Category Archives: Custom Atlanta Braves Jerseys

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The Atlanta Braves drafted him, but he’s now earning his stripes halfway around the world.
The Atlanta Braves made a great run in the playoffs this season, throwing off those supposed “jinxes” of having failed to advance beyond Round 1 in 20 years.

But as with other seasons, there always seems to be that one guy who wins the prize as a former Brave… even as Atlanta itself comes up short.

In recent years, those names have included Dan Uggla and Tim Hudson (both as Giants), Johnny Venters (Nationals), and both Brian McCann and Evan Gattis (though their Astros rings are obvious a bit in question).

Soon there might be another one, though this is about a kid barely 21 years old who the Braves decided was damaged goods.

Carter Stewart, drafted 8th overall in 2018 by the Atlanta Braves, was subsequently rejected by them due to a report from his team physical about a ligament issue in his throwing wrist.

In the days following that physical, the Braves offer to Stewart dropped dramatically: from an initially-agreed-to $4 million to the minimum required to guarantee draft compensation in 2019 (around $2 million).

Stewart’s family and representation both opted to hold the Braves’ feet to the fire and chose not to sign at that reduced amount — a complication that held its own consequences since that also reduced the amount of pool monies Atlanta had available to spend on draftees that Summer… a reduction of $4.987 million, in fact.

In the end, Atlanta survived a grievance filing and Stewart got his money elsewhere (more on that in a sec). That compensation pick turned into catcher Shea Langeliers via the 2019 draft.

Landing on His Feet
About a month prior to that 2019 draft, the now 19-year-old Stewart went for the unexpected: he signed a deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

The terms of that deal were a bit sketchy: “more than $4 million”, though he was believed to have been looking for something close to $7 million. Later reports pegged the numbers at 6 years and that higher $7 million figure.

This was after he’d recorded a 1.70 ERA for the Eastern Florida State Junior College Titans over 74 innings. I guess that wrist was okay.

Had he re-entered the draft in 2019 — which was his right — a $4 million guarantee would have been the equivalent of the 14th overall pick in 2019. $7 million would clearly have been in the Top 3 or 4… so Fukuoka clearly offered enough to buy Stewart out of the draft.

So that leads us to 2020 in the NPB minors, and with precious little experience, Stewart brought his imposing 6’6″ size to the Hawks minor league-equivalent roster this year.

He fared… okay: 15 games, a 3-7 record, and a 4.16 ERA over 67.0 innings… more than any other pitcher in the entire Atlanta Braves organization threw in 2020 (okay, unless you add in Fried’s 23.2 post-season innings).

His WHIP was high at 1.463, thanks to a walk rate of 4.4 — but that was probably inevitable given his experience. But for a kid basically still fresh off the plane in a foreign land… not half bad.

Things are a bit different in Japan, as you might expect. Those 67 innings actually represented the second-highest total on that team’s entire staff. Koutaro Ohtake was first at 92.1 innings; no one else had more than 60.0 other than Stewart.

But even though Stewart technically had the worst record on the team, the Hawks could afford to carry him through the experience… turns out they were pretty good: a 75-43 record and first place in the Western League by six games.

The Braves had four players make the 2020 All-MLB team, which was announced Wednesday night. They led the majors with three players on the first team.

MLB established first- and second-team honors last winter, mirroring a similar process done in the NFL and NBA. The teams feature a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, five starters and two relievers.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who won National League MVP, was named the first-team All-MLB first baseman. Marcell Ozuna was named first-team All-MLB designated hitter. Left-hander Max Fried was named one of the first-team starters. Outfielder Ronald Acuna made the second team.

Freeman was the best player in baseball, hitting .341/.462/.640 while providing his usual stellar defense. He was the centerpiece of an offense that would’ve shattered franchise records during a normal 162-game season. Freeman won the NL MVP, Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Award.

Jasseel De La Cruz Jersey

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If 2020 wasn’t an odd enough season, it was a weird one for the Atlanta Braves 23-year-old pitching prospect. Jasseel De La Cruz got his first and second calls to The Show and didn’t pitch in either instance, spending less than 48 hours as a big-leaguer.

What went right in 2020?
De La Cruz got his call to the big-league club, and while he didn’t pitch, it obviously shows the Braves like his stuff enough to have him in the bullpen for emergencies.

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So how about that stuff?

As with several of the Braves young pitching prospects De La Cruz has a sensational 1-2 punch with a third pitch still in progress. For the righty, it’s his mid-90s fastball that flashes 98-99 at times and a reliable slider that several have called the best amongst the Braves’ prospects.

Now, the overall viewing of De La Cruz has been limited. Since signing out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2015 season, De La Cruz spent his first three seasons trying to get out of Rookie ball. He pitched in Rome in 2018 and then spanned three levels in 2019, the first time in his young career he eclipsed 70 innings.

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That said, in my limited viewings, the slider was very good, particularly on right-handed hitters and can easily become an effective out pitch. He was much improved from 2018 to 2019 and hopefully that trend continues.

What went wrong in 2020?
He didn’t get to pitch in either of those two call ups, so there are still two big questions we don’t really have answers to:

Has his changeup developed to a legitimate big-league pitch?
Has his control issues subdued?
It’s not that De La Cruz’s changeup is awful by any means. It’s just not ready. As far as the command goes, that has always been an issue for him. He appeared to turn the corner early in 2019 in Rome in Florida, but the command problems returned to close out the year in Double-A when he walked 37 batters in 87 innings.

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Both of these concerns are addressed by working on them and repeating them, especially in competitive competition. Hopefully, 2020 wasn’t a setback in his improvements.

What’s in store for 2021?
This is the first season I haven’t gotten to see De La Cruz pitch in person, so as already stated, there are some question marks. The answers to the above two questions will answer the biggest question of them all:

Is De La Cruz’s quickest path to the bigs as a reliever or a starter?

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We know the Braves like him, adding him to the 40-man prior to the 2019 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. We also know he has a two-pitch mix that could work in the Braves bullpen in a pinch.

That decision will ultimately decide what we see of De La Cruz in 2021. If the Braves envision him as a reliever at least for the near future, he could start in Triple-A, ready for the call when needed. If they want to stretch him out and see how he handles a true starter-like season, he’s more likely to start at Double-A. That is also dependent on where arms like Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright start the season of course.

Anthopoulos’ decision to stick with Duvall was rewarded again this summer when the 32-year-old outfielder hit .237 with 16 homers and an .833 OPS during the 60-game season. That’s a 43-homer pace over 162 games.

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But considering the cost to keep Duvall was going to likely be between $6.5 million-$7 million, the Braves opted not to take this kind of gamble on a cost significantly enhanced by a small sample size.

Duvall hit exactly half (eight of 16) of his homers within an eight-day span from Sept. 2-9. Included within this stretch was a pair of three-homer games. So, 37.5 percent of his home runs were hit over the course of two calendar days.

I get that if you take away Freddie Freeman’s top two games or his finest week of this past year, his MVP credentials would not have been quite as impressive. But you would still be looking at numbers that showed much more consistent production.

Duvall hit .229 with five homers and a .696 OPS through Sept. 1. He then hit .153 with a .572 OPS over the 22 games (including the postseason) that followed his second two-homer game on Sept. 9.

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While Duvall is certainly not as bad as that final stretch would indicate, he also has not proven consistent enough to confidently gamble on the arbitration salary he would have received. The Braves could use that $7 million to land a legitimate middle-of-the-order power hitter, like they had over the past two years with Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna.

Will Ozuna return?
Ozuna’s potential return to Atlanta still hinges on whether National League teams will once again use the designated hitter. While I’ve assumed the DH will remain universal, Anthopoulos and his peers don’t have the luxury to make assumptions.

• Hot Stove Tracker

So for now, the Braves’ search for that middle-of-the-order bat focuses on a left fielder or third baseman. Before going any further, it does not appear the Braves have any interest in trading for one year of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. But they are open to moving Austin Riley to left field if necessary to make room for a power hitter.

Ozuna seemingly would provide the Braves exactly what they need. But until the DH issue is resolved, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for his return.

Why is Jackson back?
There was absolutely nothing to like about the 2020 version of Luke Jackson. The right-handed reliever’s four-seam velocity dropped from 96.1 mph to 94.4 mph, while the strikeout rate that drew attention in 2019 fell from 33.7 percent to 15.2 percent.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, Baseball Savant says his 6.84 ERA should have been more like a 4.71 ERA. Can I interest you in another Kawakami memory?

Anyhow, the Braves opted to keep Jackson around with a non-guaranteed $1.9 million deal. If he shows up in Spring Training and struggles, they can cut ties with him at a fraction of the cost. But if he can at least get back to where he was in 2019, he would be a decent fifth or sixth option out of the bullpen.

Will Smith, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek currently serve as the primary base for next year’s bullpen. Josh Tomlin and Grant Dayton add depth to a relief corps that could be further enhanced by the presence of Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Patrick Weigel, Jasseel De La Cruz and some of the organization’s other talented young arms.

Freeman’s extension
Freddie Freeman’s potential extension has been a popular topic over the past few years, and it will draw more attention now that the first baseman is entering the final year of his contract.

My assumption has always been Freeman will remain with the Braves throughout his entire career, or at least throughout a majority of this decade. But there are no guarantees in this game. So, I’ve wondered about the possibility of him returning home to play for the Angels.

Playing for the Angels would put him 30 minutes from his California home and close to both his father and other family members. It would also reunite him with former Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian, who recently became the Angels’ GM.

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Atlanta Braves pitcher Grant Dayton got a special gift on Tuesday — the ability to see the full spectrum of color in the world.

The former Bob Jones High School and Auburn standout turned 33 years old on Wednesday, and he received a pair of EnChroma glasses from his wife, Cori, as a birthday surprise. The glasses correct color blindness.

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Dayton has known he was color blind for around a decade, seeing about 10 percent of colors. But he was skeptical about what he was missing.

“I don’t know how to describe being color blind, but this is way more vivid,” Dayton said on Tuesday. “I refused to believe I was color blind, but now I get it.”

After putting on the glasses, Dayton was jolted by the red of the laces on the baseball and lettering on his Braves jersey.

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“I’m not convinced that I couldn’t have been a hitter if I could have seen the laces and the spin better,” Dayton said. “I can’t believe a baseball really looks like that.”

“I didn’t know what I’ve been missing all my life as now I see vibrant colors, especially the color red, that scream at me,” said Dayton.

On what was his 33rd birthday, Dayton was presented the special EnChroma glasses designed for color blindness by his wife, Cori, and his sons Decker, who will turn three on Dec. 16, and Nolan, 11 months. Cori had arranged for a local news crews to drop by at a local baseball field near their home in Winter Haven, Fla. to see Dayton receive his surprise birthday present and try on the glasses. Once he was given the special gift he was almost speechless.

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“Oh, my gosh. I was afraid these wouldn’t work,” exclaimed Dayton upon seeing the world around him in a much different manner than ever before. “I encourage others to check on the company’s website and take their color blind test. For me, the color red changed the most as before it looked similar to what most see as brown. I now understand why traffic signals and signs and emergency vehicles are red as the color stands out.”

Cori had seen the glasses on the internet and saw how expensive the devices are priced. She reached out to the company and explained to them Dayton’s dilemma. The parent company that manufactures the EnChroma decided to send the glasses in exchange for some publicity. The experience was not only breathtaking for the entire Dayton family, a goldmine publicity for the business, but a change in the way of life for Dayton himself.

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“I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s that I was color blind as it was hard for me to believe,” said Dayton. “Growing up the only trouble I really had was when I went fishing or hunting as the wildlife would blend in with the surrounding nature. I thought it was normal.”

Signed to Auburn University out of Bob Jones, Dayton was selected in round 11 of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Florida Marlins. He was later signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and made his Major League debut on July 22, 2016 when he retired six of his seven batters faced, with two strikeouts against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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He later underwent the very invasive and complex “Tommy John Surgery” to repair elbow damage in his throwing arm and missed a good part of the 2017 season and all of 2018. The left-handed pitcher was picked up off waivers by the Atlanta Braves in 2019 and remains with the National League team today.

During the shortened 2020 MLB regular season, Dayton made 18 appearances out of the Atlanta bullpen. The left-hander posted a 2-1 record with a 2.30 earned-run average in 27.1 innings. He struck out 32 and yielded 11 walks and 22 hits.

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After pitching his first two MLB seasons with the Dodgers, Dayton missed 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In his MLB career, Dayton has a 3-4 record with a 3.02 ERA in 86 games, all in relief. In 89.1 innings, he has struck out 105 and yielded 33 walks and 67 hits.