Although the Atlanta Braves have been leading the NL East for some time now, they made a number of trades to try and strengthen their team for the stretch run.
With the Phillies getting key players back in their lineup seemingly every day, the Braves were looking for guys like Rick Ankiel, Derek Lee, and Kyle Farnsworth to fill in some holes that the team had.
The Braves did well by not giving up any major prospects (although Tim Collins could be great, his value is limited by the fact that he is a reliever; the best prospect they gave up was Robinson Lopez, who has a high ceiling but is unpolished as of right now) and seemingly improved their ballclub.
However, if the Braves are going to be playing throughout October, the new arrivals will need to step up their play since they haven’t exactly set the world on fire since joining the Braves.
Thus far, Alex Gonzalez has been the only new arrival to play reasonably close to his expectations. Gonzalez has a better batting average (.267 to .259) in Atlanta but a lower slugging percentage and OPS. While Yunel Escobar has actually played better, the Braves have to be happy that unlike Escobar, Gonzalez isn’t a distraction who seems to have his head elsewhere during a pennant race.
Unlike Gonzalez, Lee, Ankiel, and Farnsworth haven’t given the Braves much of anything since coming to Atlanta.
In 20 games, Ankiel was hitting just .212 and slugging just .318. Gregor Blanco, a centerfielder the Braves sent to the Royals (who in my opinion, should have been given more of a chance after hitting .310 with the team earlier this year) has a .275 batting average and eight stolen bases (as well as .362 slugging percentage, which is bad but higher than Ankiel’s) in 18 games with the Royals.
Although The Farns had done well earlier this year with Kansas City, he has been terrible with the Braves, posting a 9.45 ERA in his first 6.2 innings pitched. Although he is striking out a ton of batters, walks (he has already allowed five) have been a problem.
Finally, we get to the Braves most recent acquisition, first baseman Derrek Lee.
Brought in after Chipper Jones was injured to give the Braves more pop in their lineup, Lee has sucked the life out of the cleanup spot. In his first five games with the club, Lee has just two hits (and eight strikeouts) in 19 at-bats.
To be fair to all the players acquired (especially Lee), it is important to note that they have only a small amount of at-bats in Atlanta. If any of the Braves new acquisitions were to go on a month long tear through the end of the season, they would end up with terrific numbers in a Braves uniform despite their slow starts.
With Utley, Howard, and Victorino all back in the Phillies lineup, the Braves will likely need some added offense to hold off Philadelphia over the remainder of the year. If Ankiel and Lee can start hitting like they have in the past, the Braves should finish strong and be playing into October.
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