Now that the Grapefruit League is over, we can take a look at who had a good spring training for the Atlanta Braves, and who didn’t do very well.
You have to give Pedro Ciriaco credit. He came to camp as a non-roster player fighting for a job, and it looks like he might have won one with a strong spring. Ciriaco hit .373, the best average for any Brave with over 20 at bats, along with a home run and 15 RBI. His 22 hits tied him with Jace Peterson for second on the team behind Eric Young, Jr., who had 25 hits. Ciriaco’s impressive performance proves you can go to spring training and win a job.
Andrelton Simmons didn’t play early on due to a strained oblique muscle, but once he got into the lineup he showed promising signs his offense will rebound this season. Simmons hit .340 this spring with two home runs and 13 RBI in 53 at bats. The Braves need that to carry over into the regular season.
Freddie Freeman hit .339 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 59 at bats. Freeman also had an on base percentage of .420. As the most dangerous bat in the lineup, Freeman needs to have a monster year.
Of course, the two players that truly captured spring training with their great play were Peterson and Young. Peterson really won the second base job even before the Grapefruit League games started. He made such a strong early impression on the coaches with how he plays the game that it might not have mattered that he went out and hit .324 in 68 at bats. He walked 10 times, which helped his OBP get to .410, and he stole three bases. The Braves can’t wait to see what they have in one of the players acquired from the Padres for Justin Upton.
When Melvin Upton went down with his foot injury early in the spring, it opened the door for Young to win a starting job, at least for April. Young hit .321 and had an OBP of .391. He also stole seven bases in 78 at bats. Young is a career .252 hitter, but do you realize how much better that is compared to the .198 the Braves have had from their center fielder the last two seasons?
Kelly Johnson won a job on the team with a solid spring, hitting .309 with two home runs and nine RBI. He walked 11 times, pushing that OBP up to .441. Johnson will get playing time in left field with Jonny Gomes, especially if he can hit right-handers consistently.
Todd Cunningham started slow, but you have to give the kid credit for hitting .306 in camp. It didn’t help him win a job, as the Braves just don’t have the confidence in him for a spot right now. But you can’t say Cunningham didn’t come to camp and hit. He did, but it just wasn’t good enough.
Christian Bethancourt is being handed a job as the new catcher, but he still did well in spring training with a .286 batting average. He did not walk, however, in 42 at bats and that is going to be something to watch. He needs to be more patient at the plate.
As far as who struggled at the plate in camp, let’s start with prospect Jose Peraza, who showed he’s just not ready. While Fredi Gonzalez mentioned the possibility of Peraza being on the opening day roster early in camp, it was never a serious possibility. Peraza looked a bit overwhelmed, and he hit only .063 in 16 at bats. Peraza simply needs more time in the minor leagues.
Gomes didn’t do well with the bat, hitting only .179 with a home run and eight RBI in 56 at bats. The Braves need him to be better once the bell rings Monday.
Nick Markakis only got 25 at bats in the Grapefruit League, as he is coming off his neck surgery. He hit .200, but the Braves are just glad he was able to get the at bats to prepare him for opening day. Don’t expect a fast start for Markakis, who might take a few more weeks getting his swing going.
Chris Johnson struggled in the spring, with a .236 average. The Braves really need the 2013 Johnson to show up this season to give Freeman support in the lineup.
One player that disappointed in spring training was Zolio Almonte, who was practically handed a job after signing as a free agent. Almonte hit only .245 with no home runs and four RBI in 49 at bats. He passed through waivers and will be in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who did what in spring training with the bat?
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