Under-the-Radar Atlanta Braves Players Ready to Impress This Spring
Pitchers and catchers have reported for the Atlanta Braves, with the first full-team workout scheduled for Thursday.
The Braves have a lot of new faces in camp after trading away some serious talent in the offseason.
Acting general manager John Hart told The Associated Press (via ESPN.com) the Braves intend to be competitive in the National League East in 2015. In order for this to happen, there will have to be some under-the-radar players who have career years for the Braves in 2015.
We could find out who some of those players might be in the upcoming weeks.
Here's a look at five players who are under the radar but could impress this spring training.
1. Phil Gosselin
By the end of the 2014 season, it was Phil Gosselin who was getting most of the playing time at second base for the Braves.
The Braves traded his main competition in Tommy La Stella and added a few other players, yet Gosselin seems to be flying under the radar this offseason.
Gosselin will be battling Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson and Eric Young Jr., while top prospect Jose Peraza will garner a serious amount of attention.
While the first three are all newcomers and could gain the starter's job, Gosselin has just as good a chance as any of them. The 26-year-old hit .266 with a .304 OBP in 46 games with the Braves last season.
Gosselin will be worth monitoring this spring training as he competes for a starting role.
2. Zoilo Almonte
The left field spot appears to be a platoon situation, with Jonny Gomes playing against left-handed pitching.
However, who will man left field when the Braves face right-handed pitching?
One of the main competitors for the spot is Zoilo Almonte, whom the Braves signed to a one-year deal this offseason.
The 25-year-old was unable to muster much success at the MLB level his past two seasons without consistent playing time for the New York Yankees. However, his minor league numbers are much more promising, with a .269 career average and .329 OBP.
Almonte hasn't had the opportunity for everyday playing time like he could with the Braves in 2015. This will be a critical spring for Almonte, as he will look to take advantage of a huge opportunity.
3. Arodys Vizcaino
I was disappointed when the Braves parted ways with Arodys Vizcaino three years ago in order to acquire Paul Maholm.
Maholm proved to be a solid addition, but Vizcaino was a top arm prospect in the organization at the time.
After a few seasons dealing with injuries with the Chicago Cubs organization, the Braves reacquired Vizcaino in exchange for Tommy La Stella this offseason. If healthy, Vizcaino has a chance to be a major asset for the Braves' bullpen.
Vizcaino features a mid-90s fastball to go along with a curveball and changeup to give him three quality pitches. He is sort of a loose cannon on the hill, so pitching coach Roger McDowell will have to work on his consistency.
It's a crowded pitching rotation this spring for the Braves, so Vizcaino will likely begin in the minors. However, I'm excited to see what the Braves' pitching coaches can do with Vizcaino the second time around with very lively stuff.
4. Josh Outman
Here's another arm to watch for in the competition for the final bullpen spots this spring training.
The Braves signed Josh Outman to a one-year deal this offseason with the possibility to use him as their left-handed specialist.
The 30-year-old has had an up-and-down career but is coming off a nice 2014 season in which he posted a 2.86 ERA with both the Yankees and Cleveland Indians. More importantly, he limited left-handed hitters to just a .169 average in 2014 while holding them to just a .186 average in his career, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Outman has a legitimate shot to be in the bullpen as the important lefty specialist. He will have to prove he can get left-handers out in spring training to earn manager Fredi Gonzalez's trust for that role.
5. Jason Hursh
Jason Hursh has been lost in the shuffle this offseason with the Braves adding so many prospects into the organization.
A year ago at this time, Hursh was one of the top arms in the organization. Now, he is rated the No. 10 overall prospect in the organization, according to MLB.com.
The former first-round pick will need to stand out this spring among many more talented arms.
He is not competing for a starting spot in the big leagues, but he could position himself for a call-up in the future if he has a strong spring.
Hursh is coming off a 2014 season in which he posted a 3.58 ERA for Double-A Mississippi, and he still features a mid-90s fastball.
Hursh is no longer one of the elite prospects in the organization, but that doesn't mean he can't have an impact on the MLB team in the future. This spring will be a big one for him and his future with the Braves.