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Espn Insider: Keith Law On Pads/braves Trade - Prospect Talk


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I erased all the non-Braves crap.

Friday, December 19, 2014
Justin Upton a smart bet for Padres

By Keith law

The Padres just keep making transactions -- I feel like they're about to get in a waiver-wire war over Tim Pugh -- to the point where they seem to have too many cooks in their lineup, but acquiring Justin Upton is a smart bet on a great athlete who hasn't reached his potential. Atlanta couldn't retain Upton long term anyway, so they cashed him in for a solid package of prospects to help them a few years down the line.

Upton's career hasn't quite matched expectations; he played like a budding superstar from ages 21-23, then suffered a wrist injury at 24, playing through it (while the Diamondbacks questioned his "grit"), settling in as a very good offensive player but not quite a star afterward. I still believe that Upton, now entering his age-27 season, has one more level of offense in him, based on that early promise and that quick-twitch muscle that gives him such tremendous bat speed. He recognizes pitches well and can let the ball travel longer than most hitters, all reasons why he's typically a good hitter against all types of pitches. He has explosive power, works deep in the count, and can play average defense in left. I also think his power is the kind that plays in Petco; guys with just above-average (grade 55) power don't cut it in ballparks like San Diego's or, for right-handed hitters, Seattle's, but Upton's power should play anywhere. I'd be disappointed with anything under a 4-WAR season from Upton as he heads into free agency next winter.

That said, what the **** do the Padres do with all of these outfielders?

A.J. Preller has churned the roster like he's trying to turn it into butter, and has now acquired three quality major league outfielders in the past 10 days, none of whom can play center field -- which, by the way, was Cameron Maybin's position, at least in theory. Even after they inevitably dump Carlos Quentin on an AL team and Seth Smith on anyone willing to take on his modest but silly contract, they'll still have four outfielders for three spots, and none of them is an obvious fit for first base. None of it adds up right now, unless they intend to use one of these outfielders to go acquire another piece, like a Cole Hamels.


In exchange for a year of Upton, a player they were unlikely to retain in free agency, Atlanta gets a solid return in prospects but misses out on the Padres' biggest names, like Hunter Renfroe or Austin Hedges. The most notable prospect coming back to Atlanta is lefty Max Fried, San Diego's first-round pick in 2012. Fried blew out his elbow early in 2014 and missed almost the whole year with Tommy John surgery, and the Padres had recently developed some questions about his maturity -- although he won't turn 21 until late January. When healthy, he was up to 96 mph and would sit in the low 90s with a plus curveball and average or better changeup, needing a lot of work on command and control. He's a great athlete, however, and should be able to make adjustments with repetition once he gets back on a mound. He's a potential No. 2 starter if his stuff comes back all the way from the surgery.

Infielder Jace Peterson was horrendous in a brief major league stint last year, but had just 18 games above A-ball at the time of his first call-up, and was always a little behind his age level because he was a two-sport guy at McNeese State with less baseball experience than your typical college player. He has very good hand-eye coordination with a simple, short swing that produces contact with minimal power. He's also a plus runner and can fill in at three infield spots, although he's not pushing Andrelton Simmons anywhere. He could be a utility infielder at some point this year for Atlanta, or even their everyday second baseman, especially if they deal Chris Johnson's bad contract and create another opening on the dirt.

Dustin Peterson isn't related to Jace, but is the younger brother of Mariners prospect D.J. Peterson; Dustin was a second-round pick in 2013 out of Gilbert High School in Arizona, moved right to the Midwest League this year, and couldn't hold up under the long season, hitting .187/.200/.258 in his last 50 games (about two months) with three walks and 56 strikeouts. I liked Dustin's swing quite a bit in high school and still think he'll be fine at third base given time, but his work ethic wasn't great in 2014 and he has a lot of work to do on his defense at third or else he'll end up in left field. Mallex Smith is an 80 runner with below-average power, a left-handed hitter with a soft swing but the ability to cover a lot of ground in the outfield; he reminds me a lot of Ben Revere at the plate, but he's a better overall athlete than Revere, with another half-grade to a full grade of pop. This is a far, far better return than waiting for a compensatory draft pick in 2016 for Upton, when they wouldn't have gotten a player as good as a healthy Fried.

What Atlanta needs to do next, though, is trade Craig Kimbrel. An elite closer is of little use on a team that might lose 90 games, and relievers' peaks tend to be short and end without warning. Kimbrel is owed $33 million over the next three years, plus a $1 million buyout on a 2018 option, and while he's still among the best relievers in the game, he's not what he was two years ago. Atlanta doesn't want to be left holding the bag when Kimbrel blows out or suffers a sudden loss of value, not when they're trying to win three seasons from now and could cash him in for longer-term assets today.

The most fascinating thing about this trade, and the past two weeks in general, is that we only have maybe four teams in baseball that are not actively trying either to contend in 2015 or at least field a markedly better team. Atlanta is rebuilding, aiming for the opening of a new stadium in 2017, acknowledging they weren't catching Washington this year no matter what. The Phillies appear to have finally begun to turn the page on the 2008 core and started a rebuild. The Reds and Rockies don't seem to have committed to a move in either direction, at least not so far this winter, although the Reds have yet to show what they'll do with the savings from trading Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. In the American League, only Oakland appears to be rebuilding, and even their offseason has included moves that are designed to keep the team competitive in the short term, while the Astros have moved to shore up the majors' worst bullpen to make the team more respectable in 2015. It's a good time to be a baseball fan.

Yet another Padres trade

The Padres also swung a relatively minor deal, trading catcher Ryan Hanigan to Boston for third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Hanigan is a plus defensive catcher with very little bat, but will be a great backup/caddie for Christian Vazquez in Boston this year while the Sox wait for top prospect Blake Swihart to arrive. Middlebrooks' tenure in Boston was clearly over, both because of non-performance and the addition of Pablo Sandoval. Middlebrooks has plus raw power and a plus arm, but poor plate discipline and limited range at third have held him back. San Diego could live with his defense if he hits, although that's going to require a significant change in his approach, and I'm not sold on his power being enough to play up for 20-plus homers at Petco. He's better than any in-house third base options for 2015, however, and with Derek Norris on board -- now likely to catch every day -- Hanigan was sort of expendable.

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I hate Keith Law. Always have and always will. "He's not what he was two years ago." is such a silly comment to make about Craig Kimbrel and such a slap in the face. Kimbrel's ERA the last 2 years has been 1.01, 1.21, and 1.61. HELLO!!! Even Mariano Rivera never did that. No pitcher in MLB history has ever posted 3 straight years with an ERA of 1.61 or lower in 3 straight seasons.

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I hate Keith Law. Always have and always will. "He's not what he was two years ago." is such a silly comment to make about Craig Kimbrel and such a slap in the face. Kimbrel's ERA the last 2 years has been 1.01, 1.21, and 1.61. HELLO!!! Even Mariano Rivera never did that. No pitcher in MLB history has ever posted 3 straight years with an ERA of 1.61 or lower in 3 straight seasons.

He was talking about the drop in average velocity of his FB. Which of course is still plenty good, but he's right when he says the track record of good young relievers staying dominant isn't a good one.

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He was talking about the drop in average velocity of his FB. Which of course is still plenty good, but he's right when he says the track record of good young relievers staying dominant isn't a good one.

What drop in average FB velocity?

2010 - 92.7

2011 - 92.3

2012 - 93.6

2013 - 92.7

2014 - 93.7

Where is this drop that you're talking about? Those are the fangraphs numbers. Are the Brooks Baseball numbers vastly different?

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If Keith Law told me it wasn't going to rain, I'd get my umbrella.

Having said that, memories of Eric Gagne concern me about Kimbrel, as does what happened with Venters. It's a situation where if we deal him, we're worried we've dealt Trevor Hoffman, a dude who can be our closer until 2030. If we keep him, we're worried that he follows the path of Neftali Feliz.

I suspect that we don't think about Kimbrel's situation until July of next year, assuming he is in good health then.

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If Keith Law told me it wasn't going to rain, I'd get my umbrella.

Having said that, memories of Eric Gagne concern me about Kimbrel, as does what happened with Venters. It's a situation where if we deal him, we're worried we've dealt Trevor Hoffman, a dude who can be our closer until 2030. If we keep him, we're worried that he follows the path of Neftali Feliz.

I suspect that we don't think about Kimbrel's situation until July of next year, assuming he is in good health then.

Eric Gagne? Really? Gagne was a failed starting pitcher who had Tommy John surgery and then lucked into a couple of great seasons. To compare the two is silly. The Hoffman deal does hold weight though.

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Gagne won a Cy Young award and finished in the top 12 in MVP voting three straight years. Then, he fell off the table. So, yes, really.

Craig Kimbrel isn't a failed starting pitcher who had Tommy John surgery before ever doing anything good in the majors like Eric Gagne. It still ticks me off they gave him the Cy Young that one year.

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What drop in average FB velocity?

2010 - 92.7

2011 - 92.3

2012 - 93.6

2013 - 92.7

2014 - 93.7

Where is this drop that you're talking about? Those are the fangraphs numbers. Are the Brooks Baseball numbers vastly different?

I don't know, I just have seen in a couple places that Kimbrel's fastball has lost a little bit of velocity. They may have been full of ****.

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Idk what the sites say but I know what I seen with my eyes. His velocity was down early in the year and it did concern me a bit. But midyear he picked it up. I remember bc I was watching all year, well until I quit watching late in year due to disgust. The numbers 567 posted are probably conservative if anything.

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Idk what the sites say but I know what I seen with my eyes. His velocity was down early in the year and it did concern me a bit. But midyear he picked it up. I remember bc I was watching all year, well until I quit watching late in year due to disgust. The numbers 567 posted are probably conservative if anything.

No it wasn't. His velocity was never an issue. The only reason anyone ever thought that was because of Joe Simpson making a ridiculous claim that his velocity was down because of the shoulder issue he had in spring training. It was all false information. Go back and watch his appearances and pay attention to the pitch speeds that show up on the screen.

Kimbrel's first appearance of the season he struck out the side. You can see pitches of 96 and 97 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31751499/atlmil-kimbrel-strikes-out-the-side-to-seal-win/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 96 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31761257/atlmil-kimbrel-gets-the-save-vs-brewers/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 96 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31814989/atlwsh-kimbrel-retires-frandsen-to-earn-the-save/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 95 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v32315425/miaatl-kimbrel-fans-saltalamacchia-for-the-save/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 97 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/topic/78370164/v32413123/cinatl-kimbrel-strikes-out-bruce-for-save/?query=craig%2Bkimbrel

All of these videos are from April and it was in April when Kimbrel struggled a bit that Simpson made that comment that caused all the panic in Braves country.

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Nobody listens to those fools. 95 is down as top velocity for Kimbrel who can flirt with triple digits. I dont think it was bc an injury I just thought after he got back to high 90s that he was cranking it up as the season progressed. I was actually agreeing with you.

It's all about control. Kimbrel's control last season wasn't as good as it was in his previous seasons. That's the reason he struggled a bit more last year than in previous season.

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No it wasn't. His velocity was never an issue. The only reason anyone ever thought that was because of Joe Simpson making a ridiculous claim that his velocity was down because of the shoulder issue he had in spring training. It was all false information. Go back and watch his appearances and pay attention to the pitch speeds that show up on the screen.

Kimbrel's first appearance of the season he struck out the side. You can see pitches of 96 and 97 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31751499/atlmil-kimbrel-strikes-out-the-side-to-seal-win/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 96 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31761257/atlmil-kimbrel-gets-the-save-vs-brewers/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 96 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v31814989/atlwsh-kimbrel-retires-frandsen-to-earn-the-save/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 95 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/v32315425/miaatl-kimbrel-fans-saltalamacchia-for-the-save/?query=craig+kimbrel

Here Kimbrel hits 97 mph.

http://m.braves.mlb.com/atl/video/topic/78370164/v32413123/cinatl-kimbrel-strikes-out-bruce-for-save/?query=craig%2Bkimbrel

All of these videos are from April and it was in April when Kimbrel struggled a bit that Simpson made that comment that caused all the panic in Braves country.

And 2 years ago those numbers were 98 and 99. He's velo has dropped a little. You rarely ever see him hit 99 anymore and he did it weekly 2 years ago. While his avg may be close his top has dropped. I've noticed it and watch it every time I see him pitch.
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And 2 years ago those numbers were 98 and 99. He's velo has dropped a little. You rarely ever see him hit 99 anymore and he did it weekly 2 years ago. While his avg may be close his top has dropped. I've noticed it and watch it every time I see him pitch.

I disagree with the thought that Kimbrel's velocity isn't as good as it's ever been. We just won't agree on that.

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Just for conversation, Law did a column on the Gattis trade -- didn't read it because I'm cheap, but I gather he thinks the Braves made out very well.

He also did an online chat today. Here were the Braves-related Q&As.

Collin (Pittsburgh)
Great article on the Gattis deal. As an Astros fan, I'm as confused as you are. Even if the Astros have mixed feelings on these prospects... if industry perception is higher then they should've landed more than what they ended up with for that kind of package. Do you know what else was being offered for Gattis from other clubs?
Klaw (1:01 PM)
Thank you. I've only heard that Texas' offer was strong, comparable but inferior to what Houston offered, and that Texas balked at raising their offer. I don't know if that helps much.
***
Mario (Sao Paulo, Brazil) [via mobile]
Are the Braves gonna be that bad next year? Their pitching is as good or better than last year, and I don't think the offense can be much worse than it was
Klaw (1:04 PM)
They'll be bad - it's a bad offense - but if they really do keep Kimbrel (why, I have no idea, as he could go boom at any second) and the rotation as it stands remains reasonably healthy, they're not a 100-loss team.
***
Best move of the off-season so far: ___________. As a side note you must be delighted by the trading volume of both MLB players for MLB players and a few prospect for prospect trades.

Klaw (1:07 PM)

I loved the Heyward trade for both sides, really. And it was kind of shocking, which made it even more fun. It has absolutely been a great offseason but I wish everyone would just chill the bleep out until I get the top 100 written.

***

Tim (San Jose)
General thoughts on the Braves offseason? I think besides the Markakis signing, it's been pretty good
Klaw (1:08 PM)
I agree. That move made no sense, and keeping Kimbrel makes no sense.
***
Collin (Pittsburgh)
What's the best package of prospects you can remember changing hands in a trade? Not necessarily "lop-sided" just a package of prospects that really panned out
Klaw (1:19 PM)
Teixeira to Atlanta.
***
Matt (Northern VA)
What do you make of the Bethancourt, Simmons, Peraza up-the-middle combination the Braves will trot out at some point this year? Are they good enough defensively that the Braves can deal with only having one of them hit?
Klaw (1:27 PM)
The biggest change Atlanta has made this offseason is hiring Kevin Seitzer as hitting coach. They've had dismal results from that position over the last 6-7 years, with players experiencing swing changes/regressions, unable to make adjustments, devolving from line-drive hitters to groundball hitters ... Heyward was one guy they kind of ruined, and Simmons might be the biggest project for Kevin Seitzer to tackle. (Aside from BJ Upton, who might be a lost cause.)
***
James (NM) [via mobile]
Also were you serious on giving Foltynewicz's curve a 70?
Klaw (1:37 PM)
This isn't the Onion, James.
***
CC (Atlanta)
Please tell me Joey Terdoslavich is not the Braves starting LF in 2015.
Klaw (1:40 PM)
I thought they could move Chris Johnson to LF and play Jace Peterson at third, but it sounds like that isn't the plan.
***
Nolo (Spain)
Is it just me? I get the sense that MLB teams overpay for relievers/closers at the ASBreak (Soria, Miller...) Do you think the Brave's strategy is to trade Kimbrel at the break?
Klaw (1:41 PM)
I don't think that's the strategy, but I wouldn't mind if it was - nor do they have to tell us if it is.
***
Taylor (Jacksonville) [via mobile]
Why would the Braves trade Kimbrell? And if they did what could they get in return?
Klaw (1:44 PM)
What good is an elite closer on a 75-win team?
***
brett fayettville nc [via mobile]
What is the braves plans for left field now that gattis is gone
Klaw (1:47 PM)
They're going to put a stake in the ground out there. If a ball in play hits the stake, the batter is out.
***
Andy (LA)
The Braves may miss El Oso Blanco's bat, but the stake in the ground strategy probably serves the same defensive value.
Klaw (2:01 PM)
And people say I'm mean.
***
Matt (Northern VA)
What is Jace Peterson's upside? I think he could be a gem from the Upton trade...
Klaw (2:02 PM)
He's a great athlete with limited baseball experience because he played football at McNeese St. I think he could sneak into average regular status later in his career, but is most likely a good utility man because he can handle three infield spots (3b-ss-2b).
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That for the Braves it makes more sense to trade him than keep him. The value of the potential return is higher than his actual value for the team in the short term.

Not that. He's always talking about his arm falling off or exploding or something like that. Why?

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