Monday, March 25, 2013

Recapping Spring Training 2013

Let's face it. Spring training is basically over. From last weekend going forward, the Braves have already made up their minds on roster spots. The starters are getting limited at bats and don't care. At this point, we're essentially just giving pitchers some last minute tune-up work, and the new guys in the lineup some time to work out the kinks. Evan Gattis got 4 ABs against the Mets today. That won't happen very often in the regular season.

Why do I say this? Because anything we can learn from Spring Training has been learned. And that's why I'm going to ignore the last week of games that are left and just focus on recapping the numbers so far from training. And honestly, training has been pretty great for morale amongst the players and fans. We have a ton to be excited about heading into this next season.

We'll start with the things that concern me, because they are so few. I only have two real concerns about the Braves going into the regular season: Mike Minor and Dan Uggla. Dan shouldn't shock anybody. As of today, Dan's had 23 strikeouts with only 3 walks, a .214 average, and only .300 slugging. That's obviously bad, but there are signs he may be ready to break out of it come April. In his past 5 games, Dan has had 5 hits with a homer. Things may be coming together for him, and we can only hope he can post at least a .250 average this season. Anything over that is pure gravy. That's semi-depressing how far our expectations for him have fallen, but it's the solid truth.

Minor concerns me because he's still not locating his pitches. He has the highest spring WHIP, the highest opponent average, and the most walks of all our starters. If I was rating our pitchers' training from 1-5 in the rotation, it would be Teheran, Maholm, Hudson, Medlen, and Minor. That's not exactly the way we will pitch them (obviously Hudson and Medlen go 1-2), but that's how they've stacked up in training so far. Minor got his act together late in the year last season, but we don't have a lot of options for starters this year if he struggles. We sort of focus tested Sean Gilmartin in a starting role, but the results have been frankly horrifying. Giving up 5 bombs in 13 innings doesn't endear him to anybody.

What's good? Where to start? Basically everything about offense shows that sky is the limit. The entire outfield has treated training as a long ball launching pad. Francisco has been seeing the ball well and gunning for a full time slot at third. Simmons continues to dazzle with his glove, and his speed will never slump on the bases. Freeman is murdering the ball when he makes contact. Gattis is going to be a great option as a backup catcher along with Laird. There's not a hole in the lineup if we just ignore second base. Let's just ignore that for the time being.

Teheran has been stunning. 26 innings, 35 Ks, 9 walks, a .082 opp average, and a 1.04 ERA in 6 starts. Um...yeah. If he can carry even 50% of his spring potential into the season, he and Medlen may be in a duel for the hot young phenom honors. We could have two of the best young starters in the game on the same team. It's very possible with the kind of stuff these kids possess. When you look at the bullpen, we have reason to believe that we can shore up the 7-8-9 innings with the best of them. Varvaro has looked very solid with a few hiccups in his 11 appearances. Gearrin looks like he really wants a place full time in the bullpen this year with 9 appearances and a K/BB rate of 11/3. Eric O'Flaherty has been underworked, but I think we can rely on his past experience to carry him through. Obviously Kimbrel is Kimbrel, the K-Crab! He'll be tough on everyone come regular season. Notice I haven't said much about Venters. The talk I'm hearing is that we've been trying to trade him, so I'm not sure if Everyday Jonny will even be on the roster in April, but we'll see. He's not really been on with his command, but he's been extremely limited, so it's hard to tell.

I think Evan Gattis is going to take over the role from Hinske last year as the player that everyone roots for coming off the bench. The Water Buffalo is going to be replaced by the White Bear. I think that many people will miss Chipper this year when the first dribbler goes down the 3rd base side, and there's no smooth old grey mare to do the quick pick'n'toss to first. I think that our outfield is going to be one of the most feared in baseball, with a combination of power and speed that hasn't been seen in Atlanta since the 90s. Most of all, I think this is going to be a fantastic season. I think we can win this thing, and I'm not just talking about the division. I think this may be the best team in the NL, and that we could be seeing the makings of a World Series squad. I didn't think that last year since we had all these questions about our lineup, our RISP, our rotation injuries, and various other things. But this year? I haven't been this excited about a Braves team in a long time.

And my bet is that you are too.

Go Braves!

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