The Atlanta Braves have had some good and bad things happen this year.
The Braves are in second place in the NL East. They are currently in the hunt for the NL East title and one of two wild-card spots.
It's obvious that the Braves will contend, but it's unknown where they will go. If the Braves make a big move at the deadline, they could seriously contend for a championship.
Here are four bold predictions for the Braves in the second half of the season.
Right now, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado are both hitting well over .300.
Bourn has a .311 batting average and Prado has a .317 batting average. Neither have hit many homers, but both have walked 33 times. Prado is seeing the ball very well, and he has been very patient at the plate (33:38 walk-to-strikeout ratio).
As for Bourn, he's just fast. The speedy leadoff hitter has 25 stolen bases this year. Bourn has a .394 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this year.
If these two can continue to hit like they're hitting right now, expect the Braves to do well and both to have high batting averages. Since they've both done so well, there's no reason why both can't continue their dominance.
Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, two players you would expect to do well in the first half of the season, have both been terrible.
Uggla is hitting .223 and McCann is hitting .239. While both have 12-plus homers and 46 RBI, it's clear they aren't hitting well. Uggla has struck out a whopping 100 times (in 300 at-bats), and while McCann has only struck out 40 times, he has also walked just 25 times.
Last year, Uggla had a terrible first half before dominating in the second half. The powerful second baseman went on a tear midway through the season. McCann did well last year, but he hasn't done well this year.
Expect the slugger to remain patient at the plate and stay hot in the second half (he is currently riding a six-game hitting streak). As for Uggla, he will need to see the ball better and chase less pitches, but expect him to get hot.
There are some good starting pitchers on the trade market.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, Atlanta is one of many teams who has shown interest in Cubs' ace Ryan Dempster. Dempster leads the MLB with an amazing 1.86 ERA, and he extended his scoreless-innings streak to 33 by shutting out the D-Backs in six innings.
Even though Dempster has been dominant, the Cubs have struggled. Dempster will come at a high price, and teams will be willing to give up a lot for the star pitcher. If Atlanta is willing to give up a few good prospects, attaining Dempster could be feasible.
If Dempster goes somewhere else, there's still Zack Greinke. He has been struggling recently, but he is still the ace of the Brewers and still has a 9-3 record. Greinke is a strikeout machine; he has 117 in 116 innings pitched this year.
According to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel, Greinke could end up staying in Milwaukee. If the Braves can't land either pitcher, they could pursue D-Backs slugger Justin Upton.
Unlike Greinke, Upton wouldn't be a rental, and he has a lot of power. As Buster Olney of ESPN said, Upton would be a nice fit in Atlanta.
The Braves have a good team, but they would benefit from adding a big-name player. As I mentioned in my article about trade targets for the Braves, Atlanta could target Ryan Cook, who would be a setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel, or starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.
The Braves probably need to make a move at the trade deadline if they want to contend for a championship.
They have a good core, but they would benefit from adding depth to their rotation and adding another great reliever. I expect them to be major players at the deadline.
Last year, the Braves would've really benefited from a Wild Card Game. I don't think Braves fans want to hear about that, though.
There are now two wild-card spots available, and the two teams who earn the wild-card spots will go at it in one game to determine who will move on in the playoffs. If the Nationals run away with the NL East, the Braves, who are 48-39, will fight for a wild-card spot.
And I think they'll get one.
It's hard to argue that the Braves don't have a good team. Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones and Andrelton Simmons are just a few of the Braves' great hitters. Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson anchor a solid pitching staff.
The Braves would benefit from making a big move at the trade deadline, but they do have a great team already.
It will be hard for the Braves to win a championship, but I think they will definitely make the playoffs and contend for a pennant.