Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

Jason Heyward Has Awesomeness Confirmed With Awards From Baseball America, USA Today

Two years ago, Bus Leagues began building its massive empire on the strength of Jay Bruce, the Cincinnati Reds farmhand who won Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award at the end of the 2007 season.  We spoke of Bruce in hushed tones until he was called up midway through the 2008 campaign, followed his early days in the majors with guarded interest, and performed a complicated set of Internet high-fives when someone mentioned this blog to him and he said he liked the nickname we gave him last year.

In short, Jay Bruce was our first man-crush.

Conversely, when Matt Wieters won the same award last year, Bus Leagues Headquarters was largely silent.  I remember thinking to myself, “Gee, I should write something about this,” but it never came to fruition, and while I tried to give Wieters a nice welcome to The Show by pointing out his Chuck Norris-like facts site, it just wasn’t the same.  We enjoy Wieters, we think he’s gonna be a great player for a long time, we just don’t get the same sense of awesome that we did about Bruce.

The question now is this: where will Jason Heyward fit into the equation?

Heyward, the top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system, was named the Minor League Player of the Year this week by both Baseball America and USA Today (neither Bruce nor Wieters won the latter award, losing out to Justin Upton and David Price, respectively; in addition to Heyward, four players – Andruw Jones (1995-96), Rick Ankiel (1999), Josh Beckett (2001), and Jeff Francis (2004) – have taken home both) after a season that began in the High-A Carolina League, continued through the Double-A Southern League, and will likely end in the Triple-A International League (barring a late September experiential call-up to the Braves).

The 20-year-old Heyward was the fifth-rated prospect by Baseball America prior to last season and the only one of the top eleven on the list who has not seen action at the major league level.

His overall numbers at three stops – 17 homeruns, 63 RBI, 69 runs, 51 walks, 51 strikeouts, .323/.408/.555 – were very good.  What set Heyward apart, however, was the environment in which he posted those stats:

“When you consider his ability and his actual performance, especially what he’s done at higher levels, and the power he showed as a notorious pitcher’s park (in Myrtle Beach) … he had a standout season,” Baseball America editor John Manuel said. “His advanced plate discipline, combined with his youthfulness and the difficulty of those leagues ñ the Carolina League, the Southern League, they are very difficult for a 19 to 20-year-old – he made it look easy.”

That’s the amazing thing, when you think about it: Jason Heyward is still just 20-years-old (and a young twenty at that – his birthday was August 9).  Despite that, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing him in the Atlanta outfield next season.  You have to be at least a little special to reach the majors that early.

I don’t know how Heyward’s career will turn out, or if he will become an official Bus Leagues Favorite.  If nothing else, though, he’s off to a great start.

Average Distance From Majors To Affiliates: National League East

Continuing on with the series we started on Monday, here are the distances between the teams in the National League East and their affiliates.

Atlanta Braves (average: 279 miles)
Atlanta to…
…Gwinnett Braves (AAA): 32 miles
…Mississippi Braves (AA): 378 miles
…Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A): 364 miles
…Rome Braves (A): 70 miles
…Danville Braves (R): 381 miles
…GCL Braves (R): 450 miles

Washington Nationals (average: 333 miles)
Washington to…
…Syracuse Chiefs (AAA): 373 miles
…Harrisburg Senators (AA): 121 miles
…Potomac Nationals (A): 22 miles
…Hagerstown Suns (A): 72 miles
…Vermont Lake Monsters (A): 519 miles
…Gulf Coast Nationals (R): 888

Philadelphia Phillies (average: 421 miles)
Philadelphia…
…Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA): 62 miles
…Reading Phillies (AA): 64 miles
…Clearwater Threshers (A): 1,077 miles
…Lakewood BlueClaws (A): 65 miles
…Williamsport Crosscutters (A): 178 miles
…GCL Phillies (R): 1,077 miles

Florida Marlins (average: 525 miles)
Miami to…
…New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA): 868 miles
…Jacksonville Suns (AA): 345 miles
…Jupiter Hammerheads (A): 88 miles
…Greensboro Grasshoppers (A): 794 miles
…Jamestown Jammers (A): 966 miles
…GCL Marlins (R): 88 miles

New York Mets (average: 543 miles)
New York…
…Buffalo Bisons (AAA): 409 miles
…Binghamton Mets (AA): 190 miles
…Saint Lucie Mets (A): 1,182 miles
…Savannah Sand Gnats (A): 828 miles
…Brooklyn Cyclones (A): 15 miles
…Kingsport Mets (R): 631 miles

Now Pitching For The Atlanta Braves…

There’s a scene in The Matrix where Joe Pantoliano starts unplugging all the good guys while they’re still inside the matrix, killing them instantly.  Just after they figure out what’s happening but just before they figure out how to stop it, one of the soon-to-be-axed characters looks at Carrie-Anne Moss and says, “Not like this.  Not like this,” and dies.

That same sort of thing happened in Atlanta yesterday, only it was general manager Frank Wren who walked into the clubhouse and calmly pulled the plug on Tom Glavine while Chipper Jones looked on in horror.

Glavine had appeared in several games at the minor league level and appeared ready to rejoin the Braves.   Not so fast, Tom.

General manager Frank Wren said the decision had nothing to do with a $1 million bonus that Glavine would have received for being placed on the major league roster. Instead, the team felt it had a better chance to win with a younger pitcher in the rotation.

“This was not a business decision,” Wren said. “This was a performance decision.”

Taking his presumed place in the rotation will be the Next Tommy, Tommy Hanson, who ranked fourth on Baseball America’s preseason Top 100.  The 22-year-old Hanson was cutting a swatch of destruction through the International League, notching a 1.49 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 66.1 innings over eleven starts.  In my fantasy baseball league, he has been owned by over 70% of teams since just after the season began, more than any other prospect I remember seeing.

Hanson will be called up this weekend and make his major league debut Saturdayagainst the Milwaukee Brewers.

In another move (it was a very busy Wednesday for the Braves; a third move impacting a top minor league prospect will be mentioned in a separate post), Jordan Schafer was sent back down to the minors after hitting .204 with two homeruns and eight runs batted in.  Given the way things were going, I expected Jason Heyward to get the call, but it was actually Gregor Blanco who went to Atlanta.

I Need The Blood Of A Live Rooster, Take The Curse Off My Body!

 

I’m not one to question anyone’s mental toughness, but I think the time has come for Mike Hampton to trade in the doctors who ply their trade with scalpels for the ones who utilize a couch.  That’s right, I’m saying that Mike Hampton is messed up in the head and needs a shrink (don’t worry – I’m screwed up mentally as well, so I can say stuff like that). 

Either that or he is the unluckiest human being in recorded history.  I can’t wait to get home later and read through the list of injuries he’s suffered in the past few years.  It’s amazing and depressing and ridiculous all at the same time.

(Thanks, Babes Love Baseball, for bringing me the latest installment of the most consistently depressing story in the game today)

I Kinda Feel Bad For The Horse

You know that scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin where Seth Rogen is talking about his wild weekend in Tijuana, and he goes off on a tangent about seeing a show where a woman performed some, uh, unnatural acts with a horse?

“We get there and we think it’s gonna be awesome and… it is not as cool as it sounds like it’s gonna be,” says Rogen’s character.  “To be honest I just felt bad for her, we all just felt bad for her.

I kinda felt bad for the horse!”

That quote sums up exactly how I feel about Mike Hampton at this point in his career (bestiality references excluded).

An article at MiLB.com last night talked about Hampton’s latest minor league rehab stint, which began on Saturday night with a start for Atlanta’s Rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League.  My first instinct was to make a big deal out of it, talk about how Hampton was starting once again on the long road back to the majors, and encourage some of our readers in the south to get out to a game and report back on their findings (they’ll have plenty of time to do so: Hampton will pitch at least once more for the GCL Braves and three more times in the minors before rejoining the major league squad).

Then I realized that I didn’t really want to do any of that, because talking about Mike Hampton and his myriad injuries was no longer as fun as I thought it would be.  I mean, you read the story at first and you think, “Mike Hampton’s pitching again – I wonder how he’ll hurt himself this time?”  But really, in the end, it’s just not as cool as it sounded like it was gonna be. 

I never thought this would happen, not with Mike Hampton, but I think we’ve finally reached the point where I kinda feel bad for the horse.

Now Batting For The Atlanta Braves…

Whew, this was close.  I like to get “Now Batting For” posts up within a day or two of a prospect’s debut, if not before, and have updated my Google Alerts in the hopes that it will help improve my promptness.  One hundred alerts means one hundred emails a day, however, which can be impossible to sift through…which is how I missed Brandon Jones’ 2008 debut for a full 48ish hours after it happened.

Jones was brought up to the Braves from the AAA affiliate in Richmond at the end of last week, despite a .263 average and just two homeruns and 25 RBI in 2007.  He has responded with six hits in his first thirteen at-bats, including his first major league homerun, a solo shot off Ervin Santana on Saturday.

Atlanta’s fourth-ranked prospect and number 70 overall, Jones made his major league debut with the Braves last season, hitting .158 in five September games.  He was originally drafted by Atlanta in the 24th round of the 2003 draft.

Tough Day To Be A Rehabbing Lefty

Mulder struggles in rehab start

St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder gave up nine runs in his fourth rehabilitation start, an indication he’s far from ready to return from September shoulder surgery.

Pitching for Triple-A Memphis, Mulder allowed nine hits – three homers – and seven earned runs in 3 2-3 innings.

Durability question? Hampton leaves rehab start

Mike Hampton’s protracted comeback trail took another turn Wednesday when the pitcher left a minor-league game with more discomfort in his left pectoral muscle.

He left in the fourth inning of Class AAA Richmond’s game at Durhman, N.C., after throwing 71 pitches in what had been an encouraging outing to that point. 

To me, the interesting thing about these two cases is the way the teams are treating Mark Mulder and Mike Hampton publicly.  In the first article, Tony LaRussa says of Mulder, “I’ve been saying there’s no hurry for him,” La Russa said. “He doesn’t need to come back until he’s ready.”  A nice sentiment – just take your time, do what you’ve gotta do, make sure your arm is right and your head is on straight before you try to face major league hitters again.  No pressure.  We’re on your clock.

Cotnrast that with Bobby Cox, who had this to say about Hampton’s potential injury:

“I’ll wait and see when we get home…”

“I had him penciled in for [May 10]. I was hoping he’d make that and go six or seven innings.”

“We were counting heavily on him.”

Translation: We’re paying this guy a lot of money.  It would be nice if he could get out there and, I don’t know, at least TRY to pitch for us at some point. 

I’m not saying either sentiment is right or wrong.  The Braves certainly can’t be blamed for feeling increasingly frustrated by Hampton’s continued inability to live up to the terms of his contract.  I just thought it was interesting that two high profile pitchers took the mound for rehab starts on the same day, achieved similarly negative results, and were faced with very different responses from their major league managers.