The Braves look unstoppable right now, with a 15-5 record and five-game lead in the NL East, despite some early challenges.
Brian McCann is on the disabled list to start the season, recovering from shoulder surgery. No problem. Rookie Evan Gattis has stepped in and has six homers and 13 runs batted in.
Freddie Freeman was on the disabled list for 15 days with a strained oblique. No problem. Chris Johnson hit .423 in his absence.
Jonny Venters injured his elbow and could require season-ending surgery. That's OK too, because we all knew that Cory Gearrin and Anthony Varvaro would combine on 19 scoreless innings to start the season.
Next challenge: Jason Heyward just landed on the disabled list after an emergency appendectomy. His replacements, Reed Johnson and Jordan Schafer, will probably do much better, because Heyward was off to a miserable 7-for-58 start.
The craziest thing about the Braves’ hot start is that several of their key position players are slumping. Along with Heyward, Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton are off to slow starts. If they get everyone clicking on all cylinders, this team could be scary good in the second half of the season.
No. 5 starter Julio Teheran has had a few rough starts and still might not be consistent enough to stick in the majors. But prospects Sean Gilmartin and J.R. Graham—who impressed in the spring with a high-90s fastball—give the team a couple options to replace him.
Brandon Beachy, who dominated in 13 starts (2.00 ERA, 81 IP, 49 H, 29 BB, 68 K) before Tommy John surgery ended his 2012 season, could also return in the second half.
Setting up for closer Craig Kimbrel, Eric O’Flaherty and Jordan Walden are getting the job done, but the team could miss Venters if he’s unable to return. Finding a dominant eighth-inning reliever to replace him could be in the cards.
Top Priority: Setup man, if Venters is out for the season