We're in the extremely early days of the regular season, but one player who has shined so far on defense has been Ender Inciarte. He's already made one exciting highlight reel defensive play this season, and there will surely be more on the way. Inciarte figures to play a pretty important part in the Braves' future, and it's mostly due to his defensive value.
After the trade to Atlanta was announced, much of the hype around Inciarte was a product of his elite defensive abilities. Last season, Inciarte posted a Defensive WAR of 2.6, which ranked third among all major league outfielders and sixth overall. While splitting time between the three outfield spots in Arizona, Inciarte proved that he was not only gifted, but versatile as an outfielder. With a quick first step, excellent tracking ability, and a strong throwing arm, Inciarte is the total package defensively.
Matt Wisler will be today's starter as the Braves take on the Cardinals, and the 23-year-old righty is pretty excited to be able to hopefully get a full season of major league experience as a starter under his belt. He's been making tweaks to his pitching arsenal, and we'll get to see how much the offseason work paid off as he takes the mound this evening.
Wisler will take the mound this season with a re-worked change-up after schooling with Braves great Tom Glavine last winter. Wisler threw change-ups on just 8.5 percent of his pitches during his 19 starts in 2015.
"It’s come a long way," Wisler said. "It’s a lot more consistent. It might not be the best change-up ever but I feel good with it. I feel confident, which is a big thing for me this year to be able to throw it in any count."
John Gant is one of the more pleasant stories to come out of spring training, as the mostly unheralded prospect had himself an amazing camp and ended up earning a spot on the big league team. However, the story that's picked up a bit of national steam when it comes to Gant is his funky windup.
Eric recently took the time to update a list of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. He took the prospect lists from five of the most well-regarded prospect lists in the game and came up with a composite list. Unsurprisingly, guys like Dansby Swanson, Ozhaino Albies, Sean Newcomb, and Aaron Blair are hanging out on the good end of this list. Plus, Eric is absolutely right about everybody loving prospect lists, so you may as well go check this out.
A year after Melvin Upton and his albatross of a contract was jettisoned to San Diego, the elder Upton brother could end up being the key to a possible deal that could move Pablo Sandoval out of Boston. This is the part where I tell you that these aren't exactly trade rumors and that these are mostly just speculative thoughts from our friends at Over The Monster. However, it's an interesting trade scenario to think about, as you'll see below.
With that being said, there is one player who the Red Sox and Padres could swap along with Sandoval that would make a trade sensible for both sides. Melvin Upton Jr. isn't under contract for as long as Sandoval, but he's similarly expensive. If there's one area the Sox need depth in, it's the outfield, and Upton could provide that.
Upton wouldn't just make sense for the Red Sox -- which we'll get to -- but his removal from the roster would also make Sandoval possible in the Padres' lineup. As of right now, they have Yangervis Solarte at third base. He's a below-average defender in the infield who hit himself into a starting role anyway when no one else could. Upton is currently in left for the Padres, even though his glove could work elsewhere -- San Diego could swap Solarte to left, where the former utility player has only briefly played in the past, and put Sandoval at third should they exchange Upton for him.
Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols may not exactly be the same monster that he used to be at the plate, but he can still get the job done when he needs to. He made that clear on Thursday night when he helped the Angels get their first victory of the season by hitting a walk-off single.