Why the Mets Must Consider a Reunion With José Reyes

It’s been a long time since José Reyes has played for the New York Mets. The once beloved shortstop used to be a fan favorite in Queens. Now, it appears as though he wants a reunion with his old team.

Reyes was designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday. Yesterday, the team requested waivers on him. If he clears waivers, he’ll be a free agent tomorrow. The 33-year old did not play in a game this year for Colorado. This was due to the fact that he was involved in a domestic violence incident during the offseason while on vacation with his wife. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided that Reyes would be placed on administrative leave to start the season. He was officially suspended on May 13. The Rockies eventually decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble, and released him.

The Rockies and Mets are two teams in very different situations. Colorado is under .500 and in third place in the NL West. They’re not expected to do too much this season. Keeping Reyes just didn’t make much sense.  The Mets are in second place in the NL East and are in a pennant race. However, they’ve been hampered by injuries all season long. Currently, Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda, and David Wright are all on the disabled list. Wright just underwent neck surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. It’s very likely that he’ll be out for the year. Because of all these injuries, the Mets should really consider bringing Wright’s old friend José Reyes back to Flushing.

Reyes could really help the team right now. His bat could be a boost in the Mets mediocre lineup. A player who is very familiar with playing in New York, he’d have no problem adjusting. In fact, his best years came while with the Mets. During his nine seasons with the team, Reyes batted .292. He led the National League in triples four times. Also, he stole 60 or more bases three consecutive years, from 2005-2007. His last year with the Mets was in 2011, a year in which he won the NL Batting Title. He left after that season and signed a six-year, $106 million dollar contract with the Miami Marlins. After just one season, the Marlins traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Reyes was with the Blue Jays until last July when he was again traded. That was the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto.

A Reyes reunion with the Mets makes sense for both parties. This week, Reyes reportedly spoke to a baseball official and discussed how he desperately wants to come back to Queens. Apparently, he hasn’t been truly happy since he left in 2011. This isn’t all that surprising, especially considering the success that he had with the Mets. He’s ready to come back, so the Mets must decide if they really want him or not.

Reyes will most likely clear waivers tomorrow, making him a free agent. This gives the Mets a very good opportunity to get him at  a low price. It’s a low-risk, high-reward situation. If they were to sign him, they would probably play him at third base, a position he’s never played before. Asdrubal Cabrera is having a very good season at shortstop for the Mets, and they don’t really want to move him. Reyes certainly isn’t the same player that he was when he left New York in 2011. His offensive numbers have slowly declined. That being said, he still has some speed and a little bit of power. Additionally, his presence alone would be enough to boost the team’s morale. Reyes has always been known for being a good clubhouse guy. The only real reason that the Mets might be hesitant to bring him back is the domestic violence issue. Although he was never convicted in court due to the fact that his wife refused to cooperate as a witness, the whole situation doesn’t look so good. He did not have a history of domestic violence before this incident. It’s definitely something that Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson will need to think about when he decides whether or not to seriously pursue Reyes.

The timing seems right for the Mets to bring back José Reyes. They could really use him right now on the left side of the infield. It seems as though he’d jump at the chance to come back to the Big Apple. We’ll see if the Mets decide to make a move on him this weekend.

Why the Nationals Need to Re-Promote Trea Turner

The Washington Nationals are currently in first place in the NL East. Although their offense has been relatively solid thus far, it can still be improved. Re-promoting shortstop Trea Turner  is something that the team can do to achieve this.

Turner, 22, is considered one of the Nationals’ top prospects. Originally selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, Turner was eventually traded to Washington in the three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to San Diego. He started out in Double-A with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League, and immediately impressed people in the organization. After just 10 games, the Nationals promoted him to Triple-A Syracuse. Turner played in 48 games for the Chiefs, hitting .314 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. The Nationals called him up to the Major Leagues on August 21, 2015. In 40 at-bats, Turner hit .225.

Instead of having Turner be their starting shortstop to start the 2016 season, the Nationals optioned him to Syracuse once Spring Training ended. Danny Espinosa was named the team’s starting shortstop. Last Friday, Turner was called-up because Ryan Zimmerman needed to be placed on the paternity list. He started at second base that night when the Nationals were in Cincinnati taking on the Reds. In the game, he went 3-for-3 with a walk. However, he did not start for the rest of the weekend. His only other appearance in the series came as a pinch-runner in Saturday’s game. On Monday, the Nationals announced that Zimmerman was reinstated and Turner had been optioned back to Triple-A.

This move definitely came as a surprise to many people in DC. The Nationals could have optioned another player to Triple-A, but instead they chose Turner. Espinosa really hasn’t had a good year. He’s only batting .203 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs. In 57 starts at shortstop, he has committed five errors. Despite the fact that Espinosa is hitting just over .200, Nationals manager Dusty Baker has continued to pencil him into the lineup everyday. Part of the reason for this is that he really doesn’t have many other options. Stephen Drew is considered the team’s backup shortstop. His offensive numbers are less-than-impressive as well. Drew is only hitting .207 in 58 at-bats. Besides these two players, Baker really doesn’t have any other options at shortstop. If the Nationals re-promoted Turner however, then he would.     

It’s not like Turner hasn’t been putting up good numbers in Triple-A this season. He’s had 213 at-bats with the Chiefs and is hitting .310 with three home runs and 24 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .377 while his slugging percentage is up to .460 Additionally, Turner has 19 stolen bases. There’s really no reason for the Nationals to keep waiting. Clearly, he’s ready to be promoted for good.

The Nationals are currently in a tight divisional race in the NL East with the New York Mets. If they want to take down the defending division champions, they’re going to need to put out the best offense they can everyday. For that to happen, Trea Turner needs to be with the team and in the starting lineup. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has been criticized for moves he’s made or hasn’t made in the past. This is an opportunity for him to make the right decision. If he doesn’t soon, Nationals fans will certainly continue to be on his case.

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Chase Utley Gets the Last Laugh Against the Mets…. For Now

Perhaps no player in all of baseball is hated more by the fan base of a team than Chase Utley is loathed by the New York Mets fans. On Saturday night, the hatred was out in full force when the Los Angeles Dodgers were at Citi Field taking on the Mets.

Utley has been a thorn in the Mets side for years. Ever since his days with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 37-year old second baseman has always put up good numbers against them. In his career, Utley has hit 38 home runs against the Mets, the most he’s hit against any team. Especially when he was in Philadelphia, he had a knack for getting big hits when he played the Mets. However, this is only part of the reason that their fans dislike him so much.

In mid-August of last season, the Phillies traded Utley to the Dodgers in exchange for Darnell Sweeney and John Richy. This marked the end of his 13-year career in Philadelphia, but it certainly didn’t mean that his rivalry with the Mets was over. Sure enough, the Dodgers and Mets both won their respective divisions and ended up playing each other in the 2015 NLDS. Utley only had three at-bats in the entire series, which included one hit. His most memorable moment in the series came during the seventh inning of Game 2, following that hit. In an attempt to break up what possibly could have been an inning-ending double play, Utley slid into Mets shortstop Rubén Tejada. Not only was he ruled safe at second base after a video review, but Tejada had to leave the game due to a fractured right fibula. The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the game at that point, but they rallied and went on to win 5-2. Utley was originally suspended two games by Major League Baseball for the slide, but because he appealed the suspension, he was allowed to play the remainder of the NLDS.  The  Mets were able to win the series in five games, but Tejada did not return. He missed the remainder of the postseason, and the Mets eventually lost in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.

It was assumed that the Mets were going to try and get revenge on Utley sometime during the 2016 season. Major League Baseball officially dropped his suspension on March 6, meaning there would be no punishment at all for the slide. Unsurprisingly, Mets fans were not happy. Although Tejada was released by the team on March 16, fans still expected the Mets to try and do something to send a message to Utley when they played the Dodgers. The two teams played a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in early May, but nothing happened. Last weekend, the Dodgers came to Citi Field for three games. This time, plenty happened.

As expected, Utley was booed vigorously by the Mets fans every time he came to bat. He was not thrown at on Friday night. Instead, he had a huge hit in the top of the ninth inning. Facing Mets closer Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded and two outs and his team trailing 5-2, Utley hit a game-tying three-run double. The Mets went on to win the game in the bottom of the inning after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off home run.

When Utley’s name was announced during Saturday night’s game, he was booed even louder than the night before. With Mets ace Noah Syndergaard on the mound, he struck out looking during his first at-bat. He next came to bat in the top of the third inning. With one out and nobody on base, Syndergaard threw a fastball behind Utley. It didn’t him, but Syndergaard was ejected by home plate umpire Adam Hamari. This led to Mets manager Terry Collins getting thrown out of the game as well. Collins was clearly upset because no warnings were issued before the game. Clearly, Hamari knew Utley’s history with the Mets. He was not hesitant at all to eject Syndergaard for trying to send a message to Utley.

The Mets fans were more outraged than ever. Not only did Utley not even get hit by the pitch, but Syndergaard had been tossed from the game for trying to send a message to him. To make matters even worse for them, Utley hit a solo home run off of Logan Verrett in the top of the sixth inning. But he wasn’t finished yet. Just when you thought he couldn’t become any more villainous to Mets fans, Utley hit a grand slam off of Hansel Robles the next inning. This put the Dodgers ahead 6-0. They went on to win the game 9-1.  

For Utley, it was a very successful weekend in Flushing. The Mets failed to adequately get revenge on him for the slide into Tejada. He hit two big home runs to help the Dodgers crush the Mets. It seems as though Utley has gotten the last laugh against the Mets and their fans. The two teams do not play each other for the remainder of the season. However, there’s always the chance that they meet in the postseason again. If that happens, the series will definitely be must-watch television. The Mets would then have one last chance to get the last laugh against Chase Utley.

The Atlanta Braves Have Their Closer

When you think of the Atlanta Braves, you think of great pitching. More specifically, each Braves team that has been successful over the past two decades have had a dominant closer at the back end of the bullpen. From John Smoltz to Mark Wohlers to Craig Kimbrel, the closer in Atlanta will always have big shoes to fill.

After the trade of the franchise’s all time leader in saves, Craig Kimbrel, before the 2015 season, the team has been searching for that “lights-out” option at the end of games to help put away now hard-to-come-by victories.

The Braves have appear to have found that next great closer.

-Enter Arodys Vizcaino-

Arodys Vizcaino originally signed with the New York Yankees as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Following two brief seasons in the Yankees system, Vizcaino was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2009 as a part of the Javier Vazquez trade.

After being traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2012, he found his way back to the Braves in 2014 when the Braves sent Tommy La Stella to the Cubs in return for Arodys Vizcaino.

So far in the 2016 season, Vizcaino is a vital member of the Braves’ bullpen, and represents one of the few steady options manager Brian Snitker has to call upon game after game out of the pen.

Now that Vizcaino has established himself as the Braves’ closer, it is becoming clear to those watching that Vizcaino is not planning on giving up the role. He currently has six saves in seven opportunities and is striking out batters at a tremendous clip while limiting his walks (30 K’s in 20.2 innings pitched along with only seven walks ).

Vizcaino possesses a fastball that has been clocked north of 100 miles per hour and sits consistently in the upper nineties (getting an average of 96 to 97 miles per hour on all fastballs per FanGraphs ).

While a prospect, Arodys Vizcaino’s curveball was considered one of his better pitches, being touted as the best curve in the entire Yankees’ system by Baseball America. However, he seems to have abandoned the curve as he has not thrown the pitch in the majors, officially, since 2011. Instead, Vizcaino has focused on a two pitch mix of a fastball and a slider. Each season his confidence in the slider has increased as proven by his reliance on the pitch, throwing it nearly 41% of the time thus far in the 2016 season .

When watching the arsenal of Arodys Vizcaino, one cannot help but think of former Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel, who also uses a two pitch mix to attack opposing batters. While Craig uses his fastball much more than Vizcaino, 75% of his pitches have been fastballs in 2016 compared to just 58% of pitches being fastballs for Vizcaino , Kimbrel uses a different breaking ball than Vizcaino. Craig Kimbrel now uses a fastball and curveball arsenal, which would explain the greater distance in terms of break on his breaking ball compared to Vizcaino’s slider. Both closer’s fastballs sit in the upper nineties with the potential to crack the 100 mile per hour barrier, as earlier stated.

Regardless of his similarities to the man he is replacing, Arodys Vizcaino will almost certainly begin to write his own records in Atlanta Braves history books. He has all the tools and potential to be the next dominate closer for the franchise, and will hopefully be the anchor towards the end of games when the team is looking to be a competitor again. If Vizcaino remains a Brave for the foreseeable future, I can see him challenging Kimbrel’s save records and potentially being the man closing out key playoff games for the team.

For Braves fans, they can just hope he stays healthy and is still around for those comings years of competitive play, as his ability and overpowering arsenal show nothing but dominance in Arodys Vizcaino’s future.

 

Why James Loney Makes Sense for the Mets

It’s no secret that the New York Mets are having issues at first base right now. Lucas Duda was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back. It’s estimated that he’ll be sidelined for about four to six weeks. Eric Campbell has started at the position since Duda’s injury. However, Campbell is not meant to be an everyday player. The Mets need to consider other options.

One option that the team has reportedly been inquiring about is James Loney. Currently with the San Diego Padres organization, Loney has spent the year in Triple-A with the El Paso Chihuahuas. In 154 at-bats, he’s hitting .344 with two home runs and 28 RBIs. His on-base percentage is up to .376. Given that Loney’s currently playing in the minor leagues, the Padres would probably be willing to part with him should the Mets attempt to acquire him.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported on Tuesday that the Mets “have some curiosity” about Loney. There’s certainly no reason why they shouldn’t. The reality of the situation is that the team needs a first baseman. Eric Campbell just has not hit enough to justify putting him out there everyday. He can field the position well, but that’s not enough. He’s only batting .192 in 52 at-bats this season, and has just one home run and five RBIs. The Mets don’t really have too many other internal options at first base. Wilmer Flores is expected to be activated from the disabled list later today. He’ll get a chance to be the starting first baseman for the time being. Before he was placed on the disabled list on May 12 with a hamstring injury, Flores was Duda’s primary backup. However, he wasn’t exactly having the best season offensively prior to the injury. Flores is hitting just .180 in 50 at-bats this year, and has a home run and two RBIs. His numbers aren’t really much better than Campbell’s.

The Mets have floated around other internal possibilities, including playing young outfielder Michael Conforto at first base. This would allow center fielder Juan Lagares to get more playing time. This could be a good idea, except for the fact that Conforto has never played first base professionally. Neil Walker sliding over to first base has also been discussed. Although these other options might work, Loney is still the Mets’ best bet.

Loney is a proven major league first baseman who has always put up good offensive numbers. Over the course of his 10-year career, he’s had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. He’s only batted under .250 in a season once. Last year with the Rays, he batted .280 with four home runs and 32 RBIs. He could definitely provide some stability at first base until Duda is able to return. Given that he’s a left-handed hitter with some power, Loney would fit right into the Mets lineup. When Duda is ready to return, Loney could serve as his main backup, adding more depth to the bench. Depth on the bench is something the Mets have definitely lacked this season.

If the Mets are smart, they’ll try and acquire James Loney as soon as possible. He’s a solid short-term option at first base. There’s no reason not to go out there and get him.

Why The Braves Shouldn’t Promote Their Top Prospects

With the 2016 Braves continuing to struggle, the fans are looking towards the future. They await the new season, they await the new SunTrust Park, and, more eagerly (or should I say impatiently), they await the arrival of the Braves’ two top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies.

The argument for promoting these two ballplayers is based on sound logic. The current team is historically bad. The two players appear to almost be major league ready. Why not let the fans get a sneak peak at what all this struggling is leading towards and improve the current team at the same time?

I can understand why many fans feel this way, and the side of me that is a fan is fully onboard with them. Dansby Swanson is currently batting .313 with 4 homers, 21 RBIs, and 9 stolen bases down in the minors so far, and meanwhile Ozzie Albies is already in Triple-A Gwinnett as a 19 year old (over 5 years younger than the average player at that level ) and is batting .312 with 3 homers and 2 triples across two levels this season. They certainly are not far away from being able to produce at the big league level.

So why shouldn’t the Atlanta Braves’ front office promote their top prospects?

The answer is actually rather simple…

Service time

Major league service time is a tricky, frustrating, confusing part of professional baseball that should be adjusted in the future. But for now, I can best explain the concept as so: when a player is called up it begins their service time clock and once a player has elapsed 6 years of major league service time, they then qualify for free agency.

You’ll see front offices manipulating the service time rules in their favor every season, delaying prospects who are likely prepared for the big leagues and waiting to call them up so that will extend their time with the club.

The current system is not fair to the players and casts a negative light on baseball front offices, even though it’s a necessary evil that they must cope with and use to their advantage as best they can (under the current rules).

Waiting until midway through the 2017 season will allow the Atlanta Braves to control their top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies until after the 2023 season, instead of controlling them just through the 2022 season.

The difference of just one season may not seem like much on paper, but when you consider the Braves window to compete, it could be all the difference they need to make the delay worthwhile.

The 2017 Atlanta Braves will not be serious competitors with or without these two top prospects on the opening day roster. In fact, the Braves likely won’t be competing for the World Series again until at least 2019 or later, with most of their top prospects being several years away, including the potential arrival of this year’s upcoming international signings and draft picks, something that we profiled in much greater detail and depth here: “When Will The Atlanta Braves Compete Again?

So this extra time tacked onto their window of opportunity could prove to be the difference in the Braves winning it all in 2023…or potentially having Dansby Swanson and/or Ozzie Albies leave the team in free agency after the 2022 season.

The Braves front office will likely say that they are not going to hold the players back from making the jump to the big leagues, and that is exactly what they should say. However, the fans should not expect to see their much awaited middle infield tandem until midway through the 2017 season.

I understand this may cause slightly more pain in the now, Braves fans, but it will all be worth it when you have an entire extra season of watching these two future stars up the middle.

Have patience.

New York Baseball Role Reversal

The New York Mets and the New York Yankees have always been compared to each other when it comes to which New York team is better. Over time the conversation has been sliding more toward the side of the Mets.

The reason this is happening is because the team has been consistently improving over the past few years, and the Yankees have been rapidly declining in team productivity.

Yankee fans can always point to the 27 championships that the team has accumulated, but that seems like a distant memory. Here are a few reasons the Mets have taken the role as New York’s best baseball team.

Pitching Staff

A big part of the Mets success has been their pitchers. Say what you want about their nicknames or the way they look at the plate, but they get the job done. In the National League they are making the number nine hole of the batting order a problem for their opponents.

Bartolo Colon hit his first career homerun against the San Diego Padres in a 6-3 win. Odds are he is not going to hit one every start he makes this season, but he is an example of how dangerous this team has become.

Run Support

Having a high powered offense helps when you are pitching well, but being part of that offense and producing is a deadly one-two punch.

Another pitcher in the Mets starting rotation Noah Syndergaard or “Thor” as he is referred to by Mets fans showed his batting talents by hitting two homeruns in a game and capturing a win.

Players Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto are keeping carrying the team with hot hitting. Things have looked good in Queens, but in the Bronx it has been a different story. The Yankees have not been getting runners across the plate and the pitchers have been suffering.

Veteran Leadership

David Wright and Curtis Granderson are player that have been in the league for a while and they know the importance of winning. They show the younger players that they mean business when they play. They run hard and make plays on defense to help the team.

The Yankee veterans Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez are only trying to help with their bats when healthy. One veteran that has been the best player on the field for the Yankees is first baseman Mark Teixeira.

At 36 years old he is the type of player that can spark the Yankees when he needs too.

Who’s Better?

The Yankees will have an opportunity to bounce back and become one of baseball’s better teams again in years to come. They are in desperate need of young talent, and need to let go of some older players.

The days of core four are gone and the only way to get back to the glory days for the team is to get better younger and more talented players.

For now the Mets are at the top and they look like they are on a path straight back to the World Series. If the Kansas City Royals can make it back to back years the Mets have the same plan in mind with a better outcome this time around.

Strasburg Inks Lucrative Contract Extension With the Nationals

Stephen Strasburg will not be hitting the free agent market anytime soon.

On Tuesday, it was officially announced that Strasburg and the Nationals had agreed on a seven-year, $175 million dollar contract extension. The 27-year old right hander was set to be a free agent this coming offseason, but the Nationals decided to lock him longterm rather than have him test the waters in free agency  Considering the fact that many other teams would have been interested in him, this was definitely a good idea.

Strasburg has certainly earned his new contract. The Nationals selected him back in 2009 with the first overall pick in the MLB draft. A highly touted prospect, he made his MLB debut in June of 2010 and had immediate success, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts. However, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August, requiring Tommy John surgery. He did not return until the end of the 2011 season.

In his first full season following the surgery, Strasburg was very impressive. He won 15 games and posted an ERA of 3.16 while recording 197 strikeouts. He made 28 starts that season and was shutdown due to precautionary reasons in early September. The Nationals made the playoffs, but Strasburg did not pitch at all and the Nationals lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games in the NLDS. The decision by the Nationals’ front office to shut Strasburg down was certainly controversial among the team’s fans. However, they felt it was the necessary move to ensure that he would be healthy going forward.

In 2013, Strasburg was even more dominant. His record was only 8-9, but his ERA was 3.00. He finished ninth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2014 after a season in which he went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA, while recording an NL-best 242 strikeouts. He also started 34 games that year, which also led the league. Last season, Strasburg had somewhat of an off year. He won 11 games, but his ERA 3.46. That was the highest ERA he’s ever finished with in a season. Additionally, he battled through injuries and only made 23 starts.

This season, Strasburg has gotten off to a very good start. He’s made seven starts, and is 5-0 with an ERA of 2.76. His strikeout numbers have been impressive as well, as he has 58 of them in 49 innings pitched. So far, he’s pitched better than Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Judging by the numbers, Strasburg is definitely deserving of his new contract extension. Starting next year, he’ll be making an average of $25 million per season. This contract could be the one that sets the precedent for pitchers going forward. Chicago Cubs ace and 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta has one year left of arbitration. He is set to be a free agent following the 2017 season. Earlier this week, he hinted to reporters that he’ll be asking for more money than Strasburg. In terms of years, he’s probably going to want seven as well. New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey will be a free agent following the 2018 season. Like Strasburg, Harvey has had success after having Tommy John surgery. There’s no doubt that Harvey will cash in when he finally hits the market. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cubs and Mets lock up these two aces longterm before they reach free agency.

Stephen Strasburg will not be leaving DC anytime soon. He now has am extensive lucrative contract to live up to. The Nationals and their fans are really hoping that he does.

Early Season Review: Ronald Acuna

Earlier this season we profiled three players that we expected to have breakout seasons within the Atlanta Braves organization. One of those players was centerfielder Ronald Acuna. Acuna is currently playing in Single-A Rome as an eighteen year old and has been making quite the impression on scouts and fans alike during his first few months of full season ball.

Excerpt from the aforementioned Acuna profile:

Ronald Acuna was a 2014 International Signing out of Venezuela. Standing at 6 foot tall and weighing in at 180 pounds, physically he matches up well with what many could describe as an ideal centerfielder. Throughout his first professional season, Acuna batted .269 with 4 long balls and and 16 stolen bags (per milb.com ), and he was playing his best at season’s end, batting a cool .325 over his final 10 games. In addition to the potential offensively, Acuna mans the valuable position of centerfield, and, by all accounts, scouts view him being able to stick there and as a plus defender. In his recent breakdown of all minor league systems , ESPN’s Keith Law describes his outfield tools as “plus range, with an above-average arm and above-average speed.”

Flashing future signs of all 5 tools so early is without a doubt a good sign for Acuna. Current Special Assistant to Baseball  Operations and Braves Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones spoke quite highly of Acuna at Braves’ Spring Training in an interview with Braves AJC beat writer David O’Brien , saying he’s heard Acuna compared to a “young Andruw Jones.” Certainly high praise and not a comparison loosely thrown around, especially amongst the Braves organization. Personally, I have tremendous faith in Acuna, you can take one look at his Instagram account and it’s clear that this man lives and breathes baseball, hopefully we see that passion translate into future success.

The play from Acuna has been as advertised this season. His defensive work is centerfield appears to be natural for the teenager as he looks increasingly comfortable in the field. His arm strength is without a doubt the described “above-average,” if it’s not stronger (I saw him almost throw out a quick runner from deep right center field in a game a week or so ago).

Acuna has been showing an advanced eye at the plate. He battles deep into counts and stays on most pitches deep into the zone, allowing him to work the ball to all fields. This is a good sign for a player so young as this will help him be able to make adjustments and quickly acclimate himself to new levels as he advances throughout the minor leagues. Also at the plate, Acuna is flashing power to all fields as well, his first home run this season was a blast to the opposite field, along with his triple yesterday which was off the wall in right. Acuna is slashing .299/.382/.402 with 2 homers, a triple, 2 doubles, and 11 walks  so far.

Acuna profiles his game after Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. The two speak through social media, and appear to have developed a friendship (a sign that Marte notices Acuna’s skill level). Watching their games, one can see shades of Marte in Acuna, both players have the same low leg kick load, similar builds, etc. I think you could use Starling Marte as an excellent comparison and potential projection for Ronald Acuna.

starling marte

(Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Marte is a Gold Glove Award winner in left field, an achievement that I feel Acuna could achieve as well if he ever needs to move over from centerfield to left (Marte only did so due to the superstar and MVP Andrew McCutchen’s firm hold on the position in Pittsburgh). Marte’s above-average power at the big league level could be Acuna’s ceiling as well. Along with both men’s plus speed in the field and on the base paths, all together I really like this comparison for Acuna, the resemblance continues to grow on you the more you watch the two play.

The earlier Andruw Jones comp makes one think of the 50 home run seasons and 10 time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones and I don’t feel there is any way Acuna ever reaches that level of power and defensive prowess. Not to mention comparing any player to Andruw this early in their career development feels a bit like sacrilege for me, as Andruw is one of the greatest centerfielders of all time and should be considered for the Hall of Fame, a discussion perhaps for another time. That said, I do think Acuna will rocket up prospect lists after this season, much like Andruw did after his first season in full season ball. 

At his peak defensively, I see Ronald Acuna profiling as an everyday centerfielder who could see the occasional fielding award thrown in the mix. At the plate, I see him as batting around .280 with 15-25 home runs a season and swiping a decent number of bases. Braves fans should be very excited about the potential of Ronald Acuna, I would go as far as saying that outside of the obvious Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, Acuna has the most upside and potential of any position player in the system. At seasons’ end I fully expect Acuna to be a top 5 prospect in the Atlanta Braves deep system. (I think I may be the high man on Acuna…)

The early results in Ronald Acuna’s debut in full season ball have been encouraging for the organization. He is flashing the maturity and baseball acumen that even players much older than him are still lacking, those intangibles along with his natural tools and talent will likely help us see Ronald Acuna land somewhere on the end of season Top 100 prospect list.

D’Arnaud’s Injury Opens the Door for Kevin Plawecki

On Tuesday, the New York Mets placed starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud on the 15-day disabled list. D’Arnaud has a right rotator cuff strain, an injury he obtained on Monday night in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Although the injury is unfortunate, it gives Kevin Plawecki a chance to show everyone what he can do.

Plawecki, 25, was considered the backup catcher going into this season. A former first-round draft pick, he made his Major League debut on April 21, 2015, just over a year ago. Ironically, the reason he was called up then was because d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list after suffering a broken hand. The Mets were not planning on promoting Plawecki until later on in the year, but they needed an everyday catcher.

He did an adequate job serving as the Mets starting catcher until d’Arnaud returned on June 10. D’Arnaud’s return was short-lived however, as he suffered another injury ten days later. He was placed on the disabled list again, this time with a sprained left elbow. He did not return until July 30. Because of all of these injuries to d’Arnaud, Plawecki got a chance to start 66 games in 2015. In 233 at-bats, he collected 51 hits while batting .219 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. Defensively, he only committed one error and threw out 11 baserunners attempting to steal. He allowed 32 stolen bases while behind the plate.

From what we’ve seen so far, it seems as though Plawecki is a better defensive catcher than d’Arnaud. Last season, d’Arnaud started 64 games, two less than Plawecki. He allowed 29 stolen bases and committed three errors, while throwing out 14 baserunners trying to steal. Before landing on the disabled list this year, he had already allowed 14 stolen bases. Plawecki has only allowed four. Runners clearly do not hesitate to run on Travis d’Arnaud.

We’ve seen a lot more of d’Arnaud than Plawecki. That being said, the former has put up better offensive numbers than the latter. D’Arnaud batted .268 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs last season. He also did well in the postseason, starting every game the Mets played. Plawecki just hasn’t gotten the opportunity to really prove himself however. While it’s true that he got plenty of starts in 2015, he was basically just acting as the placeholder for d’Arnaud. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

If Plawecki can put up decent offensive numbers over the next couple of weeks, he has a chance to overtake d’Arnaud as the Mets starting catcher. Especially considering that he was struggling before being placed on the disabled list, d’Arnaud’s job could be in serious jeopardy. He was only batting .196 with no homers and just one RBI. There are certain players who are guaranteed their job back after spending time on the disabled list. However, d’Arnaud just hasn’t hit enough to earn that status. He hasn’t been consistent enough. Additionally, he isn’t the best defensive catcher in the world.

Kevin Plawecki has a real chance to prove himself. Opportunities like this don’t come around all the time. We’ll see if he can capitalize on this situation.