Make Or Break Year: Nate McLouth

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We tend to hear a lot about "selling high" on a player during the offseason, which means trading a player when his value is at its absolute apex. It's a difficult thing to do for a number of reasons, especially when it involves a young player who might just be on the upswing of his career. Pirates GM Neal Huntington sold high on Nate McLouth two summers ago, dealing his All Star center fielder to the Braves for three young players in June of 2009.

The year before the trade, the then 27-year-old McLouth broke out by hitting .276/.356/.497 with 26 homers, earning a Gold Glove for his defensive effort in center field. At the time of the trade he was hitting a more than respectable .256/.349/.470. Unsurprisingly, reaction to the trade was mostly negative in Pittsburgh, and it didn't go over well in the clubhouse either.

McLouth gave the Braves a respectable .257/.354/.419 performance in the three months after the trade, but the good times ended there. He hit just .118/.217/.196 in Spring Training last year, then followed that up with a .176/.295/.282 performance in his first 205 plate appearances of the season. A collision with Jason Heyward sent McLouth to the disabled list with a concussion in early-June, then Atlanta decided to send him to minors after he returned in late-July. He hit just .234/.338/.383 in 151 trips to the plate in Triple-A before finishing the season with a .263/.358/.509 performance (68 PA) while playing sparingly after coming back up in late-August.

Since the trade, the now-29-year-old McLouth has hit just .229/.330/.379 with 17 homers in 684 plate appearances. His -25.8 UZR since 2008 ranks 48th out of 58 qualified outfielders, just a touch better than Carlos Lee. Was 2010 a fluke season for McLouth, or was it the sign of a bigger problem after the league got a chance to put together a book on him?

The Pirates gave McLouth a three-year contract extension before the 2009 season, and right now it seems pretty unlikely that the Braves will exercise his $10.65MM club option for 2012 after the upcoming season without significant improvement in his performance. His main competition in center field is Jordan Schafer (.201/.268/.255 in 307 minor league PA in 2010), so McLouth will definitely have the opportunity to show what he's got before hitting the open market in a little more than ten months.


88 Responses to Make Or Break Year: Nate McLouth Leave a Reply

  1. erm016 5 years ago

    Here’s to hoping it was a fluke. Although I still am not really excited he’s our CF, we could do worse, somehow.

  2. Bo 5 years ago

    He’s probably our best option for now, but if he continues playing at his early 2010 level instead of what he showed at the end of 2010, I’d guess Frank Wren finds another CF option elsewhere. Here’s to hoping 2010 was a fluke!

    • Goldberg365 5 years ago

      If he can give us .260 I will be happy considering what we had out there last season. Put Schafer in AAA and see if his wrist has actually healed, make Young the backup CF.

      • bobrewer 5 years ago

        I agree on all accounts. Schafer needs the ABs in AAA, and I honestly don’t think Frank or Fredi are considering starting him in the bigs anyway.

        Young for sure needs to be the 25th man… A bench of Ross, Hinske, Mather, Diory and Young is a good starting point for 2011.

        • Braves1976 5 years ago

          Replace Diory with Lucas and we’d pretty much agree. Though I am not ruling out Conrad. I just don’t see room for him if Mather makes the team. At least outside of Lucas and/or Mather backing up in center-field anyway.

      • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

        I am not as concerned about his batting average as I am about his OPS. If he hits .230 but is hitting home runs, walking, and stealing bases then I am ok with him. If he is hitting .260 but not walking or hitting HRs then I am not ok.

  3. mrsjohnmiltonrocks 5 years ago

    I see him as a bounce back candidate. His performance was abysmal in 2010, and it just seemed like he had a year where everything started going wrong all at once and just kept on getting worse and worse. At times he looked defeated, like he had no idea what was going on, and all attempts to fix his problems just didn’t seem to help at all. He did play better in a limited role at the end of the season so there’s that.

    I’m hoping he’s the kind of guy that learns from the struggle, turns the page and gets his career back on track.

  4. austinhb 5 years ago

    It had to be a fluke season, he is just too talented and too hard of a worker. He did great in his stint back and did get 2 hr robbed from him, one with the bases loaded.. At the end of the year he went up there looking to succeed rather than to just try to not fail. You have to root for someone like him anyway. A great clubhouse presence, one reason the pirates were so baffled at his trade. Plus just look how he handled getting sent to AAA, compare that to Frenchy…

  5. roberty 5 years ago

    I think it was unlikely the Braves were ever going to pick up McLouth’s 2012 option.

  6. jwsox 5 years ago

    carlos quentin for mcclouth straight up…actually works well for both teams…carlos would porbably benefit from a switch to the NL. and gives the braves a nice right handed power bat. McClouth gives the sox a good fielding left handed bat who would benefit from being in a hitters park…thoughts?

    • BaseballLogic_Braves 5 years ago

      As much as I would love to have Quentin instead of McClouth, that’s just plain stupid. Quentin Has prove himself in 2010. McClouth had one good year.

      • What about Pie or Reimold for D. Lowe?

        • BaseballLogic_Braves 5 years ago

          We don’t need to trade Lowe. If he can do what he did in Sept. then we need him.

        • jwsox 5 years ago

          i bet they would take that as soon as the O’s gm finished saying that !…

          O’s GM: “what would it take to get lowe?”
          braves GM: “well lets think…names some players”
          O’s GM: “Pie plus reimol…”
          Braves GM:”done!”

          • BaseballLogic_Braves 5 years ago

            Well of course. But i’m saying we need im. I didn’t say it wouldn’t happen.

          • jwsox 5 years ago

            as an outside fan if i were the braves i would trade lowe as fast as possible..next season baring an injury is the phillies…load up on young tallent and go for next season

          • BaseballLogic_Braves 5 years ago

            Lowe gives you a lot of innings and can be pretty affective. I don’t want to see him gone til his contract is gone.

          • Braves1976 5 years ago

            The Braves have plenty of pitching outside of Lowe. We should trade him ASAP. He may need to build up some value this season for that to happen, however. I’m sure the Braves will try hard to move him after this season, if not sooner. They probably tried this off-season but haven’t due to teams likely requesting the Braves pay more of his contract than they’re willing.

          • jphenix2002 5 years ago

            Screw being a quitter and anyone who wants to give up early should be a cubs fan. One never knows how the season will turn out until the games are played. Besides any team can be hit by the injury bug

          • gunsnascar 5 years ago

            the phillys are going to beat the braves and the entire NL like a red headed step child.
            and lowe is a pos pitcher now so ya better unload him paying whatever the taker will accept as far as his sallery goes 3 yr 45 mil what was wren thinking then?

          • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

            I guess the rest of the NL should just pack it in then. The Phillies will have great pitching but their offense is suspect.

          • Braves fan calling the Phils offense suspect is just too rich.

          • the phillies offense is very suspect, you have one of the oldest lineups in the NL

          • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

            theres this new thing.. in baseball.. called the wildcard..

          • T Morgan 5 years ago

            Having the staff that the Phillies have does not equal success and WS’s.. I know that Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, and insert name here are going to be very good, but there were plenty of years the Braves had 3 HOF caliber pitchers in their prime and only came away with one WS. So don’t close the book on everyone, that’s why they play the games…

          • bobrewer 5 years ago

            Lucky for the Braves, they’ve decided to go ahead and play the 2011 season anyway.

          • Dont think he would do both what about Pie or reimold and tillman for lowe and schafer?

          • Or move Bergesen instead of Tillman. Bergesen is father along than Tillman as is Pie than Schafer. Bergesen is one year removed from a 7-5 3.43 ERA in 2009 in the AL East. Think he would fit in behind Hudson,Hanson, Jurrjens as a good #4 and you get the upgrade at CF you are lookikng for. Lets face it McLouth SUCKS and Pie I think has a higher ceiling and is farther along than Schafer plus I think this would save the Braves some money and give the O’s the kind of P they are looking for.

          • garettf 5 years ago

            The O’s arent going to give away premium minor league talent for Lowe. So just stop right there.

          • davidcoonce 5 years ago

            Exactly – the notion that a team like the O’s – who are trying to build around young talent – would have any interest in an expensive innings-eater like Lowe or an expensive sinkhole like McLouth is laughable, unless you’re a Braves homer. Trading for either of those guys makes no sense at all for any team, really. Especially McLouth, who stinks.

          • small_ball_13 5 years ago

            Well “stinks” as you put so well would fit right in. Chalking all braves fan up as homers just makes you look like one.

      • jwsox 5 years ago

        are you saying that from a sox pov of braves pov….because while you lose power(possibly) with nate you get defense and speed…..and while you lose defense and speed with carlos you gain power….and with rios, dunn and konerko(alexi and hopefully gordon too) the sox dont really need carlos anymore…i mean carlos is a 30 hr threat who will be batting 6th ro 7th

        • BaseballLogic_Braves 5 years ago

          McClouth is just fast. He lost his defense last year. The braves don’t have much power so yes, i’d rather have power.

    • RiverKKiller999 5 years ago

      So who plays CF for the Braves then? Cause Quentin sure as hell ain’t. I’d rather go after Adam Jones from the O’s but it’s wishful thinking.

    • Why would the Braves do that? Quentin would have awful numbers in the TED! A lot of White Sox players have horrible numbers once they go to a pitchers park and no longer have to face the garbage AL Central pitching. Look at Aaron Rowand in San Francisco.

    • makbux 5 years ago

      McLouth may surprise you guys. I watched him for years in Pittsburgh. He is an above average cf who can really go get the ball. He is what he is as a hitter. .260-.280 at best, 15 HR, and some doubles potential. When he was coming up in Pittsburgh, he was also a threat to steal too. You may be surprised if you dont expect too much. He is a solid player, but not a perrenial All Star

      • roberty 5 years ago

        Great. Feel free to offer the guy a minor league contract next year. He was among the worst hitters in baseball last year (.190/.298/.322), and he posted a -14.2 UZR in the outfield. I think even the Royals would think twice about offering this guy a contract.

  7. someone wrote an article on nate mclouth?

  8. When Nate came back to the bigs after his stint in AAA, he ripped it up. Sure, it was a small sample, but in that small sample showed promise. Furthermore, most Braves fans remember 2 home runs that Nate was robbed of during those 60 or so plate appearances. Adding 2 home runs to his stats would have made those 60 plate appearances spectacular . His track record shows that he deserves to be the starter out of ST. However, the organization needs to have a pretty short leash because Matt Young can play…

    • Wandering_Brave_Fan 5 years ago

      Hmm your idea of tearing it up and mine are different. Nate appeared in 22 games in August and September with an overall average of 263. That – like his contract earning season sounds good until you look at the split. His first 12 games back (6 of which were against the Mets, Pirates and Nats) he hit 310. Then the scouts updated their book on him and in the last 1o games (5 against the Phillies) he hit 214. His walk to strike out ratio was a lot better it’s true but the obvious conclusion is that Nate hits bad pitching well and good pitching not so well and anytime you have a center fielder whose UZR is right there with Carlos Lee, he’s not a center fielder you can trust.
      Personally I prefer Young to Nate. He is fast, can hit leadoff ahead of Prado, Jason et al, steals bases (39 of 46 tries), has better AAA numbers (.300/.380/.407/.786 vs 234/.338/.383/.721 7 steals in 7 attempts), is a better fielder and has a much better arm. If Shafer is what he was supposed to be when he was drafted he’s better too. Wren will however try to salvage his pride and contract money with Nate. I hope one of them succeeds because center is a BIG hole we need filled before the season starts.

      • An .867ops, streaky or not, is tearing it up for a CF (and my argument wasnt for his defense). From my previous argument…Nate had 2 homeruns that were robbed. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that those 2 HRs were not robbed. His line in that sample size would have been this….411obp .705slg 1.116opsHere’s the article discussing those two HRs…<a href="ht

      • His line if those 2 outs were converted to HRs…
        .411 obp .705slg 1.116 ops
        Streaky or not, that would have been a monstrous line. Adding, an .867 ops for a CF is tearing it up.

        • Wandering_Brave_Fan 5 years ago

          Yep and if Francoeur or Andruw could lay off the slider low and away they’d hit 350. Home runs aside, good pitchers got him out easily, not so good pitchers left him a cookie or three. He was robbed. I know I saw it I screamed at it. I have also looked at his career numbers before and since his career year. They look a lot like a guy that peaked and is sinking. He’s 29 not 24. I wish he was Adam Jones – hell I’d take Scott Podsednick. I want him to succeed. I just don’t expect it.

      • roberty 5 years ago

        Nobody cares about batting average anymore.

        • Wandering_Brave_Fan 5 years ago

          Really? What is then ; OBP? Nate 298 Young 389. Slugging? 322 / 307. OPS? 620/786. OPS+? 69/198. Nate is a below average.. way below average center fielder..if he isn’t hitting and stealing he’s not much use

          • roberty 5 years ago

            I’m not saying McLouth doesn’t sucks. He does. I’m just saying nobody cares about batting average anymore. I hope Schafer is over his wrist injury and wins the center field job in spring training

  9. Lunchbox45 5 years ago

    The bad news is that Mclouth pulled an 2009 Alex Rios and essentially dropped his value in the toilet…the good news is Alex Rios had a pretty decent 2010… hopefully the guy can turn it around..

    I mean you don’t get terrible overnight. right?

    • davidcoonce 5 years ago

      Yes, you can. Ask Phil Plantier, Richard Hidalgo, Chuck Knoblauch, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Todd Hundley, Kelly Shoppach, Eric Byrnes, Morgan Ensberg….the list goes on and on. Pitchers figure batters out, they can’t make adjustments, end of the line.

      • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

        right, but sometimes bad years happen to good players.

        • davidcoonce 5 years ago

          Except McLouth has never established himself as a good player. He had one good year. Beside that he’s been terrible. It happens. Some guys don’t ever adjust.

          • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

            To be fair, Nate had one great year (2008) and one good year (2009). In 2010 he was terrible. It’s possible that pitchers did figure him out…..it’s up to him to react. We will see this year.

          • In 2008, McClouth had a healthy build, in 2010 he looked like an adolescent. Maybe Nate had that “pituitary gland” issue that Giambi had a few years back. I’m not suggesting that McClouth should request a “B-12″ shot from Miguel Tejada or anything like that, but for the Braves sake, I hope he hits the weightroom this Spring lol

  10. i borrowed this idea for fantasy terms:<s.co…great read. mcclouth is a good video game player….you know, someone to draft then watch as he becomes a stud

  11. Lunchbox45 5 years ago

    PS. Mike.. Great articles, these are really good, fluent reads.

    Other players I would like to see in this feature (just my opinion)

    Aaron Hill
    Adam Jones
    Matt Kemp
    BJ Upton
    Justin Upton
    Jamie Moyer
    Travis Snider

    • Rick Garcia 5 years ago

      id like tosee aaron hill and BJ…everyone else are still really young and can bounce back this year and jamie moyer is about to file for social security hes so old

    • Well, you can’t say Justin Upton’s 2011 season will be make or break, he’s still so young.

  12. BravesRed 5 years ago

    Need I remind everyone, the former hitting coach named Terry Pendleton was the one that screwed McLouth up. Jones started helping him, and he got better. Pendleton was the poison behind the horrible hitting of multiple current and former Braves.

    • his philosiphy was to try and get everyone to hit the ball the other way, it doesnt work with pull hitters like andruw, jeff and nate

    • bobrewer 5 years ago

      TP moving to first base coach should serve two separate benefits:

      1. He won’t be the hitting coach
      2. He will be able to help fielders learn to actually field

      I believe he’ll be good in his revised role with the Braves. Bummed they couldn’t find a spot for Glen Hubbard, though.

  13. NYBravosFan10 5 years ago

    I really hope that Nate has a MUCH better year. A year that everyone knows that he’s capable of. The guy definitely has the potential for .300+ average, 25 bombs, 30 stolen bases and gold-glove defense. Also, I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think Jordan Schafer deserves a call-up until he gets plenty of quality PA’s in AAA. I’m trying to stay positive about him but my liking for him is slowly melting away.

    • ARod's Ring 5 years ago

      potential for .300 plus?

      • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

        I lol’d to that too

      • BravesRed 5 years ago

        Ryan Howard had a .300+ season, so that means McLouth can do it.

        • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

          that makes no sense.. in fact that makes less than no sense

          it makes negative sense.

          • BravesRed 5 years ago

            I was showing an example of a mid-.200 hitter can hit .300 at least once in his career.

          • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

            mid .200s?? His career avg is .279.

        • Comparing Ryan Howard to Nate McLouth? Holy poo, no wonder why Atlanta is such an awful sports town. Enjoy watching a NHL franchise leave for a second time!

          • bobrewer 5 years ago

            Ah yes, because we all know one fan who makes a poor comparison makes an entire city an awful sports town.

            If we could judge an entire fanbase from one person… Well, I’d hate to be New York or Philly.

          • austinhb 5 years ago

            Lol you could still do that with half of thier fanbase

      • NYBravosFan10 5 years ago

        yes, a .300+ season is perfectly reachable for him

        • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

          It really isn’t, unless he has a career year. He is a potential 20/20 guy but I doubt he ever has a decent BA.

    • Nate McClouth couldn’t have a worse year offensively if he tried. Last year’s offensive performance was reminiscent of Kenji Jojima mixed in with Ryan Church (concussion)

  14. Coxkid 5 years ago

    The author makes it seem as if the Braves traded regrettable prospects for Nate. That couldnt be further from the truth. As a Braves fan all Nate needs to do is get on base at a .350 clip, and play sound defense in CF. If he does that the Braves lineup will be among the leaders in runs scored in the NL.

    • Lunchbox45 5 years ago

      I agree Morton & Hernandez have both been flops. . . Locke could have an impact, but its a crapshoot at this point

    • wkkortas 5 years ago

      If he can do that, yes, but a) a .350 OBP is a huge bounce-back from where he is right now and b) most of the defensive metrics say he’s never played a good CF. For Nate to pull off that daily double is hopeful if not outright wishful thinking.

  15. optionn 5 years ago

    Pittsburgh got rid of their leftovers and found a taker. Thats about all you can say about McLouth. It was a gamble to see if someone like him would pan out instead of overpaying someone in free agency.

    I like what the Braves attempted to do. Its stupid that teams will spend a fortune on free agents, but when it comes to trades they dont want to pay anything.

    • Goldberg365 5 years ago

      Well its not like they got a whole lot back either. I like Morton a lot, but he is a headcase. Gorkys Hernandez still can’t hit and Jeff Locke has fallen off the radar.

  16. 14 Rocks 5 years ago

    The Braves didn’t give up much in terms of prospects to get McLouth. However, what they gave up was budget flexibility. Who knows what other trades they could have made if they didn’t have Nate and his 6+ million dollar salary on the books this season.

  17. You gotta think something personal happened to the guy last year. It’s rare to see such a bipolar career performance.

    • definitely! Or, he was hanging out too much with Melky last season and that poor performance rubbed off on him! lol

  18. makbux 5 years ago

    He will come back for you guys, he is a solid player, just not a super star. Watched him grow up in Pittsburgh. He”s a solid .270 15 HR guy with an above average glove and don’t forget he can run a bit.

  19. makbux 5 years ago

    Pirates gonna give Morton another shot after his 1-9 performance last year. They say he has good stuff. we are anxiously waiting to see it

  20. How about McLouth, Snitker, and Kawakami(and their remaining salary) to the Angels for Mike Trout and Morales?

  21. 13CHEEZ13 5 years ago

    So, if they had 6 million to spend…who in the world would they get for 6 million to play CF? At todays rates, you can’t sign anyone of quality for that…maybe someone coming off an injury. McLouth is no deal at 6 million and maybe they could start the kid from the minors and use that money for someone else….but, the money is not really killing them and this is his last year…I do think a .340 OBP is possible, never will be a high BA and will always strikeout alot..but he does walk, can run a little and has some pop. If he is just average in CF then the Braves will be ok with it…LF and CF were so bad last year and they still won the wildcard, scored alot of runs without hitting many HR’s and getting minimul production from those two spots. So, mediocre would be an improvement.

  22. BravesFanForever 5 years ago

    I don’t have a lot of faith that Nate will come back this year. I haven’t seen too many players fall completely off the map (under .200 average) then come back to be a decent player–after a non-injury related season. His poor performance wasn’t due to injury–although he did get injured during the year–it was only after he stunk up at the plate. So, figure that someone else will be manning CF in 2011 and I hope that Fredi Gonzalez pulls the plug much much sooner than Cox would have.

    I am holding my breath for Nate but I’m not going to hold it for long. It’s going to be an absolute miracle if he comes back.

  23. Dont know if theres much potential left, can cover ground but misjudged some balls last year. Probably due to an all around terrible year. My main concern besides him getting on base is his noodle arm. He lobs the ball to 2B when a hitter is turning a single into a double, ive also never seen him gun anyone down at home – and ive watched the majority of games hes played in at ATL.

    Is his arm really that weak or is it just me?

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