Are people done panicking about the start of spring training yet? See what I mean? I won't even bother referencing the record so far, but it makes some people less crazy when you win games in any format. So, good for them I suppose. In the meantime, we learned more about the Braves young players and prospects, and a few things about our pitching staff development in these two matchups. Let's dig in on the recap.
For starters, Heyward and Justin Upton both had pretty long shots against the Marlins in a 4th inning back-to-back effort. I really like the way Heyward is swinging the bat right now, and he's always going to be one of the players we watch in training for his approach. As you well know, Jason has had up and down seasons in his early career, and a lot of that comes from his approach at the plate. Some (like me) thought he developed a hole in his swing when he was struggling due to his stance off the plate. However, when it's right, he can launch balls into the stands from the inner half. Part of the reason Jason was able to get that home run in the 4th was his good eye on early pitches. He took Scott Maine to a 3-0 count before swinging. Then he ran it full. On the 3-2 pitch that Maine tried to groove, Heyward fully turned on it and sent the ball deep to right for the long bomb.
Compare this to Justin's approach in the next AB. Now you know you have a pitcher who's rattled and has been throwing balls. Justin correctly lets Maine toss one low and away for a ball, and he knows that Maine's not going to try to get behind 2-0 again. He's waiting, and he ambushes a high inside fastball that he drives into left field. Both guys were able to wait for the right pitch to pull, and they both didn't miss it when it came. Nor did they go freewheeling at the first piece of crap ball near the plate. Patience for these younger players will be paramount over the long haul.
I also liked to see Chris Johnson and BJ Upton getting 2 hits apiece in the Marlins game, and the Braves had a robust 4-9 RISP. The pitching was also very good from the players you're likely to see on a daily basis in the pros. Medlen, Gearrin, Kimbrel, Avilan, Martinez, and Varvaro all pitched 8 combined innings of 1 run baseball. Then some jerk named Yohan Flande gave up 5 runs. We don't care about him yet. Put him back in the minor league oven for another 2 years.
The Nats game was a bit of a different story from the pitching standpoint, and it raises an old concern from the ghosts of early 2012. Mike Minor went 2 innings with 3 hits, 2 walks, 2 earned runs, and struck out 4. The strikeouts are good, but the WHIP is wretched, and the 2 runs in the first inning are not what I'm looking for. He's the only starter so far to give up a run. He's also one of the only starters who was on the club last year that I have big concerns about. You well know if you read the blog last year how I was ready to basically punch him in the face after his early starts. I've since softened my position on that, but I don't forget easily what happens when the Braves give up early runs in tough games.
A guy who continues to show up in the stats sheet is Evan Gattis. He went 2/3 with a run scored in the game against the Nats, and that brings his overall total to 5/9 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs. Clearly, he's seeing the ball the best of any prospect in spring training right now. He's been an organizational All-Star for the Braves for the last two years, and a post-season All-Star for the Rome Braves in 2011. He's a catcher by trade, but can shift to the OF since his bat is that good. If this was the AL he'd be a DH, no question. Will he get a shot at the team? Probably not on a regular basis yet because we are so set at catching and outfield, but you never know about how the health of players will go over the regular season. It's good to have a slugging guy in your back pocket as a PH solution late in games. One thing is clear, he's too big for AAA pitching, but maybe a little too one-dimensional for the big leagues? We'll see if he's ready to make the leap in the regular season. Keep an eye on him.
Let's also take a look at some overall spring batting/fielding stats so far:
Total Ks for the Braves: 32 in 5 games
Most Ks by any player: Dan Uggla with 4
Most Hits by any player: Gattis and BJ Upton tied with 5
Most Homers by any player: Jason Heyward with 2
Most Walks by any player: Dan Uggla with 2, tied with Ernesto Mejia
Most Errors by any player: Dan Uggla with 2
Dan Uggla scares me with that glove. I don't care about much else except seeing that improve.