This is an article from the March 26, 2012 issue
A rival scout sizes up the Braves
They've got some thunder in that lineup, but the Braves could struggle too. Brian McCann and Martin Prado were the only ones hitting in the early spring.... Jason Heyward looks a little rough to me. He has a long, upper-body swing that he needs to fix.... McCann has some pop, and he hits the good stuff. He's not an out against lefty pitchers. He's huge. On a club that has trouble scoring runs, if you take him out, you're in deep s---.... Prado is a hitter—he hits the ball where it's pitched.... Freddie Freeman looks fine this spring after that dislocated knee.... Andrelton Simmons could play shortstop in the majors now, but he was only in the [Class A] Carolina League last year. He's a long way off offensively.... Jair Jurrjens's stuff hasn't been real sharp this spring, but he's a veteran guy who has time to get it together.... Julio Teheran's stuff is crisp—better-than-average across the board. When he gave up six homers in a spring start, there was a small tornado blowing out to rightfield. He'll be in the big leagues sometime this year. He, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy will be at the top of that rotation for years to come.... Righty Kris Medlen is a pleasant surprise. His fastball is average, but his secondary pitches are above average. He throws strikes, and his command is plus.... The Braves' pitching will be good, but they can't lose any offense. That's a tough division. They'll be in the battle.
Strikeouts by the Braves' bullpen last season, tops in the majors and the most in franchise history. Atlanta relievers struck out an NL-best 9.24 batters per nine innings—which helped them allow the fewest base runners (11.22 per nine innings) of any pen in the majors.
It was just two years ago that Jason Heyward kicked off his career at age 20 with a three-run bomb in his first major league at bat. Since then, though, Heyward has hit just 31 more homers, and his sophomore season was a disappointment: He was hampered by soreness in his right shoulder that forced him to miss 34 games. He said the pain affected his swing, and Heyward finished with a .227/.319/.389 line at the plate. That swing has produced an inordinate number of ground balls in Heyward's first two years—more than half his balls in play have gone down rather than up. Until he taps into the power in his 6'5", 240-pound build, manager Fredi Gonzalez can take advantage of his rightfielder's ability to hit singles and doubles and draw walks by batting him second. (The lefthanded Heyward's ground-ball swing could be an advantage when the leadoff hitter reaches base and there's a hole on the right side of the infield.) Heyward, who started at least 10 games in five different lineup spots in 2011, should be slotted into one spot and allowed to develop into the hitter he was projected to be two seasons ago.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER FREDI GONZALEZ
2nd season with Braves
(R) ROOKIE *COMBINED MINOR LEAGUE STATS