The Braves missed out on Yoenis Cespedes and that’s fine. Paying him $75M over three years isn’t a bad deal in my opinion, but Cespedes said that he would take a little less to stay with the Mets. That means the Braves would have probably needed to offer $90M over three years at least. Sorry sports fans, but he’s not worth that. The Mets got him for what he was worth and, with the payroll restrictions the Braves have, they couldn’t afford to take someone like Cespedes at market value. The good news in all of this? He didn’t go to the Nationals. The big market bats are off the market, so how can the Braves improve their offense cheaply? I suggest going after a former top prospect that was recently DFA’d.
Rymer Liriano was once a top 50 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America and BaseballProspectus, and had a brief 38 game stint with the Padres in 2014. Strangely enough, that was his only shot in the big leagues as he wasn’t called up in 2015 despite slashing .292/.383/.460 in Triple-A. Liriano is young (he’ll turn 25 in June) and has just 620 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. For a team that is looking for some cheap options all around, Lirano makes a lot of sense as some outfield depth, but that’s also part of the problem. With Hector Olivera, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Nick Swisher and Michael Born already slated for the outfield in 2016 with Mallex Smith not far behind, there might not be enough room for Liriano. If Olivera can shift back to third base (for the record, I think he should) then adding Liriano makes more sense.
He didn’t have a great Winter League campaign as he hit just .229, but still had an on-base percentage of .341 and slugged .415. Liriano did strike out in 24 percent of his plate appearances in Triple-A, but still drew 64 walks. He has raw power, but I don’t see him coming into that just yet. I can see him hitting 20 or more home runs one day, but I think right now he’s in the 10 home run range. Liriano is close to a finished product at this point and that’s something that the Braves should value. The Braves do not have any space on the 40-man roster right now, but there are few spots I would consider opening in order to bring in a guy like Liriano.
So what does a guy like Liriano project like? According to a September 2014 article by Bernie Pleskoff, a former pro scout, Liriano has a rare mix of power and speed tools for a player his size. He also stated that Liriano flashed a much-better-than-average arm from right field and threw so hard “his mechanics and velocity may have even contributed to the need for his career-interrupting elbow surgery” in 2013. Pleskoff said that Liriano reminded him of Raul Modesi and it supports what other scouting reports have stated.
No, Liriano isn’t Cespedes or Justin Upton, but, for a team like the Braves, he is someone they should take a flyer on. Mondesi was one of the game’s elite outfielders in his prime and anyone with that potential is worth a risk. No, Liriano is no longer the elite prospect he was once thought of, but he was still considered a top two prospect in the Padres farm system according to John Sickels of minorleagueball.com. Here is a quote from Sickels on Liriano that he wrote on August 27th of last year:
“Hitting .280/.375/.431 with 11 homers, 16 steals, 59 walks, 120 strikeouts in 425 at-bats. Decent season but not outstanding in PCL/El Paso context, 118 wRC+. Like Renfroe, he could be an impact guy but there are some questions to answer.”
If there is potential for an impact bat, I don’t think it matters how many questions there are to answer as long as the price is right. Liriano is cheap and young, which are the types of qualities teams like the Braves should be looking at. Is he an impact bat now? Probably not. Will he be an impact bat later? Maybe. Regardless of the outcome, Liriano is worth the gamble.