He compares himself to Mark Grace, and his swing and presence at the plate is a cross between Dave Magadan and Will Clark, but there if there is one comparison that can be made about Adam LaRoche above all others it is this:
The Braves have been lean at the first base position on the major league level since sending Ryan Klesko to San Diego before the 2000 season and after Andres Galarraga's fine season that same year.
Rico Brogna, Wes Helms, Matt and Julio Franco, and now Robert Fick have tried to hold down the first base fort over the last three seasons to modest results. Along the way onlookers have wondered why the Braves haven't been more aggressive in trying to acquire a 1B from another team looking to unload their excess corner infielder.
Ben Broussard (Reds), Carlos Pena (Texas, Oakland), and Travis Hafner (Texas) are just a few of the talented players that have been had for little ransom at all, and yet the Braves have seen fit to make do with the thirtysomethings until something better comes along.
That something better may just be LaRoche and his performance Tuesday night in Greenville gave a glimpse as to why.
LaRoche, who is already sporting a .393 OBP and a .527 SLG, showed terrific plate presence all night, consistently working the counts deep and to his advantage. The patience paid off when Adam took West Tenn Diamond Jaxx Sergio Mitre the other way for a rally starting single in the sixth inning and then one inning later hitting a 420 foot blast off of T.P. Waligora that sealed the game for Greenville.
LaRoche is also impressive defensively, where he draws comparisons to some of the best in the game today. But perhaps Adam is most impressive as you talk to him, where you hear and feel a maturity beyond the AA level. LaRoche, who will prove to be a 29th round steal (2000), is definitely major league material.
LaRoche should get a look in September in Atlanta, and then could compete for the 1B job as soon as next spring.
Also Seen in Greenville
• Adam Wainwright showed why he is passing other pitchers in the Atlanta system. Despite not having his "A" fastball and location against West Tenn, Wainwright leaned on a fabulous curveball to get him by and keep Greenville in the game long enough to get the win. The difference between a good pitcher and a great pitcher is how that player fares when he doesn't have the good stuff. Wainwright showed that he can not only get by, but succeed without the plus pitches.
• Tulane draftee James Jurries can really hit the baseball, but is struggling to find a fielding position. After playing everywhere at Tulane, Greenville has placed him at third base, where he does not show any natural instincts for the position. For the second straight game, Jurries couldn't get a jump or make a play on balls hit near him, and misplayed a foul pop to begin the game. Jurries may end up in the outfield or in the American League unless he acclimates himself more to the infield. But he can hit.
• Outfielder Cory Aldridge appears to be a carbon copy of former Braves farmhand George Lombard. Aldridge does not take many pitches, as his .301 OBP indicates, but seems to crush mistakes, as his six home runs would argue. But those traits don't normally translate into major league success, as Lombard has shown.
• Ray Aguilar and Bill McCarthy were also impressive. Aguilar looked sharp in his inning of work (The Rockies actually cut him?), showing a good fastball and a snappy breaking pitch, while McCarthy had a pair of hits, including an extremely powerful inside-out swing off a Mitre fastball on the inside of the plate that Billy turned into an opposite field, off the wall triple.
Jason Walker will be at the Atlanta Braves games and writing features and columns on the Braves, but couldn't help himself after witnessing Adam LaRoche in person. Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on the Fanhome Braves Message board.
LaRoche Can Be the Answer at First
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