It was a good Tuesday for the future stars in the Braves galaxy. Here are a few that made me smile.
I’m not all that involved in the WBC but I’ve been following Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons as he leads off for the Netherlands. As I noted Saturday he’s been doing pretty well. Early this morning our time he put an exclamation point on their last game in Japan by hitting a two run homer in the bottom of the eight to tie their game against Cuba. The Netherlands scored again in the ninth to send Cuba home disappointed. You really should watch the way Simmons turns on this pitch.
At the beginning of the 2011 season I Tweeted that I really liked Freddie’s swing. That brought a chorus of replies telling me I was out of my mind. They went on to detail what they thought was wrong with it every time he struck out and that he should really try to be more like Jason Heyward. As the season wore on their voices subsided as he went on to lead the team in batting average and finish second in RBI (Dan Uggla) and OBP (Brian McCann). I haven’t heard from that crowd since then. In 2012 Freeman’s BA and OBP dropped due mostly to the finger injury and contact lens issues but he finished the year at the team RBI leader with 94, 12 ahead of Heyward and 16 ahead of Uggla. I bring that up because as I listened to Jim Duquette on XM radio during their visit to the Braves camp. Duquette quoted two top scouts who called Freeman the man they least wanted to see at the plate when a runner needed to be driven in. Later in the broadcast Justin Upton called Freeman “an RBI machine.” To back up those kind words Freeman went 2 for 2 with 2 RBI off Jake Westbrook in today’s 12-3 win over the Cardinals.
As spring training rolls on it becomes more evident that Evan Gattis is certainly a future star who can hit at any level. Gattis came off the bench today to go 2 for 2 with a run and 3 RBI. The non-roster invitee to camp has a slash of .423/.448/.769/1.218 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBI. If he can learn to call a game well the Braves may not miss McCann as much when he leaves.
Julio Teheran’s backward step last year may or may not have been the result of coaches tinkering with his delivery -okay it was at least partly due to that interference. Over the winter he reverted to his old form and it seems added two pitches. Brian McCann was asked today what he saw different in Teheran this year as he watched from the bench. Mac said that last year Teheran was basically a two pitch pitcher; fastball and change-up. This year his curve ball is back and he’s throwing it as both left and right handed batters. He also added a two seam fastball that he throws to both sides of the plate with lots of sink. I’ve always been of the opinion that he needed a real out pitch. Adding these to his repertoire gives him a lot of options and makes batters think a lot more when they face him. Making batters think is always a good thing. As if to back up McCann’s evaluation Teheran went five no hit, shut out innings today striking out six walking two (actually one guy twice) and leaving hitters shaking their heads as they headed back to the bench. This doesn’t mean he’s arrived but it means this future star is starting to shine quite a bit brighter.
That’s A Wrap
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Paul Maholm had his best start yesterday after I said he was struggling but would probably get it together. Glad to see that happening, now if Tim Hudson can just figure it out too the rotation will be in business.
Another thing that made me smile was the aforementioned Mr. Duquette waxing eloquent about the Braves pitching depth. When talking heads get a fact sheet and expound on it without getting in depth info it gives fans who rely on their expertise the wrong idea. For the record our starting pitching is nor deep. Sean Gilmartin needs at least a year and then his ceiling is as a back of the rotation starter. J.R. Graham has potential and we may see him at some point during the year because guys who throw high 90s fastballs can survive a few mistakes. He is however a year away from being considered as a possibility for a rotation spot. After that there are a lot of questions and few answers.