|Posted by theprincipality on July 13, 2017 at 6:35 PM|
So we find ourselves at the All-Star break in the 2017 season. Though not the literal half way point of the campaign, what remains is termed as the season's second half and what happens from here defines the success or failure of the year. The first half has seen its fair share of challenges, none bigger than losing Freddie Freeman for two months with a broken hand, but through the ups and downs the team has battled and remains within touching distance of an even record. In fact, at the season's literal halfway point, the Braves were just a solitary game under .500. Mediocrity hardly seems the right place to aim for, but consider that the team hasn't had a winning record since 1st June 2015 and you can see why .500 is a big deal. You have to crawl before you can walk.
The Braves have a talented crop of youngsters and some seasoned veterans, as well as a few pleasant surprises in the roster. I would be baffled if they did not finish the season with more than 81 wins. Short of another management fire sale, this team is on the up, and on the up this year. So with half the season down it is time for the mid-year report card.
Freddie Freeman - A+
When not on the DL, Freeman has carried the team on his shoulders and earned every cent of his salary. Hitting close to .350, he leads the team with 16 home runs, having missed two months with his broken hand. Now back, ahead of schedule he continues to hit like he was never away, and showed his team-first approach by moving to third base to accommodate Matt Adams at first.
Matt Adams - A
An emergency pickup from the Cardinals when Freeman went down, Adams has exceeded all expectations and admirably filled Freeman's shoes at first base. In a Braves uniform, he is hitting close to .300 and has 13 home runs. The Braves would have taken the average alone. Adams now has great trade value, but hopefully Freeman's move to third works out and Adams continues to produce in a Braves uniform for the rest of the year.
Mike Foltynewicz - A
Folty was always tabbed as the fifth starter in the rotation for this year, until further notice. The hard-throwing righty has had major teething problems the last few seasons, as well as a couple of potentially life-threatening injuries to overcome. With that all behind him, he has emerged as the team's ace this year and leads the club with 7 wins and a 3.77 ERA. He still lacks enough consistency to be considered a true ace, but his recent near no-hitter shows he is going in the right direction and justifies the faith the Braves have shown in him.
Ender Inciarte - A
Inciarte earned his first All-Star appearance this year and but for a slow start would be in contention for the batting title. His defence remains outstanding, amongst the very best in the league and his ability to get on base has set the tone for the rest of the team's very productive offensive year.
Matt Kemp - A-
Ultimately Kemp is what the Braves ended up with from the Alex Wood trade after shipping Hector Olivera to San Diego late last year. At that point, the Braves just wanted rid of Olivera and Kemp was seen as a veteran who had seen his best days. How wrong we have been. Kemp has been superb, defying the critics and producing on a daily basis. There are a few niggly injury concerns, which come with age, and his bat has cooled the past few weeks, but had Kemp been selected as an All-Star, few could have argued against it.
Tyler Flowers - A-
Flowers has been another pleasant surprise. When the 2016 season ended, the Braves picked up Kurt Suzuki and the catcher's position was one of real worry as the team felt they lacked an everyday player. Flowers has stepped up and hit .306, adding a dependable bat in the middle of the lineup. He has coped well behind the plate and proven himself the best pitch-framer in the game. His record against would-be base stealers has improved and he was another who could have easily justified an All-Star selection.
Brandon Phillips - A-
Another veteran pickup who has surprised. Phillips approaches every game with enthusiasm and a huge personality and continues to defy his age with stellar defence and a productive bat. His two walk-off hits in consecutive nights recently was a Braves first since 1988. Phillips has trade value, but like Adams, hopefully he remains in a Braves uniform for the rest of 2017.
Nick Markakis - B
Markakis is the quiet achiever. Overshadowed in the outfield by Inciarte and Kemp, Markakis continues to produce great defence on a daily basis and a dependable bat you can put anywhere in the lineup. Like many players, he has hot and cold streaks but he is out there every day and you can never question his talent or commitment. Dependable, if not extravagant.
Julio Teheran - B-
Julio has been a classic Jekyll and Hyde character this year. On the road, he has shown he is a multiple All-Star, whilst at home he has struggled to get used to the new ballpark and his record is disappointing. There is possible trade talk in the air, but only at the right price. Teheran fits firmly in the Braves' long-term plans, just not as a true ace anymore.
R.A. Dickey - C+
The veteran has shown good durability during his tenure in Atlanta so far. When his knuckleball works, he has dazzled. When it doesn't work he has battled. Full marks for effort, but execution has not always been there. Nonetheless, justifies his spot in the rotation and worth his one-year deal.
Dansby Swanson - C
For all the hype, unfortunately Swanson has been disappointing. He still has potential to be a future MVP and has shown glimpses of his capabilities when his bat gets hot, however there have been long slumps which have put his average around the. 220 mark. Not going to keep you in the majors if that is the long-term outlook. His defence must tighten up too as he lead the team by some margin with 14 errors.
Jim Johnson - C
Johnson earned the right to get to be closer for another year, but I question whether that should continue for much longer. His 19 saves, 6-1 record seem reasonable, but his ERA of 4.23 is too high for a closer and he has 7 blown saves now. Craig Kimbrel left huge shoes to fill, and Johnson is not the long-term solution.
Jaime Garcia - D+
There was a time when I didn't think I would grade Dickey higher than Garcia, but Garcia's output has plummeted since beating San Francisco at the end of May. The team are thinking trade, but who would take him?
Bartolo Colon -F
I won't waste much time on Colon as everything that needs to be said has been said. Worst signing ever? Probably not, but the massive guy was a massive let-down!