We knew Josh Anderson could fly, and so far he's got nine stolen bases in his first 27 games. Anderson is hitting .280 and is showing pretty much exactly what he's shown his entire career. Right now he's stuck behind Gregor Blanco in the pecking order, but if something were to happen with an outfielder in Atlanta the Braves would not have any problem bringing Anderson to the big leagues. We also knew that while Barbaro Canizares can't field very well, he is a hitter. He's hitting .337 in his first 101 at bats this season.
Clint Sammons is showing everyone that he can not only catch and throw from behind the plate, but he's not too bad at the plate as a hitter either. Sammons is hitting .333 through his first 20 games. Diory Hernandez started off strong in Mississippi (.286 with two home runs and 8 RBI in 77 at bats). Hernandez came up when Brent Lillibridge went to Atlanta, but now that Lillibridge is back in Triple-A don't expect the Braves to send Hernandez back down. He might squeeze out J.C. Holt (.215) as the second baseman for a while since he's hit .433 so far in 30 at bats in Richmond. And finally, we didn't know what to expect from Phil Stockman after he missed most of last season with a leg injury, but so far he's been terrific (1.04 ERA in nine games, 8 hits allowed and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings).
Brent Lillibridge is back in Richmond and hopefully his Atlanta experience will get him back on track. He was hitting .195 before his promotion and was 0-5 on Saturday night in his return to Triple-A. Brandon Jones has not shown any power (0 home runs in 100 at bats), and the Braves were expecting a little more.
While he hasn't been dominant, reliever Kris Medlen has been effective. Medlen has a 3.06 ERA in ten games, with 17 strikeouts (including six in three innings Saturday night) in 17.2 innings.
Jason Perry, a former Georgia Tech player, has been a welcomed addition to the weak Mississippi lineup. The left fielder has a .293 batting average with 5 home runs and 14 RBI in 41 at bats. Todd Redmond, acquired in March from the Pirates for Tyler Yates, has allowed only three earned runs in his first ten games (14.1 innings). And Jerome Gamble has been solid in relief. He's got a 1.88 ERA in ten games out of the pen.
The starting rotation has been atrocious, with a 6.03 ERA entering Saturday's game. The Braves were hoping for big comeback seasons from Van Pope and Isaiah Ka'aihue. But neither has popped back at all and are instead going backwards. Pope (.241 with 4 RBI) has played in only nine games due to a hamstring problem, while ‘KK' has hit only .186 with no home runs and 10 RBI in his first 86 at bats.
You can never predict someone to be this perfect, but the Braves truly believed Tommy Hanson would take off (again) in Myrtle Beach. He's been terrific, with a 0.79 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 34 innings. Don't expect him to be with the Pelicans for much longer. And Gorkys Hernandez may join Hanson in Mississippi later this season if he keeps playing well. While he's out with a hamstring issue right now, Hernandez has been solid in his first 19 games (.309, 2 homers, 11 RBI, 5 stolen bases).
The Pelicans bullpen has been outstanding, with a 2.54 ERA. That's a little better than the rotation, which has not been too shabby either with a 2.93 ERA going into Saturday. Kevin Gunderson may be pushing for Double-A himself soon, as he has registered eight saves and a 0.71 ERA in his 11 games. And the Braves knew Brandon Hicks was good, but he's shown he might be a potential star with his play so far. Hicks had a thigh problem that kept him out for a while, but he's hit .281 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI in his first 17 games.
Tyler Flowers was the talk of spring training, hitting towering shots left and right in every ballpark he hit in Florida. But he's got only two home runs so far in 100 at bats. He needs to show more power if he is, in fact, a legit power-hitting prospect. And Willie Cabrera has been a huge surprise (in a bad way), as he has a .168 batting average through 27 games.
Everyone knew Jason Heyward was special, and he is just that. He's hitting .313 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI in his first 112 at bats. It's also no shock that Cody Johnson has five home runs on the season.
Adam Coe was thought to be a role player on this team, but he got the chance when Samuel Sime struggled and is now hitting .305. Freddie Freeman has driven in 16 runs in his first 103 at bats. That's a good start, and considering he was the youngest player in last year's draft it could also be thought of as somewhat of a surprise. It may also show how good a prospect this kid could be in a few years.
While Johnson has played well, he must cut down on the strikeouts (46 in 107 at bats). It's also been a surprise with how Michael Fisher is doing at the plate, hitting only .238 so far this season.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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