2nd-Half Predictions for Every Braves Starter

Martin GandyFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

2nd-Half Predictions for Every Braves Starter

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    The second half of the season officially begins for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. In the slides ahead I’ll look back at the numbers put up by each player in the Braves lineup during the first half, then I’ll offer up a prediction for what each player might do in the second half.

    Predictions are a tricky business, but that’s what makes them so fun. Begin the slideshow to see my predictions for the second-half Braves, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

     

    All stats are accurate up to and including June 25, and are taken from FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

Second-Half Prediction for Evan Gattis

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    El Oso Blanco has been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball this season. He leads all major league catchers in home runs (16) and is second in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR) at 2.6. He’s also tied for the Braves’ team lead in home runs and second in fWAR.

    So far, the loss of longtime Braves catcher Brian McCann, who has only been worth 0.7 fWAR for the Yankees, has not hurt Atlanta.

    This season Gattis has posted a slash line of .292/.345/.562, with his best work coming in June. This month he’s gunning for NL Player of the Month, with a slash line of .363/.414/.650. That includes a 20-game hitting streak that lasted most of June.

    It’s hard to believe that Gattis can continue the torrid pace he’s been on this past month, but with the confidence he’s gained by successfully becoming an everyday major league catcher, there’s reason to think that at least some of this elite offensive production is here to stay.

    It’s easy to be optimistic about a second-half prediction for fan-favorite Gattis, but he’s still squatting behind the plate every four out of five days during the dog days of summer. That will take a toll on Gattis in his first full season as a catcher, and that could slow him at the plate.

    It’s reasonable to expect Gattis to slip just a bit from where he is now but still exceed last year’s slash line of .243/.291/.480. My prediction is that Gattis’ second-half slash line will look similar to his first-half slash line, but with a little less power.

    My second-half prediction for Gattis: .290/.350/.500.

Second-Half Prediction for Freddie Freeman

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Atlanta first baseman started out as hot as anyone, with an April slash line of .320/.395/.570. It seemed like there was no stopping him, but his torrid pace was nevertheless halted. Since the end of April, Freddie Freeman has posted a slash line of .269/.366/.457.

    That’s not nearly as good as his April numbers were, but it's also not bad. In fact, it’s pretty close to his career slash line entering this season of .285/.358/.466.

    Freeman has started all 77 games the Braves have played this season, so there might be some fatigue creeping in due to the hot summer months.

    Outside of any major injury, it certainly appears that Freeman will post something close to his career slash line for the second half of the year. The optimist in me thinks that he’ll get better at limiting his bad games and will also go on another hot streak.

    My second-half prediction for Freeman: .310/.390/.490.

Second-Half Prediction for Braves Second Basemen

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    To figure this one out, first take $13 million and sit it on the bench. Then put two utility players and a rookie in a bingo hopper and see what number comes out.

    Second base has been an offensive hole for the Braves the past two years. Much of that can be attributed to the empty uniform that wears Dan Uggla’s No. 26. Twenty-six, interestingly enough, is where Atlanta second basemen rank in the majors in OPS.

    Tommy La Stella has been better than Uggla, but he’s been in a very Uggla-like 2-for-31 (.065) stretch over his past eight games. The Braves still seem committed to letting the rookie La Stella play every day. Hopefully he'll develop into the high-average hitter that he showed he could be during his first two weeks in the big leagues.

    My prediction for the second half is that La Stella will post a slash line approaching MLB average for second basemen: .260/.320/.370. That’s better than Uggla, whom I predict will be traded before the July 31 deadline, with the Braves still paying a huge chunk of his salary.

Second-Half Prediction for Andrelton Simmons

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The best defensive player in baseball is having a mediocre first half at the plate. Andrelton Simmons has posted a slash line of .251/.286/.363. That’s very similar to the slash line he posted in the first half last season: .243/.282/.348.

    Simmons ended up hitting .255/.316/.472 in the second half of last season to bolster his overall numbers—especially in the on-base and slugging department. Can he repeat that second-half performance this season?

    My guess is that he can, while continuing to improve at the plate, and still being an aggressive swinger. My slash line prediction for his second half is .285/.310/.435, with a certified play of the year at shortstop every other game.

Second-Half Prediction for Chris Johnson

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    In June, Chris Johnson may have remembered how to be lucky at hitting. He struggled in the season’s first two months, hitting just .256/.275/.335. His performance had many fans, including me, scratching their heads and wondering why the Braves felt it necessary to sign Johnson to a big contract extension at the beginning of May.

    Luckily in June his fortunes returned, and while he slashed .333/.355/.422, he posted a batting average on balls in play of .439. His BABIP in May had been a mere .361, and in April it was an awful .303.

    For Johnson to be successful, he has to get lucky. He also needs to keep his fly-ball rate down, and his line-drive and ground-ball rates up—all of which he did in June.

    My guess for Johnson’s second half is that he’ll hit more like his June numbers and less like his April/May numbers: .295/.320/.430.

Second-Half Prediction for Justin Upton

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Justin Upton is a streaky hitter, but he always seems to wind up around his career average of .275/.355/.476. So far this season he’s close to all those numbers, with a slash line of .272/.341/.513.

    It’s hard to argue with consistency like that, so my prediction for his second-half slash line is a predictable .275/.350/.490. Yawn. Clap.

Second-Half Prediction for B.J. Upton

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Melvin Emmanuel Upton…can we look for any positive signs from your dismal first half? Answer: no.

    Last season he posted only two months with an OPS over .500. At least this year his OPS in every month has been over .500. Of course, he hasn’t hit the cover off the ball, either…far from it.

    Upton’s slash line of .204/.272/.339 screams top-of-the-order hitter, doesn’t it? It does if you’re the Braves’ manager.

    Upton's placement in the top two spots of the lineup, which has happened in 57 of the Braves 77 games, makes him the most out-of-place hitter in any major league lineup this season. That’s already twice as many games started at the top of the lineup as Upton had all of last season (24).

    This helps explain why the Braves have scored the second-fewest runs in the majors.

    My prediction for Upton’s second-half slash line: .205/.260/.320. Memo to manager Fredi Gonzalez: Upton is going to be the same bad hitter in the second half that he’s been since he joined the Braves. Please, bat him in the lower third of the lineup.

Second-Half Prediction for Jason Heyward

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Jason Heyward got off to a terrible start this season, hitting .206/.296/.314 in April. He’s gotten better each month, though, and since the beginning of May he’s hit .279/.367/.426.

    Those numbers are pretty close to his career numbers entering this season of .259/.352/.443.

    A lot of people, including myself, are still waiting for J-Hey to have a sustained offensive outburst of Ruthian proportions. While that hasn’t happened yet, Heyward is still leading the team in fWAR (3.0), helped along by superb defense in right field.

    I still believe that Heyward will put up big numbers, and if his first mostly healthy season since he became a pro continues to be injury-free, my prediction is that Heyward will do so in the second half. Look for a .315/.395/.550 line from him.