Breaking down the 2012 season of Atlanta's left fielder/utility man Martin Prado
At the end of his 2011 campaign, Martin Prado was coming off the worst season of his career. After a stellar 2010 saw him put up 4.3 WAR playing mostly 2nd base, the Braves traded for Dan Uggla and decided to move Prado to left field. But a wicked staph infection cost him a good chunk of games in 2011, and he was never the same hitter once he returned. This lead to rampant trade speculation during the offseason, including a rumored Prado+Jair Jurrjens for Adam Jones swap with the Orioles. But Prado stayed a Brave, and rewarded the front office's faith in him by having arguably his most productive year to date.
No Martin Prado article could be complete without mentioning Prado's amazing versatility on the diamond. One of his most valuable assets is his ability to competently play many different defensive positions. Prado was Atlanta's everyday left fielder this year, and the majority of his starts (111) came at this position. But Prado was always ready to fill in other positions, be it due to injury or routine rest. In 2012, Prado - in addition to his 111 games in left - also started 4 games at first, 8 games at second, 20 games at third, and 11 games at shortstop. While Prado's defense at short may have been a little shaky (especially compared to Andrelton Simmons') he played solid to above-average defense everywhere else. Having an above-average defender with Prado's bat to plug in anywhere on the infield was a great asset for the Braves, allowing Fredi Gonzalez to rest all his infielders with little to no drop off in production.
Prado's hitting was his biggest improvement from his 2011 season as 2012 saw him raise his slash stats across the board. After hitting .260/.302/.385 in his injury-plagued 2011, Prado hit .301/.359/.438 this year. Prado's line this year was almost identical to his career line, with the exception of an uptick in OBP. Like many Braves, it seems Prado benefited from an added emphasis on patience this year, as his 8.4% walk rate was an improvement over his career average of 7.0%. As far as advanced statistics go, this was statistically Prado's best year, as his 5.9 WAR was a career high, beating his previous best of 4.3 that he posted in 2010.
What next year will bring for Martin Prado is a bit uncertain. The Braves have a well-publicized void at third, which is arguably Prado's best defensive position. Moving him to third is a sure option, but that opens a hole in left field. The Braves will probably try and sign or trade for a left fielder and ask Prado to play third, but the opposite is also a possibility. But, as long as he stays healthy, he should hit about as well as he did last year. But one thing's for certain: no matter where he starts, Prado's versatility and his bat will be a boon to Atlanta, as they were in 2012.