Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – As first impressions go, Tommy Hanson will be tough to beat anytime soon. Everyone who meets him and/or sees him pitch agrees, this young dude is as close to can’t-miss as they come, with a towering upside, both literally (he’s 6-foot-6) and figuratively.
Bobby Cox compared his slider to John Smoltz’s the other day. Folks, Smoltz might have the best slider in the majors.
This morning I asked pitching coach Roger McDowell what he liked about Hanson, he said, “Everything. He does everything right…. Now it’s just seeing him face hitters [in spring games]. But everything so far, he’s done right. True professional. A young kid — young man – who understands professionalism.”
I mentioned to bullpen coach Eddie Perez what McDowell said. Perez has watched Hanson throw in the bullpen and on Field 2 since camp opened.
”I don’t like everything about him,” Perez said, pausing for effect. “I like more than everything.”
And on and on. Ask players their initial impressions of the big, soft-spoken right-hander, and they all agree: Impressive. Very impressive.
Chipper Jones isn’t prone to hyperbole when it comes to young kids. He’s usually one to remind us all to let this prospect or that prospect do something, let him get his feet wet, before we start making him out to be the next Greg Maddux or Sandy Koufax.
But when it comes to Hanson, the first pitcher ever named MVP of the Arizona Fall League, Chipper suspends that general rule of his.
Just read what he said about Hanson:
”Very impressive. He’s probably got the best stuff of anybody in this clubhouse,” Chipper said. “[He throws] 93-94 with good movement. Great slider. You’re talking about a kid that young who can command four pitches. To do what he did in the Arizona Fall League, which has never been done … pretty impressive kid.”
There was more. Someone mentioned that Cox had compared Hanson’s slider to Smoltz’s.
”That’s probably the best guy to compare him to, only with [more pitches at a young age],” Jones said, pointing out that Smoltz relied on the fastball/slider combo alone for much of his career.
Chipper said all this last week, just before the Braves signed Tom Glavine and penciled in the veteran for the No. 5 starter role, filling out a deep rotation.
“I don’t know what their plans are [for Hanson],” Jones said at the time, “but I would like to see him come in and dazzle and make this club.”
He wasn’t finished just yet. He saved the best for last: “We all know where our bread is buttered,” Jones said. “Do we start him in Atlanta or do we give him some confidence with a couple of starts in Triple-A and then call him up?
“This kid is going to be the No. 1 starter in Atlanta soon. There’s no holding him back. Even if you have to go to a six-man rotation to do it, I would do it. I, by no means, think Bobby would do that. I’m just saying, he’s that good.”
Like I said, Hanson makes a helluva first impression.
”I think the power arm is something this club has been missing,” Jones said. “Smoltz is a power arm. It’s power arms that win in the postseason. We’ve all seen that.”
Should be fun when the Braves start playing games this week. Cox and McDowell finalized pitching plans and I’ll add them later today. Cox wanted to wait until after the workout that’s going on now is over, so they could talk to all the pitchers and make sure everyone’s good to go.
– Still seeking that bat?… Chipper Jones has mentioned a few times, including to a group of reporters Saturday, that the Braves still need to get a big right-handed bat to hit between him and Brian McCann, and how that would make this Braves lineup a pretty good one. I’ve got a feeling that, despite what we’re hearing from Braves officials about giving the young kids a shot in left field, the Braves are still in the market for a veteran with pop. And the longer Garret Anderson sits out there, the more he seems like a good, relatively cheap bat to plug into that left-field platoon with Matt Diaz. He’s not right-handed, as Chipper would prefer, but he’s a proven run-producer. If they can get Anderson for $3 million or so, wouldn’t surprise me if it happens. But again, that’s just a hunch. I think even if the Braves are still actively seeking a bat, they’d be (understandably) unwilling to say as much given all that’s happened, i.e. ones that got away….
– You remember Mike Hampton. Yeah, seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Lot has transpired since he chose Houston over the Braves. Anyway, here’s a column about him in the Houston Chronicle today….
— The story about the Dominican prospect for the Nationals, who’s older than listed and also has a different name, is sleazy in so many ways. Nats are not looking good in this one. By the way, the second-highest bidder for the kid was the Braves, who offered about $700,000….
BLOGMEISTER ADDENDUM: I got the news about Anderson signing after I posted the blog, so I’ll just add here the top of the first draft of the story I filed for the paper:
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. _ The Braves have finally added a veteran bat to their outfield, left-handed slugger Garret Anderson.
The team finalized a one-year, contract worth about $2.5 million with the free agent on Sunday, according to a person familiar with the situation. An announcement is expected to come Monday, and Anderson was believed to be en route to Florida to join the Braves at spring training.
Anderson, 36, has a .296 career average and 272 home runs in 15 seasons in the majors, all with the Los Angeles Angels of the American League. He was with that team so long, he played for it when it was known as the California Angels and later the Anaheim Angels, before the L.A. name change.
The Braves have been looking for a cleanup hitter, and Anderson has batted in that spot more than any other spot during his career, both as a designated hitter and an outfielder.
The three-time former All-Star is expected to play left field for the Braves, either full-time or perhaps work in a platoon with Matt Diaz. The platoon job was what tbe Braves planned for Ken Griffey Jr., before Griffey decided Wednesday to sign with Seattle instead of Atlanta.
But Anderson is younger, without the health concerns of Griffey, and without the big disparity in splits vs. left-handers and right-handers. So he might play a regular role, rather than platoon with Diaz.
Anderson hit .293 with 15 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .325 on-base percentage last season, including 14 home runs in 433 at-bats against right-handed pitchers.
For comparison, Griffey hit .249 with 18 homers and 71 RBIs last season, including .272 with 14 homers in 327 at-bats against right-handers.
Soon after Griffey announced his decision, the Braves moved on to Anderson, despite stating publicly that they would take a look at their organization’s young outfielders and not immediately pursue another free agent or a trade for a veteran.
He doesn’t draw many walks, but Anderson is regarded as a “professional hitter” with a penchant for big hits. Last season, he hit .338 in 130 at-bats with runners in scoring position, including .356 with two outs. In the late innings of close games, he hit .371 with a .441 OBP in 89 at-bats.
He split time between DH and the outfield in the latter years of his career, and at this stage he’s not an exceptional defensive player. However, he’s probably as good or better defensively than most other veteran free agents who were available earlier, including the injury-plagued Griffey.
With no DH in the National League, he’ll play the outfield and serve as a pinch-hitter when he’s not in the lineup. Anderson was a 8-for-25 (.320) in his limited pinch-hit duty with the Angels.
It’s possible that Anderson could also get plenty of at-bats against left-handed pitchers. His lefty-righty splits don’t have the kind of wide disparity as Griffey, whose average against lefties slipped dramatically in recent seasons while he continued to thrive against right-handers.
Last season, Anderson hit .293 and slugged .450 with 39 extra-base hits against right-handers. He hit .290 and slugged .371 with six extra-base hits (one homer) in 124 at-bats against lefties.
– OK let’s take it out with one from the Glimmer Twins….
“TUMBLING DICE” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
Women think I’m tasty, but they’re always tryin’ to waste me
And make me burn the candle right down,
But baby, baby, I don’t need no jewels in my crown.
‘Cause all you women is low down gamblers,
Cheatin’ like I don’t know how,
But baby, I go crazy, there’s fever in the funk house now.
This low down bitchin’ got my poor feet a itchin’,
You know you know the duece is still wild.
Baby, I can’t stay, you got to roll me
And call me the tumblin’ dice.
Always in a hurry, I never stop to worry,
Don’t you see the time flashin’ by.
Honey, got no money,
I’m all sixes and sevens and nines.
Say now, baby, I’m the rank outsider,
You can be my partner in crime.
But baby, I can’t stay,
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’,
Roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice.
Oh, my, my, my, I’m the lone crap shooter,
Playin’ the field ev’ry night.
Baby, can’t stay,
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice, (Call me the tumblin’)
Got to roll me, Got to roll me, Got to roll me (Oh yeah)
Got to roll me. Got to roll me, Got to roll me ( Keep on rolling, Keep on rolling)