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.

 

Week 1 autopsy

  • There’s a definite buzz about this team. More than 120,000 turned out for the Cubs series — and not many of them seemed to be rooting for the Little Bears. Yes, they got a boost from the Final Four, but the crowds have been more enthusiastic than in recent years. FSS and SS are also benefiting, as the three games vs. the Phillies registered the highest average rating for a season opening series in 11 years. The opener, meanwhile, was the most-watched since the 2000 opener on TBS.
  • The Braves struck out 16 times twice this week  but still won both games. That’s all fine and good, but God forbid we end up facing Kershaw or Cain in the wild card game.
  • B.J. Upton looked like a different hitter in the lead-off spot, walking three times and stealing two bases, in addition to Saturday’s heroics. Fredi said he may leave him there even after Andrelton returns (probably tomorrow). It’s worth nothing that B.J. posted OBP’s of .386 and .383 in his first two full seasons with the Rays.
  • Speaking of Fredi … no complaints, earlier nitpicking notwithstanding. The confidence he showed in Avilan, using him against more than just LH batters, was rewarded. His bullpen management has improved by leaps and bounds from 2011.
  • Speaking of the ‘pen: JV hasn’t been missed, and that’s not a reflection on him. Braves relievers are just that good.
  • Frank Wren doesn’t have the best people skills but DL’ing Freddie was the right call. And I like that Freddie was pissed about it. Dude’s a gamer.
  • What’s the over/under on Monday’s home opener for the Fish? I’ll be generous and say 32,000.
  • Anyone still think the Phils and Yanks will make the playoffs?
  • Why did I spend $20 on John Axford in my fantasy draft?

Hank on Prado

(via DOB)

“You hate to lose Prado. He was one of my (favorites). I mean, to me, I think you’ve got to go a long ways in order to beat him, to find somebody who can play all the positions as well as he plays them. To bring what he brings to the clubhouse, and the way he plays the game. To us, we needed a ballplayer and we went out and got one, and it cost us dearly. Because this kid can truly play ball. And he’s a good kid in the clubhouse. He’s going to be missed and I wish him the best of luck. I hope he goes there and hits .400.”

Amen.

I plan on attending one of the games June 28-30 when the D’backs come to town to show Martin how much this Braves fan appreciated him. Hopefully he gets the standing O he deserves.

Head, heart divided on Prado deal

Do the intangibles matter? Do strikeouts not? Depends on your school of thought.

I think they can both be true. Having a player who serves as an example for others by the way he plays the game is a plus — but it doesn’t compare with talent. Justin Upton could win an MVP this year. Martin never will.

Yes, an out is an out but some outs are productive. Strikeouts never are — but they are better than double plays. A strikeout-heavy line-up is prone to collective slumps, and this one should be no different.

Upton’s 121 K’s aren’t bad fora power hitter; I’m more troubled by Chris Johnson’s 131 K’s in 136 games. He’s likely to be platoon with Bigger Frank, who struck out 70 times in 192 AB’s. McCann and Andrelton are the only line-up regulars who won’t top 100 K’s.

Defensively, the Braves have gotten worse. The outfield is a little better but third base could be a nightmare. Chris Francisco is likely to be to 3B what Uggla is to second.

I’m glad the Braves didn’t trade any of their best pitching prospects. If I wasn’t so attached to Martin I’d probably like this trade.

Instead, I’m conflicted

Justin Upton will be a Brave by Friday

There’s good reason to be optimistic.

Scribes Rosenthal, Heyman and Olney all report the Braves have offered a “strong package” of players for Upton. DOB says the offer likely involves Teheran plus two-to-three additional prospects. Among the names bandied about: Gattis, Ahmed, Gilmartin, Spruill …

Bet on it happening by Friday, an artificial deadline favored by the D’backs, according to reports.

If it does the Bravos will boast the game’s most gifted outfield, one that combined for 72 homers, 227 RBI and 70 steals in 2012 — and that’s with Justin Upton having an off year.

My concern is what impact this will have on extensions for Jay Hey and Medlen. I’d rather lock those two up than acquire Upton. Hopefully it’s not an either/or proposition.

Still, I’d rather be talking about the possibility of another Upton than trying to rationalize  the signing of Delmon Young.

Is Justin Upton to the Braves inevitable?

Baseball scribes seem increasingly convinced that the D’backs star will end up in Atlanta. I’ve been skeptical but am beginning to think that the Uptons will join the Aarons, Niekros, Torres, Mahlers and Drews as siblings and teammates on the Braves.

Justin Upton just turned down a deal that would’ve sent him to Seattle in exchange for a top pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, SS Nick Franklin, who projects as a Blauser-esque middle infielder, and relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor.

That’s a lot to give up for Upton, especially for a team like Seattle which is more than one player away from contending.

The Braves are contenders with only one Upton. Two Uptons could put them over the top. Plus, I don’t think they’d have to surrender as much as the Mariners offered (which equates to something along the lines of Teheran, Nick Ahmed, Juan Jaime and Luis Avilan).

Arizona is in a bind, having signed Cody Ross to join an already crowded outfield. They’ve been shopping Upton since last year’s All-Star break, so bringing him back would be problematic. And word that Texas has dropped out of the bidding leaves the D’Backs with few suitors.

The Braves could swing it financially, as Upton will make $9.75 million in 2013 (then $14.25 mil in ’14 and ’15, the same total and years Boston gave to Shane Victorino). That would leave zero wiggle room payroll-wise, though including Eric O’Flaherty, a free agent in 2014, in a deal would free up roughly $4 million. No doubt O’Flaherty would appeal to Arizona GM Kevin Towers, whose bullpen lacks a solid southpaw.

I’d hate to lose EOF, but he’ll be gone in a year anyway. And the Braves would still have Venters, Avilan and newly acquired Jordan Walden, who’s held lefties to a .202 BA in his career.

I’d offer Delgado, O’Flaherty and Ahmed and work from there. Considering the difference Upton would make for the 2013 Braves, I’d be prepared to give up more.

The former overall top draft pick battled nagging injuries in 2012, likely accounting for his decline in power. But not all was lost, as Upton showed better plate coverage, striking out 121 times in 150 games — a big improvement from 2010, when he was rung up 152 times in 133 games.

His home/road splits are troubling, though Arizona is not Colorado. Not sure what explains the disparity but I have a hard time believing Upton will never produce outside of Chase Field.

Best to remember we’re talking about a player one year removed from a 4th place finish in NL MVP balloting. It would surprise no one if the 25-year-old veteran finishes first in the near future.

Why not 2013, in Atlanta? It’s not as unlikely as we once thought.

Bourn ain’t happening

FW says the Braves haven’t shut the door on Michael Bourn, but that doesn’t mean anything has changed. What did you want him to say, Bourn can’t come back even if he wanted to?

The Braves have roughly $8 million to spend and Liberty has shown little flexibility with payroll. In a market where Shane Victorino gets $39 mil for 3 years, do you really think you’re going to get Bourn for one year and $10 million?

I wish, but that’s as far as it’s going to get. Don’t count on getting Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton, either. The Braves farm system is rich in pitching but little else. Can’t see them putting together a package that would satisfy the D’backs or Fish.