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Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: fallout from Wednesday news

Wednesday came with a flurry of activity around baseball and around the Braves in particular.  It may take a bit to absorb everything that happened.

Just how closely the Atlanta Braves were following the progress of Josh Donaldson‘s rehab may never be publicly known, but unfortunately for the player, it didn’t take long for him – and others – to realize that he wasn’t really ready for the prime time yet.

He managed one game for Class A Dunedin:  3 ABs and a couple of fielding plays.  That part was successful, it seems – even getting an RBI hit in his first competitive AB since May.

However, the optimism expressed from the Jays’ camp – which brought us to seriously discuss the chances that the Braves could pursue him this week – didn’t last long at all:

That tweet tells you everything you need to know about the situation.  So let’s take the next step and speculate about what might come next:

  • Donaldson will be a 1st-time free agent this Winter.
  • While everyone knows he is an elite player when healthy, he’s now in a position in which he will have to prove his worth/health
  • That will certainly lower his salary for 2019 significantly (from $23 million)
  • He will have 5+ months to shut it down and heal up from his ailments.

The Braves could still be in a position to take a flier on him next Spring.  Difficult decisions will have to be made about the third base position – and perhaps shortstop – between now and then.  Chief among these will be the ‘readiness’ of Austin Riley.

For his part, Riley seems to be trying to end 2018 with something of a flourish:  he now has a 9 game hitting streak (and 11 of 12) with 3 homers and 2 doubles.  He’s 12 for 40 over that 12 game span (.300).

He also has 13 strikeouts against 3 walks during that same streak… a K rate above 30%, though with a season slash line of .278/.347/.448.

That gives him a AAA OPS of .795.  In the majors for a rookie, that would probably work (and indeed, Johan Camargo has posted an .801 OPS while hitting .272/.349/.452… remarkably similar numbers to Riley’s line).  Camargo’s K-rate is at 20%.

This is not intended to be some obsession about Donaldson here – but merely a chance to note that there is more work still to be done at the hot corner.

 

Catching

I’ll be more brief here – especially since Fred went over the roster in wonderful detail yesterday.  I don’t at all dispute the Braves’ need of an extra catcher for September.  Flowers and Suzuki are beat up and looking fatigued.  Getting them some help is excellent.

However, before this week, it might have been expected that the help would have come from Chris Stewart, who supposedly was stashed in AAA for just such an occasion.  But the Braves apparently made the call recently that he wasn’t going to be ‘that guy’… and he was jettisoned from the 40-man roster – though he remains as Gwinnett.

Maybe this is because Stewart (36½ years old) is likewise running on fumes now?  Possible.  It isn’t a matter of timing, for September 1st is looming and the Stripers’ last games go through Labor Day… they could have managed without him for 3 days (Rivera is not expected to arrive until Friday or Saturday).

Still, without any further explanation, it comes off looking like Stewart was ‘dissed’ in the process.

 

Newcomb hitting a wall?

It’s been a couple of times this year that Sean Newcomb has been brilliant for multiple consecutive outings… and then terrible for multiple outings.

Against the Dodgers on July 29th:  brilliant – a near no-no.  Not to be lost here was that this was in the midst of 3 outings of 6+ innings allowing only 1 earned run.  Before that, he held the D-Backs to 3 in nearly 6 innings.

But before that:  5 and 5 ER, not getting past the 4th.

Since then:  5, 7 and 6 ER (sandwiched around a 0 vs. the Marlins) at the hands of Milwaukee, Colorado, and Tampa Bay respectively.

Newcomb is up to 145 innings overall with a 3.85 ERA.  That sounds good, but doesn’t nearly tell the whole story.  Heck, if you didn’t see his run count, you might see ‘4 innings, 7 strikeouts, against just 2 walks’ and conclude that he did all right.  But the 10 base-runners were clearly a problem.

This is still to be expected among pitchers with limited major league experience.  There are going to be days in which the ‘stuff’ just isn’t working and you’ve got to figure out how to limit damage and get hitters out in other ways.

Next: More about pitching here

Unfortunately, when you’re in a division race, the time required to acquire these on-the-job training skills is difficult to support.  So there is a balancing act that Brian Snitker & staff has to walk in order to help his pitcher grow for the future… while also attending to his team’s present.

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