Big names struggle early, new names impress, and first cuts of spring training are announced
As the Braves wrap up their second full week of Grapefruit League action, starting pitchers are going longer, roster regulars are getting more AB’s, and the Spring Training roster gets thinned out a bit as a result. On Friday, the Atlanta Braves official Twitter account announced the first round of Spring Training “cuts:”
None of the names appearing on this press release should be a surprise, with the possible exception of Bryse Wilson. Once considered one of the Braves best pitching prospects, Wilson has struggled to adapt to the role of team yo-yo as he’s been shuttled between AAA and the big leagues over the last couple of seasons. Still only 22 years old, there is no reason to completely give up on Wilson as a prospect. Given his lack of success, however, the team may have to consider whether or not he would be better suited to a relief role and start utilizing him more in that role at the minor league level to prepare him better for his next call-up.
It will be sad to see Bryce Ball and Trey Harris leave big league camp, of course. Almost a full foot separates them in height, but both have shown serious power potential. It would not be out of the question for the team to bring them back over to big league camp for a game or two this spring, of course. Clubs often bring minor leaguers over to fill out game day rosters for away games or if a player has a nagging injury that they want to give regular rest to.
Next round of roster trimming should happen around this time next week and will probably include a couple of catchers, a handful of pitchers, and possibly our first release of the season.
it was the best of springs, it was the worst of springs
Chritian Pache is hoping spring never ends. Batting .278 so far for the Braves, he’s shown the ability to hit for power and steal a base or two along the way while getting significant playing time in place of Ender Inciarte. Early in Spring Training veterans don’t care to get on a bus for an away game, so minor league players often take their place on the roster, and Pache is making the most of his opportunity. If Ender struggles early in the season, there is a chance that eyes could turn towards the dynamic Pache to take his roster spot.
Speaking of kids who are showing out in Spring Training, Kyle Wilson is doing his best to push Sean Newcomb back to the bullpen. With veteran pitcher Cole Hamels still rehabbing his aching shoulder, and currently no timetable on his return, the Braves find themselves having to fill two rotation spots. It’s currently a three man race for those two spots, with Wilson and Newk being pursued by cagy veteran “King” Felix Hernandez. Here is how they stack up so far:
Wright 2 games, 5 IP, 0.00 ERA 0BB 7K .118 BA against
Newcomb 2 games, 5 IP, 3.60 ERA 0 BB 7K .238 BA against
Hernandez 3 games, 8.2 IP, 2.08 ERA 3 BB 8K .226 BA against
With Cole out of the rotation for at least the first month of the season, Hernandez will be given every opportunity to get one of those rotation spots and provide the veteran leadership that manager Brian Snitker and GM Alex Anthopoulis crave for their roster, and to this point he is doing everything necessary to garner that spot. With Newcomb in rotation, the Braves would find themselves with only one left handed reliever in their bullpen, so if Wright continues to perform Newk might end up starting the season either as a reliever or at Gwinnett continuing to stretch out for a return to the rotation.
So while Pache and Wright are probably wishing for an endless spring in Florida, there are a few players who would like to go ahead and pack their gear up and head to Arizona in advance of their opening day matchup with the Diamondbacks. Ronald Acuña, Jr and Marcell Ozuna are a combined 2-32 this spring with 15 strikeouts, and Tyler Flowers is currently batting a cool .125 with 4 strikeouts in 8 AB. Ender appears to be in early season form with a .231 BA, though slow rollers to second have not been a problem as much as weak pop ups have to this point. And Charlie Culberson, released early in the offseason and re-signed to a minor league deal months later, is having a forgettable start to his bid to win a roster spot batting .133 with 5 strikeouts (and 5 walks).
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Other news and notes
YouTube TV announced that they will continue to carry Fox Regional Networks this summer, which is great news for Braves fans who have “cut the cord” from their cable provider and were told earlier this spring that the Fox had been unable to reach agreement with YouTube TV to broadcast their networks this year.
Chipper Jones, Hall of Fame third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, has been announced as a color analyst for ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball for the 2020 season, pairing with former Braves broadcaster Boog Schiambi. Jones, who once functioned in the role of Special Advisor to the GM for the Braves, is not longer affiliated in any official capacity with the team. Jones arrived in Spring Training camp today as a special guest instructor, something he has done a number of times since his retirement.
Big names have hit the injury wire this spring, most notably out of Yankees camp. Before Spring Training even started, the Yankees announced that recently signed pitcher James Paxton would be sidelined until mid-season with back surgery. Since then, Luis Severino announced he was going to have Tommy John surgery, and both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are expected to miss the first week of the season with nagging injuries. Red Sox hurler Chris Sale is also expected to miss significant time due to elbow issues, but this week he announced he has elected to forgo TJ surgery in favor of a program of rest and rehab.