The Braves have played 34 games, more than 20% of the season. It's still early, but it isn't too early to discuss some trends. Here are five questions for fans to chew on. Dive in and discuss any or all....
1) In his last three starts, 24 year old lefty Mike Minor has pitched a total of 16 innings, surrendering 21 earned runs, 26 hits, and 7 HRs. This represents an 11.80 ERA over his last three starts. In that 16 inning span, Minor has struck out twenty batters while walking seven, which doesn't look bad on first blush. But he has been far too hittable. One of these starts was in Denver, so you could write it off if that one was his only poor outing. But the trend is a little worrisome, as he was not able to get through five innings after being staked to an early lead in his most recent start. Why has Minor been so hittable lately? Is this to be expected when a young lefthanded pitcher draws back to back starts in Colorado and St. Louis? Is Minor a permanant fixture in Atlanta's rotation now? Or if this recent hittability trend continues over his next several starts, could Minor be optioned back to Gwinnett? What do you think of Minor's stuff?
2) If a current Atlanta starter goes down with an injury, or flounders before the All Star break, who gets recalled first....Jair Jurrjens or Julio Teheran? Why? Has Jurrjens' velocity improved in Gwinnett? Has Teheran's command improved sufficiently for him to earn a recall soon? What do Jurrjens' and Teheran's futures look like with this franchise?
3) No one honestly expects Eric O'Flaherty to match his 2011 season, which was one of the best ever produced by any major league relief pitcher. In any case, EOF has struggled so far this season. He has a 1.78 WHIP so far in 2012, and his command hasn't been very good. But his last two outings were successful. Has EOF lost his regular seventh inning role to Kris Medlen? What does the future hold for EOF with the Braves?
4) Freddie Freeman leads the Braves with 6 HRs and 27 RBIs, and is third among positional starters with an .823 OPS. However, Freeman has just 4 hits in his last 25 ABs, with only 1 RBI and no extra base hits over that span. Obviously, Fredi Gonzalez views Freeman as a productive player in the middle of the Braves' batting order over the long term. But Freeman is still only 22 years old. Is Freeman now a fixture in the third spot in the Braves' batting order? If Freeman hits, will he stay in the #3 hole indefinitely? Or if he continues to slump, how long will Fredi Gonzalez stick with him in the #3 spot in the order?
5) Martin Prado currently ranks 4th on the team in runs scored, and has an attractive .355 OBP (better than his career .342 OBP). However, Prado's .411 SLB ranks behind his career .433 SLG. The spring trade for Juan Francisco suggests Frank Wren is not totally sold on Prado as Atlanta's inevitable third baseman of the future. Meanwhile, has Prado now solidified his current role as Atlanta's starting LF and #2 hitter? Or will Wren seek a LF upgrade later this year? Is Prado off the trading block now?