The Braves will get a much-needed rest this week as the All-Star Break arrives. Atlanta enters the week five games below .500 with a 42-47 record, which is probably what most expected at the beginning of the year. The Braves had a chance to really make a move given an easy schedule the last two weeks, but five-straight losses to last place teams (Milwaukee, Colorado) leaves a pretty bad taste in your mouth.
Here's a look at the Braves' hitters at the midway point (or like the 55 percent point). Part two will focus on the pitching staff.
Christian Bethancourt was given every opportunity to become the everyday starter and was absolutely horrible. No one expected him to hit, but his play behind the plate was equally bad.
Fortunately for the Braves, A.J. Pierzynski somehow keeps on going strong. He's done a nice job handling the youngest starting rotation in baseball, and with a .283/.316/.443 line at the plate, AJP is on pace for the second-best offensive season of his career.
Bethancourt is playing well since being demoted to Gwinnett. Pierzynski is a candidate to be shipped out at the deadline, though I don't really see him being dealt unless it's part of a package. He doesn't have that much value. I would like to see the Braves bring Bethancourt back up after the deadline and give him regular starts, especially with the team out of the playoff hunt.
Freddie Freeman was his usual great self before succumbing to a wrist injury in late-June. After posting a wRC+ of 149 in 2013 and 140 in 2014, Freeman's at 145 this year. It sounds like he should be activated from the DL shortly after the break.
It's imperative the training staff watches him closely. If the wrist isn't 100 percent, don't risk a long-term injury for a couple meaningless games in August or September.
Jace Peterson quickly locked down the job in spring training and has done pretty well, though he's really slumped the last couple weeks.
Peterson sits at .253/.330/.350, which isn't horrible. His ability to draw walks and occasionally reach the gaps is encouraging, and his glove has surpassed expectations. He will continue to be the regular starter throughout the end of the year.
The real decision for the Braves will come in the offseason when they decide whether it's Peterson or Jose Peraza as the long-term option.
It would seem Peraza will get a taste of the big leagues in September. He's still just 21 years old and there's no need to worry about pretty pedestrian AAA numbers (.280/.306/.359, 23 SB). He would be a junior in college if he hadn't spent the last couple years tearing up the minor leagues.
Andrelton Simmons is being his usual self, playing phenomenal defense while not hitting a lick. An amazing stat: coming into Sunday, Andrelton's wRC+ against left-handed pitching was 2. Two! Regardless of his numbers at the plate, Simmons will be the shortstop in Atlanta for quite a while.
Juan Uribe came over from the Dodgers and has been terrific with a .276/.331/.419 line and strong defense.
Chris Johnson continues to be bad. Maybe he gets traded, maybe he gets released in a couple months. There's no reason for him to ever play over Uribe.
If Uribe gets traded sometime in the next few weeks, I guess CJ would be the starter again. That would suck.
Kelly Johnson, Todd Cunningham, Joey Terdoslavich, Eric Young, Jonny Gomes and Eury Perez have all played left field at one point or another. Other than Johnson and Cunningham (albeit in a very brief stint), all of them have been bad-to-horrible.
Braves left fielders are hitting .229/.295/.352 and have combined for a league-worst -1.3 WAR.
With Freddie Freeman on the disabled list the last few weeks, Cameron Maybin is my midseason MVP, especially when you consider the Braves' other center field options. Can you imagine 80+ games of Eric Young?
Maybin enters the break hitting .289/.356/.418, which easily puts him on pace for the best offensive season of his career. The defensive metrics don't like the 28-year-old outfielder at all so far, but I just don't see it. Considering he was +25 in Defensive Runs Saved in center field over 4,000+ innings coming into the year, I don't buy the -14 mark. He's been more than serviceable out there.
As I wrote last week, the Braves have a very interesting decision to make with Maybin. I'm leaning towards an offseason trade, but nothing would surprise me with Hart and Coppolella calling the shots.
Nick Markakis signed The Worst Contract In Baseball History last winter and has been pretty solid since. Matter of fact, Markakis has been everything I expected coming into the season. He still hasn't homered yet -- he recently said not being able to lift weights in the offseason due to neck surgery has zapped his power -- but a .293 average and .381 OBP are great.
Fredi continues to bat him fourth in the lineup for whatever reason; I'd much rather have those numbers leading off or in the two-hole. Either way, The Worst Contract In Baseball History is on his way to a pretty decent first campaign in Atlanta.