2016-12-31T08:00:02-05:00It’s easy for players to get lost in the shuffle with all the talent in the Braves system, and AJ Minter is riding a dark horse into the Atlanta bullpen. “He’s really good,”- says John Coppolella on 2015 75th overall pick AJ Minter. If you’ve had the pleasure to watch AJ Minter, you’ll come away thinking the same. Now as the year rolls to a close and as some 2017 team predictions will begin to roll out, the Braves bullpen will be an oft-discussed point of debate for the podcasts, the bloggers, and fans alike. The headlines will focus on Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Mauricio Cabrera, and perhaps even Shae Simmons and the future of Mike Foltynewicz, but AJ Minter is the name that should not be overlooked. In fact, he might just be the best reliever the Braves will put on a mound next season. (Pause, breathe, don’t scream at me yet please.) src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tp74VN9BDo0?wmode=transparent&rel=0&autohide=1&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" style="top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;"> It’s rare that a relief pitcher have the type of stuff to make him one of the top 30 or so prospects in a season. Still, after just one season coming off of Tommy John surgery we named AJ Minter our #18 prospect. Why did we do that? AJ Minter has undeniable talent and a live arm, prompting teammates in the organization to say things like "Best arm I have seen in the minor leagues by far. No one came close" Those are strong words, but when a left-handed pitcher can consistently sit in the upper 90’s (coming off of surgery no less), it starts to make sense. Minter was one of the top draft prospects going into the 2015 draft, after pitching well for the USA Collegiate National team in the summer of 2014 and moving to the starting rotation as a junior while playing for Texas A&M where his electric stuff allowed him to post a 0.43 ERA through his first 4 starts. Those good feelings didn’t last long though and in March of 2015, Minter had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, ending his season and knocking his draft status back a few pegs. The Braves, patient and willing to take the risk, happily scooped him up with the 75th and final pick of day 1 of the 2015 draft, one they had traded prospects to get from the Diamondbacks. With the likelihood that he would miss most or all of 2016 as well, Minter left Texas A&M early and signed with Atlanta for $814K. I’ve already mentioned the surgery, and for Minter to be sitting 94-96 T98-99 just a year later is nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, reports from his days at Texas A&M before his injury had him 93-95 T97, so he’s even added a tick to his fastball and may even add more the further removed he is from surgery. Making it even tougher to hit is the strong, late arm side run he gets on it. Oh and he also can hit corners with his fastball, making it nearly unhittable when he is at his best. It’s maybe not quite an 80 fastball, but it’s about as close as you can get and coming from the left side makes it all the more valuable. Arguably yet, that fastball may not even be his best pitch. AJ Minter Ks the first man he faces in the 8th. 94 on the gun, just K'd the 2nd batter. pic.twitter.com/hSqYjM353L— Braves Prospects (@ProspectsBraves) July 16, 2016 Bow is great in this segment in general, but if you cut to around the 2:00 mark there is Wieters talk where he clearly is relaying that the Braves’ interest is due diligence and that there are a lot of reasons that the Braves aren’t going to break the bank for Wieters including his age, decline, injury history, and the presence of Tyler Flowers as a comparable option. So why is there so much smoke about the Braves and Wieters if there isn’t even a little fire? To be blunt, this feels a lot like the work of Scott Boras, Matt Wieters’ agent. There is no agent on the face of planet Earth that is better at creating a market for his clients when there isn’t one and the Nationals, who seem to [...]
Are you on board with the Atlanta Braves’ rebuild?
The Atlanta Braves are in the second year of their rebuild and appear to be inching back towards respectability. The team began the 2016 season with a whimper, eventually moved on from manager Fredi Gonzalez and turned things around in the second half to finish the season on a good note.
John Coppolella and company have worked hard to restock the minor league system and they spent this offseason attempting to add depth to the major league roster particularly to the starting rotation.
Rebuilds are always painful but Coppolella and the Braves appear to be on the right path. Are you confident that Coppolella can lead the Braves back to respectability? Do you approve of the job he has done so far?
2016-12-30T08:05:00-05:002016 is almost over (phew!), which means that it’s a perfect time for retrospectives and looking towards the future as well. BRAVES NEWS What were the five top storylines of 2016 for the Braves? We’ve only got a few days left in 2016 (thank goodness), which means that it’s time to take a look back at what the year provided us in terms of storylines. Mark Bowman dug deep into the short-term memory banks to trudge up some important memories for the Braves in 2016 — from Fredi Gonzalez’s firing to the team’s final game at Turner Field. McAuley rounds up his Braves prospect rankings Throughout this week, 92.9 The Game (and friend of the site)’s Grant McAuley has been giving his take on who he feels the top 30 Braves prospects are as we head into 2017. He’s given us No. 30-11 so far, and now he’s down to the top 10. As usual, the names are familiar but it’s always interesting to see what someone thinks about a particular prospect. So if you haven’t checked his list out yet, now is the perfect time to do so. Why did the Braves tear it all down after 2014? Dillon decided to take a trip back to the fall/winter of 2014, which is when the Braves fired Frank Wren and installed John Hart as President of Baseball Operations. Hart and friends decided that the Braves needed to undergo a massive rebuild — one that the team is still in as we enter 2017. Meanwhile, Dillon’s goal in this article was to let you know why the Braves went into rebuild mode while also trying to figure out if the Braves can avoid having to undergo another teardown should this one fail. Frank Wren made his share of good moves while at the helm, especially in the bullpen, but his shortcomings on draft night were just too much for the organization to overcome. Successful teams simply do not miss on their first selections with that much regularity, and they rarely forfeit the first-round picks either. Wren did both, and it crippled the farm system to the point that something had to be done. MLB NEWS Michael Brantley rumored to have suffered “horrific” injury The defending AL Champions made their eye-opening run to the 2016 World Series without one of their impact players in Michael Brantley. The 29-year-old outfielder only played 11 games in 2016 due to a shoulder injury, but Cleveland is hoping that he’ll be able to be a healthy contributor for the team’s defense of the AL Pennant next year. However, Jonah Keri apparently had the scoop of the century on Brantley, saying that he’d suffered a “horrific” injury and probably wouldn’t be the same. Cleveland’s saying otherwise — in fact, they tried to shoot down the rumors on Reddit — but we’ll just have to see if Cleveland will get the normal Brantley back or just a shell of his former self. Paul Goldschmidt and Daniel Murphy will play for USA at WBC Jaime Garcia will have some star-studded company at the upcoming WBC, because Team USA announced that they’d landed two big names for the 2017 event. (Garcia will be pitching for Team Mexico, as previously announced.) Paul Goldschmidt and Daniel Murphy both made commitments to play for the United States at the WBC, according to Jon Morosi. This will be the first WBC for both players, but they’ll be joining a team that’s looking stronger and stronger (on paper, at least) with each passing day. Goldschmidt will play predominately first base, his natural position. But Murphy could see time at designated hitter with Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler scheduled to play for Team USA as well. Other Major League All-Stars scheduled to play for the U.S. include Max Scherzer, Chris Archer, Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Brandon Crawford, Luke Gregerson and Christian Yelich. [...]
2016-12-29T12:00:02-05:00A lot has happened in Atlanta over the past two-plus years, and the roster turnover has been astounding, but what events contributed to the Braves’ full-scale tear-down? The Braves have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, such as a young, controllable core that is followed by waves of high-profile talent in the farm system. The major league roster leaves something to be desired with regards to contending in the present, but John Coppolella has this organization headed in a promising direction. With that said, the past two seasons have been agonizing for fans as the big league club has gone 135-188 over that span. This is a product of the front office pushing the team into a full scale rebuild, which usually results in poor results for at least a couple years. With all the talent the Braves have accumulated, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the fruits of the front office’s labor, but in a perfect world the rebuild would never have been a necessity. So why did the Braves have to go through the arduous task of tearing down a team that was just a year removed from winning 96 games? Rather than sift through every transaction from the past 5-10 years, I think the root of the Braves’ problems can be broken down into a handful of key decisions. Let’s start with the beginning of the 2010 season, when the Braves unveiled right fielder Jason Heyward on Opening Day. The metro-Atlanta native was rated as the top prospect in all of baseball, and at the time the Braves were in dire need of a right fielder. Heyward did not disappoint from the start, hitting the famous missile that landed around 2.5 miles from home plate in his first major league at-bat. This was one of the most exciting moments I can remember as a Braves fan, but it came at a hefty price. The inclusion of Heyward on the Opening Day roster that season meant that if he remained with the big club for the remainder of the season, he would reach the service time requirement to have his free agency begin after the 2015 season. This was a distant thought as Heyward rounded the bases at Turner Field that day, but it severely impacted the Braves’ ability to plan for the future in subsequent years. Thus began a series of events that would ultimately lead to Heyward being traded along with almost every other significant piece off a 2014 roster that wildly underperformed, but more on that later. Along this same series of events, you will find the Braves’ hire of Fredi Gonzalez following the 2010 season. Gonzalez had previously served as third base coach under Bobby Cox and had most recently managed the Florida Marlins when he took over in Atlanta. The Braves went through ups and downs under Gonzalez, with most of the downs seemingly coming at the most inopportune times, such as the NLDS (yikes). Fredi took a lot of heat as manager of the Braves, with most of it being attributed to his inability to get the team over hump. The Braves famously collapsed in 2011, lost in the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, and were under .500 in 2014. Gonzalez was a lightning rod for a great deal of the scrutiny around the team during that time, and it ultimately cost him his job in the midst of the rebuild. Speaking of playoff shortcomings, does anybody remember Fredi leaving Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen during the eighth inning of Game 4 in 2013? Then I’m guessing you also remember Juan Uribe hitting a ball to moon off David Carpenter? Yeah. It’s easy to forget that the Braves had the best record in the National League for much of that season before a below-.500 September dropped them into second, leaving them to play the Dodgers rather than the Wild Card game winner. There’s no way to know how a Braves-Pirates series might have played out, but avoiding a Kershaw-Greinke tandem is almost always a positive. Ultimately the 2013 regular season saw the Braves post yet another disappointing September finish on Fredi’s watch, followed by an early postseason exit for the hometown team. Th[...]
2016-12-29T10:00:01-05:00A year of excellent community content. As the year draws to a close, we here at Talking Chop thought it would be great to look back at the top-notch content the community has provided to Braves fans in the form of fanposts. The Braves themselves did not have a particularly good season, but that didn’t do much to kill the enthusiasm and creativity of the Talking Chop community when it came to showcasing original research or providing fun topics for discussion. With that said, here are some of our favorite fanposts and series over the course of the year: The Final 2015-2016 Community Prospect List - while now somewhat outdated, it’s always fun to look back and see what the community thought of all of the Braves’ prospects, all before John Coppolella went and upended everything with a bunch more prospect acquisitions immediately thereafter, and continued to do so over the course of the season. Regressed Platoon Splits for the 2016 Braves (Pre-2016 Season) - thoughts on lineup construction and hitter quality for the 2016 Braves by wunderbar content producer BravesRays. As the 2017 season draws closer, this could be a great exercise to undertake once again. Pick the Final 3 Spots of the (2016) Rotation - something that will probably not happen in 2017, a fun look back on when there were myriad rotation questions to decide. The post is straightforward enough, but the discussion it generated was great. An in-person Spring Training report - from community member DD27, these sorts of posts are always excellent for folks who can’t manage to get to games, especially Spring Training Games, themselves. A review of MLB roster rules - from community member / errata guru Cornutt, a very useful resource for the labyrinth of arcana otherwise known as MLB transaction / roster rules. Five Bold Predictions - in what is hopefully becoming a TC tradition, community members were asked to make five bold predictions that would stick around for evaluation by posterity. This post also summarizes the best and worst predictions from when this exercise occurred prior to the 2015 season. Get your engines revving for the 2017 edition, which is sure to happen sometime soon. The post-mortem of these predictions is available here. The Waiting before the Call Up! - just a very special post for both the Braves and Talking Chop communities. Click and enjoy. Replay Review Has Killed the Braves - But Why? - if you wanted to know anything about the Braves being destroyed by replay review for the first ten weeks of 2016, it’s all here. Data, analysis, discussion, great stuff from community member Nathaniel Edwards. Julio’s Trade Value in Prospects - a quick review of the surplus value-based trade value that Julio Teheran may have, which then spawned lots of good discussion on feasible and infeasible trade scenarios including the Braves’ best pitcher. What if the Braves Trade JT to Boston? - this fanpost got 535 comments. Essentially, enough said. Also, nothing gets Braves fans rushing to their keyboards than hypothetical trades with the Red Sox, I guess. A post not about trading Julio Teheran - really, it isn’t. And it was much-needed at the time. Also mentions the Phoenicians, which are not a minor league team from the Phoenix suburbs. Pitch comps by BravesRays - there are a whole bunch of these, and these are an awesome resource for thinking about our pitchers beyond the usual “old school” or sabermetric stats. One exists for many Braves pitchers at this point, and I imagine even more will exist as time goes on and the complexion of the Braves rotation and bullpen changes. Some of the best work that’s been done in the Fanposts of this site, ever. The GBOAT (Greatest Brave of All Time) series, by Xiansheng - a little different than many other fanposts, this is a long-running series for the community to work out, once and for all, who the greatest Brave is, in voting bracket fashion. It’s nowhere near done [...]
2016-12-29T08:00:02-05:00Even in a losing season the Braves had a number of exciting moments in 2016, but which individual game stands out the most? BRAVES NEWS Max Fried named as one of MLB Pipeline’s “10 Prospects Ready to Surge in 2017” After he posted an impressive season in Rome last season, MLB Pipeline is expecting big things from Braves left-hander Max Fried in 2017. Evaluators have been slow to acknowledge Fried as a top prospect since his Tommy John Surgery in 2014, but after he finished with a 3.26 ERA and 52 Ks in 38.2 innings in season’s second-half, many publications are once again praising the California native as a potential impact major league starter. Braves finish 2016 strong, feel invigorated The Braves have a lot to look forward to in 2017: a new ballpark, a stocked farm system, and a returning roster that finished the 2016 season on a tear. The lineup made significant strides in the second-half last season, and with their ascension to respectability down the stretch the team should be proud of the heart they showed. As Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes, the Braves had a lot of positive developments in the second-half and there were a number of storylines that contributed to a wild ride in 2016: The Braves won 50 of their final 97 games to finish at 68-93. Freeman finished sixth in the National League MVP balloting, Julio Teheran bounced back from a rough 2015 to earn his first All-Star selection and Ender Inciarte won a Gold Glove Award. Braves may have a long-term catcher conundrum With all the talent-infusion going on in Atlanta recently, the Braves have a lot to be excited about when going through the roster position-by-position. However, one position that may give some pause when evaluating the current situation at both the major league and minor league levels is behind the plate. As our own Demetrius Bell writes, the Braves have a catching conundrum to solve as they continue to plug holes around the diamond: The position’s been in flux ever since Evan Gattis got shipped to Houston, and even then you could argue that it was still in flux since there were rumors back in 2014 that the Braves wanted to stick Gattis in left field. The Braves thought they had a long term solution in the form of Christian Bethancourt, but things never went right for C-Beth and now he’s in San Diego learning how to become a catching/outfielding/pitching hybrid monster. A.J. Pierzynski was a surprisingly-solid short-term solution in 2015, but whatever he had left in the gas tank completely evaporated by the time 2016 rolled around. MLB NEWS Most amazing National League games of 2016 What were some of the most amazing games for each NL team in 2016? MLB.com recalls some of the most exciting games of the season, and their choice for the Braves is a tough one to argue. I’ll give you a hint: a certain $30 million man caught a baseball that most people wouldn’t catch, then a certain Braves announcer yelled like a buffoon for a good 30 seconds afterward... How many Hall of Famers will you see play in 2017? This is an interesting piece from MLB.com columnist Mike Petriello concerning the number of Hall of Famers that we could see play in the 2017 season. Could we see a current Brave in the Hall of Fame 20 years from now? As Petriello writes there are an average of 31 future Hall of Fame players that are active per season: As we showed last year, we've historically seen an average of roughly 31 future Hall of Famers per season, and that held true even if we did "percentage of Hall of Famers per active player," although, of course, that number is much less over the last two decades. Part of that is the obvious fact that many of the most recent stars, like Derek Jeter, simply aren't eligible yet, but there's also evidence that voting gridlock has caused stars of the 1980s and '90s to be underrepresented -- only 18 players have been inducted in the last 10 elections, an average of fewer than two [...]
When naming any group of 10 great prospects, there’s bound to be a Brave in there somewhere and Max Fried’s was today’s honoree as one of Pipelines “10 Prospects Ready to Surge in 2017”
Tommy John may have slowed him down, but MLB Pipeline believes there is nothing that can be done to stop the rise of Max Fried. Jonathan Mayo discussed Fried with MLB Network as one of his 10 picks to surge in 2017, and called him a guy with a “power fastball and a really good true curve from the left side”. Those who read our recently-released Top Prospects for 2017 know just how much faith we here at Talking Chop have in Fried and with his injury-stunted 2 years behind him it seems he will again pop back onto the radars of most of the top prospect outlets.
As a 7th overall pick in 2012, there has been a tremendous amount of hype thrown towards Fried since high school, and when he’s been on the field he has done nothing but deliver. Some might have felt shy watching him shake off the rust in the first half, but after the all star break he became perhaps the biggest force the Rome Braves had with a 3.26 ERA and 52K/11BB in 38.2 IP. A simply dominant postseason performance puts him on the rise going into 2017 and put his innings total at 117.2 IP (1 short of his career high in 2013). Fried will have the chains that bind untied, and will likely be placed as the ace of the Mississippi Braves as a 23 year old. Skipping a level will be the biggest test for Fried, who will try to maintain his health, performance, and stuff through his first attempt at 2 consecutive full, healthy seasons.
In Parting, I leave you with a snippet from our preseason top prospect list written by the always-fantastic Matt Powers