Issue with long-term ramifications: Where will Braves find power?

Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman, center, and teammates celebrate after Freeman hit a home run against the San Francisco Giants in the 11th inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Atlanta. The Braves won 5-4. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The Braves get really excited when someone hits a home run. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

In his available-by-subscription newsletter, the baseball writer Joe Sheehan noted that these Atlanta Braves entered June with the fewest home runs (21) since the 1994 strike. He also offered this: “The Braves are one of just two teams since the strike to enter June with fewer than 25 homers. The 2014 Royals — hey, that’s a fun comp(arison)! — were the other.”

(Why is that a fun comp? The 2014 Royals came within a Game 7 loss to the Giants and Madison Bumgarner — who works against the Braves at Turner Field today; small world — of winning the World Series.)

As if on cue, the Braves beat the Giants in 11 innings last night on a walk-off homer by Freddie Freeman. That gave them 22 for the season, 22 in 52 games. If the Braves hit 17 home runs against Bumgarner and the Giants today, they’d still rank last in the majors.

Granted, you knew this already. We’ve mentioned it ad nauseum since mid-April. This team hasn’t hit many home runs. This team is never going to hit many home runs. At issue is whether future Braves teams will.

The 25-and-under rotation has begun to hold up its end. If you’ve made young pitching the cornerstone of your reconstruction, that’s a very good sign. And the Braves have the No. 1 farm system in baseball and figure to augment that in next week’s MLB draft and the July international signing period. What they don’t have in that farm system is a power hitter of great promise.

Forget having a potential 40-homer guy. They don’t yet have a player with 30-homer potential. Maybe the 19-year-old Austin Riley will become that man, but he’s not nearly there yet. He has three home runs for Single-A Rome this season, with the most recent coming May 7. Dansby Swanson has five homers in  Single-A and Double-A.

The leading homer-hitter for Triple-A Gwinnett/Double-A Mississippi is Matt Tuiasosopo, who has six. He’s 30 years old, which means he’s not a prospect. He’s a Triple A lifer. The big-league Braves designated him for assignment last month — he’d been one of the three guys Fredi Gonzalez requested in early May — but, having no other options, he stayed with Gwinnett.

Said general manager John Coppolella, speaking last month of his lovingly assembled pitching: “We hope to grow our young arms and build a strong and cost-efficient rotation that will allow us to spend our money on bats.”

As Sheehan wrote in a previous newsletter, only five teams since 1995 have hit fewer than 100 home runs in a season. The most punchless of those was San Diego in 2011. It had 91 homers. These Braves are on track to hit 69.

This is why the Braves aren’t yet ready to cut ties with Hector Olivera, who has been suspended by MLB through Aug. 1 for domestic abuse. He’ll probably never be a 30-homer guy — but he might be a 20-homer guy, which would make him Harmon Killebrew around here. Yes, he’s 31. No, he hasn’t done anything of note as a big-leaguer except get suspended. But that suspension, once served, will not invalidate his contract. The Braves will still owe him $30 million over the next four seasons. That’s a sunk cost. Might as well see if he can supply some measure of power.

Beyond the hope-against-hope of Olivera, there’s not much potential power under contract. The Braves can buy established bats in two ways — by using their pitching surplus as currency, but that requires a trade partner, or by spending big in free agency, which the Braves insist is wildly inefficient. (They’re correct.)

In the grand scheme, there is a cheaper way. They can start using some of these accumulated draft picks on hitters. Again we say: The draft is next week.

Super fun reading:

A day to remember in a motley Braves’ season.

The Braves used nine pitchers in 13 innings. Still lost.

Why the Braves buying a draft pick is kind of a big deal.

What, if anything, can the Braves still make of this season?

The Braves are 3-3 under Snitker. They’ll take that.

Now hear this: The Braves’ plan has not failed.

So how are the Phillies 24-17 and the Braves 10-30?

A fascinating podcast sheds light on the Braves’ John Coppolella.

The Braves can now pick a manager who fits.

The Braves fire Fredi Gonzalez, and it had to happen.

The Braves stink. Their young pitchers do not.

Reader Comments 0

24 comments
sea8491
sea8491

Too bad Liberty can not afford a power hitting free agent, just one?

sea8491
sea8491

Braves get power when the Braves get rid of Liberty Media


TideDawg
TideDawg

In case you don't get it, Liberty Media does not care about the Braves and Braves fans. They are a money making business. They care about profits, how to best use losses, stockholder equity and stock prices. They are immune to criticism as long as they accomplish their goals. When they decide that they have milked the Braves cow dry, they will sell, probably in 2020. At that point they will have tripled(or better) their investment in the Braves. If I was a stockholder I would expect them to do exactly that. The Braves play a game....Liberty Media does not! 

Jpace
Jpace

Mr. Bradley - I've been a Braves fan since their arrival in Atlanta in 1966. Went through the worst then the best and now back to the worst years. The 2016 team is absolutely pathetic and I think you guys at AJC are giving them a pass. On track to win 48 games and lose 118 games, ranked last in hitting among the 30 MLB teams, 21st in pitching, 27th in fielding and top management and ownership proceeding with no sense of urgency. Since 1935, the worst record ever compiled by a MLB team was by the 1962 Mets (a 1st year expansion team) at 40 and 120. The Braves could easily eclipse that mark and set a new record for futility. If the 3 Johns at the top of the club aren't doing badly enough, the owner, Liberty Media and Chairman John C. Malone, is definitely last in the league in demonstrating care for the franchise they own. I think they are due some attention from you guys at AJC...like the attention the NY press gave their team in 1962.

Don Frailie
Don Frailie

I have been a fan of the Braves since March of 1953- when they moved from Boston to Milwaukee.  From top to bottom, including management, this is the least  talented they have ever assembled.  The trades and signings have brought nothing- Olivera, Markakis, Aybar, Pierazinski, Peterson, Beckham, dud starting pitchers, dud relief pitchers, duds for the bench, pitiful outfield.  Only two major league calibar players remain- Teheran and Freeman- and they are drowning in the mire hoping, I'm sure to escape Atlanta in a trade.  If one is honest, he will admit that the farm system has little to nothing.  It does have lots of arms- Double A arms at best.


I attended the first game played at Fulton County Stadium.  I attended the last game played at Fulton County Stadium.  I attended the first game played at Turner Field.  I attended numerous games- playoff, World Series, on and on- through the years.  I will not attend the last game at Turner Field.  Of course, if I change my mind in late September, I am sure plenty of tickers, like in the mid1980s- will be available.  Back the, I could leave Stone Mountain Inn, drive in Memorial Boulevard, and arrive five minutes before the first pitch and get a whole section of the stadium to myself.  Those days surely are returning.



TideDawg
TideDawg

I am not a believer in having an "Ace" on the staff. I think this is a term originated by sports writers and other media. Who was the "Ace" for the Braves when they had Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery. What was the old saying "Spahn & Sain and a day of rain"? Rain was the only sure stopper so rain was the "Ace". A team has 4 good pitchers and that's what they want. They can count on any one of the 4 to win, any one of the 4 to stop a slide and all 4 are expected to win by their team mates, so why call any one an "Ace"? Trade your "Ace" to another team with an "Ace" and who becomes the ""Ace"? Atlanta may develop 3 HOF pitchers out of the talent they have assembled then who will be the Ace? Hmmmm...last year the media called Shelby Miller the "Ace". What is he today???

TideDawg
TideDawg

Regarding Olivera: Domestic violence is not curable, it's only controllable. Get rid of him as soon as possible  because eventually he will do it again. Swanson is a talent but how soon will he be Major League ready. He will probably be high average hitter with 20 home run potential in the majors. Albies will be a punch and judy hitter and a great addition to the team as a defensive gem. So what do you do with d'Arnaud? He looks like a high average hitter with medium power. Any players coming up will have to face pitchers that find their weakness quickly and exploit it. If a hitter can't adjust to that it's back to the minors. It would appear that hitting coaches don't teach hitters nowadays to "see the ball. Hit the ball". They teach them to look for their pitch. While they're waiting for their pitch they strike out looking. Defensive shifting will probably prevent many players from reaching that desired .300 average. There are basics (Old School) that will always apply, but it's a changing world (new School) that hitters either adjust to, or never reach their potential. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but this is the way I see it. I'm Old School.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

I think that people are going to be expecting too much out of Dansby too soon and will get disappointed.  And Austin Riley is not the hot shot he was thought of to be & what happened to Braxton Davidson

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

No more Cuban players -- for whatever reason their talents do not transfer to the American game like players from other countries like Venezuela, Curacao and the Dominican Republic do

Olivera should teach them a lesson. Note how the Dodgers DFA'd their other Cuban signee Alex Guerrero.  Wonder about who is really scouting these guys but Cubans do not succeed up here for the most part.  Even Yunel Escobar was an underachiever and a hot dog -- Yasil Puig another hot dogger and underachiever

POV1948
POV1948

How can a farm system with minimal power potential be the No 1 ranked in baseball?  Plus when you look at the high # of walks being given up by many of their top pitching prospects, it is cause for head scratching on how these rankings are done. 

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

There's a reason power hitters don't hit free agency and will not until 2018. Pitching is great but you have to score at least 1 run to win the game and a lot of times these Braves struggle to even do that.

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

I agree wholeheartedly on Olivera. I'm not a believer in Hector, per se, but I'm one of the few people left who hasn't totally given up on him. The Braves have to see what they have with this guy. When his suspension is over, put him wherever on the field he'll hurt you the least and let him hit. If he's not going to be a viable option for us in 2017 and beyond, we need to know that.

If you project next year's lineup, you'll have Freddie at first, Swanson and Albies in some combination at second and short, and Mallex and Inciarte in the outfield. That leaves C, 3B (unless you're a believer in Rio Ruiz, which I'm not), and RF as positions that need to be addressed. I'd like to see the Braves give Olivera another shot at third base since we have a need there and he, like Smith and Inciarte, is not a fit in right field, but the Braves seem convinced his glove won't play at third.

Teheran is the guy I expect to see traded at some point. It's obvious at this point that Julio is never going to be an ace, but he's a rock-solid no. 2 or 3 on most teams and has a very affordable contract, so he could and should bring a big return. Potentially, we could fill two of those aforementioned holes by packaging Teheran.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again


I agree with your first paragraph above regarding Hector Olivera.


There was talk that the Cubs were interested in Teheran and may be willing to given up one of their young sluggers.  While I would rather keep Teheran (affordable salary), if the decision is made to trade him, the return should be a major leagueer not minor league prospects

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

If the Braves are looking to use free agents in 2017 to help with there lack of power here is a partial list of who is on the market at catcher, 3B and corner OF spots.(2016 salary)

Catchers

1. Matt Wieters ($15.8 M)

2. Jonathon LuCroy ($4.35 M)

3. Wilson Ramos ($4.2 M)


Third basemen

1. Martin Prado ($11 M)

2.David Freese ($3 M)

3. Steve Pearce($4.75M)


Outfielders

1. Jose Bautista RF ($14 M)

2. Josh Reddick RF ($6.6 M)

3.Michael Saunders LF ($2.9 M)

Other than Lucroy or Ramos at catcher it is unlikely the Braves will have any interest in anyone else on the list.

CrimeaRiver
CrimeaRiver

You don't need home runs to win ballgames. Patience at the plate! Work the count. Learn to bunt and use your speed to get on base, advance and score. And get a bullpen that can hold a lead.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Listening to 680theFan on Wednesday, Steak made Sandra Golden uncomfortable in discussing what should be done with Hector Olivera.  She was adamant that the Braves should cut bait due to what he did to the woman.  A caller reminded everyone about the incident with Bobby Cox and his wife several years ago.  Steak explained the situation thus pointed out that he believes H.O. should come back based on that precedent.  I don't think Sandra discussed this the rest of the broadcast (Steak suggested she has a good relationship with Bobby Cox).


It is interesting how opinions are sometimes shaped based on whether one knows the person involved in the indiscretion.


Assuming we keep H.O., we should move him back to 3B.  I think it will be easier to find power hitting outfielders than infielders.  If he can become a decent #6 hitter in the lineup and field the position without much embarrassment, the Braves should be in decent shape.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@ErnestB

What has Hector Olivera done in a MLB uniform that projects that he will be a 20 to 30 HR hitter? He has 2 HR in 108 big league at bats. This might make him a potential 10 to 15 HR hitter if he can ever play a complete season. And with a .905 fielding % at 3B ,he may be better off in the OF. There is no other option but to try and play Olivera when he is eligible, he has zero trade value and he will be one of the highest paid players on the Braves roster until 2020.Still a huge question mark of why Hart/Coppy made this deal?Taking on $32 million in salary commitments for a 31 year old Cuban with zero MLB experience. And now that the Dodgers have DFA'd their other big contract Cuban SS Alex Guerrero , some international scouting reports should be looked at more carefully.Especially since the Braves are counting on adding position players through signing players from the international pool in July.I hope Hart/Coppy are getting better information than the Dodgers received on Olivera and Guerrero.

Sidslid
Sidslid

I have a unique request.  Why don't they get what they can for Markakis and then cut a deal with the Marlins to give us Ichiro for the rest of the year so he can get to 3,000 hits?  Put a few butts in the seats. 

ClintThomason
ClintThomason

@MarkBradleyAJC I was always under the assumption that they were stockpiling pitchers to eventually trade for hitters. Or free agency

ErnestB
ErnestB

@ClintThomason @MarkBradleyAJC


I heard this also.  The Braves have not had recent success in developing hitters, especially those with power.  Perhaps they will leverage their wealth of pitching prospects and trade for power hitters.


I know I will be watching the upcoming draft to see what direction they go.  I believe we have enough pitching now so we should change our focus to everyday players.

jzembik
jzembik

@dmsandman You have fun with that. I'm not sure I can handle watching more Braves games this year.