If one looks at the Atlanta Braves’ lineup, ‘the five-year plan’ strategy has worked with two home-grown players that appear in the team’s regular starting lineup.
One is Brian McCann and the other is the team’s most versatile player, former All-Star second baseman and likely soon-to-be likely All-Star left fielder Martin Prado.
Prado’s major league career began on April 23, 2006 and he has never looked back as he has become one of the cornerstones of the Atlanta Braves. Along with McCann, Prado has made the type of steady, measurable progress that made those teams in the 1990’s such a consistent winner and even the opposition noticed in praising Prado.
Prado has been a quiet superstar and emerging clubhouse leader. As a leader, one has to deal with on-field drama from time to time and I believe the way that he handled the move to left field really showed a lot of character. Prado was already an All-Star caliber second baseman who was capable of winning a Gold Glove at the position and he could have made subtle or abrupt waves through the media and clubhouse in regard to Dan Uggla.
Chipper Jones had moved to left field for awhile back in 2002 and 2003, and remember John Smoltz who was one of the greatest starting pitchers in baseball history? Smoltz went to the bullpen for a few years and did that job quite well as he became one of the few pitchers to accumulate at least 200 wins and 150 saves (213 wins and 154 saves to be exact).
Every time Prado comes up, as a Braves fan, I expect him to get a hit and at the very least put the baseball in play somewhere.
As a team, the Braves have continued to struggled at the plate and I wish there were more players with the same type of plate discipline as Prado.
Right now, the Braves are hoovering around .250 as a team hitting the baseball. On some nights, the Braves making contact has been a struggle. However, Prado has come up from time to time and got some big hits to help propel his Braves’ team to a win.
One game in particular occurred in Atlanta back in mid-May against the Nationals in which Prado’s heroics helped to stymie a losing streak. The Braves had been losing 5-1 in the seventh inning and against the Washington reliever Sean Burnett, he kept fouling off pitch after pitch until he got the right one and drove it over the wall for a grand slam in a Braves’ comeback win.
Prado, along with Omar Infante (now with the Marlins), McCann and Jason Heyward were instrumental in helping to turn around last year’s slow start which helped to garner one final playoff run for Bobby Cox.
For most of the 2010, Prado was hitting well over .300 and among the leaders in different offensive categories including hits and doubles.
In 2011, the 6’1″ , 195 pound Prado has struggled some at the plate during the first few weeks. However, he has made steady progress and has a batting average hovering around .280. Right now, he is on pace to surpass last year’s power and RBI numbers.
The Braves are still competitive in the National League East and for this team to continue to challenge in the division, the team’s most versatile player will need to continue to have that same type of steady, measured impact that he has shown ever since his career began five years ago, April 23, 2006.