’t have received the same treatment. 

But this isn’t a matter of fair or unfair.  It’s simply the reality that a 36-year-old outfielder has to face while introducing himself to a fan base that couldn’t care less what he’s done over the course of the past two decades in southern California.

Hanson Update:
  Javier Vazquez wasn’t the only Braves pitcher who didn’t get much run support last night.  Tommy Hanson suffered his first loss while limiting Durham to three hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings of Triple-A Gwinnett’s 1-0 loss.

Through his first two starts for Gwinnett, Hanson has worked 10 innings, allowed one run, registered 17 strikeouts and issued just four walks.   I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’ll see the big redhead in Atlanta some time in May.

As mentioned yesterday, it probably won’t be long until Kris Medlen also makes his way to Atlanta to fortify the bullpen.  I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll just say that the young right-hander is off to a good start during this afternoon’s start against Durham.

You can follow Medlen’s progress today on  Gameday.

Also forgot to mention you can now follow me on Twitter @mlbbravesscribe 

Francoeur catches a big one

Unable to take batting practice because of a potential rainstorm that never arrived, the Braves spent the past couple of hours rehearsing for the inevitable long rain delays that await them this year. 

Jeff Francoeur grabbed a fishing pole and threw his line into a pond that is located just outside the visitor’s clubhouse here at Osceola County Stadium and came away with 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass, that was slightly bigger than Kris Medlen.

Speaking of Medlen, he’s going to pitch tonight and attempt to once again put himself in position to grab one of the final bullpen spots.   His candidacy was tarnished on Friday when he allowed the Blue Jays three runs  —  two earned — and three hits in 1 1/3 innings. 

Medlen’s odds of beginning the season in Atlanta might have already been diminished earlier today, when Rafael Soriano enjoyed a pain-free bullpen session at Disney.  The right-handed reliever will pitch here at Francoeur’s Fishing Preserve on Thursday, when the Braves conclude their Grapefruit League season against the Triple-A Astros.

Chipper Jones ended tonight’s top of the first by looking at a called third strike thrown by Russ Ortiz.  Unfortunately, the Astros found it difficult to swing and miss anything that Derek Lowe threw them during the bottom of the first inning. 

When Lowe exits tonight, Peter Moylan and Mike Gonzalez are scheduled to pitch.  There no longer seems to be reason to wonder whether Moylan will be in the bullpen when the season starts on Sunday night.

“I’m sick of reading the Braves remain hopeful that Moylan will be ready,” Moylan said. “I’m going to be ready.”

Garret Anderson is getting his first opportunity to test his right calf as an outfielder tonight.  Thanks to the fact that Lowe’s sinker didn’s sink too much during the first inning, the veteran outfielder has already had to do some running.

When Brian McCann returns to the lineup on Wednesday, he might be wearing a suit of armor.  A foul tip bruised the All-Star catcher’s right ring finer on Saturday and then when he returned to action on Monday, a foul ball left a nasty bruise just above his right knee.

 
francoeur.jpg 

Kawakami scratched

This is essentially the same blog as the one that I posted earlier. But with the revelation that Kenshin Kawakami has been scratched from tonight’s start because of right shoulder fatigue, I’m adding this top.

Javier Vazquez will start in his place.  Vazquez, who pitched against the U.S. on Saturday, will be pitching on regular rest. 

I’ll provide more details when I come back upstairs.  Kawakami is expected to talk to the media at 4:30 p.m. ET.

(NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL BLOG)

So I sent some of the guys a text this morning to find out who they
were picking to win the NCAA tourney.  Always the prompt professional,
Tom Glavine quickly revealed that he’s predicting Louisville to emerge
victorious in a Final Four field that will also include Memphis, Pitt
and North Carolina.

A few minutes later, Jeff Francoeur said
that he believes that UNC or Louisville will win it all.  Then John
Smoltz attempted to have some fun by saying that his Michigan State
Spartans, West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt will participate in the
Final Four. 

Smoltz knows how much I dislike both Pitt and
Syracuse (primarily for the crime Marvin Graves committed during a 1992
game in Morgantown).  As an MSU fan, I guess he couldn’t bring himself
to truly make my blood boil with mention of that Ann Arbor school that
currently employs that once highly-regarded football coach. 

After
enjoying his laugh, Smoltz revealed his true Final Four prediction
consists of UNC, Villanova, MSU and Memphis.  Respecting my elders, I
wouldn’t have called him if Cal St. Northridge had held on to win their
first-round matchup against Memphis.

Now that we’ve all finished
our bracket selections, it’s time to look at some of the tough roster
decisions the Braves have to make.  By the time I take this laptop back
to Atlanta in two weeks, we may have a better idea about who will begin
the season as the starting center fielder.

Based on what I’ve
seen, Jordan Schafer has clearly established himself as the
front-runner in this competition.  The 22-year-old prospect is the best
defensive option and his speed/power capabilities make him more
attractive in the leadoff spot than Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco.

But
some guys who have been around this game much longer than I have seem
to think Schafer could benefit from the opportunity to spend some more
time in the Minors.  From a business perspective, this would help the
Braves, who don’t want to start his arbitration-eligible clock any
earlier than necessary. 

Anderson is certainly capable of
handling the position and the role of leadoff hitter.  The fact that
he’s out of options also aids his bid to win this position battle.  But
I’ve also been told not to eliminate Gregor Blanco, who has spent the
past couple of weeks with Venezuela in the WBC. 

With Tom
Glavine not needed until April 18, I’m expecting the Braves will begin
the season with eight relievers.   Assuming Peter Moylan is healthy and
Cox is comfortable with the fact that he might not be available for
back-to-back appearances during the early weeks of the season: I’d say
the early bullpen locks are: Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Moylan,
Blaine Boyer, Eric O’Flaherty and Boone Logan. 

Jeff Bennett,
Manny Acosta, Jorge Campillo, Buddy Carlyle, Kris Medlen will be
battling for one of those final two spots.   My expectation is that at
least one of these hurlers will be traded. 

Also with Jo-Jo
Reyes pitching well, there’s seemingly less reason to send Campillo to
Triple-A Gwinnett to remain conditioned as a starter.  So I would have
to say, I’m guessing Campillo begins the season in Atlanta.

With
Bennett and Acosta available the final spot, it also would make sense
to let Medlen gain more seasoning as a starter at the Triple-A level.  
But I think we’ll be seeing him in Atlanta at some point this year. 

The Braves haven’t announced tonight’s lineup yet. I’ll post it in the comments section later.

In
case you were wondering, my Final Four predictions are West Virginia,
Oklahoma, Missouri and Pitt.  But when WVU plays my alma mater tomorrow
at 3 p.m., you better believe that I’ll be pulling for Dayton.      

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