clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Braves: No depth, no Motter

Some words about both the Braves weird lack of depth and Taylor Motter’s competition for worst hitter.

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Braves a weirdly constructed team. Sometimes, when the Cardinals face an opponent, I use that as an opportunity to look at their organizational roster construction. I look short term and long term. I look at their potential payroll and try to fill in the gaps by people leaving. I try to see how teams might look going forward.

There’s no team like the Braves. They’re unusual in the way you imagine and also in a way you probably aren’t aware. They have a long-term commitment to catcher, to first base, to second base, to third base, to center field, and to right field. Orlando Arcia is being paid relative peanuts for a couple more seasons at SS, and if the Braves’ plan goes as expected, he will be replaced by Vaughn Grissom. They have a club option on Eddie Rosario next year that may or may not be accepted and one more season of Marcell Ozuna with a club option.

Here’s the funny thing. They have, and this is without exaggeration, literally nothing else on the position player side. I couldn’t believe it. They are not set up for injuries at all. Somebody mentioned in the comments that they essentially play the same 9 players every day all season. That’s because they have nothing else. I’m not even kidding. They are nearly solely reliant on their nine starters.

They have two players on their AAA team who are considered top 20 prospects by Fangraphs. They are Brandon Shewmake, who has a 67 wRC+ at 25-years-old in his second attempt at the level. They also have Luke Waddell, their 15th ranked prospect, who just made it AAA in the 2nd half, and who has a 67 wRC+. Both are infielders. They a semi-interesting catching prospect who just made it to AA (18th ranked) and a 24-year-old centerfielder who has a 109 wRC+ in 58 games (14th ranked). Going further in High A, their 8th ranked prospect has a 126 wRC+ in High A, and their 16th ranked one has a 92 wRC+. Both are also infielders.

I keep mentioning infielders, because there are legitimately no outfielders in their system who are considered prospects. At least through High A. I always kind of balk at people who consider the Cardinals’ system weak, because it’s well set up to complement the MLB squad. (which is ultimately the goal of a farm system) And on the infield side, that’s also true of the Braves. Grissom is near MLB ready (though the Braves committing to Arcia and not him makes me question if he’s really the long-term answer given... how they usually seem to treat their top prospects). And all their semi-interesting prospects are infielders.

But man.... their outfield/DH spots have nada. They aren’t screwed exactly if someone gets hurt, but they will have a probable black hole in the lineup. Here’s their bench. Nicky Lopez, a defensive wizard who can’t hit at all. He’s set to make around $5 million next year in arbitration, and he’s gotten 46 PAs in 17 games since they traded for him in July, so would be a rather expensive backup who doesn’t play. I think he’ll get nontendered. 26-year-old Luke Williams, with a 68 wRC+ projection from ZiPS, and Kevin Pillar, who is essentially a defensive replacement. And Forrest Wall, a 27-year-old who made his debut last month, and has 4 plate appearances in 4 games.

I don’t really have a point. Their pitching pipeline is much better (and much more necessary since you always need pitchers). I just felt compelled to share this information and have little to write about.

Taylor Motter DFA’d

Motter finished - or at least hopefully finished - his Cardinal career with a 25 wRC+ in 82 PAs. Felt like more than 82 plate appearances didn’t it? That is also a lot of plate appearances though. I wondered if the Cardinals have ran out worse hitters in that many plate appearances in the past. Turns out, they have. With at least 80 PAs, Motter has had the 15th worst results at the plate since 1960. Who was worse?

The absolute worst hitter with at least 80 PAs in any given season was Jerry Buchek, who had a .133 average in 93 trips to the plate with just two doubles and two hit by pitches. He didn’t walk. In his defense, he was 19. I thought he was a “Bonus Baby” but the Cards just decided to promote him that early I guess. Mike Laga must have had ridiculous power potential since he’s best known for hitting a ball out of Busch Stadium and also he seemed to get chances long past the point where it was clear he wasn’t a major leaguer. Laga struck out 25% of the time in the 1980s, which is kind of liking striking out 40% now, and he also didn’t walk. But 16 HRs in 449 career PAs and a .156 ISO so he showed just enough. He hit just 1 homer in 102 PAs with the Cards however, batting .130.

Rich Gedman is next, and his excuse is that he’s a catcher. You’re going to see more catchers. Gedman had a -7 wRC+ in 100 PAs. And he returned the next season for the Cards, 65 wRC+. Dal Maxville is the 4th and we’re in positive wRC+ territory here. Maxvill was in his fourth season and the previous three had also gone poorly, but at 27, he became a starter and his defense carried him to a basically average player. When he managed to not completely crater with the bat.

2007 Kelly Stinnett and 1989 Tom Pagnozzi had wRC+ of 5 and 6. I have no memory of Wilson Delgado, who was 30 and batted .169 in 2003, and the Cardinals managed to sell him to the Angels, where he batted for a 110 wRC+ in the last month of the year. 2015 Pete Kozma got 111 PAs of 8 wRC+ hitting. In 1965 Carl Warwick hit for an 8 wRC+. He didn’t even get a hit in 17 PAs with the team the Cardinals gave him to midseason.

The Cardinals actually traded for Jose Oliva in August and he hit so poorly to finish out the year that he never got another MLB shot. He was 24 too. Craig Wilson, no not that Craig Wilson and not to be confused with Jack Wilson, who was actually in the Cards’ system to start his career. This Craig Wilson managed two extra base hits and a .171 average.

Gerald Perry was in his fifth season as a Cardinal and last as an MLB player when he had his season. Man I do not understand how rosters were used back in the day, this guy was basically a pinch hitter and nothing else. For four straight years! In 1993, he received 116 PAs in just 96 games. He had a 158 OPS+. He had a 153 OPS+ the next year. He had a 17 wRC+ the next year. Baseball, huh? Three years removed from an All-Star appearance with a 65 OPS+ on a bad Cubs team, Steve Swisher had a 20 wRC+ in 80 PAs.

But the real winner of this contest is and probably forever will be Bob Lillis. He must have been perceived to be some defender. It’s not really borne out in the admittedly unreliable defensive stats we have now. But he was a career 53 wRC+ hitter and got 2,491 PAs in his career. He was worth -5.5 fWAR. Amusingly enough Lillis arrived to the Cardinals via trade... with another member of this list Carl Warwick. Warwick’s bad season was a few years later, or that might have been the worst trade of all time.

Lillis was actually 31 by the time the Cards got him, and he actually received the bulk of his plate appearances after the Cardinals. What a weird career. He came to the plate 245 times, batted just .217 with four doubles, seven walks (two intentional!!!), and two hit by pitches. He was then drafted in the expansion draft by the Houston Colt .45s, which is where he stayed for the next five seasons, with his career ending with a release at 37-years-old.