Atlanta Braves: 2015 End of Season Player Grades

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Sep 16, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman

Edwin Encarnacion

(10) scores past the tag of Atlanta Braves catcher

Christian Bethancourt

(27) in the first inning of their game at Turner Field. Betancourt was unable to hold ont o the ball. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Christian Bethancourt: In his second season of big league opportunity, Christian Bethancourt did his best to tarnish his reputation as the catcher of the future. His defense (though he had a positive defense WAR) was abysmal. He allowed 8 passed balls behind the dish, all seemed to come with men on base. He did manage to throw out 45% of base stealers, but that was hardly enough to make up for his other deficiencies. His batting average sat at the Mendoza line as he hit .200/.225/.290/.515. His OPS resembled a good hitter’s slugging percentage rather than an

Sep 21, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher

A.J. Pierzynski

(15) keeps home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth (25) from falling over after being hit by a pitch during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Braves 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

OPS. He was never expected to hit for power, which is good because he only hit 2 homers and 8 doubles for a total of 10 extra base hits. It was just an all around poor showing which would have been excusable had he demonstrated the elite defense many had hoped for. He appeared to trouble focusing during games and made simple errors, which were either due to a lapse in focus or  simply laziness. As the season wore on, Fredi Gonzalez lost confidence in the young player, opting instead to play a 38-year-old veteran in his stead. While many players had poor showings or disappointed, Bethancourt is the one player who might have actually failed. He did not live up to even the most basic expectations, and he brought very little to the table.  Final Grade: F

A.J. Pierzynski: At one point, A.J. was universally the most hated man in baseball by a jury of his peers. Either he never read it, or he just doesn’t care, because this guy is still playing excellent baseball at age 38. Signed as the backup and veteran mentor to Christian Bethancourt, Pierzynski eventually supplanted young Christian as the everyday receiver and arguably became the 2015 Atlanta Braves MVP. A.J. led the team in batting average with a slash line of .300/.339/.430/.769. He clubbed 9 homers and drove in 49 runs in 407 at bats. Meanwhile, at age 38, he caught 107 games. I did not look this up, but I am willing to bet A.J. caught more games than any other 38-year-old catcher in MLB in 2015. His presence behind the plate was instrumental in helping the myriad of young Braves pitchers develop throughout the season. In addition to the fact that he is actually older than new Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella, Pierzynski was also the most consistent and influential veteran in the clubhouse throughout the season. His well-traveled career and wealth of experiences undoubtedly helped him in maintaining a forward thinking attitude and positive perspective on the year. He was so good for the club this past year, many fans are clamoring to bring him back for the 2016 season on a new contract should the club be unable to sign someone like Matt Wieters. All of this gives A.J. the highest grade on the squad, as not only did he exceed expectations in every way, he managed to have one of the best years in baseball among catchers.  Final Grade: Resounding A+

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