Perennial contenders in the NL East, expectations were once again high for the Atlanta Braves heading into the 2014 season. As the calendar turns to July the Braves are right where we’re used to seeing them – in first place with the Washington Nationals right on their heels.
The team is doing so without all of their weapons playing up to full potential.
Atlanta was hit hard early on with injuries – losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy before the season even began to Tommy John surgery. Those losses had a direct impact on the current roster, leading the team to sign Ervin Santana and to place Aaron Harang in the starting rotation when the season began. Gavin Floyd, who’d been signed as insurance as he recovered from his own TJ surgery a year ago, soon found his way into the mix as well before suffering from another season-ending injury just a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Julio Teheran has emerged as an ace. Harang was off to a phenomenal start before cooling, but has continued to pitch well. Santana has been as expected. And Alex Wood has stepped in and made an impact.
Craig Kimbrel has struggled, by comparison to season’s past, but has still been dominant. The rest of the bullpen has stepped up around him as Anthony Varvaro, Jordan Walden, and Shae Simmons have all been producing.
Offensively the team’s been carried on the shoulders of Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis. Justin Upton is producing. As is Chris Johnson. Tommy La Stella has been contributing since his callup. The group collectively has done enough to offset the sheer lack of production from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.
Atlanta is in a solid position atop the NL East, but the Nationals are not a team to take lightly. A few tweaks of the roster could truly help keep the Braves in line for yet another playoff run.