Posts tagged “Atlanta Braves

Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five setup men for 2012


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchsideshow.com writer

During the live ball era, the job of pitchers have slowly, but surely changed. No longer is a starter relied on for eight or nine innings a night, and closers do not have to throw three innings. You think they would, given the amount of money closers receive in their contracts.

Now, set-up men and relievers are the bridge from the seventh to the ninth inning, where they hand the ball over to the manager. It’s the dirty work, and too often are these names forgotten, unless you glance over the box score and see the letter ‘H’ next to their names. Here’s a list of the top-5 set-up men in baseball.

5. Eric O’Flaherty, LHP, Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves lefty Eric O'Flaherty makes it tough for opposing teams to beat the Braves at the end of games. Photo by: Paul Kehrer / Flickr

The Atlanta Braves’ bullpen is pretty stacked, and most of the attention is given to Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. In the 2010-11 season, O’Flaherty appeared in 78 games, and surrendered eight earned runs over 73.2 innings pitched. The right-hander sported a 1.09 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP while recording 32 holds on the year. Considering all the other arms on the team, not too shabby. O’Flaherty is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball, he’s generated grounders 55.1 percent of the time over past three years combined. He’ll be called upon all season long, if he stays healthy.

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Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five center fielders for 2012


BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com contributor

As part of The Couch Side’s MLB positional power rankings, we turn to Centerfield, arguably one of the more important positions in the game.

But first, here is my 10-6 to build anticipation

10. Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres

9. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

8. Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds

7. Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks

6. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies

Now onto the cream of the crop, the five best centerfielders in the game right now.

5. Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves 

The Braves leadoff hitter split time between Houston and Atlanta last season, and he still led the NL in stolen bases with 61. He’s a fantasy goldmine, simply put. He has two gold gloves in his short career, and rates favorably with his defense. What is he expected to achieve this year? The projection model ZiPS has him hitting .270 with 97 runs scored, and 56 stolen bases. I’ll take that, you’ll take that, and we’ll all take that.

Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury set personal bests on batting average, home runs and RBI last season. Photo by: Chris Walton / Flickr

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox 

This was a tricky one; Ellsbury in 2011 had a near MVP season at the dish, only to have his teammates do their best to sabotage those efforts, which they did. Assuming the Red Sox won’t self destruct with a montage of alcoholic behavior, and unhealthy food choices, they’ll be back in the postseason, and so will the 4th best centerfielder in baseball. Jacoby had a herculean spike in power last year. The HR totals from his first four healthy seasons look like this,

2007: 3

2008: 9

2009: 8

2011: 32

That’s pretty remarkable, almost Jose Bautista-like. The question of whether or not he has a season close to that production remains to be seen, but it would be hard to believe that his peripherals would enable him to improve on such a feat.

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Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five catchers for 2012


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

In part two of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position player going into 2012, I’ll examine the MLB’s top backstops. A couple of catchers on my top five missed a big chunk of the 2011 season because of injury, but they’re both still considered two of the best in the game.

Here’s a closer look at the best from behind the dish in 2012:

Catcher Mike Napoli set career highs in batting average, homer runs and RBIs in his first season with the Texas Rangers last year. Photo by Bart Hanlon / Flickr

1. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

It’s weird to think a 30-year-old wouldn’t reach his prime until his career was almost halfway over, but it appears that’s the exact case for Mike Napoli. The six-year veteran set career highs in home runs, RBIs and batting average last season for the Texas Rangers and he played a key factor to their American League Championship run. The most impressive of Napoli’s personal highs last year had to have been how he hit for average. Don’t get me wrong, his power numbers were very impressive, but before last season, Napoli never hit higher that .273. In 2011, the Florida native hit an amazing .320. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Napoli yet and that’s saying a lot. It will be tough for him to make a repeat performance after an incredible 2011 season, but now that the Rangers are contenders, he’ll play with that bad taste of losing a World Series lingering in his mouth.

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Braves bring back Jack


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Put a mark on the wall.

The Atlanta Braves agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with free agent shortstop Jack Wilson. Photo by: Matt McGee, Flickr

The Atlanta Braves finally made a move this offseason, signing free agent shortstop Jack Wilson to a one-year deal Friday. The move brings Wilson back to the Braves after Atlanta acquired the 10-year veteran late in the season. Inking Wilson to his $1 million deal is just the third major league transaction Braves General Manager Frank Wren has made this winter and it was more like a resigning than a true free agent deal because Wilson actually started in Atlanta’s 162nd game last season.

So once again, Atlanta’s inactivity has left fans yawning at best. However, some are happy with the deal because it was a cheap solution to one of the Braves’ glaring holes. Signing Wilson is safe. He is durable and plays good defense, hence his .977 lifetime fielding percentage. It’s just hard to get excited about a guy who knocked in just 11 runs in 214 bats last season.

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Ring ‘Em Up: Forgetting free agency


Atlanta Braves utility plater Martin Prado has been on the trade block this offseason and the Colorado Rockies are major players for the veteran. Photo by SD Dirk/Flickr

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

I absolutely love mlbtraderumors.com.

It’s a big reason why I started this website and it keep me leaps and bounds ahead of other Braves fans. Mlbtraderumors.com has an interesting sidebar on the right where you can search for the latest rumors about your team. I’m a Braves fan, but this offseason has been incredible slow for the choppers. So each time I make one of eight daily visits to mlbtraderumors.com to see the latest about Atlanta, I’m usually disappointed.

Today’s latest was especially gloom. To my surprise, after I clicked on the “Braves rumors” tab, two new rumors have came up about the team. At first, I though maybe the Braves were finally going after someone or making a trade. Unfortunately, one post was barely two sentences about a possible Martin Prado trade and the other was about how the Braves are one of four teams “sitting out of free agency.”

Still, like any baseball fan during the offseason, any piece of news about your team is exciting. Here are my thoughts on the latest from the Atlanta Braves:

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Ring ‘Em Up: Braves may sign Cedeno, put fans to sleep


Ronny Cedeno may be the Atlanta Braves' first signing of the 2011-2012 offseason. The bad news for Braves fans is the nine-year veteran has only 33 career home runs. Photo By: Scott Ableman/Flickr

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

If the Braves make a move for shortstop Ronny Cedeno in the coming weeks, Atlanta fans will have to uncomfortably welcome in the team’s new No. 8 hitter.

The signing of Cedeno will be a move of mediocrity, failing to create any offseason excitement for the team’s followers. And no one could blame fans for feeling that way. If any team signed a nine-year veteran shortstop like Cedeno, it probably wouldn’t create any buzz. Fans can’t exactly start pumping their fists in excitement for a player who carries a .246 career batting average with a dismal 33 home runs.

But if Cedeno commits to the Braves, at least the front office will have fulfilled its goal of signing a veteran shortstop as insurance for rookie Tyler Pastornicky.

Cedeno’s arrival would serve its purpose, but the Braves need an older shortstop to mold the 22-year-old prospect. It’s just extremely tough to get excited about that temporary mentor being Cedeno.

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