It was a quiet week on the transaction front for the Braves, but GM John Coppollela took time out of packing his Turner Field office to interact with fans on Twitter, prospect Ronald Acuña got honored in Australia, and the Braves shook up their minor league coaching staffs. So here is your Sunday morning Braves week-in-review.
Coming up at Noon: #Braves General Manager John Coppolella answers your questions!
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) December 15, 2016
Braves GM John Coppollela took over the @Braves twitter account for 3 hours on Thursday (with a short diversion over to the Spanish-language @LosBravos account) to answer questions from fans. Some of the highlights:
- The focus for the rest of the winter? “Don’t do anything stupid. We have gotten better and held our prospects. We want to improve gradually, not ‘win’ the off-season per se.”
- How is Ozzie Albies healing? “He will be able to resume baseball activities in early January — ahead of schedule.”
- Is Ender Inciarte a sell-high candidate? “I don’t want to say anybody’s ‘untouchable’ or not, but [we] love Ender and what he does for our team and how he fits with our other outfielders.”
- Who is most likely to be in the rotation for Opening Day? “Front four will be Teheran, Colon, Garcia, Dickey. Fifth spot will be a competition between Danks, Folty, Wisler, Blair.”
- Would the Braves be interested in Trevor Plouffe as a bounceback candidate? “Would rather see about Adonis [Garcia] and Rio [Ruiz] while saving money for more pressing needs.”
- Is there any possibility of Matt Wieters coming to Atlanta? “Never say never, but it would have to make sense for him and us.”
- Is Alex Jackson viewed as a catcher right now? “We are going to try in the spring and see where it goes — if he can stay there and continue with power it’s a big upside play.”
- What is the time frame for Sean Newcomb coming to the majors? “Sean will have an opportinity to impact our team this season — if he shows us he is ready we will call him up.”
- What prospect do you think has the best chance to make the Opening Day roster? “Albies.”
Braves Sign Former White Sox Lefty John Danks
To date Danks has played his entire major league career with the White Sox and was a strong performer for them from 2008-2012. Danks was rewarded with a 5-year, $65 million contract extension before the 2012 season. During the season he began suffering shoulder pain, increasing to the point where the White Sox had to shut him down and he underwent surgery for what turned out to be a torn shoulder capsule. This is a very difficult injury for a pitcher to recover from, and while Danks has pitched in each of the last 4 seasons he clearly isn’t the same pitcher he was prior to the injury.
The Braves will take a zero-risk look at him in spring training to see if his career can be salvaged.
Winter League Update
Rome Braves and Melbourne Aces outfield Ronald Acuña was honored by being selected as a starter in the Australian Baseball League All-Star Game. Last night, Acuña upped his season slash line to .371/.430/.557 after going 3-for-6 with 3 walks, 3 runs scored, and a stolen base during a doubleheader against the Sydney Blue Sox.
In the Mexican Pacific League, Gwinnett outfielder Ronnier Mustelier had a huge day on Saturday, December 10 as he went 4-for-5 with 3 home runs, a double, and 6 RBI. Mustelier’s teammate is Mississippi outfielder Joey Meneses, who is now hitting .342/.401/.490 on the season.
In Puerto Rico, outfielder Mallex Smith has gotten off to a good start in his second Winter League stint, going 3-for-15 with 4 walks, 2 doubles, and 2 stolen bases for Indios de Mayaguez.
Braves Announce Minor League Managerial Staff
The Braves shook up almost all of their minor league managerial staffs.
In Gwinnett, former Brave catcher Damon Berryhill is joining the organization as manager. Berryhill has been managing in the Rangers and Dodgers systems from 2008-2015. In 2015, Berryhill managed the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers to a AAA division title in the Pacific Coast League and was named PCL Manager of the Year. He will be joined in Laurenceville by John Moses, who goes back to his hitting coach position after filling an interim managers roll last season, and Reid Cornelius, who steps into the roll of pitching coach after 14 seasons in the Marlins organization.
Mississippi’s staff has a new look as well. Manager Luis Salazar will stay on, but he is joined there by hitting coach Ivan Cruz, who coached the last three seasons with the rookie league Danville Braves, and pitching coach Derrick Lewis, who had been the Braves A+ team pitching coach the last three seasons.
Lewis will be essentially switching spots with pitching coach Dennis Llewelyn, who will take on the responsibilities of pitching coach for the class A+ Florida Fire Frogs, which should have the majority of the lauded 2016 Rome Braves starting rotation. Managing the Fire Frogs will be minor league managing veteran Paul Runge for this third stint with the Braves organization. Rounding out the Fire Frogs staff will be Carlos Mendez for his fourth year as the Braves A+ hitting coach.
The only minor league staff to stay exactly the same for 2017 will be the South Atlantic League Champion Rome
For the Danville Braves, Nestor Perez moves up from the Gulf Coast League Braves to manage. His staff will include incumbent hitting coach Barbaro Garbey and new pitching coach Kanekoa Texeira, who played with the Gwinnett Braves last season.
Finally, the Gulf Coast League Braves will have a new skipper, 28-year-old Barrett Kleinknect, who was released by the Braves in spring training last season after a long stint as an organizational player. Kleinknect was a roving coach with Rome and Carolina last season. Longtime Braves coaching veteran Rick Albert will be the hitting coach, while the pitchers will be overseen by longtime Orioles coaching veteran Larry McCall.
Braves Strike Out Again On New Spring Home
The Collier County Commission voted unanimously to not enter into negotiations with the Braves on a possible new spring training facility. The new stadium would have been built near Naples, FL. That leaves the Braves only negotiating with Sarasota County.
With most of the other Grapefruit League teams leaving central Florida and the area around the Braves current Orlando complex, the bus travel to visit other teams has become onerous.
Minor League Transactions
The Braves said goodbye to eight minor leaguers this week.
- GCL – RHP Tyler Greene, C Ruben Perez
- Danvile – OF Elias Arias, C Trey Keegan, C Collin Yelich
- Florida – RHP Caleb Beech, 3B Jordan Edgerton, RHP Britt Robertshaw
Tommy Poe of the Walk Off Walk blog has posted some good recaps of their Braves tenures.
Yelich has already been picked up by the Miami Marlins. Yelich is the younger brother of Marlins star Christian Yelich.
The Braves also traded tall LHP Alberto Rodriguez to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations. Rodriguez pitched last season for the Gulf Coast League.