Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Hunt For Choptober

The Braves may have surprised some people (including myself) over the off-season, signing young key players to long-term deals. Among those were Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons.

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Andrelton Simmons: 24 years old

  • Gold glove in 2013
  • Reminds me of "The Wizard" Ozzie Smith
  • Defensive vacuum - has only committed 17 errors in 205 games played

We already know how great he is defensively, but his batting average was quite low for the year (.248) while managing to hit 17 HR's and driving in 59 RBI. If he can consistently hit above .280ish while putting the ball in play, he will be a dangerous weapon (more than he already is). Even just 24 years of age, there's a great upside. With this deal, the Braves found their shortstop.

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Julio Teheran: 23 years old

  • Finished 5th in ROY voting for 2013 
  • 14-8 in his first full year in the majors
  • Ace potential

I wasn't too surprised by this deal, but a 6-year contract was interesting. Teheran had a bit of a rough start but finished the year strong, ending off on a 14-8 record with a 3.20 ERA, 170 strikeouts, and 45 walks in 185.2 innings pitched. Still only 23 years of age, there's so much more he could learn in the years to come. If he can continue to grow as a player and meet expectations, this could prove to be a great deal for the Braves.

Photo from espn
Craig Kimbrel: 25 years old

  • 2011 ROY
  • Voted to each All Star Game since 2011
  • 139 career saves, 381 career strikeouts, and a 1.39 career ERA

Where to start? Kimbrel's a beast, simply put. In his first four seasons (last three full seasons) Kimbrel has piled up a total of 139 career saves as the Braves closer. Along with being an All Star the past three seasons, Kimbrel has also finished within the top ten in CY Young voting (9th in 2011, 5th in 2012, and 4th in 2013).

Photo by The Associated Press
Freddie Freeman: 24 years old

  • 2011 ROY runner-up (finished second to Kimbrel)
  • 2013 All Star
  • 5th in MVP voting in 2013

Freddie Freeman is consistent. Perhaps even the most consistent on the team, getting important hits in key moments. This, in my opinion, was the best of the deals the Braves made. Of the more popular categories, Freeman had career-bests in hits, RBI, walks, lower strikeouts, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (on-base + slugging percentage), total bases, and WAR (wins above replacement). Quite a big year for him, I'd say. His fielding deserves a mention, as in 461 career games, he's only committed 28 errors, resulting in a .993 fielding percentage. If he's putting up these numbers at age 24, what type of numbers will he be putting up when he's 28, 29, even 30 years old? We'll have to wait and see.

Photo by Tim Evearitt
Jason Heyward: 24 years old

  • 2010 All Star
  • Gold Glove in 2012
  • Finished 2nd in ROY voting in 2010

Although not a long-term deal, Jason Heyward deserves a mention as he received a two-year contract. Heyward, who had career lows across the board from missing games due to appendectomy surgery and getting hit in the jaw by a pitch from Jon Niese, is looking for a rebound season in which he can stay healthy. Hoping Heyward will be less-prone to injury, the Braves took the low-risk route and signed him to two years for now. The Braves will surely monitor his progress throughout and decide whether to extend him after his contract is up, let him go to free agency, or trade him. His performance will obviously determine what the club decides to do with him (and how much they could possibly get in return if they were to trade him) but that's a topic for a future discussion.

As a Braves fan, I am very excited over these deals. Considering the Braves haven't really been known to throw out these types of contracts (Freeman receiving the biggest contract in team history at 8 years, $135 million), it should make all Braves fans anxious to see how this team can perform over the upcoming years. With a new stadium in the works, this looks like one hell of a team ready to make consistent runs for a title for years to come.