Because you can’t let Jose Constanza beat you

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If there’s a worse hitter than Jose Constanza on a postseason roster, it’s safe to say the guy also dabbles in some mound work.

This is a guy who hit .276/.332/.314 with no homers and 17 RBI this year… in Triple-A! In the majors, he came in at .258 in 31 at-bats. He also had a .258 OBP, as well as a .258 slugging percentage. One third of his hits were bunt singles. The guy has so little power that 44 percent of his hits as a major leaguer have failed to leave the infield.

Still, there was Don Mattingly, unwilling to take the chance that Constanza would add on to the Braves’ 2-1 lead with two outs in the seventh tonight. The left-handed-hitting Constanza was Atlanta’s pinch-hitter with two outs and men on second and third. Right-hander Chris Withrow had gotten into the jam, but he had just struck out Elliot Johnson with a looping curve to give himself a chance to get out of it.

Mattingly had three options at that point:

1. Let Withrow face Jose Constanza
2. Bring in a lefty to face a right-handed pinch-hitter
3. Bring in a lefty to walk the right-handed pinch-hitter and face lefty Jason Heyward instead

Mattingly went with No. 3. He called on Paco Rodriguez, and the intentional walk came after the Braves countered with Reed Johnson. Heyward proceeded to single up the middle, scoring two runs, and the Braves ended up winning 4-3 to even up the NLDS at one game apiece.

Of course, things could have worked out differently. Rodriguez truly has been murder on left-handed hitters this year, limiting them to a .131 average. Heyward has actually been better against lefties than righties, but Rodriguez likely retires him at least 75 percent of the time there.

Really, though, it’s often true that the simplest solution is best. Left-handed hitters batted .217 against Withrow this year, and Constanza is as bad as any he faced. Plus, Heyward is the one of those options that could have turned this into a game over with one swing of the bat. A typically squib single from Conzstanza might not even have scored the second run. On the other hand, it something went wrong with Heyward, it could have been a 6-1 score.

It wasn’t a horrible decision from Mattingly. Odds are that he’ll make worse calls that work out better later in the series. Still, he’ll be reliving this one for months if the Dodgers lose the series, particularly since Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth that brought the Dodgers to within 4-3.

Ronald Acuna tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

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ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.

After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”

Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.

Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.

For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.