SIR: JD Drew

BA/OBP/SLG: .305/ .436/ .569

I’m not really looking forward to JD’s season in review entry. Why? He had a great season didn’t he? Well, yes, and I’d hate to see him leave after one year, but it looks like that is going to happen. Unless JD values playing in Atlanta a lot more than some teams are willing to pay him on the free agent market, I just don’t see the Braves signing him. And I’d prefer not to think about it. The Braves have too many low cost options. The list of players able to replace enough of what Drew brought to the Braves, at only a fraction of the price, is just too long for Schuerholz to consider keeping him. Charles Thomas came out of nowhere in his rookie season. In the minors, Ryan Langerhans, Andy Marte, and Jeff Franceuor all need a place on the big club really soon. In particular Langerhans looks to be a nice surprise. His 2004 in Richmond is too good to ignore for a 24 year-old lefty:

Langerhans 2004:
.298/ .397/ .518/ .915
AB per HR/ Iso-Power/ Walk rate/ K-to-BB ratio:
22.8/ .220/ 0.13/ 1.61

Compare this to Adam LaRoche’s final year (at age 23) in Richmond:

LaRoche 2003:
.295/ .360/ .466/ .826
AB per HR/ Iso-Power/ Walk rate/ K-to-BB ratio:
33/ .171/ 0.09/ 2.15

If Schuerholz thought LaRoche was ready, think it’s likey that he thinks Langerhans is ready too. The word on the street is that he’s a fine defender as well. Can we really expect him to match JD Drew’s 2004 numbers? No, but he comes cheap. If Schuerholz picks up a low-priced platoon partner (possibly even bringing up Marte), he could get enough out of the position to free up cash to spend on pitching. If things don’t work out for Ryan, there’s a decent chance that one of the other prospects can step in. The conventional wisdom seems to have doomed him to 4th outfield purgatory, which caused his stellar 2004 season to go largely unnoticed. But, I think Ryan may surprise some people.

But anyway, back to JD. Drew finally put up the kind of season that everyone thought he was capable of. His on-base and power are simply dreamy. I especially liked his plate discipline. Fourth in the NL in walk rate (at 18.3%), his signature bat-flip after drawing a walk is about as patented as the Sammy Sosa HR skip. He has plenty of power to be a starting corner outfielder (Iso-Power of .264) with the defensive ability of a center fielder. He has likely played his way out of Atlanta and into a big fat contract. However, JD still has not 100% shaken his glass jaw image. This may scare away some teams, but his injury problems, though chronic, have never really limited him that much. Excepting his call-up year, he’s never played less than 100 games in a season. If the injury fears scare away some suitors and JD values living in Georgia enough, he might end up staying. Personally, I think JD’s year was what we should expect out of him for the next few years, so I’d like to see the Braves find a way to hang onto him.

On a final note, I would like to congratulate John Schuerholz on another great move. Acquiring JD seems to have been a good thing. The Braves did give up some good pitching for only one year of JD. But, without him I doubt the Braves would have made the postseason. He certainly made the difference as he was the teams clear MVP of 2004.

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