Season Grades: Position Players
SS Rafael Furcal---B+
Furcal's sizzling second half batting along with great baserunning and defense all season earned him this fine grade. The only thing keeping him from getting an A was his horrible first half batting, blamed on a bad shoulder. There's a good chance it was his final season as a Brave.
2B Marcus Giles---B+
After an injury-plagued 2004, Giles bounced back with a fine 2005 season. He produced fine offense from the second base position while quieting questions about a loss of power. He hit 15 home runs and 45 doubles, while getting on base at a .365 clip. His defense, once a weakness, is now very strong. He can steal bases too. Great all-around player. Giles is pretty similar to a young Craig Biggio, and the Braves should keep Giles over Furcal if they have to choose.
3B Chipper Jones---C
Chipper gets a C because of his injuries. He was outstanding...when healthy. He regained his status as an on-base machine and nearly hit .300. He hit 21 homers in only 358 ABs. On defense, he is reliable on everything he can get to. The suddenly injury-prone 32 year old doesn't do as much on the basepaths as he used to. Chipper made a very generous gesture with his restructuring of his contract to help the team's budget. He is also training hard this offseason to keep his body healthy next season. If he can get 500 ABs, expect a .300/415/525 season with 30-35 homers in 2006.
CF Andruw Jones---A+
Andruw actually only broke out in one area in offense. Of course, that one area is an easy way to put runs on the board. Everything else was what Andruw usually did. His 51 homers bested his former career-high by 15. He nearly won himself an MVP while carrying the team during much of the summer. His defense is slowly but surely declining as he loses speed with age. He did things I've never seen him do in the past; running strange routes to catch flyballs (albeit still not very often). He doesn't save as many doubles as he used to. However, he is still among the best defensive CF's in the game (along with teammates Langerhans and Francoeur). As you'd expect with his slowing down, he doesn't steal bases anymore. Then again, people who hit 51 homers don't need to risk getting hurt while stealing bases. (Or by making diving catches or climbing walls, for that matter.)
1B Adam LaRoche---C
LaRoche had a disappointing 2nd season. He didn't really improve any from his rookie season; he was pretty much the same. A long 2nd half slump pulled his numbers down to .259/320/455 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs. This is not a player the Braves should lock-up long term. A player like LaRoche is known as a stopgap until a free agent or prospect can take the job. (I.E Andy Marte) He does one thing well on defense: digging out bad throws. Everything else is ordinary, and he has no range at all. Actually, LaRoche is the slowest major leaguer I've ever seen. Needless to say, he is not a good baserunner. Braves' fans will have nightmares forever about his getting thrown out at home in Game 4 of the NLDS, indirectly costing the Braves their season. Well, I take that last part back, considering he hit the early grand slam in that game.
RF Jeff Francoeur---A+
What a debut for the uber-prospect. He hit a home run in his first MLB game. He then proceeded to hit like .400 while hitting homer after homer for about a month before coming back to earth. He finished with a .300 batting average and had 14 homers. He only walked 14 times in his half season, and to become an elite player he'll have to improve on that. He led MLB rightfielders in assists in only half a season; I can guarantee you that he won't lead next season because nobody will run on him. He also has the range of a centerfielder. Francoeur can fly and is a good baserunner, but doesn't steal bases because he doesn't need to. He and fellow rookie Brian McCann will be on the Braves for at least the next 5 years.
LF Ryan Langerhans---B
The rookie outfielder came on strong near the end of the season, winning the everyday left-field job getting on base at nearly a .350 clip while arguably playing better defense than Andruw Jones. He has some power, hitting 8 homers in 326 ABs, although most of them were in the season's 1st half. He also hit 20 homers in 2004 at Richmond. Langerhans is already 25 so he probably won't get much better, but he is a useful fourth outfielder who can play everyday if you need him to. He would start in centerfield on many teams.
C Brian McCann---A
The rookie catcher did a great job all around. Called up mid-season, he became John Smoltz's personal catcher, apparently was a good signal-caller, and played good defense. He hit .278/345/400 with 5 homers in 180 ABs, and hit what turned out to be a game-winning homer in the playoffs off of Roger Clemens. He was basically a life-saver after Johnny Estrada was hurt. He'll be around awhile.
C Johnny Estrada---D
A very disappointing season, but was bad mostly after a collision. He was servicable until that point, hitting .280 and playing solid defense at catcher. Afterwards, he wasn't the same. I don't know what to look for next season (assuming he remains a Brave), but he should share time with Brian McCann. He's still fairly inexpensive, so I expect the Braves will keep him to help out with McCann.
LF Kelly Johnson---C+
After a horrific 1 for 30 start, the rookie Johnson did pretty well. In September, the Braves used a mini-slump as an excuse to get him out of the lineup mainly because they wanted to put Langerhans' hot bat and defense into the lineup. Johnson has outstanding plate discipline, plays decent defense, and has a chance to become an above-average starting corner outfielder in his career.
IF Wilson Betemit---A
24 year old rookie Wilson Betemit showed why he was once one of the game's top prospects, hitting .305/359/435 in 246 ABs mostly filling in for the injured Chipper Jones at third base. He, like Chipper, showed a reliable glove on most balls he got to and possesses a good arm. His range is questionable. He has supposedly outgrown the shortstop position that he played in the minor leagues, but the Braves may not have a choice but to start him there if Furcal leaves. Betemit might have a better bat than Furcal, but doesn't have the defense or speed of Furcal, and this might necessitate the need to carry shortstop Luis Hernandez on the major league team for his defense.
1B Julio Franco---B
The ageless wonder. Julio didn't get on base as much as he normally does but made up for it by hitting 9 homers. He still had an .800 OPS coming off the bench. He played his usual solid defense. I will never forget a baserunning play he made in Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS against the Cubs, taking an extra base that eventually led to a run when a ball got caught in the tall Wrigley Field outfield grass in front of Kenny Lofton. The old man isn't fast, but isn't slow either and is smart. He is likely to be a future manager. This might have been his last year as a Brave, as Julio gets a little more expensive every year as other teams are interested in him. Also, the Braves may not have room for him with Marte being MLB-ready.
UT Pete Orr---B+
Left-handed pinch-hitters who are fast and hit .300 are nice to have. Every now and then, Orr got a spot start (usually at 2nd base), and I swear he always would have 2 hits. He doesn't walk a lot, but since he hit .300 as a backup infielder/pinch-hitter it's not a problem. His defense is suspect. He's an excellent pinch-runner late in games, as well.
OF Todd Hollandsworth---F
The Braves traded for him because they thought he would be useful as a veteran outfielder around the rookies, and could be a useful left-handed hitter off the bench. He failed.
C Brayan Pena---Incomplete
I didn't see much, but I didn't like what I saw. No defense, and couldn't throw overhanded. It was hilarious and at the same time infuriating to see him try to throw out a base-stealer with a submarine throw. If he wants to have any chance as a big-leaguer, he has to fix that. He could have a useful bat, as he is a switch-hitter and is similar to Johnny Estrada offensively.
C Eddie Perez---F
It's time for Eddie to begin his coaching career.
3B Andy Marte---Incomplete
The Braves didn't give him much of a chance this year in Atlanta; mostly because Wilson Betemit was doing so well. Marte made solid contact, but had no good luck and his batting average suffered. He had a small sample size. He needs to have at least 250-300 major league ABs this year somewhere; perhaps at first base or in left field. He may be a home run champion one day. His defense is reported to be good. He is not a good baserunner.
OF Raul Mondesi, Brian Jordan---F minus
I'm not even going there.
Next, I'll grade the pitchers.
With a lack of material to write about right now, I will take some time to reflect on the 2005 season. I will grade and comment on how each player performed.