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Checking in on the Braves Current and Former Top Prospect

Some people were real concerned about us trading away Andy Marte for an aging shortstop coming off his worst year. Well, that's why they play the game. A month and half into the 2006 season, we watched a now healthy Edgar Renteria rattle off a 24 game hitting streak that propelled him to the top of the league in hitting. It's an early performance that has made him one of the top two shortstops in the National League. But what has super-prospect Andy Marte done? John Sickels puts it best:

Andy Marte, 3B, Cleveland Indians

Current Numbers: .238/.327/.331 for Triple-A Buffalo, one homer, 8 RBI, 18 walks, 38 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.

What is Wrong?: He played well early but fell into a slump when the calendar turned over to May. No word about any hidden injury, although that's possible. It's also possible he is simply discouraged about not making the team in spring training. Given his age (22), the fact that he is still controlling the strike zone reasonably well, and his previous track record, I am not overly concerned about him long-term. His strikeout rate is up this year, possibly a sign of excessive power-consciousness. . . he may be trying too hard to hit for power in an attempt to get back to the majors. He is hitting much better on the road (.309) than at home (.207). He's also hitting just .115 with runners in scoring position. These are all signs of a player who is "playing tight."

Is There Hope?: Of course. I think he's just pressing right now.

Not too good, but like he says, Marte is probably just pressing right now, and he'll find a way to break out of the funk. Although, never underestimate the scouting prowess of the Braves, and their knowledge of where Marte was headed.

And what about our top prospect, Jarrod Saltalamacchia? He was all anyone could talk about after spring training, but an 0 for 13 start to the season can put a damper on things real fast. He has struggled to regain his form, but has managed to hit four homeruns and drive in 16 runs. He is keeping a prospect diary at Baseball America, and he seems to be handling the adversity in stride:

Starting out 0-for-13 definitely isn't something anyone wants to go through, but I started seeing balls better the day before I got my first hit. And even though it was a home run, it didn't really matter.

It was nice, don't get me wrong, but I would have been happy just to get anything to fall my way for a change. I look at it as one of those things where I feel better off starting in a slump than ending on one or having a long one during the year. Hopefully I can avoid those types of things.

He has been better at home than on the road as his Minor League splits show. The Southern League schedule can take a bit of getting used to with every series being five games long, and some road trips taking more than ten days. About the rumored switch to first base, he says the following:

I know there was a lot of talk when I was in big league camp about me taking balls over at first base, but it really was just a lot of hype. All I know is what (the Braves) told me and that was that I'm going to stay at catcher. It may or may not change down the road and it's not something I'm worried about or concern myself with at all. I don't know if I'll be there or not, I don't think they know if I'll be there or not. I just think that's something that will work itself out in the long run. And it's definitely not anything that enters my mind. I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep catching because ultimately that's what I want to be doing.

While the Braves haven't made the change yet, I image they would soon. With Brian McCann about as good as any catcher in the Major Leagues, and a slumping LaRoche who can't control his strikeouts, if Salty wants to get to the Majors, he should almost insist upon making the change to first. For the time being it can be a part time change, so that he can still stay sharp at catcher.

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