Will Atlanta’s huge offseason block some bright young stars?
One thing I’ve heard throughout Spring Training at least 100 times now is that you can’t buy too much into Spring Training numbers.
However, when it comes to being a Braves fan, the stats that a handful of their younger players are putting up this spring call for a lot of attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved what Atlanta did this offseason. The acquisitions of B.J. and Justin Upton makes this team an automatic contendor in 2013 just a few short months after Chipper Jones announced his retirement.
But the additions scare me a little bit, considering the caliber of young position players the Braves have waiting in the wings. Today, I wouldn’t trade what the Braves did this offseason to see if these younger guys pay off. But it would be flat out nieve to think Atlanta’s solidified outfield might block or even cause some of these young stars to find new teams.
Here’s a look at a handful of those hot position players and why they would make the team most years:
• Joey Terdoslavich (spring stats: .432 BA, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .595 SLG)
The 24-year-old first baseman / outfielder definitely has his path to the majors blocked by the likes of Atlanta’s stellar outfield and with the emergence of Freddie Freeman, he just can’t find a home on the big league roster. Terdoslavich was being groomed in the minors to eventually fill Jones’ cleats, but because of poor defense, the Braves has to explore other defensive postions for the young slugger. He has dabbled behind the plate and in the outfield. It obviously didn’t work out as Terdoslavich is listed as a first baseman on Atlanta’s Spring Training roster. It seems the Braves don’t trust much in his outfield defense, either. I’m just not sure if it would matter because of the players higher than him on depth chart. Sure, the Braves could use Terdoslavich as a pinch hitter, but that usually doesn’t suit younger players to well. Terdoslavich has proven he belongs on the big league roster this season, hitting .432 with one home run and eight RBIs in his 37 at bats this spring. He probably won’t make it, though, and begin the season in AAA.
• Eduardo Mejia (spring stats: .346 BA, 4 RBI, .462 SLG)
We’ll stay at first base in this blog and take a look at Mejia, a 27-year-old Venezuelan native. When the Braves expanded their roster last season, Mejia was thought highly enough to make their late season list, posting a .133 average with just one RBI. Like Terdoslavich, Mejia’s path to the majors is blocked by Freeman, but I don’t know if he would be considered a lock to make an impact as a pro. The potential is there and Mejia is again quickly showing some upside. Maybe, Atlanta can spark some trade interest from Mejia before he eventually departs.
• Tyler Pastornicky (spring stats: .396 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB, .604 SLG)
Pastornicky started last season as Atlanta’s starting shortstop, but lost the job because of a bad glove. His bat was hot at times in 2012, though, hitting .268 in 169 plate appearances during the 2012 season. He was a necessity on last year’s team when starter Andelton Simmons hit the disabled list toward the end of the year. However, Atlanta’s late-season acquisitions of Jack Wilson and Paul Janish only prove the Braves don’t have much faith in the 23-year-old. With an amazing 2013 Spring Training, one would think Pastornicky is a shoe-in for a backup infielder spot. His glove is holding him back, though. Atlanta likes fellow shortstop Ramiro Pena’s defense a lot better and will probably opt for him to be the primary backup infielder. Pastornicky could still be used as a pinch hitter, but most signs point to him starting the year in AAA.
• Matt Pagnozzi (spring stats: .455 BA, 5 RBI, 550 SLG)
When Atlanta lost David Ross to free agency, there was no question they would adress the team’s need for a backup catcher on the open market. That brought in the likes of veterans Gerald Laird and Pagnozzi. If I were Braves General Manager Frank Wren I would cut Laird after seeing what Pagnozzi has done this Spring and with the jaw-dropping catching depth the Braves posses in some of their younger players. Again, not too much faith can be put in to Spring Training numbers, but when you look at past pre-seasons by Pagnozzi, he looks like he is finally ready to serve a full season as a backup catcher in the majors. Last season, as a Cleveland Indian, Pagnozzi hit just .118 and the year before with the Colorado Rockies, he was better with a .292 batting average. This spring, he has trumped those two seasons, hitting .400 in 20 at bats. He probably won’t make the opening day roster. But again, if I was Wren and knew that starter Brian McCann wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season, Pagnozzi would earn a spot along with …
• Evan Gattis (spring stats: .357 BA, 5 RBI, 550 SLG)
Gattis is literally the future catcher of the Atlanta Braves despite any sort of success McCann can find in 2013. McCann struggled last year and obviously showed he is a huge injury concern. In fact, there were times last season that I was praying Ross got the starting nod over McCann in crucial games. With Gattis proving he is major league ready, I believe it’s in the best interest of the team for Atlanta to just let McCann walk next season, which is very likely. McCann has expressed that he can’t “catch forever.” Wren should take that to heart and give Gattis his shot as Atlanta’s starting catcher next season. Gattis has only proven he could be a future All-Star with two straight stellar Spring Trainings in the past two years and incredible numbers in the the Braves’ farm system. Atlanta can’t be scared to let McCann’s time coem to an end because even if the 27-year-old Gattis proves to be a bust, they still have 22-year-old Christian Bethancourt, who many consider is the Braves top prospect, waiting for his shot.