As many injuries as the Phillies have had to deal with, the Braves haven’t been immune to the injury bug themselves. Their young ace Brandon Beachy is headed for Tommy John surgery, leaving the team’s rotation unexpectedly thin. Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson have been solid all year, but the depth hasn’t been there. None of the young guns have panned out as expected. Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Julio Tehran have all struggled to find consistency in the big leagues. None has an ERA below 4.52, which may force the Braves to look outside the organization. Thankfully for the Braves they find themselves within striking distance of first place (6 games). Expect them to be at the front of the shopping line for starting pitchers when the trade market really heats up.
When Last We Met: The Phillies took 2 out of 3 from the Braves back in early May, but the series wasn’t without disappointment. Last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Mets was equaled by the team’s 15-13 extra inning loss to the Braves. Just when it looked like the Phillies offense was finally waking up, the bullpen showed its true colors blowing a 5-run lead and serving up a walk off home run to Chipper Jones of all players. While the Phils ultimately took the series from the Braves, these type of losses have taken their toll on the psyche of the team. Not only do the Phils need wins, they need some dramatic heroics to shake off these heartbreaking losses.
Series Predictions: 1) Michael Bourn continues his hot hitting just to torment Ruben and the rest of the Phillies brass.
2) Ryan Howard makes his triumphant return blasting a home run and giving fans hope for a torrid second half. He follows that up with a mountain of strike outs reminding us of the real Howard.
3) The team will put the first half in the books going out on a winning note, and will head into the all-star break as healthy as they’ve been all year.
Fansided Perspective: Tomahawk Take editor Carlos Callazo gave me the skinny on the Braves as they gear up for the trade deadline.
1) WIth Brandon Beachy on the shelf for the rest of the year and beyond, do you think the Braves will make a serious run at Zach Greinke?
The Braves will definitely look into the best available arms this year with Beachy going down. Zack Greinke has been a popular name so far, and the Braves are definitely interested in him but they will likely only make a deal if they can agree to a long term extension with him before doing so. We have heard that Greinke grew up a Braves fan and would like to play for Atlanta (both a contending team and not one of the bigger markets, which Greinke is likely looking for) so there is certainly some potential. However there will be other teams interested as well and he is going to be the highest on everyone’s pitching wish list. If we can’t get Greinke Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster may be pursued. Regardless of what happens the Braves should be getting a new arm before the end of the month.
2) Chipper Jones is proving to everyone he still has gas left in the tank (see 5 for 5 performance). Is he enough to buoy this Braves lineup, or will they be shopping for another bat as well?
Chipper’s presence in the lineup is definitely a big thing for our offense but he just doesn’t play enough anymore to carry the team on his back. Other players are going to have to step up. Michael Bourn and Martin Prado have been hitting all year, and Jason Heyward heated up in June but players like Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, and especially Brian McCann are all going to be needed if the team is going to go anywhere. I doubt the Braves will have the financial flexibility this year to get an arm and an impact bat so the players currently in the lineup everyday now are likely the guys you will be seeing at the end of the season.
3) Andrelton Simmons isn’t a name that most people outside of Atlanta know yet. How would you rate his glove (1.5 dWAR) and is he the Braves long-term answer at shortstop?
Andrelton Simmons is good. Really good. His defense is right up there with the elite defenders in the game and anyone could argue that he is the best defensive shortstop in baseball and make a valid case. Scouts have rated Simmons glove and arm on the 20-80 scale and given him an 80 in both categories. From what I have personally seen of the kid, I can’t argue that point, and I might be even more impressed with his range, athleticism, and instincts in the field. He is a highlight reel out there. One thing we did not expect from with Simmons is the offense. He has been hitting since he came up and in 111 plate appearances he has a line of .311/.351/.476. I don’t expect him to finish the season above .300 but he has shown so far that he is capable of doing things on both sides of the ball at the professional level. He is the Braves shortstop of the future and has the potential to be one of the best in all of baseball. Keep an eye on this kid.