Monday, September 5, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 9/6/11

This past week represented the final games of the 2011 minor league season for the Empire Staters. Only the rookie-level Danville Braves made it to the playoffs, dropping their three-game series. I will use the next few weeks to draft more in-depth posts on each player to summarize their seasons. Anthony Varvaro's will likely come last, once his time with Atlanta this year is complete. Here's how the group performed over the past week (8/30-9/5)....

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett/MLB - Atlanta)
Varvaro's week came with some good news, as he earned one of the team's September call-ups. Unfortunately, his on-the-field performance this past week didn't quite match-up. He picked-up the loss in both of his late-inning appearances, one with Gwinnett and one with the big league club in Atlanta. The next three weeks will serve as his audition in his battle to make it on to the team's playoff roster. 

This Week (MiLB): 1 G (0-1), I IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 K, 1 BB
This Week (MLB): 1 G (0-1), 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 K, 1 BB
Season (MiLB): 38 G (2-8), 1 SV, 59 IP, 2.90 ERA, 69 K, 35 BB
Season (MLB): 8 G (0-1), 10 IP, 3.60 ERA, 16 K, 7 BB

Chris Cody, LHP (Double A - Mississippi)
Cody finished his last start of the season with his first complete game of the year. He continued his low strikeout and low walk numbers, notching just two K and one BB in a full nine innings.  

This Week: 1 G (1-0), 9 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 2 K, 1 BB
This Season: 6 G (3-1), 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 20 K, 8 BB

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Braves Status Report: 136 Games (81-55)

This is the first status report since mid-August, as I was busy celebrating the Braves win over the Cubs in Chicago this time last week. All the team did over the past two weeks was go 8-3 with series victories over the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Nats, with a Hurricane Irene shortened trip to Citi Field in Queens mixed in. The Braves did it in "mid-season" form, as well, with an average-at-best (and home run dependent) offense and impressive pitching.

As the calendar turned to September, Frank Wren began preparing the team for the playoffs. Atlanta owns a 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis in the Wild Card race with twenty-six games remaining (twenty-five for the Cardinals). Just to put it in perspective, if the Braves go 13-13 to close the season, the Cards would have to go 22-3 to overcome them. With that in mind, the Braves solidified their bench by acquiring both Matt Diaz (from PIT) and Jack Wilson (from SEA) on August 31st. Diaz will serve as an OF/bench bat against LHP, while Wilson becomes the main bench INF glove. The Wilson move also allows Fredi to pinch-hit for offensively-challenged Alex Gonzalez in close late game situations without having to worry about sacrificing much defense. Catcher JC Boscan and RHP Anthony Varvaro were called up from Gwinnett Thursday with roster expansion, giving the team more flexibility, and we can expect to see Peter Moylan, Julio Teheran, and Randall Delgado soon. Don't be surprised if Wilkin Ramirez and/or Brandon Hicks also get the call.

As Atlanta welcomes the Dodgers for the three-game series at Turner beginning Friday, followed by three games against the the Phillies and a double-header Thursday at the Mets, starting pitching remains the concern. Tommy Hanson was diagnosed with a small rotator cuff tear, which was then described as normal 'wear and tear.' The Braves hope he'll be back for the playoffs, but who knows. Jair Jurrjens was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his knee Thursday and prospects for his return looks slim. Atlanta has plenty of talented options to fill-in with Minor, Teheran and Delgado, but the three have made just fourteen starts this season (Minor having ten of them).

Now on to what you've all been waiting for (right?...right?), this past two week's 'cheers' and 'jeers'...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 8/30/11

As the 2011 minor league season enters it's final week, the Empire Staters offered some mixed results over the past seven days. While next week should bring the final regular update, I will plan on doing a 'Season Review' for each player shortly after that last post. But let's enjoy the few games that remain! Here's how the group performed over the past week (8/23-8/29)...

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett)
While Varvaro tends to be a near-lock for two appearances each week, the right-hander saw time in just one game over the past seven days. The reasoning could be game situational, but it's also possible that the team is keeping his appearances/innings down in preparation for an end of the season call up to Atlanta. The parent team is somewhat weak(er) from the right side of the pen, so Varvaro could serve as a valuable addition to that group come September.

Week: 1 G (0-0), 2 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 0 H, 2 K, 1 BB
Season (MiLB): 37 G (2-7), 1 SV, 58 IP, 2.79 ERA, 68 K, 34 BB
Season (MLB):7 G (0-0), 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 16 K, 6 BB

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Braves at Cubs: Gameday Photos and Trip Recap

With Hurricane Irene causing the postponement of Saturday and Sunday's games at the Mets (and while I still have power), I thought it worthwhile to post a quick write-up and a few of the pictures from my trip to Wrigley Field for this past Wednesday and Thursday's games. The two games put me at a winning 5-4 for the nine games I was able to attend this season.

If you ever make the trip to Chicago for a Cubs game, I definitely recommend the Hard Rock Hotel. It's a unique place in a great location just a couple blocks from the Red Line to Wrigley. In addition to the games and a tour of Wrigley Field, I made stops at Millennium Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Navy Pier. For food, I enjoyed the Billy Goat Tavern, Gino's East and Ed Debevic's. All great places.

But on to the games... Wednesday's contest looked as if it was going to be a long night when Derek Lowe allowed three runs (two earned) before the end of the second inning. Little did I know that would be the last of the runs the Cubs would score, but it would the be Atlanta offense that wouldn't show up. A couple Braves solo homers (including Chipper's 449th of his career) would make it a close game late, but Chicago prevailed 3-2. The highlight of the game had to be Chip Caray's rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."

Brandon Beachy took the hill for Thursday afternoon's game and did not disappoint. His eight strikeouts (against no walks) were fun to watch and where the offense was near non-existent Wednesday, I was reminded me what it could do: put up eight total runs against Matt Garza and the Chicago bullpen. The day was topped off by Michael Bourn's four hits and Brian McCann's two-home runs. The eight runs helped lead to the 8-3 victory and a series win over the Cubs.

It was a great trip and I hope you enjoy the pictures....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 8/23/11

The Empire Staters made a total of six appearances this past week, so plenty of updates to include. I'm definitely a fan of pitchers/pitching, but I wouldn't mind posting some hitting stats once in a while! In other news, as expected, Braves 2011 50th round pick Kevin McKague did not sign with the team by this past week's deadline. In addition to his Army commitment, McKague still has a year of eligibility left with West Point. Here's how the current group performed over the past seven days (8/16-8/22)...

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett)
Varvaro made his obligatory two appearances this week and his performance made it clear he wishes he was still with the big league club. Reports came out Monday that the Braves would likely bring up seven players with the September call-ups (Teheran, Delgado, catcher and four others). I think Varvaro should have a pretty decent shot at being one of those guys, as Atlanta seems to have a preference for guys with a live arm and high strikeout numbers.

This Week: 2 G (0-0), 3.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 5 K, 0 BB
Season (MiLB): 36 G (2-7), 1 SV, 56 IP, 2.89 ERA, 66 K, 33 BB
Season (MLB): 7 G (0-0), 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 16 K, 6 BB

Chris Cody, LHP (Double A - Mississippi) 
Cody fit in two starts this past week, putting up solid numbers in both. Following his mid-season pick-up by the Braves, he's quietly showing encouraging results in his handful of starts. While his 5.6 K/9 isn't anything great, it looks better when sitting next to his 3.0 K/BB and 1.9 BB/9.

This Week: 2 G (1-0), 13 IP, 5 R (3 ER), 11 H, 1 HR, 8 K, 3 BB
Season: 4 G (2-0), 24 IP, 3.00 ERA, 15 K, 5 BB

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gwinnett at Syracuse, Teheran, Hoover: Gameday Photos

Gwinnett made their annual trip to Syracuse this past week, representing the closest opportunity (2.5 hours) for me to see the team play in person. I was fortunate enough to see Tommy Hanson's last minor league start here in 2009 (perhaps that may be another post sometime soon), but then the two games I was planning on attending last year were both rained out and made up at Gwinnett. Fortunately, this year's series saw some beautiful weather.

There was a chance the Triple A team would have Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and Tyler Pastornicky all at the same time (I saw Mike Minor pitch with Atlanta in June), something I was getting very excited about. But Vizcaino was called up to the bigs to replace Scott Proctor and Pastornicky sprained his ankle the weekend before the series. While I wouldn't see those two, promising prospect JJ Hoover earned the call-up to Gwinnett in the meantime. Delgado was slated to start Tuesday, with Teheran scheduled for I bought tickets for both games. Well, you know what they say about plans of mice and men...Delgado was called up to Atlanta to fill-in for Hanson and promptly took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. So it was Steven Shell for Gwinnett on Tuesday.

Hoover did make a relief appearance on Tuesday, though, and did not disappoint. His 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB line provides some indication of what Braves fans could see within the next year or two at Turner Field. Wednesday was Julio Teheran's turn. After a rough first two or three innings, it looked like it might be a short night for baseball's top pitching prospect. While his curve ball was buckling knees with regularity, he was having issues commanding his fastball. The gun was showing just 91-92 and they were often hit hard when they found the plate. He settled in from the fourth on, sitting at 94-95 (topped out at 96) and breezing through the Syracuse line-up. By the time his night was over, he had earned his thirteenth win with a 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 4 BB performance. Well worth the trip!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Braves Status Report: 125 Games (73-52)

Another week, another winning record for the Braves. After dropping two of three to the lowly Cubs, Atlanta stormed back to pick-up three of four against the defending World Series champion Giants (all by one run). While the Phillies division-lead is still likely untouchable (eight games, pending the PHI-ARI result Thursday night), the series victory over San Fran extended Atlanta's Wild Card lead to an encouraging six games.

Pitching was the story of the past week. Tommy Hanson was placed on the DL earlier in the week, needing more time to rest from his right shoulder tendonitis. He was slated to return next Tuesday, but it was announced that he would miss that start was well. Fortunately, Frank Wren made sure the Braves retained the 'Big 4,' so it was easy enough to call-up Randall Delgado for a spot start. All Delgado did was take a no-hitter into the 7th. Mike Minor, who put up a 6IP/0R/9K line on Thursday, will likely remain with Atlanta to make Hanson's start on Tuesday. Despite the rough patches the starting rotation has hit after the break, there are plenty of young arms to fill-in when necessary.

Following the Giants series, Atlanta begins another match-up with Wild Card implications as they face the Diamondbacks for three games beginning Friday. The team then heads out to Chicago for a four game re-match with the Zambrano-less Cubs. I will be making the trip out to the Windy City for the last two games of that series, so while I won't be posting a Braves Status Report next week, I should have a number of game pictures for your viewing pleasure. Now for this week's 'Cheers' and 'Jeers'....