Was the Philly sweep an omen or a blip?

Hard to say, but there’s a few takeaways that should’ve been obvious before:

  • B.J. Upton can’t be trusted. He was 0-for-Philadelphia, with 7 strikeouts — three versus Kyle Kendrick. Baffling that Schafer sat on the bench all weekend even though he was apparently healthy enough to play. Until Jay Hey returns there’s no reason not to stick w/ an OF of Gattis, Schafer and the ever-unpredictable Justin, who has a .190 BA and .637 OPS over his last 19 games (63 AB). Obviously he can carry this team when hot, but when he’s not he’s as big a liability as his sibling.
  • Speaking of liabilities, Dan Uggla continues to suck. He hasn’t homered in 28 games, during which time he has 21 more strikeouts (32) than hits (9). He’s hitting .133 with no XBH since returning from LASIK surgery, regressing to the point that I’m beginning to wonder if the Braves aren’t better off with Elliot Johnson at second base. Those who still try and defend Uggla should really stop making fools of themselves.
  • Remember Jeff Suppan, the middling Cardinals starter who parlayed a stout performance in the 2006 NLCS into a big contract with the Brewers? For the Braves to advance to the World Series for the first time in 14 years, they’re going to need Paul Maholm to mimic Suppan. Because Maholm is the only realistic option as a fourth starter. Beachy has only recently begun soft-tossing so it’s questionable whether he’ll even be available out of the bullpen, while Alex Wood has either tired or been figured out by opposing hitters.
  • Jordan Walden is more important to this team than we may have realized. Without him the Braves bullpen is considerably less intimidating. Can’t say enough about how well Carpenter and Avilan have pitched up to now but I’d rather not have to depend on them alone as the bridge to Kimbrel.  Walden is reportedly “not close” to returning from a groin strain, according to the AJC’s Carroll Rogers.
  • On top of everything else, now I’m worried about Freddie’s right knee. Fredi says it’s fine after he banged it into a wall chasing a pop-up yesterday in Philly, but that knee has given him trouble before. And frankly, it’s getting difficult to trust the Braves when they say a player is day-to-day. As evident with the two Jordans and Reed Johnson, the team’s prognoses of late tend to be wildly optimistic. I’d sit Freddie for at least one game — home-field advantage won’t mean a thing if our best hitter is limping to the plate.

 

Schafer, Pastornicky only Braves yet to report

Judging by Fredi’s comments the former prospects would be advised to go apartment hunting in Buford.

“We’re waiting for [Pastornicky] again this year,” Gonzalez said, in a good-natured tone that nonetheless sent a message. “Schafer probably has a tough time getting travel arrangements. He’s another one I’m going to grab. He only lives two exits up the road here; I haven’t seen him yet.

“I didn’t know he signed a deal with Frank – he’s got a five-year deal, guarantee to play one of the three outfield spots.”

 

Are the Braves resigned to their small-market fate?

Increasingly we’re hearing management say it’s okay with internal LF/3B options, as if there are any. I’m encouraged by Juan Francisco’s development, but there’s nothing to suggest he won’t add another 150+ strikeouts to a line-up that could easily lead the league in K’s. Jose Constanza is a 4-A player at best, Evan Gattis is a DH who may or may not hit big league pitching and Jordan Schafer has blown every chance he’s received.

Meanwhile, the Reds are on the verge of acquiring Shin-Soo Choo (career .289 BA, .381 OBP, .465 slugging, 20 SB a year) in a three-team deal  that would net the Indians Drew Stubbs, who’s fallen far short of expectations, and a minor league pitching prospect. I’m not saying the Braves could’ve topped that offer, but Cleveland needs pitching and the Braves have it.  Choo is a FA after this season, and, though he strikes out plenty, gets on base at a clip Francisco will never match. And the Reds aren’t gutting their farm system to get him.

An NL competitor is about to get better, and right now the Braves are worse than in 2012. B.J. Upton does not equal Chipper and Bourn. Not even close.

More troubling is the lack of any movement on extensions for Martin and Jay Hey. Prado, a free agent after next season, has indicated a desire to re-up and likely won’t drive an impossible bargain. But this market would tempt anyone, and the Braves better not let Martin’s agent drive up the price.

Hard to believe but Jay Hey is just three years removed from free agency. The closer he gets to 2016 the less interested he’ll be in passing up a potential bonanza for short-term security. By the way, Kris Medlen will also be a FA in 2016.

Hell, even Tampa managed to lock up its franchise player, Evan Longoria, through 2023. Such commitments are not without risk, but the alternative is the Pittsburgh Pirates. FW better get moving or it won’t be long before we find ourselves in the same boat as Pirate fans, desperate for mediocrity.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #7 Jordan Schafer

Homering in your first MLB AB has guaranteed one thing: You won’t make the Hall of Fame (hopefully Jay Hey changes that).

Jermaine Dye and Will Clark are probably the best players to accomplish the feat. They are the exceptions among a fraternity that includes Esteban Yan, Johnnie LeMaster, John Montefusco and the 14th Brave to make our list, Jordan Schafer.

Schafer looked like a future star in 2007, hitting .312 with a .887 OPS (49 doubles, 10 triples, 15 HR) in Single-A. Then he was suspended 50 games for HGH. His performance since then suggests ‘roids had much to do with his early success.

He was mediocre at Double-A Mississippi in 2008 and the Braves, with no real alternatives, named him their Opening Day CF after a solid spring.

He responded by going deep off Brett Myers. Two games later he hit a 2-run bomb off Jamie Moyer.

Schafer would homer only once more in his next 99 games as a Brave, striking out 105 times in 363 AB total. He was a disappointment defensively, as well, often letting the wall play him in CF.

An injured hand contributed to his struggles as a rookie, but good health hasn’t translated to performance. Jordan did show some flashes in 2011 and handled his trade to Houston with class. It’s been downhill ever since. The Astros gave him ample opportunity — even after he was busted on a felony pot charge last spring — and he responded with a .211 BA and .297 OBP.

When FW re-signed him earlier this winter, I couldn’t help but think of Craig Robinson, Larvell Blanks and Adrian Devine. Wasn’t once enough?

We were told not to fret, that Jordan would be the starting CF in Buford, not Atlanta. But with the LF job still open Schafer has a shot — a very long shot — at making the big league club even though he’s done little to deserve it.