Atlanta Braves: 5 Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIIMarch 12, 2015

Atlanta Braves: 5 Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

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    The early parts of spring training have given us a glimpse as to what the roster may look like come Opening Day.

    It's an important spring for a number of guys, given the large amount of turnover the Atlanta Braves had this offseason.

    Spring training offers the chance for guys to win starting positions. This looks to be the case at second base, left field, two starting rotation spots and a number of bullpen spots.

    It's also a chance for young prospects to get their first taste of MLB-caliber pitching and leave a good impression on management.

    Although it's still early, a few guys have turned heads for the Braves this spring.

    Let's take a look at five players who have done just that.

1. Eric Young Jr.

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    When the Braves signed Eric Young Jr. to a minor league deal, he seemed like an intriguing option on the 25-man roster.

    The injury to Melvin Upton made him even more intriguing as an option to play in center field.

    To this point, Young has made a strong case to be the Opening Day starter in center. 

    While his .200 average may not impress, he's done other things at the plate to be productive. He's compiled a .400 on-base percentage thanks to four walks. He's also stolen three bases, scored three runs and recorded three RBI.

    He's also erasing question marks about him playing center field with catches like this.

    Young looked like a good candidate to start in center with his MLB experience, and he's backing it up with his play so far this spring.

2. Jace Peterson

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    Jace Peterson is another young player who entered spring in a competition for starting playing time.

    The 24-year-old could be emerging as the favorite to be the starting second baseman over Alberto Callaspo and Philip Gosselin.

    Peterson has shown his versatility by playing second and shortstop this spring, but he's made his biggest mark at the plate. Through six games, his .400/.500/.467 slash line is impressive. His six hits are more than Callaspo (two) and Gosselin (three) have combined.

    Despite the signing of Callaspo in the offseason, Peterson clearly offers more athleticism and upside.

    Based on his play, I'd say Peterson is the leading candidate to be the starting second baseman.

3. Mallex Smith

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    Mallex Smith doesn't fall in the category of competing for the 25-man roster or a starting job. Rather, it is the first impression he can make on management in a Braves uniform.

    So far so good for the 21-year-old who was acquired in the Justin Upton trade this offseason.

    Smith is a possibility to be the center fielder of the future thanks to his blazing speed, which he's shown off this spring.

    In limited action, he has posted a .400 average on four hits (10 at-bats). One of those hits was a triple, and he's added two steals.

    The Braves aren't looking for Smith to be a factor on the MLB team in 2015. However, they have to like what they've seen in the early going and his possibility of being a contributor in the future.

4. Cody Martin

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    Cody Martin has never been recognized as a top prospect but has continually progressed throughout the minors.

    He entered this spring as somewhat of a forgotten man with all of the young prospects the Braves acquired this offseason.

    However, manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledged that Martin deserves a look as a starting candidate in the rotation for the Braves, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "He's earned that opportunity and chance," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said."It's wide open. We went from having a fifth spot open to having two spots open. So why not put him in the mix there?"

    In his lone start, Martin threw two innings of hitless baseball while striking out three. The only blemishes on his line were two issued walks.

    With Mike Minor set to begin the season on the disabled list, Martin has an opportunity to begin the season with the MLB team.

5. Brady Feigl

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    If you're looking for an under-the-radar name to make the roster, then pay attention to Brady Feigl.

    The 24-year-old hasn't allowed a run in three innings of work this spring. He's issued no walks while recording four strikeouts.

    Feigl has only pitched one season (Single-A) in the minors, but he did have a successful first season. In two stops, he posted a 3.02 ERA in 65.2 innings with a respectable 1.11 WHIP.

    Another factor working in his favor is that he's left-handed. Fredi Gonzalez could look at Feigl as another candidate in the bullpen if Luis Avilan or James Russell has a poor spring.

    It's still a long shot for Feigl to make the roster out of spring training, but he's making an impression as a candidate to help in the future.