By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on June 24, 2014
Although they've suffered injuries to several key members of their team and gotten limited production from others, the Atlanta Braves have still managed to stay in contention for the NL East. The Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the season in spring training, but they've managed to get by with the replacements. Here are five things we've learned about the team midway through 2014.
The Braves lost their two best left-handed relievers, Johnny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, to arm injuries, and they haven't been able to replicate the production of those two with their replacements. Venters is working his way back, but O'Flaherty signed with Oakland, leaving a struggling Luis Avilan and rookie Ian Thomas as the two lefties out of the pen. Neither has been particularly good this season, so the Braves need Venters back badly.
After signing BJ Upton to a five-year deal in free agency last offseason, the Braves thought they had found their solution in center field. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Upton has been anything but the solution. Coming off a miserable 2013 in which he hit .184 with a .557 OPS, Upton has followed that up with a .202 average and a .600 OPS. His contract gets worse and worse by the day, and the Braves may eventually have to eat the rest of the deal.
Dan Uggla is another Brave who's under contract for the next few seasons but couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag. Uggla, once renowned for his power at the second base position, has regressed to the point where he's worse offensively than many pitchers. Uggla is hitting .163 with an almost unfathomable .477 OPS and his trademark power has completely disappeared. Uggla needs to rebound quickly or he'll be on the next bus out of town.
When the Braves learned in spring training that two key members of their starting rotation, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, would be lost for the season with elbow surgery, they feared the worst. Atlanta scrambled and signed veteran Aaron Harang who had been released by the Cleveland Indians, and Harang has been nothing but brilliant thus far. Although he's been hit harder lately, he's still posted a 3.02 FIP and has been a godsend for Atlanta.
The legend of Evan Gattis was established last season as Gattis turned a role as a part-time player into 21 home-runs and a cult following. While Gattis was regarded as nothing more than a glorified pinch-hitter, he's been thrust into the role of starting catcher this season and has responded with a team-high .912 OPS and 16 homers. Gattis has proven that he's the real deal and has essentially carried Atlanta's paltry offense.
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