Results tagged ‘ Matt Lipka ’

Odds and ends: Heyward, Teheran, etc.

Before I get married this weekend and enjoy both a Hawaiian honeymoon and Steelers Super Bowl victory next week, I’m providing this entry full of some things I’ve heard or discussed over the past week. 

Heyward update: There didn’t seem to be much reason for concern when Jason Heyward said Wednesday that he still doesn’t have full range of motion in the left thumb that he injured in May.

“I don’t have any pain in it, but I still don’t have the full range of motion in it,” Heyward said. “I still can’t bend it anywhere close to where it was before.  I don’t know if I ever will be able to do that.  But I know it’s not holding me back from hitting.”

If he were a professional thumb wrestler, there might be some concern about Heyward’s limited range of motion.  But given that he’s still happy with the career choice he’s made at the ripe age of 21, it should simply be comforting to hear him say he’s able to swing the bat in a pain-free manner. 

Teheran, a sleeper for fifth spot?:  Two weeks ago, the Braves informed Julio Teheran that he was invited to attend his first big league camp this year.  This wasn’t a surprise.  Nor was it surprising to see the 20-year-old right-hander listed among MLB.com’s 10 best prospects. 

Teheran is one of the finest pitching prospects to ever pass through the Braves organization and they certainly don’t have any plans to rush his development. 

But based on what they’ve seen from him, there are some members of the Braves organization who believe Teheran will make it difficult for them to determine when or maybe even if they should send him to back to Minor League camp. 

Given that Teheran has had one injury-free professional season, which consisted of just 142 innings, there is very little reason to believe the Braves would begin the season with him in the Majors.  But the fact that they are at least anticipating that he will make them debate the possibility gives you a better idea about how special this kid could be.

Wishing the best for Pete: It was nice to catch up with Pete Van Wieren this week and even better to hear him say that doctors are optimistic as he nears what is scheduled to be his final round of chemotherapy treatment.  His final treatment is scheduled for Feb. 7.  

Van Wieren has been undergoing these treatments once every three weeks since learning in October that he would have to once again battle against cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma.  He battled this same condition around this time last year. 

It was discouraging to hear Van Wieren say that he won’t make it down for any portion of Spring Training this year.  But it was encouraging to learn, the proud grandfather is planning to take the grandchildren to Disney during the early days of April.

The treatments have weakened him to some degree.  But it was still great to hear the excitement in his voice when he spoke about being able to play poker and watch baseball again some time soon. 

Wide-eyed Minor Leaguers: The Braves seemed quite pleased with how their first Rookie Development Program went last week.  It was cool to see how the Minor Leaguers reacted while listening to the motivational speeches delivered by John Schuerholz and then Bobby Cox. 

I just wish I would have been in the room when the young kids looked up and saw Hank Aaron just walking through the middle of the clubhouse.  It was an unplanned part of the program.  Aaron was simply making his exit after completing an early-morning workout.

It was nice to get to talk to some of these prospects and put a face to a name.  Matt Lipka had a stronger frame than I envisioned when the Braves took him with their first selection in June.  This probably had something to do with the tales about the success he enjoyed as an All-State wide receiver in Texas. 

Lipka has spent the past couple of months working out a gym owned by former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.  He has added some upper body mass and focused on maintaining the speed that proved so appealing to baseball scouts last year. 

Out of all the players the Braves worked out at Turner Field before last year’s Draft, there was just one that proved to be faster than Lipka. 

His name is Kyle Wren, the son of Braves general manager Frank Wren.  Kyle is projected to serve as Georgia Tech’s starting centerfielder as a true freshman this year. 

Catch you in a couple weeks.    
  

Updates regarding McLouth and Lipka

Before getting this afternoon’s series finale against the D-backs started, here are a few updates from the clubhouse and the Draft.

Nate McLouth said he still had a pretty painful headache this morning.  The Braves will test him later today to determine whether he suffered a concussion when he hit his head after colliding with Jason Heyward during last night’s eighth inning. 

Heyward appeared to suffer a bruised right shin when he clipped McLouth and caused him to flip over and land hard on the outfield grass.   Before taking the field for batting practice this morning, the 20-year-old right fielder was wearing a bandage on his right shin.   

Matt Lipka has agreed to an $800,000 signing bonus and will report to the Braves Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Monday.    Lipka, an athletic shortstop out of suburban Dallas’ McKinney High School, was the first player (35th overall selection) taken by the Braves in this year’s Draft. 

The Braves have also signed their seventh-round selection Matt Suschak.  The right-handed pitcher out of the University of Toledo will report to the club’s Rookie Level club in Danville on Monday. 

TODAY’S LINEUP 

Prado 4

Heyward 9

Jones 5

Glaus 3

Escobar 6

Infante 7

Ross 2

Cabrera 8

Hanson 1

Lipka gives the Braves the speed they need

Surprised that Bryce Bentz fell into their laps, I figured the Braves would take him with the 35th overall selection in this year’s Draft.  But like many other clubs, they found an option more appealing than the East Tennessee State outfielder. 

With Bentz, the Braves would have landed a proven college hitter who possesses some of the power potential they need to integrate into their Minor League system.  With Matt Lipka, they gained an athletic shortstop who possesses speed, an asset that an 18-year-old kid isn’t going to suddenly develop.

Young prospects can mature into a power hitter and correct the mechanics of their swing.  But they aren’t going to suddenly have the kind of top-notch speed that Lipka already possesses.    

A two-time All-State wide receiver in Texas’ Class 4-A system, Lipka will likely eventually become a center fielder.  Clocked at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash, he will be groomed to be the leadoff hitter that the Braves haven’t been able to develop since some 19 or 21-year-old kid named Rafael Furcal arrived in Atlanta in 2000.  

When I asked Lipka about his offensive stats tonight, he asked me if I wanted his football or baseball numbers.  Then when he told me he hit eight triples this year, he made sure to let me know that he attempted to alter his offensive approach this year to help highlight his speed.

For more about Lipka, click here to read some thoughts from him and Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio.

When the Draft starts up again tomorrow at noon on MLB.com, the Braves will have the third pick (53rd overall).  They will have another second-round pick (70th overall) and a third-round pick to give them four of the Draft’s first 101 selections. 

Look for the Braves to continue attempting to stockpile some offensive players with these selections.  But you can bet they’ll also attempt to take advantage of a Draft loaded with right-handed pitchers. 

West Virginia’s Jedd Gyorko is still available and I’m not mentioning his name yet again simply because he’s a fellow native of the Mountain State.  Gyorko is a proven hitter who I’ve heard compared to Boston’s Kevin Youkilis.

Bentz ended up going to the Red Sox with the 36th overall selection. 

During Tuesday’s selections, you’re almost guaranteed to see the selections of some players who will be playing in Atlanta within the next few years.  Brian McCann was the third player (behind Jeff Francoeur and Dan Meyer) selected by the Braves in the 2002 Draft.  And of course Tommy Hanson went in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft, when teams could select prospects and evaluate them over the course of the next year before signing them.

Postgame quotes: After Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss to the D-backs, Bobby Cox said Derek Lowe hadn’t pitched as bad as his line (4 IP, 8H, 7 ER) might indicate.   But at the end of the day, Lowe couldn’t escape the fact that he needed 96 pitches to complete those four innings.

The Braves fell behind 7-1 through four innings and then battled back to cut the deficit to just three runs.  They utilized three ninth-inning walks to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.  But Chad Qualls found his command just in time to get Yunel Escobar to ground into a game-ending double play.  

(Derek Lowe on his outing)

“I’ve pitched a lot worse and given up seven runs.  It started off in the first inning where they hit one ball in the air and ended up scoring two runs.  It was just part of it.  Who knows what happened in the fourth (inning)…It wasn’t good.”

(Cox on Lowe’s outing)

“He’s a sinkerballer that had one of those nights where everything was hit just right, not hard, but we couldn’t make plays for him…He wasn’t hit hard.  A hundred pitches in four innings tells you something. You’ve got to get more strikes.”

(Eric Hinske on the offense)

“We kind of had (Dan) Haren where we wanted.  We had his pitch
count up pretty good.  We just couldn’t keep any runs off the board. 
Sometimes it goes that way.   It was a good team effort to get his
pitch count up and try to get to their bullpen.  But a six-run deficit is
kind of hard to come back from sometimes.  We’ll put it behind us and come
back tomorrow.  It’s just one loss in a four-game set.”

The Braves will send Kris Medlen to the mound on Tuesday night to oppose Edwin Jackson.  If they can at least win two of these final three games in Arizona, they’ll head to Minnesota needing to win two of three to secure a winning road trip. 

But if they return to Atlanta having won just five of 11 games on this long road trip, I don’t think there’s would be any reason to consider this trip to have been a disaster. 

Of course they could win each of these final three games in Arizona and feel even better about the current two-game lead they still hold over the Phillies. 

NOTES: It’s interesting that the Braves haven’t promoted Chris Resop and sent Jesse Chavez to the Minors.  Obviously Resop’s trade value is greater as a starter and you have to wonder if the club is concerned about bringing him to the Majors and potentially seeing that value drop…McCann was removed from Monday night’s game to rest his ailing quad.  He should be back in the lineup on Tuesday night…Chipper Jones also expects to return for the second game of this four-game set. 

      

 

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