Atlanta Braves Mid-Season Grades: Infield
It’s the unofficial halfway point in the baseball season, and most teams are deciding whether or not they have what it takes to make a run at the postseason before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
For the next part of this first half review, I will look at the performance the Braves received from the infield on the season.
All stat lines will be AVG/OBP/SLG/HR/RBI/SB
Casey Kotchman: .274/.346/.395/4/31/0
Kotchman has never been a prototypical first baseman, and his power numbers leave something to be desired. A career .270 hitter, Kotchman is one of the worst offensive first basemen in the league.
While his defense is well above average, having Kotchman at first is one of the reasons that the Braves offense is among the worst in the league in scoring runs.
Kotchman’s four homeruns are the lowest of any qualified first baseman in the National League, and his 31 RBI are next to last. Despite being pegged as a good hitter for average, he is only eighth among NL first basemen.
Mid-Season Grade: C-
Kelly Johnson: .214/.286/.359/5/20/4
Johnson opened the season as the Braves starting second baseman and there were big things expected for him after hitting .398 with an OPS over 1.000 last September. However, 2009 hasn’t shaped up the way anyone expected.
Although he always seemed to keep a good on-base percentage, Kelly has struggled in just about every offensive facet of the game—and as always—his defense at second base leaves something to be desired.
Although Kelly is now on a rehab assignment, he was already being replaced as the second basemen by Martin Prado (and had lost playing time to Omar Infante earlier in the year).
Thus far in Gwinnett, Johnson has continued to struggle, hitting only .238 in 21 at-bats. With the emergence of Brooks Conrad, Johnson might have an extended stay in the minors unless he turns it around.
Mid-Season Grade: F
Chipper Jones: .290/.411/.467/9/41/1
With John Smoltz gone, Chipper became the leader of the team that he has played for his entire MLB career. Coming off his first batting title, Jones has put up respectable numbers thus far in 2009, although he hasn’t driven in as many runs as expected.
The Braves leader in homeruns, Jones is also in the top three on the Braves in the other two triple crown categories.
Jones defense has been much worse than last year, as he has 13 errors thus far this year, which was his total from last year.
The most important thing for Chipper thus far is that he has played in 91.7 percent of the team's games (77 out of 84), putting himself on pace for 149 games played, which would be his most since 2003.
If he stays healthy, Chipper should improve on his numbers a little, as he has hit .015 points higher after the all-star break in his Hall-of-Fame career.
Mid-Season Grade: B+
Yunel Escobar: .293/.355/.435/7/44/3
What a year it has been for Escobar.
He has played exceptionally well on offense—leading the Braves in RBI, and ranking second in batting average and third in homeruns. His defense has been amazing at times, although his decision making has made us all shake our heads at times. He has already gotten himself into, and then out of, Bobby Cox’s doghouse.
To think, we are only half way through the year.
On pace to set career highs in just about every offensive category, he has proven he belongs in the same grouping as the other elite NL East shortstops.
Unfortunately, Escobar is on pace to make more errors this year, and hopefully will be able to play more consistent defense in the second half.
A huge surprise run producer for the Braves, it’s hard to imagine how bad the Braves offense would be without his bat in the lineup almost every day.
Mid-Season Grade: A
Martin Prado: .330/.394/.495/4/18/0
The biggest offensive surprise so far this season, Prado has hit his way into a starting role at second base.
Although Prado has little power or speed, he has picked up right where he left off last season when he hit .320. Prado hit .359 to earn the starting second base job in June, and has been ever better thus far in July, hitting .412.
With a higher Zone Rating than Kelly Johnson, Prado is an upgrade on defense at second base, and he has also been a huge asset filling in at other positions (third and first) for the Braves.
While Prado is bound to cool off, he has definitely earned the starting job because of his astounding play thus far in the 2009 season.
Mid-Season Grade: A+
Although he has only 86 at bats this season due to injury, Infante was still a big player in the first half of the Braves season as he was hitting .349 while playing.
Infante will hopefully be off the DL before July is over, as he is a versatile player who can play six different position for the Braves.
Mid-Season Grade: Incomplete, but on pace for an A
Hernandez has seen his first Major League action in 2009 and has struggled, hitting only .149 in 67 at bats. He can play all over the infield, and may be a key utility player in the near future, but will likely only be in Atlanta until Infante (or possibly Kelly Johnson) is ready to return.
Mid-Season Grade: Incomplete
Still a rookie at age 29, Conrad is getting to play some in Atlanta this year after getting his cup of coffee with the Oakland A’s last year.
Hitting .358 with two home runs in just 50 at bats, Conrad has been a nice surprise when he has gotten to play, and could figure into playing time for the Braves this fall.
Mid-Season Grade: Incomplete but on pace for an A
Why Greg Norton is still in the Major Leagues perplexes me. The Braves shouldn’t have resigned him, and he has rewarded them this year by hitting .095 in his 42 at bats. Although he did deal with an injury which he recently returned from, Norton has almost no value and should not be in Atlanta.
Mid-Season Grade: F
Canizares has just 17 at bats in Atlanta, but has tore up minor league pitching this year, and would definitely be an upgrade to Greg Norton on the bench.
Mid-Season Grade: Incomplete
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