5 Players the Atlanta Braves Need to Get Going
The Atlanta Braves
For as hot as left fielder Justin Upton, third baseman Chris Johnson and catcher Evan Gattis have been for the Atlanta Braves through the first three weeks of the season, they have had several players who just aren't producing. And despite a 13-5 record, which is tied with the Colorado Rockies for the best mark in Major League Baseball, that simply has to change for the Braves to reach their full potential.
While it is unrealistic to expect every player in the lineup to be providing major contributions all at once, it doesn't bode well for an offense when just three regulars have batting averages of .280 or above -- Juan Francisco at .286, Upton at .299 and Chris Johnson at .407. I won't count first baseman Freddie Freeman, who has a .412 average, because he has missed the last 15 days with a strained right oblique, although there's a good chance he will give the Braves a huge lift when he returns, which is likely to happen tonight in Colorado.
On the flip side, Atlanta has quite a few players who are just above or way below the Mendoza line, including four starters. These guys don't have to suddenly start bashing home runs or trying to do too much, but they do need to provide the Braves with more consistent at-bats. They need to make contact and take the ball the other way rather then attempting to crank every pitch they see.
Here is my list of five players the Braves need to get going.
With the departure of Chipper Jones this past offseason, right fielder Jason Heyward was expected to emerge as a clubhouse leader, but being a leader also requires you to be an example that your teammates wish to emulate. The question is, who would want to emulate the .121 average that Heyward has put up to go with two homers and five RBIs?
Dan Uggla isn't known for his sparkling averages, but a .161 mark is simply horrendous. Although the second baseman has went yard three times, he has knocked in just four runs. While he has worked 12 walks, he has also struck out 20 times.
Center fielder B.J. Upton has been nowhere near as productive as younger brother Justin, although that may not be a fair assessment given the fact that no one in the league has as many dingers as the 25-year-old stud. However, a .167 average, two homers and three RBIs -- not to mention a team-high 22 K's -- just isn't going to cut it for a guy who is currently serving as Atlanta's leadoff hitter.
Speaking of leadoff hitters, shortstop Andrelton Simmons began the year in the no. 1 spot in the batting order, but following an early-season injury that caused him to miss a few games, the 23-year-old has filled that slot just once. Primarily batting in the lower third of the lineup ever since, he has hit just .211 with a homer and seven RBIs.
Although he is a starting pitcher, 22-year-old Julio Teheran needs to be much more effective. He may have come away with three no decisions to this point, but that's only because the Braves have engineered three comebacks and the bullpen has been stellar in every start he has made. A 7.31 ERA is absolutely atrocious, even for a no. 5 starter.