MARCUS GILES ATLANTA 26 YEARS OLD .311 batting average .378 on base percentage 8 home runs 48 runs batted in 118 hits in 379 at bats 22 doublesCOMMENT: Marcus Giles started off the season looking like an All-Star last year, but then the injury on May 15th really derailed his season. The bum collarbone really bothered him for most of the rest of the season, as his power was pretty much non-existent. But it did not diminish the fine offensive production he did provide the team.
His productivity in the lineup is extremely important; if he's on, the team is usually clicking as a unit. Therefore, it is crucial he bounce back with an impressive season this year, particularly with the team having numerous questions on offense. Giles has become an extremely dependable defensive second baseman. He has good range and makes many solid plays. With his power and offensive weapons and steady defense, Giles has easily become one of the best second baseman in the league. The Braves were lucky to not tank when he went down with an injury, but he's so important that you wonder if they could get by with it if it happened again.
NICK GREEN ATLANTA 26 YEARS OLD .273 batting average .312 on base percentage 3 home runs 26 runs batted in 72 hits in 264 at bats 15 doublesCOMMENT: The reason the Braves did not tank last season with Giles absent was Nick Green. There were some in spring training that even wondered if he'd make the Richmond club, but he got off to a hot start in AAA to finally prove he was ready. All Green ever waited for was the chance, and when Marcus went down, he got his shot. Green provided solid defense and an adequate bat as a replacement. Now he must settle into the role of being a major league utility man, which cannot always be as easy as it seems when you've been a starter your entire career. There is no doubt Green is the type of hustling player that Bobby Cox loves to watch play, so if called upon, expect him to give the same type of effort once again. Green has learned his limitations and knows what he is capable of. He's also matured where he can handle both success and failure. The worry could be that if Giles stays healthy and Green plays sparingly, he may not be quite as effective. But the Braves believe he can be a solid utility man.
PETE ORR RICHMOND OR ATLANTA 25 YEARS OLD .320 batting average .349 on base percentage 1 home run 35 runs batted in 147 hits in 460 at bats 16 doubles and 10 triplesCOMMENT: While Green is the favorite to grab one of the two infield reserve spots along with Wilson Betemit, we should not count out Pete Orr. For most of his minor league career, Orr has been a reserve. When he finally got the chance to play regularly last season, he proved he was a solid player. Does this sound familiar? Orr's path to the big leagues is eerily similar to Charles Thomas, and the Richmond coaches all warned us last year that, "if you like Charles Thomas, you're going to love Pete Orr." They are very similar players in that they both hustle more than just about anyone else on the team they are on. Do they overachieve? Perhaps, but if so it's only because of the work ethic and dedication they demonstrate throughout a season. Orr is probably battling Wilson Betemit more than Green for a spot on the 25-man roster, and his disadvantage is that both Green and Betemit are out of options and would have to pass through waivers to go back to the minor leagues. It's doubtful either one would pass through unclaimed, so that puts the pressure on Orr to come in and show how he can be valuable to the team. Orr can play second, short, and third, along with an occasional appearance in the outfield. His versatility makes him very valuable, along with his speed – both qualities that are better than Green or Betemit. He has no power, but is a slap hitter who could be described as a poor man's Ryan Freel.
JONATHAN SCHUERHOLZ MISSISSIPPI 24 YEARS OLD .206 batting average .303 on base percentage 1 home run 33 runs batted in 77 hits in 373 at batsCOMMENT: If Orr is a poor man's Ryan Freel, Jonathan Schuerholz could be described as a poor man's Pete Orr, and that's a big compliment. Like Orr, Schuerholz has limited power, good speed, great dedication, and has the ability to make significant contributions to his team despite the poor offensive numbers. Jonathan can play short and second, plus he played a little third base in college, so he has experience there as well. Obviously, he took a huge step backwards last season with a poor offensive showing in a tough league. So Double-A will be a huge test for him this season. The Braves hope he can develop into a solid utility man. There's no doubt he has the intellect and dedication to become just that, but he must improve offensively so he won't be a liability on a major league club. His defense is good, but not that good to get him by on an average in the low .200's. If Jonathan can show more consistency with the bat, he could prove to be a very valuable asset. But the consistency must come this season.
MARTIN PRADO MYRTLE BEACH 22 YEARS OLD .315 batting average .363 on base percentage 3 home runs 38 runs batted in 135 hits in 429 at bats 25 doublesCOMMENT: Many believe Martin Prado may be the best candidate to eventually become a starter at second base of any of the options in the minors right now. Prado is just a hitting machine. He puts the ball in play so well; the power is developing and chances are he will become a player that might hit 10-20 in the big leagues. Prado has decent speed, so he might become a leadoff candidate down the road. But it also looks like he might be a perfect number two hitter. His defense is solid. He doesn't have great range, but he's got a great arm and good hands. Coaches talk about his intelligence on the baseball field, which is something that can't always be taught. Prado will more than likely head to High-A Myrtle Beach this season, but a strong performance there could have him ending the year in Mississippi.
J.C. HOLT ROME 21 YEARS OLD .321 batting average .377 on base percentage 1 home run 21 runs batted in 67 hits in 209 at bats 17 stolen basesCOMMENT: Holt was the Braves' third round pick out of LSU. They immediately changed him from the outfield to second base, where he had played sparingly in college. The Braves believe Holt has the potential to develop into a legit leadoff man. His speed is excellent, and he does an excellent job of getting on base. The power is a little limited, but they think his other offensive attributes atone for that deficiency. Holt makes things happen at the plate and when he gets on base. He is the type that could jump Rome and go to Myrtle Beach, but with Prado ahead of him, he'll probably start out in Rome. But do not be surprised if he joins Prado in jumping a level this season. With his college experience, he should go to the South Atlantic League and do very well.
OVERVIEW: Marcus Giles could be with the Braves for three more seasons before he's eligible for free agency, so the Braves shouldn't have to worry about the position for a while. Nick Green might deserve a chance to be a starter in the big leagues, but with Giles around it might have to come from another team. For now, Green, Orr, and Schuerholz give the Braves a trio of decent utility players that can help the team in many different ways. Prado and Holt are two players that could develop into starting options if Giles were to somehow leave the organization. The Braves will probably draft another second sacker in this June's draft to provide another option at Danville.
Bill Shanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org