CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Relievers... (09/29)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: San F... (09/27)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Bosto... (09/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Si... (09/29)

September 29, 2011

Kiss'Em Goodbye

Atlanta Braves

by Ben Lindbergh, Kevin Goldstein and ESPN Insider

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fadewhether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.

Today we look at the Atlanta Braves, a team that managed to miss the playoffs despite holding a 10.5-game wild-card lead in late August.

Projected 2012 Lineup
Atlanta's plethora of young arms is the envy of most of baseball. However, its lineup needs some help, as Chipper Jones is getting old, Martin Prado's bat does not profile in a corner and Jason Heyward took a step back.


Baseball Prospectus' Take

Signs of hope:
Top pitching prospects Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Arodys Vizcaino made their first appearances in a rotation that also featured four other successful 25-and-under arms in Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson and Mike Minor, giving Atlanta a surfeit of starters for next season behind Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe, both of whom are signed for 2012. Youth also made an impact in the back of the best bullpen in baseball, where Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty combined for a 1.64 ERA in 236 1/3 innings. In other words, the Braves' pitching staff appears to be in very good shape for years to come.

Signs of disaster: Atlanta's lineup was never a powerhouse, but the Braves completely fell apart at the plate in the midst of losing 20 of their last 30 games, averaging 3.1 runs in support of their arms. Jason Heyward managed only a .253 TAv in what was a disappointing season for the defending rookie of the year runner-up. Given Heyward's prospect pedigree and successful rookie season, his sophomore slump has all the makings of a "sign to ignore," but the outfielder's offensive struggles were accompanied (and perhaps precipitated) by a stint on the disabled list, which is starting to resemble a pattern. Heyward's fragility could keep him from making the most of his physical gifts, which would force the Braves to continue to search for outfield offense that looks even less likely to succeed in light of Martin Prado's metamorphosis from a second baseman who hit like a left fielder to a left fielder who hit like a second baseman.

Signs you can ignore: Not many memorable major leaguers make their debuts at 27 years old, but after getting the call a month before his 28th birthday, Jose Constanza hit .375 AVG/.423 OBP/.500 SLG in his first 20 games with as many homers as he had hit in his four most recent minor league seasons combined (two), prompting Fredi Gonzalez to briefly bench Heyward in Constanza's favor. Over his next 20 games, Constanza went 6-for-36 without a walk or an extra-base hit, which was more the slap-hitting outfielder's speed. Jurrjens became just the 10th pitcher since 1993 to throw at least 150 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA and a strikeout rate below 5.5 per nine innings, which suggests that he'll have trouble repeating the feat. Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus

Bowden's Bold Move
The Braves head into the offseason with disappointment and optimism at the same time. If Jurrjens and Hanson can get healthy in the offseason, the pitching staff should be in good hands next year with the addition of some of the young arms.

What the Braves need is a jolt on offense, and shortstop is a good place to start. Alex Gonzalez posted a .270 OBP this year, and the Braves need an upgrade. The Braves hold a team option on him that they should decline, then they should make a push to sign either Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. Reyes should obviously be their top target because he would completely change the top of their lineup. With Reyes and Michael Bourn at the top followed by a healthy Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Heyward, the Braves could have a devastating run-producing lineup in 2012. However, it's likely Reyes will be out of their price range, so Rollins is probably a more realistic option.

Additionally, manager Fredi Gonzalez will have to let the starters go deeper in 2012 and reduce the appearances of all of his good, young bullpen arms so they don't get hurt. The Braves underachieved in 2012 because of injuries, inexperience and youth, but they'll be a team to be reckoned with next year. An athletic shortstop such as Reyes or Rollins would put them over the top. Jim Bowden

Hopes and Fears
Best-case scenario ZiPS projection: 93-69

The Braves would reach this figure with the same basic method that enabled them to go 89-73 this year: solid pitching rotation with lots of depth and upside and a killer bullpen that sends opposing fans home in the seventh and an ordinary lineup. When everybody's healthy, the Braves' rotation is one of the best in baseball. To compete with the Phillies mano-a-mano, the Braves have to make up the difference on offense, which they can't do without getting anything from short and most of the outfield. The good news on that front is that the smart money is on Heyward, 22, having a healthier and overall better 2012. Getting a real left fielder instead of miscasting Martin Prado as a corner outfield, someone such as Josh Willingham, could also help out.

Worst-case scenario: 78-84
The Braves have a deep pitching staff that can survive a few injuries, but the same can't be said with the offense. The team got a sigh of relief during the season after Jones announced his return, but as solid as he was this year, he turns 40 a couple of weeks into next season, and it's risky for the Braves to rely so much on their future Hall of Famer's twilight years. If the team doesn't get better, more consistent performances next year from Heyward and Uggla, they may have to do the unthinkable and trade some of their pitching surplus to bring in a bat. Otherwise, the Braves risk a repeat performance of September 2011, with the offense scoring two runs or less in 10 games for the month. Dan Szymborski, Baseball Think Factory

Organizational Future
A combination of injuries and desperation caused the Braves to bring up nearly all of their top prospects in 2011. Now the question is which of them will play a role in 2012 with most of this season's team returning. The only glaring hole will be a shortstop, and while he was called up for the final game of the year (not that he'll want to remember), there are questions about Tyler Pastornicky's readiness come Opening Day 2012. Look for the team to sign a placeholder, even maybe Alex Gonzalez again for one year, but Pastornicky is the future as a solid defensive player who makes up for a lack of power with walks and stolen bases. More pressing decisions will need to be made with the pitching staff as the rotation has reached logjam status, with Teheran, Minor and Delgado clearly ready with no clear jobs available. It's a nice problem to have, and this kind of pitching depth could end up being used this offseason to address more pressing needs in the everyday lineup. Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Ehren Bendler

As far as Organizational Future/Bold Moves goes, they have to look at finding a 3B prospect they can stick in AAA for a year (and call up when Chipper inevitably hits the DL), don't they?

Sep 29, 2011 12:30 PM
rating: 0
 
mmontice

How do you pencil Minor over Beachy into the 2012 rotation? If anything Lowe has to be banished to a bullpen role (he's done it in the past)or traded away with some eaten salary.

Sep 29, 2011 12:35 PM
rating: 5
 
MichavdB

Even if they trade one or two of those top pitching prospects for a LF or SS they'd still have a good pitching staff.

Sep 29, 2011 13:02 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

So, to date Bowden has what - 5 teams signing Jose Reyes as his big move?

Sep 29, 2011 14:47 PM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

Which is fair. There are a lot more than five teams out there that could improve decisively by getting Reyes. Bowden isn't trying to apportion big moves equitably among teams; he's trying to say, "here's what THIS team should do," one team at a time. That'll leave all but one of those teams disappointed, but them's the breaks.

Sep 29, 2011 15:24 PM
rating: 1
 
BigX

But how is getting Reyes the answer for the Braves. They seem to feel Pastornicky is the future at the postion. What they need to do with the money is find a right handed power bat hopefully LF and get Prado back to an everyday utility guy. Not spend 100mil on a fragile SS that does the same thing with the bat as Bourn.

Sep 29, 2011 22:39 PM
rating: 1
 
gtgator

They seriously need to remove Bowden's "analysis". It is insulting to true fans of the respective teams.

The Braves do NOT have the payroll room to add Reyes or Rollins. While McLousy and KK come off the books, there are raises to Uggla and McCann and plenty or arb raises (Prado, Jurrjens, O'Flaherty, Bourn) that eat up most of it. And, oh yeah, Gonzalez' team option was LAST YEAR (Braves picked it up) - he's a FA (and hopefully gone for good).

The Braves bold move should be calling KC and seeing if they could trade Jurrjens and Prado for Moustakas. Then signing a stop-gap SS (or just let Pastornicky have the job). Then, take the remaining $10-12MM (since Prado and JJ are off the books) and go find the best LF they can get for the money. If they can dump Lowe's carcass and save any money, even better.

None of this may happen - but at least it's a bold move that has a chance in reality and isn't some recycled garbage that is thrown out there because Bowden is too damn lazy to actually do any homework on the teams.

Sep 30, 2011 08:20 AM
rating: 2
 
Scott44

Where do they play Prado then?

Sep 29, 2011 16:04 PM
rating: 0
 
mmontice

Super Utility and injury filler in the mold of DeRosa when he was at this prime. He can get 400-450+ ABs in this scenario (Chipper alone will guarantee him about 30-40 starts at 3B). That's not too shabby at all, and provides huge roster flexibility value.

Or trade him.

Sep 29, 2011 16:17 PM
rating: 0
 
josephmeyer

Brandon Beachy had too good of a year to relegate to the bullpen or Triple-A. What do they do with him?

Sep 29, 2011 17:33 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

That's part of the "problem" the Braves have. They have so much starting pitching, they don't have room for all of them in their rotation. They need to trade some of the excess for a big bat.

Sep 29, 2011 17:51 PM
rating: 0
 
greensox

Braves should make a "pitch" for Alexei Ramirez with some young pitching.

Sep 29, 2011 18:09 PM
rating: 1
 
BigX

I love this idea!!

Sep 29, 2011 22:40 PM
rating: 0
 
kcshankd

Am I the only Royals fan nervous that Alex Gordon is the only OF Dayton Moore has to deal that hasn't flopped in Atlanta already?

Sep 29, 2011 20:29 PM
rating: 0
 
fantasyking

The organizational imbalance between hitting and pitching existed in 2010 and 2011 and they did nothing to address it. What makes us think Frank Wren is going to address it in 2012? My money says he'll go to spring training 2012 with 7 or 8 MLB-ready starting pitchers, and no major offensive upgrades other than the old "We think Heyward, Prado, Uggla and Bourn will all play better than last year."

Sep 30, 2011 08:32 AM
rating: 1
 
sykojohnny
(225)

Does anyone else think that "sophomore slump" isn't what is wrong with Heyward?? Injuries?? He stands too far back at the plate, tries to pull everything, so pitchers just let him try to pull the outside pitch and he grounds out to second. Check the stats. The Braves should change his number to 4-3 because that's what shows up in the scorebook every time he plays.

Sep 30, 2011 11:09 AM
rating: -1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Relievers... (09/29)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: San F... (09/27)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Bosto... (09/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Si... (09/29)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Fiiiiiiiiiiight!
Premium Article The Call-Up: Kevin Plawecki
Premium Article The Call-Up: Carlos Rodon
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of April 17-19, 2...
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: April 20, 2015
BP Wrigleyville
Tools of Ignorance: The San Diego Hedgehogs?

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
On the Beat: A Date Which Will Live in Infam...
Manufactured Runs: The Problem of Pain
The Lineup Card: 14 Scariest Things to Happe...
Premium Article Painting the Black: Sizing Up the Playoff Ro...
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Relievers Review
The Prospectus Hit List: Daily Hit List for ...

MORE BY BEN LINDBERGH
2011-10-03 - Premium Article Collateral Damage: Playoff Injury Updates
2011-09-30 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: NLDS Preview: Phillies v...
2011-09-29 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Boston Red Sox
2011-09-29 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Atlanta Braves
2011-09-29 - BP Podcast: Episode 67.5: Messy Festivals Of...
2011-09-28 - Future Shock: Moneyball for All
2011-09-26 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Chicago White Sox
More...

MORE KISS'EM GOODBYE
2011-10-07 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New York Yankees
2011-10-05 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Tampa Bay Rays
2011-09-29 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Boston Red Sox
2011-09-29 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Atlanta Braves
2011-09-27 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: San Francisco Giants
2011-09-27 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Los Angeles Angels
2011-09-26 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Chicago White Sox
More...