The Braves are still unwilling passengers on the pain train, as they suffered their ninth loss in a row to start off the 2016 season. Atlanta had a brief lead in this one thanks to an RBI single from Nick Markakis, but that moment of happiness was fleeting and disappeared completely when Bryce Harper hit a no-doubter of a grand slam off of Julio Teheran to make it 4-1. Washington eventually won the game 6-2, and now the Braves will be heading to Miami in search of that ever-elusive first victory.
Your season doesn't end with a horrible start, but it definitely makes things harder on you for the rest of the campaign if you get off to a slow start, and that's exactly the position the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins are in. However, while the Twins were expected to be in some sort of Postseason race in what figures to be an extremely competitive AL Central, the Braves have come out of the gate playing exactly how pundits figured they would.
One of the small positives of this season so far is the fact that Mallex Smith is going to be getting a decent amount of major league experience under his belt. However, the main question with Smith -- and really, any prospect that makes the leap from the minors to the majors -- is what can he become at this level? Fangraphs tried to figure it out.
We more or less know what Smith is at the plate. Maybe his .463 spring-training ISO is a sign that he’ll drive the ball a bit more going forward, and maybe not. Either way, he’ll likely never be much of hitter. Steamer projects Smith for a .258/.314/.341 slash line this year, which works out to just an 82 wRC+.
But given his top-notch speed, Smith won’t necessarily need to hit much, so long as he provides value in other ways. Pair an 82 wRC+ with scratch defense in center and good base-running, and you have roughly a one-win player. Pair it with above-average defense and you have a solid regular. If Billy Hamilton can rack up 6 WAR over two seasons with a 68 wRC+, one could easily imagine Smith approximating that with an 82 clip.
The closer situation isn't the only position that's fluid for Atlanta at this point. Now, thanks to Hector Olivera being on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, left field has become a revolving door, and guys like Kelly Johnson, Drew Stubbs, Jeff Francoeur, and even Jace Peterson will be walking through that door. Is it patchwork? Yes, but this is all the Braves have at their disposal to deal with things right now.
"We feel like we can cover it up in left field with Kelly Johnson, Stubbs, Francoeur," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, "and bring Danny [Castro] up and he can be a guy who can play all three positions in the infield and help us. I think we’ll be fine from that aspect.
"I think Kelly and Stubbs and Francoeur can do a nice job over there in left field for us."
The Chicago White Sox are now off to a 7-2 start to the season, which is their best start since 1982, which is when they finished 87-75. 87 wins back then was good enough for missing out on the playoffs by six games, but 87 wins now would be a boon for the White Sox. Mat Latos put out a solid performance for the White Sox, and the offense was just good enough to send Ervin Santana and the Twins to an 0-9 start. At least the Braves have company in their misery!
The Arizona Diamondbacks made a few huge splashes in the offseason with various trades, free agent signings, and horrific-looking new uniforms. Unfortunately for them, they've gotten off to a slow start (3-7), and it continued with a series loss to the Dodgers. Now, there's no shame in losing a series at Dodger Stadium and it's still early in the season, but the crew over at AZ Snake Pit is getting a familiar feeling about this team, and it's not exactly a pleasant feeling, either.
Another day, another loss, another series loss. It's getting pretty frustrating to watch, even though I know it's early in the season. It just doesn't feel like the team is that much different than some of the recent year's teams, and that worries me for the outcomes that followed.