Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 MLB Season Predictions

It's now less than 24 hours until the first pitch of the Atlanta Braves 2011 season is thrown, so I guess it's a good time to join the throngs of analysts/writers/bloggers/etc. and offer my predictions for the upcoming major league season. You probably won't be surprised by the picks..this is a Braves fan blog, after all. Drum roll, please.....

NL East:
Braves - 94-68
Phillies - 92-70
Marlins - 82-80
Mets - 75-87
Nationals - 72-90

National League:  Braves (East), Brewers (Central), Giants (West), Phillies (Wild Card)
Braves defeat Brewers, Phillies defeat Giants
Braves defeat Phillies

American League:  Red Sox (East), Twins (Central), Rangers (West), Rays (Wild Card)
Red Sox defeat Twins, Rays defeat Rangers
Red Sox defeat Rays

World Series
Red Sox defeat Braves, 4-2

NL MVP:  Troy Tulowitzki
NL Cy Young:  Matt Cain
NL ROY:  Freddie Freeman

AL MVP:  Evan Longoria
AL Cy Young:  Jon Lester
AL ROY:  Desmond Jennings

While some of my post-season award picks might be a bit of a stretch, the Rookie of the Year picks were the most difficult for me. Most of the obvious candidates in each league are (starting) pitchers. But starting pitchers haven't had much success in ROY voting over the past decade. The most recent in each league were Justin Verlander in 2006 for the AL and Dontrelle Willis in 2003 for the NL. Until that changes, I'll take my chances on getting burned for those picks in 2011.

The National League looks to have another good stock of rookies, but looking through my red, blue and white glasses, I'll go with Freeman. He's slotted for the starting spot right away and I think the team's due. In fact, there's been a Braves rookie in the top 3 in voting four of the past six years (Heyward '10, Hanson '09, Jurrjens '08 and *cough* Francoeur '05 *cough*). Yunel Escobar (again, cough) also finished tied for 6th in 2007.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scott Diamond News (UPDATED)

In other late spring news, former Atlanta prospect Scott Diamond failed to make the Twins 25-man roster. As readers of this blog may know, Diamond is a collegiate product of Upstate, NY, having attended Binghamton University. Reports are that Minnesota is still interested in Diamond and, as he was a Rule 5 pick this past winter, are pursuing a trade with Atlanta in order to retain his rights. If a deal isn’t worked out, he must be offered back to the Braves for a $25k fee.

I’d be in favor of Atlanta bringing Diamond back, as he would provide additional Triple A pitching depth and, outside of Minor, would be one of the few higher-level LHP prospects in the organization. However, I could envision a trade working out if the Braves could get a top 20 prospect from the Twins, especially if it’s an outfielder. Minnesota will be visiting Turner Field for final spring exhibition games on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we should likely know what will happen with Diamond by then.

UPDATE: Well that didn't take long. The Braves announced this afternoon that they traded the rights to Diamond for Twins righty-reliever Billy Bullock. Bullock, a big 23 year old power-pitcher, was drafted by Minnesota in the 2nd round of the 2009 Amateur Draft. That's right - the Braves traded a non-drafted free agent for a top round draftee. Another impressive move by Frank Wren. Bullock reached Double A New Britain of the Eastern League last season and has put up some impressive peripherals during his two minor league seasons. His 12.8 K/9 rate in 2010 is borderline jaw-dropping, but control (5.2 BB/9 in '10) will be the main item he'll have to work on.

At first glance, it would seem that Atlanta already has plenty of young arms developing in their system. While that's certainly true, Bullock was highly rated in the Minnesota organization (some ranking had him in the top 10) has some serious upside, if he can address his control issues. He has the potential to be a solid late-inning type guy for Atlanta within the next few couple years. It will be interesting to see where the Braves place Bullock. Double A Mississippi would seem to make sense, with a shot at Gwinnett later in the season if he performs well.

I'm a bit disappointed that Diamond's career with Atlanta is now officially over, though we did get a very good return for him. Diamond's ceiling is probably as a 4th or 5th starter at a time when the Braves seem to be set with starting rotation options over the next few years (Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, Minor, Medlen, Teheran, Delgado, Vizcaino, Perez, etc.). The Braves could afford to part with him.

Welcome Billy!

Braves 2011 Opening Day Roster Now Set

With just four days remaining until the beginning of the 2011 season, the Braves’ 25-man Opening Day roster is set. Just in time, too, as the season begins in less than a week with the team opening up on the road against the Nationals in DC on Thursday, March 31.

First, it was confirmed by the Braves this past Thursday that Brandon Beachy will be the team’s 5th starter. LHP Mike Minor was subsequently optioned to Triple A Gwinnett. Minor certainly pitched well, throwing 10 official spring innings over 3 appearances (2 starts) while giving up just 1 ER. But he had some difficulties over the last week or two with control of curveball, so the team decided to give him more time to work in the pitch at Gwinnett. Beachy also pitched extremely well, surrendering 2 ER over 16 official spring innings spread out over 4 appearances (3 starts). His 4.0 K/BB rate was also impressive. While it would have been nice to have a lefty in the starting rotation, I think the team made the right decision. The Braves invested a significant amount of money in Mike Minor after picking him 7th overall in 2009, so there’s problem with allowing him enough time to fully develop his pitches and further refine his game. Plus, we may end up seeing Mike Minor in Atlanta very soon if Jair Jurrjens is not able to return from his sore right side in time for his turn in the rotation in early April.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Remaining Braves Spring Training TV Schedule

With the Braves Spring Training season a little more than halfway complete, here's a quick summary of the team's tv schedule over the next few weeks. Being from Upstate, NY, I've also included some local/regional stations. Please feel free to let me know if you have any additions, edits, etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thoughts At The Braves Halfway Point

As the snow begins to (slowly) melt here in Upstate, NY, the Braves have reached the halfway point of the 2011 Spring Training season. As I think most would agree, for the most part, the team has been pretty impressive over the past few weeks. Here are some of my thoughts so far:

The Good

Starting Pitching – While it’s only Spring Training, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy all have ERAs under 4.00, with Jurrjens the highest at 3.86. Lowe hasn’t given up an earned run during his 9 spring innings. Most believed the Braves starting rotation would be a strength heading into the 2011 season and it’s looking like that will be true.

Nate McLouth – After a horrid 2010 season, it looks like Nate might have figured out his swing again. In 28 PA, he’s hitting .429/.600/.667 with 7 BB, 1 HR and 3 RBI, often hitting out of the second spot in the order. Perhaps most importantly, he’s putting the bat on the ball, having only struck out once so far this spring. A resurgent Nate McLouth will be a big part of a successful Braves season.

Chipper Jones – Chipper returns from a torn ACL and at 38 years old, many wondered if he would still be able to play at a high level. Well, he’s done a pretty good job at addressing those concerns. Following another productive day at the plate Sunday against the Astros, Chipper’s hitting .353/.421/.647 with 2 HR, 4 2B and 8 RBI over 34 AB. It’s great to see some power returning to his swing. He hasn’t had any issues fielding 3B or running the bases. He’ll surely be given a number of days off throughout the season, but hopefully he’s able to continue with the healthy and productive play.

Jason Heyward – The power hasn’t really been there (2 XBH in 24 AB), but J-Hey continues to hit and get on base (.417 AVG, .517 OBP). It would seem that those numbers would suggest a spot towards the top of the order instead of the 6 spot that Fredi Gonzalez is suggesting, but we shall see. Jason’s been battling a few nagging small injuries over the past week or two, so starting Opening Day healthy seems to be his main priority.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pictures of Braves, Vizcaino vs. Red Sox

A friend of mine is a big Red Sox fan and is down in Florida right now to catch a couple of their Spring Training games. Fortunately, that means he was able to see the Braves play, as well. He was kind enough to pass along these shots, including Arodys Vizcaino in action. Enjoy!