With just two days left in May, it is safe to say that the Braves have had an interesting month. The Braves have gone just 14-12 in May, but they remain four-and-a-half games ahead of the second-placed Nationals. Everything sounds great right there, but there have been some problems too.
Injuries, such as the loss of Eric O'Flaherty to Tommy John surgery, have decimated the bullpen, while multiple players in the lineup have significantly struggled all year. Even veteran ace Tim Hudson hasn't pitched up to his reputation.
Still, after an up-and-down streak, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic with the current group of players. The team is also close to getting a huge boost when Brandon Beachy returns from his own Tommy John surgery. This article will grade the performance each of the 25 guys who spent the majority of May with the Braves.
Luis Avilan has been one of the rocks for the Braves' bullpen in May. After losing Eric O'Flaherty for the year, Luis Ayala and Jordan Walden to injury and finding out Jonny Venters would miss the season, Avilan's big May has meant a lot to the team.
Avilan has appeared in 14 of the 26 games in May, going 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA while limiting opponents to a .162 batting average. With all of the injuries to the back end of the bullpen, Avilan's ability to pitch well and pitch often has been extremely important.
Due to the injuries the Braves have dealt within the bullpen, waiver claim David Carpenter was able to earn a shot to prove his value. Carpenter has appeared in six games, all in May, and has a 1.93 ERA over 9.1 innings. He has also allowed just two of the six base runners he inherited to score.
On the surface, Carpenter has been strong but he has been shaky at times. The fact Carpenter has given up nine hits and seven walks in his 9.1 innings doesn't exactly inspire confidence. That is the reason why Carpenter gets a "C+" grade.
Cory Gearrin's numbers are impressive on the surface in the month of May, going 2-1 with a save while recording a 2.31 ERA in 15 games. However, that doesn't include the pair of blown saves he had in the past 10 days, as he blew leads against the Mets and Twins.
Gearrin still gets a solid grade of a "B-" because he has pitched often and has also been pitching in higher-pressure situations because of injuries to other relievers.
Veteran ace and Opening Day starter Tim Hudson has followed a strong April with an awful month of May. In his five starts this month, Hudson has gone 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA as he has allowed opponents to hit .304 against him, which has led to a WHIP of 1.48.
The Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Giants have all put up at least five runs against Hudson. He did make a pair of decent starts against the Mets and Twins, each a fourth-placed club. That's the reason why Hudson earned a failing grade for his May performance.
The Braves need their veteran to turn things around in June if they want to reach their full potential, because on a club that is fairly young, a guy like Hudson has more value than his on-field performance.
Lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel has been good in May, but he hasn't quite been lights out. The normally automatic Kimbrel blew two saves in May, as he went 1-1 with seven saves and a 2.79 ERA. He has managed to strike out 15 over 9.2 innings and has pitched to a solid 1.03 WHIP.
Kimbrel's numbers overall are pretty solid, but just not what is expected from a guy considered by some to be the top closer in the game today. That, and the fact he blew a pair of saves ding his May grade to a "B."
After one of the best starts in all of baseball, Paul Maholm has returned to pitching like his normal self. That means that Maholm has been a solid, innings-eating, fourth starter type of pitcher in the month of May.
Maholm has gone 3-2 with a 4.10 ERA in his six starts in May. He pitched very well in starts against the Nationals, Reds and Twins, got hit hard against the Giants and Blue Jays, and was decent against the Dodgers.
Kris Medlen has not pitched like the guy we saw down the stretch last season, but the good news is that he is a solid pitcher capable of winning games. The month of May has been exactly what one would expect from Medlen, as he has been nothing more-or-less than solid.
In his six starts in May, Medlen went 0-3 with a 3.67 ERA, though those numbers do include his most recent start where he was knocked out early with an injury against the Blue Jays. In those six starts Medlen has only allowed more than three runs one time, and even in that game he allowed just a pair of earned runs. That consistently solid performance is what earned Medlen a "B" grade.
Mike Minor has been dominant in May, just like the was he pitched down the stretch last year. In his six May starts, Minor has gone 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and a tiny 0.88 WHIP. Minor was so good in May, that he allowed just a total of seven runs in those six starts. It's hard to argue with his "A+" grade.
It's hard to grade Eric O'Flaherty in the month of May. O'Flaherty appeared in seven games with no decisions and a 4.26 ERA, but we later found out he had been pitching with arm problems. Considering he was injured badly enough to require Tommy John surgery, it isn't really fair to ding his grade for a less than normal month by his standards.
Julio Teheran was dominant in spring training and disappointed some with a slow start to his season in April, but he has managed to really turn things around in the month of May. He has been so good that he has potentially earned a shot at staying in the rotation when Brandon Beachy returns.
Teheran has quietly been very strong in his four starts this month, going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Making this even more impressive is that he made three of his starts on the road, including a pair against contenders like the Giants and Diamondbacks.
The month that Anthony Varvaro has had in May is one example of why you can't just look at stats to judge a reliever. Varvaro appeared in 12 games going 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, but he blew a pair of leads in his last three outings against the Mets and Blue Jays.
May has been a very forgettable month for Jordan Walden. The former All-Star closer had battled injury and poor performance during May, and just one look at his stats show why he earned a failing grade. If there is any positive, it is the fact that since his return from the disabled list this week he has pitched a pair of perfect innings.
Walden has only appeared in six games but has a 10.38 ERA over 4.1 innings, and that doesn't even factor in the fact that he has allowed more than an average of two base runners per inning. Those numbers are bad, but would be even worse if not for his two recent perfect appearances.
As I write this, Juan Francisco is no longer a part of the Braves team, having been designated for assignment to make room for rookie reliever Alex Wood on the 40-man roster. Francisco had high hopes for this year and did have a decent April while sharing the third base job, but his month of May was a disaster.
Francisco had 44 at bats in May, hitting .159 with a homer and five RBI. His OPS was an anemic .479, which is why the Braves chose to designate him instead of getting rid of one of their three catchers or five outfielders.
Freddie Freeman has been exactly what you would expect in the month of May. That means that Freeman was productive, but didn't quite produce at an All-Star level for the Braves. In 26 May games, Freeman hit .305 with a pair of homers and a .798 OPS. The one thing which stood out with his production is the 19 RBI that Freeman was able to rack up.
With an average above .300 and 19 RBI, it's hard to give Freeman anything lower than the "B" grade I gave him.
Evan Gattis has been one of the best stories in baseball this year. He took advantage of Brian McCann being out for the first month of the season and had a big month of April, which he has followed up with an even better month of May.
Gattis has had 61 at bats in May where he has hit .328 with a 1.069 OPS to go with six homers and 16 RBI. He has also come up with numerous huge hits for the Braves. The way Gattis is performing right now, it may be an easy choice for the Braves to allow McCann to walk as a free agent after the season.
Jason Heyward is getting a bit of a pass with his grade, as I chose not to give him a failing grade due to the fact that an injury limited him to just 12 games during the month of May. His May numbers are also slightly better than what he showed in April.
Heyward hit .195 with three RBI, and his only extra base hits were a pair of doubles. His .597 OPS is yet another stat which fails to impress. Heyward does have the chance to rebound in June and could return to his star form with power and average.
Chris Johnson is a guy that many thought to be a throw-in to the Justin Upton deal, but Johnson has more than held his own at the plate while sharing the third base job. In May, Johnson only has 50 at bats, but is hitting .300 with a homer and five RBI in addition to an OPS of .772.
Reed Johnson has long been one of the top reserves/platoon players in the game, which is why the Braves dealt for him in the Paul Maholm trade last year and then re-signed him for this year. He started the year slowly, but has really rebounded with a strong month of May.
Johnson had 26 at bats in May, but has done a good job of making the most of his chances. Johnson has hit .346 with a homer and six RBI this month, while posting a .893 OPS. It's hard to give Johnson anything higher than a "B+" due to his lack of at bats, but it's also hard to take away from what he has done with his chances this month.
Despite returning from an off-season shoulder surgery, it's fair to say that Brian McCann has come back motivated. It's easy to see why McCann is motivated, as he is trying to prove his bad season last year was a fluke. He is a player the Braves must retain for next year, and deserves to keep his starting catcher job over Evan Gattis.
McCann has only played in 18 games so far, but he is hitting .281 with a .943 OPS and has six homers and 14 RBI already. Gattis may be laying his claim to the starting catcher job, but McCann isn't going to give it up without a fight,
Super-sub Ramiro Pena has been a very pleasant surprise for the Braves. Many had expected him to fade after he had an April that was well above his normal numbers, but instead he has actually been even better during May.
Pena has had 35 at bats in May, and has managed to hit .371 with a homer and six RBI to go with an OPS of .950. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla struggling at the plate, a backup middle infielder who is locked in at the plate is always a nice asset to have.
The biggest beneficiary of the injury to Jason Heyward and the struggles of BJ Upton is Jordan Schafer. The same Jordan Schafer that barely made the roster and was considered to be the 25th man on the roster has been a real contributor during May for the Braves.
Schafer has 57 at bats in 21 May games, hitting .298 with two homers and six RBI, and has managed to post an OPS of .903. This is the first time in his career where Schafer has looked like a former can't miss prospect, and if he can continue to produce at this level he will continue to steal playing time from the Braves talented but struggling outfield.
Andrelton Simmons is another player that was tough to grade in May. His batting average of .255 and on-base percentage of .272 are very low, but he does have three homers and 11 RBI and the fact he is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game is enough to keep him at a "C" grade.
Dan Uggla might be the hardest Brave on this list to grade based off his performance this May. Uggla hit just .202, but he did hit six homers with a .782 OPS in 24 games. He also racked up 31 strikeouts in his 84 at bats, which is a very tough ratio to deal with.
The power production is very solid for anyone, let alone a second baseman, but the low batting average and on-base percentage are tough to hide anywhere in a lineup. The power and 12 RBI he plated this month were just enough to keep him above a "D+" grade.
Another month in Atlanta and another month where BJ Upton has looked totally lost out there. Upton struggled badly in April, and posted even less impressive numbers this May. Frank Wren has to be nervous to see his high-priced center fielder hitting .149 with a homer and three RBI in May, and that isn't even including the fact that he only had two extra base hits during the entire month.
Justin Upton has had a pair of interesting months during his first two months in Atlanta. In April, Upton looked like a potential MVP candidate. In May, however, he looks like the guy Arizona thought was expendable this past winter.
Upton has hit just .220 with two homers and 10 RBI, and has recorded an OPS of .680. He hasn't been bad enough for an "F," but his lack of average and power has earned him a "D" grade for May.