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Talking Chop Round Table: Braves Left Fielders

As part of season reviews for major league players and top prospect ranking for minor league players, we here at Talking Chop thought it would be a fun idea to get all of our bloggers together with the help of Google Docs and debate the various aspects of each position in the Braves organization.

The participants are, yours truly (gondeee, indicated by MG), yondaime4 (indicated by MF), royhobbs (indicated by DH), and cbwilk (indicated by CBW).

The round table for left fielders in the Braves organization is after the jump.

MGNo way that Garret Anderson even sniffs a Braves uniform next year, right?
DH:  Nah, likely not.  Even if the Braves relied solely on internal candidates to man the position, it's still a cheaper alternative with Diaz, McLouth, and Church, left to right.  He didn't exactly win any fans over with his lackadaisical play, and I hardly think anyone's really going to miss him at all.
CBW: You'd hope not. A .705 OPS out of left field is pathetic enough, but what's worse is how bad he was toward the end. He started off like crap with OPSs of .551 and .681 in April and May, before actually being useful in June and July with .804 and .944 OPSs, and then went to crap again at the end of the year with OPSs of .658 and .533 in August and September. His statistical season was a pyramid and the only time he was worth having at all was for the 187 plate appearances in June and July. And yeah, nobody really liked him, cause he sucked in the field, and, however fair this assessment is, didn't seem like he cared. But, Bobby kept hitting him 5th, so who knows? Logic says he won't be around, but logic would have said hit LaRoche 5th and bench Anderson.
MF: HAHAHAHAHA. No. If for some reason we can't go out and get a LF I think with the way Brandon Jones closed out the season in AAA he would have to get a look and be considered a similar (if not better) option simply because he is cheaper, can probably put up a .700 OPS and play good defense in LF. No way does Anderson come back.

MG I think the Braves would have done better with Ryan Ludwick in left field. I sort of wish we had pulled the trigger on that rumored deal.
CBW: While I will point out that I was absoultely right in my estimation that Ludwick wasn't as good as his numbers from 07 or 08, which he proved by coming back to earth in 09, there's no question the Braves would have been better with him in left field, if only because Anderson was so pathetic. I personally was against the trade at the time, because I thought Ludwick would come back to earth, which he did, and I thought Johnson was worth more than a hitter you couldn't really be sure of. Granted, with hindsight if you could have flipped Johnson for Ludwick that would have been a great deal, because Prado showed himself capable of being a starter and Johnson really floundered this season, but since you can't know the future, I still say it was better not to make that trade. And anyway, it was a rumor, who knows how much reality there was behind it.
MF: I wasn't  believer in Prado at the time, but I still would have flipped Johnson for Ludwick. I think Ludwick will rebound next season and the Cards could be really good with three big bats (assuming holliday returns). But either way, Ludwick would have been an improvement over Anderson in almost every month of the year and would have been better than the almost nothing we got out of Anderson.

MGWho do you want to see the Braves go out and get as a left fielder? I don't think we have any chance at Matt Holliday, nor do I really want him at the price we would have to pay.
CBW: I want a real hitter. Left field has been a black hole for years and it would be nice to actually get some production out of it for once. Frankly, it should be the easiest spot on the field to stash a slugger, even if he can't play the OF well, but the Braves have run out a series of weak hitters, capping things off in 09 by having a poor hitter and a poor fielder. Who should they get? I have no clue; obviously you'd love to have guys like Bay or Holliday, but you know the Yankees and Red Sox are going to shell out way too much money and keep those guys away from everyone else. After that, I don't know about the free agent crop. You don't want to give up a first round pick for guys like Damon or Abreu or Guerrero, and probably not even for Dye (if he becomes a free agent). And after that, you're looking at a bunch of guys who aren't that great, and you're left just like last year, scrapeing around for a guy to get you by. Ideally we could use some of our young Minor League pitching to trade for somebody, but I have no idea who'd be realistic. Frank Wren's the guy they pay to figure that out, so hopefully he can finally get us a real hitter for left field and the cleanup spot.
MF: I really don't know either. Bay will most certainly go back to Boston (remember when we could have had him) and I think Holliday will stay in the NL, but if we have any shot to pay him then we have to get rid of Derek Lowe. I actually think 16 mil a year could get Holliday, but like gondeee said, do we want to pay him that? I've always loved Vlad Guerrero but he is a butcher in the field these days and I don't know how he would take to a move to LF. It stinks that there really aren't a lot of options for us. We are going to have to be really creative. 

MGDoes anyone think that Cody Johnson can develop enough plate discipline to be a major league starter? He's young, so we have some time, but it seems like he's got a long way to go.
CBW: It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Cody Johnson, and I really don't think anyone in the system consistently improves from one year to the next as he does. Does he strikeout a ton? Sure. But, he struck out in 34% of his plate appearances in 08 compare to 35% in 09, and in that same span he raised his OBP by .035 points, his slugging by .021 points, making his raise in OPS .056 points, all while moving up a level. That's improvement from one full season league to the next while keeping his biggest negative, the strikeouts, at a constant. It'd be nice if he could cut down on the strikeouts, but if he can keep them constant and keep the production up, that's something most teams can live with. Most of the guys who lead the home run lists, something Johnson looks poised to do, lead the strikeout lists. Frankly the Braves would have loved his kind of production out of left field this season, even with the strikeouts; he would have been a huge improvement over Garret Anderson. Granted, he's not likely to put up these kind of numbers immedately or even soon in the Majors, but you can't deny the power potential. AA is going to be a tough test for him, but he's only 21 years old and I personally believe in this kid's desire and ability.
MF: Mark my words now, Cody Johnson will spend two seasons in AA. I don't envision his 2010 campaign going well, but I do believe in his ability to improve. I don't really think his plate discipline is the problem as just his contact ratio kills him. He appears to be capable of not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, he just can't hit half of what is thrown to him in the zone. CB is right though if Cody can put up a .350 OBP and a .450 SLG you are looking at a productive player at almost any position. I think to make a real judgment on him we are going to have to see what he does at Mississippi this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see him strike out 200 times and the only people in the pros I can think of that came close to that in the minors are Mark Reynolds and Ryan Howard and Cody has more extreme strike out totals and power than either one of those guys. Also, and I said this in the Top 5 list, Cody will have to learn to make 2 strike adjustments and start taking the ball the other way. That is something Ryan Howard is great at but Cody pulls nearly everything.

MGI was ever-so-close to ranking Adam Milligan ahead of Cody Johnson for the top spot in left field. Johnson's homeruns are hard to ignore, but Milligan seems to have a better overall game.
CBW: I was really worried that when the lists were compiled that Milligan would come out ahead. Nothing against the kid, cause he looks like he's good, but he's 5 months older than Johnson and doesn't have the track record that he has, heck, he hasn't played a full season yet. I was very sceptical of Milligan when his season first started, but I definitely came around once he maintained his play. Yeah, he was maybe a little old for a true prospect in the Sally League, but it was also his first professional season, so that's a wash. The numbers he put up were outstanding. My question with him is, if he's really this good, why was nobody else aware of it? The Braves drafted him three times; nobody else took notice of this and they were able to get him in the 6th round? It just doesn't scream top prospect to me. I really want to see what he does next season, preferably at Myrtle Beach, because I want him to be this insanely good prospect, but I'm retaining some healthy doubt.
MF: Well I can actually speak to why Milligan wasn't taken by many people the first two times through. A lot of people thought he was committed to a football scholarship coming out HS so he didn't really show up on many radars and then the second time I believe there was talk of him going somewhere on a baseball scholarship from his Juco. Anyways he moved up from the 28th to the 27th and finally to the 6th RD so I think that by 2008 other teams were onto him and the Braves wanted to get it done. Two months ago I might have considered ranking Milligan higher because of Johnson's struggles and how hot Adam was but with the lukewarm reception Milligan has received from scouts in the post season I have reeled myself in a bit. I honestly think the only thing he needs to do is take a few more walks. If his K rate stays where it is now he will be fine, but he can't get by walking 30 times a season, but there isn't an excellent way to tell how much he will walk next season because most players walk less when they are in the middle of a hot streak and he was one for pretty much the whole season. We will see what kind of player he is next season when he starts at MB. If he tears it up I wouldn't be surprised to see him move fast. Hopefully one of these boom or bust LF prospects we have will pan out.

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