July 31, 2014
Not Just A Pretty Face
Frank Wren excels at adding bench and bullpen pieces at the deadline, and this year proved to be no exception.
Russell is a shaggy southpaw whose numbers suggest he should be used only against left-handed batters. That works for the Braves, who entered Thursday with just one lefty in their bullpen (Chasen Shreve). Russell takes a slider-first approach against same-sided batters, making him one of those rare pitchers who uses his fastball as a secondary offering. The Cubs, with Wesley Wright and without playoff aspirations, used Russell against more righties than lefties. Expect Fredi Gonzalez to micromanage more than Rick Renteria did, and for Russell's raw statistics to improve as a result. Russell won't qualify for free agency until after the 2015 season.
Bonifacio, fast and versatile, gives the Braves some options. Although he faded after his fast start to the season, his ability to play multiple positions competently means the Braves could use him as a super-sub type. Alternatively, if the Braves want to bench B.J. Upton, they could throw Bonifacio in center without taking the same defensive hit that they did last October, when Evan Gattis had to play the outfield. Bonifacio will become a free agent at season's end. —R.J. Anderson
The move from the Cubs to the Braves adds some value for him as he’ll likely score runs at a higher rate than he did with Chicago. The offense has more pop throughout so he’ll have his chances. El Boni got off to a scorching start in April before settling into the type of production he’s provided throughout his entire career. He’s still adventurous on the base-paths which has resulted in a few TOOTBLAN this year. At the end of the day, he’s still Emilio Bonifacio.
Upton has struggled again this year and will likely lose playing time to Bonifacio in center. The Bossman era hasn’t gone well in Atlanta as he never recovered the magic from his Tampa run, which was a long time ago. If you squint, you can still see the mark where the high tide of his career hit before it receded into what he is now.
With the Cubs there was at least the faintest hope that Russell could eventually close out games post deadline. That’s all gone with a move to Atlanta, where he will be the LOOGY and sit behind Craig Kimbrel. Good luck getting that job. —Mauricio Rubio
Acquired C/3B-S Victor Catarini from the Braves in exchange for LHP James Russell and UTL-S Emilio Bonifacio. [7/31]
A 2013 second-round pick out of Miami-Dade College, Caratini is intriguing prospect due to an offensive profile that presents limited risk as he climbs the minor-league ladder. The 20-year-old has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate with a gap-to-gap approach. He utilizes a short swing, particularly from the left side, and can barrel up balls in all quadrants of the zone, projecting to be an above-average hitter who could post batting averages in the .275 range. Though he'll accumulate his fair share of line-drive doubles to the gaps, his over-the-fence power will be limited by a linear stroke that produces abundant topspin. He's a well-below-average runner and doesn't project to be an asset on the bases. Caratini has spent time behind the plate and at the hot corner this season but has settled in as a full-time catcher of late. His receiving and blocking skills have improved over the course of the season, and while he'll never be an above-average defender, this area of his game does not project to be a major liability to a team. His arm is fringy at best due to a slow release, however, and this is an issue that will likely be exploited as he moves through the upper levels. Overall, the solid offensive profile will drive Caratini through the minors, but his average-at-best work behind the dish and weak arm will limit his potential impact at the highest level. The best-case scenario is that he becomes a versatile bat off the bench who can hit for decent averages from both sides of the plate and fill in at catcher and on the infield corners when necessary. —Ethan Purser
He’s the likely call up in the wake of a Bonifacio trade. Watkins isn’t an exciting name and he has only a stopgap skill set. He can run a bit, he knows the strike zone and he can hit the occasional mistake with some authority. If he’s up he’ll play, but it’s nothing to write home about.
We had a brief preview of the Fujikawa era and he got hurt almost immediately. He’s been on the comeback path since last year and he is likely getting his chance with the big club after Russell’s trade. The righty had an established career in Japan before jumping stateside; the Cubs aren’t done moving relievers and it’s possible he ends up in some high leverage situations.
We have an idea of what Olt is and what he can be. He’s in the callup mix in the wake of the Bonifacio move which means we can probably expect more TTO magic in Wrigley.
He’s not getting the call quite yet as Hoyer said he will be up when his development dictates, not because of a roster issue. I do get the feeling that he’ll be up soon, close to mid-August, He is obviously a name to watch. —Mauricio Rubio
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson