Who will be this year’s Travis Wilson?

You may remember Travis Wilson, the New Zealander who, in 2001, hit over .400 in spring exhibitions, leading Bobby to effuse about the “special sound” made whenever the former softball star made contact. Alas, quoting CD, that sound was heard only in the Southern and International leagues from then on.

Every spring a player no one’s heard of exceeds expectations, battles for a roster spot then, usually, fades into Oblivion. But not always. For every 10 Wilsons or James Jurries’ there’s one Evan Gattis, last year’s breakout player.

The 2013 candidates include:

Daniel Rodriguez had mediocre numbers through his first five years in the Mexican League before emerging as a stud in 2012, winning 11 games with a 2.54 ERA and 135 K’s in 117 IP. But control has been a problem; he walked six in 7 IP at Gwinnett after being signed by the Braves. His only chance of making the big club would be a terrible spring by Teheran. The Braves can only hope he’ll prove a better investment than German Jimenez.

David Carpenter throws hard, and two years ago he struck out 29 in 27.2 IP with a 2.93 ERA in a late-season audition with the Astros. He could sneak his way into the ‘pen with a good spring and a few unexpected letdowns. David Hale is another hard-thrower who could ascend quickly if he improves his control (67 BB in 145 IP at Pearl).

Baseball fans probably remember Blake DeWitt, who had a decent rookie season with the Dodgers. In 2011 he hit .265 with a .718 OPS as a Cubs reserve, though injuries kept him out of action for much of last year. The Braves need a left-handed bat off the bench, but DeWitt’s career totals as a PH (.218 BA, .364 slugging) don’t bode well.

Todd Cunningham is a marginal prospect coming off his best season in the minors (.309 BA, .364 OBP, 24 SB). Odds are heavy against him making the team, but considering the competition for fifth OF/last spot on the bench includes Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer, I wouldn’t count the 23-year-old switch-hitter out.

Ernesto Mejia would stand a better chance of making the team if he batted from the left side. Dude can go deep, but offers little with the glove and strikes out a lot. The battle for the final roster spot shapes up as a 3-man race, with Mejia probably in third place behind Constanza and Schafer.

This year’s Travis Wilson or the best Braves hitting prospect you’ve never heard of?

DOB reports:

[Evan] Gattis is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound, right-handed-hitter — “a beast, a man-child,” veteran catcher David Ross said — who hit .322 with 22 homers in just 88 games last season at Class-A Rome.

He is a non-roster invitee who’s created a buzz in Braves camp, both for his batting-practice exploits — including homers off O’Flaherty, closer Craig Kimbrel and top prospect Julio Teheran — and his highly unusual background.

Did we mention he is 25 and was out of baseball for nearly four years?

New Zealander Travis Wilson, you may recall, was an ex-softball player who hit over .400 in spring games a decade ago. He once hit for the cycle. Bobby even effused about the ”special sound” when Wilson hit the ball. As CD noted previously, “Alas, that sound was heard only in the Southern and International leagues from then on.”

Knock on wood

Could Spring Training be going any better for the Bravos?

Chipper smacked his sixth double and third homer Thursday against the Nats. His 11 RBI lead the team and his knee hasn’t been an issue.

“I have no pain in the knee whatsoever. I feel like I turned the corner about 2½ weeks ago,” Jones said after the 7-6 victory.

And, ho-hum, two more hits for Nate, now batting .367 with a .525 OBP. Jay Hey and Freddie also went deep.

The pitching has been equally stellar. Huddy tossed five scoreless frames tonight, and outside of one spotty performance by JJ, the starters have been consistently excellent.

Even Kenshin threw two shutout innings Thursday.

It wasn’t a great night for Jordan Schafer and Scott Proctor, however. Schafer was hitless in three AB’s (dropping his spring BA to .170) and committed two errors, while Proctor allowed five earned in two innings. Gwinnett, here they come.

I feel the hate through my monitor

Not that it’s a particularly clever stunt or anything, but I’m glad to hear it anyway. Just read on the local organ scribe’s blog that the staff at Disney park started to play Sweet Caroline between innings. (The Braves are playing the trendiest team in the history of sports today. I saw two Boston hats in the MARTA station just this morning. Those cases are more about “fashion” than fandom, I suspect, but still, it’s part of the same ugly phenomenon.) Anyway, after five seconds, the sound guy at the park turned off the cheesy Neil Diamond and played Thank God I’m a Country Boy.

That’s not a great song or anything, but I’m all for anything that tweaks red sox fans. Glad to see someone with the Braves organization show a little cheek, not literally of course.

Elsewhere, is Wilkin Ramirez going to make this team? What about Schafer? I think Mather will. My projected roster:

Pitchers: Lowe, Huddy, Hanson, JJ, Minor, Kimbrel, Venters, Moylan, Linebrink, O’Flaherty, Sherrill, Proctor

Hitters: McCann, Ross, Freeman, Hinske, Uggla, Gonzalez, Chipper, Prado, McLouth, Heyward, Mather, Hernandez, Ramirez.

Schafer starts the season in Buford. However, if Mather can’t play center field, he might be in Atlanta.

Line of the day

C Kimbrel                          1   0   0   0   0   3

Venters also retired the side in his one inning of work, while Lowe tossed another solid five innings, allowing but one run — his  first given up this spring. Bad day for Scott Proctor, who allowed three earned in 1 IP. Cristhian Martinez is seen as Proctor’s main competition for the final spot on the staff, but don’t be surprised if Fredi keeps Minor AND Beachy instead.

Even defeats encouraging

The Braves fell to the Fish today, 4-3, but the loss was tagged on Jose Ortegano, who has no shot of making the big club. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado tossed scoreless frames, combining for three K’s.

More good news: Nate McLouth’s homer off Marlins closer Leo Nunez gives him more hits than he had all of last spring. Nate’s 1.436 OPS easily leads the Grapefruit League, though he barely leads teammate Freddie Freeman in BA: .467 to .458. F2 had three hits today.

It’s that time again!!

Now, be nice!!!

Hey, fellas, and gals. Is there a form of fella to apply to the ladies? I really don’t know.

My name is Hal Phellis. I’m new to this webloggin’ thing, so you guys bear with me, OK?:) First thing you need to know about me is I love my Bravos!!!! (PS I always say Bravos because it’s fun!) I also like exclamation points and smiley things!!:) I’m a positive guy. And that’s how I think about the Bravos. (I’m looking at you, Brooksie Conrad! Come back better than ever!!!!! Your defense will be great this year. Just great! And you, Nate McLouth, with that cute long blond hair. HELLLO!!!! Nate’s gonna be great this year. Best center fielder we’ve had since Andruw. Who I heard is with the Yankees :( Oh, well. I’m sure he’ll do just fine.

Here goes my first article for those two fellas who operate the Office. What a great name!! They’re not always so happy and positive, though, to be honest with you. ;( Even though they don’t seem to much care for my pals — kidding. I wish!!! — Chip Caray and Bob Rathbun, they’re not really so bad.

Welcome to Spring Training 2011!! Is it really 2011 already? Can you believe it’s March????!! I’m still writing 2009 on my checks. DORKUS!

How time flies. And what a difference a year makes. Last year, we were all giddy about the J-Hey Kid. Look out, car, here comes a baseball!!!! This year it’s his buddy Freddie Freeman. Isn’t it great that they have a nice interracial friendship? I think it’s just great. And Freddie — how funny is it that our first baseman and manager have the same name, but spell it differently?!;) — anyway, I am SOOOOOO excited about Freddie Freeman playing first base. First — another “F word!” LOL.

And next to Freddie on the infield will be our new muscular second baseman Uggla. That’s kind of a funny name, but I love it!! He can smack that ball hard! I heard that he’s not a great fielder but I’m not going to buy into that stinkin’ thinkin’. We’re going to have a teriffic infield. I just know it.

Which brings me to Chipper. I saw where he got a little ticked the other day with his critics. You tell ‘em, Chipsy!! My prediction? How about 1999 all over again?! MVP! MVP! MVP!

And what can you say about Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, Timmy Hudson, Dereky Lowe and Jairy Jurrjens? They all totally and absolutely and 127% ROCK MY WORLD!!

How’d I do fellas? And gals?:) GBWTWS!!! (Go Bravos Win The World Series!!)

It’s that time of year again!

What a difference 10 years makes! Can you believe it’s been a decade since New Zealander and ex softballer Travis Wilson ripped up Bravos spring training? Did any of those King-and-his-court guys ever try to play hardball? Can I possibly employ another cliche in this post?

Stay tuned.

Anyway, we’re scouring the 40-man and the non-roster invitee list — are those evites nowadays? – for Mr. March candidates. The guy who hits .350 for a couple weeks in practice games, gets raves from Bobby, er Fredi, if Fredi does such things, and then settles into minor league obscurity.

Wilson was hitting over .400 in late March. He even hit for the cycle. Bobby effused about the “special sound” when Wilson hit the ball. Alas, that sound was heard only in the Southern and International leagues from then on.

Back to our point: Who might be this year’s version of the (briefly) Klobberin’ Kiwi?

Maybe the outfielders Matt Young or Jose Constanza. Let’s call them Mose Yostanza, if we must. But we must not. One from this pair of diminutive minor league journeymen – neither is taller than 5-9 nor younger than 27 – could actually crack the big league roster. After all, our presumed starter in center field, lest anyone forget, hit .190 last year. However, he was 1-for-2 in the LDS! Back up CF candidates include  a former roided-up prospect and one-week wonder now best known for hurting his wrist over and over, and a guy who almost shares a last name with Eminem and in two sips of joe in the majors has struck out about as often as he’s reached base. Joe Mather is 6-4, so he’s got that on Yostanza.

Other burning questions as spring training opens:

1. Will Fredi’s camp be as leisurely as Bobby’s? Bobby’s way unquestionably worked. I will not accept that playing golf in March leads a team to lose in October.

2. Will Jim Powell become more like Pete or more like Broadcastron 3000? It could go either way. If he says “Victory is ours” much more, I’m going to like him less. Well, it’ll be good if he has the chance to say it, but bad on him if he says it.

3. Will Petah have any new tatoos?

4. Will Home Depot still have that infernal tool race at Turner Field?

5. Will someone open another putt-putt course near the ball yard?

6. What music will the local organ scribe listen to in Florida?

7. Why is Scott Proctor on the team?

8. We have Matt Young in camp. The Marlins have Mike Stanton. Are there other outfielders with the same name as former pitchers? Is there a Sid Monge patrolling center field somewhere?

9. Will Julio Teheran become hunting buddies with Chipper?

10. Suggest your own No. 10.

PS. Travis Wilson now plays for the New Zealand Men’s Softball Team — all caps, per Wikipedia — which is called the Black Sox. Before returning to softball, he was the NZ cricket team’s “specialist field coach and video analyst.” I wonder if he and Petah know each other. I mean, their native countries are side by side, separated only by a couple thousand miles of ocean.

–CD

Batting third, Jason Heyward

Interesting that Bobby batted Heyward third today in a line-up featuring every regular with the exception of Chipper and Glaus. So far he’s delivered with a single, two walks and steal of third. Tommy H. was also sharp, tossing two scoreless innings, as was Medlen, who followed with two scoreless frames. However the Muts scored three in fifth off newcomer Jesse Chavez, who remains a likely bet to stick with the big club.

A live box score can be found here.

A great day at Disney

You couldn’t ask for a better afternoon:

  • In his spring debut, Tommy G. was sharp, tossing three scoreless innings.
  • Frenchy continued his resurgence, with two hits and three RBI. He’s now hitting .368.
  • Rehabbing reliever Peter Moylan tossed a scoreless frame.
  • John Maine, the Mets’ second starter, gave up six hits, five runs and three walks in four innings. His Grapefruit League ERA: 10.28. 
  • Josh Anderson smashed a three-run homer to lift his average to .295, still 90 points below Jordan Schafer, who was 1-for-4.  
  • They both trail Brandon Jones, now batting .400 after a two-hit day.
  • Oh, and the Braves won, 12-1.

–CB

Dynomite!

JJ is back in form. He threw six shutout innings against the Stinkin Mets today, struck out six and allowed just four hits and no walks.

Sure, Chipper’s hurt but that doesn’t appear to be serious. We know he’ll miss his 30 games. And G. Anderson should be back in a week or so. Soriano and Petah both appear healthy. Young Schafer might be ready to start in center field. Sorry to be too pollyanna, but it’s hard to find much to complain about right now.

–CD

Don’t look now, but ….

The Lilburn Flash is actually hitting. Francoeur’s spring average is up to .280 after a 2-for-3 afternoon vs. the Fish.

(CB here. Besides the improved BA, Francoeur has ZERO strikeouts and four walks in 25 AB’s.)

He had a pair of two-out RBIs today. This is shocking — if I’m reading these stats correctly, and I think I am, today’s practice game total matched his two-out RBI production for the entire second half of last season.

TLF’s exhibition-game offense might not be hugely important. Still, after his abysmal 2008 you want to see the kid smack it around. He’s started doing that, and he’s drawing the occasional walk.

Who knows? Maybe No. 7 actually will turn it around this season. And more nice work from our best pitching prospect since S. Avery. Today’s win pushes the Bravos to a sparkling 11-2. None of them count, but I guess it’s better than 2-11.

Big stories of spring so far: Hanson, Schafer’s hitting .364, TLF heating up, KJ’s raking, the pitching staff has been good for the most part and healthy, Gonzo’s velocity is creeping up, and G. Anderson got hurt immediately. That dude has a history of good health, so I’m not going to worry, not much anyway.

–CD

Zeros

Our soulful new pitcher from Japan, Kenshin Kawakami, cruised through his maiden MLB voyage today with two shutout innings.

According to the local organ’s scribe, Soul Brother No. 1 — what Japanese fans called James Brown — threw 18 strikes in 29 pitches. SB1 allowed only a bloop single to our old pal Adam LaRoche. It doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it’s encouraging and beats seeing him get slapped around.

This just in: Spotted a mention of this in comments on O’brien’s blog. Some dude, or maybe woman, born in Australia and living in New York City writes a blog dedicated to SB1. The url makes a natural fan club name, Kawakami’s Kamikazes.

–CD