Bradley’s Buzz: Another young arm for the Atlanta Braves?

Baseball 101: You can’t have enough pitching

Kris Medlen is on his way and Tommy Hanson will be here soon enough, and if Keith Law of ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. is correct, the Braves could add another prized young arm (link requires registration) in the June draft.

Writes Law: “Consensus has Atlanta taking local prep star Zack Wheeler, but the Braves had a huge contingent in to see him during arguably his only bad start of the spring [last week]. They would love to find a bat at No. 7, but that player isn’t there this year.”

Wheeler plays for the East Paulding Raiders, who face Lowndes in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals Tuesday. According to the Scouts Inc. report (requires registration), he’s a “tall, loosed-armed right-handed pitcher who’s a lock to go in the first round.” He stands 6-foot-4 and throws as hard as 96 mph and has a “slurve” (combo slider/curveball).

Here’s a Law post that contains video of Wheeler working (requires registration), and if you listen close you can hear someone in the background say, “Jeez,” over one slurve. And here’s MLB.com’s rundown, which also includes video and doesn’t — yay! — require registration. (There’s also a YouTube video of Wheeler from the AFLAC All-American game at Dodger Stadium last summer posted below.)

From Jason Churchill of ESPN.com: An unnamed scouting director sees the Braves as having their choice of four pitchers at No. 7 — Shelby Miller of Brownwood, Texas; Jacob Turner of St. Louis; Matt Purke of Spring, Texas, and Wheeler. Says the scouting director (requires registration): “My money’s on Wheeler.”

On Law’s list of the top 100 prospects (requires registration), Wheeler actually rates behind the other three pitchers. He’s No. 13 overall, one spot ahead of center fielder Donavan Tate of Cartersville High, which plays Northside of Columbus in the Class AAA quarters Tuesday. Donavan is the son of Lars Tate, who was the first Next Herschel Walker at Georgia 25 years ago, and Scouts Inc. rates him as “the top prep position player in this draft.” (Requires registration.)

Law contends the Braves aren’t “on Tate,” for reasons not enumerated. But it should be noted that his agent is the demon Scott Boras.

(For the record, I asked Frank Wren before Monday’s game about Wheeler and Tate, and he said the Braves like both of them. So there.)

A contrarian view: Mac Thomason of Braves Journal makes the team’s first pick in MLB Outsider’s mock draft, and he has them taking Tate. MLB.com reports, however, that there “are some concerns” about Tate’s bat. There are none about his athletic ability. He has signed a football scholarship with North Carolina — classifying him as an “athlete,” Rivals.com ranked Tate the 83rd-best prospect in the nation– but the belief is that he’ll choose baseball.

A bit more draft? Baseball America tracks risers and fallers, and one local collegian falls under each heading. Rich Poythress, the Georgia first baseman, is in the latter category, while right-handed pitcher Chad Jenkins of Kennesaw State is said to have moved up, perhaps into the upper half of Round 1.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

A little minor-league action

The aforementioned Medlen will start for the Braves on Thursday, but he’s not the team’s hottest prospect according to Baseball America. Medlen is No. 6 on the latest list of hot prospects, while Jason Heyward, who’s playing at Class A Myrtle Beach, is No. 5. Heyward hit three homers last week, one off Brian Matusz, who’s No. 3 on the list.

Rubbing Salty (and Elvis) in the wound

Writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Randy Galloway tells us what we already know: The Braves got the short end of the 2007 Mark Teixeira trade. (Made by John Schuerholz, incidentally, not Frank Wren.) Shortstop Elvis Andrus “alone would have made that a good trade,” Galloway opines, but the Texas Rangers also landed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, plus pitchers Matt Harrison, who’s in the big-league rotation, and Neftali Feliz, who’s a hot prospect.

More Elvis: Stan McNeal of Sporting News Today calls him the best young player you haven’t heard enough about and lists the reasons why. But the guess here is that Atlantans will be hearing way too much about Andrus this next decade.

Kiffin speaks! (But not that Kiffin.)

Since we never hear anything from Lane Kiffin — hey, I’m kidding — it’s refreshing to hear his dad Monte offer a more circumspect take on coaching at Tennessee and in the SEC. Speaking with Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today, Monte Kiffin gushes over everything related to his new conference, including Tim Tebow and the level of competition, and even Rich Brooks. (Oh, and of his offspring, the elder Kiffy says: “Lane has a lot of energy.”)

And now a little roundball

On the Bleacher Report, the poster Cole poses five offseason questions for the Hawks. One is provocative — has this team, to use the infamous Rankin Smith Sr. description, reached a plateau? — and one is less so. Asks Bleacher Report: Can the Hawks find their LeBron James? And the answer is no. There’s only one of those.

And here’s a nice season-review-plus-look-ahead by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. I link to Newberry because he’s really good and AJC readers often don’t see his stories (because we write our own, duh). But let me stipulate that nobody covers the Hawks like esteemed colleague and fellow Cobb Countian Sekou Smith. If you don’t patronize his blog, stop what you’re doing and go there. There’s not a better NBA writer anywhere.

86 comments Add your comment

Jeff

May 18th, 2009
8:52 am

Mark, you should rename this feature. It is less “Bradley’s Buzz” and “Bradley’s list of links to other writers”. Personally, I’d rather read your thoughts on the local teams…

Mac

May 18th, 2009
8:53 am

Man, Schuerholz really messed up on that trade. I thought Wren might have given up too much for Vazquez, too, at the time. Not now. That guy is really good. Kawakami is smelling like a bust, though.

Speaking of Kawakami, if I’m not mistaken the Braves initially offered a contract to another Japanese pitcher first. Whatever happened to that guy?

Oh, and I’m feeling very happy we have Derek Lowe over A.J. Burnette.

Green Tea

May 18th, 2009
9:09 am

Yea the trade for Tex was stupid. Especially knowing they would NEVER have the $$$ to resign him. Stupid stupid stupid

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:14 am

The Braves took a chance with Teixeira. It didn’t work out. Sometimes it happens. But they did give away an awful lot for a one-year rental.

Even worse than the J.D. Drew trade, I’m thinking.

Pete

May 18th, 2009
9:29 am

The Tex trade was awful. They weren’t going to win the division that year. What a waste.

jake

May 18th, 2009
9:36 am

Thanks for the perspective on the Andrus/Saltilamacchia/Harrison/Perez fiasco. In fact, it would be interesting to see an All Ex-Braves Team … which might include others like Jermaine Dye, Adam Wainwright, Texeira, J.D. Drew, Jason Schmidt, Kevin Millwood, Nick Green (who has played well for Boston), Adam LaRoche, even Gary Sheffield. Lots of choices there — you might have to hold a draft to pick the best ones. And it would be a reality check to Schuerholz’s legacy.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 18th, 2009
9:36 am

Trades were never JS’s strong suite. Free agent signings were. He left the Royal’s in shambles before having Ted’s checkbook at his disposal.

He did assemble a strong scouting crew worldwide, aquiring good young talent for the organization.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:37 am

Oh, I don’t know. That McGriff trade seemed to pan out.

Dion

May 18th, 2009
9:41 am

We did sacrifice quite a bit in the Tex trade but if you look at our farm now, we are looking good for the next few years, (i.e. Freeman, Heyward, Diory Hernandez, Medlan, Hanson. We have some studs that should make an impact soon. I love Chipper, he has been the face of this franchise for a while, but I believe it is time to groom his replacement. What do you think Mark, and who could that person be?

New Start

May 18th, 2009
9:42 am

Do the braves have some kind of draft rule that they can’t pick a player outside metro atlanta? If they do pick this kid from paulding he will be the lowest rated among the top pitching prospects. Im sick and tired of shuerholz and the bobby cox regime. Time for a new era in Atlanta. When liberty media sells the braves I would love to see the new owner come in and clean house.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:46 am

The trouble with grooming a replacement is that Chipper remains so valuable. And you don’t want your kids up here playing once a week. You want them playing every day.

And the Braves have drafted some local guys, sure. But the area does produce some baseball players, wouldn’t you say?

Jack G.

May 18th, 2009
9:48 am

I have never been a JS fan. He percievedd the Braves farm system as a supermarket warehouse and preceded to start making trades. Overtime he proceeded to trade away much too much for over the hill (or only a couple of years left) players. Because of the great pool of players, he was able to maintain a lot of short term success but eventually it caught up with him and he booted himself up and left the dreggs for Wenn.
Go back and check his tenure at KC. He did essentially the same thing there and then bailed out to the Braves

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:52 am

A lot of short-term success? Fourteen consecutive division titles would seem a fairly long run, would it not?

New Start

May 18th, 2009
9:57 am

JS is the most overated executive in sports. The braves success in the 90’s was built around glavine, smoltz, maddux. Two were already here when he arrived and the other was signed as a free agent. Dave justice and chipper jones were also already in the braves system. So what great players did JS draft in the 90’s that led to our success? And don’t say andruw jones because he was undrafted and signed by one of our international scouts for I believe $1500. Brian McCann is about the only drafted player under JS that has become an all star player. The braves farm system has been among the most overhyped in baseball the last decade. Wilson Betemit and Andy Marte anyone?

ProScout

May 18th, 2009
9:59 am

Bradley- the McGriff trade did work out. The Braves also had him for more than a year. The Tex trade was ridiculous. I’ve been in this profession for 20 years and I still cannot believe they gave up that much talent, knowing they wouldn’t be able to afford to resign Tex. GMs make trades and sometimes they don’t work out, trades are always a risk. A guy could get hurt and then you’re screwed. The Tex trade was a “give up a lot of the future for the now”. You need more pieces in place than the Braves did to make the run they were hoping for. Stupid, stupid, stupid trade. JS must not have slept on that one before making the decision. Poor choice.

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:02 am

I agree that the trade for Tex was rather dumb. We gave up way too much. The only reason I didn’t like it is because we could have used them for a trade elsewhere because if you look at it, Matt Harrison is in their rotation but he wouldn’t come close to cracking the Braves rotation as is especially with Hanson and Medlen knocking at the door. Also, Elvis Andrus, as much as I liked following him coming up, we have a pretty darn good short stop right now in Yunel Escobar. Also, I’ll take McCann over Saltalamachia any day of the week. The only player I am lamenting is Neftali Feliz…that will come back to bite us if it hasn’t already.

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:05 am

New Start I agree with you on some fronts but that “over hyped” farm system led to some trades that worked out great for the Braves and not so much for the teams getting the prospects. Schuerholz did draft Jermaine Dye, sure we traded him away, sure we traded Kevin Millwood, Elvis Andrus is another farm hand that seems to be on the all-star path. Again, I don’t think Schuerholz is being lauded as the best scouting GM I give him credit for putting the pieces with those Big 3 in the rotation in order to be successful.

fayettefan1

May 18th, 2009
10:07 am

How about Fayette county high school player Miles Head. He’s at Whitewater High and signed by UGA. Will he get drafted? What round?

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 18th, 2009
10:08 am

Right on McGriff, dead wrong on Justice.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:09 am

It seemed, at least to me, that the Teixeira trade was an attempt to have one last hurrah — with aging pitchers and a first baseman who almost certainly wasn’t going to re-up here. The pitchers got hurt and Teixeira didn’t affect the won-loss record much, if at all, and the last hurrah turned into a royal flop. That’s how they lost 90 games in 2008.

But, in the Braves’ defense, they’d gone so long without a real first baseman — I don’t quite count Adam LaRoche — that they figured it was worth a shot. If they had it to do again, would they? I’m pretty sure they would not. The same with Drew-for-Wainwright-and-Marquis.

On the other hand, nobody bats 1.000.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 18th, 2009
10:09 am

On Miles Head, oh yeah, he will as a catcher.

Meat Rabbit

May 18th, 2009
10:11 am

Why don’t you all just take this opportunity to bash a Hall of Fame GM?? Where were all of you when he was winning 14 straight divisions? Sure, the Tex trade wasn’t his finest work, but I think that he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt.

yogi2

May 18th, 2009
10:15 am

sign anyone you can fast. Shafer and Francuer are the worst hitters in all the major leagues Release both and we will be better off

Supes

May 18th, 2009
10:15 am

Randy, you are correct that the majority of the players in that deal with the Rangers are “blocked” here in ATL. at their respective positions.

Right on about Feliz being the one who could really make us regret this trade. If, and it’s a big if b/c prospects are just that until they can prove it at the MLB level…so if Neftali turns into a solid 2 or 3 starter and wins anywhere from 12-15 games per year…this will come back to really haunt the Braves and JS legacy here.

However, the one big argument that can be made about the trade with Texas…yes those players were “blocked”…but they could have been used later on (as in next year, which would have been 2008) to pick up a power hitting/big slugging percentage guy to play LF in a trade, where the player the Braves would get…his contract would have more years than Tex’s did, and he would be more willing to sign with the team eventually if things worked out and he wanted to stay. So they could have been used as trade bait to get other players with longer more affordable contracts. THAT is the real argument you can make about that trade.

Had Tex signed here for a 5-6 year deal at 20 million we’d all feel different about the trade…and Freeman (in the minors) would be learning how to play 3B or LF.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:18 am

Miles Head of Whitewater isn’t included among Keith Law’s top 100 prospects. But here, from ESPN Rise, is a list of Atlanta-area prospects that includes a rival coach’s assessment that Head will be taken in the first couple of rounds.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 18th, 2009
10:18 am

Currently, you couldn’t find Chipper’s replacement in the organization with the Hubble telescope.

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:24 am

Supes I completed agree with that position and I was trying to convey that in my original post but having re-read it I realized I drifted without mentioning that LOL. But that’s really the only thing about that trade that hurts. Then I thought about it and realized, if we had those prospects, what first baseman would we have now? And we would still have that black-hole that is our Left field LOL. Regardless, we did get Kotchman who is a serviceable 1B, no power but that’s where finding a bopper in Left would take that criticism away from Kotcman.

Astro Joe

May 18th, 2009
10:26 am

6′4″ player with a lot of upside. Can he play PG?

ProScout

May 18th, 2009
10:27 am

According to the Perfect Game website, Miles Head is ranked 248 out of the top 250 prospects nationally. This includes high school, jc, and 4 year colleges. Might be tough to be taken in the first 3 rounds. However, with 1.84 pop time, there really isn’t a whole lot of room for improvement there. That’s already major league all-star time. Might go to college to work on his defensive skills and hitting. Hard to say though.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:27 am

If Zack Wheeler was, say, 6-foot-7, Billy Knight would be all over him.

Gwinnett G

May 18th, 2009
10:28 am

Wren gets bashed all of the time on these bolgs, but his trade of Renteria for Jurrjens + Gorkys H. was tremendous. Mark, can you give me one example of GM JS making a trade like that in his entire Braves career (actually trading an aging veteran in order to obtain young talent!!!!!)

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:29 am

I meant Supes I completely agree….

SSI FAN

May 18th, 2009
10:31 am

I hear from business associates that the Atlanta Spirit Group has hired an agency to find a buyer for the Hawks, Thrashers and other assets. I don’t think the Hawks can move forward with aggresive player moves until the disfunctional ownership situation is somehow resolved.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:34 am

You know what, Gwinnett? I can’t off the top of my head. Schuerholz tended to use prospects to get veterans, not the other way around. (Which kind of made sense, given that his team was in first place every year, as opposed to rebuilding.)

But he did, you’ll recall, pluck the 74-year-old Julio Franco from the Mexican League.

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:36 am

Now this may be a long shot but just by watching the moves Wren has made, Mark, do you think he would have traded all those youngsters for Tex? I mention this because when the Braves were desperate for an ACE he pulled out of the Jake Peavy deal due to such high demands.

Jack G.

May 18th, 2009
10:38 am

Mark—Yes 14 years is short term. Fourteen years is a drop in the bucket when you compare what could have been success over the long haul.
when you are talking short term versus long term, lets throw in the phrase “compared to what”.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:40 am

I’m not entirely sure what happened on the Peavy thing. The first reports were that the Braves had indeed pulled out, but I’ve since heard that the deal collapsed because Peavy refused to accept a trade to Atlanta.

I really don’t know what Wren would have done regarding Teixeira, but he and Schuerholz seem of similar minds on most baseball matters.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:41 am

So what would success over the long haul have been? Fifty consecutive first-place finishes?

Show me another franchise that has finished first 14 times running, and then we’ll talk.

patriots75

May 18th, 2009
10:42 am

I would take Matt Harrison in our starting rotation now over the others that are the 4&5 starters we have now, he just pitched 2 straight complete games,seems like the braves could use him now!

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:48 am

Well, go figure. Either way, I’m glad we didn’t get Peavy cuz we would have given up too much. I’ll say this, you are right Mark in your statement that nobody bats 1.000. But in the overall scheme of things, I’d say the Bravos have a pretty high average.

Randy

May 18th, 2009
10:48 am

patriots75 don’t go by just 2 straight starts. Besides, we have quite a few arms in the farm that are on their way up.

Jack G.

May 18th, 2009
10:50 am

My point is if you continue to trade young talent for Veterans, sooner or later the cupboard runs bare. You have obtained short term (14 years)success but then you abandon ship as JS has done. There have been a few good trades, but a host of bad trades. The Tex trade reminds me of a Braine type deal—–just plain stupid.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:52 am

You can’t moan over every prospect who gets away. That’s going to happen with any organization. The thing about the Teixeira trade was that so many good ones left in one fell swoop, as it were.

Jack G.

May 18th, 2009
10:55 am

Mark—you dont finish 1st every year over the long haul, but you do stay competive and in the hunt all season long. No team wins every year, but some tend to be at the top or close to it.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
10:56 am

Actually, the Braves made a concerted effort — ask Terry McGuirk — to go with homegrown guys (McCann, Francouer, Davies, Johnson, Langerhans) after the acquisitions of Drew and Sheffield didn’t have the desired effect. The Teixeira trade was an exception to that policy and was always going to be a risk. And today we see why it was so risky.

Jack G.

May 18th, 2009
10:58 am

There is another facet to 14 first place finishes, and that is how many World Series did those 14 years produce.

Mac

May 18th, 2009
10:58 am

Jack G. must exist in another dimension where 14 straight first-place finishes is a “drop in the bucket.” In this dimension, that’s built-to-last success in MLB. All other clubs would love to have that kind of “short term” success.

Gwinnett G

May 18th, 2009
11:00 am

Mark – Yes, during the 90’s it made sense to make a strong team even stronger by adding a Vet. or two (plus they did not simply rent McGriff). However, GM JS looks quite selfish towards the end of his tenure (one last run before drifting off to the new title / position) with his Rent-A-Drew trade & the Rent-A-Teix trade. Drafting & developing young pitching talent is not easy & you simply can not give away guys like Wainwright & Feliz.

Mac

May 18th, 2009
11:01 am

How many World Series? Yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. All clubs would kill to have the kind of consistency the Braves had for 14 years. For the record they won one. They played in at least three … I can’t remember. What a great “problem” to have.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
11:04 am

I’ll concede that the Braves fell short on developing pitchers toward the end of the run. That’s why they were going with Glavine and Smoltz and Hampton last season. But now they’ve got some young guys who should be OK if not better than OK: Jurrjens, Medlen, Hanson, maybe Morton.