For those who haven't had the chance to visit Gwinnett Stadium and see the Gwinnett Braves play - you're missing out. Although they're off to a rocky start at 5-9, their state-of-the-art facility is a great place to take in a ballgame and it's clear that this team has far more talent than the results show.
The G-Braves started out the season with a 9-1 win in their inaugural game and a 3-1 series win at Charlotte. Tommy Hanson started the game and went 4 1/3 innings, giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out an impressive 10 Charlotte Knights. Kris Medlen followed for 3 2/3 innings where he struck out four and gave up nothing.
Medlen would get the first win for the season that day, which appears to be only the first of many. Medlen started on the 15th against the division-leading Durham Bulls and in 5 innings gave up only 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 6. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't compete with the strong Bulls lineup and the G-Braves fell 3-5. Medlen came back strong in a start against the Bulls this past Monday and went 5 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while compiling 6 strikeouts. This resulted in him being credited with the very first win in Gwinnett Stadium history. His ERA for the year sits at an impressive 1.32. The excitement over top-prospect Tommy Hanson seems to have left Medlen in the shadows, but if he keeps pitching like this it won't stay that way for long.
As for Hanson, it's been more of a lack of offense and not so much his pitching ability that has left him 0-2 thus far. He followed up his impressive performance in the first game with another strong performance on April 14th at Durham. He went 5 2/3 innings with 7 strikeouts and only gave up 3 hits, 1 earned run and 2 walks. Unfortunately, the offense didn't show up and the G-Braves had a tough 1-run loss that day. His last start, this past Sunday, saw him go 4 2/3 innings where he gave up 6 hits and 3 earned runs in a 2-4 against Norfolk.
At the plate, I think THE player to watch is Barbaro Canizares, who splits his time between 1B and DH. After seeing him at spring training and again last weeked at Gwinnett Stadium, he's the guy I want at the plate when the game is on the line. The media guide says he stands at 6'3", 210 pounds, but he looks a little more stout than that. He's batting .345 on the year and is tied for a team leading 8 RBIs with a .586 SLG. He also leads the team with 5 doubles and 3 homeruns.
Other top performances are coming from four players at two positions: 2B J.C. Holt, 2B Diory Hernandez, C Clint Sammons and C J.C. Boscan. Holt has the team-leading average at the plate at .367 and has batted in 5 runs. His counterpart at second, Diory Hernandez, is also looking good at .321 with 6 RBIs. Clint Sammons, who spent a little time up with the big club while David Ross was injured, is right behind Holt at .357 and has an impressive .643 SLG. J.C. Boscan, who is splitting time behind the plate with Sammons and Alvin Colina, is batting .333 with a pair of doubles so far this year.
I've also had my eye on 3B Brooks Conrad since spring training, who is currently batting .256 and is the player tied with Canizares at 8 RBIs. Conrad needs to get his strikeout total down though, as it currently sits at a team-leading 15.
For those who remember Gregor Blanco from his time with the big club last year, he's having a rough year so far at the plate. He's currently batting .204 with 14 strikeouts.
My analysis so far is that this team has a lot of talent and that it's all going to start coming together for them. So, head out to the ballpark this weekend and take a look at Atlanta's future!
Upcoming Home Games
April 23 vs. Charlotte 7:00 PM
April 24 vs. Charlotte 7:00 PM
April 25 vs. Charlotte 7:00 PM
April 26 vs. Charlotte 2:00 PM