Two weeks into spring training 2013 and. . .
The Braves are 7-8-0 in spring training games, not that wins mean anything but folks were sure worried when we were 0-6.
The new outfield looks like it’s coming together and Jason Heyward has stepped forward into a leadership role. His interviews sound like an old hand and he’s been seen helping the players who probably won’t make the team – I was going to say younger but many aren’t. Of course Jason hit a big fly but the longest so far belongs to Justin Upton. Brother B.J. Upton hit one as well but it was a fence scraper in comparison. Justin has had an adventure or two in left but he’ll be challenging Ryan Braun for the All Star left field spot this year without doubt.
The Third base battle has been interesting. Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson both joined the home run squad early on and my eyes tell me two things; Johnson isn’t a good first baseman (he was seen the guy who’d give Freddie Freeman a rest day now and then) and while he’s been solid at third Francisco has been better. Still when asked today who was ahead AJC Braves beat writer David O’Brien tweeted that it was too close to call.
Everyone knows I think Roadrunner should be the guy but many just remember his strikeouts last year. They forget or don’t know Johnson struck out just as often. It will be interesting to see how it ends.
The lineup is beginning to look like I expected and Chipper Jones predicted in an interview on XM radio recently; they’re going to score a lot of runs but when they’re scuffling it’s going to be ugly, lots of double digit strikeout games are ahead. You can hear part that interview here. Other highlights from it are that he was surprised they traded Martin Prado and he thinks Brian McCann will probably be somewhere else next year. The snippet is short and worth a listen.
Entering today’s games, #Braves led NL in homers (19 in 15 games) and had 4th-most strikeouts (108), behind Mets, Cubs, Phils.
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) March 9, 2013
Tyler Pastornicky has been scorching the ball this spring (full stats on everyone below) and stealing bases too. He obviously wants to get back to Atlanta and not playing up to his standards last year. The problem is that Ramiro Pena is signed to a major league contract and is out of options so he’ll either make the team, get traded or be cut. He’d never make it through waivers and probably wouldn’t accept assignment.. Pastornicky still has options available.
The Braves gave Jordan Schafer another shot this year, claiming him off waivers from Houston before they signed B.J. So far this spring he’s looked like the number one prospect he once was. Unfortunately for him the outfield is a little crowded, he doesn’t play first base and the left handed bat the Braves want is one with some pop. Still that market is pretty thin and Schafer may end up with a spot in Atlanta.
The other player with a real shot at being in Atlanta to at least start the season is Evan Gattis. The White Bear is slugging .800 and five of his eleven hit have been of the extra base variety. He hasn’t looked bad behind the plate either though he lacks the seasoning to play there every day yet. That’s why I think he spends at least a part of the year at Gwinnett. He could well start 2014 in Atlanta if BMac does leave.
There was some concern about Andrelton Simmons not being in camp this spring and whether he’s the right guy to leadoff for the Braves. There’s no need to worry on either count. While playing for the Netherlands in the WBC Simmons is leading off and has put up so pretty good numbers.
I know it’s a small sample size but every sample size is small right now and he won a batting title in the minors as a leadoff man. I included Ramiro Pena’s WBC numbers as well since he hasn’t had a lot of Braves at bats. That’ will change as I suspect Mexico is out of the WBC after today’s brawl . . .err game. I said I’d publish some stats so here they are.
That’s A Wrap
It is early and of course things change rapidly at this time of year but we’ve avoided injury so far and the hitters are starting to hit. . .except for Dan Uggla of course. He’s striking out like he did most of last year but I think – okay hope – that he’ll be back to around .260/.340/.480. For a seventh or eighth place hitter that will do nicely. Even if he doesn’t the lineup no longer depends on him for all the right hand power. Next time I’ll look at our pitching.