It is hard to believe, but the Atlanta Braves game on Sunday with the Miami Marlins marks the halfway point of spring training. Decisions on the roster, starting lineup and Opening Day starter will be made over the next few weeks as the April 1 opener with the Philadelphia Phillies approaches. Here’s a few of my quick takes from spring training thus far.
Opening Day Starter: Based on the rotation of Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor leads me to believe Medlen will get the start. Teheran will be No. 5 starter, and manager Fredi Gonzalez will want to prevent three right-handed pitchers starting three games in a row. Gonzalez has not wavered on the rotation’s order so far in spring training, and I see him keeping it that way unless something drastic happens. This will give Medlen the honor of starting on Opening Day.
Find Room for Evan Gattis: I see no way the Braves could leave Gattis off the 25-man roster. He’s proven he can hit at the minor league level and has followed that up with an impressive spring training. He’s posted a .423 batting average and 1.218 OPS, which includes two home runs in 26 at-bats. He continues to impress those in the Braves’ organization, and I think it would send a bad message if he didn’t make the team after so much success.
Jordan Schafer Seizing Opportunity: The Braves surprisingly brought Schafer back this offseason after trading him to the Houston Astros. Schafer has played well this spring training, recording nine hits in 32 at-bats for a .282 average. He has stolen a couple bases and and walked three times. He still strikes out too much for a speed player (8), but has overall done a nice job showcasing his skills in spring training with Jose Constanza still a no show.
Bizarre Battle: The third base competition between Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson has been eerily similar. They both have two home runs among their 10 hits (Francisco one more at-bat). Their average, OBP, slugging and OPS are all within 35 points of each other. Francisco has struck out three more times than Johnson, but Francisco has been clean in the field while Johnson has been a part of some blunders (charged with two errors). No separation from either player equals a platoon situation as the season nears.
Batting Practice Bombs: The Braves’ beat writers have been mentioning the impressive batting practice performances of the team. If you’re going to a game this year, I’d attempt to watch batting practice. The likes of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Francisco and Gattis will put on a power display that will be worth watching.