We wrap up our post Spring Training roundtable series today with a look at the biggest disappointment from the Grapefruit League season.
Which player was the biggest disappointment during the spring?
Scott Coleman - Bryse Wilson is my choice. Granted it was reported he was working on some new stuff in his appearances and you always want to take spring training box scores with a grain of salt, but he continued to lack secondary pitches and was hit hard just about every time he took the mound.
Eric Cole - I would say Grant Dayton because he has been truly terrible, but I didn’t exactly have strong opinions regarding his roster spot at any point. I’ll say Marcell Ozuna not because I think that I think his terrible spring will have any bearing on how the regular season goes, but more because him struggling created a narrative regarding him replacing Donaldson in the lineup that sucked. I do think that a lot of people put too much weight into what happens in Spring Training, but it would have been nice if Ozuna had done, well, anything.
Garrett Spain - I don’t really care about a slow spring for major league players so I guess as a prospect guy my disappointment is Drew Waters. It’s not at all a surprise, I was well aware he wasn’t ready to hit at that level yet, but it’s still a bit sad to see a guy you have so much faith in struggle like that. I was hoping he would prove me wrong and show he was closer to the major leagues than he thought but he didn’t. It doesn’t change the evaluation of him at all, it just underscores that the Braves will not have him as a reliable option to fill an outfield spot until 2022.
Demetrius Bell - That’s actually a good point about Drew Waters. Now granted, it’s spring training and you should take a lot of stats with a grain of salt. With that being said, he struck out 14 times in 24 plate appearances. That is an astronomical strikeout, and it’s a bit concerning when you consider that his strikeout rate went up substantially in actual games last season. It’s definitely not something you want to see, but he’s still a prospect and he’ll have plenty of time to improve. I’m not really too concerned, but it’s enough to complain about here on the Braves blog. Also, Grant Dayton was terrible. Hoo boy, he had a rough spring.
Ivan - In concrete terms, Bryse Wilson getting reassigned to minor league camp so quickly is not really what I had hoped for. I’m not sure exactly what the challenge is for Wilson in terms of translating high minors success into major league competence, and I’m not actually sure there is a challenge other than small sample shenanigans, but the Braves at least kinda-sorta think so, or he would’ve gotten a far longer rope in Spring Training than he actually did. And that’s a shame. In more speculative terms, if Max Fried was actually trying to throw strikes and walking the world anyway, that’s terrifying. There’s a good chance he was just futzing and putzing around so it doesn’t matter, but the difference between “Max Fried, unreliable reliever guy” and “Max Fried, #1 starter” was his uncanny ability to strongly ratchet up his command (and control). If that ratcheting isn’t there anymore, that’s going to be a huge problem.
Wayne Cavadi - I’m 100 percent with Ivan above, although I think the main problem with Bryse Wilson is his heavy reliance on his fastball and a pretty much non existent third pitch (although I didn’t watch him this spring to confirm that was the case right now). That said, Fried walked nine batters and let up eight hits in less than eight innings of work. I am a huge Fried fan, and spring training/ small sample size or not, you don’t want to see someone not hitting the mark like that.
Matt Powers - I could say a number of prospects, but these are prospects facing MLB pitching/hitting and doing it in short sample sizes. There is an adjustment period for a guy like a Drew Waters, so he doesn’t even factor into this for me. So I have to go with Bryse Wilson too as he was supposed to be in the mix to earn a rotation spot- even if he was going to be on the outside looking in. His quick demotion went a long ways to explaining how his spring went, and makes you wonder even more if his future is as a bullpen piece.
Daniel H-K - It comes down to Bryse Wilson and Drew Waters for me, but since Waters has stuck around longer, I’ll go with Waters. His strikeout rate was already a concern entering the season, but it has been really ugly this spring.
Cory McCartney - Shane Greene. Even if he never returns to the numbers that led to an All-Star first half of 2019 with the Tigers (and which made you squint to avoid some questionable peripheral stats), in a loaded bullpen that won’t ask him to be a primary closer, Greene has the potential to be a valuable piece. But in six spring outings he had an 8.10 ERA over 6 2/3 innings with a whopping .353 batting average against righties. Bringing in Will Smith pushes Greene down a peg, but you have to question what, exactly, do the Braves have in this righty?
AB - I walked away from Spring Training pretty pleased overall. It’s clear Pache and Waters aren’t ready, but it’s not heartbreaking. The fifth starter candidates were all good. No one was injured outside of Cole Hamels. If we want to panic over Marcell Ozuna, then I guess that’s my player. But Spring Training numbers for starters aren’t really predictive. He may be working on something this spring as well. I’m ready for Nick Markakis to hit 30 HRs or be supplanted by someone who will, and I guess I am disappointed that neither looks likely to happen.
Anthony Traurig - I second AB here - I’m overall very positive about Spring Training performances. We knew that the rotation and third base would be interesting battles, and those top candidates have performed really well. Grant Dayton has been my biggest disappointment, though. I really thought he could be the lefty mid-reliever out of the pen if Newcomb goes to the rotation, but that doesn’t look likely now. While the new three-batter minimum diminishes the need somewhat, the Braves could use another lefty reliever besides Will Smith, who will likely only be used in late innings (again, if Newcomb is in the rotation). However, it could eventually open the door for a guy like Phil Pfeifer, and Luke Jackson does have reverse splits. I think it will be fine, but I had high hopes for Dayton in that role.
Aaron Huston - I know some will say Bryce Wilson, but I’ve been off that train for a while. He just throws his fastball too much to be successful. It works in the minors, but this is a game of adjustments. You have to be able to put guys away with offspeed. So no, Bryse is just a guy that hasn’t improved in over a year now for me, so while that’s disappointing, he isn’t the most disappointing player. That’s Drew Waters. I mean, my God, he’s tied for the team lead in strikeouts but has less plate appearances. He has a higher strikeout rate than Pete O’Brien. On top of that, he still hasn’t shown a willingness to draw a walk. He’s supposed to be quite coachable from what I hear, and hopefully that his plate discipline will be the main thing he works on this year. Water’s ST numbers are very similar to Acuña, and it is just ST. However, for a guy that is wanting to make it to the Show at some point this season, he certainly didn’t help himself.
Shawn Coleman - While others struggled, my immediate response is Drew Waters. Obviously, his struggles are understandable. He is young and has just a few games above double A. However, despite his amazing 2019 season, there were indicators that showed doubt he could continue his success to the level he has been. His Spring seemed to confirm some of the current concerns about how limited his approach could make his overall season. Logically, Waters has the time and talent to figure it all out, but a hot Spring would have been ideal to see as he gets closer to the majors.