First-Quarter Grades for Atlanta Braves

Daniel KockContributor IIIMay 14, 2014

First-Quarter Grades for Atlanta Braves

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    It's hard to believe, but one quarter of the 2014 MLB season is in the books.

    What a first quarter it's been for the Atlanta Braves (22-16).

    The Braves have overcome some major injuries to their starting rotation to lead the majors with a 2.59 ERA from the pitching staff.

    Meanwhile, the offense has struggled mightily with only the San Diego Padres (118) scoring fewer runs than the Braves (122).

    With all that said, the Braves still sit six games over .500 and hold a 2.5-game lead over the Washington Nationals in the NL East.

    Will the rotation continue their torrid start? Will the offense be able to rebound the rest of the season?

    We will find out over the course of the season, but for now, let's look back on the first quarter of the season and grade every member of the Atlanta Braves.

Catchers

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Evan Gattis

    Pros: Gattis ranks second on the team in home runs (8), third in RBI (17) and third in OPS (.820). The eight home runs are most among MLB catchers.

    Since beginning the season hitting seventh, Gattis has moved into the cleanup spot.

    Cons: Gattis has walked just five times while striking out 28 times for a 3.7 percent walk rate and 23.9 percent strikeout rate.

    His .292 OBP ranks just sixth on the team.

    Grade: B

     

    Gerald Laird

    Pros: He ranks fifth on the team with a .293 OBP thanks to six walks.

    Laird has posted a respectable 0.27 dWAR.

    Cons: Laird has had minimal impact with the bat with just one extra-base hit (double), one run scored and zero RBI.

    His .171 batting average is below average, and he has posted an extremely high strikeout rate (26.8 percent).

    Grade: C-

Infielders

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    Freddie Freeman

    Pros: Freeman has led the Braves offense all season and been the only consistent run-producer in 2014.

    Freeman leads the team with a .308 average, 23 RBI and .382 OBP.

    He ranks in the top five among NL first basemen (among qualifiers) in home runs (7), RBI (23), average (.308), OBP (.382), OPS (.902) and walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.64).

    Cons: Freeman went through two different 0-for-12 slumps in which the Braves were just 2-4 in those games.

    Grade: A

     

    Chris Johnson

    Pros: Johnson ranks third on the team with a .270 average and fourth with a .294 OBP.

    Entering Tuesday's game, he had recorded 12 hits in his last 31 at-bats to raise his average 36 points.

    Cons: His power numbers have been nonexistent.

    He has just one home run, seven RBI and a below-average .629 OPS.

    The OPS is third-worst in the NL among qualifiers at third base. His 0.12 walk-to-strikeout ratio is worst among qualifying third basemen.

    Grade: C

     

    Tyler Pastornicky

    Pros: Pastornicky hasn't recorded enough at-bats (20) to be thoroughly graded. He has a good walk percentage (10 percent) in those minimal at-bats.

    Pastornicky hasn't made an error in the field and hasn't cost the Braves in any game.

    Cons: Only three hits on the season for a .150 average, which ranks second to last among the positional players.

    He has had little impact despite second base being an open position.

    Grade: Incomplete

     

    Ramiro Pena

    Pros: He has as many home runs (2) as Dan Uggla.

    His .642 OPS is higher than Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson and B.J. Upton.

    He has not committed an error in 20 games.

    Cons: Despite the power, he has not been consistent at the plate, as evidenced by his .190 average.

    He has not seized the position with an opportunity to replace the struggling Dan Uggla.

    Grade: C+

     

    Andrelton Simmons

    Pros: Simmons ranks fourth on the team with a .260 average and .693 OPS.

    He has provided some pop at the plate with three triples, three home runs and nine RBI.

    His 0.50 walk-to-strikeout ratio is fifth among qualifying NL shortstops.

    Simmons is still the best defensive shortstop in the game.

    Cons: Simmons is still too much of a free-swinger with only five walks on the season.

    His OBP (.284) puts him in the middle of the pack on the team despite one of the higher averages.

    Grade: B

     

    Dan Uggla

    Pros: He started the season hitting for much better contact than previous seasons.

    He provided arguably the most dramatic hit of the season with a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Cons: He has simply not been able to sustain any consistency on offense and now has lost his power.

    His .184 average, .248 OBP and .520 OPS are all well below average.

    He has shown little pop this season with just two home runs and three doubles, and it looks like he has lost his starting position for good.

    His career in Atlanta could be over very soon.

    Grade: F 

Outfielders

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    Ryan Doumit

    Pros: He leads the team with four pinch-hits while providing an RBI in that situation.

    He has collected five hits in the six games he's started with the Braves.

    His versatility is a huge benefit for manager Fredi Gonzalez to have on the bench.

    Cons: You would like to see slight improvement in average (.225), OBP (.244), and OPS (.494) from the top bench player.

    His 22 percent strikeout rate is higher than Gonzalez would like to see.

    Grade: C

     

    Jason Heyward

    Pros: He leads the team with 20 walks, ranks second with seven doubles and third in runs scored (15).

    Heyward's .304 OBP ranks third on the team while his six stolen bases rank second.

    He continues to play Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field as evidenced by his MLB-leading 1.5 dWAR.

    Cons: His power numbers have dipped with just three home runs and a .315 slugging percentage.

    He has still yet to put everything together at the plate with a .205 average to begin the season.

    Grade: C+

     

    Jordan Schafer

    Pros: He leads the team with a .250 average in pinch-hitting situations.

    He has provided three stolen bases and two runs scored in minimal playing time off the bench.

    Cons: His .174 OBP is worst among positional players on the team.

    He has not had as great an impact on the team as he did in 2013 and is hitting just .136.

    Grade: Incomplete

     

    B.J. Upton

    Pros: He leads the team with seven stolen bases, is second with seven doubles and fourth in runs scored (13).

    Upton ranks seventh in OBP (.286) and sixth in slugging (.348).

    He covers great range in center field.

    Cons: The batting average is still not where it needs to be at .212.

    He has not hit for the power that the Braves imagined when signing him in free agency with just three home runs this season.

    Grade: C

     

    Justin Upton

    Pros: Upton leads the team in home runs (9) and OPS (.913).

    He is second on the team with 19 RBI, 21 runs scored and .286 average while also stealing four bases.

    He ranks sixth in the National League among outfielders with his .913 OPS.

    Cons: He leads the team with 49 strikeouts.

    He is second on the team with four errors in left field and is last in fielding percentage.

    Grade: B+ 

Starting Rotation

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Gavin Floyd

    Pros: Floyd recently came off the disabled list and has pitched effectively in his two starts (2.70 ERA).

    He held the St. Louis Cardinals to just one run in seven innings in his first start back from Tommy John surgery.

    Cons: Things fell apart for Floyd in the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants on Monday as the Braves let one slip away.

    He has just two starts under his belt, so we need to see more of Floyd.

    Grade: Incomplete

     

    David Hale

    Pros: Hale proved to be a reliable starter for the Braves by going 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in four starts to begin the year.

    He held opponents to just a .212 batting average during his time as a starter.

    Cons: He went more than six innings in just one of his four starts.

    There is no room in the rotation and he has since joined the bullpen as a long reliever.

    Grade: A-

     

    Aaron Harang

    Pros: Harang leads the team with four wins and has posted a 2.98 ERA.

    He leads the rotation with 52 strikeouts and has posted a solid 1.18 WHIP.

    Cons: He endured a horrendous outing against the Miami Marlins in which he allowed nine earned runs.

    He has issued the most walks on the staff with 17.

    Grade: A

     

    Mike Minor

    Pros: Minor had a solid outing in his first start off the disabled list as he allowed just two earned runs in six innings of work.

    He has issued just four walks in his first three starts.

    Cons: Minor got roughed up in his second outing, allowing six earned runs off 11 hits in just four innings against the Cardinals.

    He has already allowed three home runs in his first three starts.

    Like Floyd, we haven't seen enough of Minor so far in 2014.

    Grade: Incomplete

     

    Ervin Santana

    Pros: Santana leads the team with four wins with zero losses and is second on the team with a 1.01 WHIP.

    He has held opponents to a .221 average and ranks third with 43 strikeouts despite two less starts than Harang.

    Santana ranks fourth in the MLB with a 1.99 ERA and has pitched at least six innings in all six of his starts.

    Cons: Santana had to miss a start with a thumb issue.

    Grade: A

     

    Julio Teheran

    Pros: Julio Teheran leads the rotation with a 1.71 ERA in eight starts, and that puts him third in all of MLB in that category.

    He leads the team with a 0.81 WHIP and .181 opponent batting average. The 0.81 WHIP ranks second in the MLB.

    Cons: Teheran has issued a team-high seven home runs and hasn't struck out as many hitters (42) to this point in 2014.

    Grade: A

     

    Alex Wood

    Pros: Wood's most recent outing came out of the bullpen, but it looks like he'll start against the Cardinals this weekend.

    Wood was effective in seven starts, posting a 3.00 ERA and ranking second on the team with 44 strikeouts.

    Cons: Wood leads the team with five losses (most of which were due to lack of runs).

    He had two outings in which he lasted just five innings.

    Grade: A-

Relievers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Luis Avilan

    Pros: He is not being overworked in 2014 with just 11 innings under his belt.

    He hasn't allowed a run in nine of his last 10 appearances.

    Cons: Avilan endured a rough start to the season.

    His ERA (5.73), opponent average (.340) and WHIP (2.00) are all worst among relievers.

    Gonzalez has seemingly lost confidence in Avilan by not pitching him in set-up situations.

    Grade: C-

     

    David Carpenter

    Pros: Carpenter has posted the best bullpen ERA (1.69) of guys not named David Hale and Alex Wood.

    He leads the team with seven holds and has notched two saves on the 2014 season.

    Cons: His opponent average (.246) and WHIP (1.25) are not stellar.

    He allowed runs in three of his first five appearances this season, but the Braves were able to overcome those runs.

    Grade: B+

     

    Craig Kimbrel

    Pros: Kimbrel leads the team with 10 saves and relievers with 28 strikeouts.

    His opponent average (.189) and WHIP (1.19) are positive.

    Cons: He has blown two saves on the season.

    He dealt with some injury issues that caused him to miss some action.

    His 2.51 ERA is not as dominant as we've come to expect from Kimbrel.

    Grade: B-

     

    Gus Schlosser

    Pros: Schlosser got some experience at the MLB level.

    He showed resiliency in an outing against the New York Mets in which he was asked to pitch four innings in an extra-innings contest.

    Cons: He struggled to get outs in late-game situations.

    He allowed runs in five of his nine appearances in Atlanta.

    His struggles eventually led to him being sent back to the minors.

    Grade: F

     

    Ian Thomas

    Pros: Thomas has proved he has the ability to get big outs in tough spots, especially against left-handed hitters.

    Thomas ranks second on the team with three holds.

    Cons: Thomas has also struggled with some command issues, as evidenced by his 1.43 WHIP.

    He didn't fully seize his opportunity in the bigs as he was demoted to the minors before the Jordan Walden injury.

    Grade: C

     

    Anthony Varvaro

    Pros: Varvaro has been productive out of the bullpen in 2014.

    He leads the bullpen (excluding Wood and Hale) with a 0.87 WHIP.

    He ranks third with a 12.00 strikeout-per-nine-inning ratio and two holds. He has posted a solid 2.13 ERA.

    Cons: Generally, Varvaro has not pitched in the toughest spots, as Gonzalez has elected to go with Carpenter and Walden.

    He could have more of an opportunity in the near future with Walden on the disabled list.

    Grade: A-

     

    Jordan Walden

    Pros: Walden was enjoying a solid season before going to the disabled list with a hamstring issue.

    He ranks second on the team with a 13.86 strikeout-per-nine-inning ratio and three holds.

    His 2.92 ERA is respectable.

    Cons: Walden had two rough outings in which he allowed multiple runs.

    The funky delivery helps his effectiveness but seems to also play in his continuing health issues.

    Grade: B

     

    Note: All statistics via Baseball-Reference.com.