Grading the Braves By Position

Here my seasonal grades by position, and the grades take the typical offensive production of the position into account.

Catcher: B
Brian McCann: A
Todd Pratt: F
Brayan Pena: C

Brian McCann was just outstanding in 2006. He possesses all the qualities you want in a player, and he improved his defense as well as his offense. He hits for average and power, and he walks. He’s also very likable. This is a player that corporations ought to be signing endorsement deals with. Todd Pratt was just awful. It’s hard to get in a rhythm when you don’t get regular playing time, but even when he did get some time he wasn’t very good. Pena made the most of his abilities during his time, but I don’t think he has much a career in the big leagues.

First Base: B
Adam LaRoche: B
Brian Jordan: F

Only a B? LaRoche had his best season yet, but at first base it was just good. Like all Bs, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. “A” seasons may be in his future though. Brian Jordan is a perfect example of how you can waste money by being cheap. He had no business being on the team. A Jordan here, a Hollandsworth there…these things add up.

Second Base: C
Marcus Giles: C
Pete Orr: D
Martin Prado: C

Poor Giles. His season starts off slowly with the premature birth of a child. He had many nagging injuries throughout the season, and just didn’t play up to what we’ve come to expect. His defense is still good, but not enough to make up for his poor offensive showing this year. I toyed with giving him a B, but couldn’t do it. Pete Orr would get an F as a regular. Prado is not ready, and I’m not confident that he’s going to be any better than 6-4-3 Lockhart.

Third Base: B
Chipper Jones: A
Wilson Betemit: B
Pete Orr: D
Willy Aybar: I

Chipper Jones is still one of the best hitters in baseball. His health is an issue, but it’s not like he’s missing season after season. I’ve always liked Chipper, but he’s becoming one of my favorite players of all time. Betemit just isn’t someone the Braves like. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what he’ll become, but right now he’s a good everyday third baseman who can’t be much worse at shortstop than Renteria. Guess he doesn’t have “make-up.”

Shortstop: B
Edgar Renteria: B
Tony Pena: D

Renteria is not a National League player. There is no such thing as a one-league player. That’s bologna filler commentary that TV announcers and sports writers make up when they have nothing else useful to say. He’s a good player who had one bad year that happened to be in the AL. What he lacks in defensive ability he makes up with his bat. He did about what I expected, and made Furcal’s departure a wash. Unfortunately, he didn’t come cheap. The Braves ARE paying his full salary. The Red Sox bought the reserve rights to Andy Marte for $6 million. He’s no bargain, but he’s worth what he’s paid.

Left Field: C
Ryan Langerhans: D
Matt Diaz: C
Scott Thorman: C

Yuck. Langerhans really stunk up the joint with his bat. He was a bit PrOPS unlucky, but nothing out of the ordinary. I thought about giving him some points for defense, but this is an offensive position. It took Matt Diaz a while, but he finally fought his way off the bench. Unfortunately, I don’t think his long term prospects are very good, either. PrOPS says he was quite lucky, and his defense isn’t all that great. He’s a career fourth outfielder who needs a defensive replacement. Thorman performed admirably in his first season, especially considering he had to learn the outfield on the fly.

Center Field: A
Andruw Jones: A

I was primed to give Andruw a B, but after comparing him to the other center fielders in the game, he’s still near the top. PrOPS says he was unlucky again this year, so I’ll give him an A. We’re all hoping for the A+, but I’m satisfied with the A.

Right Field
Jeff Francoeur: D

Poor Jeff Francoeur. The franchise has been placed on his shoulders when he still has so much to learn. I don’t blame the kid one bit. The other night Joe Simpson gave Francoeur an A for his season. A right fielder with an OPS of .736 gets an A? Does Ryan Langerhans get an A, too, then? What a joke. Granted that’s better than any season you ever posted, but shame on you, Joe. The last thing he needs is more encouragement that what he is doing is right. I thought his defense was a bit weaker than last, which may have been exacerbated by fatigue. Does he have to play every inning of every game? Francoeur apologists often say, “you have to remember, this kid is 22.” That’s right, what 22-year-old kid is forced to play every day with an OPS that low? Look at his steals: he’s 1-7 so far in 2006. Maybe he’s just not a base-stealer, but I suspect if he’d had time to work on this in the minors he would be much better. I think it’s very difficult learn at the major league level, and he was deprived of some low pressure learning time, which might have helped his development. On the positive side, I should point out that PrOPS says he was unlucky this year. As the debate over Francoeur will rage on, we’re just going to have to wait and see with him. If he gets it together, “horray Jeff!”But, I don’t think it’s fair to say this was a good year for the Braves in right field.

12 Responses “Grading the Braves By Position”

  1. ChuckO says:

    Nice summary, JC. I, for one, don’t have so much as a quibble with your ratings. The sad thing to me is that, judging from the statements I’ve read in the press, the Braves front office isn’t as nearly as objective in assessing the roster.

  2. Ron24 says:

    Main thing I would argue with is Brayan Pena’s future. He is far superior to Pratt, so to the extent that teams including the Braves feel the need to have a backup for elite catchers like McCann, Pena could well stick around for years catching once or twice a week to give the primary catcher a day off.

    Are you sure about the Braves paying all of Renteria’s salary? That would make the trade even worse in my eyes. They could have used Betemit as the everyday shortstop, kept Marte to trade at the deadline or as a backup/future replacement for Chipper, and used the money saved to sign Wickman or somebody else in the offseason. Ugh. I am as baffled as you are about why the Braves seemingly dislike Betemit.

  3. Mac says:

    I think you were too kind to Francoeur. Social promotion?

    I am the unofficial president of the Brayan Pena Fan Club, but I don’t know about his future because I don’t see him as a regular and teams generally like defense from their backup catcher. (And the Braves apparently don’t want two young catchers.) His best bet might be to find (1) an AL team, and (2) some extra gloves to learn to play some other positions. Pena just came around too late; in the days when teams carried three catchers he would have been very valuable.

    Ron, what he means is that the trade should be viewed as a player sale (Marte for cash) and while the Braves are free to use that cash to pay Renteria it really doesn’t matter. Money is fungible.

  4. Johnny says:

    Good summary. The infield looks terrific. Giles, should he not be dealt in the offseason, should bounce back. An average Giles season puts is at least a B. LaRoche if he isn’t fooling us with his out of his mind second half finally gives us above league average production from 1B. And I think McCann is the real deal too.

    Its a good thing the infield is productive because the outfield other than Andruw is a mess. Langerhans, German for 4th outfielder, Diaz, production predicated on his batting average he has no power and doesn’t walk, and Francoeur, well enough has been said so no since in repeating it here. I know that Joe Simpson doesn’t speak for the front office but I truly believe that the Braves don’t care a whit about advanced statistics. That being said his avg,hr,rbi totals insure him another season as the right fielder. Finally got a 1B sure could use a couple of corner OFs.

    Can’t wait until your summary of the pitching. That should be one hell of an ugly report card.

  5. Jeff Albert says:

    right on about Giles bouncing back. tough start and a lot of things possibily going off the field with his own health. his swing is not far from what is was, and minor adjustments put him back in the ball park of his old swing.

    francoeur? i just don’t get it. super talent, super long swing….why won’t someone just tell him? is it that hard to see or is it that hard to go out on a limb trying to get him to change???

  6. Tom says:

    I think we need to be careful in how we criticize the front office. Their dealing of Wilson Betemit speaks for itself and makes no sense. Their continued playing of Francoeur all the time in right is also confusing. However, we can’t take any of their WORDS at face value. Even if Bobby Cox is trying to get Francoeur to take a pitch now and then, neither he nor John Schuerholz are going to call him out on it in the papers. You’re right. He’s 22. Getting criticized by management for being an incomplete player would be pretty rough. The front office is not going to criticize its players strongly in the press.

    However, their actions still speak quite loudly and their is plenty of room for criticism. Great summary, JC. I agree with you about Chipper; I love him. I only hope McCann is around for a long time too (and that he continues to mash like he has this year).

  7. Andrew says:

    JC, I think it’s a great assessment although I’d be inclined to give LaRoche a B+ and Francouer a D-/F. Let’s not forget about Kelly Johnson next year. I know he struggled with major league pitching for a while last year, but he displayed amazing defensive abilities plus he is the anti-Francouer in that they may hit for the same average (.250) but Kelly Johnson may end 2007 with more walks than Francouer has in his career. Hopefully he’ll come back at full strength next year.

  8. Frank says:

    Good stuff as usual JC–of course your stuff was good even before you went on the steroids. :-) If you need a quibble, I’d probably have given L’il Tony an I because he hasn’t had many ABs. Not that it really matters–nothing suggests he has a strong upside.

    Re previous comments on Giles–I don’t expect Giles to “bounce back.” I think the 2006 Giles is closer to the real Giles than, say, the 2003 Giles. I don’t think the Braves should spend the $4m or so that he’d likely get in arbitration; I hope they can deal him for some pitching.

    Re Kelly Johnson’s “amazing defensive abilities”–my memory must be faulty. I thought Johnson struggled in LF last year and was often removed for a late-inning defensive replacement. I do think he has the potential to be an offensive upgrade in LF (or RF, to get in the obligatory dig at Francoeur) and his plate discipline might make him ok for the leadoff spot.

    Here’s a 30-second report card on the pitching: Smoltz A (though like last year Cox has pretty much worn him out by Sept), Wickman A, Chuckie B, Ray Paronto McBride C or D (depending on how much of their inconsistent performances one blames on them and how much one blames on Cox’s overuse), everyone else F.

  9. LatNam says:

    Right Field
    Jeff Francoeur: D

    I had an actual real-life argument with a classmate the other day about Jeff’s value. He claims that Jeff’s stats in clutch situations makes him a “great player” (on par with David Ortiz). I felt like I was talking to a wall. Very frustrating.

  10. Bill Hamilton says:

    I have been on a year long rant about Francoeur. He is hurting the team, but its not his fault. It Cox’s fault for playing him so much.

    I would do either of the following:
    a. Make him play winter ball and start him at AAA.
    or
    b. Trade him while you can.

    BH

  11. Andrew says:

    In response to my claim that KJ is a great fielder, here is where I have come up with the claim: in 2005, KJ had 2.6 fielding win shares in 87 games played; Andruw Jones had 5.8 in 160 games played; Langerhans had 2.7 in 116 games played. Also going through quite a few of the everyday LFers from last year, KJ had a higher fielding WS than most starting LFers who played a full season. Furthermore, KJ had the best LF arm rating as described by John Walsh’s system.

  12. jpwf says:

    Since I have LaRoche on my Roto team- just for amusement I looked up his and Frenchy’s performance with men on. The results didn’t suprise me- but I bet it woudl shock Frenchy’s fans (warning #s are a week old)
    Frenchy drives in runners at a rate of 32.3% (ribbies per PA with men on) 3.2% in PA with no one on (solo HR rate essentially)-
    LaRoche drives in runs at a 7.9% with no one on (solo homer demon) BUT he also drives in 32% with men on. (Plus LaRoche makes far fewer outs than Frenchy)

    So how does Frenchy have more Ribbies????
    Opportunity (PA and line up position)
    Frenchy had 260 PA with men on, LaRoche only 206.

    If LaRoche had Frenchy’s opps- he’d have 110 ribbies compared to Frenchy’s 95.