The season is not over yet, so there's plenty of time to change our minds on this topic, but I was (for some reason) thinking about some of the surprising things on the team this year. And when I start thinking, blogging is not too far behind. So I kept thinking and the result is this list of the top-5 surprises on the 2012 Atlanta Braves:
Kris Medlen - Big stretch here, right? We all -- every Braves fan -- loves Kris Medlen. I love the guy even though he cussed me out once on Twitter (I may have deserved it). We knew the kid was a bulldog, we knew he was good, but THIS good. No one knew or expected that in their wildest dreams. Biggest and most pleasant surprise of 2012.
"Shortstop" Martin Prado - The foreshadowing of the Braves PR folks putting together the commercial at the start of the season that has Marteeen doing everything around the stadium, on and off the field, was quite prescient. No one saw Prado playing 75 innings as Atlanta's shortstop, and defensive metrics don't hate him either, except for his limited range. He's not flashy over there, but he makes all the routine plays and has yet to commit an error as a shortstop. MVPrado!
Andrelton Simmons - I was on the Simba bandwagon in spring training, and a little miffed that the team went with Pastornicky on opening day, but it gave Simmons a chance to play at a high minor league level before making the jump to the Majors. His superior defense was expected, but even then I don't think anyone expected it to be quite as good as it has been. The biggest surprise for most folks is how good he's been at the plate. When healthy he is one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball ... surprise!
- Craig Kimbrel - A weird addition to this list because everyone expected great things from him, but did we expect the video-game-cheat-code numbers that he's putting up? He's been amazing to watch, he's easy to root for, and he should be a surprise contender for the NL Cy Young award this year.
Luis Avilan and Cory Gearrin - The sixth and seventh guys in the bullpen have been really good this year. Gearrin was up some last year, but went to work this season lowering his walk total while maintaining his good strikeout rate. A bigger surprise than Gearrin, though, is Luis Avilan. He moved between starting and relieving in the minors, putting up good, but not overly-impressive numbers. This year he came out of nowhere in near Jonny-Venters-esque fashion to become a solid middle reliever. The success of these guys has helped lessen the workload on O'Ventbrel, and given the Braves more weapons out of the bullpen. I love the way both of them battle when they're in the game.
Did I miss any major surprises on this year's team? Tell me what surprises you in the comments section. Yes, I've got a list of the top-5 disappointments too, but I'd rather keep us on a positive note on a Friday. Maybe we'll review the disappointments on Monday.