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The Atlanta Braves Prospects + Organizational Depth Charts For All Affiliates – 2014 (MLB + MiLB)

The Atlanta Braves went to the World Series  5 times in the 90's, only winning the title in 1995.  The team won 14 Division Titles from 1991 - 2005, and have been very competitive for the last 4 years, after a short dry spell.  A lot of it has to do with their Minor League System.

The Atlanta Braves went to the World Series 5 times in the 90’s, only winning the title in 1995. The team won 14 Division Titles from 1991 – 2005, and have been very competitive for the last 4 years, after a short dry spell from 2006 – 2009.. A lot of it has to do with their Minor League System.

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): & Jeff Kleiner (Org Depth Chart + Payroll Expert – find his website here)

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Do you ever wonder how the Atlanta Braves have been so successful as an organization for the last quarter century? The answer is they are able to develop within.

In fact, the only times the club seems to do poorly is when it goes outside its comfort zone, and spend a bushel full of money for Free Agency.

Take the B.J. Upton abysmal deal, that may plague the franchise for spending until they reach their new stadium digs in Cobb County GA.

Yes, they hit a HR in the mid-90’s when they signed Greg Maddux, but times have changed for the economy of baseball.

The club also suffers from the trade to acquire Dan Uggla. These are small blips on a stellar establishment mostly comprised of homegrown talent.

Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis are the future of this team. Braves fans are hoping for another World Series Winner.

If you are a fan, get to know these players we list in the post, and follow their progress in the Minors.  if you click their name, it will take you to baseballreference.com’s player page of them.

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Angels State Of The Union For 2014: A Hot Start Is Paramount For Success

The Angels have spent almost a half of a billion in Free Agency over the last 3 years, and all they have to show for it, is back to back 3rd place finishes in the AL West.  The team also featured an anemic Bullpen in the 2013 campaign. But with AL West rivals all having significant injuries both to start the year and long-term for 2014, this has opened up the door for the start of campaign at least.  It is incumbent that their top guys stay injury free, and spend exactly no days on the DL, because they don't have suitable replacements to step in.  With poor starts to both of the last 2 years, this squad looks to break this trend in 2014.

The Angels have spent almost a half of a billion in Free Agency over the last 3 years, and all they have to show for it, is back to back 3rd place finishes in the AL West. The team also featured an anemic Bullpen in the 2013 campaign. But with AL West rivals all having significant injuries both to start the year and long-term for 2014, this has opened up the door for the start of the 2014 campaign at least. It is incumbent that their top guys stay injury free, and spend exactly no days on the DL, because they don’t have suitable replacements to step in. With poor starts to both of the last 2 years, this squad looks to break this trend this seasom.

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner):

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Hunter Stokes (Our chief writer) wrote a piece that was picked up by MLB Trade Rumors blogroll, stating that Jerry DiPoto has done a poor job in constructing the current team based on the roster tree here.

I agree with him 100% on this, especially on the moves, the Bullpen not being 100% finished yet, the Starting Rotation too reliant on their top 2 pitchers – and we have had several of their fans take some jabs at us for going with these notions.

The club’s brass has had a better winter in 2013 going into 2014, then they had last year, however it still doesn’t alleviate the fact, this team can’t sustain one injury to any of their top players because of said moves to deplete their depth.

The Starting Staff is composed of 60% of youth that is not used to toting long innings in Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.

The team has a lot of players that will strikeout a lot, so it is also important to receive key HRs at crucial times in the game.

The club will also lose 34 HRs worth of power they received from Mark Trumbo in 2013, but it was the right time to move him.  Whether they received enough of a return is yet to be determined, but it also cut down the whiffs for 2014.

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Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim State Of The Union: Is It Time For Jerry DiPoto To Be Fired?

Mike Trout must feel like he will receive some better help from a full season of Pujols coming.  Heading into the 2013 campaign, they looked to have almost a historic 1 - 4 lineup.  Instead. it was a disaster.  Maybe the 2014 year will be different.

Mike Trout must feel like he will receive some better help from a full season of Pujols coming. Heading into the 2013 campaign, they looked to have almost a historic 1 – 4 lineup. Instead. it was a disaster. Maybe the 2014 year will be different.  With players like Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton still collecting money on the payroll – to the tune of $26 MIL in 2014, their teams salary structure is a disaster.  Those two guys are really horrible – or not even playing for LA anymore.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer): 

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“Stoking The Fire” – Week 10

As someone who follows the Angels from a distance, I have had it with Jerry DiPoto.

Whether it is the direction of the team’s brass that has been affected, or Arte Moreno himself, this team is heading on a one way ticket to salary hell.

So how does the GM respond this winter?

He trades his 2nd, 4th and possibly 5th best OF on the Roster Depth away – without yielding a OF back in return.

He has added on a couple of players (David Freese and Raul Ibanez) that Strikeout as much as the rest of the clan.  Good work man!

Am I missing something? Does he not see this is the recipe for disaster?

Angels 2013 preview – 2014 wont be as optimistic:

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The Braves Keep On ‘Chopping’ Despite Several Key Injuries

The Braves have been falling by the wayside to injury since the 1st part of the year.  They have lost Venters, O'Flaherty. Hudson and now Heyward for a 2nd time.  If you couple that with lackluster performances from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, then this team has overachieved to the fullest with the rest of the choppers!

The Braves have been falling by the wayside to injury since the 1st part of the year. They have lost Venters, O’Flaherty. Hudson and now Heyward for a 2nd time. If you couple that with lackluster performances from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, the injury time on the DL for Brian McCann, Brandon Beachy – and even Evan Gattis, plus the retired Chipper Jones having been departed from the 2012 squad, then this team has overachieved to the fullest with the rest of the choppers!  Atlanta currently owns the best record in the MLB – with a 77 – 50 mark, 14 games clear of the 2nd place Washington Nationals in the NL East. Also, please stop inadvertently injuring our players New York Mets!

By Bob McVinua (Special Guest Braves Writer – visit his website here):

The word “injury” has plagued this 2013 Braves team all season long.

The injury bug didn’t take long to hit as Jonny Venters the teams premier set up man was unable to throw a single pitch this regular season.

Then it was Eric O’Flaherty who was hit with a season ending injury. At this point in time it was about mid May and many were in panic mode over what would become of this feared and revered Atlanta Braves bullpen.

It wouldn’t take too long to find out the answer to that question. After a little mixing and matching Fredi Gonzalez found the right guys to plug into those critical 7th/8th inning roles and they have been nothing short of spectacular.

Jason Heyward Hit In The Face – Not For The Weak Of Heart, You Have Been Warned!

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30 MLB Team Power Rankings: Audio Version

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Monday, Aug.12, 2013

The Triple Play Show will have 5 shows per month.  Each show will be about 1 hour

The Triple Play Show will have 5 shows per month. Each show will be about 1 hour. Chuck Booth will guest once a month for MLB Power Rankings,

By The Big Ticket Show ( AKA Triple Play Podcast on http://www.mlbreports.com)

Patrick sits in as the Producer and only representative of the Big Ticket Show – and Chuck Booth joins him to break down all 30 current rankings, plus what the clubs are up to.

To listen to the audio for this Click the READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY logo or past the Triple Play Logo. 

If you want the written version of these rankings click here Read the rest of this entry

MLB 30 Team Power Rankings: Week 20

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Sunday Aug.11/2013

Texas has fought off a July slump - and are 9 - 1 in their last 10 games.  They have added reinforcements in the way of Alex Rios and Matt Garza.  If they can just hold the course - and win the AL West, they have the horses and experience to challenge every other team.  The club was the biggest mover upwards in our rankings this week - going from #10 - #4

Texas has fought off a July slump – and are 9 – 1 in their last 10 games. They have added reinforcements in the way of Alex Rios and Matt Garza. If they can just hold the course – and win the AL West, they have the horses and experience to challenge every other team in October. The club was the biggest mover upwards in our rankings this week – going from #10 – #4.  It was not too long ago that the Rangers were sitting at just a half – dozen games above .500 – and behind the playoff bar.

Audio Version Of These Power Rankings

Audio Monthly Rankings – Aug

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner):

It is time for the MLB Power Rankings.  These are based on my thoughts on whether who has the best chance to win the World Series.

A lot of these positions are based on who has the toughest Strength of Schedule left, who their competition is for the Division, and possibly even the League they are in,

The races for the Divisions in the NL are becoming less competitive every week.  The NL East and NL West look to be done.  The Pirates are within weeks of ending a 20 year playoff drought.

The Braves rattled off a 14 game winning streak – and should cruise to the NL East crown.

The Athletics are in big trouble with some of their talented offensive players not putting up numbers like they did in 2012.  They now find themselves in 2nd place in the AL West.

Adrian Beltre 2 HR day in July

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Atlanta Braves Payroll In 2013 And Contracts Going Forward

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Tuesday, July.23, 2013

Craig Kimbrel is one of the best young closers in baseball. He has saved 27 games this season for the Braves and with only three blown saves. The hard-throwing righty has a 1.49 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 13 walks in 36.1 innings pitched. He has a WHIP of 0.99 and 14.1 SO/9. The opposition is just hitting .181 against him, and he is holding right-handed batters to a .140 average. He is holding opposing teams an average of just .129 when runners are in scoring position. They  fare a little better with runners on and two outs with a .176 average.

Craig Kimbrel is one of the best young closers in baseball. He has saved 27 games this season for the Braves and with only three blown saves. The hard-throwing righty has a 1.49 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 13 walks in 36.1 innings pitched. He has a WHIP of 0.99 and 14.1 SO/9. The opposition is just hitting .181 against him, and he is holding right-handed batters to a .140 average. He is holding opposing teams an average of just .129 when runners are in scoring position. They fare a little better with runners on and two outs with a .176 average.

By Chris Lacey (Lead Baseball Columnist/Minority Website Owner)

The Atlanta Braves have a comfortable lead in the National League East division with them ahead 6 ½ games on the Philadelphia Phillies. This division is having a down year, with no team a legitimate threat to catch Atlanta.

The Braves have a high-powered offense that only a few teams in baseball can match. They have the 3rd best offense in the NL with them scoring 425 runs this season.  Atlanta has a play style that is more suited to the American League than the NL.

Atlanta Braves 2012 Highlights – Parental Guidance Is Advised

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Top MLB Teams 1 – 30: Monthly Rankings + (Top 200 Stats For Reading And Fantasy Baseball)

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Thursday July.11/2013

The Giants have gone 9 - 23 in their last 32 Games and are in danger of having a brutal campaign just one year after capturing the World Series.  Key injuries and overlogged pitchers have been the main point of contention. They lost 8 Ranking Spots.

The Giants have gone 9 – 23 in their last 32 Games – and are in danger of having a brutal campaign just one year after capturing the World Series. Key injuries and overlogged pitchers have been the main point of contention. They lost 8 Ranking Spots this past time.  Should they also become sellers at the Trade Deadline,  Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence could fetch a few players in return.  The Giants are currently 40 – 50 and 6.5 Games behind the NL West Leading DBACKS – but are in last in the NL West.

 

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner):

The time has come for the July Power Rankings with Stats Edition.  There will be one each for May, June, July, August, September – and then a special playoff edition Power Rankings will be done in October.

I will not do a weekly Power Rankings during these weeks, because in essence, these are the weekly rankings done on a much larger scale.

These Reports are done with a heavy thought to how the teams project by the end of the season – along with how the clubs have fared so far.

I will point out who has had great months for the all 30 MLB Teams.  I reward the good performances in these rankings – and leave the poor ones for the Podcasts or future articles. CLICK THE READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY ICON or scroll past the video and picture.

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Atlanta Braves Organizational Charts: 2013 Team Payroll, Depth Charts + Rosters, (MLB + MiLB)

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Thursday, June.20/2013

The Braves are right up there with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for best run organizations over the last 25 years.  Some would say that Atlanta's brass is the king at organizational bang for the buck from drafting a trading. The team reeled off a professional record 14 straight Division Titles from 1991 - 2004.  They made it to 6 World Series, unfortunately only winning 1 of them.

The Braves are right up there with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for best run organizations over the last 25 years. Some would say that Atlanta’s brass is the king at organizational bang for the buck from drafting a trading. The team reeled off a professional record – 14 straight Division Titles from 1991 – 2005. They made it to 6 World Series, unfortunately only winning 1 of them in 1995.

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): and welcome Jeff Kleiner (Salary, Roster and Depth Chart Expert for the MLB) – visit his website  here  

You guys are all in for a treat.  Jeff Kleiner recently contacted me about a partnership merge for the website.  He has developed a site (prosportsrosters.com) that covers all organizational affiliates in the Minors for all of the Major League Baseball Clubs.  We are going to combine efforts to bring you the best look at salaries, current 25 Man Player Rosters and Depth Charts for all 30 teams. 

Jeff is going to provide the documents in form of spreadsheets and I am going to accompany the posts with deep analysis of what the numbers tell us from my perspective.  If you can’t wait for all of my assessments for each club, go and visit Jeff’s website over at http://www.prosportsrosters.com.

In Speaking with Jeff, he is one of the more passionate fans I have come across towards the game of baseball.  He spends enough time in updating his MLB Facts for it to be a Full-Time Job.  So after the usual Video Clip and READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY button, you will find some serious &*!@?!#!

Jeff updates this page below on a daily basis.  After you click on it….Bookmark it.  There is a 3 year salary forecast and stats not listed here on this page.  Jeff updates these pages daily and these changes include any Roster moves!

For a Full 3 year Salary Outlook plus last years Stats for every player in the Braves Organization click here

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We’re A 1/3 Of The Way Home: 10 Braves Questions To Ponder For The Last 2/3

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Friday, May.31/2013

The Braves have entered the 1/3rd part of the NL East atop of the Division,  The Nationals and Phillies have struggled, while the franchise has seen more ups and downs.  Even with B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward having poor numbers (other than Uggla's power,) the club may really take off if these guys get aboard the train.

The Braves have entered the 1/3rd part of the NL East atop of the Division, The Nationals and Phillies have struggled, while the franchise has seen more ups and downs. Even with B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward having poor numbers (other than Uggla’s power,) the club may really take off if these guys get aboard the train.

By Bob McVinua (Special Guest Braves Writer – visit his website here):

I can’t believe it’s already the end of May and that baseball season is almost a 1/3 of the way over already. It’s been a fun two months and I’ve enjoyed cheering for and stressing over these Bravos for the past almost 60 days.

I thought that this was a good time to assess what I think the Braves have and what they don’t have. And moving forward what this team will have to do in order to be successful.

As usual I don’t want to bore anyone with stats, I may throw a few in there for reference points but I’ll try not to over load anyone. I can’t stand the fact that you can’t even read an article on baseball without it looking like a math problem.

Past the Read Entry Tag – or youtube clip – as there are the 10 questions to be answered in the last 108 Games.

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MLB Weekly Power Rankings – Week 3

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Monday Apr.22/2013

The Giants have gutted out a 12 - 7 record despite Matt Cain being 0 - 2 with a 7.15 ERA, and Ryan Vogelsong featuring an early season ERA of 5.89.  Buster Posey is also off to a slow start.  This team has so much depth and talent, I see nothing that will stop this club from taking their 3rd NL West Division crown no that the LAD have had severe injury problems to their Starting Rotation.

The Giants have gutted out a 12 – 7 record despite Matt Cain being 0 – 2 with a 7.15 ERA, and Ryan Vogelsong featuring an early season ERA of 5.89. Buster Posey is also off to a slow start. This team has so much depth and talent, I see nothing that will stop this club from taking their 3rd NL West Division crown now that the LAD have had severe injury problems to their Starting Rotation.  The Giants take their rightful spot as #1 in the MLB Reports Weekly Rankings thids week.

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner):

The Major League Baseball Season is roughly 10% over and we are seeing some trends and patterns.  The next time you wonder why games are so long in the game right now, look no further than there are about 150 hitters that are currently on pace to Strikeout 100 plus times this season.

Other Notes:

The Cincinnati Reds won every game this past 7 days, after losing every day the week prior.  This is simply why they shot up the rankings.  I think the NL Central is the weakest Division this year.  It was my prediction that the oldest professional baseball club would run away with this Division by at least 10 games.

Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto are on the Basepaths at all times – carrying an OBP of over .500 plus each.  Votto is starting to drive the ball with authority too.  Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart are driving in Runs at an incredible rate.

Look for BP to be a dark horse NL MVP candidate.

Brandon Phillips Talks about Winter Workouts:

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Atlanta Braves 2013 Player Roster: State Of The Union

Monday December 10th, 2012

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Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer):

The Braves have been one of the most active teams during the offseason, but outside of the B.J. Upton signing, their additions and subtractions have pretty much flown under the radar. I guess that’s no surprise when the spotlight sits on Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, and the Dodgers. But it’s time to analyze what’s brewing in Atlanta.

Starting Pitching:

The big headline here is the loss of Tommy Hanson. The 26-year-old has yet to fully reach his ceiling in the major leagues, after having such lofty expectations placed on him when he first broke into the league in 2009. In 2012, he took a few massive steps back, though, with mediocre numbers across the board.

To be specific, he posted a career-worst 4.48 ERA, yielded a career-high 27 HRs, allowed 9.4 hit per Nine Innings, and walked nearly four batters per Nine Innings. So in other words, he didn’t have much of a clue as to where the ball was headed when it left his hands. Still, he has the potential to be front of the rotation starter with the Angels.

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Braves Selling Low on Hanson and Jurrjens: Moneyball Ain’t Alive in Atlanta People

Monday December 3rd, 2012


Jair_Jurrjens

Jonathan Hacohen ( Lead Baseball Columnist): 

I was thinking back this week to one of my fave articles from this past year. Being an admirer of the Oakland A’s methods of building a ball team and the “Moneyball Movement”, this past July I published a Billy Beane article – focusing on the modern Moneyball movement. Back in 2011, many critics were quick to jump on Beane and the A’s, mocking the A’s GM and the release of the movie Moneyball. Panned as a historical piece, Beane was viewed as a dinosaur. His methods outdated. The rest of the baseball world had caught on to his sly ways and overtook him. I refused to buy into it and was unwilling to write-off Beane. But nobody, not even the A’s GM himself saw was to come in 2012. We know how the season went down- the A’s slipped in as the AL West champs and make a good run in the playoffs. Nobody was laughing anymore and Beane went from hack back to genius overnight. While in my last article I focused on Beane’s construction of a young and talented lineup, most analysts view Beane’s success in terms of being able to flip pitchers at their peak. Billy Beane is a master of this art and it has led to much success in Oakland. Compare this now to Atlanta, which has essentially lost Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens for almost nothing. Not the Billy Beane way of doing business- and now the Braves will be paying the price. Read the rest of this entry

The Angels and Dodgers Have Plenty to Look Forward to Next Year + LAA Payroll in ’13

Thursday, October.11/2012

The Angels went 29-17 down the stretch while the Dodgers won 8 out of their 10 games to end 2012. With a full season with their revamped teams and added players, you have to think both will be amongst the favorites to be in the 2013 MLB Playoffs.

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer):

I know that the playoffs are going on right now and that everyone is captivated by the 4 games that are being played today.  Which leads to me to ask the question?  Do you think any of the Dodgers and Angels fans are watching these playoffs without a horse in the race?  I am here to tell you and these said fans-that I believe both of these teams will be a playoff factor in 2013 .  The Angels and Dodgers spent a fortune on new players in the last 365 days.  Almost a Billion Dollars was added in player contracts between the two clubs.  Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez are amongst the players traded or signed.

Lets start off with the Angels.  I was there in Anaheim on opening weekend in April and witnessed the struggles of the club early and most notably Albert Pujols.  As I was tweeting and talking to everyone, I could see that Pujols was not himself.  I predicted a slow start based on seeing him play.  The same thing could be said for the team.  The Angels started out of the gate 8-14 before calling up Mike Trout.  Soon after they fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and all was not well.  Albert went into the May with 0 HRs and 4 RBI and was hitting near the Mendoza Line. 

The Dodgers won 8 out of their last 10 and fought injuries all year to barely miss out on the playoffs.  They have most of their revamped team all coming back next year and should add a healthy Carl Crawford to the fold in early spring.  I believe they will add another starting pitcher such as Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum.  To see my entire breakdown of their impending 2013 Contracts situation and Team Payroll,  please click here :

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Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – May 27th, 2012

Sunday May 27th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q: What do you think about Honolulu (for MLB expansion)? They would get so many people during the summer for vacation.  Robert

JH:  Robert! I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t receive a question from you on MLB expansion. You know that it is one of my favorite topics- so inevitably, we end up discussing it seemingly at least once on ATR every week. Honolulu now…that is interesting. As we discussed in previous expansion talks, Major League Baseball will consider many factors in its next round of expansion. Population base and the availability of fans for games will be one key factor. Honolulu has apparently 337,000 residents while Hawaii itself is closing in on 1,000,000.  Not bad. Not bad at all. But even with a strong population base, we would have to be realistic on the area. Travel will be a killer. Which division would we even consider putting them in? The climate would be perfect though. Nice and dry in the summer, warm but not overbearing. A very population destination for tourists, but with most trying to enjoy sun and beaches, I am not sure how baseball would go over as a tourist attraction.

Ultimately, distance will be the killer. Also, taxes I understand may be an issue as well. Les Murakami Stadium in Honalulu is home to the University of Hawaii baseball team. The stadium holds 4,312 and has turf. Guess what? A new stadium will need to be built to accommodate MLB. Will that happen? Many of the other candidates for MLB expansion will need to build a stadium as well. But at least those areas have a decent shot at a team. To get a good stadium, you need a rich owner with a supportive community willing to subsidize the venture. Hawaii folded its winter league in 2008, but I have read reports it could return. If the area could not keep the winter league, I think MLB expansion would be a tough sell. But if nothing else, distance is the killer. You can have one team in Hawaii and expect all the other teams in the league (especially in the division) to travel such a distance. Ten hours from Hawaii to NYC? No thanks. We need to be creative in thinking MLB expansion, but Honolulu is reaching a little too far. Read the rest of this entry

Cubs and Angels Closers: Who Deserves the Job?

Wednesday May 9th, 2012

Sam Evans: Today’s two franchises haven’t been able to find a consistent pitcher to close out games this year, and it has resulted in sub .500 starts for both teams. The Cub’s headed into this year with their closer since 2009, Carlos Marmol, expected to have another season closing out games for their team. Jordan Walden, the twenty-four year old who closed out thirty-two games for the Angels last year, was named the Angels’ closer early in Spring Training. Now, only about thirty games into the season, and both of these pitchers have lost their jobs. Both teams secretly want their former closers to regain the job, but neither pitcher has had a successful year so far. Let’s look at what went wrong for these two pitchers and who took their place.

Carlos Marmol has always had the potential to be one of the best closer’s in the history of the game. His repertoire features a 93 MPH fastball, a changeup that he throws at around 86 MPH, and one of the best pitches in the game, his slider which is anywhere from 80-83 MPH. These pitches, the slider in particular, have led Marmol to record some the highest strikeout rates the game has ever seen. In 2010, Marmol’s 16 K/9 set a MLB record for a single-season (for pitchers with more than fifty innings pitched). However, Marmol has always had one thing holding him back from being the best closer in the league, walks.

In 2010, Marmol walked fifty-two in seventy-seven innings. In 2011, he walked forty-eight in seventy-five innings. In 2011, Dan Haren threw 238 innings and only walked thirty-three batters. Marmol has never seemed to realize that if he would let hitters put the ball into play, he would become a much better pitcher. Especially late in ballgames, walking insane amounts of hitters isn’t going to help you close games, no matter how much movement your pitches have. Read the rest of this entry

Those Clutch Guys: A Preview of the American League Closers in 2012

Wednesday February 1st, 2012

Sam Evans: Closing ballgames takes confidence, skill, and experience. There are select players that have earned the closer role at the highest level possible. These players come in all shapes and sizes, with diverse backgrounds. 

Without further adieu, here are the closers for all fourteen American League teams:

New York Yankees: The Yankees have had the same closer for the last fifteen years. That is by far the longest stretch of any closer with their current team. Arguably the most successful closer of all time, Mariano Rivera has constructed his whole career around one pitch.

Rivera’s cutter is simply dominant. He breaks more bats than any other closer in the league, and he knows where to throw it to specific hitters. Even at 42 years old, hitters know what’s coming but still have no chance of making solid contact. In 2011, Rivera had a 1.91 ERA and he recorded 44 saves. Mariano Rivera still has at least five more years closing out games. The Yankees should be content with him as their closer for as long as he wants to pitch.

Tampa Bay Rays: Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth had a surprisingly effective 2011. Coming into the year, he was expected to compete with young prospect Jake McGee for the closer role. Farnsworth stole the show and was Tampa’s closer for the whole season. He posted a 2.18 ERA in 2012, along with 25 saves. It was a nice bounce back year for the once overpaid, angry reliever.

The Rays picked up the fiery reliever’s option for 2012, so he will likely retain his job as the Rays’ closer. However, if Farnsworth can’t get the job done, Joel Peralta or Fernando Rodney (87 career saves) will step in.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox bullpen has had a perplexing offseason so far. They let their closer leave in free agency and they moved two of their other best relievers to the rotation. Now, they’ll be trusting a young, former Rookie of the Year, who hasn’t thrown fifty innings since 2009. I think the Red Sox made the right move by letting Jonathan Papelbon walk, but I don’t see the benefit in moving Daniel Bard to their rotation.

Moving from Oakland to Boston, Andrew Bailey will have to learn to deal with constant criticism and media pressure. He’ll go from pitching in front of 10,000 people every night to almost 40,000. It’s impossible to quantify how much of an impact that will have on Bailey, but it’s got be at least a small factor.

The Red Sox will have a strong bullpen, despite which of their relievers end up in their rotation. Besides Bard, the Red Sox also acquired Mark Melancon who could see time as Boston’s closer. Melancon isn’t as good of a pitcher as Bailey, but he is still a strong option for late-inning relief.

I’m not high on Bailey and I see him having issues in 2012. Bailey relies too heavily on his fastball and his curveball was not effective last year. If he succeeds in Boston, then the Red Sox will look like geniuses for trading for him. If he struggles, then new General Manager Ben Cherington will have some questions to answer about the future of this bullpen. (I wrote more about the Red Sox bullpen here.)

Toronto Blue Jays: With the abundance of closers on the market, Toronto went out and got their closer of the present and future, in Sergio Santos. They had to give up Nestor Molina, a young starting pitching prospect, but they scored Santos and his team-friendly contract.

Since being converted from shortstop to pitcher a couple of years ago, Sergio Santos has molded into a top-notch closer. In my opinion, he has the second best slider in baseball. (Braves closer Craig Kimbrel gets a slight edge.)

The Blue Jays have a fairly strong bullpen and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos could always trade for more bullpen pieces. Rebuilding Toronto’s major league team is going to take a couple of years and right now the bullpen appears to be the least of their worries.

Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson emerged as a star for the Orioles in 2011. The twenty-eight year old reliever threw ninety innings but recorded only nine saves. The Orioles leader in saves last year was Kevin Gregg with 22 saves. This was surprising considering Gregg wasn’t even one of the Orioles top three relievers.

I’ve been a huge fan of Pedro Strop ever since he was with the Rangers organization. The twenty-six year old had a 2.62 FIP in 2011, and the Orioles have implied he’ll be their setup man in 2012. With Johnson, Gregg and Strop all gunning for the Orioles closer job in 2012, they’ll definitely have competition throughout the year. I’d expect Johnson to get the most saves, but Strop could have a breakout season as a 9th inning superstar.  Plus Alfredo Simon could always get hot and take back the role if he fails as a starter.

Detroit Tigers: For the Tigers, having a closer they can trust to close out games in 2012 will be huge. The Tigers are going to have plenty of late-inning leads, thanks to a strong pitching staff and a powerful offense. Jose Valverde has been the Tigers closer for the last two years and he’s excelled at the back of the Detroit bullpen.

Papa Grande took a step forward in 2011. He saved 49 saves in just as many opportunities in 2012. His electric (and to a lesser extent, annoying) personality provides a spark at the end of Tigers games.

Valverde will be back in 2012 and will help Detroit down the stretch as they look to make a run at the World Series.

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox no longer have a clear closer after trading Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. Now, their bullpen will rely on the flame-throwing lefty Matt Thornton and rookie Addison Reed.

Matt Thornton had a rough 2011. He lost his closer job to a former shortstop and saw his strikeout rates plummet. In 2010, he struck out 12.02 batters per nine innings. In 2011, he saw that rate drop to 9.5. He also walked more hitters than he had in previous years, and his LOB% dropped to 61.2%. In 2012, he will probably see his numbers improve moderately- but not to the level they were at in 2010.

Addison Reed is the best prospect in the White Sox deprived farm system. He will probably start the year in the majors. He has a higher ceiling than any other White Sox bullpen arms and that might lead to a job closing for Chicago. Reed is a nice sleeper in 12-team leagues, in which you are looking for saves.

Manager Robin Ventura has said that Reed is likely to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. He also said that the closing job is Matt Thornton’s to lose. I don’t think it will be very long before Reed takes over the job from Thornton, so Reed will probably get the majority of saves for the White Sox this year.

Kansas City Royals: Last year, it seemed inevitable that the Royals would trade away their longtime closer Joakim Soria. Then Soria’s value dramatically dropped. In May, Soria gave up ten runs in ten innings, and Royals fans started to panic. Eventually, Soria got back to the pitcher he always was. He finished 2011 with 28 saves, his lowest total since 2007. General Manager Dayton Moore made the right move hanging on to Joakim Soria because his value was so low at the trade deadline.

For 2012, Soria will be the Royals closer barring a trade. Not to be forgotten is former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton who was signed this offseason. The Royals have a talented young bullpen that has the chance to develop into one of the best in the league.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins have no real closer heading into the 2011 season. Sure they have Matt Capps, who has 124 career saves. But he’s not a legitimate option if they plan on contending this year. They recently signed former Detroit Tiger Joel Zumaya who is coming back from a serious arm injury, but he used to be able to throw triple digits.

For fantasy players looking for sleepers, this team isn’t a bad place to start. Any one of the Twins pitchers could step up and take the closer role. This might be the worst bullpen in the league, so Minnesota will probably have to make some moves this year.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians a strong bullpen that should be able to give their starters a proper amount of rest. Vinnie Pestano is the best reliever on the team… and he’s not even closing. Pestano was worth 1.5 WAR in 2011, and he had 23 saves. If Chris Perez were to slip up in his closing duties, Pestano could easily fill in.

Chris Perez is a very good closer because he is a clutch performer. He doesn’t strike out many hitters and he walks a lot of hitters (1.50 K/BB in 2011), but he doesn’t blow many saves. He was 36 for 40 in save opportunities last year.

Even though Perez will likely be the starting closer on Opening Day, if Pestano keeps pitching like he has, he could eventually take over the position.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners probably should have traded their closer, Brandon League, this offseason. As strong of an asset as League is, the Mariners won’t be contending in 2012.

When Brandon Leauge decides to throw it, he has one of the best splitters in the league. Last year he threw his splitter 28.2% of the time. Mariners fans want him to throw it more because of how dominating it can be. In 2011, using his splitter more led him to 37 saves and a 2.78 FIP. If League were to be traded or injured, Shawn Kelley, Tom Wilhelmsen, or Chance Ruffin would likely step into the role.

Oakland Athletics: Since the A’s traded Andrew Bailey, their closer responsibility is no longer set in stone. Brian Fuentes will likely start the year as their closer, but he has 37 career blown saves and is no longer the pitcher he once was.

The next pitcher in line to get saves is probably Fautino De Los Santos. As a rookie in 2011, De Los Santos struck out 11.61 batters per nine innings. Fautino De Los Santos may be electric but he only has thirty-two career saves (all of which were in the minors.)

Texas Rangers: The Rangers have the most depth out of any bullpen in the AL West. Joe Nathan will be the closer out of spring training. If Nathan were to fail, the Rangers also have Mike Adams, Koji Uehara (barring a trade) and Alexi Ogando (if he doesn’t start) waiting in the wings. If the Rangers bullpen were a flavor of milkshake- they would be banana. Not always the first thing that comes to mind, but after you try it, it’s much better than you expected.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels should have spent more money this offseason on their bullpen. Jordan Walden is far from a sure thing. Although it was his rookie year, Walden had his ups and downs in 2011. Walden looked nervous at times. Hopefully in his second year, he will have a better ” closer’s mentality.” 

Setting up Walden will be most likely be Scott Downs, who was extremely lucky in 2011. Downs had 26 holds and a 1.34 ERA. He had a 3.40 xFIP and he left 86.4% of his men on base.  In 2012, there’s no question that Downs is going to regress. The only question is how much. 

Overall:  The bullpens in the American League aren’t as strong as they look. There are talented pitchers on nearly every team, but no bullpen stands out as the clear winner. 2012 is going to be the an important year for closers, as there will be many AL teams in contention (especially if the 2nd Wild Card goes through). Some say that the whole closer role and mentality is not important. But once this year’s playoffs are upon us, I think 2012 will prove just how important closers really are.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

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