The Atlanta Braves are depending on some power and good defense out of 34-year old righty swinging starting SS Alex Gonzalez in 2011. Gonzalez played in 157 games for the Blue Jays & Braves last season in which he was 149 of 595 (.250 avg, .741 OPS) with 74 runs scored, 23 homers, 88 RBIs and 1 stolen base. The Braves would be happy with 15-20 homers and solid defense out of Gonzalez in 2011 and he’s very capable of doing just that. Gonzalez had 19 errors in 157 games at SS last season while showing off pretty good range. I am amazed that Gonzalez has never won a Gold Glove because he is that good.
26-year old righty swinging Diory Hernandez will have a good shot of making the Braves if he has a good spring. He played in 20 games for the Braves last season and he was 1 of 9 (.111 avg, .556 OPS) with 5 runs scored, 1 homer and 1 RBI. He also played in 30 games in AAA-ball last season and he was 37 of 116 (.319 avg, .758 OPS) with 13 runs scored, 0 homers, 17 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. Hernandez played 4 error-free games at SS for the Braves last season while showing excellent range. The Braves don’t doubt Hernandez’ mitt but he is only a career .138 hitter with a .424 OPS in the majors and that will have to improve if he wants any chance of having a decent major league career.
25-year old righty swinging Brandon Hicks played in 16 games for the Braves last season and he was 0 for 5 (.000 avg, .167 OPS) with 7 runs scored. He also played in 77 games in AAA-ball last season and he was 55 of 261 (.211 avg, .613 OPS) with 27 runs scored, 7 homers, 22 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Hicks played in 2 error-free games at SS for the Braves last season. Hicks will likely start the 2011 season back in AAA-ball to try to improve with his bat.
PROJECTED GRADE FOR THE BRAVES SHORTSTOPS IN 2011: B-