Good News, Bad News On the Atlanta Braves’ Spring So Far
Atlanta Braves: Good News, Bad News of Spring Training
The Atlanta Braves head into their first off day of spring training on Wednesday with a 6-6 record. The .500 record means little to nothing, but the individual performances mean much more. While a productive spring training doesn't guarantee success in the regular season, it can build some positive momentum and confidence for a player.
The off day is a good time to take a step back and analyze the body of work at this point in spring training. Everyone has gotten some live action – except for Jose Constanza who continues to deal with visa issues. This gives us a chance to gauge all players and prospect and determine who could break out this season and who will flop.
As the season nears, some of the main offseason questions begin to sort themselves out. How do the Upton brothers perform together in 2012? Who wins the third base competition? Can Dan Uggla rebound from another disappointing season? How do players like Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman build on a successful 2012 season? How does the rotation sort itself out?
We are starting to get early signs to answers to those questions. The final assessment won’t come until October. But for now, it is a chance to predict the outcome of the season of individuals based on their performance in the 2013 spring training.
There is still time for players to go in either direction on this spectrum, but here are the good and bad developments thus far in spring training for the Braves.
Good News: B.J. Upton
The 28-year-old B.J. Upton who signed the richest contract in Braves' history has enjoyed a solid spring training. In 25 at-bats, the elder Upton has compiled a .320 average and .880 OPS with five RBIs. Out of his eight hits, four have gone for extra bases (three doubles, one homer). Upton has looked comfortable with his new team and playing alongside his brother in a transitional year for him.
Bad News: Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel has not looked like the dominant closer of 2012 in spring training. His 6.75 ERA hasn't been inflated by one bad outing. He has allowed at least a run in three of his four spring training outings. The greater concern is his lack of command. Kimbrel has issued five walks to just three strikeouts and has a 2.50 WHIP. Now, he heads to play for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic and won't be able to work through his command issues in an exhibition setting. It's not time to panic just yet, but his struggles are cause for concern.
Good News: Julio Teheran
The fifth spot is Julio Teheran's to lose, and he has pitched much better this time around in spring training. Returning to his old delivery has led to regained confidence and success. In his first two starts, Teheran has recorded seven strikeouts to just one walk in five innings of work. His only blemish in the spring was a first inning home run to Bryce Harper in his second start. Teheran has been sharp this spring and will look to continue that on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers.
Bad News: Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla has struck out more than half his plate appearances in the spring while compiling a .130 average. Braves' fans understand he's going to strike out, but 12 in 23 at-bats is way too high and is at least twice as many as any other player on the team. After going 0-2 in his first two at-bats in Tuesday's game, Uggla was plunked in the back of the head in his third at-bat in the sixth inning. Uggla appears fine, but so far his swing doesn't.
Good News: Cory Gearrin
The right-hander with a sidearm delivery is making a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. Cory Gearrin has yet to allow a run in four appearances, which includes five strikeouts to just one walk and two hits allowed. Peter Moylan has moved on which leaves the door open for a right-handed groundball specialist out of the bullpen.
Bad News: Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson hasn't been terrible this spring (4.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) in three appearances. The cause for concern is the early inning struggles that he dealt with in 2012. It took a couple innings for him to find comfort on the mound and has arose again this spring. His last two outings he's allowed at least one run in the first inning. He has also gotten out of some jams with double plays that could have led to bigger innings. Hudson shouldn't be discredited for getting ground balls but leaves a smaller margin of error that can be problematic. Keep an eye on his first couple innings in his next start, likely to be against the Miami Marlins on Sunday.