The Atlanta Braves enter action Sunday night against the Dodgers at 53-51, a mere 4.5 games out of the Wild Card in the National League. Atlanta has managed to stay in the NL Wild Card race despite scoring the 10th most runs in the NL.
The Braves have hit only 91 home runs as a team, good for 11th in the NL. The outfield has accumulated just 27 homers all season.
The Braves have stayed in the race on the arms (literally) of their pitching staff. Atlanta's team ERA is 3.74 and they have allowed just 437 runs. They rank fourth in the NL in both categories.
All signs point to the Braves obvious need for some added offensive firepower. However, at the trade deadline, all the Braves managed to add was Adam LaRoche from Boston in place of Casey Kotchman.
The deal gives the Braves a slight power boost; LaRoche has 13 homers in 346 at-bats this season. Compare this to Kotchman, who has hit just six homers in 299 at-bats.
The trade does not solve their offensive needs and the argument can be made it does little to nothing for Atlanta's anemic offense. How then can the Braves upgrade their offense, specifically their outfield?
They can do what they did over a decade ago. The Braves can call up their top offensive prospect, a likely five-tool outfielder, Jason Heyward.
Andruw Jones was 19-years-old when the Braves called him up to the big club, and he paid immediate dividends. Jones hit five homers for the Braves and provided the club a big emotional spark as they went on to lose to the Yankees in the 1996 World Series.
This season, the Braves have another young phenomenon that could provide an immediate spark. Heyward (Baseball America's Mid-Season No. 1 Prospect) is perhaps an even better prospect than Jones and the likely future of an aging Atlanta Braves franchise offensively.
Heyward is a five-tool lefty who can play all three outfield spots. He is a physical specimen, standing at 6'4" and 220-pounds. He will turn 20-years-old on August 9, and has been at Double-A Mississippi for just under a month.
However, it has been quite the ride for Heyward. At Mississippi, he has hit .420 through 81 at-bats with three homers, 11 doubles, and 19 RBIs.
Combined between Double-A and High-A, Heyward has hit 13 homers on the year, or roughly half the total hit by the Braves outfield. Granted, his totals have been accomplished against lesser pitchers than he would see in the majors he has still been quite impressive.
Heyward's performance at Double-A has been even more impressive when you consider he is a couple years young for Double-A. Not to mention many baseball executives and scouts believe the hardest jump for a youngster is the jump from Single-A to Double-A.
The Braves have to acknowledge the boost Heyward would give their offense, but also consider the long-term ramifications on his career development. But, according to several scouts and even Baseball America's Jim Callis, Heyward appears able to handle the jump, and it is worth giving him a shot.