With the injury to Jason Heyward, the Braves are going to have to find someone to step up and help ease the pain of losing their hot-hitting, Gold Glove caliber right-fielder. Internally, there are four candidates right now: BJ Upton, Jordan Schafer, Evan Gattis, and Joey Terdoslavich. Each one of those guys brings something positive to the table, but unfortunately, each one of them is also slumping badly right now. Here is a quick recap of each player and what they have been doing lately.
- BJ Upton: BJ’s struggles this season have been well documented, so I am not going to harp on those here. He has been flat-out terrible offensively and everyone knows it. Lets move past it and just focus on what he has done since his return from the DL on August 3rd. In the first 5 games that BJ started after returning, he was absolutely on fire. He went 10-for-21 with 2 doubles, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. He also stole 3 bases, which was a great sign that he was healthy and good to go. Then, something happened. I’m not sure what, but he immediately reverted back to the BJ that had been terrible for the entire season. Since that little 5 game streak after coming off the DL, BJ has gone hitless in 25 at bats with 1 walk and 12 Ks and has generally looked awful at the plate again.
- Jordan Schafer: Jordan had been playing off the charts well before his ankle injury landed him on the disabled list. Since Schafer came back from his ankle injury on 8/11, he has really struggled at the plate going 3-27 (.111) with 3 walks, 9 strikeouts and no extra base hits. His OPS has plummeted almost 100 points since his activation from the DL. He has stolen 4 bases, so it seems like his ankle is fine, he just isn’t swinging the bat well. We had all hoped Schafer had turned the corner and started to become the prospect he was tabbed to be years ago, but was that just an aberration or the truth?
- Evan Gattis: El Oso Oh-No! Gattis became a folk hero after his torrid start to the season, but the White Bear has gone into hibernation since an oblique strain landed him on the DL. Since Gattis came off the Disabled List on July 14th, he has a slash line of .217/.258/.283/.540 with only 3 doubles and 1 HR, but he did knock in 10 runs, over 95 plate appearances. The surprising part has been his lack of hitting the ball as hard as he was earlier in the season. His ABs have been tough to watch lately as he has begun swinging at anything and everything, showing next to no plate discipline. He is in the midst of an 0-15 streak currently. Couple his hitting struggles with the fact that he is the worst of these 4 guys in the field, and that has left many calling for his benching. Honestly, I think Gattis came back a little too soon from his oblique injury and I think if the Braves had to do it over again they would have held him back til after the All-Star Break. Unfortunately, the injury to Freeman’s wrist kind of forced their hand.
- Joey Terdoslavich: Terdo has the least experience and is the biggest unknown right now of these 4 Braves. He performed rather well at the plate since his call up in early July, and has already become one of the Braves go to bats off the bench. However, just like the rest of these guys, he has hit a rough patch lately. Joey has only collected 1 hit in his last 12 official at bats, but does have 5 walks in that time frame. Since August 1st, Terdo’s batting average has gone from .303 down to .250, but his OBP has remained exactly the same at .361, so he is still getting on base just not hitting it well.
None of these guys can replace Jason Heyward, but they are all capable of stepping up and having a hot month to help soothe the sting of losing him. Obviously, the most upside here is going with BJ, a proven major league hitter, who even when he isn’t hitting well can give you good center-field play and speed on the base-paths. BJ has also traditionally been more of a second half player. As much as it pains me to say it, I think you have to play BJ every day in center to see if he will snap out of it and become the hitter we all know he is capable of being. In my opinion, from now til the end of the season, we need to go with Terdo in LF, BJ in CF and Justin in RF and just stick with them, even if they struggle. I think it would be nice to get Terdo some consistent at bats to see what he can do. The team can use Gattis and Schafer to spell these guys and that should give them a few starts a week plus pinch-hitting appearances. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have to work with. It’s a good thing the Braves have such a large lead and can essentially give these guys what amounts to a try out.