Braves could get creative with platoons in 2013

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

It may not be what Braves Country was hoping for, but a platoon at third base and left field could be a cheap and effective option for the club next season.

With every day that passes, the odds of the Atlanta Braves making a substantial move to improve their outfield decreases. There's still time to get something done, but it isn't looking probable.

There have been rumors of Dexter Fowler, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton coming to Atlanta. Nothing ever came close to getting done.

For a team that entered the offseason with nearly $30 million to spend and multiple holes on the roster to address, the thought of the club going with a super platoon at third base and left field may be somewhat of a letdown.

Should it be? Maybe not.

As it stands now, Martin Prado would play just about every day at either third base or left field. His platoon mates would likely consist of Juan Francisco and Reed Johnson.

Someone like Jordan Schafer or Jose Constanza could also steal a start or two, although that seems unlikely unless injuries arise. And given that we have no real estimate to what Evan Gattis will do should he reach the Major Leagues, counting on his impact seems silly.

Against right-handed pitchers, Francisco would play third and Prado would man left field. Against lefties, Prado shifts down to the hot corner and Reed Johnson handles left.

Over the course of his career, Prado is a .295/.345/.435 hitter with a .341 wOBA.

Against righties, Francisco has batted .272/.320/.487. He has a .346 wOBA in 319 plate appearances.

Against lefties, Johnson is a .311/.367/.461 hitter with a .362 wOBA over the course of 1400+ PA.

If you average out the production from Francisco and Johnson, you get a player that'll hit about .285 with decent on-base skills and some pop. Both players are regarded as pretty average defensively, although Francisco's recent weight loss could pay dividend down the road.

Granted, these are just career averages and are no way guarantees moving forward, but if history repeats itself, the Braves could have a nice little platoon brewing. They will earn a combined $2.2 million in 2013.

Prado and Francisco should continue to improve their offensive production as they near and/or enter the primes of their career. Johnson is on the downside of his tenure in MLB, although he showed last year he's more than capable of hitting left-handed pitching with a .311 average and .798 OPS.

Going with this option would also allow the club to save about $8 million. That could go towards many things; a contract extension for Prado or Jason Heyward, a big deal at the trade deadline or extra cash to spend on next year's free agent crop.

Is it guaranteed that the super platoon in Atlanta would work? No, and a lot of things could throw a wrench into these plans. But if it's what Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez decide to go with, it might just work out.

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