Braves' Canizares, Young Make Statements In Mexico
ATLANTA—Two veteran minor league players who have put together impressive numbers throughout much of their careers had yet another strong showing this winter in Mexico. While both must continue to prove themselves against better competition, Matt Young and Barbaro Canizares could play roles in Atlanta before the 2011 campaign concludes.
The 28-year-old Young was added to the 40-man roster in November after having a strong season at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he hit .300/.407/.380 with 39 stolen bases. For the second straight winter, he toiled in the Mexican Pacific League with Navojoa and hit .358/.452/.509 before he tweaked a groin muscle that led to an early departure.
"Last year when I was down there, I got in a habit of looking for the breaking ball instead hitting that good fastball, which hurt me early on at Gwinnett," Young said. "But being able to play against good competition and working on all aspects of my game should give me some momentum heading into spring training."
While Young will compete for a spot as a backup outfielder in his first big league camp as a member of the 40-man roster, he increased his value over the course of the 2010 campaign by seeing extended time at second base.
Canizares, 31, has proven capable of hitting any time he has a bat in his hands, which was the case again in Mexico with Obregon, where he hit .320/.421/.533. The Cuban native, who signed with the Braves in 2006, won the International League batting crown with a .341 average last season. In his five seasons in the Atlanta organization, he has a career batting average of .314.
"He's really swung the bat well again this winter," farm director Kurt Kemp said. "Barbaro has such a short swing and he uses his hands so well."
Despite his hitting acumen, Canizares' big league tenure has been limited to five games in 2009. Part of the reasoning centers on his modest power, with his career-best 13 homers coming in 2008 and 2010. A solid run producer, Canizares did clear the fences 12 times in 197 at-bats in Mexico, which would make him more attractive should that trend continue.
• Catcher Matt Kennelly had a solid winter in Australia while playing for Perth. He concluded the 2010 season with a minor hip ailment, which led to his rotating between catcher, first base and right field with the Heat.
• The Braves hired Matt Walbeck to manage low Class A Rome. Walbeck guided Double-A Altoona in the Pirates organization in each of the past two seasons. The former major league catcher filled the void created when Paul Runge became the Astros' minor league field coordinator in December.