Hot Stove: Atlanta Braves Week-in-Review, January 29

Outfielder Bradley Keller (left) and other players sign autographs at the 2017 Rome Braves Hot Stove FanFest. (Photo: Andy Harris/Outfield Fly Rule)

Kris Medlen Returns on Minor League Deal

On Friday Atlanta announced that fan-favorite former Brave Kris Medlen was signed to a minor league contract. Medlen last pitched for the Braves in the spring of 2014, coming off a season in which he was Atlanta’s best starter, pitching to a 3.11 ERA/3.48 FIP in 197 innings pitched. Medlen was pulled from a spring training start and the next day was diagnosed with a tear of the ulner collateral ligament, which required the second Tommy John surgery of his career.

After the 2014 season, Medlen was non-tendered by the now rebuilding Braves. Medlen signed a 2-year, $8.5 million contract with the Kansas City Royals, and after he completed rehab Medlen pitched down the stretch and into the postseason with the World Champions. In 2016 Medlen started the season in the Royals rotation, but shoulder ailments kept him from being competitive and he found himself back on the rehab circuit. His last major league outing was a two-inning start on May 10, 2016.

Asked about Medlen’s health at the Rome Braves Hot Stove FanFest on Saturday, Braves GM John Coppollela said:

Medlen probably won’t join us until mid-season. He’s still going through treatments now. It’s [a situation] where if it would hit with him kind of like we had with Ben Sheets a few years back it could be a real good add right at the break.

Tommy Poe at the Walk Of Walk blog has a detailed article regarding Medlen’s issues from last season.

Braves Add Two Outfielders, Subtract a Catcher

The Braves signed former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Xavier Avery to a minor league contract. Avery has bounced around the AAA level with six different organizations since playing in 32 games for the Orioles in 2012. The 27-year-old DeKalb County native brings speed and defense as his calling cards, having swiped 237 bases at a 75% success rate in his 9 year minor league career. As for his defense…

The Braves also added slugging outfielder Adam Walker off waivers on Thursday. This is the third time that Walker had been waived and claimed by a team this offseason. Walker is a former 3rd-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 draft, and has prodigious power, hitting 124 home runs in his five year minor league career, including 27 last season for AAA Rochester. Unfortunately, Walker is an extreme free-swinger, striking out over 30% of his plate appearances in his pro career. Walker doesn’t offset those strikeouts with on-base ability (.310 career OBP), speed (only 43 stolen bases in 584 games), or quality defense. If Walker can improve on any of those other aspects he could be a viable major league player, and at only age 24 years old it’s within the realm of possibility.

Both Avery and Walker will be competing for positions on a suddenly crowded AAA outfield squad with prospect Dustin Peterson, incumbents Emilio Bonifacio, Mel Rojas Jr., Matt Tuiasosopo, and Ronnier Mustelier, and minor league free agent Lane Adams.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Walker, catcher Tuffy Gosewisch was waived and claimed by the Seattle Mariners. Gosewisch was expected to compete with Anthony Recker for the back-up catcher’s job in Atlanta, but last week’s signing of Kurt Suzuki likely pushed him out of the club’s plans.

Spring Training Invitations

On Thursday, the Braves announced the minor league players who were given invitations to attend major league spring training camp.

Among the invitees are prospects including infielders Ozzie Albies and Travis Demeritte (rated #2 and #17 on the OFR prospect list), outfielder Dustin Peterson (#13), left-handed pitchers Sean Newcomb (#5) and A.J. Minter (#18), right-hander Patrick Weigel (#15), and catchers Joseph Odom and Kade Scivicque.

Invitees also include veterans on minor league contracts like left-handed pitchers John Danks, Sam Freeman, and Adam Kolarek; right-handed pitchers Blaine Boyer, Rhiner Cruz, Joel De La Cruz, and Jordan Walden; outfielder Emilio Bonifacio; and catchers David Freitas, Blake Lalli, Braeden Schlehuber.

Shamless Plug: follow my Braves System Depth series to keep track of all the Braves players by position as camp opens in only 16 days! My look at third base will be out this week.

Prospect-polooza

This week saw two of the most respected prospect rankings come out as Keith Law of ESPN.com and Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline unveiled their Top 100 Prospect lists.

As expected, the Braves were well-represented on both lists. On Law’s list, the Braves paced the majors with an unprecedented 9 prospects, while 7 Braves placed on the MLB Pipeline list.

PlayerKeith Law/ESPN.comMayo and Callis/MLB Pipeline.com
Dansby Swanson, SS24
Ozzie Albies, IF2611
Kolby Allard, LHP3253
Ronald Acuna, OF36N/A
Max Fried, LHP50N/A
Ian Anderson, RHP5286
Kevin Maitan, SS5932
Luiz Gohara, LHP77N/A
Sean Newcomb, LHP8180
Mike Soroka, RHPN/A78

The Braves also showed well on the MLB Pipleline positional lists, with Albies and Demeritte placing #2 and #5 for second basemen, Austin Riley #8 on the third base list, Dansby Swanson #2 on the shortstop list, and Kolby Allard (#4) and Sean Newcomb (#9) on the left-handed pitching list.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was named the #1 prospect in baseball on both lists.

 

 

 

About Andy Harris 78 Articles
Andy Harris has been a baseball fan since seeing the Big Red Machine in 1978 and hardcore baseball fan since reading Bill James's Historical Baseball Abstract in 1990. Andy moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, which turned out to be a pretty good year for the local team.

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