Braves excited about what Lipka brings to the table
When the Braves took Matt Lipka with their first selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, they viewed him as the best available athlete that year. At the same time, they realized that the two-time All-State wide receiver out of Texas was still somewhat of a raw baseball talent.
Nearly four years later, Lipka has yet to play a game above the Class A Advanced level. But now that he has dealt with the challenge of transitioning to the professional level and overcome a devastating hamstring injury that jeopardized his career, the Braves remain hopeful that his tremendous athleticism will enable him to begin living up to the great expectations they had when they drafted him.
“He’s where he needs to be,” Braves assistant general manager Bruce Manno said. “He’ll be at the level where he needs to be and we feel he’ll continue to get better.”
Before likely beginning this upcoming season with Double-A Mississippi, Lipka is going to enjoy his current opportunity to make the most of his first Major League Spring Training. The 21-year-old non-roster invitee laced a sharp single to left field while serving as the leadoff hitter for the split-squad team that played the Tigers to a 10-inning scoreless tie on Sunday afternoon at Champion Stadium.
While going 3-for-6 during Saturday’s 16-15 loss to the Nationals, Lipka had a chance to display his tremendous speed, which has always served as his greatest attribute. After his bloop single down the right-field line was bobbled, he raced to second base, and then alertly kept going all the way through home plate when an errant throw sailed into foul territory down the left-field line.
This Little League home run was documented in the scorebook as a single that was followed by two errors. The Braves viewed the mad dash around the bases as simply a reminder of what Lipka is capable of doing with his legs.
“He’s got game-changing speed,” Manno said. “He continues to improve with the bat. We’re excited about him.”
2014 team preview: Atlanta Braves
Run prevention. Last season, the Braves led the NL in fewest runs allowed. On a component level, they ranked first in the NL in bullpen ERA, fifth in rotation ERA and third in defensive efficiency (i.e., the percentage of batted balls in play that are converted into outs). That all added up to, as noted, the stingiest run-prevention corps in the senior circuit.Given rotation health, that should again be the case.
Speaking of the rotation, yes, the free agent losses of Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm hurt in terms of depth, but bear in mind that Hudson and Maholm were two of the Braves’ least effective starters last season.
Defensively, there’s also room for more “tactical aggressiveness,” as the Braves in 2013 wereone of the teams least likely to employ the defensive shift but also enjoyed excellent results when they did employ the shift.
Production up the middle. To be sure, Simmons is a mega-elite fielder would provide value even if he put up basement-level numbers at the plate. With that said, throw in Simmons’s and Gattis’s OBP concerns with Uggla’s and B.J. Upton‘s awful 2013 seasons, and you have serious concerns up the middle, at least in terms of offensive output.
Atlanta Braves Most Important Player 2014
Braves GM Frank Wren attempted to acquire an established number one in the off-season. Pitchers of that caliber come with a lofty price tag and Wren was not able to find the right deal. Fortunately, the Braves have a player in their midst that has true number one potential.
Mike Minor and Kris Medlen are very good pitchers, but they are not guys who strike fear into the opponent and blow away opposing hitters. Brandon Beachy, when healthy, has better stuff than Minor and Medlen, but in reality does not meet the true definition of a number one.
The guy who I think is the most important Atlanta Braves player in 2014, is Julio Teheran. Teheran has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s not a nibbler who needs the umpire’s help to throw a great game. He has the stuff to blow away hitters and carry a team a long way in the playoffs.
Teheran’s fastball explodes into the strike zone and his breaking stuff can be electric. Last season in early June, Teheran displayed his potential. Featuring his fastball, the 22-year old Teheran came within four outs of pitching a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Only a single by pinch-hitting journeyman Brandon Inge, with two outs in the eighth inning, kept Teheran from entering Braves history. Teheran struck out 11 in the dominating performance.
G-Braves to host five-day high school showcase
For the second straight year, the Gwinnett Braves’ Coolray Field will host a high school baseball showcase on the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves home field.
This event is an expanded version of the two-day showcase hosted at Coolray Field last year. The showcase will host 22 teams over four weekends beginning Feb. 22 and ending the weekend of March 15. Of the 11 games and 22 teams, 11 will feature teams from Gwinnett County and five games will be head-to-head meetings of Gwinnett teams. Gwinnett teams include North Gwinnett, Providence Christian, Archer, Lanier, Buford, Hebron, Peachtree Ridge, Mountain View, South Gwinnett, Norcross and Grayson. Tickets for the games cost $10 for adults and $5 for students.
Here is a look at the event’s schedule:
1:30 p.m. — North Gwinnett vs. Providence Christian
4 p.m. — Archer vs. Lanier
11 a.m. —Buford vs. Hebron
1:30 p.m. — Holy Innocents’ vs. Lambert
4 p.m. — South Forsyth vs. Dunwoody
6:30 p.m. — Kennesaw Mountain vs. Northview
4 p.m. — Peachtree Ridge vs. North Forsyth
4 p.m. —Mountain View vs. South Gwinnett
6:30 p.m. — Norcross vs. Grayson
11 a.m. — East Cobb Academy vs. Home Plate
1:30 p.m. — Johns Creek vs. Loganville