Good teams and those that exceed expectations usually have a player or two that takes a significant leap in numbers and production. This is not necessarily a career year, (Brett Boone anyone 2001?) just a season that the front office, fans and perhaps even the manager were not expecting –blindsided even. So, who are your candidates this season? Here are a couplet that may be open to that season, and in turn putting Atlanta in a position to get into the playoffs….
Kelly Johnson – Could this be the year Johnson breaks into the .300, 25HR, 90RBI level? His hot start to the season would indicate so and the Braves would love to have that widely known offensive second baseman. You are not asking for Chase Utley, but Johnson is certainly capable of that type of production and the Braves could be in the hunt with him there as well.
Jordan Schafer- The savoir for the Braves, not so much. Is seems that highly touted rookies (remember: Joe Crede, Jay Bruce) are regarded as a player that will bring the team to the promise land. Will Schafer may have a great season…perhaps. Can the Braves expect 30 homers and a 320 average, no way. Consider how great Evan Longoria was for the Rays last season. If Schafer is as good as that than 27HR and a 272 is what you can get.. certainly that is great but Schafer – like those before him will get one season under his belt first.
Most of the position players have been established or are projectable. Chipper Jones would not surprise you if he hit .370 or even .400… The bullpen is where this surprise season needs to be.
Mike Gonzalez – This is your guy. Embrace him. I know he frustrates you. I know in the bottom of the ninth you want to throw whatever is not nailed down at the TV. However, Gonzalez has great stuff… outstanding stuff. If he can finally harness his potential, dominate hitters (and the strike zone) and put together a 40 save season than the Braves will have an opportunity and the Pirates will then be talking about how they bring great players for other teams to have into the league.