Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Brandon Phillips: What Should Braves Fans Expect?

Brandon Phillips is going to be 36 this season with the Braves, and the second baseman that we acquired from the Cincinnati Reds hasn't really shown any signs of age over his last two seasons. In 2015 and 2016, Phillips hit over .290 avg, combined over .400 slugging with an average of 11.5 homers per season. For a second baseman? That's pretty strong numbers offensively. Also, the Braves are only paying him $1M, and the Reds are picking up the other $13M of his contract. Not a bad deal for a years worth of a player.

This move tells me the Braves are looking at 2017 as a competitive year, and they don't think their prospects are totally ready to take over this season. That's good and bad. It's good because with a more veteran squad, the chances of actually getting over .500 go up, as opposed to breaking in an entirely new team with a bunch of young rookies. The bad is that at some point you do have to break in those rookies, so it moves back the long-term competitive timeline even further.

Braves fans should look at Phillips in two ways. If he produces and things go well, he's a nice piece that you're paying minimum money for, and he'll help you play competitive ball before possibly becoming a trade-bait piece for a more competitive team. The second option is that he sucks, and the Braves unload him in favor of a younger player because the overall cost is only $1M plus the trade value of the prospects they gave up (which wasn't much, this was almost purely a roster dump move by the Reds).

My guess is that since Phillips is in a contract year, we're going to see him at his most motivated, and players in contract years typically post better numbers even when they are in their mid-30s. Given what we know about Phillips I would expect about a .265/.310/.400 slash line, and he may steal a few bases, while hitting about 5-10 homers over the course of a year. Also, I think Phillips speed is still good enough for him to leg out plenty of doubles if he can stay healthy.

Defense will be an issue for Phillips as he's seen a decline with his glove as he's aged. That's to be expected playing an up the middle spot in your mid-30s, because the range can only decline from here on out. Phillips was an error machine last season with the Reds as he committed 14 errors at second base, so I'm hoping he'll reduce that number with the Braves since it was his career worst. However, I can't expect to to get much better because like I said he's old.

But the Braves have had some good luck with old guys in the past (Aaron Harang, David Ross, Derreck Lee, Eric Hinske, etc.) so why not Brandon Phillips. Go team old farts!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Atlanta Braves Spring Training: What We Know

Spring training games begin on this coming Saturday, February 25th. The Braves will open with the Blue Jays and hopefully we'll get to hear some of the action on the radio while I'm working on getting my new apartment set up that I've finally moved into. Yes, onward and upward. New place, new girlfriend, new furniture. A lot has happened this off season, but I'll have the same old attitude towards the Braves. It's a love that is sometimes rivaled by how annoyed they can make me when they are playing like a bunch of lollygaggers.

What do we know going into Spring Training? Well get ready to see a ton of pitchers, because there's over 30 on the roster. Guys like Mike Foltynewicz, Jim Johnson, Ian Krol, Eric O'Flaherty, Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler and Arodys Vizcaino you already know. But you're also going to see additions Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in the mix. And on top of that you'll get some looks at the young guys like Aaron Blair, Josh Collmenter, Max Fried, Luke Jackson, Sean Newcomb, and Lucas Sims. Then after that it's a bunch of guys we mostly aren't familiar with or are journeyman older dudes looking to earn a bullpen slot.

As for the catchers, we have eight on the roster somehow (5 are non-roster invites.) Which is odd because I'm only really aware of three of them (Tyler Flowers, Anthony Recker, and Kurt Suzuki). There's a guy named Kade Scivicque which again will add to the impossible names for me to spell correctly on the fly. I'll likely dub him Ceviche if it ever comes up. My guess is we're in for another year of catch platoon so don't really get attached to anybody.

The infield is what you would expect, Freddie Freeman, Jace Peterson, Chase d'Arnaud, and Adonis Garcia are all there. Plus you have young guys Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Rio Ruiz. Also you'll get to see the new addition as of last week, Brandon Phillips. The rest isn't really important right now. My guess is your infield for opening day is Freddie at first, Phillips at 2nd, Dansby at SS, and likely Adonis at 3rd unless something changes wildly in training.

Lastly the outfield is Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp, and Nick Markakis. That's basically the starting outfield all year unless we make some trades. They invited in Emilio Bonafacio, but if you remember last season at all I dubbed Emilio "Boner" for a reason. Because he was terrible. I don't think he's going to make this team as a non-roster invite.

So who would I keep an eye on? I think there's open battles at 3B and Catcher on this team right now, in addition to basically every pitching spot except for 1-3 which will be occupied by Julio Teheran, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon. I believe Mike Foltynewicz will make the team as a starter, but he has to show some improvement over last year. I also believe that Vizcaino will remain the closer, but that's hardly set in stone. The entire bullpen was awful last year so it's up for grabs in my mind. If you're watching training this year, watch the pitchers because that's where the most action will be in 2017 as we settle on the final roster heading for opening day.