Who should fill the three-hole when Prado returns?

When the Braves needed a leadoff hitter in May, Martin Prado stepped in and filled the role in stellar fashion.  Now that they need a three-hole hitter, he’s once again a primary candidate to fill this role.

There has been reason to believe that Jason Heyward would eventually force himself into the three-hole at some point this season.  But while opting to bat Alex Gonzalez third and keep Heyward in the two-hole during this series against the  Dodgers, Bobby Cox has showed he’s not quite ready to give the phenom this role.

Heyward, who has missed three of the past five games because of a sore right knee, is back in the lineup tonight.  When asked about the ailment yesterday, he essentially said he just wants to make sure he’s healthy and strong down the stretch. 

As the Braves head down the stretch without Chipper Jones, they’re going to need Heyward to move away from his rookie inconsistencies and regain the form that he had while belting 10 homers and compiling a 1.017 OPS through the first 46 games of his career. 

When Heyward batted .389 with a .992 OPS in the first 14 games he played coming out of the All-Star break, he provided indication that he was no longer bothered by the right thumb injury that plagued him throughout June and sidelined him during July’s first two weeks. 

But while hitting .140 and striking out 10 times in his past 43 at-bats, Heyward has provided the reminder that he just celebrated his 21st birthday last week.  There’s no doubt that he and Brian McCann are still the most intimidating figures in the Chipper-less lineup.  But at the same time, the kid is still gaining the experience necessary for to find success in this three-hole for many years to come.

Instead of putting added pressure on Heyward, it might make more sense to put Prado in the three-hole when he returns to the lineup during this week’s series against the Nationals (I’m guessing he’ll be playing in Tuesday’s series opener).

Well it does, until you look at the fact that Prado has hit .242 with runners in scoring position this year. Making matters worse, he has hit a team-worst .156 w/RISP dating back to May 30.

Meanwhile Omar Infante has hit .338 w/RISP this year.  This hasn’t been a fluke.  Since the start of the 2008 season, Infante has also hit .338 w/ RISP  — the seventh-best mark among all Major Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances in this situation during this span.

While showing increased power with the six homers he hit during the 19 games played before he fractured his right pinky, Prado hit just .250 with a .305 on-base percentage.  In his absence, Omar Infante has provided the kind of production you would want from a leadoff hitter. 

Infante has hit .378 with a .403 on-base percentage in his past 17 games (all starts) and .360 with a .380 OBP over the course of his past 55 games (40 starts).  Throw in the fact that he has the ability to occasionally steal a base and it’s easier to see why I think he would be the better option to bat leadoff in the Chipper-less lineups that will be constructed the rest of this season.    

So Prado possesses the power potential you would want in the three-hole and lacks the speed you would want at the top of the order. Infante possesses the clutch hitting potential you want in the third spot of the lineup and lacks the power. 

With all this being said, it only makes sense to give Brooks Conrad an everyday role, right?  I mean he has homered seven times in 112 at-bats and batted .324 w/RISP this year.  If he continues to thrill in the late innings, Webster’s will soon place his picture beside the word “clutch.”

Now that I’ve allowed loyal blogger “billreef” to get excited, I’ll return to reality and confirm that I realize that now is not the time to place a 30-year-old with 185 career at-bats in the third spot of the lineup of a team with World Series aspirations.

In some ways, I think Heyward is still the best option to place in the third spot of the lineup.  But with Brian McCann continuing to struggle against left-handers this would leave the Braves susceptible to be doomed by late-inning matchups against top left-handed relievers. 

So I say give Prado a chance to further enhance his team MVP credentials by proving that he can end his RISP struggles while hitting in the third spot of the lineup.  His presence there would at least allow Cox to alternate left-handed and right-handed hitters through his lineup.

Here’s how tonight’s lineup looks:

Infante 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Conrad 5
Ankiel 8
Cabrera 7
Hanson 1
  

 

53 Comments

Certain struggles aside, Prado has earned the opportunity to see what he can do in the 3 hole, and Infante looks great leading off. Leaving Heyward second also keeps the top of the lineup RLRL with decent speed in all 3 slots.

Whatever the Braves decide to do, here’s to hoping they can make a push down the stretch, whether it’s the new additions playing like veterans or Glaus learning how to hit without legs… I don’t care. Event with setback after setback, the pitching has been great for the most part…. Minor hits the mound again tomorrow, and if he can anchor that spot like we all hope, I like our chances.

The only thing I’d change about this article is I’d refer to billreef as “loyal pessimist.” I kid, I kid… say what you want about him, but you certainly can’t say he’s not loyal. He just reminds me of all the Mets fans I see here in NYC on a daily basis continuously pouring hate on their team… but deep down, we all know that gramps loves his team.

sorry about the gaps… sometimes the spaces don’t come out at all, apparently they doubled themselves this time around. This comment will probably show up above the other one anyway, so lets work on fixing the timestamp issues first and worry about carriage returns later.

Prado in the three hole for sure, and playing third to boot.

Conrad is far too valuable as a switch hitter in late game situations to play everyday.

If the Braves can simply maintain status quo it will translate to 94 wins, which will almost certainly be enough. Philly hasn’t won over 94 in any year in their recent run and no wild card team has had over 94 wins since 2002.

Pitching, defense, and timely hitting should be good enough to find at least 26 wins on the current slate.

I agree with you Weaks. A rare occurrence for sure, but my efforts haven’t been to get Brooks into the 3-hole. I wouldn’t want to put that kind of pressure on him, I mean we all know he’s not really that good at handling pressure.I just want the kid in the lineup. I think Prado has earned that spot and I think he is a natural 3-hole hitter, I just hope we aren’t rushing him back too soon, just because half our lineup isn’t hitting(exception yesterday).

Hey bill ya got a plug! Haha yes although I don’t really understand why he continues to dump on our first place Bravos, I will say in every post I see bill’s name repeatedly throughout the comments. I haven’t been around recently, although I plan to be more in the future.
I say put Prado into the 3rd hole and let him see what he can do. I don’t know how to explain the awful numbers w/ RISP, but I have faith that he can turn it around.

I don’t think it matters at this point. If Prado and Heyward are healthy, then any of the combinations mentioned may work. If they are not healthy, it really doesn’t matter because it will continue to be a struggle.

well i know that prado makes a decent leadoff hitter so heres a wild shot at who should hit third… Glaus.

Prado
infante
glaus
heyward
gonzo
mccann
diaz/hinkse
ainkle
pitcher

I never dump on the Braves. Just McLouth, Pendleton and Frank Wren, none of whom I anticipate will be among us for much longer. People were wondering why I was concerned when we were 7 games up. I guess we can see why now. It isn’t time to get complacent, and who could even argue that our offense has been anemic lately. Let’s hope we are coming out of it, but 1 game won’t convince me. When we truly start bashing the ball again, I will be as giddy as the next guy. I just don’t take a Pollyanna, all is right with the world approach to competition. There is ALWAYS room to improve your team. ALWAYS!!!!

Oh please Frank, tell me this Clint Barmes rumor ain’t true. Say it ain’t so.

Bill – CONGRADS ON THE PLUG. You have earned it. Mark has been little shy this year, but I would appreciate some love for my insight.

Bill – your recent Blog was inaccurate. You have also made fun of chipper. I believe you said that he had no place hitting third on a first place team and the his slugging percentage was pathetic. You went on to say that his defense was horribile. Have you seen Conrad throw from third?? Very scary.

Also, you have insulted Melky. I believe you said he had a horrible throwing arm and was brought in to be at most a 4th OF (even though he had 500 ABs for the Yanks last year)

I recall several insults of Bobby for being too loyal.

I think you even insulted Brian McCann for having a lazy eye and Matt Diaz for being too cheap to hire a gardener ( i agree with this one)

Bill – we all love the attention you give to the Braves and I don’t want to change you.

Enjoy the game tonight. Need to Hanson a W. He has been great lately.

Oh and don’t forget Troy Glaus. But without Glaus’ May, we wouldn’t be here. He carried us in the month to put us in position to take over 1st place on June 1st. Of course, you do realize Frank Wren is the person who GOT us here in the first place, to first place. He signed Glaus, Wagner, Saito, started JayHey in the majors (with help from Bobby), signed Hinske, heck if you want to go back a little farther, he absolutely fleeced the Cubs getting Infante and Ohman for Ascanio. He’s had a few trade busts, but so will every GM. Overall, he’s done a very solid job improving our club, getting us back to top form with the minuscule amount of funds he had. He will be around for a while, as Schuerholtz (sp) trained him and made sure Wren was the guy when he became VP. Pendleton can go, but I think we should keep McLouth around because he could be helpful if he can come close to his ’08 form. I will say, we will never bash the ball, we win with defense and pitching, but mainly pitching.

Ok the Infante trade is a lot farther but my point stands. Oh and don’t forget he was the guy with the kahunas to trade away the Chosen One Jeff Fran-just let me sit down-couer. That worked out rather well

Barmes might be a good addition, would be another good bat off the bench, could platoon with Brooks or just be good off the bench when Prado comes back, hits .298 against lefties with a .354 OBP, not great, but we could use some help against lefties

Barmes might be a good addition, would be another good bat off the bench, could platoon with Brooks or just be good off the bench when Prado comes back, hits .298 against lefties with a .354 OBP, not great, but we could use some help against lefties

Sorry for the double

i am for getting Clint Barmes bc hes a switch hitter and play anywhere on the IF and is a better hitter then Hicks hell my 92 yr old grandma is a better hitter then Hicks.

NC, buddy, Barmes is not a switch. Strictly Right handed

I am crossing fingers and toes that the braves get a power hitter like Inge Ramirez or Wiggington

I am crossing fingers and toes that the braves get a power hitter like Inge Ramirez or Wiggington

Good luck having any of those guys clear waivers….although Wiggington would be nice. The other 2, not so much. Ramirez making wayyy too much for his production, Inge not even hitting .250 I believe

ok my bad i could have sworn he was a switch hitter but oh well my bad and sorry for the double post.

Wigginton cleared waivers i am sure but i am not too sure.

Boy, Bravesman and NC Brave you guys deserve each other. That exchange made my eyes water. Maybe you guys could form your own blog, for guys with ADD.

I agree about Glaus. He is a walking DP. They need Prado to hit in front of him since he gets a lot of doubles.

I guess I was wrong about FF coming up today. They would rather pay Glaus 500k.

I have to admit, I would like to see Heyward in the third hole, but I haven’t been able to see the games lately in order to see exactly how he is struggling. Hopefully, Chipper can aid the kid in working on his approach…because i doubt TP will help. I would like to see Omar and Prado hit back to back simply because one of the two will get on base, leaving ducks on the pond for J-Hey or bmac. But we’ve got to have either Gonzo or Glaus (or hopefully both) start swinging the sticks with RISP. I think if we can get those guys going, Jason and BMac would see some great pitches to take some hacks at.

no need to analyze a move until its made at this point because im sure all options are being looked into

THe homer Glaus hit yesterday may be our nail in the coffin. He’s a walking double play, and answer me this. If anyone needs to be in a platoon situation it’s him….why does he get to face the righties and not Matty?

Prado is 1-3 in Gwinnett tonite. Glaus still hits into a double play every other time he comes up. You kinda wish he would strike out and limit the damage.

Just read via Twitter that the Braves are not signing the 17th and 18th round picks to free up money for Aramis Ramirez. WTF.

And that, my friends is why Brooksy is not an every day MLB third baseman.

Your an idiot Barry. He got a bad hop on a wet infield and you are claiming to be oh so smart. You couldn’t pick up that kid’s jockstrap you smug little punk.

Wet baseballs do strange things. Especially when you pick them up straight from the grass. I know this firsthand.

What is that Bill? You called me an idiot? hmm…

Those are both plays that EVERY DAY MLB third basemen make, EVERY DAY.

You know clueless. Chipper made 25 errors his 1st season as an “everyday” 3B. Books hasn’t EVER had more than 22. Now one is a future HOFer and the other one is a better fielder. You don’t have a clue about what you speak, and you don’t have facts to back it up.

Hey pinhead. That why Brooks IS AN EVERYDAY PLAYER. Scores the winning run. Whoops.

Sorry, about all the name calling. I just got excited.

wow, what else can you say about this team…with our personnel we have no business in first. As the old saying goes, sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good…but it seems to be more than that. This team is just clutch…Too bad that they can’t play like that the first 8 innings.

In 696.2 innings, this year, 38 year old Chipper Jones made 10 errors at 3B.

In 184 innings, Brooksy has made 5 errors.

Melky’s swinging a hot bat at just. the. right. time.

We just scored 3 in the ninth, and you guys are worried about arguing about Brooksy defese? You know, barry, you feel you are right, which could be true, but come on, there are bigger things going on here…Enjoy the ride that is this crazy Braves team.

And in 9 innings tonite. Brooks got on base 3 times and troy Glaus got on none. We need offense a lot worse than we need defense right now, even with you ridiculous analogy standing, I” ll take Brooks over 2 left foot Glaus all day long.

OK, I see they changed the scoring on the first play and scored it a base hit. Let the “clueless one” tell you why that is a bunch of crock. Brooksy did not play the ball in front of himself. He turned at the last moment and the ball went behind him. If he takes it cleanly off the chest he still has a play and throws the man out. He made a similar play earlier in the game. That was scored accurately the first time.

Bill I love the way that you passionately defend Brooksy. I love him. We ALL love him. I just don’t see him as the everyday answer at 3B, and love him more off the bench.

Great win. We needed that.

And Glaus doesn’t play 3b. If you will remember, I suggested moving Chipper to 1b, which if we had done he wouldn’t be injured right now. So I am not arguing Glaus. I am arguing that Conrad is not the everyday answer at 3b.

Speedy – enjoying every CRAZY inning!

I feel we have got to have Gonzo and/or Glaus to be able to fend off the phillies for the NL East Crown. If we can get those guys going, our offense will follow. I would insert Prado into the lineup as follows:
1. Infante – 2B – you can’t take him out of the lineup
2. Prado – 3B – Someone on base with him hitting should be nice for his RBI total
3. Heyward – RF, Having McCann behind him should get him some more pitches to hit
4. McCann – C, so consistent, and still underrated, he’s that good
5. Gonzo – SS – his inconsistent pop should help cleanup anything not clean up by McCann/Heyward
6. Glaus – 1B – See Gonzo (and please stop taking the first strike that is over the middle of the plate)
7. Hinske/ Diaz / Cabrera – LF (if Matty is playing vs. LHP, i would put him farther up in order)
8. Ankiel – CF (slowly coming around? maybe not but at least he has a cannon in center).

And with our pitching…this may be enough…

I also would get hinske some innings at 1Bfirst to give Glaus some time to ease the knees….What a great pickup to have both Infante and Hinske on our roster

Barry your sounding a little desperate with your failing argument now. In case you haven’t been paying attention(shocker) the reason I compare Brooks to Troy, is that when Martin returns, he is an excellent 1b, Omar can play 2nd, Brooks plays 3rd and Glaus gets some rest for his aching knees and comes off the bench fresh as a PH. You don’t have the Glaus liability defensively( talk about errors). And of course your right, the official scorer must have made a mistake, because you in your infinite wisdom were much more aware of Conrad’s mistake than that person entrusted with the duty of judging the call. Oh and by the way, Everyday Conrad just past Glaus for BA. It must be because Troy is an Everyday player while Brooks is a Pinch Hitter. HA. Oh and your suggestion about moving Chipper to 1st? Who was gonna play 3rd?? Injured Prado? Glaus, Hahahah, that’s a joke. Infante and then what put Brooks at 2nd, not too clever. Maybe you wanted to get Everyday, Brandon Hicks in the lineup. Maybe you should try thinking these things out.

Speedy are you aware that Hinske is batting .080 for August and that you have him platooning at 1st and LF? He is the coldest hitter on the team. He and Glaus as a 1B platoon are a disaster.

Bill, well aware of the fact, but my response would be who exactly should we put at 1b (I mean Ross is an out of the box thought, but we can’t chance an injury to him)….not saying hinske’s a great choice, but if you want a lefty in the lineup, he might be the guy. Plus, maybe he just needs a few at bats to get going…. I’m interested if Canizares will be called up when rosters expand to give a little 1B depth and provide a little help with the stick.
Also, I don’t see why we are supposedly in such demand for a 3B (We have Infante/Prado and both need to be in the lineup. Why aren’t we looking for a 1B instead? But then again, I’m not sure what’s out there. Of course, if we get a 3b (which i don’t think will happen), perhaps Prado will take all the stress off that finger defensively and play 1B….

Prado at 1st, Conrad at 3rd, Omar at 2nd, easy peezy japaneezy. Solves all the problems. Martin plays everyday. Omar plays everyday. Sign someone like Helms to come off the bench. send Hicks back down. then you have Troy sitting so he can rest and PH. This team rakes with that lineup. right now Troy is a black hole in that lineup and AGON not much better in the top of the lineup, he is more of an 8 hitter. Ankiel still troubles me though. He is great on D but can hit his weight. and Heyward is struggling but you have to hope he comes out of it.

Definitely not saying that he’s an inadequate defender, but Brooksy has made some ugly throws to first since Chipper went down. Glaus being not so graceful on the other side of the diamond is falling all over the bag to catch them. I do agree with playing Brooks at third a while to rest Glaus for a bit.

A little position by position evaluation

1B – Glaus was signed in the hopes he could provide some pop. A normal Glaus year and reasonable expectation would have been 20-25 HR, 85-100 RBI, .250/.350/.450, adjusted for easy numbers everyone puts up in Anaheim, Arizona, and Toronto. Truthfully, he isn’t going to miss that range by much at all, he just isn’t getting there in a consistent way.
2B – Anyone hoping for more than 12 HR, 50 RBI, and a .275/.350/.400 was dreaming big, but Prado/Infante have blown it out of the water. 2B is the reason the Braves have been in first place for almost three months now.
SS – I was kind of looking for Escobar to continue the trend towards 15 HR, 75 RBI, .300/.370/.425. That didn’t happen. Gonzo won’t hit for the average Escobar used to, but he has more pop and is usually very steady. There has been a big drop off in late innings defense though, and it is a little unnerving.
3B – I was hoping to pencil in .290/.390/.490 with 20 HR and 90-100 RBI. That now seems more than Chipper had left, and the injury will probably pull the overall numbers down even more as well.
C- McCann is right where he always is. A little down in the average, but right there in production.
LF- Call me an optimist, but I thought a platoon here could net .280/.350/.425 with 15 HR, maybe 80 RBI. Melky has been pretty much an average Melky, almost exactly on his career numbers. Diaz has not put up his normal numbers, but the right handed side of a platoon is so scattered. He can still get hot. Hinske has been a good pickup, but struggling lately. He adds some pop to the mix that Melky just doesn’t have. Overall, they aren’t that far off of expectations.
CF – This has been the biggest disappointment. An average McLouth year should have given around 20-25 HR, 70-80 RBI, 20 SB, and a line like .255/.340/.450. By all accounts the Braves have gotten almost nothing out of CF. Ankiel is pressing so far, and swinging way too hard. One big hit may get him to relax, then the Braves might be in business.
RF- Placing a rookie in there fulll time, even THAT rookie, had me looking for .275/.350/.450, around 20 HRs, and 80+ RBI at most. The injury and the 2 hole have combined to keep the numbers down, but it is really hard to ask for much more than what we have got from Heyward. The power numbers are way down, probably a product of TPs unique approach to hitting instruction, and having Heyward see so many pitches as a 2 hole guy. As a 3-6 hole guy he would be much more aggressive and the numbers would have been way better. Refernce months 1 and 2. To his credit, he is treated by opposing managers pretty much the same way Ryan Howard is. The nasty lefty comes out for Heyward every time late in the game, sometimes two a game. He didn’t see that on a nightly basis in AA.
Bench – What can you say, 3 PH grannys, and contributions across the board in the clutch. A big plus that has helped the Braves through the injuries.
Starting Pitching- Solid not spectacular, but building momentum. Huddy has been lights out, JJ is in a groove, and Hanson keeps almost every game close. Lowe battles and the Braves are in all of his games. Medlen was great and Minor looks like he will hold his own. KK seemed to be a guy who did just enough to lose, and the Braves gave away 20% of their games for two months trying to prove it wasn’t his fault. It was. Still, the group is a major strength.
Relief Pitching – These guys have been pretty good overall. Wagner has been really good, especially when you consider how many one run saves he is asked to get. Venters has turned out to be nasty. Moylan has been less than I had hoped, but above average for sure. Saito and O’Flaherty have been good, and Medlen and Kimbrell did a nice job. Chavez was a bust, but Farnsworth is a step up, even if it is a slight step up. We close out games with the lead very well, and hold games for late rally extremely well.

It would be great to get a corner infield bat to help down the stretch, but there aren’t that many available that are a significant improvement. In 2 weeks we probably get to see Freddie Freeman start his career, that with be a plus. McLouth will add some speed and defense back to the mix, but overall, the Braves look like they are going to go with who got them here.

I know this seems like a rosy evaluation, but people, the Braves have been in first place for 3 months now! It is going to be a dogfight with the Phillies for sure. Thankfully, 40% of the time they are going into the game knowing they are at a disadvantage at pitcher. If they can continue with the spectacular come backs and “Lucky” bounces, they will be hard to keep back, but I still think the Braves are going to do it. This team has that little something that we haven’t seen around here in a few years. It will be fun to watch for sure.

Very good Rother thats a prety nice evaluation.
billreef, I was just talkin baseball with the only guy here. dont quite see how that makes add…

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