As this is written, we are at the 65 games played mark for most major league teams, this represents about 40% of the total games for a season. It is at this point that most teams know their strengths and weaknesses. The haves are looking at the have nots and licking their chops for the player or players who can push their team over the top into the play-offs and ultimately The World Series. Surprisingly only a few teams look to be totally out of it. Those being the Phillies, the Rockies and Milwaukee. There are others who currently could be thought as slipping further and further behind even though their records are not that bad such as the Reds, the White Sox, Oakland and Seattle. the last two were on many pundits’ short list of being a World Series contender given their histories and improvements made to their rosters.
So much for predicting outcomes base on histories. I guess that is why they force teams to play the games between the lines because as they say, you never know… That brings us to this years version of the Braves. predicted by many to be far and away one of the worse teams in all of baseball for 2015 primarily because they had made an massive off season salary dump with such stars as Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis. Most people predicted the Braves would lose 90 games this season and would be battling the Fightn’ Phils to stay out of last place in the NL East. Well, at last glance the Braves are still hovering around .500 and st only 4.5 games behind the Amazins’ are actually therorictly still in it. How could this be so? after all, they not only traded three of their best hitters, they also traded away the best closer in baseball in order to get out from under the pall of doom also known as Melvin Upton Jr., the baseball player formerly known as B.J.
So what happened? Turned out Cameron Maybin has become the All-star player many thought he would be. Only took him six years, who knew. Maybin came to the Breves as part of the Craig Kimbrel/Melvin Upton for pitching prospect Matt Wisler, minor league outfielder Jordan Paroubeck, outfielder Carlos Quentin, plus the the 41st overall pick for 2015. So, not only did the Braves get a decent outfielder to replace Upton, they got a stellar pitching prospect who likely will see time with Atlanta at some point this season and the 41st draft pick. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt to lose Kimbrel but the salve on that wound was ridding Atlanta of BJ and his hideous contract. The gravy on the deal turned out to be that Maybin as played a stellar centerfield, a position the Braves had penciled in EY Young Jr to play during the off season. In a word, the Braves looked to have fleeced the Padres on the deal. That is saying something when you tell one of the players traded for, Quinton, who is being paid $8 mm this season to not even bother to get on the plane to report.
The other prospects coming to the Braves have made a surprising impact too. Jace Peterson who was part of the Justin Upton trade has been a much better player than the utility player he was purported to be. While he is still learning the second base position on the job, he has proven to be good enough to force s position change for projected super star prospect Jose Peraza to centerfield. his second move in as many years after being touted as an up and coming shortstop. Peterson has also proven himself to be a good lead off man with an OBP of .354 to go along with a .284 BA. The other prospect coming into the fold is Mike Foltynewicz, a young right handed starter who is still finding his way as a major league pitcher.
It’s funny but remember how much former GM Frank Wren talked about moving away from the power baseball game to a team with speed but never was able to make that happen? Well, it appears that Frank’s dream showed up this season. The Braves signed a bunch of veterans this off season to act as place holders to fill in short term until the prospects are ready in 2017 when the Braves move into their new stadium. This current group of misfit toys have played so much better than they were suppose to. Guys like AJ Perzinki, Jonny Gomes and Juan Uribe’ have all played well in addition to help stabilize a young club house that sorely was lacking in leadership skills. Even former Baby Brave Kelly Johnson has made a resurgence of sorts by playing three different positions as well as adding some left handed power and a .280 BA with 6 home runs and 21 RBI in 100 at bats so far his season.
Still, the bullpen has become a house of horrors with one of the worse ERAs in the majors. From night to night, one never knows which pitcher is going to put out the fire and which one is going to throw on more kerosene. The problem now facing John Hart and Co is how do you sell off pieces of the current club whole they are still viable as a post season contender? It seems the veterans did not get the memo that they were suppose to roll over and lose so deals could be made at the deadline which would allow for the Braves to bring up a few more prospects, trade for some other highly rated prospects and fire Fredi Gonzalaz all in the same season, thus severing the last tie to the Frank Wren era and John Hart bringing in his own man to manage this team.