- As his anticipated activation by the Braves draws near, Jose Bautista discussed his status with John Lott of The Athletic (subscription link). The veteran slugger says he was drawn by his trust in Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos — he called the organization “a place where I know where I stand” — and the fact that he likes the makeup of the current roster. Despite his high-profile status, Bautista says he hopes to “be just another player on the team” who’ll play hard no matter where and when he’s asked to. The piece documents an interesting series of chats between the former Blue Jays star and Lott, who long covered him in Toronto.
Here are the latest players to be outrighted off of their teams’ 40-man rosters:
- The Reds announced that righty Kevin Quackenbush has been outrighted after clearing waivers following a recent DFA. The veteran could have elected free agency but has instead decided to remain in the Cincinnati organization, MLBTR’s Steve Adams tweets. Quackenbush did not produce a very appealing stat line during his ten appearances with the Reds. He surrendered 11 earned runs, with a 7:6 K/BB ratio, in just nine innings of action. In over two hundred career innings at the game’s highest level, Quackenbush carries a 4.38 ERA.
- Outfielder Lane Adams and relievers Rex Brothers and Josh Ravin were all outrighted by the Braves, the club says. Both Adams and Ravin had recently been designated for assignment, so had already been removed from the 40-man. As for Brothers, a 30-year-old southpaw, he’ll lose his spot after a rough start to the season. He has issued eight walks in his six Triple-A frames — an area that has long been a challenge — and does not appear to be in the team’s immediate plans. The Braves will pay Brothers at a lesser rate in the minors under the split contract he agreed to last fall. Adams, who has been productive in limited action at the MLB level over the past two years, will remain on hand as an outfield depth piece. Ravin, who was claimed over the winter, will likely be among the first pitchers considered if a bullpen need arises.
April 25: Acuna’s contract has been formally selected from Triple-A Gwinnett, the club announced. He’s playing left field and batting sixth for the Braves in his MLB debut.
April 24: The Braves are set to promote top prospect Ronald Acuna to the Major Leagues, Daniel Alvarez Montes of EVTV Miami reports (Twitter link). MLB.com’s Mark Bowman hears the same and adds that Acuna is expected to join the team tomorrow (Twitter link).
The timing of Acuna’s promotion has been a source of consternation among Braves fans all season, as many felt he should’ve been with the club from Opening Day after laying waste to minor league pitching in 2017 and outhitting the vast majority of the Braves’ roster in Spring Training. The Braves, however, understandably appear to have wanted to keep Acuna in Triple-A long enough to delay his free agency by a full year. By keeping him in Triple-A until April 14, Atlanta delayed his free agency from the 2023-24 offseason to the 2024-25 offseason.
Acuna, though, got off to a brutal start in Triple-A Gwinnett, which prompted the Braves to keep the 21-year-old in the minors even longer. Not wanting to promote Acuna to the Majors when he was struggling badly against minor league arms, Atlanta waited for their prized prospect to begin to right the ship at the plate. That’s been taking place over the past week, as Acuna has collected 1 11 hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in 37 plate appearances.
Entering the 2018 season, virtually every set of prospect rankings from major outlets considered Acuna to be the game’s top overall prospect. It was a rapid ascent for Acuna, who entered the 2017 campaign as a consensus top 100 prospect but not near the top of any notable rankings. His meteoric rise began last season when he started in Class-A Advanced and skyrocketed to Triple-A by the end of the year. The Venezuelan-born slugger didn’t just move up the ladder, though; his numbers actually improved upon each promotion, culminating with a .344/.393/.548 line in Triple-A.
Overall, Acuna slashed .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers, 31 doubles, eight triples and 44 steals across three minor league levels in 2017 — and he did so all before turning 20 years of age this past December. Even before reading any of the many glowing scouting reports on Acuna — and there’s no shortage of them, as Baseball America, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN are among the many that have lauded him — it’s readily apparent that he’s a significantly more advanced talent than most prospects. That type of production in Double-A and Triple-A is rare for prospects who are several years older than Acuna, even, but doing so at age 19 is a rather remarkable accomplishment.
It stands to reason that Acuna will be thrown directly into the mix in left field with the Braves, who managed to jettison Matt Kemp this offseason in order to create an easy path to at-bats for the ballyhooed young slugger. Preston Tucker has been holding down the fort in left field and performed admirably as a stopgap, but his bat has cooled substantially since a hot start to the season (.514 OPS over his past 44 PAs).
With Acuna now penciled in as the primary left fielder, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis will occupy the team’s other two outfield spots. Tucker or Peter Bourjos remain on hand as reserve options in the outfield, though it’s possible that one could be a roster casualty to make way for Acuna. The Braves already designated one reserve, Lane Adams, for assignment last week.
The Braves announced Wednesday that they’ve designated outfielder Peter Bourjos for assignment. His roster spot will go to Ronald Acuña Jr., whose contract has been formally selected from Triple-A Gwinnett. Acuña will make his MLB debut tonight.
Bourjos, 31, has a longstanding reputation as a premium defensive outfielder but has struggled at the plate in recent seasons. The 2018 campaign was no exception, as Bourjos got off to a 3-for-25 start to the season, with a pair of walks against seven strikeouts through a total of 27 plate appearances. He latched on with the Braves on a Major League contract late in Spring Training after being cut loose by the Cubs, with whom he’d been playing on a minor league deal.
Atlanta will have a week to trade Bourjos, run him through outright waivers or simply release him. If he clears outright waivers, he’d have the option to reject the outright assignment in favor of free agency, given that he has seven-plus years of MLB service time — well north of the minimum three he’d need to exercise that right. Considering the crowded outfield situation with the Braves with Acuna, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis and Preston Tucker all on the big league roster, it’s quite possible that the veteran Bourjos looks to find another opportunity with an organization that has a less-solidified mix of outfielders in the Majors.
Socolovich came up for a pair of appearances, allowing three earned runs in three innings. The 31-year-old carries a 4.41 ERA in his 85 2/3 career frames at the MLB level.
Fried, meanwhile, likely features more prominently in the team’s long-term plans. The former top prospect cracked the majors last year and gave the Braves 26 innings of 3.81 ERA pitching. But he had only just ascended to the upper minors in 2017 and opened the current season back at Triple-A.
Thus far in the current campaign, Fried has allowed only three earned in 15 2/3 innings over his three starts, with 16 strikeouts and seven walks. The free passes continue to be a bit of a concern, as he has steadily given up more than four per nine innings since joining the professional ranks.
It’s unclear at this point whether Fried will get a chance to join the Atlanta rotation, but it seems likely he’ll open in a long relief role. Notably, since he’s already on the 40-man, the move leaves the Braves with an opening that could be filled in the near future by the just-signed Jose Bautista.
Braves skipper Brian Snitker says the organization expects to install veteran Jose Bautista as the regular at third base once he’s brought up to the majors, Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Bautista signed a minors deal recently after sitting out Spring Training, so he’s still getting up to full speed.
At the moment, Bautista is playing at Triple-A after logging a few games down at the High-A level. Snitker says that he’s told Bautista is “close,” so it may not be long before we get a look at the veteran at the game’s highest level. Indeed, last we heard, the expectation was that the former Blue Jay would be playing in the majors by early May at the latest.
The decision to use Bautista in a starting capacity will bump Ryan Flaherty into a platoon role. He’ll surely get some opportunities to spell Bautista against righties, and perhaps will receive some time up the middle, but the news certainly will put a big dent in Flaherty’s playing time. The 31-year-old has been among the pleasant surprises in Atlanta; he’s carrying a .362/.471/.500 slash through seventy plate appearances.
Last year, under different front-office leadership, the Braves attempted an even more novel maneuver at third by slotting Freddie Freeman there after he returned from a lengthy DL stint. That experiment didn’t last long. In this case, though, new GM Alex Anthopoulos says that he has long believed Bautista can handle the hot corner. And Snitker says there are “nothing but good reports” streaming in at the moment.
There are obviously some questions about how Bautista will perform at 37 years of age, coming off of a season in which he hit just .203/.308/.366 while playing his accustomed corner outfield. But there’s upside aplenty here for the Braves and relatively little to lose by trying. Bautista is not far removed from being one of the game’s preeminent hitters and could be quite a valuable asset if he can bounce back at the plate and deliver even palatable glovework at third.
- Right-hander Luke Jackson cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A by the Braves after being designated for assignment last week, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. The 26-year-old Jackson owns a 4.85 ERA and a 36-to-21 K/BB ratio in 52 innings with the Braves over the past two seasons and has struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 70 total innings at the big league level. Jackson hasn’t missed enough bats in the big leagues (5.8 K/9, 10.7 H/9), but he does have a track record of missing bats in the minors (career 9.8 K/9).
- Also via Eddy, the Reds have released outfielder Adam Brett Walker from the organization. Walker, 27, was a third-round pick of the Twins in 2012 and boasts huge raw power but plenty of swing-and-miss issues as well as a limited defensive skill set. Minnesota removed him from the 40-man roster after the 2016 season, and he landed with the Brewers, Orioles (twice), Braves and Reds via a series of waivers claims and minor league signings in 2017 alone. Walker’s power is evident in looking at his career .232 ISO in the minors, but he’s whiffed in 30.9 percent of his minor league plate appearances — including an enormous 37.4 percent strikeout clip in Triple-A.
Third baseman Jose Bautista, whom the Braves signed to a minor league contract this week, could join the team during its upcoming road trip, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. The Braves will be out of Atlanta from April 23 through May 3, and Bautista will begin that period at Triple-A Gwinnett. A longtime superstar outfielder with the Blue Jays, Bautista has looked good at third with the Braves thus far, according to infield instructor Adam Everett. The 37-year-old played a bit of third in 2017, though he hasn’t lined up there on any kind of regular basis since 2011.
The Braves have designated righty reliever Josh Ravin for assignment, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Correspondingly, the club has elected to purchase the contract of fellow right-hander Miguel Socolovich from Triple-A Gwinnett.
The Braves acquired Ravin from the Dodgers last November in exchange for cash considerations after. Ravin pitched just three innings for the Braves across two appearances. In between those two appearances, he was outrighted off the club’s 40-man roster, purchased again from Triple-A, and spent time on the DL with an illness.
Last night’s game saw Ravin allow two earned runs in two innings of relief during the 12-inning marathon against the Mets; the club likely made the move in order to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. It’s worth noting, though, that Ravin’s fastball velocity (in a limited sample size) was down nearly two miles per hour from where it sat a year ago with the Dodgers. He’ll give way to Socolovich, who was also recently outrighted from the club’s 40-man roster.
The Braves don’t intend to take a long time deciding whether to bring up recent signee Jose Bautista, Michael Hoad of Sportsnet.ca writes. GM Alex Anthopoulos says that the club is “optimistic [Bautista is] going to have an opportunity to come up,” so it seems the expectation is that the former star will indeed get a shot. He’ll be looking for a return to form at the plate even as he makes a surprising return to third base after nearly a decade spent mostly in the outfield. But Anthopoulos did note that he hasn’t made any promises of a MLB promotion, so it seems that Bautista will at least have to show something to get a crack at boosting a Braves team that is off to a nice start.
Here are a few notes on some National League players who are already slated to move onto or off of a major league roster:
- The Padres have optioned righty Luis Perdomo, per a club announcement, with reliever Kirby Yates being activated from the DL to take his roster spot. Though he showed a good bit of promise last year, Perdomo has been tagged for 13 earned runs in 14 innings in his first four starts of the 2018 campaign. Though he has given up quite a lot of hard contact, the resulting .510 batting average on balls in play surely seems like an outlier. Beyond the performance considerations, the move helps the team manage a roster that has quite a few moving parts.
- Marlins pitching prospect Merandy Gonzalez is heading to the majors for the first time, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Skipper Don Mattingly says he’ll use his new hurler as a long relief option for the time being. Gonzalez is a starter by trade, and has some long-term hopes of working in a big-league rotation, but at the moment is appealing mostly because he offers the possibility of filling some innings and is already on the 40-man. Miami added Gonzalez in the trade that sent reliever A.J. Ramos to the Mets last summer.
- There’s nothing official yet, but Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweeted the “informed speculation” that outfielder Mac Williamson will join the Giants tomorrow. There are still some complications, but the 27-year-old has clearly played his way to a call-up. In fifty trips to the plate at Triple-A, he’s hitting a ridiculous .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs. Meanwhile, veteran Hunter Pence has managed only one extra-base hit, nine singles, and two walks in his 61 MLB plate appearances. It seems he will be headed to the DL with a thumb issue.