3 Changes the Atlanta Braves Must Make to Turn Things Around

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIIAugust 15, 2014

3 Changes the Atlanta Braves Must Make to Turn Things Around

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    It's no secret the Atlanta Braves have played their worst baseball of the season the past few weeks.

    The Atlanta Braves are 3-9 in August and have lost 17 of 26 games since the All-Star break.

    The recent skid has put the Braves six games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East and three games back for a wild-card spot.

    Fans have voiced their displeasure over the recent play of the team and many have given opinions of ways to fix them.

    At this stage of the season, you won't see a major overhaul of the 25-man roster.

    However, there are ways to mix things up if you're manager Fredi Gonzalez in order to spark the ballclub.

    Let's take a look at three of those changes that Gonzalez should make before it's too late.

1. Bench B.J. Upton

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    I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir in regards to B.J. Upton, but he should be benched for the majority of the games for the remainder of the season.

    Upton has been better in year two with the Braves (.210), but it wasn't tough to beat his .184 average in 2013.

    Upton has just a .188 average the second half of the season and is hitting just .170 against left-handed pitching.

    With the recent pickup of Emilio Bonifacio, the Braves should look to play him as the regular center fielder.

    Bonifacio has a respectable .258 average and is hitting .395 against left-handed pitchers for the 2014 season.

    He also has more speed than Upton while not a major defensive downgrade in center.

    The Braves have such little margin for error that they cannot afford to run Upton out every day and expect to get back in the playoff picture.

2. Move Jason Heyward to Leadoff

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    Upton has hit leadoff for the majority of this year, and recently, Bonifacio has received some at-bats at the top of the order.

    While it isn't a perfect fit, the best choice at the leadoff spot for this Braves team is Jason Heyward.

    In 20 games during the second half of the season, Heyward has hit .329 with a .400 on-base percentage.

    Heyward shows the necessary patience at the top of the order to get on in front of Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton. He also has sufficient speed to steal bases and get in scoring position.

    Gonzalez seems ready to experiment with Heyward again as he's slotted him there the past two games.

    In those two games, the Braves are 1-1, and Heyward is 2-for-8 with a run scored and a stolen base.

    Heyward needs to be at the top of the order for this team to succeed.

3. Hit Andrelton Simmons 2nd

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    On the surface, you wouldn't expect Andrelton Simmons to be the best option to hit second in a lineup.

    The 24-year-old is a free swinger and not a high on-base guy.

    However, Simmons flourished in the second hole this season with a .286 average, .343 on-base percentage and 12 RBI in just 22 games.

    It makes sense that Simmons would find success in this position in the batting order.

    Pitchers will generally throw strikes to the hitter in front of Freeman to not put guys on in front of him.

    As a free swinger, this gives Simmons plenty of pitches to hit.

    Hitting Simmons in the second hole also puts a right-handed hitter in between Heyward and Freeman.

    Gonzalez should put Simmons in the spot ahead of Freeman in the batting order to help both Simmons and the Braves.