The Winter Meetings came and went without the Atlanta Braves making a huge trade or signing, but there was plenty of player movement thanks to the Rule V Draft and a couple of minor trades. The hot stove is on low burn, but the sauce is thickening and we’re 65 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting.
Braves Pick Up 2, Lose 3 In Rule 5 Draft
The Atlanta Braves picked up right-hander Armando Rivero from the Chicago Cubs in the major league portion of the draft. Chris Jervis did a detailed breakdown of Rivero for this very website this week. Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com thinks that Rivero has a good chance to stick with the Braves.
The Braves picked up another pitcher in the minor league portion of the draft while losing three. The players selected in this phase do not have the roster restrictions that the major league draftees do, but must be selected from below AAA.
Cesilio Pimentel, LHP
The Braves plucked Pimentel from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Pimentel is a stocky Dominican with good velocity from the left-side. He had good results last season with the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League. He could team with 2016 draftee Corbin Clouse to give the Florida Fire Frogs a strong left-side of the bullpen in 2017.
Brian Moran, LHP
The Braves lost Moran to the Baltimore Orioles. Moran was signed as a minor league free agent in August and was fairly unremarkable in 6 games with Gwinnett, though he has been pitching well in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The 28-year old Moran is the nephew of former Brave and Oriole B.J. Surhoff.
Zack Bird, LHP
Bird was considered a Top 20 prospect in the Dodgers organization when he was traded to the Braves in the ill-fated Hector Olivera deal in 2015. Bird completely fell apart while throwing in relief for the Carolina Mudcats. Maybe the Texas Rangers can help Bird get back on track.
Fernando Miranda, RHP
The Braves apparently owned the rights to Mexican right-hander Fernando Miranda, who did not appear in a game with the organization in 2016. Miranda has been pitching this winter with Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican League.
Braves Trade Jenkins, Feigl to the Rangers for Luke Jackson
In what is most likely a change-of-scenery deal for all parties, the Atlanta Braves traded right-hander Tyrell Jenkins and left-hander Brady Feigl to the Texas Rangers for flame-throwing righty Luke Jackson on Thursday.
Brent Blackwell capably broke down this trade earlier this week.
Tyler Pike Selected from Seattle as Player-To-Be-Named-Later
The final shoe fell in the deal that sent right-handers Rob Whalen and Max Povse to the Mariners for outfielder Alex Jackson and a player-to-be-named. That player turned out to be left-hander Tyler Pike, a 3rd-round high school draftee in 2012 from Winter Haven, FL.
The 23 year old Pike has had the misfortune of pitching most of the last three seasons in the class-A California League, one of the most notorious hitter’s leagues in minor league baseball. Perhaps not surprisingly, Pike has developed some control issues after this time, though he had a credible performance for Bakersfield in 2016.
Williams Perez Released
To make room on the 40-man roster to select Armando Rivero in the Rule 5 Draft, right-hander Williams Perez was given his release by the Braves. Perez has made 34 appearances for Atlanta (31 starts) over the last two seasons, pitching to a 5.18 ERA.
Perez appeared out of his depth as a major league starting pitcher, but here’s hoping he can stick with someone as a groundball relief specialist.
Coppolella To Young Pitchers: “Get Better”
Perez’s release came after Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella and President of Baseball Operations John Hart sat with local media on Tuesday during the Winter Meetings. When asked about the Braves stable of young players who may be now shunted to the minor leagues after a rash of Braves acquisitions of established veterans, Coppolella didn’t mince words.
As far as the way our pitchers feel, this may not be PC, but if you don’t like it, get better. There’s been a lot of opportunities handed out here. There’s been a lot of pitchers pitching where, frankly, I’m – I don’t want to way embarrassed for the Braves franchise, but where a gold-standard franchise like the Braves should be a lot better.
If you feel like you’ve been slighted, or you have gotten a chance, or you’re mad that we brought somebody better, pitch better. Get better. We don’t owe anybody anything. The best pitchers are going to pitch for us, and if you don’t like it, get better.
Minor League Signings
O’Flaherty was mostly bad in 28.2 innings with Atlanta in 2016, the latest in a string of 4 consecutive injury-plagued campaigns bouncing between the Braves, A’s, Mets, and back to the Braves. O’Flaherty had surgery in 2016 to help relieve chronic inflammation in his left elbow. O’Flaherty will be competing with incumbent Ian Krol, and fellow TJS-vets Paco Rodriguez, Jesse Biddle, and A.J. Minter for spots in the left-handed portion of the Braves bullpen. O’Flaherty’s signing prompted our own Brent Blackwell to find his inner Ang Lee.
Last season Bonifacio was signed by the Braves to a major league deal for $1.25 million, a rare misstep for the front office that seemed apparent to everyone at the time of the signing, and was made explicit when Bonifacio failed to make the team out of spring training. Bonifacio did agree to go to AAA Gwinnett where to his credit had a splendid season and proved to be a strong mentor to younger players. Bonifacio did spend some time with the big league club, appearing in 24 games.
Baseball America Releases Top 10 Braves Prospects List
Baseball America (behind paywall, but recommended) continued it’s off-season tradition of releasing their top 10 prospects by organization, and on Friday they published their Atlanta Braves prospect list.
Their list was fairly consistent with lists produced so far this offseason by John Sickels, Baseball Prospectus, and even your own humble prospect wonk here at Outfield Fly Rule. The main difference was the inclusion of hard-throwing Mississippi righty Patrick Weigel, which is certainly a defensible positioning.
Baseball America does a full Top 30 list, but it will not be published until the release of their Prospect Handbook early next year. Baseball America’s Bill Ballew also chatted with fans to discuss some of the reasoning behind their rankings. One thing is very clear: the BA staff is very impressed with the Braves farm system.
Are there deserving Braves prospects we left off the top 10? Yes. No. 16 on Braves list isn't far behind No. 3. https://t.co/ETQN8JN4ti
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 9, 2016
Braves Prospect Ranking Comparison
|Player||Outfield Fly Rule Rank||Gondeee/Chop County's Rank||Benjamin Chase's Rank||Grant McAuley's Rank||Talking Chop Rank||John Sickels Rank||Baseball Prospectus Rank||Baseball America Rank|
|Dansby Swanson, SS||1||1||1||1||N/A||1||1||1|
|Ozzie Albies, IF||2||2||2||2||1||2||3||2|
|Kolby Allard, LHP||3||5||4||3||3||3||6||3|
|Mike Soroka, RHP||4||7||9||8||7||4||5||4|
|Sean Newcomb, LHP||5||4||3||4||5||5||4||8|
|Kevin Maitan, SS||6||3||6||5||6||8||8||7|
|Touki Toussaint, RHP||7||12||11||10||9||10||9||N/A|
|Max Fried, LHP||8||13||7||7||4||6||10||10|
|Ian Anderson, RHP||9||6||8||6||8||7||7||5|
|Ronald Acuña, OF||10||14||5||12||2||9||2||6|
|Austin Riley, 3B||11||9||15||9||10||11||N/A||N/A|
|Luiz Gohara, LHP||12||15||10||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Dustin Peterson, OF||13||8||13||14||15||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Patrick Weigel, RHP||15||11||12||20||13||15||11||9|
|Alex Jackson, OF/C||16||10||23||16||14||N/A||N/A||N/A|
SHAMELESS PLUG: Outfield Fly Rule’s Get to Know A Prospect series finished off the top 10 with looks at Ian Anderson and Ronald Acuna last week. Come back on Tuesday as I barrel through prospects #11-15!
Winter League Update
Speaking of Ronald Acuna, the 18-year-old continues to tear up the Australian Baseball League. Acuna’s Melbourne Aces completed a doubleheader Friday in which Acuna was on base 6 times, hit 2 doubles, scored twice and stole a base. For the season Acuna is hitting .351/393/.544 with 2 homers and 10 stolen bases in 15 games.
Not to be outdone, recent 40-man roster addition Johan Camargo has been hitting very well for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. The versatile middle infielder is hitting .279/.295/.581 with 2 homers and 3 triples in 14 games. Also playing in the Dominican, Mississippi third baseman Carlos Franco is hitting .276/.360/.379 with 12 walks (!) in 27 games with Toros del Este, while Gwinnett outfielder Mel Rojas, Jr. is hitting .296/.309/.417 for Tigres del Licey, including 9 extra base hits in 28 games.
On the pitching side, recent minor league free agent signee Andres Avila has been a workhorse reliever for Caneros de los Mochis of the Mexican Pacific League. Avila has appeared in 22 games, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP while notching 8 saves.
Rumors, Gossip, and Innuendo
- David O’Brien of the AJC reports that Atlanta has some interest in recently non-tendered San Diego starter Tyson Ross. Ross experienced shoulder inflammation after his opening day (and only) start, which turned out to be a precursor to thoracic outlet syndrome. Ross had surgery for the condition in October, and is expected to be able to pitch by May. The Cubs and Rangers were rumored to be hardest in pursuit.
- After the well-publicized pursuit of Chris Sale ended with the lefty’s trade to Boston, speculation immediately turned to White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, but Coppolella was quick to throw water on that fire.
- Likewise, reports were floated that the Braves were still checking in with the Rays on starter Chris Archer and the A’s on Sonny Gray, but John Hart likewise downplayed those rumors.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted that the Rangers, in pursuit of a defense-first centerfielder, checked in with Atlanta regarding Ender Inciarte but “that went nowhere“.
- As with starting pitchers, rumors of the Braves pursuing help at catcher cooled off this week, as Coppolella said the team was prepared to go into the season with Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker as their catcher tandem. Diamondbacks non-tendered catcher Welington Castillo is now rumored to be close to signing with the Baltimore Orioles.