Braves Reel In Fish For Bullpen
ATLANTA—Though the Braves were a topic of several conversations throughout the Winter Meetings, the lone move made by general manager Frank Wren and his staff was the type in which Atlanta is rarely a player.
The Braves selected 23-year-old lefthander Robert Fish from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft. Wren said the opportunity to evaluate a southpaw with the potential to compete for a job in the Atlanta bullpen was too tempting to pass up.
"He's got a very good arm," Wren told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Our scouts saw him this summer and said he had outstanding stuff. Power breaking ball and up to 95 (mph), lefthanded. Could very easily fit in as a piece of a major league bullpen."
A sixth-round pick of the Angels in 2006 out of a California high school, Fish was a starter early in his career. He made the shift to the bullpen in 2010 and spent most of that season and all of 2011 with Double-A Arkansas.
The Yankees took Fish in the 2010 Rule 5 draft but waived him during spring training and lost him to the Royals. When Kansas City opted against keeping Fish on the major league roster, he returned to the Angels and went 1-0, 3.26 with two saves in 30 innings.
Despite his somewhat bumpy development, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Fish has made steady progress over the past year. He sat in the 92-94 mph range most of last season with his solid-average fastball. His curveball is inconsistent but shows an above-average break when he's in rhythm. Fish also mixes in a modest changeup to help keep hitters honest.
Command issues that centered on difficulty in repeating his delivery have plagued Fish during his career. While scouts had early concerns about his unusual arm action that included wrapping his wrist in the back of his delivery, Fish uses that approach to create deception. He also has tightened his mechanics, which has resulted in better command.
Should Fish continue to pitch at that level this spring, he could be a strong candidate to fill a role in the bullpen, especially with the loss of veteran lefthander George Sherrill in free agency.
• The Braves did not select anyone in the minor league phase of the draft. Atlanta also did not lose any players in either portion of the Rule 5 process.
• First baseman Ernesto Mejia, who led the organization in home runs and RBIs last season at Double-A Mississippi, was swinging the bat well this winter in the Venezuelan League. He was leading the league in extra-base hits (23) and was tied for first in doubles (16).