Atlanta Braves General Manager John Coppolella took to Twitter this afternoon to answer questions about the state of the team, future plans for the organization, statistical preferences, favorite players growing up and much more. There was a nice mix of fun and serious questions posed to the GM, and we're going to touch base with many of those below.
Personally, I found Coppolella's comments to be extremely interesting and I was also glad to see how (seemingly) authentic all of his responses were, shedding light on some of the future moves to come.
Without further adu, let's get started*:
*Since all of these were quote tweets, I'm going to just manually enter the questions so you don't have to go to the specific twitter pages to see the full Q&A.
Question: "Can you give Braves fans a reason to even come to the ballpark in 2016?"
Better offense at every position, chance to see many impact prospects make MLB debut, last year of Turner Field https://t.co/CaJh0UXIdL— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
I know I told you I appreciated the authenticity of Coppy's comments throughout this Q&A, so it's a bit ironic that this was the first one. I don't believe that we're going to see the Braves improve offensively at every position and that starts with the first position we get to: catcher.
Sorry, but I'm not buying that A.J. Pierzynski is going to have another renaissance season like we saw in 2015, where he hit .300/.339/.420. And if Tyler Flowers is expected to be the saving grace here, well, I'd say we're being extremely hopeful that he's going to improve much on his career 83 wRC+. But we've seen players succeed after a move from the AL to the NL before so if that's your reasoning I guess you can have that.
At the other positions, we can probably assume offensive improvements from first base, shortstop, and one of third base/left field (depending on where Hector Olivera sticks), but every where else seems to be a stretch. I'll even give you right field if you think Nick Markakis is going to find some more power, but there's still second base, center field, and third/left where nothing more than 2015-caliber offensive production should be expected.
Question: "Matt Wisler seemed to turn a corner late last season. Is he expected to have a spot in the rotation in 2016?"
Heading into Spring Training -- yes -- we feel Matt has a very bright future and high upside https://t.co/KLDMHayZbi— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
I feel like it was obvious that Wisler was going to at least start the season in the rotation, but he's certainly got a lot of highly-talented arms right behind him. I think I've cooled a little bit on what Wisler's ceiling is after watching him last season, but he's shown flashes of a plus slider and with improved fastball command that pitch could play above average as well.
It's nice to see that Coppy still thinks he has some upside.
Question: "Do you see the Braves making a move for a big bat? Big names out there. Bruce, Cespedes, etc"
Everything for us is fluid -- except trading Freddie! -- if there is a chance to be opportunistic we will explore it https://t.co/Qh7dxqxT5a— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Nothing crazy here, Coppy's still holding on to that arm of his.
Question: "Would Olivera move back to the infield once Smith gets called up?"
We like what we saw of Hector in LF, but he can still play 3B -- when Mallex is ready we will have a good problem https://t.co/RhCT0sD8wn— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Again, nothing new here. It still sounds like the organization prefers Olivera in the outfield, but will resign to moving him to third if he's forced back there. Personally, I'd rather see him play third base, but I've also barely seen him field the position... so yeah.
Question: "Favorite player growing up?"
I guess we can forgive Coppy for being a Yankees fan considering his familial ties. It would also be interesting to know whether or not Coppy's inside sources have allowed him to find out the three people who didn't think Griffey was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Question: "In terms of the 2016 draft, are there specific positions you are targeting given the restock on Minor League pitching?"
Best player available, but after taking 4 HS kids last year think a college player, preferably a bat, would help https://t.co/j7RK7hwPLd— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Here's where we starting getting to the meat and potatoes. Shoutout to @ChimeraTony for asking the best question up to this point, although it would have been even better if he managed to get "first pick" somewhere into the wording. But I'll take what I can get.
First of all, it's nice that Coppy immediately goes to best player available, as I — along with many others who cover the draft — think that is the best strategy. Given the nature of MLB's draft, and the way the farm system works it makes a lot more sense to just pick who you think is the best talent rather than drafting based on need.
Needs change quicker than players develop for the most part, and as annoying as it might be when the Braves draft another pitcher, if it's someone like Jason Groome (given his standing at the moment) we should all be happy.
Question: "What are your plans in the international free agent market?"
Aggressive, upside players who have a chance to impact like Andruw, Javy Lopez, Furcal, etc did for ATL https://t.co/KRQCs3qYoJ— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Yes, yes, yes.
Andruw Jones is a HOF-caliber player, Rafael Furcal averaged just under 3-WAR during his six-year stint in Atlanta along with just over 31 stolen bases per year, and Javy Lopez holds the record for most home runs in a single season by a catcher (41).
If Coppy is able to procure someone with talent anywhere close to these guys then it should be considered a success. And I know what you are all thinking: Kevin Maitan.
Maitan has been linked to the Braves for a while now, and given how important Coppy says the international free agent market is supposed to be for the Braves this season, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Atlanta lands the most talented player of the class.
Question: "I love the trades and signings so far... How important is the international FA market this season to your plans going forward?"
On a scale of 1-10 I'd say 50 -- they are absolutely critical -- can't give our staff down there enough credit https://t.co/QGm1bVU0aO— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
This year in particular makes the international free agent market important, as the Braves are expected to blast through their pool with potential changes coming to the international market as the current CBA expires on December 1st.
The deals are already well in the works if they aren't already done at this point for many teams, but we'll find out for sure who the Braves will be picking up on July 2. Given the wording Coppy uses in this response, I think I'm being reasonable in expecting a significant haul of talent.
Question: "How credible a stat is WAR and how much should fans focus on it?"
What is it good for? Absolutely nothing -- J/K. Like it as means for comparison, but too much emphasis on defense https://t.co/xIcZbJJxpZ— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
This is the best response Coppy gave all afternoon, bar none. Humor, insight, skepticism of defensive metrics (or at least their weighting in WAR's formula). It's got it all. Building on this is our next question...
Question: "What is your favorite statistic to compare players?"
No one perfect statistic -- positives, negatives everywhere -- case by case mixed with scouting & makeup https://t.co/QlrrTj1IJZ— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Question: "As an aspiring GM, what advice can you give?"
Don't aspire to be a GM -- aspire to be a part of something special and learn as much as you can each day https://t.co/5HJsCRv1Dm— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
I think Coppy just crushed this guy's dream and gave him some profound life advice at the same time. All within 140 characters — we don't need 10,000 to get this right,Twitter!
Question: "You're in a ballpark and you have only a $10 bill. Nachos or a hot dog... Which do you choose?"
Nachos -- love nachos -- order them at least twice a week (as you can tell from my pic at the start of the chat) https://t.co/NZi9WJ5W0c— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Can confirm, I have seen Coppy eating nachos. But he's still got some work to do if he wants to get on Kevin McAlpin ice-cream cone level (be sure to call him out for that on Twitter, and tell him I sent you).
Thanks for all the questions and your support -- look forward to doing this again soon and seeing you at Turner Field!— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 14, 2016
Be sure to check out the Braves Twitter account for the entire Q&A and let's get this discussion started in the comments below. Before that, though, let's take care of the obvious: