Don’t Stop Believeing

Parraz, Sutton, and Durango have impressed in spring training…but is it enough?

As a fan, part of the excitement of spring training involves checking out the unfamiliar faces that could be joining the big club in April (or in some cases, September). As the Braves starters tune up for the season, we get a chance to check out a few potential Braves. Plenty of attention has been directed toward the Andrelton Simmons/Tyler Pastornicky battle at shortstop, but meanwhile a few minor league vets who have had impressive springs compete for the last few roster spots. These journeymen (Get it? Don’t Stop Believing? …Nevermind.) have made the most of their opportunities and have made solid cases for a roster spot.

Jordan Parraz, OF

Atlanta Braves Spring Training

Plus, he's a great high-fiver.

Drafted originally by the Phillies in the sixth round of the 2003 June Amateur Draft and later by the Astros in the third round of the 2004 draft, Parraz has been around the block more than a few times in his minor league career. He’s bounced around the Houston, Kansas City, and New York (Yankees) systems, making stops in Greenville, Tri-City, Lexington, Salem, Idaho Falls, Northwest Arkansas, and Omaha before ending his tour of America’s least interesting cities in Scranton. Parraz has been solid but not spectacular in his last three seasons in AAA, contributing a .279/.356/.439 slash but adding just 20 homers and 118 RBI’s. Speed is not a big part of his game, and his defense is average, so the upside isn’t great.

However, Parraz has looked good this spring, coming up big a few times when needed, including an RBI single to tie the game in the 9th against the Nats on Wednesday and a big fly that fell just short of the wall on Monday. Overall, he’s hitting .393/.452/.571 this spring, including a triple, a home run, and six RBI’s. At 27, Parraz is still looking for his first major league action, and he’s making a strong case for a chance this year. It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll make the opening day roster with Heyward, Bourn, Prado, Diaz (for now), Constanza, and occasionally Hinske (God bless) being the incumbents in the outfield, but with the durability of this group, there’s a chance we could see Parraz for a quick look in 2012.

Drew Sutton, IF/OF

At 28, Sutton does not exactly fall under the “up-and-coming” category. The good news is, unlike Parraz, Sutton has a bit of major league experiences, appearing in 86 games for the Reds, Indians, and Red Sox since 2009. In those limited opportunities, Sutton has hit .258 (41/159), but he did make the most of his opportunities with Boston last year, posting a .315/.362/.444 slash in his 54 AB’s. His real value added comes with the versatility of his glove. Although the Braves official page lists him as a third baseman, he has played just about every position but umpire in 325 innings of major league work in the field. This spring, Sutton is hitting .290 with an impressive .405 OBP and has looked solid on defense.

Atlanta Braves

See Jack Wilson? It's not so hard, now is it?

Here’s the thing to remember about Sutton: he can play shortstop. While Pastornicky and Simmons have been duking it out all spring, Sutton has been quietly producing, and although I’m not the first one to suggest we give him a shot, I believe he at least deserves a chance to prove himself at the big league level. Jack Wilson provides very little as a backup (plus he’s still in the doghouse for boching the potential season-saving double play ball in the Braves final hours of 2011), and the closer we get to opening day the more I’m convinced that Pastornicky or Simmons might wet their pants if they get the nod (although Pastornicky has finally come around in the last few games). Management hasn’t given Sutton much of a look at short this spring, but Lord knows Fredi’s been wrong before. I say we give Sutton a shot, seeing as he’s the only shortstop option on our spring training roster that has even an inning of major league experience (besides Jack Wilson, who remains in said doghouse).

Just sayin.

Luis Durango, OF

Atlanta Braves Spring Training

Safe! Nah, just kidding, they got him by a mile.

At 25, Durango is the only one of these three that can get away with wearing the “prospect” tag. He’s also had a bit of major league experience, posting a .292 average (79/270) and a respectable .361 OBP in limited appearances over three seasons with the Padres and Astros. He’s got absolutely no power to speak of, but the kid can run, amassing 175 steals in his minor league career, including a 44 steal season in 2009. Durango is 2/4 on the base paths this spring, but 7/8 in his major league career and could potentially add value to the team as a pinch runner. More impressively, he’s batting .500 (10/20) this spring and is in fact leading the team in OPS at 1.100, despite never actually getting an extra base hit.

Like Parraz, Durango’s position hurts his chances of making the Braves’ outfield-heavy roster. However, his speed certainly helps, he’s had major league experience, and he also seems to have a bit more upside in terms of raw tools than Parraz offers. If nothing else, it would be nice to have another pinch-running option late in the game, especially in situations when Bourn and/or Constanza are both already playing. I  like Durango’s chances of dawning a Braves uniform at some point in 2012, and at worst case we’ll almost certainly see him come September. I wonder if he can play shortstop…

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One Comment on “Don’t Stop Believeing”

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