Coming into the 2011 season, the Atlanta Braves had one of the top ranked farm systems in baseball. With questions about the Braves bench and the certainty that some players would suffer injuries, we knew plenty of talented minor leaguers would get to put on an Atlanta uniform at some point in the first season.
Most of the guys on this list are merely role players who haven’t made much of an impact. However, we will cover each player who didn’t start the season on the MLB roster and has seen time with the parent club. I won’t go into detailed stats with most of these players, as many have too few at-bats or innings pitched to have relevant totals. Both Matt Young and Brandon Hicks were on the opening day bench, so they won’t be covered in this section.
Outfielder – Jordan Schafer
The once top prospect started the year in the minors but was called up when the Braves had a rash of injuries to their other outfielders. While Martin Prado has been on the DL, Schafer has settled into the centerfield spot. When both Prado and Chipper Jones return, Schafer or Nate McLouth will find themselves out of a starting role.
While Schafer has struggled at the plate (.231/.286/.314 in 186 PA) he has played exceptional defense in center and given the Braves a much needed boost of speed. However, Schafer is getting on base so rarely that he often can’t utilize his speed. Using fWAR, Schafer has been more valuable than McLouth in less playing time. However, using bWAR, Schafer has actually hurt the team despite his defense.
Outfielder – Joe Mather
Mather drew headlines this offseason when he was compared with Jayson Werth (because of his size). After starting the year in the minors, Mather got some starts with Atlanta while other outfielders were on the DL. However, Mather struggled at the plate in his 83 plate appearances and was eventually sent down to the minors. He elected to become a free agent and is now playing in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Infielder – Diory Hernandez
Diory has spent time in Atlanta for the third straight year in 2011. He replaced Brandon Hicks as a utility mid-year and has only seen playing time in 22 games. Once again, Diory is struggling at the plate (just a .212 OBP in 35 PA) and isn’t a terrific defender. At this point, Diory is simply a replacement level player who shouldn’t be counted on for production off the bench.
Infielder – Julio Lugo
Lugo was recently signed by the Braves organization and quickly made it to the major leagues. Unlike the other hitters on this list, Lugo has a long MLB career and was at one point a serviceable (even good) starting shortstop. However, that was in the mid-2000’s and Lugo is now coming off a string of disappointing seasons. Lugo didn’t hit well in AAA and should be back in the minors when the Braves are full strength.
Outfielder – Wilkin Ramirez
Once a highly ranked prospect with the Detroit Tigers, Ramirez came to Atlanta last season and has spent the majority of his time at Gwinnett. Although he wasn’t hitting extremely well in AAA, he showed some power and has hit well in 15 MLB plate appearances. When Prado and Chipper return Ramirez has a chance to stay on the team if Schafer is sent back to AAA to get regular at-bats.
Catcher – J.C. Boscan
Boscan has exactly one at-bat this year. He struck out. Unless Brian McCann or David Ross gets injured we won’t see him again until September when the rosters are expanded.
Starting Pitcher – Mike Minor
Minor lost out on the fifth starter spot but has made six starts this year as an injury replacement. While his numbers aren’t terrific (4.59 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) Minor has pitched well in AAA (3.21 ERA, 3.32 K/BB) and should be ready for a full time role next season. With the abundance of pitching in AAA and AA, Minor could serve as a trading chip this July.
Starting Pitcher – Julio Teheran
The Braves top prospect has made two spot starts and hasn’t had much success in the MLB yet. However, he has absolutely dominated in AAA (1.79 ERA, 3.24 K/BB) and should see more time in the majors later this year. All five starters are set to return next season, so one of them could be on the move if Teheran continues to show he is ready for the majors.
Starting Pitcher – Randall Delgado
Another highly ranked prospect, Delgado made only one start at the majors due to a slew of injuries. He wasn’t good but held his own in his debut. Unless Teheran or Minor or unavailable, its unlikely Delgado will make any more starts this season.
Relief Pitcher – Scott Proctor
Before I get into a rant about much I hate Scott Proctor, I will sum up what his season has been like. I was in attendance during the Braves-Phillies contest last Friday night in Philadelphia and going into the bottom of the tenth I turned to my dad and said “If Proctor comes in I’m leaving.” Sure enough, after entering the game Proctor allowed a walk-off homerun to Raul Ibanez and the Braves lost. His ERA, FIP and xFIP are all above 5 and Proctor has managed to produce -0.5 fWAR in 18.2 innings.
Relief Pitcher- Jairo Asencio
The pitcher formerly known as Luis Valdez has been brilliant in AAA but struggled in his first 10 MLB innings. His underlying stats show he isn’t as bad as his 6.97 MLB ERA but it appears he won’t get too many chances to bring that down. In AAA he has a 4.10 K/BB ratio so there is no reason for the Braves not to give him a shot while Proctor is still in the pen.
Relief Pitcher – Cory Gearrin
The submariner has also had a terrific season in AAA and has a terrible looking MLB ERA (6.61) in 16.1 innings. However, Gearrin has a 2.04 FIP and 2.68 xFIP which show he actually hasn’t been that bad when he’s pitched. A groundball specialist, Gearrin likely deserves the final spot in the bullpen with Peter Moylan is out for the season.