When Jason Heyward was hit in the jaw by that 90mph fastball yesterday the Braves lost their leadoff man, hottest, hitter and most charismatic star for the remainder of the season. The division lead is safe but the lineup is once again in need of shoring up. The question is how?
The Braves internal options are pretty straight forward but none of them very satisfying. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Leadoff man: Jordan Schafer seems to be the right choice here for a couple of reasons.
- Leadoff is his natural lineup spot. When drafted and throughout his minor league career he was projected to be a top of the order center fielder who gets on base and uses his speed.
- Hitting leadoff his slash line is .307.409/.507 with five steals in seven attempts in 89 PA.
- He provides solid outfield defense
- Fredi Gonzalez is trying to keep him in the lineup because he’s been hitting well; at least until the calendar changed to August
The downside? His August slash is .150.261/.150 in 23 PA.
Other leadoff options include:
- Andrelton Simmons who floundered there earlier but seems do well hitting towards the bottom of the order.
- B.J. Upton who the GM thought for some reason was a leadoff man but has floundered everywhere he’s been in the lineup so far.
Right Field: When Jason was out earlier in the year and when he played center Justin Upton moved back to right field. Justin played there his whole career until moving to Atlanta but he’s not a gold glove right fielder and won’t make many of the catches Heyward would make. As a left fielder he’s above average. I expect Justin – if healthy – to be the man at least initially.
Jordan Schafer has played right but lacks the arm to do it regularly. The same is true of Reed Johnson whose achilles injury put him on the DL and even after he returns will certainly slow him down. Joey Terdoslavich has played both corners in the minors but he’s not an everyday quality outfielder. Jose Constanza played there off and on but his arm isn’t up to the job every day. so JUP seems or to be the choice but if we use him in right who plays left?
Left Field: This depends a lot on how Fredi Gonzalez wants to do things. If he give B.J. a chance to st.ep up – again – then he’ll slide Schafer to left. If BJ falls n his face – again – he might well use Joey T there or start Evan Gattis and sub for defense later with Constanza or perhaps Todd Cunningham.
None of these is really a great choice. Heyward brought pop and defense to the lineup so there’s a chance the GM will move for a waiver wire guy but who?
The waiver wire doesn’t have any difference makers out there that will actually be traded but there may be some good players who are. We just saw the Cubs deal David DeJesus to the Nationals who immediately put him on waivers themselves. That’s odd but the Nationals have had an odd season. If the Nats would trade DeJesus to us he’d be a good fit. At 33 he isn’t a long term guy but he is a seasoned veteran and solid defender. The Nats aren’t likely to do us any favors however so who else?
According to Jon Heyman Marlon Byrd was placed on waivers 9 August. Since then I can find no reports where his name comes up so either he was claimed and pulled back or Heyman was wrong; neither would surprise me much. If Byrd did clear and was available he’d be the guy. He’s having a great year after struggling to come back from being hit in the jaw by a fastball – I know odd synchronicity here – and serving a 50 game suspension in 2011. Byrd is slashing .286/.333/.523 with 21 homers, 24 doubles, 5 triples and 70 RBI for the Mets. We saw what he can do on Tuesday. The Mets seems oddly unwilling to trade the 35 year old journeyman outfielder so it’s unlikely he moves. The name that interested me when it came up in an aside on MLB Network’s Post Game last night was Nate Schierholtz.
Scheirholtz is have a very good year for the Cubs after getting little playing time with the Giants. His slash of .278/.330/.520 with 18 homers, 26 doubles, 3 triples and 58 RBI at or above his career numbers and he’s been very hot lately. He’s a right fielder by trade with a good arm and experience on post season teams. At 29 years old he has one arbitration year left and would be under team control through 2014 so they Braves could flip him in the post season or as part of a package for another need or just hold on tp provide insurance in the event Heyward has concussion, vision or other issues that slow his recovery. I like the idea of Schierholtz which likely means the GM won;t consider it; we are rarely on the same wavelength.
That’s A Wrap
The loss of Heyward is the second hammer blow the Braves have taken in the past few weeks. The pitching staff’s stepped up and filled in for the loss of Tim Hudson so far but I don’t see our outfield depth to be capable of that in a championship year. In the post season pitching and defense wins and games are generally close. Losing Heyward diminishes our ability to win both at the the plate and in the field. Our best option looks to be slipping Schafer into the leadoff spot and trying to add Schierholz who seems the best fit as a Heyward stand in. . . unless the Giants want to lone us Hunter Pence. The Braves will undoubtedly look around today and see what they can do. Let’s other GM’s don’t get too greedy and our GM realizes that reinforcements are needed now.