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'....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 8/16/11

This week's Empire State Braves update includes promotions, options and quality starts. As long as the rain holds off, I will be at Syracuse for the first two games of their series against Gwinnett Tuesday and Wednesday, so I may be able to see one of the Empire Staters in action. Here's how the group performed over the past week (8/9-8/15)....

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (MLB - Atlanta/Triple A - Gwinnett)
It was a busy week for Varvaro, who saw time in four games for two different teams. With Scott Linebrink being activated from the DL for Atlanta on Sunday, Varvaro was optioned back to Gwinnett where he picked up the loss in his first game back with the team. He performed as expected for Atlanta, putting up huge strikeout numbers, worrisome walk rates and an impressive .206 BAA. He has a live arm and could realistically be brought up to Atlanta when rosters expand in September.

This Week (MiLB): 1 G (0-1), 1.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 1 K, 2 BB
This Week (MLB): 3 G (0-0), 2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 HR, 3 K, 0 BB
Season (MiLB): 34 G (2-7), 1 SV, 53.1 IP, 3.10 ERA, 60 K, 32 BB
Season (MLB): 7 G (0-0), 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 16 K, 6 BB

Chris Cody, RHP (Double A - Mississippi)
Cody made his second start of his Braves career this past week, with nothing too noteworthy to report.  His .333 BAA in two starts this season is high, despite solid enough peripheral stats, but I guess it's better to see him around the zone too often at this point than having issues with command.

This Week: 1 G (0-0), 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 K, 2 BB
Season 2 G (1-0), 11 IP, 4.09 ERA, 7 K, 2 BB

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Braves Status Report: 118 Games (69-49)

The Braves reversed their past couple weeks' performance over the last six games, going 5-1 in the two series against the Mets and the Marlins. While Atlanta performed well, they weren't able to make up any ground on the Phillies, who lead the NL East by eight and a half games going into Friday. Even though the division race doesn't look appealing, the successful week did help the team push their Wild Card lead out to five games over the Giants and still own the majors' fourth-best record.

While the team's pitching has propped up the offense nearly the entire season, roles were reversed this past week. Atlanta pitchers were tagged for an uncharacteristic 4.5 R/G (4.42 ERA), but the bats came through with 5.8 R/G and a .291/.363/.419 of the better weeks we've seen all season. The offensive prowess was highlighted by Dan Uggla, who is currently riding a 31 game hitting streak. The month-plus long performance is tied for the longest in Atlanta history and second longest in franchise history. The week also saw the end of Scott Proctor. Despite being a consensus "good guy," he simply no longer has a major-league caliber arm, especially for a potential playoff team. Proctor's release meant Arodys Vizcaino, the last of the 'Big 4' was tapped to begin his tenure with Atlanta. While his debut didn't go as planned (0.2 IP, K, 2 BB, HBP), he immediately improves the 'pen for the remainder of the season.

Atlanta heads back to Turner Field Friday for an extended home stand, beginning a three game series against the Cubs. The team will then take on the defending World Series champion Giants Tuesday for an important four-game match-up. Now for the 'cheers' and 'jeers' for the past week....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 8/9/11

Lots of action this week for the Empire Staters. Anthony Varvaro's still with Atlanta and Chris Cody made his Braves organization debut. Let's see how the group did over the past seven days (8/2-8/8)....

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (MLB - Atlanta)
Varvaro has stuck with Atlanta since his call-up in late July, seeing time in two games this past week. While his strong strikeout numbers and command issues continue, he experienced his first bit of real trouble with the major league club Saturday against the Mets at Citi Field. He won't be a late-inning bullpen candidate until he figures how to control his walks, but he's proven to be a useful arm in his limited appearances so far.

This Week: 2 G (0-0), 3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 5 K, 3 BB
Season (MLB): 4 G (0-0), 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 13 K, 6 BB
Season (MiLB): 33 G (2-6), 1 SV, 50.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 59 K, 30 BB

Chris Cody, LHP (Double A - Mississippi)
Cody made his first start as a Brave and was comfortably effective in his outing. It will be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the season, but with the organization's relative lack of left-handed starting pitching depth in the high minors (outside of Mike Minor), he should certainly have the opportunity to advance going into next season.

This Week: 1 G (1-0), 6 IP, 2 ER, 9 H, 1 HR, 5 K, 0 BB
Season: 1 G (1-0), 6 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 K, 0 BB

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Braves at Mets: Gameday Photos

I made the trip downstate for Saturday's Braves-Mets game, sitting 14 rows behind the bad guys' dugout. The game obviously didn't go as well as planned as Atlanta dropped the contest 11-7.

It was my seventh Braves game this season. The team is now 4-3 in those games. This was my second game at Citi Field this year, both resulting in losses. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Atlanta's 8-5 in the thirteen games I've been to, but are only 3-5 in away games. They're also 0-3 in the games I've seen Tommy Hanson start. I'm making the trip to Chicago for two games when the Braves visit Wrigley in late August, so hopefully the team has a bit more luck.

Here a few shots I was able to take in between the rain. I apologize for the quality of the first few pictures. I have a new phone, so I'm not sure what happened there.

Venters warming up with Martinez

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Braves Status Report: 112 Games (64-48)

The Braves finished the past week with a stagnant 3-3 record. The team won the series at home against the Marlins and then avoided the sweep at the Nationals with a series finale win on Wednesday. The Phillies have posted six win in a row, putting Atlanta at a nearly-unerasable eight games behind in the division. Going into play Thursday night, they do still hold a 2.5 G lead over Arizona (5.5 over STL) in the Wild Card race, though that margin has diminished significantly over the past two weeks.

The team made a big splash in the trade market this past weekend, picking up Michael Bourn from the Astros. While no move was made to acquire a right-hander to provide help in the 'pen, top-prospect Arodys Vizcaino was recently promoted to Gwinnett and looks to be a likely call-up by September. The team has gone 1-2 with Bourn in the line-up, though no fault to him (he's hit .308 with Atlanta). The team has been hitting the ball (.281 average), but that's been essentially the only way they were able to get on base. They walked just five times (!!!) over the six game span and, outside of Dan Uggla, saw very little power. In fact, the team went without walks from Ross, Gonzo, Prado, Bourn, Freeman, Constanza and Uggla. Martin Prado and Alex Gonzalez had rare slashes of .308/.308/.308 and .261/.261/.261, respectively. With both McCann and Chipper on the shelf, a mediocre pitching performance just isn't quite enough.

The team heads to Queens Friday for a three-game weekend set against the rival Mets. I'll be at Saturday's game, so hopefully I'll catch some decent pictures worth posting on the blog. They then head to Florida Monday for three games before Marlins' 873 fans. So without further ado, here are the 'cheers' and 'jeers' for the past week...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 8/2/11

Lots of news in this week's Empire State Braves Prospects edition! The Atlanta organization added a new Empire Stater in LHP Chris Cody and one 'graduated' (at least temporarily) to the major league Braves in Anthony Varvaro. Here's a review of how the group performed over the past week (7/26-8/1), including a brief bio on Cody.


Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett/MLB - Atlanta)
On July 28th, Varvaro got the call that he undoubtedly has been waiting on for at least the past four months. With Atlanta pitchers seeing plenty of work during the Pittsburgh series, the team optioned Wilkin Ramirez to Gwinnett and brought up Varvaro to serve as the club's thirteenth pitcher. In two appearances with the major league team, he pitched exactly as advertised...extremely unhittable, high strikeout totals and issues with command. Though in just two games, it's already pretty clear he's more effective than Scott Proctor.

This Week (Atlanta): 2 G (0-0), 4 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 8 K, 3 BB
Season (MLB): 2 G (0-0), 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8 K, 3 BB
Season (MiLB): 33 G (2-6), 1 SV, 50.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 59 K, 30 BB