Alex Anthopoulos made his first big move as the Braves General Manager on Sunday, as he sent outfielder Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson. Since the Braves don’t need a first baseman, Gonzalez was designated for assignment immediately after the trade. Although Kemp was extremely productive for the Braves in 2017, hitting .276 with 19 homers, this is a good trade for Atlanta.
This is obviously a big storyline for the Dodgers to get the 2011 MVP runner-up and former face of the franchise back in Los Angeles, but for a Braves team that is in rebuilding, trading a star that is past his prime and approaching his mid-30’s is not a bad move. Kemp is a great player, but Atlanta now has two quality pitchers that will likely be traded at the deadline for prospects (both Kazmir and McCarthy will both become free agents following the 2018 season) and added some infield depth with a 28 year old Charlie Culberson with a bright future.
Many in Braves Country believe that this trade was made in part to make room for the guy the Braves want playing right field this year, Ronald Acuna. Acuna is rated as the number six overall prospect by MLB Pipeline and the number one prospect in the Braves farm system. The 20-year old Venezuelan started making headlines last season when he went from A Advanced to Double-A to Triple-A in just one season and posted a .325 average and belted 21 homers between all three leagues last year. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Acuna also was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League in November and appears to be a five-tool prospect.
Acuna will definitely receive an invite to Spring Training, but whether or not he’ll make the Opening Day roster like the fan base wants remains to be seen. With Kemp out, the right field position is now open and the table is set for Acuna.
Bowl season is officially in full swing and I’ve got a pretty embarrassing 3-6 bowl picking record right now. Despite that, I’m still confident that I can turn it around and be the best on the ESPN 106.7 staff… or at least do better than Peck’s Picks. (Click here to view the full 2017-2018 Bowl Schedule):
The Birmingham Bowl between Texas Tech and South Florida is probably the biggest toss up of all the bowl games this season. Charlie Strong had a very strong first season with South Florida, leading them to a 9-2 record (6-2 in conference) in the American Athletic Conference with their only losses coming to Houston and UCF. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is an extremely impressive duel-threat guy that will make a huge impact on this game. He’s thrown for 2600 yards and 21 touchdowns this season and is the team’s leading rusher, running for nearly 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Texas Tech also has a quarterback to brag about, Nic Shimonek, who has been lighting it up through the air this season. Shimonek currently has 3547 passing yards which is good enough for 16th in college football and 30 touchdowns which ranks 11th in college football. Texas Tech’s 6-6 record doesn’t look nearly as impressive on paper, and neither does their 3-6 conference record (Big 12). However, these teams are still very evenly matched and will put on a quarterback show too. This one could go either way (USF is just a three point favorite), but I’m going with Charlie Strong and the Bulls (Saturday 11:00 kick on ESPN).
Another game this week that is intriguing to me is the Texas Bowl between Texas and Missouri. To put it lightly, Missouri had a comeback season. Missouri started their season 1-5 with losses to South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia. Columbia seemed to be a completely silent football town and Barry Odem was as good as gone as head coach. Following the loss at Georgia, the Tigers went on an incredible 6-0 run including wins over huge SEC East opponents Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has played well during this run, and I see his favorite target J’Mon Moore to make big catches in the bowl game. Moore is currently second in the SEC with 1017 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. I see this one being a close game, and Texas will be helped by the fact that they basically have home field advantage, but I still see the 2.5 point favorite Missouri Tigers taking the Texas Bowl (Wednesday 8:00 kick on ESPN).