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Tag:Braves
Posted on: February 25, 2012 9:51 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 10:23 pm
 

Spring primer: Atlanta Braves

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Thanks to the Red Sox collapse, the Braves' September disappearing act seems to have been forgotten by everyone outside of Atlanta and St. Louis. Atlanta led the wild card race by as many as 8 1/2 games in September before conceding the final NL playoff spot to the Cardinals, going 9-18 over the last month of the season, losing their last five and 13 of their last 18. While there were rumors of big changes in the offseason, none of that materialized and the Braves head into 2012 with the same team that appeared to be headed to the playoffs before the final month of the season.

Danny Knobler's camp report: After epic collapse, inaction brings optimism | Likes, dislikes

Major additions: None
Major departures: RHP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Nate McLouth, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP George Sherrill

Probable lineup
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Dan Uggla 2B
6. Freddie Freeman 1B
7. Jason Heyward RF
8. Tyler Pastornicky SS

Probable rotation
1. Tim Hudson
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Brandon Beachy
5. Mike Minor

Hudson's status for the beginning of the season is in doubt, which would make room for right-hander Randall Delgado

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Set-up: Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen

Important bench players
OF Jose Constanza, 1B/OF Eric Hinske, OF Matt Diaz

Prospect to watch
In three starts and two relief appearances, Julio Teheran went 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA and only struck out 10 batters in 19 2/3 innings, while walking eight batters. But it should also be noted he was just 20. Teheran will likely start 2012 back in Triple-A, where he went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The right-hander has four pitches, including a fastball in the mid-90s. He may not be an ace right away, but few pitchers in the minors have his potential.

Fantasy sleeper: Mike Minor
"His strikeout and walk rates showed he has the skills to become a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher, and with Derek Lowe banished to Cleveland, he suddenly has a rotation spot to refine them. The Braves' decision to clear that spot for Minor this offseason should give the 24-year-old a renewed sense of purpose entering spring training. If his performance during his final nine starts last year, when he posted a 3.83 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning, was a sneak peak at what he can do with a defined role, he'll be a late-round find on Draft Day." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bounce-back player: Jason Heyward
"He developed numbness in his shoulder in spring training and, in an effort to play through the injury, altered his mechanics. His popout rate was through the roof, which is a clear sign his swing wasn't right. With an offseason of rest and the fresh perspective of new hitting coach Greg Walker, Heyward should be in for a bounce-back season. Expecting other-worldly numbers from him would, of course, not be prudent, but even a return to his rookie form would make him a top-25 outfielder." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Everything that went wrong last year -- Uggla's early-season struggles, Heyward's sophomore slump, manager Fredi Gonzalez's overuse of the bullpen -- goes right this year, while the young pitching studs are as advertised. If all that happens, the Braves could win the NL East. Then with their starters and relievers, the Braves would be a tough out in any series.

Pessimistic outlook
Uggla plays the entire season like he did last May (.160/.241/.260 with two home runs), Heyward's 2012 is a repeat of 2011 and Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens have a large chunk of time on the disabled list with varying injuries. Meanwhile, the rookies the team is counting on to perform -- Pastornicky and Minor -- struggle and the veteran Jones can't hold up for an entire season at 40. There's plenty that can go wrong and with the improvements made by the Marlins, the growth of the Nationals and the Phillies' pitching, the Braves could battle with the Mets for the bottom of the division rather than searching to avenge 2011's collapse.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 10:45 am
 

Braves' Hanson suffered 'mild' concussion

Tommy HansonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Doctors diagnosed Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson with a Grade 1 concussion -- the lowest grade -- after a Monday morning car accident, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The concussion will keep Hanson out a few more days.

He will be re-evaluated after resting for 48 hours and if he no longer feels dizzy or shows any other concussion symptoms then, he will be allowed to start working out, but he'll still gradually move toward a full workout. The 25-year-old could be back to full workouts by this weekend or early of next week, according to the team.

"If everything progresses like we think it will, he'll be fine," Gonzalez told reporters (including Bowman). "The thing [trainers] do not want to do is bring him back too early and then he gets dizzy because of the concussion. It's just a natural progression."

Hanson blew a tire and went off the road while driving to the Braves' spring training complex on Monday morning.

As our own Jon Heyman noted on Twitter, the only "mild" concussion is one suffered by someone else. As we've come to see in baseball recently with the likes of Justin Morneau, concussions are nothing to take lightly.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:01 pm
 

Braves' Hanson examined after car accident

Tommy HansonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson went to the hospital on Monday after being involved in a car accident in the morning, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman (via Twitter).

According to Bowman, Hanson blew a tire and bumped his head and is being checked for a possible concussion. The Braves have yet to receive word on his condition.

Hanson, 25, came into the team's spring training home after the accident, but then chose to go to the hospital to get checked out.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 7:56 pm
 

Tim Hudson to miss first month of '12 season



By Matt Snyder


Late in November, Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson had surgery on his back that fused his L5/S1 disk. Not much was made of it at the time because it was believed he'd be ready to go at the start of the season. Instead, he's going to miss the first month.

"Me getting back for the start of the season was never really a possibility, just from a timeline standpoint," Hudson said (MLB.com). "The kind of surgery I had is a three-to-sixth-month deal. Five months puts me at May 1."

Hudson could have certainly been ready for the start of the 2012 season had he undergone the procedure immediately when the 2011 season ended, but the initial plan was to avoid the surgery until after the 2012 season. By late November, though, he was forced to have the surgery.

Hudson, 36, was 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 158 strikeouts in 215 innings last season. He was pitching through the pain in his back, though.

With Hudson down, the Braves' need a fifth starter behind Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor in April. Top prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado are logical choices to battle it out, while Kris Medlan would work as well.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:49 pm
 

Kimbrel, Venters to dial it down this spring



By Matt Snyder


We all know the narrative by now. The Atlanta Braves blew a double-digit lead in the NL wild-card race to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Chief among the reasons for the September swoon were a lack of offense and the once-untouchable back-end of the bullpen duo Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters running out of gas. This spring, they'll look to avoid such a disaster.

Kimbrel was just 3-of-6 in save chances with a 7.36 ERA and six walks in his last eight outings (7 1/3 innings). Before that stretch, Kimbrel was one of the most dominant closers in baseball, closing 43 saves in 48 chances with a 1.55 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. All told, Kimbrel appeared in 79 games. The only pitcher who appeared in more was his setup man, Venters, who appeared in 85.

Venters had a 5.65 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in his last 15 outings. Before that, he had a 1.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

So it's pretty evident if the Venters-Kimbrel duo was able to remain as deadly in September as they were April through August, the Braves would have found a way to hold off the Cardinals. It's easy to point to the regular season workload -- and that was a major issue -- but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out the two youngsters also dialed it up in the spring.
At 2011 spring training, no major league reliever had more appearances (13) or strikeouts (15) than Kimbrel. As for Venters, the lefty with the 95-mph sinkers appeared in midseason form from the outset of camp, then reeled off whopping 51 appearances (in 92 team games) before the All-Star break.
This time around, they are slowing things down considerably in the spring, with hopes of going strong into October.

“I definitely slowed it down, started throwing a little later,” Venters said of his offseason throwing program (AJC.com). “Last year I came into camp guns blazing, ready to go 100 percent. This year I’m going to use spring training as more of a tool for trying to get ready for the season, as opposed to … really two years ago I was trying to make the team, and last year there was a new manager and it was my second year in the big leagues.”

Kimbrel is in a very similar situation.

“Yeah, I definitely started to throw a little later, because I understand there’s no reason for me to have myself ready to go right now,” Kimbrel said (AJC.com). “As long as I’m good to go with two weeks left before the season starts, that’s good enough. You don’t have to be 100 percent ready to go at the very start of spring training."

This is a good start. The next step is the Braves' offense providing bigger leads in victories and manager Fredi Gonzalez realizing he doesn't have to use both of them every single time they have a three-run lead. Just because the rulebook says it's a save doesn't mean you must have your best two pitchers out there. After all, it's not that hard for a major-league pitcher to get three outs before allowing three runs.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:37 pm
 

Report: Astros broadcaster to retire after 2012

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Astros radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton will announce his intent to retire following the 2012 season, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.

The team will have a press conference for Hamilton, 84, on Wednesday.

Hamilton has announced Major League games for 59 years and won the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 1992.

Hamilton's started broadcasting big-league baseball in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, he stayed in St. Louis, where he worked with Harry Caray and Jack Buck in 1954. After just one season with the Cardinals, he caught on with the Cubs, working with Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd. He served three years with the Cubs and after four-years out of baseball, moved to the White Sox in 1961.

Hamilton was the first voice of the Braves, getting the job when the team moved from Milwaukee in 1966. He worked in Atlanta until after the 1975 season, calling Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career homer.



From Atlanta, Hamilton had stints with the Pirates and Cubs before joining the Astros in 1985.

Since 2006, he's mostly called only home games for the Astros. He will, however, make the trip to Miami in April to broadcast in the new Marlins ballpark, marking his 60th different ballpark in which he's called a game.

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 10:44 am
 

Spring position battles: National League East



By C. Trent Rosecrans


We finish our look at spring training's position battles with the National League East, home of some of the most intriguing teams in the game -- and the Mets.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central | AL East

Atlanta Braves
Fifth starter: Mike Minor vs. Randall Delgado vs. Julio Teheran

There's not a team in baseball that wouldn't drool over having to make this decision. The three are expected to be the keystone to the rotation in the future, but Minor's still the oldest of the bunch having just celebrated his 24th birthday the day after Christmas and therefore expected to be the first to make an impact in the majors. Delgado turned 22 on Thursday and Teheran celebrated his 21st birthday last month. The left-handed Minor made 15 starts last season for the Braves, going 5-3 with a 4.14 ERA. Meanwhile, Delgado dazzled in his seven starts, going 1-1 with a 2.83. Teheran didn't live up to the expectations many had for him -- but he was just 20 and made only three starts. He'll be fine. More than fine.

Miami Marlins
Center field: Emilio Bonifacio vs. Chris Coghlan vs. Yoenis Cespedes?

This is up in the air until Cespedes makes his decision, although it seems more and more like he'll be a Marlin. There's no question the Marlins want him and there's no question they want him in center field. If he does sign with Miami, the team will have to see how ready the 26-year-old is for the big leagues. He may not start in Miami, but the goal would be to have him there for the long-haul. Bonifacio is coming off a career-best .296/.360/.393 season with 40 stolen bases, but he was aided by a .372 batting average on balls in play -- something that will likely drop, but should still be high because of his speed. He also increased his walk rate, which helped as well. Coghlan won the 2009 Rookie of the Year, but a knee injury in 2010 has hampered him since his first season. He hit just .230/.296/.368 with five home runs and seven stolen bases in 298 plate appearances last season and his future is up in the air.

New York Mets
Second base: Daniel Murphy vs. Justin Turner vs. Ronny Cedeno

Murphy's likely to get the nod, as long as he can field the position adequately. Murphy made the majority of his starts at first base last season, but with the return of Ike Davis, Murphy needs a home thanks to his .320/.362/.448 line. Turner hit .260/.334/.356 as the team's primary second baseman (71 starts), but is probably no more than a utility player in the long run. Cedeno was signed from the Pirates to back up Ruben Tejada at shortstop, but he could figure in the second base situation if worst comes to worst.

Philadelphia Phillies
Left field: John Mayberry Jr. vs. Domonic Brown vs. Laynce Nix

The job is probably Mayberry's to lose after hitting .273/.341/.513 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI last season. Brown, the team's former top prospect, struggled in his 56 games and 210 plate appearances with the Phillies last season, hitting .245/.333/.391 with five homers. Brown has the talent, but it has to actuate for him to earn more playing time. The left-handed Nix is a backup, but could add depth to the outfield with the absence of Ryan Howard at first base. A good fielder, Nix struggles against left-handed pitching, so he's not an everyday type player.

Washington Nationals
Center field: Rick Ankiel vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Bryce Harper

Well, Harper won't be in center field, but he's basically fighting for that spot. If he makes the team out of spring, he'll be in right and Jayson Werth will be in center. That still seems unlikely, as good as the 19-year-old is. Ankiel won a spring-training battle with Nyjer Morgan last year, leading to Morgan's trade to Milwaukee. The Nationals brought Ankiel back on a minor-league deal, but he's still probably the favorite. He hit .239/.296/.363 with nine home runs last season. Like Ankiel, Bernadina hits left-handed. Last year he put up a .243/.301/.362 line with seven home runs in 91 games and 50 starts in center field.

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Posted on: February 3, 2012 7:53 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:13 am
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers



By Matt Snyder


As we conclude the short series on overpaid players, we'll take a look at the man on the hill: The pitcher.

The interesting thing I found about pitchers is that not too many "long-term" contracts stood out like a sore thumb as being bad in terms of what is left on the current deal. A lot of the honorable mention types are for just one year, maybe two. This, I believe, illustrates the caution the overwhelming majority of teams exercise when coughing up long-term deals for pitchers.

That doesn't mean there are no guys on the list, however. We have a couple really good fits.

As a reminder, we're only talking about the contracts from now until the conclusion of the deal. Any money already banked doesn't count in this exercise.

Right-handed starters

Worst: John Lackey
Remaining contract: 3 years, $47.85 million

Ignore that Lackey is injured now and will miss all of the 2012 season. In fact, that actually helps the Red Sox here if last season was any indication. Lackey was brutal in '11, putting together a 6.41 ERA, 1.62 WHIP while leading the majors in earned runs and wild pitches. He allowed a whopping 203 hits in his 160 innings pitched and posted a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement player). And when he's healthy again, he'll be 34.

Honorable Mention

A.J. Burnett, Yankees: He helped the Yankees win the World Series title in 2009, but was he really integral? He was bad in the ALCS and was terrible in one of his World Series starts after leading the league in walks and wild pitches during the regular season. Since then, Burnett is 21-26 with a 5.20 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He's now the Yankees' fifth starter and will make $33 million for the next two seasons.

"Fausto Carmona," Indians: He may miss the season after being caught for identity fraud (his name is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia). He's due $7 million this season.

Jake Peavy, White Sox: It's hard to not appreciate the way Peavy is an absolute bulldog on the hill, but he was 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA last season as he battled back from a severe injury and he's set to make $17 million in 2012.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: Twelve starts in 2010 got Westbrook a two-year deal with the Cardinals. He's going to make $8.5 million this season after a pretty bad 2011 campaign.

Carlos Zambrano, Cubs/Marlins: He'll make $19 million this year, but the Cubs are paying most of it so Big Z can pitch for the Marlins.

Derek Lowe, Braves/Indians: He'll make $15 million this year, but the Braves are paying most of it so Lowe can pitch for the Indians.

Left-handed starters

Worst: Barry Zito
Remaining contract: 2 years, $39 million

Perhaps the worst news is there's actually a club option for 2014. Now, obviously the Giants won't pick that up, barring Zito becoming Tim Lincecum overnight, but there's a $7 million buyout if they don't pick up the option. So Zito will cost the Giants $47 million more, at the very least, before they can wash their hands of him. This actually has to be one of the worst contracts of all time. Zito is 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and zero postseason innings pitched in his five seasons with the Giants.

Honorable Mention

Johan Santana, Mets: He was earning his deal pre-injury, so this one isn't really anyone's fault. Santana is due $49.5 million for the next two seasons, though, so that is rough.

Relievers

Worst: Rafael Soriano
Remaining contract: 2 years, $25 million

Soriano wasn't even the Yankees' best setup man last season (David Robertson was way better). Soriano was a stud in Tampa Bay in '10, so it's possible he's a great closer for the Yankees in 2013, if Mariano Rivera retires. But even when Soriano had a good second half last season, his numbers weren't awesome. And, again, we're talking about a non-closer making eight figures per season.

Honorable Mention

Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: It will be interesting to see how Papelbon performs throughout this contract. He could very well earn his $50 million over the course of the next four years, but I'm wondering what the Phillies' front office thought when they saw that the Reds signed 2011 Philly closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $8.5 million deal. I also wonder how this deal will feel if the Phillies can't find a way to lock up Cole Hamels long-term (he's a free agent next offseason). So this one has less to do with Papelbon and more to do with what the deal might end up costing the Phillies, because $50 million is an awful lot to give to a closer.

Brandon Lyon, Astros: Lyon will make $5.5 million this season. His 2011 season was cut short due to an injury, but he had an 11.48 ERA with as many blown saves as actual saves (four).



Part I: Infielders and catchers
Part II: Outfielders and designated hitters

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com