Atlanta Braves 2016 Post-Mortem: Third Base

2016 Post-Mortem will take a look at each position for the Atlanta Braves, how it fared in 2016, and where the team is set to go in the future. Previous Post-Mortems: Catcher, First Base, Second Base

 

Player BA OBP SLG Comb. WAR
Adonis Garcia .273 .311 .406 0.6
Rio Ruiz .286 .286 .571 0.1
Brandon Snyder .239 .255 .652 0.2
Reid Brignac .207 .207 .276 -0.1
TOTAL*** .272 .327 .400 0.8

***Total BA/OBP/SLG includes every player who performed at the position and only those plate appearances in which they were at that position. Comb. WAR is the total season WAR for the players listed in the table, players whose primary position was 3rd. This both includes any WAR totals they picked up at other positions and doesn’t include WAR totals from other players accumulated when playing occasionally at 3rd.

Adonis Garcia

Adonis Garcia (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Adonis Garcia (Photo Credit: Reuters)

When compared to 2015, 2016’s Adonis Garcia provided the same amount of value (a little) over a much higher number of opportunities. There were three things you could say about Garcia in 2016:

  1. He wasn’t very good.
  2. He wasn’t bad enough to be an embarrassment on a league-wide scale
  3. He was a different player than he’d been the year before.

In 2015, Garcia had an odd introduction to the majors, making his MLB debut at age 30 and hitting .277/.293/.497 with 10 HR in less than 200 PA. He didn’t walk, but he swung hard, and when he hit the ball, it went pretty far. His defense was below average, but not so far below that it was a major liability.

In 2016, Garcia collected hits at virtually the same rate, and he even added a few more walks to the repertoire. His OBP was higher, and OBP is king, you know. While OBP is the most important offensive statistic, it isn’t the only important offensive statistic, and it seems Garcia’s slight uptick in plate discipline may have come at the expense of his power. The SLG plummeted from .497 to .406. And with only a 4-point drop in BA, the drop wasn’t due to singling less. It was indeed the power that dropped off. After hitting 10 HR in 198 PA in 2015, he hit 14 in 563 PA. If you look at his batted ball data, it’s not surprising. Garcia hit more groundballs in 2016 (from 49% to 52%), more infield pop-ups (4.3% to 10.3%), and homered on flyballs less frequently (21.7% to 12.0%). He swung at more pitches outside the zone (from 36% to 38%), and he offered at strikes less frequently (73% to 68.5%). And somehow, despite all this, he made better overall contact. Really, that tells the story. You don’t get worse with your swing selection and improve your contact rate unless you’re sacrificing bat speed in order to make that contact. That’s what happened with Garcia in ’16, and the batted ball classifications from Baseball Info Solutions back that up. He went from 16% soft contact in ’15 up to 20% in ’16, losing percentage points in both the medium and hard-hit ranges. All of that is not a good sign for a guy on the wrong side of 30 that doesn’t have pitch selection skills that will age well. He’s a hacker, and he needs to get back to hacking if he’s going to provide value. The Braves would happily accept a few more strikeouts if it means Garcia can get back to providing them with the power he displayed as a rookie. He’ll never be a great hitter, but at least then he could be an acceptable one.

Defensively, the metrics all saw regression for Garcia in 2016. Again, this isn’t a huge surprise for a 31 year old with as odd a career arc as Garcia’s. Most of his defensive issues are related to errors. Routine plays aren’t always routine for Adonis. That being said, he has displayed some decent range. It’s just not decent enough to account for the misplays.

Rio Ruiz

Welcome to the show, Rio! Ruiz batted 7 times, so let’s not dwell too hard on his performance. He’s a prospect. He got to sit in the dugout for a few weeks, which is pretty cool. He’ll try to earn his way back into said dugout in 2017. I expect we’ll hear from him again.

Brandon Snyder

Snyder only batted 47 times for the Braves, and in those 47 PA’s had the rare over-.400 ISO. ISO is Isolated Power, and it’s measured  by subtracting the singles (batting average) from slugging percentage. Reaching .400 in ISO over a full season is pretty incredible – it’s happened only 12 times, and only 4 players are responsible: Ruth, Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa. How did Snyder get there in this tiny sample? He only had 11 hits in those 47 PA’s, but 10 were for extra bases. It’s why, despite his porous OBP, Snyder was actually a pretty good hitter for Atlanta in his limited time. A whopping 50% of his batted balls were marked by BIS as “hard hit”. When you’re an all or nothing hitter – and very few hitters have ever matched that description like ’16 Snyder – you have to make the “all” part really count. Snyder managed to.

That’s not to presume he would continue to do so over a larger sample. He might, but he’s unlikely to. Given his profile, a best-case scenario would be carving out a Chris Colabello type career. A righty that mashes lefties, is limited defensively but not useless, and who broke into the majors at age 30, Colabello has managed to hone his skills over the past couple of years and morph from an all-or-nothing type into a pretty good right-handed specialist. Maybe Snyder, a former top prospect in Baltimore, could do the same. However, it’s probably unfair to expect it.

Reid Brignac

Speaking of former top prospects, Brignac seems to never disappear from AAA, and he doesn’t; 2016 was the 8th season in which Brignac has played at the level. Atlanta was Brignac’s 6th different MLB team, and all 6 have seen him be a worse-than-replacement level player. However, some team will need an infielder to hang out in AAA and wait for an injury at the MLB level, and Brignac will get another gig. There are worse ways to live, I think.

What Next?

Most have Adonis Garcia penciled in as the 2017 3B, and he’s fine in that regard if the goal is to continue rebuilding. If Atlanta wants to improve in the win column, 3rd base is a position with room for improvement. With some prospects down the pipeline, I’m not sure if a long-term free agent commitment makes sense, but a stopgap prove-it kind of deal could make sense. If Atlanta goes into spring with Garcia, a veteran, and Rio Ruiz competing for the job, I think they’ve done enough this offseason. If there’s a real long-term 3B of the future in this organization, it’s probably Kevin Maitan, who is 16 years old. So, Atlanta has to do some 3-5 year planning for third base. There’s Ruiz, an aging Garcia, and Austin Riley, a 19 year old who A – may not hit well enough to play in the majors, and B – may not be able to stick at 3rd even if he does.

About Brent Blackwell 149 Articles
Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at www.cfbtn.com.

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