BravesCenter Q&A with Bill Shanks

Some of the posters on the Message Board had some questions for Bill Shanks. Here are some of the questions and answers.

Bill, is the major league club ever going to give James Jurries a shot? I mean, did he do something bad to JS?
Well I think it's unlikely, but never say never. He didn't do anything to JS (that I know of), and if he did he'd probably be gone already (joke). I've been screaming about his defensive shortcomings for some time now. The promotion of Scott Thorman to Richmond actually may be a blessing in disguise for James, who is now in the outfield. He can probably play the outfield better than first or third, so I hope he does well out there. If he does, he'll only increase his own personal value, even if it means we lose him in the Rule V (very possible). James can hit - there's no doubt about that. But his defense is a problem. It's just difficult in our situation to bring up a one-dimensional player. Yeah, he'd be nice off the bench as a pinch-hitter, but Bobby uses his players in the field too. Hopefully, for James' sake, he can be thrown into a deal before the season is over - even if it's for a lower level prospect (that can maybe get some chance at one of our lower level teams). He's got value, but teams know his limitations. If I were an American League GM, I'd want him as a DH in a heartbeat.

Do you know why a Griffey trade does not look possible? Is it the money or what they'd want in return or content with what we have?
I think the financial stuff is just too difficult to overcome. The Reds are going to want talent, especially if they eat part of the contract. But to decide and agree on how much is paid by the Reds and which players should be fairly sacrificed in order to acquire him is just going to be difficult. I think, at this point, it's a real long shot.

Bill, I know at one time Buddy Hernandez was disabled in Richmond, how is he coming along and will we ever see him given his overdue shot at the "Bigs"? He was added to the 40-man last winter and there were alot of happy Braves fans but since then his talk has really cooled. Also give us the latest on other Richmond pitchers like Kevin Barry and Chris Waters. Are they big league bound?
First off, Buddy was not added to the 40-man last winter. He's still being evaluated. It doesn't look like he'll pitch again this season. He almost made the team this spring but just lost out to Bernero. Hopefully, he can recover from his injury and bounce back next spring.

Kevin was demoted to Mississippi last Tuesday. He has not yet reported. They want him to go to AA to work on his curve ball. Kevin can pitch, and I think he can pitch in the big leagues. He's just in an organization with a million pitchers, and the competition is brutal.

Chris is doing great in his rehab in Myrtle Beach. He pitched seven innings last night and his walk total is low. His stuff and his fastball is coming back. He might get up to Mississippi by the end of the year. Next season, if he continues to be healthy, he'll be a lefty in the upper minors - and that means he'll be in the mix if they need one in Atlanta. For me, Chris could be another Frank Dipino - a solid lefty reliever. I really think he's got good stuff to get major leaguers out.

Do you feel that Scott Thorman will be called up at some point this season?
Yes in September.

Do you see Jarrod Saltalamacchia getting traded because there really isn't any room up here?
Ugh, this is a tough one. I hope he's not traded, because this kid could be a monster one day. He's only scratched the surface of his talent. However, let's face facts. McCann is ahead of him and is in position to be our catcher for the next decade. So we either keep Salty at catcher and let that work itself out, change him to another position, or trade him. I'd at least start playing him at third once in a while. He played third a bit in high school, and he's got a cannon of an arm. It would be a waste to have him at first base. At third, he could be behind Marte in the pecking order, and then if Marte were ever traded, Salty could be ready once Chipper leaves in a few years. But Jarrod can catch. His defense is much improved this season. I'm going to be in Myrtle next weekend, and I'm anxious to see him play. I know one thing: that kid can hit. He might be one of the top prospects in the entire game next year. This situation is very similar to what the Padres had in the late 80s. They had Benito Santiago, a young star who was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1987. Then they had Sandy Alomar, a year younger, right behind him in AAA. They used Alomar in the trade that got them Joe Carter, who at that time was in his prime. I'm not saying Salty automatically gone, but it's a situation that will only help our organization no matter what happens. If Salty continues to develop and is moved to either third or the outfield, then maybe we'll have room for him. He's going to be a solid player in the big leagues.

Will we see Joey Devine called up in September?
I really think so. Joey continues to pitch very, very well. I'm certain that a lot of our scouts are going to watch him carefully over the next few weeks to determine whether or not they think he can help us in September and in the postseason. The reports I've heard on him are outstanding. This was one heck of a pick. I'd almost be surprised now if he wasn't called up in September.

Why was Devine picked in the late first round?
The Braves thought he'd be gone by their pick. In fact, they thought the White Sox (15) or the Red Sox (21) might take him. They were shocked he was available. I'm not sure why he "fell" to them at 27. But it's a very fortunate thing.

Are we going to have issues making September call-ups this year? I seem to remember reading that AOL-TW basically vetoed a few call-ups (Orr last year, LaRoche in 2003) because of the additional cost of their major league salaries.
Hopefully, with the increased revenues from the higher attendence and the higher ratings on television, TW will allow them to call up a few guys. Thorman would be a good lefty pinch hitter for September.

If you look at Richmond and Mississippi right now, you could see the following called up:

Kyle Davies
Jorge Vasquez
Roman Colon
Scott Thorman
Andy Marte

Anthony Lerew
Brayan Pena (although not likely if Perez comes back)

Chuck James (not currently on 40-man)
Zach Miner (not currently on 40-man)
Tony Pena, Jr.

Adam Bernero (still on 40-man)

Bill, on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being lowest), how likely do you think it is that Andy Marte will be traded? And why?
Well the Braves are just going to have to make a decision and answer some questions:
1. Can Marte play any other position besides third base?
2. Could and would Chipper return to the outfield?
3. Would they be best served by Marte being a bench player, hoping he'll get 300 at bats next season?

If the answer to two of those three questions is no, then they may want to trade him and may have to trade him.

The problem, and we've addressed this before, is what do you acquire for him? He's arguably one of the top prospects in the game, and yet while he would bring a lot in a deal, we don't need anything that we could get for trading that good of a prospect.

If three is answered yes, then he'll need to go to the Dominican this winter and learn how to play first base and get more time in the outfield. Then, with Betemit probably taking over as the starting shortstop next year, perhaps Marte could be a reserve 3b/1b/of, with Orr being the main middle infield reserve and Kelly Johnson in a pinch.

I'm going to wimp out, consequently, and answer your question with a 5.

Bill since you wrote such a great book, are you considering writing another book?
Thank you. Yes I am.

Bill, I was watching Chris Domino who is a reporter on BravesVision, he was comparing Jonathon Schuerholz as another Pete Orr type. Does this mean that young Schuerholz might have a future in Atlanta, more for his talent than who he is related to?
I've said on here for two years that Jonathan had talent. He was always a prospect, albeit more of a reserve prospect than a starting prospect. But he's a solid player that works his tail off to get better everyday. He falls right in line with Charlie Thomas, Nick Green, and Pete Orr - guys that may not be starters in the big leagues, but as a reserve will help his team win some games. Put Wes Timmons in that category as well. Jonathan has gotten better offensively because he's now hitting from the right side exclusively. Many of his struggles were because he was trying to be a switch hitter. Now he's back to his natural right side full-time, and he's doing much, much better.

To avoid trading some of our top prospects, Marte in particular, couldn't we just dump them in Richmond for another year or two until the situation pans out? THey don't neccesarily HAVE to play or be traded right now, right?
Well they don't, but the problem you run into is psychological. When a player is ready, and believe me a player knows when he is ready, you can damage their pysche by leaving them down in the minors. It can hinder their continued development and get them frustrated. So that's one worry about that. Marte's going to be ready after this season to play in the big leagues, so it's going to be tough to leave him down there. He's too good to stay in AAA another season. Same goes for McCann and Frenchy. They're ready.

Bill i think that Furcal is a key component to this team and you have Betemit at short? Although Betemit is good, I do not think he is ready to fulfill the leadoff spot? What are your thoughts on this?
Well I like Furcal as well, and so does Cox and the Braves, but the fact is he's pricing himself out of our financial territory. If he had agreed to the 3-year, $25 million dollar offer last winter, that would have been great. But now, he's going to get something close to $10 million dollars a season - or at least ask for that. Now that Betemit has proved he's a solid player, I think it'll be easier for the Braves to allow Furcal to walk. It's just going to be a different team with him gone and with a different type of leadoff man in the lineup. It'll be an OBP player, like Kelly or Giles, instead of a SB player. Betemit is unlikely to be the leadoff man. He'll probably bat 7th or 8th in a very strong lineup next season. I really think Betemit is going to develop (yes you can still develop when you are in the big leagues) into an Edgar Renteria-type player. I'm not saying he'll be another Edgar Renteria, but that type of player. I think he's going to be very good.

Hey Bill. I'm good friends with Angelo Burrows. I was wondering, do you see him making it to the majors someday? Thanks.
If he continues to develop at this pace, making tremendous progress each step up the minor league ladder, then yes I think Angelo has a solid chance to make it. He had a rocket of an arm as an outfielder, and so far his transition to the mound has gone very well. In two years, he could be a relief candidate, but he's still got a lot of developing to do. He's still a new pitcher, so he's got a lot to learn. But the raw talent is there. You can't have this success this early without raw talent.

Bill, do you think the Braves will make a run at Danny Baez or any other reliever?
I'm sure they are talking to teams. The scouts have been out looking at prospects for the bullpen and other positions. I would assume they'll come to Atlanta this week for meetings with Schuerholz and Wren. That's what usually happens. But I do know they have scouted Devine closely and will continue to do so over the next several weeks. Remember, some of the most important scouting you do is the scouting of your own talent. They must determine whether or not Devine can help this team in September and the playoffs. If not, they may be more apt to trade for another reliever, like Baez. But please, if no trade is made next weekend, don't panic. Remember, we're getting ready to get Jorge Sosa in that bullpen when Thomson returns in August. That's a pretty good arm. So it's not like we're not "adding" to the bullpen. If we were to add Devine, here's what the pen could look like:

Chris Reitsma
Dan Kolb
Jorge Sosa
John Foster
Joey Devine
Jay Powell or Jim Brower
Boyer or Colon or McBride

Then Horacio would probably be added to the bullpen in the postseason. That's not a bad group.

Bill, I'm almost finished with your book and I've really liked what I've read so far. However, I would have liked to have seen something about the scouting the Braves do around the world (maybe a 2nd book idea). You probably don't have much opportunity to come in contact with those scouts, but I'd really like to read more about the scouting and signing of Andruw/Furcal/Betemit/Marte/Elvis and what the Braves look for in foreign players.
Thank you for your kind words. That was a chapter that we almost worked on. I knew, however, that the stories about the international players would be endless. They are great stories. I didn't think we could give it justice in one chapter. International scouting is a clear omission in the book, and it's because of that reason. I just knew if I went down that road, it could take up three or more chapters. I do come in contact with our international scouts. The stories they tell would be great for another book. We'll see.

rvince: Do you think Brian Jordan and the Braves are trying to drag his injury out so they don't have to release and keep so when the rosters expand and allow Francouer to play?
SHANKS: I really think that is very possible. Jordan may be the one that has to make the decision. He could make the decision very easy for John Schuerholz. Jordan knows how well Jeff is playing, and that in a fraction of the time, he's already outhomered Jordan. So it will be interesting to see what happens. If Jeff Francoeur (and for that matter Brian McCann) goes back down to the minor leagues, it will be a shame. And I think John Schuerholz knows that. How he works it out is another story, and something he's going to have to do, especially if Eddie Perez and Brian Jordan do, in fact, come back.

With Jordan and Perez seemingly becoming the "odd men out" with the stellar play of Francouer and much value could those guys bring in a trade? I'm pretty skeptical of BJ being able to draw interest but Eddie has gotta be as good of a defensive catcher on the market before the trading deadline. Would the combination of a Perez, Anthony Lerew, Jake Stevens, and/or Luis Hernandez be enough to pull a Baez or Guardado in a trade?
I really don't think Eddie would have any value whatsoever. He's a 37-year-old catcher who has now missed six weeks with a shoulder injury. Thirty-seven year old catchers with shoulder surgery don't last too long, and I think Eddie's on his last leg. Jordan's about the same thing. He's a 38-year-old outfielder that is coming to the end of his career.Any team dealing with us would probably prefer we threw in an extra fringe prospect than throwing those two in the deal.

Hey Bill do you think Chipper will be a hall of famer?
Well missing most of this season really hurts him. He was on pace to be near 500 home runs if he stayed healthy, and I think that'll be the determining factor. If he can stay healthy for the next five to six years, then he'll have a chance to be between 450 and 500 home runs. Right now, I think he's borderline.

Do you see any late draft signings in the coming month before school starts, much like Parliament and Shaffer last year? I didn't know if any of those guys might be impressing in a summer league like Parliament did.
SHANKS: It is possible that could happen. They would have to be signed to 2006 contracts since our budget for 05 is done. I know our scouts are seeing some of the late draft picks play in summer showcases and tournaments, much like they did with Parliament last summer when he impressed them so much. So I wouldn't be surprised if we signed one or two before the summer is over. Not sure which ones it will be, though.

Would a 3 for 1 type trade netting a Hudson caliber player surprise you this offseason? I mean I love surplus, but I'd hate to see it rot/taken in the rule V.
No that would not surprise me. We should probably start looking at players who are a year or two away from free agency that might be in the same boat Hudson was in last winter. But the problem is we really don't need anything. We could easily replace Furcal's salary this season ($5.4 mil) with one similar for Billy Wagner, who wants to come here. I'd love to see Wagner join Devine, Sosa, Reitsma, Boyer, McBride, and Colon in our bullpen next season. If we signed Wagner, that would be all we need. If we needed another Hudson type starter, that would be one thing. But heck, we've got all five starters coming back next season (as long as Thomson's option is picked up - and if he's healthy, it will be) and then we've got Davies waiting in AAA. Could the organization use another 3-for-1 deal to lighten the load of the top heavy AAA and AA levels? Absolutely. But the lack of a major need might make it difficult. It's almost like we need to offer three decent prospects for one GREAT prospect.

RJS15: Do you see ATL trying to sneak a guy like Joseph (having a bad year) through waivers to clear a 40-man spot for the off-season?
Yes I think they'll try to drop Onil off the 40-man after the season. Billy McCarthy, due to his injuries, might also be in jeopardy of being dropped off.

Do you see ATL offering Furcal arbitration this offseason?
I doubt it. I think Boros has taken over as Furcal's agent, so John Schuerholz is just not going to play that game. It'll be difficult to gamble that he might take it and come back, when we wouldn't be able to afford it.

Bill, you keep saying Betemit will play SS next year. I'm thinking, why not Marte? Marte has better defensive skills, and is a better hitter. I know his range isn't the best ever, but it's pretty similar to Betemit's. plus, Betemit seems like the weak link for the lineup.
Marte can't play shortstop. It would be nice, but Betemit's much more qualified and able to play short.

Bill, I know we have KJ and Franceour manning the outfield positions but is there any chance we make a move for Brain Giles in the offseason? I know there has been some talk about him and Marcus wanting to play together so I thought I would ask.
I think it's a longshot. There's just not any room. We could keep these four outfielders we've got here now for the next five years - at least. If we had a huge need elsewhere where we could take that outfield depth and get something else, then maybe Giles could be an option. But I expect Kelly, Andruw, and Frenchy to be our starting outfielders next season, with Langy starting occasionally and mainly being our fourth outfielder.

Bill, your opinion, not the Braves necessarily. Do you think Marte is going to be a better player than LaRoche and/or KJ? If so, would you move Marte to first or third?
Ugh. Tough, tough question. Can I wig out of it by answering it this way? I just read over the details of Chipper's contact. It says that we could buy him out for $5 million bucks after next season - unless he has more than 450 plate appearances or is an All-Star next season. Now I'm not saying Chipper's going to be hurt next year, but what if he was? Then we'd really need Marte around - not only to play next season, but to then replace Chipper in 2007. So that gives me my excuse, that and the fact that we don't need to trade one of the top three prospects in all the game because we don't need anything. It is my hope Andy, Kelly, and Adam play together for many years. I think Adam is going to be another John Olerud. When I look at what Olerud has done in his career (3 gold gloves, 2200 hits, 250 homers, .295 average, .400 OBP) I see Adam. I think he can do that. I also like Adam because of the type of hitter he is. It's good to have a good average lefty type in the middle of your lineup. It balances out the power. Plus, I think Adam will consistently hit 25 home runs a season. Kelly has the same potential, and in many ways is a similar hitter. He has the chance to produce the same type stats. He's a perfect #2 hitter in a lineup. Marte could hit 30 home runs a season and win a few Gold Gloves. But he's a power-hitting right-handed hitter. So you're going to make me trade one, huh?

Who do see see as the braves everyday corner outfielders for the next five years? (not how you would do it but how you think Bobby Cox will do it)
As of right now, I see the two that started the game tonight as our corner outfielders for the next five years - Frenchy and Kelly. Bobby loves Kelly, and he's going to love Jeff.

Bill, do you think Kelly is going to be a 150 strikeout guy or will he cut down a little, a lot, or at all?
He'll cut it down. He strikes out a lot when he struggles. He'll probably strike out about 100 times a year, though.

Bill give me your line up for the 2007 season?
Kelly Johnson – LF
Marcus Giles - 2B
Chipper Jones - 3B
Andruw Jones – CF
Adam LaRoche - 1B
Jeff Francoeur – RF
Brian McCann – C
Wilson Betemit – SS

Bill, I have a question. Why aren't we trading for extra help? Or I guess my question here is, why is everyone against it? I could understand the "don't trade KJ or Marte" people on here, but what I don't understand are the people that want to keep all these other random prospects. I don't see how keeping all of them in the minors for yrs helps us in any way. True we don't really NEED anything but we could always improve in a certain area, without drastically hurting ourselves. I like KJ, but if there is a possibility to get Adam Dunn, why wouldn't we take it? It's obvious they are shopping him around, so why not take a shot at him. So he takes a few of our prospects, so what? There's not a place for them here anyways. I don't see how keeping them helps us? Can you help me out Bill? With our team now being filled up with a bunch of youngsters, where do the ones in the minors fit in?
There are many good points here. First, I think JS would like to acquire another reliever. The question, of course, is whether or not he can get one that's cheap. The main target would be Billy Wagner, but the Phillies are just too close to trade him to a division rival. Wagner might be dealt, but it's unlikely they'd send him to us. As for Dunn, he's probably not on our list because of his pending raise. Could we afford, player-wise, to acquire him? Certainly. But it would be difficult to afford his salary after he goes to arbitration. Could you imagine what we could do right now with all this depth if we were still at the $100 million dollar payroll mark? Holy cow.

The depth in the minors is just going to allow us to not be mediocre. Let's say, just as an example, that we had a chance to get THE best inexpensive shortstop - whomever that may be - in the game. Let's not mess this up by debating who that may be. So since Furcal is going to leave this winter, we could turn around and target the best inexpensive shortstop in the game and go after him. Now sure, that player's team is not going to want to give him up easily. But now, with all our depth, we have the players to pry that terrific player away from that team. That's one way we could use our depth to get even better. We could also identify a terrific prospect in the lower levels of the minors and make an offer for him.

But again, the "problem" is we don't need anything drastic. We have options for the short-term and long-term at every position.

Now: Johnny Estrada
Short-term: Brian McCann
Long-term: Salty Dog

1B: Now: Adam LaRoche
Short-term: Scott Thorman
Long-term: WEAKNESS (God help us)

2B: Now: Marcus Giles
Short-term: Martin Prado
Long-term: J.C. Holt, Ovandy Suero, Brandon Monk

SS: Now: Rafael Furcal
Short-term: Wilson Betemit, Tony Pena, Jr.
Long-term: Luis Hernandez, Yunel Escobar, Elvis Andrus

Now: Chipper Jones
Short-term: Andy Marte
Long-term: Van Pope, Eric Campbell

Now: Johnson, Jones, Francoeur, Langerhans
Short-term: Billy McCarthy, Josh Burrus
Long-term: Esquivel, Jones, Owings, Schafer (to name 4)

UTILITY: Now: Pete Orr
Short-term: Jon Schuerholz
Long-term: Wes Timmons

Now: Smoltz, Hudson, Hampton, Thomson, Ramirez
Short-term: Davies, Lerew, James, Miner
Long-term: Stevens, Harrison, and 10 others

Now: Reitsma, Sosa, Foster, McBride, Boyer
Short-term: Colon, Vasquez, Devine, Tucker, Barry
Long-term: Startup, Nix, and about 10 others

So the ONLY weakness in our organization is a long-term answer for first base, but our current first baseman is in his second season, and the short-term option is right behind him in Richmond. Maybe Mark Jurich could be the long-term answer at first, but we already have long-term answers in our current player and in our short-term option.

Most of our positions occupied NOW are held by young players, and the short-term options are RIGHT BEHIND THEM knocking on the door, creating a bottleneck situation at the top level of the organization.

Which leads me to...

Bill, I have a little similiar question to chop2chip but anyway, I posted this in the gamethread and could you tell me, if you were the G.M/Manager, how would you handle the depth of this team?
I would try and let the bottleneck continue. It's only going to help us in the long run. Before next Sunday's deadline, I'd go get a reliever (Farnsworth? Baez?) to help the bullpen. I'd be willing to part with Scott Thorman and a pitching prospect for that reliever. I don't want to trade Scott, but LaRoche is my long-term first baseman. I'm curious about Devine, but I don't know if we can put that much pressure on him. There are those in the organization who are convinced he can handle it, but a veteran might help out. Then this winter I'd trade Johnny Estrada for more prospects (don't ask me what exactly). I'd sign Billy Wagner and let Kolb go. I'd hand Betemit, Francoeur, and McCann starting jobs for 2006. Marte would be on my bench and get 300 at bats. I'd use the depth to keep that top level strong as ever. I'd probably try to make a trade for a lower level star - some 3-for-1 deal. But that's hard to do. Isn't it a shame we can't trade for draft picks?

chipper706 Bill, I believe the Phillies are more of a threat to the Braves than are the Nationals at this point. What do you think?
SHANKS: I agree. The Phillies are like this black cloud hanging around on a summer afternoon. There's thunder in there. They are not dead yet.

How about get a sure thing like Ken Griffey Jr. to bolster lineup to put you into World Series. I hate to say this but Kelly Johnson and Langerhans in the postseason is a strikeout waiting to happen. Schuerholtz needs to package a Thorman or even Salty with a pitcher like Jake Stevens for Jr. Why do we see the need to hold onto Salty when he is clearly not going to be as good as Mcann.Trade your depth in the Minors. We can always reload. Bill please tell us that we are trying to improve our team this year. The kids are all nice young players but the postseason will be a train wreck.
I understand your Griffey comments, and there's a part of me that would love to have him. If we could get him for $6 million dollars for each of the next three seasons (and have the Reds eat those deferred payments), I'd be in favor of it. That would definitely take care of some of our depth stuff. We almost NEED to make a trade like this. But I just think the money situation is going to make it to difficult to pull off. And as for our young outfielders, I have confidence in Kelly and Jeff and even Langy to do well. Jeff Francoeur is a winner. He has been all his life. If I were an opposing team, I'd be scared to death to face him in a postseason situation. I think he'll thrive. I know having all these rookies in our lineup is worrisome. But if we can get Chipper healthy (which he obviously is not) it would be good to see how our lineup could perform.

Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development with the Braves as the main focus. Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team is available at Barnes and Noble bookstores and online at Bill can be reached at

Atlanta Dugout Top Stories