via Miami Herald
Matt Lipka still a top prospect for Braves
ATLANTA – When the ability to run faster than everyone else on the field is your main asset, tearing a hamstring almost completely off the bone is one of the last things you’d want to have happen.
It happened to Matt Lipka two years ago, and it’s one reason the former first-round supplemental draft pick still hasn’t played above Single-A after parts of four seasons in the minor leagues.
The former Texas two-sport high school star – he had drawers full of major-college football offers as a wide receiver – is healthy now and as fast as ever, and Lipka has begun to grasp and refine a better hitting approach. He showed during the early weeks of major league spring training why the Braves believe he’s still a solid major league prospect.
“Oh, yeah. Absolutely,” Braves general Frank Wren said. “He’s made the transition from the infield to center field. We’ve seen what he can do in center field with the range and making plays. We’ve also seen on the basepaths what his speed can do. Those are the kinds of athletes we’re trying to get in the game.”
Braves exit Spring Training with rotation concerns
It is not necessarily easy to evaluate all that transpires with a club during the six-week period known as Spring Training. But I think it’s safe to say, it is never good when Dr. James Andrews is the one who is making the most significant cuts.
Given all that occurred over the past month, I have to think many of you are longing for those days when your primary concerns centered around whether Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton would created reason for encouragement during the Grapefruit League season. Instead, you are now looking at this pitching staff and wondering if the new replay coordinator Horacio Ramirez still has a few innings left in his left arm.
That’s obviously wondered in jest. Well kind of. I mean…
Seriously we should have known we had entered the bizarro world when Mike Minor informed us that a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure had caused him to remain inactive for a month, consequently putting him behind schedule at the beginning of Spring Training.
Gattis Expectations Too High?
Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis became a folk hero last season with his rags to riches story, mammoth home runs, late game heroics and engaging personality. With Brian McCann leaving for free agency, Gattis will be the Braves starting catcher and is expected to be a major force in the Braves line-up.
Are the expectations for Gattis too high?
It was revealed that Gattis had surgery last October to remove a dime-sized bone chip from his right knee that had been bothering him since October 2006. He was brought along slowly in the spring and you have to wonder if there could be lingering effects.
Most of the time I don’t worry about minor knee surgeries, those type procedures have become as simple as cutting your fingernails. But a red flag went up the other day when Fredi Gonzalez announced that Chris Johnson will be his clean-up hitter and Gattis will be hitting seventh behind Dan Uggla. Early in the spring, Gonzalez had stated that Gattis would be batting clean-up.
Looking at early schedules in National League East
In examining what went wrong for the Nationals last season, one could argue it all started off on the wrong foot. After beginning 2012 with a winning record after their first month, the Nats finished April of 2013 a game below .500. They posted the best record in baseball from Aug. 9 to Sept. 24 at 30-12, but it was too little too late.
Though the importance of starting fast could be stressed every season, the Nationals have been vocal about avoiding what happened last year. Plus, recently the Atlanta Braves have made scorching out of the gate their calling card. Last season, for instance, they began the year 12-1.
Here is a look at how the Nats and Braves have fared through April over the last two seasons:
2012 Nationals – 14-8
2013 Nationals – 13-14
2012 Braves – 14-9
2013 Braves – 17-9
In terms of strength of schedule, both the Nationals and Braves are expected to have a relatively easy time this year. FanGraphs recently projected the difficulty of each team’s regular season calendar based on average opponent WAR. The Nats have the easiest schedule and the Braves are second. That probably has a lot to do with each team facing the Phillies, Mets and Marlins all the time as FanGraphs also projects the National League East to be the worst division in baseball.