Sunday, January 31, 2010

Musings on the Atlanta Braves with 18 Days Left Until Spring Training

I think that this title should read "Musings on the Atlanta Braves with 18 Days Left Until Spring Training...and Some Other Stuff," but that goes beyond the B/R character limit for titles.

After all, not much has happened over the past six days since I wrote my last piece.

But, that itching feelings getting into my head...and I have to write something.

So, here we go, I guess.

First thing, new series.

Over the next couple of weeks (probably until pitchers and catchers report), I will be writing a series of articles called "The Six [or Five, or Ten, or...I haven't decided] X-Factors for the Atlanta Braves in 2010," hopefully with a much better title than that.

In it, I'm going to break down a number of things (gimme a number and I'll shoot for it, I guess) that I think will, at some point, have a huge impact on the Braves at some point this upcoming season.

So far, I know I'm going to do Troy Glaus, Derek Lowe, Chipper Jones' (hopeful) rebound, the Rookies, and a couple of other things (once again, no number, suggestions would be nice).

Why am I telling you this?

I was wondering the same thing as I typed and thinking "who's really going to care?"

Second thing, Jonathan Mayo's Top-50 Prospects List.

Not that a professional really needs my opinion to reassure his analysis, but it was good to see Jason Heyward at the top.

Was it a surprise?

No, not really.

In fact, I think the surprise would have been if someone else was at the top.

But just to see even more confirmation that we haven't been bull-s%$#&ed by the Atlanta media and ourselves (and most other prospect rankings) with the confirmation of a major outlet feels great.

Even if Mayo did say on the MLB Network special that Strasburg and Heyward were "close" for the No. 1 spot (we saw my opinion on that in the last musing), to see the Atlanta farm system carrying a future (recognized) stud to full term makes me smile.

The thought of him in Atlanta come June (or earlier) makes me more excited about a season than I think I have ever been.

Next up, advice.

This isn't me tooting my own horn or anything about my "experience" on Bleacher Report or anything, so go ahead and put your rocks down.

This is just something that I think needs to be said to the up-and-comers who may be reading this: don't use up all of your "stories" in your first two weeks on the site.

I remember when I first signed up...I was writing two and three articles a day (I had something like 16 articles after nine days).

And when I did that, I used up all of my good "this is why I feel this way," "my favorite player is," and "the five greatest Braves of all time" topics.

Whatever you those for later.

Or else you'll end up writing articles like this when you get that itch to write.

Last thing...ummm...

Unfortunately, I have failed to find a good segue in which I could use this:

So, I could not fulfill Joe Yanarella's request to infuse other forms of media into my articles while staying on topic.

I guess I'll just leave this final section blank and go ahead and sign off.

Thanks for bearing with the stupidity.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Musings on the Atlanta Braves with 24 Days Left Until Spring Training

Another news-less week has left me with little to say that hasn't already been at least mentioned before.

But, with these bland, beaten-to-death topics, old topics, comes some new perspective.

Makes me wish I had some contacts...

Anyway, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm ready for the Johnny Damon saga to end.

It's starting to feel a little bit like Jake Peavy 2.0...with less coverage from the media.

It's not so much that I want the Braves to get him (though it would be nice), I just want the sense of uneasiness and anticipation that comes with a situation like this one to stop.

I just want to see MLB Trade Rumors or (the new site I will be contributing to following Braves transactions--that's called a segue) featuring the headline "_____, Johnny Damon Agree to Terms" so I can either type up a positive reaction or stop checking my e-mail/MLBTR every two minutes.

If this drags out into mid-February, I might blow a gasket...though, I think that I've said that a couple of times now.

Next thing, Jair Jurrjens.

I was reading Mark Bowman's inbox today, and the first question was concerning the need to extend JJ a long-term contract.

Bowman basically said that the Braves will probably end up waiting to see whether or not JJ and, for that matter, Tommy Hanson, are going to be the real deal into the future.

Now, the Braves obviously are too limited by funds to risk dishing out $7-9 million per year over the next four to seven years (I'm thinking Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun length-deals at Cole Hamels salaries) and having either JJ or Big Red going down with catastrophic arm injuries.

But, these two have shown the abilities in their limited big league-showcases of number one's and two's that should only improve.

It's not my money, but I think that big-time extensions need to come in the next two to three years (which is what Bowman basically suggested).

The Braves cannot afford to lose this kind of talent (no s*@%, right?), and locking them up at this stage of their careers is going to be the only way to keep them from going to the New York's, Los Angele's, and Boston's of the world.

After all, Atlanta, especially sans-Cox, won't have the nostalgia it did when the Braves were able to get Greg Maddux and John Smoltz to come/stick around at sub-market value.

Last thing...Stephen Strasbug hype.

I was checking the prospect rankings today and found this little nugget.

If you don't feel like opening that link up, this is what the author, Frankie Piliere, said about the top-five prospects in the game (with their outstanding MiLB stats to the side):

5. Jesus Montero, C, NYY (.389 OBP, 17 homers)
4. Jason Heyward, OF, ATL (.408, 17 homers)
3. Desmond Jennings, OF, TB (.401 OBP, 52 steals)
2. Mike Stanton, OF, FLA (.341 OBP, 28 homers)
1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, WSH (college)

Now I don't want to sound too whiny about one dude's top-5, but come on.

All five of these guys are special talents, but Heyward at four?

That's not my main gripe, though (it's probably No. 2).

My gripe is the overwhelming amount of feet-kissing for Strasburg.

I understand that he can throw 100 and that he has outstanding breaking stuff for his age (21), but did anyone see what he did in the Arizona Fall League (aka his only professional experience)?

Dude had a 4.26 ERA with 23 Ks in 19 innings.

As a point, Tommy Hanson's 0.63 ERA with 49 Ks in 28.2 innings barely got him into the top-5 in most rankings.

Look, I'm not trying to be overly nit-picky about meaningless projections, but I just don't think a guy can go from college phenom (you know, the place where talent is AA and less) to the next great thing for the Majors.

No doubt, I think this needs to be said, that his pure stuff makes him appealing...but can we let the guy get a few successful pro performances under his belt before putting him ahead of guys like Stanton, Jennings, and Heyward?

And in the words of my good friend Forrest Gump...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No. 17 Breaks Records With His Unorthodox Throwing Motion

Philip Rivers is possibly the most underrated quarterback in the NFL, and he is my choice for the best athlete to wear number seventeen.

I understand this will be a very unpopular pick with Basketball Hall of Framer John Havlicek, Pro Football Hall of Framer Red Badgro, and Former Pitcher Dizzy Dean all wearing the number seventeen.

Philip Rivers was arguably the best quarterback in North Carolina State history, demolishing almost every NC State and ACC passing record.

He also set a new benchmark for consistency in college football quarterbacks, setting a collegiate record 51 starts.

Under River’s leadership the Wolfpack went to four consecutive bowl games, winning three of them, including my favorite a New Year’s Day victory over the Norte Dame in the 2003 Gator Bowl.

He won many awards while at NC State including ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year, MVP of Two Tangerine Bowls, and MVP of the 2003 Gator Bowl.

Rivers finished his career with 13,484 passing yards (4th all-time among Division 1-A quarterbacks, he was 2nd at the end of his collegiate career) and 95 touchdown passes, which ties him for eighth all-time with Kliff Kingsbury and Brady Quinn.

Coming into the 2004 NFL Draft, Rivers was projected to be an early first round draft pick in a quarterback class that included Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

After many questions about his arm strength and unorthodox throwing motion, the pre-draft consensus was that Rivers could be selected with the 11th pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Then Eli Manning said that if picked by the San Diego Chargers he would not sign with them, he was then traded to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and draft picks that would be used on Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.

Rivers sent most of the 2004 and 2005 NFL seasons on the bench watching Drew Brees lead the Chargers into NFL supremacy, but after a dislocated shoulder to Brees the Chargers choose not to re-sign him and named Rivers the starter for the 2006 season.

Coming into the 2006 season Rivers had only five NFL starts, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an elite quarterback by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 22 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions that season.

Philip Rivers has only looked better since that season throwing a combined 55 touchdowns and 7,161 yards in the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons.

In 2009 he throw for 4,254 yards and 28 touchdowns, making this season his second consecutive season with at least 4,000 passing yards.

Philip Rivers’ future is looking brighter every game, and he also has some of the most talented receivers, backs, and tight ends in the NFL to help with his success.

Rivers shows excellent pocket presence and has a quick release, so for Philip Rivers the sky is the limit.

Friday, January 22, 2010

North Carolina State Wolfpack Football: 2010 Top Recruits

The NC State Football program is coming off a very disappointing season where they won only fives game and lost seven.

Tom O’Brien’s team failed to earn a bid to a bowl game mainly because they failed to stop opposing offenses and they also struggled to protect Russell Wilson. That is very uncharacteristic of a team coached by Tom O’Brien.

O’Brien has seemed to what to improve these issues as four of his top five recruits are offensive lineman or defensive players

  • Robert Crisp is an offensive tackle out of Chapel Hill, N.C. and he is 6′7″, 302 lbs.

Crisp is a talented offensive lineman that will probably start out as a right tackle at N.C. State.

He has incredible height and athleticism, and his weight gives him a huge advantage especially in pass protection, where he is very consistent at leading with the hands and striking the defender first.

He possesses upper body strength and is impossible to power rush in drop back protection. And his huge wingspan keeps defenders from getting to his frame.

Crisp does a good job of locking out the pass rusher that comes straight ahead and setting back with quickness from both the three and two-point stance.

Though he anchors down in good leverage position, he sometimes still gets beat on the edge by speed rushers.

He gets caught flat footed and can’t recover, and needs to narrow his base once anchored in order to shuffle and change direction.

Currently more consistent in quick set than deep drop protection, he demonstrates good foot agility in the run game.

He gets good knock-back off the line of scrimmage when pads stay down and is powerful enough to drive defenders to the second level.

He is still inconsistent at finishing blocks but, at times, completely dominates the opponent.

His athleticism shows in pulls and traps, and he displays good knee bend when delivering a blow at the second level or down field.

Crisp has the potential to be an outstanding offensive lineman once he gets more consistent in the passing game.

He has very sound fundamentals and good quickness for such a large man.

  • Fre’Shad Hunter is a defensive lineman out of Cary High School in Cary, North Carolina.

He is 6′4″, 250 pounds, and he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.93 seconds.

Hunter is a versatile defensive lineman, he played both defensive tackle and defensive end while in high school.

He has good size, he has shown good strength, and many scouts say he has “more room to grow.”

Hunter has a good first step and when he rushes the passer he has a nice set of moves.

He does need to work on his hand movement and his flexibility, but besides that he has a ton of potential.

  • Tony Creecy is a wide receiver/running back from Durham, North Carolina and he is 6′0″ tall, he weighs 195 pounds, and his 40-yard dash time is 4.45 seconds.

Creecy is the definition of a utility player and while in high school he played many positions but his two best ones are wide receiver and running back.

He has the hands of a receive, but he also has the lower body strength of a running back.

Many scouts believe he has field vision and toughness to be a 20-carry back, but he also has the smarts of a wide receiver.

His skill set makes him best suited as a slot receiver, that is best as NC State has an overload at running back.

  • David Amerson is a free safety from Dudley High School in Dudley, North Carolina. He is 6′1″, 182 pounds, and he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

Amerson is tall and athletic, which is very impressive as he is a free safety.

He is a true “centerfielder” that understands route progression and anticipates the quarterbacks release of the football.

Amerson breaks quickly on the pass and is impressive at undercutting the receiver to defend the pass or to create an interception.

He says he can bench 275 pounds, squat 455 and claims a 36-inch vertical jump.

Amerson has stated that he would like to get bigger, to add about 20 pounds of muscle.

  • Torian Box is a offensive guard from North Clayton High School in College Park, Georgia.

Box is 6′3″, 294 pounds, and he runs a 40-yard dash in 5.31 seconds.

Torian Box is a good offensive lineman and he projects as an offensive guard.

Box isn’t the tallest offensive lineman but he plays well for his size, he also has a strong upper body and has active feet.

Box at times plays a little high and needs to work on his flexibility, but other then that he should be a nice addition to Tom O’Brien’s team.

  • Dontae Johnson is a safety from The Pennington School in Pennington, New Jersey.

Johnson is 6′3″, 180 pounder, and he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

Dontae is a big intimidating safety who could one day learn to become an outside linebacker.

Johnson is very physical safety and he like to make contact and is also very aggressive.

He calms to be able to bench 215 pounds and to have a vertical jump of 34 inches.

Johnson also is a forward for his AAU basketball team, that also is a good sign as it means he is very athletic.

  • Tyler Brosius is Quarterback from Tuscola High School in Waynesville, NC. He is 6′3″, 232 pounder, and his 40 yard dash time is unknown.

Brosius is a really productive quarterback with very good overall size

He has good arm strength and the ability to make plays despite him lacking of consistent mechanics and fundamentals.

He is thickly built and tall enough to see the field, his only downfall is his riverboat gambler quarterbacking style.

  • Thomas Teal is a defensive tackle from Malboro County High School in Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Teal is 6′1″, 330 pounder, and he runs a 40-yard dash in 5.50 seconds.

Teal is an interesting prospect, he is a big boy who carries a large amount of bulk for his build.

On film though he seems to carry his weight well for a kid well over 300 pounds.

He has played offensive guard before but he fits better as a defensive lineman, but he could make the transition if necessary.

  • Andy Jomantas—DE/OT, Chaminade Julienne High School (Dayton, Ohio), 6′8″, 250 pounds.
  • D.J. Green—Safety, Westside HS (Macon, GA), 6′4″, 202 pounds, 4.77 seconds(40-yard dash).
  • Reggie Wilkins—Cornerback, Crest Senior HS(Shelby, NC), 5′11″, 180 pounds, Soft Verbal
  • A.J. Ferguson – Defensive End, Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA), 6′3″, 250 pounds.
  • Tyson Chandler—Offensive Tackle, Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA), 6′6″, 340 pounds.
  • Raynard Randolph—Defensive Tackle, Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, VA), 6′2″, 325 pounds.
  • Tobais Palmer—Runningback, Georgia Military (Milledgeville, GA), 5′10″, 165 pounds.
  • Logan Winkles—Fullback, Upson-Lee High School (Thomaston, GA), 6′1″, 245 pounds, 4.70 seconds (40-yard dash time).
  • Pete Singer—Safety, Athens Drive High School (Raleigh, NC), 5′11″, 175 pounds, 4.50 seconds (40-yard dash time).
  • Theo Rich—Defensive End, Portal Middle/High School (Portal, GA), 6′2″, 225 pounds.
  • Mikel Overgaard—Offensive Tackle, Snow (Ephraim, UT), 6′6″, 270 pounds.
  • Artemus Norman—Defensive End, Chamblee High School (Chamblee, GA), 6′0″, 205 pounds, 4.87 seconds (40-yard dash time).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Musings on the Atlanta Braves with 31 Days Left Until Spring Training

Today has been one of those days where I've been opening up my phone every five or ten minutes checking MLB Trade Rumors or checking my e-mail to see if Joe Yanarella has sent me some big topic to write about as it breaks.

And by "big topic," I mean a Johnny Damon signing.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen and I've been "left at the alter," if you will.

So, the only pressing issue I've got to talk about is the one remaining arbitration eligible player for the Braves: Peter Moylan.

And that's not going to be all that interesting...there's little doubt in my mind that the Bravos and the Aussie will settle in the next day or two and Bobby Cox's go-to side-armer will be back in the Braves' 'pen for yet another season.

I just don't think this can be said enough: Peter Moylan is a premiere reliever with a great attitude and an even greater work ethic.

Tallying the second-most appearances in the National League with 87 this past season, Moylan once again (the other time being in his first full season in 2007) proved to be the guy in the 'pen in the sixth and seventh (and sometimes the eighth) innings.

As long as he doesn't have to worry about arm troubles after another large workload (though he pitched in 17 fewer innings than his 90 in 2007 this past season), we should expect the same 0.4 HR/9 rate that we've all come to know and love from the tattooed right-hander.

Maybe went off on a bit of a tangent there with my proclamation of a man-crush on Moylan, but a musing is a "thoughtfully abstracted" (from Merriam-Webster) thought...and that should qualify as that.

Next order of business...

Jordan Schafer.

Now, I know that a lot of you are probably cringing at that name and wanting to start a big-ol' chant like this crowd (sorry for putting wrestling in here, I hate it too...stop it at 0:18, that much gets my point across).

But, he kinda seems like the forgotten man to me.

That's not to say that I think he deserves a MLB spot from day one (499 ABs since the start of 2008 say enough about that).

But I do think that Schafer needs to be in the back of everyone's mind come September or a McLouth/Diaz/Cabrera/Heyward injury.

Dude still has incredible tools in terms of speed, power, fielding, arm strength, and discipline (remember, he had 27 walks in addition to those 63 whiffs when he was sent to AAA...good for a top-ten in baseball if my memory serves me correctly) and still has an above-average ceiling.

And when Nate McLouth's price begins to rise in his contract, Schafer is probably going to be "the guy" in center once again.

Just another reason a Johnny Damon sighting in Atlanta is once again looking like a stretch.

Last thing...

J-Word (shout-out to Michael Arm, once again).

Kind of an odd thing here...but what number do you guys think he should wear (Nate McLouth, too, since Nate-Dogg handed 13 over to Wagner)?

Personally, as long as it's not 7, 17 (not that Hubbard would give it up), 27 (not that Diory would give it up), 37, etc. I'm good.

But I'll go ahead and say that I want my Heyward jersey (I plan on buying one) to have one of these brandished on the back: 2, 22, or 28.

And yes, I like the number two and hate the number seven.

Once again, a bit weird...but these are the things I have to think about during this stage of the offseason to keep from going insane.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Johnny Damon to the Atlanta Braves: Looking More Reasonable

"Can we just let he Johnny Damon -to-Braves rumors die?...

But it's a bit unreasonable (and perfectly designed to bring my hopes
up before crushing them into a burning pile of flames), don't you

I get that Wren could be bluffing by saying he has nothing else to
spend, but with the market being as it is and the Braves being in the market
that they are (i.e. poor attendance), that just doesn't seem to be the

This is a direct quote from this article I wrote just three (soon to be four) days ago.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm rescinding all of that just yet (and the crushing my dreams part seems to be coming true), but I'm now really starting to think about Johnny Damon in Atlanta.

Thinking hard about it.

Even though I still think a Damon return to the Yankees (despite "budget" concerns on the Yankees' part) is coming, several reports have indicated that the Braves, who had virtually said they were done for the offseason not even two weeks ago, are still talking to the veteran outfielder.

One report, Frankie Piliere of FanHouse, even suggests that talks are "progressing."

And with the level of secrecy the Braves have carried this offseason, there is a distinct possibility that Frank Wren and Scott Boras (who have a historically good relationship) could be in a backroom somewhere hammering out the details on a contract (one I would expect to be one year at $4-7 MM with a mutual option for 2011).

As I just said, I think the Yankees are still the likely spot for Damon (and I would probably put the Tigers a little ahead of the Braves as well), but imagine this as the Braves' Opening Day line-up with the formerly-bearded wonder:

LF L Johnny Damon
2B R Martin Prado
3B S Chipper Jones
1B R Troy Glaus
C L Brian McCann
SS R Yunel Escobar
CF L Nate McLouth
RF L OR R Jason Heyward OR Matt Diaz

Obviously, the Braves would be forced to make a move with either Matt Diaz or Melky Cabrera (both of whom have nice, new, arbitration-avoiding contracts...and by moving either of these guys, the Braves would, technically only be adding $2-4 MM to their payroll) before Opening Day if the Braves choose to allow Jason Heyward to start the season in the majors (and before Heyward's call-up, otherwise), but that's not what I'm focusing on here.

What I'm focusing on is Damon's potential for 35-40 doubles and 5-10 triples (with 12-20 stolen bases at a batting average of about .280) and how they would be an awesome addition to a Braves team that features a ton of slap-hitters and only a few big time power threats (maybe three).

I'm looking at the "winning attitude" he would bring to the clubhouse.

And the influence the 36-year-old would have on the left-hand hitting prodigy J-word (shout-out to Michael Arm for that one).

I said in The Atlanta Braves' Outfield in 2010: Who Ya Got?, concerning Damon, that
"... if he were to drop his asking price to maybe one year at six or seven would make a lot of sense for the Braves."
With Adam LaRoche taking a small deal to go to Arizona (a much bigger power threat than Damon) and Aubrey Huff taking away a serious suitor for Damon in the Giants, it seems that this very thing may have happened.

I'll say it for a third time, though (get that I'm trying to ehphasize this): I am still hesitant to call Damon anything other than a Yankee (even with the chances of that diminishing as I write this), but the whispers going around...well...everywhere, have really gotten me thinking that this could be an almost perfect match for both parties.

The girly arm is not a plus, but extra-base hits and fair speed?

Gimmie (especially if my price guess is close to right).

Provided he grows the beard and hair back, that is.