With the Major League Baseball playoffs quickly approaching and home field advantage still on the line, the Atlanta Braves need to find a spark in their offense and that begins with finding a real leadoff hitter to get them through the regular season.
The Jason Heyward Experiment has ended, at least for the regular season, and with several mediocre attempts to find a leadoff man before using Heyward, it's time for the Braves to audition some new blood to fill Heyward's shoes.
Jordan Schafer assumed the role after Heyward's injury on August 21 and had not produced until a two-hit performance against the Cardinals on Sunday. Including those two hits, Schafer is 5 for 35 at the plate during the month of August.
The leadoff man, possibly the most important hitter in the lineup, is the catalyst for the offense, the batter who puts the ball in play and finds a way to get on base. Although the Braves were successful in using Heyward in that role, he is not a typical leadoff hitter.
Sure, it would be nice to have the luxury of a Ricky Henderson in your lineup. That rare combination of speed and power is not often seen, although Heyward may turn into that type of player.
But the Braves need production from the leadoff spot now. They cannot afford to "make it interesting" going into the postseason. Besides, home field advantage is up for grabs so they still have something to play for, even if they do lead the National League East by 13 games.
Lately, production has been lacking in the outfield spots in Atlanta, with B.J. Upton and Evan Gattis joining Schafer in the August sub-.200 club. Upton is 1 for 32 since August 9 and Gattis, who is 0 for his last 16, is 5 for 36 for the entire month of August.
Two recent call-ups could prove to be just what the doctor ordered. The addition of outfielder Todd Cunningham and infielder Phil Gosselin to the roster gives the Braves an option in the leadoff spot as well as an option at second base and in the outfield. Both players had above average on-base-percentage at Triple-A Gwinnett and both have performed well in their short time in the majors.
The Braves cannot afford to wait any longer to get their offense going in a positive direction. Allowing the young players, eager to show what they are made of, to fill the void on the roster until the starters heal and order is restored to the lineup.
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