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Atlanta Braves: Grades for Every Player in April

Daniel KockContributor IIIApril 30, 2013

Atlanta Braves: Grades for Every Player in April

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    The Atlanta Braves (16-9) have all but wrapped up the first month of the 2013 season.

    Highs include a 10-game winning streak and a sweep of the National League East preseason favorite, Washington Nationals. The low point came over the weekend as the Detroit Tigers swept the Braves.The tough series with the Tigers knocked a few players' grades down a letter.

    Here's a look at the April edition of every player's' grade in 2013.

Incomplete

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    Hitters: Blake DeWitt 2B, Tyler Pastornicky 2B, Brian McCann C

    Pitchers: Cristhian Martinez RP, David Carpenter RP, Brandon Beachy SP, Jonny Venters RP

    Players who received an incomplete grade have not warranted enough playing time in the month of April.

    In the cases of Beachy, Venters and McCann, none have seen the field due to injury in 2013 with McCann being closer to a return than Beachy or Venters.

    DeWitt and Pastornicky have a combined 10 plate appearances on the season. Pastornicky finds himself on the big league team currently with an opportunity to garner a few spot starts, while Dewitt is on the disabled list.

    Martinez pitched just 2.1 innings before also heading to the disabled list. Carpenter spent about a minute at the MLB level (no appearances) and is currently back in the minors.

Failing (F)

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    Hitters: Jason Heyward OF, B.J. Upton OF

    Pitchers: None

    Two prominent players receive a failing grade for their performance in April. Their combined average (Upton .146, Heyward .121) is not higher than their outfielder counterpart, Justin Upton (.307).

    Heyward has walked more than Upton to record a higher on-base percentage but neither are pretty (.261, .222).

    I could go through all their hitting statistics and it would keep getting uglier. Not even their offensive WAR can save them as they are both negative.

    April was not kind to either Heyward or Upton. Now, Heyward is on the disabled list after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

    The timetable for his return is unknown.

    Meanwhile, Upton will have the opportunity to work out of the month-long slump in May, but manager Fredi Gonzalez has dropped him in the order.

Barely Passing (D)

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    Hitters: Dan Uggla 2B, Reed Johnson OF

    Pitchers: None

    Many Braves fans will clamor for a failing grade for Uggla, but he has done just enough offensively.

    For example, he leads the team with 14 walks, which has helped him record a higher OBP (.391) than fan-favorite Evan Gattis (.291).

    He is tied for third on the team with four home runs and has posted a positive offensive WAR (0.1).

    Uggla remains a frustrating player to watch, but he gets a D.

    Johnson joins him in this category with a .222 average and one of three positional players with a negative WAR.

    A year after leading the majors in pinch-hits, Johnson has failed to record one this season.

Average (C)

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    Hitters: Andrelton Simmons SS

    Pitchers: Tim Hudson SP, Julio Teheran SP, Luis Ayala RP

    Headlining the average grades are a couple of starting pitchers in Hudson and Teheran. Receiving a "C" is arguably a little generous for Teheran who sports a 1-0 record and 5.08 ERA.

    However, the 22-year-old is pitching in his first full season at the MLB level. His last two outings should give Braves' fans optimism as he picked up his first win and gutted out 5.1 innings in an eventual win against the Nationals on Monday. Teheran should continue to improve throughout the season.

    The 37-year-old Hudson has posted a 2-1 record and 4.50 ERA. He's had two good starts, two average starts and a bad start and will close out April with another shot at the Nationals on Tuesday night.

    Simmons entered the 2013 season as the default leadoff hitter and has since bounced around the order.

    Eventually, I'd like to see Simmons get back to that spot, but he hasn't cemented the leadoff role thanks to a .220 average and .283 OBP.

    It's easy to forget this is just his first full season playing at the MLB level.

Above Average (B)

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    Hitters: Freddie Freeman 1B, Ramiro Pena SS, Evan Gattis C, Gerald Laird C, Juan Francisco 3B

    Pitchers: Paul Maholm SP, Kris Medlen SP, Luis Avilan RP, Mike Minor SP, Anthony Varvaro RP, Craig Kimbrel RP, Jordan Walden RP

    Maholm, Medlen and Minor can all blame the Detroit Tigers for not finishing April with an "A."

    Maholm began the season with a 25.1 scoreless innings streak and a 3-0 record but came back down to Earth with a 3-2 record and 3.30 ERA.

    Both Minor and Medlen entered the weekend with ERA's below 2.25, but left with ERA's above 3.00--still good but not worthy of an "A."

    A majority of the relievers have pitched above average and a major reason why they lead the MLB.

    Varvaro has not pitched in enough meaningful action to receive an "A" but does have a win on the season.

    The same can be said for Walden, but Gonzalez looks to be trusting him more and more, and the fireballer picked up the win on Monday night. He could make a jump.

    Elevated standards for Kimbrel leave him just short of an A, and Avilan can also blame the Tigers' series for not staying in the "A" column.

    As for the hitters, Freeman looked on his way to an A before heading to the disabled list. Since his return, he is just 5-for-25.

    Bench players in Pena and Laird have played well when given the opportunity, with both recording big hits against the Nationals at different points this season.

    Francisco has posted a solid batting line (.302, 4, 11) but has committed three errors in the field.

    Gattis is second on the team in both home runs (six) and RBI (14) but is 5-for-29 in his last eight games to lower his average to .236.

Stellar (A)

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    Hitters: Justin Upton OF, Chris Johnson 3B, Jordan Schafer OF

    Pitchers: Cory Gearrin RP, Eric O'Flaherty RP

    Upton set a franchise record with 12 home runs in April (could add to that Tuesday night) and leads the National League in slugging, second in OPS and top 10 in RBI.

    Upton looks to be in line for a 40-homer season with 50 not out of the question.

    The other player in the deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks is also off to a great start.

    Johnson leads the National League with a .367 batting average and is slowly winning the starting third-base job for the Braves.

    The major surprise on the list is Schafer—who many wondered if he would even make the squad out of spring training.

    Schafer is hitting .346 with a .485 OBP and leads the team with five stolen bases in limited action.

    With Heyward out, Schafer's playing time has increased, and he has earned some starts in the leadoff spot.

    Gearrin and O'Flaherty lead the bullpen in April. Gearrin has a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched (second on the bullpen) and gave up his first earned run of the season in Sunday night's loss.

    O'Flaherty continues to do what he's done the last few seasons, going 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA and leads the team with eight holds.

    The grades for April are in.

    Let the debate begin.

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