Heyward produces some encouragement

Growing up, I remember looking often looking at the Grapefruit League standings with the hope of seeing that the Pirates were nowhere near the top.  There was nothing scientific about this mindset.  Just somewhere along the line of my childhood, I determined that Spring Training success often equated to regular season disappointment.

Over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve come to realize some of you do not share this mindset.

If you are a part of that small group who chooses to believe wins and losses are important within a (Grapefruit) League where teams can tie, I will say that the the 2-10-1 record the Braves carry into this afternoon’s game against the Phillies should be considered as meaningful as the 5-1 start the Braves could encounter while playing the first six games of the regular season against the Mets and Astros.

By the end of September, nobody will remember the first six games of the regular season.  But you will at least be able to recognize the guys playing in the late innings of those games.

There are a plethora of things more concerning right now than wins and losses.  Jason Heyward provided some comfort on Wednesday night when he highlighted a two-hit night with a home run off Stephen Strasburg. Hitting coach Greg Walker spent some time this morning talking about how good Heyward looked last night.  Check for a story later this afternoon.

Now the Braves need Jair Jurrjens to make his own strides against the Phillies this afternoon. While he has said his right knee has not been a problem, scouts believe he has been somewhat hesitant with his delivery during his first two outings. Today we’ll have a chance to see if he is able to push off the rubber with a little more confidence.

Another popular question recently has been whether the Braves will begin this season with Tyler Pastornicky or Andrelton Simmons as their starting shortstop.  You know my opinion over the past couple months was that it would be best to keep Simmons in the Minors for a least a few more months this year.

If you’re talking about choosing one of these guys for one game, one week or even just one year, Simmons is undoubtedly the guy.  He’s far superior from the defensive end and might be every bit as productive as Pastornicky would be in the eighth spot of the lineup.

But would rushing Simmons to the big leagues limit what he might be able to offer from the offensive end during his long-term future with the Braves.  This is one of the many questions general manager Frank Wren and his staff will continue to debate over the next two weeks.

A week ago I was still assuming Simmons would begin the year in the Minors.  Now it does not seem wise to assume anything in regard to this shortstop battle.

TODAY’S LINEUP @ Phillies

Bourn 8

Prado 5

Chipper DH

Uggla 4

Hinske 3

Diaz 7

Heyward 9

Pastornicky 6

Boscan 2

9 Comments

As a general matter, I would agree that spring wins and losses don’t mean much. In fact, I would go even farther than that, and suggest that a team’s performance during the last week of March is much more important than the team’s ST performance during the first half of March. But there are two other angles to consider this year. One is the Braves’ confidence level going into the 2012 season. The other is the improvements made by other teams in the NL East Division such as Florida and Washington. The Braves imploded offensively last September, and that means there is a mental element. With the exceptions of Prado and Uggla, the key players aren’t hitting a lick this month. And with all the talk about how they have put September behind them, you know it is still weighing heavily on their kinds. I believe this team’s pitching staff will be very good by the end of May. I’m not nearly as sure about the Braves’ offense, and I think we are already seeing it is a problem. I suspect the pitching staff will have to carry this team, but it is good to see that Heyward seems to be making some progress. From the standpoint of the possibility for improvement, no other single Brave is as important to the 2012 team as Heyward is now

Just wondering could the Braves make a deal for a corner OF and maybe move Heyward in CF?

Let’s move McCann to first, Freeman to 3rd, Uggla to Right, Heyward to center, Bourne to SS, and bring Blauser back to play 2nd. Prado can catch, we can trade for a LF, and we can move to the AL so Chipper can DH.

Bourn*

Why is Jose Constanza not given the chance to become the starter in right field? Why did he have his starting snatched away from him last September when he was producing and the team was winning. Instead, the genious Braves pulled him and put the .220 hitting Jason Heyward back in the lineup. I love the Braves, but the way they run the team makes me want to throw up. It’s all because of the pride of Frank Wren. He would rather lose with his guy than win with somebody else. I don’t care how many jerseys he sells, as of now, he is not a good hitter. Pride on the part of the organization, not injuries, is the reason we missed the playoffs last season.

lol @ Mike…just lol

Here are some answers. CF Micheal Bourn is the best leadoff hitter the Braves have had since Rafael Furcal. Bourn has a .336 career OBP and 236 SBs in 2,391 career ABs. Bourn has one season left on his contract, and he will play.

Jason Heyward is probably the best defensive right fielder in the NL. From that standpoint, there is no reason to move him. Heyward is only 22 years old, and still a developing offensive player. The biggest question about Heyward is physical durability. Jason played in only 128 games in 2011, and had a history of frequent injuries before that. Moving Jason to CF would only get him hurt more often. This CF experiment in ST is only to see if he can handle the back-up CF role behind Bourn, in which case the club could carry an extra reserve infielder.

Constanza is a 29 year old journeyman with 109 career major league ABs. His speed is an asset, which is why he is competing with Luis Durango for a back-up role. But Constanza has no pop in his bat, and his minor league history shows he is prone to long slumps.

In 2011, the Braves were 10th in the NL in runs sored, RBIs, and SLG%. This team needs another middle of the order type hitter with some thunder in his bat. With a little luck and development, that can be Heyward.

In any case, this could be the Braves’ best pitching staff of the last decade. The pitchers are going to have to carry this team while they solve their most significant offensive problems and find a new starting SS.

Kudos for taking time out of your day to explain the obvious to these people. I am not so kind.

Constanza is trolling the internet as “Mike.”

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