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Braves right fielder rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the right fielders.

Rank: #6 in the Majors, #4 in the NL

Jason Heyward’s 2011 was forgettable. An injured shoulder slowed him down at the plate for nearly the whole season, but when he was healthy in April and September, Heyward posted slashes of .263/.354/.525 and .258/.375/.364. Ok, so his power was all but gone by the end of the year, but he was the only Brave getting on base during the September collapse. The projections favor Heyward for 2012, and if his approach at the plate is more like it was in 2010, the numbers will get a nice bump to go along with his plus defense.

Braves center fielder rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the center fielders.

Rank: #8 in the Majors, #4 in the NL

The Braves have a great player in Michael Bourn. He’s best known for his base-stealing ability, but the reasons he ranks this high are his ability to get on base from the lead-off spot and his excellent defense. Entering his third arbitration year, he will undoubtedly test the free agent market next offseason. If he performs to the level he’s expected to, the Braves should definitely attempt to resign him if the price is right, but signing a 30 year old whose game is based on speed to a long-term deal is a risky proposition, especially if he Scott Boras is seeking an astronomical figure.

Braves third basemen rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the third basemen.

Rank: #16 in the Majors, #8 in the NL

The Braves’ starting third baseman will be 40 for the majority of the 2012 season. The fact that Chipper Jones still projects to be a middle-of-the-pack player at his position speaks volumes. This ranking could be lower, though, and here’s why. First, Chipper’s defensive ability continues to fade, and all positive value he will bring to the Braves is with his bat. He’s still a great hitter who walks a lot and will continue to get on base at a high rate. Another factor providing some cushion to these rankings is Martin Prado, who should get significant playing time at third base. As it’s his best defensive position, Prado will bring value both offensively and defensively to third base and will get enough playing time there to have an impact.

MLB Network recently aired a segment on its Clubhouse Confidential show that discusses clutch: does it exist, how can you measure it and who are the most and least clutch hitters? Check it out above…

The key takeaway here is that the clutch value measures whether a player’s performance level increases or decreases in high-leverage situations. A player who consistently hits well in all situations may not have a high clutch score, even if he seems to always come up with a big hit.

Below I’ve ranked the primary Braves offensive starters in order of their clutch score during 2009-2011, the same period examined in the video. (On this scale, a score of 0 means there is no increase or decrease of performance in clutch situations.)

Michael Bourn: 2.88 (2.5 seasons with Astros)
Chipper Jones: 0.91
Jason Heyward: 0.34 (only 2 seasons)
Freddie Freeman: -0.55 (only 1 season)
Martin Prado: -0.88
Dan Uggla: -1.00 (2 seasons with Marlins)
Brian McCann: -1.86

Again, this doesn’t mean that the majority of Braves starters are incapable of coming up big in clutch situations. This only reflects how these players perform in those situations as compared to their baseline stats. Brian McCann regularly performs at a very high level, so it would be hard to improve that in high-leverage situations.

Braves shortstop rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the shortstops.

Rank: #26 in the Majors, #12 in the NL

Frankly, I was surprised to see that the Braves weren’t ranked dead last at the shortstop position. Not that I don’t think Tyler Pastornicky is capable of performing well at this level, but he’s a rookie with relatively little experience playing at the AA and AAA levels. And the backup possibilities don’t inspire much confidence, either. This ranking is purely based on the fact that shortstop is just a weak position right now. If Pastornicky performs at or near the projected level and plays average defense, I’ll be happy. If either Brandon Hicks or Jack Wilson starts to see a lot of playing time, or the Braves begin to entertain the thought of calling up Andrelton Simmons, then we’ve got problems.

Braves second basemen rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the second basemen.

Rank: #18 in the Majors, #11 in the NL

This is probably lower than you expected for Dan Uggla. It jumps out at you, for sure, but when you think about it, it’s about right. Uggla hits for great power but has never hit for a high average, and last season’s performance certainly hurts his projections for this year. His fielding also limits his value tremendously. If he bounces back better than these projections think he will and can raise his average and OBP about 15-30 points while still hitting for power, Uggla will end up as one of the top second basemen in the NL in 2012, at least offensively.

Braves first basemen rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the first basemen.

Rank: #15 in the Majors, #7 in the NL

This sounded about right to me. Freddie Freeman had a great rookie season in which he showed the ability to hit for average and some power. A few more walks and a few less strike outs will raise his OBP and overall value. Defensively, he has great hands but little range. Braves followers are split between thinking he’ll be a perennial Gold Glove winner and thinking he’s a major liability. Fact is, he’s not going to make many errors, but his limited range won’t allow him to. Look for him to continue saving his fellow infielders from throwing errors by picking the ball out of the dirt at a rate that a normal first basemen should. The backups, Eric Hinske and Martin Prado, aren’t projected to see enough time at first base to affect the ranking.

Braves catcher rankings

Fangraphs recently ranked each team by position for the 2012 season. I summarized those rankings for the Braves here. These are my thoughts on the catchers.

Rank: #1 in the Majors, #1 in the NL

This one is the easiest. As they say in their ranking, Brian McCann is one of the best hitting catchers in the game, and with the current state of Joe Mauer, his claim for the top spot is as strong as ever. Opinions on McCann’s defense are mixed. He ranks towards the bottom in his ability to throw out base-stealers, but he blocks well behind the plate and overall falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. His backup, however, is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. David Ross is what gives the Braves the edge over some of the other top teams in this category. As a backup, Ross provides above average offense for the catcher position to go along with his stellar defense. Ross could start for a number of teams, and when he’s behind the plate, the drop in value is very small.

Braves positional power rankings

Fangraphs put together power rankings for each position for the 2012 season and posted the results throughout last week. These rankings are objective, but based on speculative data and are not intended to say that one player is better than another player. Below I’ve listed each position and where the Braves rank among all Major League teams and within the National League. UPDATE: Relief pitchers are now posted and have been added below.

Catcher: 1/30 (1/16 in the NL)
First base: 15/30 (7/16)
Second base: 18/30 (11/16)
Shortstop: 26/30 (12/16)
Third base: 16/30 (8/16)
Center field: 8/30 (4/16)
Right field: 6/30 (4/16)
Left field: 22/30 (13/16)
Starting pitchers: 18/30 (8/16)
Relief pitchers: 2/30 (1/16)

I’ll have some comments on these rankings in upcoming posts.

Chipper’s vesting option

MLBTR highlighted the 2013 vesting options today, including Chipper Jones’, whose $9 million option for 2013 will vest with 123 games played. The Braves will need him to hit that mark, and be productive while doing so, in order to contend in October. ZiPS projects Chipper to play in 102 games with a .336 wOBA, while Bill James has him at 110 and .361. Barring serious injury, I see him coming closer to 120. Other than 2010, when he tore his ACL in August after playing 95 games, Jones hasn’t played fewer than 125 games since 2006. As for production, I’ll take anything in between those two projections.