Yesterday, one of the bigger news stories surrounding the Braves was the battle between the team and the Fulton County Recreational Authority over the future of Hank Aaron's statue at Turner Field. The Braves have always contended that they want Hank Aaron and his family to decide what to do with the statue. Well, the Aaron family has responded and it's basically along the lines of "Y'all need to figure this out, yourselves."
[Bob] Hope, who said he was asked to speak on behalf of the Aarons, said the couple want the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority and the Braves to settle the matter of where the statue will go after the Braves leave for their new Cobb County ballpark.
"It’s a decision that has to be made by the authority and the Braves," Hope said of the Aarons’ feelings on the matter. "They don’t want it put upon them."
The Braves and their now-lavish minor league system continued to receive rave reviews, as they got high marks in Baseball America's Organizational Talent Rankings, and also had seven of their prospects receive recognition in Keith Law's Top 100 Prospect Rankings. The Braves actually had five prospects in the top 50, which is an extremely impressive number -- especially when you consider where this team was at just a couple of years ago when it came to this type of thing. All of that has contributed to Baseball America ranking them 3rd in their Organizational Talent Rankings. Simply put, it's a very good time to keep your eye on the Braves' farm right now.
By this time next week, pitchers and catchers (and maybe even a few early birds who don't pitch and catch for a living) will be in camp, so this is probably as good of a time as ever to check out what the big storylines will be at Spring Training for the Braves. In addition to non-roster invitee prospects being on display, there are going to be some interesting positional battles -- particularly third base, which could see any number of four Braves potentially holding down the fort at the hot corner once the Braves finally arrive in Atlanta to start playing actual games.
Third Base: Adonis Garcia vs. Kelly Johnson/Gordon Beckham
The starting third base job is complicated by the Olivera situation, and if the Braves decide to keep him in the infield it is likely that he would be the starter. However, based on the reports that surfaced earlier in the offseason, it appears as though Olivera will play left field, leaving the third base job open for competition.
The likely front-runner at this point is Adonis Garcia, who played 42 games at third base for Atlanta in 2015 and hit .277/.293/.497 with 10 home runs. While Garcia’s defense may be a bit suspect, his showing last season at the plate could give him an advantage in this position battle. His performance in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, where he hit .353/.411/.529, should also be encouraging with regards to his potential output this season.
Talking Chop's Garrett Spain helps preview the Atlanta Braves on the Baseball Prospectus Daily Podcast
Recently, Cuban players Yuliesky Gourriel and Lourdes Gourriel shook up the baseball world when they made their defection from Cuba and declared that they wanted to play in the big leagues. The two brothers have garnered plenty of interest from teams due to their potential, and the older brother (Yuliesky) may have already expressed interest in a potential destination. The 31-year old reportedly wants to join the Yankees.
Gourriel's motivation to join the Yankees is because his favorite player is A-Rod. He told Yahoo! Sports in 2015 that every player wants to play at the maximum level, with that level being MLB. It's endearing that he wants to play for the team, but it's difficult to see how he'd fit into the current lineup. Although, his production (even at a lower competition level) is enough to turn a few heads.
Lou DiPietro of the YES Network claims that the Yankees may actually be more interested in the younger Gourriel, Lourdes. He's a 22-year-old left fielder that isn't major league ready yet, but would be an intriguing option as a prospect. The Yankees don't really have any openings in their outfield right now, but they might by the time Lourdes would be ready to join the big league team.
After Keith Law dubbed the Angels farm system as "the worst he'd ever seen" in his eight years of doing those rankings, he also added on a bit of speculation that the Angels may have to consider trading Mike Trout if things don't improve for the team soon. Of course, this touched off a frenzy of takes, and our friends at Halos Heaven even brought back a piece they wrote in November about the possibility of trading Trout. However, the crew at MLB Daily Dish wonders if you can even get adequate value back in a trade for Trout.
...To make dealing Trout worth it, the Angels would have to pick up at least two players who are going to be consistently worth an average of something like five wins over the next five years, or three players worth an average of four wins per year or more and the list of those players, especially those in the same organization and who would be realistic targets, is incredibly short. Like, for reference, only 33 players were worth five wins or better in 2015, according to Fangraphs, and only 57 were worth better than four wins. And many of those can't be counted on to reproduce their incredible numbers, simply because it's hard to be that great year in and year out.
And that's before we even get into what it would cost to pay to keep any all star caliber players the Angels acquired as they gained service time. Or the risk of two or three or four players staying healthy, as opposed to one.