Answers On The Fly: A Reader Mailbag
Welcome to Answers On The Fly. Answers On The Fly is our reader mailbag feature in which our writers give insight into questions fans are asking. This week is a special edition as the @Braves Twitter account held another #AskCoppy event, where fans can ask questions directly to Braves GM John “Coppy” Coppolella (as long as said questions are no more than 140 characters of course). This week, the OFR writers will be commenting along with Coppy on many of the questions brought up during the session.
These are the more baseball-centric questions. In addition to these answers, fans discovered that Coppolella is a dog lover, prefers Alice In Chains over Nirvana, has a solid grasp of 90’s West Coast rap, likes pineapple on his pizza, likes his eggs sunny-side up, is worried that UGA will beat Notre Dame, names Ric Flair has his favorite WrestleMania wrestler and Hank Aaron his favorite Brave, would rather fight 100 duck-sized Bartolo Colons than one Bartolo-sized duck, likes the powder blue ’80s Braves uniforms, and that the nickname “Coppy” was coined by none other than Hall of Famer John Schuerholz.
Our “regular” mailbag will resume next week. You can submit your questions the following ways:
Now, on to the questions. The first two come from a couple of familiar names:
Chris Jervis (@Jervass): How much do #Braves value pitch framing & game calling? Flowers has been very good w/ these, even if more ‘traditional’ areas lag.
Coppy: It depends who you ask in our front office — we argue about it a lot, but it’s healthy discussions that make us better.
Chris: I know some (cough Dan Horton cough) have recently been on record as suggesting framing is overrated. I don’t think it’s so much overrated as it is a market inefficiency that once had a wide gap between the teams that were ‘good’ at it and the ones who were not. That gap has narrowed significantly over the last couple of years, to the point that there isn’t as large a discrepancy between ‘good’ framing teams and ‘poor’ framing teams that can be exploited.
I think framing is important. The catcher’s the only player on the field who touches virtually every pitch of the game; I want him to be good at doing catcher stuff….especially if he’s a poor offensive threat. Is framing the most important thing? Probably not. But being good at it with a developing staff can’t hurt.
Dan Horton (@DatBravesDH): What did you like about Sanders Commings that made you want to give him a shot?
Coppy: Terrific talent and an even better person. Totally committed to baseball & willing to work. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Questions on trades:
Daniel Mack (@dmack2027): Is it hard to balance the desire to win now with trading veterans to net valuable prospects but making the wildcard less likely?
Coppy: Yes absolutely — we are going to win big, but will always have an eye on the future & try to build a pipeline of young impact talent.
Justin Palmertree (@TJP_89): Being a serial trader, does it sting a little when you can’t get one done?
Coppy: Actually, yes. We want to get better — new day, new money to be made — and make progress. Hard esp when medicals blow up deals.
Andy: I’d love to know if the Braves medical staff or other teams tend to put the kibosh on more deals.
nate roque (@nateroque4): Which is a busier time for you? Trade deadline or Winter Meetings?
Coppy: Trade deadline.
Alicia Easley (@AliciaEasley): Do you ever feel bad about how you fleeced the D-Backs?
Coppy: We want to make trades that are win-win. You never want to “fleece” anybody. It’s about doing what’s best for the Braves always.
Andy: Coppolella spent five minutes on a Baseball America podcast this week defending the Miller/Swanson deal from the Diamondbacks’ side.
DICK POSTHUMUS (@TravisTarver): Name one player who you have traded who you would have kept in hindsight.
Coppy: Kimbrel is the hardest one, but also like the value we got back in that deal w/ prospects & off-setting bad contracts.
Woke Boof Bonser (@jonrones): Do you think that, in hindsight, you pulled the trigger too quickly on the Kimbrel trade considering SD’s stronger return?
Coppy: Beauty in the eye of the beholder — I like our return better for a number of reasons.
Andy: Likely he’s talking about the payroll room created by shedding the long-term salary owed to Melvin Upton and Craig Kimbrel. That financial freedom allowed the Braves to acquire Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks, essentially trade a long-term bad contract with Chris Johnson for short-term bad contracts with Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, and make other deals that took on short-term salary for long-term assets. Getting out from those long-term contracts has allowed them to spend fairly freely this off-season.
Trill Haverchuck (@achater3283): How quickly after hearing of [Sean Rodriguez‘s] injury did you put the Phillips deal together?
Coppy: We called the Reds an hour after we heard about it.
Andy: Considering the near winter-long search by the Dodgers to find a right-handed hitting second baseman and what turned out to be the incredibly generous terms the Reds were offering to move him, Phillips must have exercised his 10-5 rights to prevent a West Coast move.
MDubs8 (@MDubs8): Do you believe you were close to acquiring an ace at any point this winter?
Coppy: Not really. We flirted, but nothing even resembling a hookup and certainly not marriage.
Courtney Mitchell (@sthrnblle10): Has Jose Quintana ever been a consideration, or is the asking price too high?
Coppy: We consider anybody who can improve us — Jose would do that — just haven’t been able to match up — same as w/ other trades.
Kyle DenHartog (@kjdenhartog): How close were you on a Chris Sale trade? Did you ever feel like the offer was good enough to get a trade done?
Coppy: Not really close. Closer to other deals that didn’t happen. Roughly 80% of trade talks never materialize.
Chris: Here’s where I will offer a word of advice to some who follow the GM Meetings and Hot Stove happenings by the minute. For content providers (yes, even those little ones like us), it’s all about generating clicks, views, links, and discussion for the purposes of creating revenue. And for GMs and agents, it’s all about best positioning your client (whether that be a team or player) for a new or better deal or situation. I have spoken with agents who have told me off the record that they intentionally release bogus information and use paid staff to manipulate social media in an attempt to get their players into better situations. And teams will intentionally leak names or stories to influence players and/or other teams.
Even known, reputable journalists with great pedigrees can be fed bad information. Be careful who you read, make sure it’s a real account (I got burned this winter), and just think about whether what you’re reading makes sense, given everything that is known.
Questions on prospects and the farm system:
Kacey Johnson (@kaceyNjohnson): Is Travis Demeritte a potential long term answer at 3B? Also, thanks for being the coolest GM in MLB!
Coppy: Thanks for the kind words! Travis has looked awesome early in camp and we feel like he could play everyday at a number of spots.
Andy: This corroborates reports coming out this week that Demeritte will likely be moved around the diamond this year at Mississippi to get him exposed to multiple positions. He already has minor league experience at both shortstop and second base and played some third base in the Arizona Fall League.
Jesse (@JesseRussell87): What’s the ceiling for Sean Newcomb? Can he be our “Jon Lester” in the rotation soon?
Coppy: Sean has as much talent as any young pitcher we have, but we just want him to be @SeanNewk — we love who he is and what he can be.
Andy: Prospect pundits seem to be roughly evenly split on where Newcomb’s future lies. If the uptick in control we saw the last six week s of the 2016 season maintain, he’s a credible mid-rotation starter. If he improves off of that, he has the stuff to be a #1/2 guy. If he backslides, he could be a middle reliever. This is a big season for him.
Ben (@bvduro): What prospects do you see as power bats coming through the system?
Coppy: Power guys aplenty Dustin Peterson, Rio Ruiz, Travis Demeritte, Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, Alex Jackson, Kevin Maitan etc.
Nolan Ryan Alexander (@Nolan__Ryan): What does Adam Brett Walker add to the system? Where do you see him fitting in?
Coppy: Power! May have the best raw power in baseball and he has a chance to help us at MLB level depending on his development.
Andy: The Braves seem to have made finding power options for the minor leagues a priority this offseason, acquiring Alex Jackson, Adam Walker, and most recently Christian Walker through trades and waiver claims. We’ll see if this trend continues into the draft.
ST Liz (@Liz_Chandler22): How do you feel about being ranked the #1 farm system by Baseball America?
Coppy: It’s great, but it will be better after we win a World Series.
Alex Gilmore (@tarheelbrave88): What are some organizational areas that you feel could still be improved?
Coppy: Catching. And really, pitching. You can never have enough pitching.
Aaron Kirby (@gaaronkirby): How has Alex Jackson looked catching?
Coppy: Positive feedback so far — he worked w/ our catching instructor Jeff Datz 3-4 different sessions this off season in California and looked good.
Andy: Since June 2016, the Braves have added Brett Cumberland, Alan Crowley, Abrahan Guitierrez, Matt Foley, Kade Scivique, David Freitas, Armando Araiza, and Kurt Suzuki as catchers in the organization. They also acquired outfielder Alex Jackson and has converted him to catcher. Of these only Suzuki it guaranteed playing time in 2017 in the major leagues, but the Braves have clearly made improving the depth of the catching position a priority, even if the team did miss out on adding an impact major league catcher.
Grant Berry (@gmoney028): Is Luis Gohara going to join up with that elite rotation from Rome last year in Florida?
Coppy: Yes he is. It will be kind of like when Ocean’s 11 went to Ocean’s 12.
Ethan Massingale (@Ethan4vols): What do you like about Luiz Gohara?
Coppy: Everything. Lefty w/ electric stuff 95-99 and killer breaking ball, dominated AFL as youngest player in league, scouts enamored.
Andy: Here’s a Shameless Plug: Get to Know a Prospect: Luiz Gohara. Also for another perspective, checkout his Fangraphs write-up, Gohara is at #8. In any case, Gohara’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s in the organization and the more I think about it, Seattle’s trading him away is almost as incomprehensible to me as the Diamondbacks giving up on Touki Toussaint.
Brock Gallops (@Brock4Liberty): Healthy all season & mashing A ball entire time, would you consider promoting Ronald Acuna to AA by July?
Coppy: Dave Trembley and Jonathan Schuerholz & their staff do a tremendous job, we talk everyday and trust them implicitly.
Andy: There’s a lot more that goes into the logistics behind when to promote a player than just the performance of the player. For example, what happens the player that promoted guy is displacing? That said, the looks the team is giving Acuna in spring training games may signal a quick path up the chain, assuming performance and health.
Elias (@oldsmellysocks): With Phillips at second, where does that put Albies? I imagine Peterson will be a UTIL off the bench correct?
Coppy: The first thing about Albies is getting him healthy and back playing and dominating — we can figure out what’s next after all of that.
Chris: I think Coppy said this in a reply elsewhere, but Phillips is not going to block Albies. At worst, Phillips plays the entire year in Atlanta as Albies marinates a little longer, developing his game and skills to an even finer degree. At best, Albies forces Atlanta to make Phillips a bench player, before trading him. I think it’s quite possible that Phillips could be playing on a contender in August.
Andy Sadler (@asadler1): What’s the plan with Sanders Commings? What level might he start at and what position will he play?
Coppy: No plan. Come in & see how he performs. He could go to 2A or he could begin in extended ST. It’s about whatever is best for the player.
Questions on spring training and the roster:
Jason Reese (@jase1129): Any chance you sign Angel Pagan and/or Pedro Alvarez for bench or are you content to go with what you have?
Coppy: It wouldn’t be right for me to drop names, but we are in contact with a couple of potential adds — but would have to be non-roster invitees at this time.
Andy: I’ve been on the “Sign Angel Pagan” bandwagon, but I seriously doubt he takes a minor league deal to get into camp.
joe lucia (@Joe_TOC): How would you rate Matt Kemp‘s fitness this spring?
Coppy: Matt has been tremendous on our club, in great shape & working hard. Great person beloved by teammates. We are lucky to have him.
Andy: Spring training “he’s in the best shape of his life” stories have become cliché, but by all accounts Kemp not only has shed weight but has also refocused his efforts in baseball training this spring. A Matt Kemp that can actually play a credible left field and run the bases would be a tremendous and surprising boon to the squad.
Brandon Neuharth (@BrandonNeuharth): Who is your favorite Braves to watch at ST?
Coppy: Brandon Phillips. Watching him take infield is a thing of beauty!
Crush (@Crushking14): With the addition of Brandon Phillips how well do you see Dansby and Brandon working together?
Coppy: Like @DatDudeBP [Brandon Phillips] said, “web gems coming to a theater near you”.
Rick (@DunknDutchMan): What are the #Braves plans if Ender goes to the DL? Looking for a proven 4th outfielder?
Coppy: We feel like we have some depth there w/ Emilio Bonifacio, Micah Johnson, Lane Adams, Connor Lien… and eventually… Acuna.
Andy: GASP Is it me or did Coppy actually put Acuna into the centerfield conversation for THIS YEAR if Ender gets hurt? That would be astonishing. Also, nice that Lane Adams and Connor Lien got shout-outs. The Braves also have the rights to Xavier Avery, who never gets a mention and didn’t get a spring invite despite having some major league experience.
Ari Whiteman (@SafAriInTheCity): If Teheran ends up facing Freeman in the WBC, would you root for a HR or a K??
Coppy: Rooting for total health of all of our players.
Noah Goodman (@Noah_Goodman5): How do you feel about Jesse Biddle?
Coppy: Jesse has been tremendous early in camp — kudos to Billy Ryan & Matt Grabowski & our entire front office — look for big things in ’17.
Andy: Biddle is a big wildcard as far as where he starts out and what kind of contribution he has. I know a lot of folks who are optimistic, but I’m not really unless his Tommy John surgery somehow also corrected his control problems.
Brian Crout (@sogobravo): Chances for Johan Camargo to make the team out of spring?
Coppy: Tough out of spring, but he has opened a lot of eyes this spring — crushing the ball & an impact defender — bright future!
Andy: I wrote about Camargo in Braves System Depth: Shortstop last month. I’ve always figured his glove would be enough to be a fringe major league utility infielder, but improving the stick makes him a very intriguing player. He often gets lumped in with Daniel Castro as a comp, but Camargo is already a better defender.
Hampton Brown (@HampB273): What have you seen from Rio Ruiz so far this spring?
Coppy: Rio has looked phenomenal — swing is really working. Also Rio continues to reshape his body & should get credit for hard work.
Chris: Apparently one of the tools in the Braves bag of tricks to motivate players is to call them fat. I kid…a little. In 2015, John Hart privately suggested to Rio Ruiz that he was carrying too much weight. Over the last season and a half, Ruiz has dropped 30 pounds and looks much leaner, while not sacrificing any power. Reports are that his footwork at the corner is better, as well.
Stoeter (@StoeterBih): In a scenario where Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynwicz, and Aaron Blair all pitch outstanding spring, early Apr-May, what’s plan for them?
Coppy: It would be a great situation for us to be operating from a position of strength.
Questions on the upcoming draft and international signings:
Zachariah Autry (@ZackAutry): How do you feel about Hall and Enlow in the upcoming draft?
Coppy: Coppy loves him some high school arms. So do Brian Bridges, Roy Clark, & Co. Those two definitely on our radar.
Andy: This question refers to prep school standouts D.L. Hall of Valdosta High School and Blayne Enlow of St. Amant High School in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Quite frankly, both would be very likely targets of the Braves given their predilection the last two seasons for drafting prep school talent in the higher rounds (Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, and Bryse Wilson). Also, it’s hilarious that Coppy refers to himself in the third person here like Jimmy from Seinfeld.
Rick (@DunknDutchMan): Not sure if you’re allowed to discuss names, but if so, any names that intrigue you in the Draft?
Coppy: Really can’t get into names, but there is lot of talent & we are really excited about what we can do. Trying to trade for extra picks too!
Andy: If the Braves don’t somehow end up with yet another competitive balance draft pick from another team, I will be very disappointed.
Chris: And surprised, honestly.
Josh (@Jcoff1023): With the int’l $ on restrictions for the next two years, will you be looking to trade int’l slots for comp draft picks?
Coppy: That would make sense, but would also lead to fights w/ our int’l group because they are so aggressive & like so many players.
Andy: Starting July 2, the Braves will be restricted from giving out a signing bonus greater than $300,000 to any individual player. This is a penalty that the Braves purposely brought on by going hog-wild in the current signing period. That the Braves international scouting group still wants to keep at least most of their allowance gives hope that they may be able to sign a mass of talent, even with the restriction.
Doc Herbert (@BravesHerbert): Some really good looking college pitching in the draft this year…should we assume that’s the route we’ll go at #5?
Coppy: Not being specific — but we do love pitching!
Andy: I’d say it’s a 85% chance that the Braves take a prep school pitcher with the #5 pick. It’ll drive some fans crazy, but all organizations have insatiable appetites for pitching. There’s really never enough, and the current depth gives the Braves the ability to continue drafting for higher ceilings.