As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn. With 59 days remaining, we catch up with the weekend’s picks as well as Monday’s.
The greatest Brave to wear #61 is 2014 reliever Chasen Shreve.
Drafted out of the College of Southern Nevada, Shreve may owe his professional career a bit to his college teammate, Bryce Harper. As scouts flocked to the tiny school to see Harper in the spring of ’10, the Braves noticed the lefty Shreve and took him in the 11th round. He progressed nicely through the minors, but didn’t really make waves until 2014, when his 12.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 rates in his first taste of AA earned him a midsummer call-up to replace a struggling Luis Avilan. When called up, he wore #51. While up, he mostly kept runs off the board, but allowed a .300 batting average to opposing hitters. After trading for James Russell, Atlanta optioned Shreve back to the minors to make roster space.
A month later, Shreve was called back up with the September 1 roster expansion, now sporting #61. In 10 appearances with #61 on his back, he went 7.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, 2 walks, and 0 runs while striking out 8. Opponents slashed just .154/.214/.192 against the southpaw. Atlanta even called on the rookie in meaningful situations, earning Shreve the first two holds of his MLB career. He also showed off a nice pickoff move:
In the offseason, Atlanta traded Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees for Manny Banuelos. While Banuelos had upside and was available at a discount due to injury, that’s probably a deal the Braves would take back if they could. While hardly a star, Shreve has remained a serviceable lefty for the Yankees in the years since.
Who is the best ever to wear #61?
Livan Hernandez. He wore it his entire 17-year career. This includes his time in Atlanta, which didn’t make the cut above because it was mostly terrible.
Silver: Chan Ho Park
Bronze: Bronson Arroyo
HM: Josh Beckett wore #61 for the first 3 and last 3 seasons of his career, but by the time the 2003 World Series arrived, Beckett had moved to #21, robbing the Marlins of the distinction of having multiple World Series MVPs to wear #61.
The best Brave to wear #60 did so in 2017 – Akeel Morris. It wasn’t an easy choice. In 2008, Gregor Blanco wore #60 for at least part of the season, though it’s unclear which part, and #18 was his much more frequent jersey. Manny Banuelos started for a bit, but he wasn’t particularly good. It’s an uninspiring list, but Morris is my pick.
A 10th round pick in 2010 by the Mets, Morris has registered gaudy strikeout totals at every stop of his professional career (except in his 2/3 of an inning with the Mets in 2015). Traded to Atlanta in 2016 for Kelly Johnson, Morris was brought up 2 months later but didn’t get to pitch. In early July 2017, with Matt Wisler struggling, the organization demoted Wisler and again called up Morris. This time, #60 got to pitch.
In the month of July, Morris appeared in 8 games, going 7.1 innings, striking out 9 against 4 walks, and allowing just 1 run in the process. Holding batters to a .214/.313/.321 line, it appeared as if Morris had earned a semi-permanent spot in the bullpen. Instead, Morris was optioned to AAA to allow Lucas Sims to come up and make his first MLB start. It was a surprising choice, given that Morris had been successful and wasn’t a starter. Even more surprising – Morris wasn’t recalled in September when rosters expanded. It’s unclear where he fits into Atlanta’s future plans, but while the team decides, he’ll probably continue to mow down hitters.
Honorable Mentions: None
Who is the best ever to wear #60?
The best Brave to wear #59 is Paul Assenmacher, who wore #59 for part of his 1986 rookie season.
Signed in 1983 as an amateur free agent by the Braves, Assenmacher emerged as a power relief prospect during the 1985 season. Prior to the 1986 season, Baseball America ranked the lefty the #6 prospect in the Atlanta system, just behind Jeff Blauser. He made the big league club out of spring training, initially wearing #30.
I’m not sure at what point Assenmacher switched to #59 in 1986, or if he even saw the mound while wearing the jersey, but the pickings are pretty slim here, so we’re rolling with it. He had quite a rookie year, going 7-3 with a 2.50 ERA (remember, this was at the Launching Pad) with 7 saves. He’d switch back to #30 the following season and go on to a long, productive major league career. Assenmacher still ranks in the top 30 in MLB history in games pitched with 884. Before pitching (poorly) against his original team in the 1995 World Series, Assenmacher was on the mound to close out the ALDS, giving the Indians their first postseason series victory since 1948:
Honorable Mention: Shae Simmons (2014)
Who is the best ever to wear #59?
Purely for his commitment to #59, I’m going with Marietta, GA native Todd Jones, who wore #59 throughout his major league career, picking up 279 of his 319 career saves in the number (he saved 40 games for the 2005 Marlins wearing a different number).
Silver: Ismael Valdez, who probably accrued more total value than Jones in the number, but wore something else in his Ranger years, which were productive.
Bronze: Carlos Carrasco, who may well end up #1 on this list in a few years or so.