It's February 20th, which means that we've hit the first milestone of the baseball preseason: Braves pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training!
Next week, the rest of the squad will report, and then after that, we'll start having some actual Spring Training games. Spring is in the air, even if the entire East Coast is currently trapped in Mother Nature's icy clutch.
Yep, it's actually happened. For the first time since 2001, the Braves have gone through with an arbitration hearing, with their opponent being Mike Minor. The two sides are arguing over $500k, which made it slightly shocking that this even went to a hearing in the first place. We'll probably have the decision later today, so stay tuned to Talking Chop since we'll be on the news when it breaks.
Despite the fact that Braves top prospect Jose Peraza will probably start this season in the Minors, the Braves have made it very clear that it's only a matter of time and development before we see Peraza in the Majors in 2015. As such, the Braves are going to be giving him plenty of looks during Spring Training, so we will have plenty of opportunities to see what Peraza can do this Spring.
But before sending Peraza back to the Minors, the Braves plan to thoroughly evaluate his status over the next six weeks. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has hinted that the young second baseman will likely get more plate appearances than any other player during the Grapefruit League season. So by the end of March, it should be quite clear what the immediate future holds for the club's top prospect.
As usual, we've reached the part in the offseason where publications start asking all types of questions about teams and their upcoming seasons, and now it's AL.com's turn to ask the questions. Eventually, they got around to asking about who will be hitting cleanup for the Braves this year. Freddie Freeman is probably going to be in the #3 slot, so who's going to be behind him?
Markakis (if healthy, which might become his permanent name) would seem to fit into the cleanup spot, but manager Fredi Gonzalez might want to split up the team's two top-hitting lefties.
Other candidates would be B.J. Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson, who -- with a .361 slugging percentage and a .292 on-base average -- wasn't a whole lot better than Upton last season. The Braves will likely need Johnson to reprise his 2013 output, when he slugged .457 and challenged for the batting title.
In what shouldn't be a shock to anybody who follows Major League Baseball, Cole Hamels has admitted that he'd like to be traded from the Phillies to a team with a shot at winning soon. This isn't a shock because A) You can never really blame a good-to-great player who is age 30+ for wanting to leave a bad team and B) the Phillies have been listening to offers for Hamels anyways. This isn't exactly out-of-the-blue news here, but it is interesting to see Hamels just flat out say that he wants out of this bad situation.