Morning Chop: A Summary of Braves’ News
East Notes: Price, O’s, Balfour, Braves, Marlins
[Editorial Note: Interesting comment. Have the Braves' forced anything this winter?]
- The Braves won’t force the issue in their search of bullpen depth, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
NL Top Players: No. 24 Justin Upton
Lowdown: Has Justin Upton already peaked? Previously viewed as a franchise player, Upton debuted in Atlanta with much initial success, hitting .298 with 12 home runs in his first 26 games. But it took another 105 games for Upton to hit 12 more home runs — a span during which he hit just .248. The former D-backs cornerstone simply has not shown the consistency to regain such status with the Braves, though, at 26, he still has the tools — and the time — to make you ponder the possibilities.
Atlanta Braves Winter League Report
The Atlanta Braves have a whole bunch of the organization’s players in Winter Leagues and we’ll take a look at what they’re doing.
One of the Braves’ top prospects, catcher Christian Bethancourt, has been working on things down in the Dominican Republic. Bethancourt, 22, earned a big-league callup last year and improved his offensive numbers considerably in his second year in Double-A. He’s been struggling a bit in the Dominican, hitting .226/.276/.340 over 53 at bats. He hasn’t played since November 30th so it appears that his Winter League stint may well be over.
After a solid season in the Mexican Summer League (and in his first North American action in the Carolina League), 21-year-old Daniel Castro has been playing in the Mexican Winter League and struggling quite a bit, hitting .194/.265/.339. He has hit a pair of home runs (including one on Thursday) and has five walks and 14 strikeouts in 62 at bats.
1B Mark Hamilton is a veteran minor leaguer (with a couple of cups of coffee in the bigs) who recently signed with the Braves as a minor league free agent after stints with the Cardinals and the Red Sox organizations. Known more for his on-base ability than his power, Hamilton had a good 2013 with Pawtucket and is showing his veteran savvy in the Mexican Winter League with a .254/.377/.429 line with eight doubles and seven home runs in 177 at bats.
Inbox: Who will emerge as clubhouse leaders?
Despite the fact that there will be a number of familiar faces still present, the Braves clubhouse will certainly have a different feel during the early days of Spring Training. Over the course of the past year, the Braves have bid adieu to their three longest-tenured players — Chipper Jones, Hudson and McCann — and three of their strongest and most respected personalities — Martin Prado, David Ross and Eric Hinske.
Some of you might discount the value of the kind of chemistry these six aforementioned players helped create in the Braves clubhouse over the past few years. But in the baseball world, where players essentially spend eight months together on a daily basis, a cohesive atmosphere can certainly prove beneficial.
Given that he is still 24 years old and has experienced just four Major League seasons, it might not be fair to askJason Heyward to become the new team leader. But as last year progressed, Heyward provided every indication he was more than willing to assume a more significant leadership role.