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Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Trade revisited: Kimbrel erratic so far; Melvin coming off DL

Happy draft day, everybody. It’s potentially the biggest draft for the Braves in a long time – they have five of the draft’s first 75 picks tonight; you can do some things with that – and it happens to coincide with the arrival of the Padres for the first Braves-Padres series since the teams pulled off a blockbuster trade less than 24 hours before opening day.

So let’s catch up with the principles involved in that deal, which sent closer Craig Kimbrel and  Kimbrel along with maligned center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, top pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st pick in the draft that starts tonight.

The Braves immediately designated the aging Quention for assignment, and he subsequently retired. Wisler, 22, has pitched well at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 3.52 ERA and 1.158 WHIP in 11 starts, with 49 strikeouts, 11 walks and four homers allowed in 61 1/3 innings. He was rated the No. 34 prospect in Baseball America’s preseason Top 100, and Wisler could make his debut at some point this season and compete for a rotation spot next spring training.

Paroubeck, 20, has shown well in extended spring training and is likely headed to Danville for short-season rookie ball later this month. A second-round pick in the 2013 draft, he hit .286 with four homers and a .346 OBP in 34 games  last year with the Padres’ rookie-league team in his first year of pro ball.

Now, the major leaguers in the deal, beginning with Upton, who is scheduled to come off the disabled list today and make his season debut in this series, possibly tonight. (He’s 0-for-8 with six strikeouts against tonight’s starter Shelby Miller, so I’m interested to see if Bud Black puts him in the lineup tonight.)

The erstwhile B.J. Upton, who decided to go by his given name Melvin Upton Jr. this year after the worst two seasons of his career, has been rehabbing a foot injury since getting hurt in the first day of full-squad workouts at spring training. Make no mistake, he was the key reason the stunning trade was made the night before the season began.

Specifically, dumping the remaining $46.35 million on Upton’s contract was the reason. The Braves tried for more than a year to get someone to take all or most of what was left of that five-year, $75.25 albatross of a contract, and when the Padres called back – the teams had talked earlier at length – offering to take it all if they could have Kimbrel, well, the Braves didn’t think they could pass it up.

(As a personal aside, I wrote in the blog on opening day that the timing couldn’t have been worse for Braves fans, many of whom had just begun to get over the Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis trades during the offseason and taken a liking to the scrappy, revamped team that was set to begin the season. When the Braves traded Kimbrel after saying multiple times that they had no intention to, well, it was a slap in the face for fans that tarnished the usual upbeat mood of opening day. But knowing that the deal might not be there if they waited a week, or someone in the trade – especially Kimbrel – could get hurt and dash the whole thing, well, I do see why the Braves felt compelled to do the deal when they did. Again, it was about dumping the $46-plus million left on Upton’s contract and not going into another season with that cloud hanging over the team.)

The Braves frankly weren’t expecting much from Maybin, who’s easily been the most pleasant surprise of the entire trade. They figured he’d play in a center-field platoon with Eric Young Jr., maybe give the Braves some speed if he could stay healthy. But Maybin has obviously been far more than that. Far, far more.

Maybin, 28, hit just .235 with a .290 OBP and .621 OPS in 95 games for the Padres last season. For the Braves, he’s clicked with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and thrived in his approach, hitting a career-best hit .296 with a .371 OBP and .798 OPS, with five doubles, five homers and 26 RBIs in 47 games. And for more than a month, he’s been their steadiest hitter.

Maybin has hit .348 (40-for-115) in his past 33 games with five doubles, two homers, 21 RBIs, 19 runs, 8 stolen bases and a .419 OBP and .443 slugging percentage. He has five multi-hit games and six RBIs in his past six games, and is 11-for-19 with four RBIs during his current streak of four consecutive multi-hit games.

It only took a few weeks for it go from people asking me, why did they get this guy? to folks asking, how long do we have Maybin for? Maybin is making $7 million this season, is under contract for $8 million next season, and the Braves have a $9 million option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.

His performance made Young expendable, and the Braves DFA’d him last week. Maybin is their every-day center fielder and has fit nicely in the 2-hole between Jace Peterson and Freddie Freeman. To say he’s been a major upgrade over Melvin Upton Jr. would be a ginormous understatement.

The Padres don’t know yet what to expect from Melvin Upton Jr., or how he’ll fit in alongside his slugging brother Justin, who’s having a great season in his first year with in San Diego after being traded by the Braves in January. The Braves got four prospects in the Justin Upton trade including second baseman Jace Peterson, who impressed from the first day of spring training and has become entrenched in Atlanta's lineup.

(By the way, being draft day and all, we should note that Justin Upton was the first overall pick of the 2005 draft, selected by Arizona, and Melvin Upton Jr. was the second overall selection of the 2002 draft, taken by Tampa Bay. Maybin was a first-rounder and 10th overall selection in that 2005 draft, going to Detroit.)


The Padres don’t know quite what to expect from Melvin, but the Padres surely expected a little more than what they’ve gotten so far from Kimbrel, a third-round pick by the Braves in 2010 who was not just the game’s best closer in his first four full seasons with Atlanta, but was historically  dominant in that period through last season.

Hard as it might be for us who saw him the past four-plus years to fathom, Kimbrel has a pedestrian 4.29 ERA and .256 opponents’ average in 23 appearances, with 31 strikeouts and nine walks in 21 innings. On the road, he’s 0-1 with a blown save, a 4.66 ERA and a .282 opponents’ average in 11 appearances, allowing 11 hits, five runs and six walks in 9 2/3 innings.

In his past nine road appearances, Kimbrel has a 5.87 ERA and .313 opponents’ average, with 10 hits, five runs and six walks allowed in 7 2/3 innings.

Kimbrel has rebounded from career-worst one-month stretch – 9.31 ERA, .293 opponents’ average in 11 apearances April 18-May 19 -- to allow no earned runs (one unearned) in his past six games, albeit with only one clean appearance in that stretch.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’ll be Shelby Miller (5-2, 1.89 ERA), coming off his first bad start of the season, against Padres righty Ian Kennedy (3-5, 6.60), who’s had plenty of them.

Kennedy is 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA in his past five starts. He snapped a four-start losing streak Tuesday when he limited the Mets to two runs and six hits in six innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts.

He’s 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in three road starts, compared to 2-3 with an 8.23 ERA in six home starts. However, in Kennedy’s last road start May 23 at Dodger Stadium, he limited the Padres’ rivals to two runs and six hits in six innings.

Kennedy is 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves, and allowed one run and two hits in five innings, with five walks and seven strikeouts, in his only start against them last season. Kennedy got no decision in that Aug. 2 Padres win in San Diego.

Lefties have hit a robust .297 with seven homers and a whopping .637 slugging percentage in 91 at-bats against Kennedy, while righties have hit .271 with five homers and a .494 slugging percentage in 85 at-bats.

Freddie Freeman is 6-for-10 with a homer, eight RBIs and four walks against Kennedy, and Chris Johnson is 2-for-6. Others with more than six official at-bats against him are Juan Uribe (5-for-21), Cameron Maybin (3-for-14 with five strikeouts), and Andrelton Simmons (0-for-9 with three strikeouts). If Simmons is sore from getting hit in left arm by Cole, today might not be a bad day to rest.

Miller gave up more than two earned runs for the first time all season on Tuesday at Arizona when he gave up six hits, four runs and six walks (matching a career high) in 4 1/3 innings. He 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA and .188 opponents’ average in his past eight home starts going back to late August with St. Louis, and he’s not allowed more than two earned runs in any of those home games.

Miller is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the Padres (4.79 ERA in four games including a 2012 relief appearance).

Against  Miller, Justin Upton is 1-for-10 with four strikeouts and Melvin Upton Jr. is 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. Others: Matt Kemp is 2-for-3, Jedd Gyorko is 2-for-6 with a homer and two walks, and Will Venable is 1-for-5 with a homer against Miller.

I'll close with one from the great Neil Young, and this video of him doing it live.

"TWO OLD FRIENDS" by Neil Young

And met God there,

With the glow of love in his flowing hair. I'm dreamin' of a time when love and music,

Is everywhere.

Can you see that time comin'?

No my son that time has gone,

There's things to do.

The world has changed since I first met you.

Back when The Band played Rock of Ages,

In their prime,

And the old juke joint was rockin'...

Oh Lord there's so much hate,

In a world where we're from another place.

Show me how to be like you.

See no evil, hear no evil,

Feel no evil in my heart.

In my heart, in my aching heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my old black heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my beating heart.

Sky had turned a lotta shades of gray,

As they walked on,

And a gentle rain fell down on them.

They found faith in the way things are and,

The way things change,

And they said goodbye like two old friends.

Take me up to the mountains high,

Or a building top where the spirits fly.

Show me how to be like you.

See no evil, feel no evil,

Fear no evil in my heart.

In my heart, in my aching heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my old black heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my beating heart.

Oh Lord there's so much hate,

In a world where we're from another place.

Show me how to live like you.

See no evil, hear no evil,

Feel no evil in my heart.

In my heart, in my aching heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my old black heart.

In my heart, in my heart,

In my beating heart.



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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.