An Exclusive Interview with Clearwater’s Jon Pettibone

The Phillies selected Jon Pettibone in the third round of the 2008 Amateur Draft. He attended Esperanza High School in Anaheim, Calif.

The 21-year old, 6’5 right-hander is having the best season of his four-year minor league career.

His father, Jay Pettibone, had a short four-game stint in the bigs for the 1983 Minnesota Twins. Charlie Manuel managed Jay in 1984 for the Orlando Twins, Minnesota’s Double-A affiliate.

Jon Pettibone hopes to play for Manuel a couple years from now for the Phillies.

Follow Jon Pettibone on twitter @Jon_Pettibone

Moving on Up

photo courtesy of philliesnation.com

Jon Pettibone has quietly matriculated his way up the ranks. Not only has he moved up a level each year, he’s improved each season.

“Every year, I’m having a great time and learning a lot.  It’s definitely been a success and fun so far,” Pettibone said.

Season Team Age W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
2008 Phillies (R) 17 0 1 1 1.0 0.00 9.00 0.00 0.00
2009 Phillies (A-) 18 2 4 8 35.1 9.17 4.08 0.00 5.35
2010 Phillies (A) 19 8 6 23 131.1 5.76 2.81 0.69 3.49
2011 Phillies (A+) 20 8 10 23 140.1 6.54 2.05 0.26 3.15

He’s cut down on his walks and home runs, and improved his strikeout rate and ERA from last season.

He isn’t as heralded as the big three arms in the system (Brody Colvin, Trevor May and Jesse Biddle), but his numbers aren’t too far off, if not on par with those three.

Pettibone pitches to contact and lets his defense do the work behind him.

“Right now I’m throwing a four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider and changeup,” Pettibone said. “The biggest key for me is attacking the hitters, getting first-pitch strikes. I mix it up by changing speeds and moving the ball in and out. We have a really solid defense behind me, they help me out a lot.”

He also touched on throwing to the defensively improved catcher Sebastian Valle.

“Valle’s always been offensively strong,” Pettibone said. “Throwing to him all last year and all this year, we kind of know each other in and out. It’s nice having a partner like that.”

The Trading Deadline

courtesy of reclinergm.com

In the last five years, the Phillies have landed behemoths such as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and the recently acquired Hunter Pence via trade. During that time, they’ve also sent away a plethora of prospects.

“I try to stay away from it (trade rumors) as much as I can,” Pettibone said. “It’s kind of hard to, there’s so much talk going on in the clubhouse and stuff. The last few years the Phillies have been consistent and they’ve made one of those big deals the last few years.”

“We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when. Once it was getting closer and closer, everyone was pretty anxious to see what was going to happen.”

He commented on losing teammates Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton.

“Cosart was my roommate,” Pettibone said. “We signed during the same time back in ’08. We were definitely close. We’ve progressed each level, each year together. He was one of my better friends, so it was tough seeing him leave. Especially the morning when he left the room, but I know he’s happy with what happened.”

“I know he’s in a good spot, he’s home. He’s from Houston. Singleton actually went home, too. He’s from California and they (Astros) sent him to Lancaster. So they’re both really excited.”

From a Threshers point of view, they’re in the playoff hunt and losing those two key cogs hurt.

“It’s tough losing them this close to the end of the season,” Pettibone said. “Cosart was one of our big arms and Singleton was our source of power. Overall, I’m happy for them and I think they’ll make the most of their opportunity.”

Clearwater stands at 64-54 on the season, and 25-24 in the second half, 1.5 games back of Dunedin Blue Jays. The second-half division winner will take on the Daytona Cubs, the first-half winner in the postseason.

Pettibone has playoff experience during his stint in Lakewood last season. He tossed six no-hit innings and recorded a career-high nine punchouts in the series-clinching game that sent the Blue Claws to the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

As for Pettibone’s new roommate, it’s the recently promoted David Buchanan.

2011 FSL All-Star Game

courtesy of raysprospects.com

Bright House Field, the home of the Clearwater Threshers, played host to Florida State League’s 50th All-Star Game.

Jon Pettibone got the nod as the starter for the North. He came into the contest fourth in the FSL in ERA (2.47).

“It was pretty neat that they let me start the game at my home field. It was a big honor and it was nice to stay local,” Pettibone said.

He set the South down in order in his only inning of work.

Pettibone, along with teammates Jarred Cosart, Trevor May and Julio Rodriguez, combined to pitch four innings of shutout ball.

The North defeated the South 5-3.

Learning from the Pros

Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Several key Phillies players have played down in Clearwater as part of rehabbing assignments this season.

Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton have all laced up their spikes at Bright House Field.

Pettibone talked about what he learned from the pitchers.

“Madson was down with us a couple of weeks ago, I spoke with him a little bit. Blanton’s been down. I picked their brain and asked as many questions as I can. What they do and how they go about their business,” he said.

The 23-Inning Marathon

courtesy of ftrsports.com

Earlier on in the season, the Phillies participated in the well documented 19-inning thriller against Cincinnati. Well, the Threshers took part on the losing end of a 2-1 23-inning loss against Jupiter.

“It was an experience,” Pettibone said. “I was charting in the stands for our pitchers. I was in the stands for at least five hours. We didn’t even end up winning the game. Hopefully, 23-inning games don’t come around again.”

Each squad used eight pitchers. The game took five hours and 37 minutes to complete.

Philadelphia Phillies: Recapping the New York Mets Series

I’ll just ignore the 11-0 shellacking today.  Halladay pitched extremely well.

I have to show the Mets some love, though. 

They’ve been in the doldrums the past couple of years and, who knows, they may end up being in the doldrums once again when the season concludes.

But, for the first time in a while, the Mets played with passion. 

Let’s look at game two of the series.  In years past, a 7-0 deficit was impossible to overcome; they would’ve waved the white flag.

Although the Phillies won the game 10-7, I came away impressed.

Whether it was the managerial change or cutting Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, something is fueling the fire.

Making the playoffs is still going to be a tough task, but at least there’s some life being shown.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 05: Starting pitcher Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies walks from the mound after being pulled from the game by manager Charlie Manuel in the third inning during the game against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park

 

Four Aces Doesn’t Win Every Hand

During yesterday’s edition of Philadelphia’s Daily News Live, there was a poll on Cole Hamels.

On Tuesday night, Hamels struggled and was booed heavily for his efforts.  He went just two and two-thirds innings, allowed six runs on seven hits, and walked two.

He didn’t really get hit hard, but six runs are still six runs.

Back to the poll; there were two choices.  Essentially, choice A was that the fans shouldn’t have booed, and choice B was that he should’ve been booed.

Forty-seven percent of Philadelphians voted for choice B. 

Are you kidding me, Philadelphia? Really?!?!  You can’t expect perfect starts from the four aces every single game. 

Hamels is a pitcher who improves as the season goes along.  I noticed that he didn’t have his 95-96 MPH velocity that he had by the end of last year.  He was in the low-90′s.   

He struggled with his location, but, to conclude, it’s just one start.

Patience, Philly, patience.   

Blanton Hot and Cold

For the first three innings during game two of the series, Blanton looked solid. 

He nipped the corners with his two-seam sinking fastball.  His curveball had solid tilt, and he fooled Mets hitters with his changeup.

Then things started to unravel quickly in the fifth inning. 

With the Phillies up 7-2 entering the frame, Blanton started getting rocked.  A single here, a double there—when the inning concluded, the Mets had tied the score at seven. 

He didn’t locate his fastball, and his velocity dipped from 90 MPH in the first inning to 87 MPH in the fifth.  His curveball started to hang.

It was a bad start, but the Phillies’ offense eventually took the lead back and won the game 10-7.

Like Hamels, Blanton is another pitcher who pitches better as the season progresses.

 

Antonio Bastardo Looks Solid

As the season goes along, I’m curious as to how the Phillies are going to handle Antonio Bastardo out of the pen.

Back to game two.  Blanton left the game in the fifth with one out and the bases loaded.

Bastardo came in and allowed just one run—throwing a scoreless sixth inning as well. 

He located his fastball, and threw his signature slider well.  Bastardo doesn’t exactly have the greatest statistics during his career. 

Walks have been his downfall, but he threw 17 of his 20 pitches for strikes.

J.C. Romero hasn’t exactly been stellar the last couple of years, so if Bastardo can continue to pitch well, it gives the Phillies another lefty option to consider.

 

The Big Bear Continues to Roar

Howard’s been known to be hot for long stretches of time, but it also works the other way around.

The Big Bear has never gotten off to a start like this. 

There have been 294 total cycles in MLB history. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 8,830 instances since the expansion era in 1961 in which a batter has fallen a triple shy of the cycle.  This occurs approximately once in every 12 games played. 

Howard fell a triple shy of the cycle twice this week.

Francisco Continues to Rake

Besides Ryan Howard, no one is hitting the ball harder than Ben Francisco.

If it was summertime, Francisco would already have four home runs instead of two.

In game one of the series, Francisco hit two stingers to deep left.  The wind knocked down both balls, and Jerry Hairston Jr. made both plays at the warning track.

Francisco finally got some justice by drilling a no-doubt bomb to left in game two.

All in all, he’s off to a fantastic start.

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Things to Take Away from the Houston Astros Series

After a convincing 7-3 victory yesterday afternoon against Houston, the Phillies solidified a three game sweep of the Astros.

The Phillies are currently one of four teams who took all three games in their opening series; Texas, Baltimore and Cincinnati being the others.

They outscored Houston 21-11 in the series.

Although we can all agree that the Astros are an inferior opponent, there were a lot of positives to take away from the sweep.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 01:  John Mayberry Jr. #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies smiles after getting hit with a cream pie after driving in the game winning run to defeat the Houston Astros 5-4 on opening day at Citizens Bank Park on April 1, 2011 in Phil

 

Game One Resiliency

Roy Halladay pitched an impressive six innings, but once again got no run support as he left the game down 1-0.  J.C. Romero and David Herndon then came on in the seventh and allowed three more runs as the Astros took a 4-0 advantage.

The Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth down 4-2 while accumulating just four hits in the first eight innings. 

Then, in typical Phillies fashion, the bats woke up when they were needed the most. 

Six hits, six singles, and the Phillies walked off with a 5-4 victory when John Mayberry Jr. singled on a sharp line drive over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, Wilson Valdez and John Mayberry Jr. all recorded hits.  Raul Ibanez was the only batter to record an out in the ninth.

 

Rollins and Howard Leading the Way

With Chase Utley still out for an unspecified amount of time, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have showed outstanding leadership in his absence.

Rollins has filled in the vacated three hole very well thus far.  He’s hitting .500, with all of his hits being singles.  He’s reached base on 8-of-14 plate appearances so far.  It was Rollins who lead the charge in the Phillies Opening Day 5-4 win.  He lead off with a single, stole third, and was the first out of the dugout to celebrate with his teammates at home plate.

Ryan Howard is known for being a notoriously slow starter.  In the last three years, Howard accumulated just a .241 average in April. 

In three games thus far, he’s hitting the cover off the ball at a .538 clip (7-for-13).  He has six RBI’s, including four yesterday. 

He’s standing closer to the plate, and while he’s still striking out, it seems like he’s seeing the ball much better.  He’s laid off a couple of pitches off the outside part of the plate that he used to flail at.

 

Francisco’s Spring Transitioning to the Start of the Season

While it’s unrealistic to expect Jayson Werth type production from Francisco, it’s not unrealistic to expect a big season from him.

He sprayed the ball around and hit .482 in the series.  He’s pulling line drives, going the opposite field and went yard yesterday.

In another tidbit, the Phillies scored 21 runs in the series against Houston, and hit just two home runs in the three games.

 

Victorino’s Calf Just Fine

Shane Victorino exited Game Two of the series with a calf injury, and was replaced by Michael Martinez in the lineup yesterday.

Victorino did pinch hit, hit a RBI single, and took Martinez’ place in center.

He made an amazing play on a sure Michael Bourn gapper in left-center field.  With the ball tailing away from him, Victorino took a perfect route, turned on the burners, and somehow made the catch. 

His calf is fine!

 

Starting Pitching Dominates, Middle Relief OK so Far

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt combined to pitch 19 innings, striking out 23 batters.

Halladay and Oswalt each fanned six in six innings, while Lee struck out 11 in seven innings.

All three showed great command with their fastballs and secondary pitches.  Lee and Oswalt each picked up a win.

The relief pitching was a question mark heading into the year, but besides David Herndon and J.C. Romero’s shaky outings in Game One, the relief has been fine. 

Herndon and Romero allowed three earned runs in the seventh inning.  Since then, the relief combined to pitch seven innings with Kyle Kendrick the only reliever to allow an earned run.

On Paper Series Links Page

To those unfamiliar with my “On Paper” series, I have provided links to all the previews below.

2011 MLB Picks and Predictions

2011 Atlanta Braves Preview

2011 Florida Marlins Preview

2011 New York Mets Preview

2011 Philadelphia Phillies Preview

2011 Washington Nationals Preview

2011 Chicago Cubs Preview

2011 Cincinnati Reds Preview

2011 Houston Astros Preview

2011 Milwaukee Brewers Preview 

2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview

2011 St. Louis Cardinals Preview

2011 Arizona Diamondbacks Preview

2011 Colorado Rockies Preview

2011 LA Dodgers Preview

2011 San Diego Padres Preview

2011 San Francisco Giants Preview

2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview

2011 Boston Red Sox Preview

2011 New York Yankees Preview

2011 Tampa Bay Rays Preview

2011 Toronto Blue Jays Preview

2011 Chicago White Sox Preview

2011 Cleveland Indians Preview

2011 Detroit Tiger Preview

2011 Kansas City Preview

2011 Minnesota Twins Preview

2011 Los Angeles Angels Preview

2011 Oakland Athletics Preview

2011 Seattle Mariners Preview

2011 Texas Rangers Preview

2011 MLB Preview: Looking at Hanley Ramirez and the Florida Marlins ‘On Paper’

Founded in 1993, the Florida Marlins took little time to make an impact as they won the 1997 World Series crown in seven games over the Cleveland Indians.  Due to financial issues that team was blown-up, restocked with young talent and once again struck gold by winning another World Series in 2003.  Just look at some of the young stars on that team; Derrek Lee, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett, Juan Pierre and Brad Penny to name a few.

The Marlins have shown more financial commitment since 2003 with contract extensions to Hanley Ramirez in 2008 and Josh Johnson before the start of last season.  It’s been now eight years since their last Championship, so the young talent they’ve acquired over the years are ready to blossom. 

ATLANTA - JULY 02:  Pitcher Josh Johnson #55 of the Florida Marlins against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 2, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Josh Johnson)

  • C-  John Buck 7.25 
  • 1B- Gaby Sanchez 7.25
  • 2B- Omar Infante 7.25
  • SS- Hanley Ramirez 9
  • 3B- Matt Dominguez 7

John Buck (31) 409 AB .281 BA 53 R 20 HR 66 RBI 0 SB 

  • After years of mediocrity Buck broke out last season in Toronto hitting a career-high 20 home runs.  More impressive than his home run total was his average.  His previous career-high was just .245 in 2006.  Was last season a one-hit wonder? 

Gaby Sanchez (27) 572 AB .273 BA 72 R 19 HR 85 RBI 5 SB

  • At 26, Sanchez had a solid rookie year.  He’s not the prototypical power hitting first baseman, but he has solid patience at the plate.  He’s also an underrated defender. 

Omar Infante (29) 471 AB .321 BA 65 R 8 HR 47 RBI 7 SB

  • If you want to talk about a guy who’s earned his stripes, Infante is it.  In 2008, the Braves acquired Infante for Jacque Jones from the Tigers.  Infante struggled at the dish in Detroit.  He’s come a long way since his.222 batting average in 2005. 
  • In Atlanta, the coaching staff shortened Infante’s swing and he’s reaped in the benefits; he was selected to his first All-Star Game last season. 
  • He was seventh in the NL in batting average.  Uggla’s a big loss, but Infante is a very solid replacement.  Oh, and he’s got a great glove.

Hanley Ramirez (27) 543 AB .300 BA 92 R 21 HR 76 RBI 32 SB

  • Ramirez has said during Spring Training that he’d like to steal more bases this season.  I guess he’d like to equal his 51 stolen base totals in 2006 and 2007. 
  • Ultimately if the Marlins want to be successful, Hanley needs to mature and be the leader of this young team.  He was benched for several games in May due to his inadequate effort and hustle in the field.

Matt Dominguez (21) ROOKIE

  • Everyone in Florida is making comparisons to Mike Lowell.  The 2007 First Round pick has a stellar glove.
  • LF- Logan Morrison 7.25
  • CF- Chris Coghlan 7.25 
  • RF- Mike Stanton 7.25

Logan Morrison (23) 244 AB .283 BA 43 R 2 HR 18 RBI 0 SB

  • I’ve yet to see Morrison swing at a bad pitch; his plate discipline is remarkable.  He’s not going to hit a bunch of home runs, but he makes solid contact and does possess gap power (20 doubles and seven triples). 

Chris Coghlan (26) 242 AB .268 BA 30 R 6 HR 24 RBI 7 SB

  • The 2009 Rookie of the Year is coming off a pie mishap, which caused season-ending knee surgery.  We’ll see how the knee holds up this season because he’s a main cog at the top of the lineup. 
  • Entering year three, Coghlan suffered a sophomore slump after a stellar rookie year where he hit .321 and scored 84 runs in 128 games.

Mike Stanton (21) 359 AB .259 BA 45 R 22 HR 59 RBI 5 SB

  • Stanton’s a big boy!  Only four players have hit more home runs at 20 or younger than Stanton; Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson.  This is a future home run leader here.   

Josh Johnson- 9

  • 2. Javier Vazquez- 7.25
  • 3. Ricky Nolasco- 7.25
  • 4. Anibal Sanchez- 7.25
  • 5. Chris Volstad- 7
  • Josh Johnson (27) 184 IP 11-6 2.30 ERA 1.11 WHIP 186 K

    • Last season’s ERA winner is the most underrated pitcher in baseball.  The key to Johnson is his health as he missed several starts last year due to numerous nagging injuries.  He led baseball in quality start percentage; 23-of-28 starts (82 percent).
    • I’ve said it before; he could turn in a 2003 Postseason version of Josh Beckett if he gets the chance to pitch in October.

    Javier Vazquez (34) 203 IP 10-11 3.33 ERA 1.17 WHIP 173 K

    • This may wind up to be a key offseason signing if Vazquez can forget about last season.  After a phenomenal 2009 season with Atlanta where Vazquez was 15-10 with a 2.83 ERA, he blew up with the Yankees.  He had a 5.32 ERA last year.
    • How can we possibly explain this?  Well, some guys just don’t have what it takes to pitch mentally in the Big Apple.  Now, Vazquez gets to pitch in front of 549 people each night in Florida.  I think Vazquez bounces back.

    Ricky Nolasco (28) 158 IP 14-9 4.51 ERA 1.28 WHIP 147 K

    • After a great 2008 season where Nolasco went 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA, he was anointed as the next big thing.  He’s shown the potential to become an “elite” pitcher with some dominant outings, but at 28, Nolasco has yet to fulfill the elite designation.  He hasn’t shown enough consistency, but when he has that curveball going, he’s tough to hit.

    Anibal Sanchez (27) 174 IP 13-12 3.55 ERA 1.34 WHIP 157 K

    • Sanchez is fully back from a torn labrum he suffered in 2007; he struggled mightily in 2008 with a 5.57 ERA.  His 91.3 MPH fastball average was the highest of his career.

    Chris Volstad (24) 175 IP 12-9 4.58 ERA 1.41 WHIP 102 K

    • Volstad showed promise as a rookie in 2008, but it seems like he has regressed each season since. He does eat up quite a few innings for a fifth starter.

    RP- Ryan Webb- 7

    RP- Edward Mujica- 7

    LRP- Randy Choate- 7

    SU- Clay Hensley- 7

    CP- Leo Nunez- 7.25

    Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica, Randy Choate

    • Mujica and Webb come over from San Diego in the Cameron Maybin trade.  They were solid pieces in the Padres bullpen.  The 35-year old Choate is a solid lefty.

    Clay Hensley (31) 75 IP 3-4 7 SV 2.16 ERA 1.11 WHIP 77 K

    • Hensley is another former Padre.  He found his way in Florida, but let’s see if he can duplicate last season’s success.

    Leo Nunez (27) 73 IP 4-3 25 SV 3.60 ERA 1.28 WHIP 67 K

    • Nunez throws hard, but his changeup is his best pitch.

    Projected Lineup

    •  
      1. Chris Coghlan- 7.25
      2. Omar Infante- 7.25
      3. Hanley Ramirez- 9
      4. Mike Stanton- 7.25
      5. Gaby Sanchez- 7.25
      6. Logan Morrison- 7.25
      7. John Buck- 7.25
      8. Wes Helms
    • 1-3- 23.5
    • 4-6- 21.75
    • 7-8- 14.25

    Pitching

    1. Josh Johnson- 9

    2. Javier Vazquez- 7.25

    3. Ricky Nolasco- 7.25

    4. Anibal Sanchez- 7.25

    5. Chris Volstad- 7

    RP- Ryan Webb- 7

    RP- Edward Mujica- 7

    LRP- Randy Choate- 7

    SU- Clay Hensley- 7

    CP- Leo Nunez- 7.25

    Bench- Emilio Bonifacio, Scott Cousins, Wes Helms, John Baker 7.25

    Manager- Edwin Rodriguez 7

    INF- 37.75

    OF- 21.75

    SP- 37.75

    RP- 7

    CP- 14.25

    MISC- 14.25

    Hitting- 59.5

    Pitching- 59

    TOTAL- 132.75

    This team has talent, but it’s up to the Marlins to translate that talent on to the field. 

    The loss of Uggla in the middle of the lineup hurts, but I think the acquisition of Vazquez will ultimately be a positive one.  This is a potential wild card team this year. 

    89-73 2nd NL East

    2011 MLB Preview: Looking at Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves ‘On Paper’

    LAST YEAR- 91-71

    The Braves sent long-time manager Bobby Cox out in style with a playoff appearance.  Cox spent 25 years in Atlanta winning five pennants and a World Series in 1995.

    Dan Uggla and Freddy Gonzalez have reunited.  Atlanta acquired the power hitting second baseman via trade during the offseason.     

    At 38, Wagner walked away from the game despite a dominant 2010 campaign.  He saved 38 games to go along with a minuscule  1.43 ERA.  We’ll see if Craig Kimbrel is ready to fill in and close games.

    2011 MLB Preview: Looking at Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves ‘On Paper’

    (Jason Heyward)

    INFIELD

    • C-  Brian McCann 8 
    • 1B- Freddie Freeman 7
    • 2B- Dan Uggla 7.75
    • SS- Alex Gonzalez 7.25
    • 3B- Chipper Jones 7

    Brian McCann (27) 479 AB’s .269 BA 63 R 21 HR 77 RBI 5 SB 

    • McCann is one of the most consistent hitting catchers in baseball.  Coming off his fourth Silver Slugger Award in his last five years McCann has hit 20-plus home runs, and driven in 80-plus RBI’s in four of his last five seasons.  I’m curious to see if he can get his batting average back over .300 again after a two-year dip.  He’s had two Lasik surgeries done because of ongoing eye problems.

    Freddie Freeman (21) 24 AB .167 BA 3 R 1 HR 1 RBI 0 SB

    • Freeman is a NL Rookie of the Year candidate at first base.  He doesn’t have the pop that you would expect out of a first baseman, but he’ll hit for average; reminds me a lot of James Loney.  He also has a solid glove.

    Dan Uggla (31) 589 AB .287 BA 100 R 33 HR 105 RBI 4 SB

    • Uggla was brought over from Florida in the Infante deal.  Defensive lapses in the infield cost the Braves dearly against the Giants in the NLDS.  Uggla isn’t exactly the greatest infielder in the world.  Talent wise, Uggla is better than Infante, but I really liked the tandem of Infante and Prado at the top of the lineup.  They’re solid hitters and they get on base.  They set up the rest of the batting order.

    Alex Gonzalez (34) 595 AB .250 BA 74 R 23 HR 88 RBI 1 SB

    • Atlanta management didn’t want to wait around for Yunel Escobar to mature, so they went out and traded him for Sea Bass.  Gonzalez is purely a glove man, but he can also give you some pop at the bottom of the lineup in the 7-8 slot.

    Chipper Jones (38) 317 AB .265 BA 47 R 10 HR 46 RBI 5 SB

    • Has anyone declined quicker over recent years than Chipper Jones?  After making a run at .400 for much of the 2008 season, Jones hasn’t eclipsed the .270 mark in each of his last two seasons.  At 39, Jones is on his last legs.

     OUTFIELD

    • LF- Martin Prado 7.5
    • CF- Nate McClouth 7
    • RF- Jayson Heyward 8

    Martin Prado (27) 599 AB 100 R 15 HR 66 RBI 5 SB

    • I’d rather have Prado’s glove at second over Uggla but that’s just me.  Another option is to move him to third if Chipper can’t recover from his ACL injury.  In his first year as a full-time starter Prado made the All-Star team.  He’s hit over .300 over the last two years. 

    Nate McLouth (29) 242 AB 30 R 6 HR 24 RBI 7 SB

    • McLouth has yet to regain his all-star form since his trade from Pittsburgh.  Last season was a nightmare.  After a dreadful start, Bobby Cox sent McLouth to Triple-A three months into the season.  To his credit, McLouth bounced back and had a solid September.  In 2008, he hit .276 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI’s.  You can see what McLouth did last year above.  (Three of those HR’s came in September)  He’s still just 29 so I wouldn’t count him out just yet, although Jordan Schafer is lurking in the shadows.

    Jason Heyward (21) 520 AB .277 BA 83 R 18 HR 72 RBI 11 SB

    • Heyward finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to San Francisco’s Buster Posey.  He has all the tools at the plate; he’s disciplined who hits the ball hard.  His .393 OBP was fourth in the NL, not bad for 21-year old.

    STARTING PITCHING

    1. Tim Hudson 7.75

    2. Tommy Hanson 7.75

    3. Derek Lowe 7.25

    4. Jair Jurrjens 7.25

    5. Mike Minor 7

    Tim Hudson (25) 229 IP 17-9 2.83 ERA 1.15 WHIP 139 K

    • Following major elbow reconstruction Hudson won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.  The biggest question now is at 35, can he possibly duplicate his 2010 campaign, especially after logging 229 innings.

    Tommy Hanson (24) 203 IP 10-11 3.33 ERA 1.17 WHIP 173 K

    • An excellent first full season in the Big Leagues for Mr. Hanson.  He got no run support, which explains why he had just 10 wins last season.  His slider rate, at 28-percent, is double the league average.  For such a young starter, I’d like to see him cut that down; we don’t want his elbow turning into spaghetti now do we.

    Derek Lowe (37) 194 IP 16-12 4.00 ERA 1.37 WHIP 136 K

    • Lowe was simply phenomenal at the end of the season; 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five starts.  The sinker-baller gets the job done.

    Jair Jurrjens (25) 116 IP 7-6 4.64 ERA 1.39 WHIP 86 K

    • A hamstring and a torn meniscus sidelined Jurrjens for most of the year.  Atlanta fans are hoping that Jurrjens returns to his 2009 form when he was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  We’ll find out this year if Jurrjens peaked too early.

    Mike Minor (23) 40 IP 3-2 5.98 ERA 1.57 WHIP 43 K

    • Minor will battle with Brandon Beachy for the fifth spot in the rotation.  Minor has solid velocity, but it drops considerably as the game goes on.  His 9.52 K/9 rate is impressive.

    BULLPEN

    • RP- Peter Moylan 7.25
    • RP- Scott Linebrink 7
    • LRP- George Sherrill 7
    • SU- Johnny Venters- 7
    • CP- Craig Kimbrel- 7

    Peter Moylan, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill

    • A situational lefty is imperative in the NL East with Philadelphia’s stacked left-handed lineup.  We saw what Javier Lopez did last year in the NLCS.  George Sherrill needs to regain his 2009 form.

    Jonny Venters (26) 83 IP 4-4 1 SV 1.95 ERA 1.20 WHIP 93 K

    • Venters had a solid rookie campaign setting things up for Billy Wagner in the ninth.  He has a solid power sinker/slider combination.

    Craig Kimbrel (22) 20 IP 4-0 1 SV .44 ERA 1.21 WHIP 40 K

    • Due to Billy Wagner’s retirement, Kimbrel is now the favorite to close.  He needs to cut out his walks though, 16 in 20 innings is not good for a closer.  But his strikeout rate makes up for some of that.

    PREDICTION- 83-79 3rd NL East 

    To me it seemed like everything came together last season in Bobby Cox’s final run as manager.  The Braves have a young, solid nucleus, but to expect some of the same results as last year is a bit unrealistic.  I like Tim Hudson a lot, but is he going to repeat last year’s campaign; highly doubtful. 

    Projected Lineup 

    1. Prado 7.5
    2. Jayson Heyward 8
    3. Dan Uggla 7.75
    4. Brian McCann 8
    5. Chipper Jones 7
    6. Alex Gonzalez 7.25
    7. Freddie Freeman 7
    8. Nate McLouth 7
    • 1-3- 22.75
    • 4-6- 22.25
    • 7-8- 14

     Pitching

    • 1. Tim Hudson 7.75
    • 2. Tommy Hanson 8
    • 3. Derek Lowe 7.25
    • 4. Jair Jurrjens 7.25
    • 5. Mike Minor 7
    • RP- Peter Moylan 7.25
    • RP- Scott Linebrink 7
    • RP- George Sherril 7
    • SU- Johnny Venters- 7
    • CP- Craig Kimbrel- 7

    INF- 37

    OF- 22.5

    SP- 37.25

    RP- 7.25

    CP- 14

    Bench- 7

    Manager- 7

    MISC- 14

    Hitting- 59.5

    Pitching- 58.75

    TOTAL- 132 83-79

    KEY

    INF= 1B + 2B + SS + 3B + C

    OF= LF + CF + RF

    SP= SP X 5

    CP= SU + Closer

    Hitting= INF + OF

    Pitching= SP + RP + CP

    MISC= Manager + Bench

    Total= Hitting + Pitching + Misc

    2011 MLB Preview: Right Fielder Rankings

    1. Ichiro (Sea) 9
    2. Justin Upton (Ari) 8.25
    3. Jayson Werth (Was) 8.25
    4. Jayson Heyward (Atl) 8
    5. Torii Hunter (LAA) 8
    6. Corey Hart (Mil) 8
    7. Shin-Soo Choo (Cle) 8
    8. Jay Bruce (Cin) 8
    9. Andre Ethier (LAD) 8
    10. Hunter Pence (Hou) 7.75
    11. Nelson Cruz (Tex) 7.5
    12. Nick Markakis (Bal) 7.5
    13. Michael Cuddyer (Min) 7.5
    14. Mike Stanton (Fla) 7.25
    15. Carlos Quentin (Chw) 7.25
    16. Ben Zobrist (TB) 7.25
    17. Nick Swisher (NYY) 7.25
    18. Lance Berkman (Stl) 7.25
    19. Ryan Ludwick (SD) 7.25
    20. Travis Snider (Tor) 7
    21. Mark DeRosa (Chc) 7
    22. Garrett Jones (Pit) 7
    23. J.D. Drew (Bos) 7
    24. Magglio Ordonez (Det) 7
    25. David DeJesus (Oak) 7
    26. Kosuke Fukudome (Chc) 7
    27. Jeff Francoeur (KC) 7
    28. Dominic Brown (Phi) 7
    29. Angel Pagan (NYM) 7
    30. Seth Smith (Col) 7
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