Nearly halfway through spring training and April Fool's Day right around the corner, the Braves have had a pretty intriguing first few weeks.
From prospects to position battles, here's what's been going on at Braves camp.
While it may be a little early to pass judgment on how well players are looking, it's at least worth noting that prized prospect Julio Teheran is having an excellent spring training so far. His stats (found here) are very encouraging for a player that spent all of last season in a funk.
Frank Rabon of Capitol Avenue Club mentions that although Teheran may simply be ahead of the hitters he's faced due to his Winter League seasoning, his mechanics look clean and he is employing his sinker and slider a lot more to set up his changeup and prevent hitters from crushing his four-seamer.
J.R. Graham looks good. Very good. Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes that the Braves organization currently sees the high-energy 5'11" converted infielder as a starter, in spite of what a lot of writers may speculate. Through seven innings this spring, Graham has yet to allow a run.
The battle for third base has been going very well, as both Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson have come out swinging. Their stats (found here) suggest that at least on the offensive side of the ball, the battle is a deadlock.
However, Mark Bowman of MLB.com suggests that Francisco has been using the entire field very well this spring (contrary to his classic pull-happy approach), and has been hitting breaking balls better as well. With a couple more adjustments, Francisco has the opportunity to win the job outright.
The battle for the utility infield gig has also been going swimmingly. Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena are both fighting tooth and nail for a roster spot. With the outstanding statistics (found here) he has put up so far this spring, one would venture to guess that Pastornicky currently has a hold on the spot. However, David O'Brien of AJC gives the edge to Pena.
After being rashly named the heir apparent to Chipper Jones and subsequently fizzling out in Triple-A, Joey Terdoslavich has turned many a head so far this spring. The switch hitter has a good deal of raw power, and another year in the minors will give the Braves some insight into the type of player he is becoming.
One roster hopeful playing himself out of the infield race is veteran Blake DeWitt, who has put up a .598 OPS in 22 at-bats. He could still find himself at Triple-A with a shot of cracking the roster later this season, but the organization will probably give the infield spot to a hot hand.
Reed Johnson is also starting slow this spring. He has a .419 OPS in 30 at-bats but unlike DeWitt, his roster spot is very secure.
Speaking of slow starts, sluggers Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla aren't coming out of the gate very strong either. Not to worry though-they should heat up as they get their timing down.
While Julio Teheran is impressing many people in the Braves organization in the early going, Sean Gilmartin is seemingly seceding the No. 5 starter's job to Teheran after giving up 12 hits in his first eight innings pitched. Tim Hudson isn't doing well either, but Gilmartin definitely needs to refine his off-speed pitches and attack hitters more.
Juan Francisco came into the third base battle with the upper hand over Chris Johnson defensively, and Johnson has responded with a higher range factor thus far, but with three errors in 62 innings (stats found here). So far, it looks as if Francisco has the slight lead.
Brandon Beachy threw another bullpen session and is looking good enough to potentially return to the Braves in late June.
Brian McCann is now taking batting practice and throwing long toss. His return will still likely be mid-April, unless Gerald Laird and/or Evan Gattis gives the Braves a very good reason to let McCann return to 100 percent health before resuming full catching duties.
Jordan Walden received an epidural injection for the tightness in his back on March 6 and should begin throwing again soon.
Eric O'Flaherty threw a five-minute batting practice session on Sunday morning without any pain in his groin, and will very likely be on the Opening Day roster.
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