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MLBits: Braves Mess Still Unraveling, Most Improved Pitchers Includes Cubs Target, Rule 5 Draft, More

MLB News and Rumors

We’re just under a week away from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings kicking off, and we still have a generational talent available in free agency (Shohei Ohtani), a 2017 MVP presumably on the move (Giancarlo Stanton), and nearly every notable free agent still available.


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It should be a fun week for Presidents and GMs …

  • One MLB executive who won’t be in attendance, however, is former Braves GM John Coppolella, who’s been banned from baseball for life for violations of the international free agent market. Coppolella has since apologized to the Braves, their fans, industry colleagues, the league and his family in a five paragraph email sent to EPSN. According to his message, he’s been “disgraced,” “humbled,” and “heartbroken” by the events.
  • As a result of the investigation, you’ll recall, MLB has released top prospect Kevin Maitan and 12 other international prospects from their contracts with the Braves. And some of them are already finding new homes, including Maitan, as Brett discussed earlier. But he’s not alone:

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  • On top of that, the Braves organization cannot sign any IFAs for more than $10,000 during the 2019-2020 window, their bonus pool was cut in half for the period after that, AND they’ll be forfeiting a 3rd-round pick in next year’s draft. Yeesh. The lesson? Don’t cheat (or if you do, just steal proprietary and private information from an Astros’ database – that seems to be simply frowned upon).

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  • Interestingly, that isn’t the end of the story or even the potential penalties. Apparently, former Braves Special Assistant and International Scouting Chief Gordon Blakeley, who was suspended for one year for his role in this mess, said he’ll meet with the Braves ownership on December 14th to discuss which high-ranking team officials knew about the rule breaking – including people who’ve so far avoided MLB discipline. If I’m understanding this correctly, he may have already turned those names over to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in early November, so we’ll see if/what anything comes of this. What a mess.
  • At MLB.com, Andrew Simon used Statcast data to determine the most improved pitchers of the 2017 season. And among the notable mentions, you’ll find potential Cubs target, Tyler Chatwood. According to Statcast, Chatwood’s 2.1 MPH velocity bump was the biggest leap in all of baseball and the only guy to improve his fastball velocity by over 2.0 MPH. On top of that, he also decreased his average launch angle by 4.8 degrees, which is the second biggest drop in MLB (lower launch angles are good, because it means more grounders and fewer chances of those juiced balls leaving the park).
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
  • Notably, Jose Quintana came in one spot behind Chatwood with a 4.6 degree decrease in his average launch angle allowed, though it’s worth pointing out that his average is still quite high (11.3). His ground ball rate did increase by 4.4 percentage points in 2017 (versus 2016), and it came almost entirely out of his fly ball rate. Let’s see if the Cubs can’t get that ground ball rate back up into the upper 40s this year.

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  • Shohei Ohtani might be the most exciting pitcher to come over from Japan, but he’s not the only one. Earlier, Brett noted that the Cardinals have signed former big-league, former NPB pitcher Miles Mikolas to a two-year/$15.5M deal, and he recently got the full treatment at FanGraphs. Sounds like the Cardinals may have landed themselves a good one.
  • Also at MLB.com, David Adler created the “Barrel Leaderboard,” which tries to quantify the top five sluggers in baseball based on their total number of barrels (i.e. balls struck with an optimal level of exit velocity and launch angle, on the season). Can you guess who they were? I bet you can.
    • Aaron Judge (87 + 5 in the postseason)
    • Giancarlo Stanton (76)
    • Khris Davis (67)
    • J.D. Martinez (60 + 1 in the postseason)
    • Nelson Cruz (60)
  • The rest of the list includes a series of slugger who you’d most be unsurprised to see near the top of the list. No Cubs made the cut this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyle Schwarber or Willson Contreras up there next year.
  • For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 50 list is not a high school pitcher (why are they always putting high school pitchers up there? Don’t they know you’re supposed to draft polished college bats like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ?!). Take an early look at the draft here at MLB.com. As of now, the Cubs have the 24th pick.

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  • That 2018 June Amateur Draft may be far way, but the 2017 Rule 5 Draft is just around the corner (a week from Thursday) and Chris Mitchell uses his KATOH projection system to guide you through the available players. The Cubs’ Trevor Clifton (1.6 KATOH) projects to be the sixth best right-handed pitcher available, but would also rank behind six other left-handed pitchers, as well. Among outfielders, Jacob Hannemann (2.4) ranks second best, and Charcer Burks (1.8) ranks 14th. Both players are not likely to make the Cubs right out of camp, but are clearly borderline Major Leaguers (in a fourth/fifth outfield capacity). You can check out all of the available talent and projections here at FanGraphs.
  • And finaly, at Cut4, Andrew Mearns traces over the Padres and Blue Jays star-studded trade of Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez 27 years ago today.

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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.