• Exclusives

    Braves dynamic outfield … finally dynamic?

    BJ Upton's recent performance has coaches and teammates feeling optimistic.

    BJ Upton’s recent performance has coaches and teammates feeling optimistic.

    Do you remember the sense of excitement in Atlanta over the Braves’ dynamic outfield? It wasn’t all that long ago. Prior to the 2013 season, the Braves gave free agent center fielder BJ Upton a franchise record 5-year/75-million dollar deal. Shortly thereafter, they acquired younger brother Justin from the Diamondbacks. The brothers, paired with RF Jason Heyward, were supposed to form an athletic powerhouse that year; an outfield that would be the envy of the National League.

    That didn’t happen.

    Justin Upton earned his paycheck, but offense was hard to come by elsewhere in Atlanta outfield. Jason Heyward suffered a disappointing, injury marred 2013 season that saw him hit just .254 with 14 HR and only 2 stolen bases. ¬†And BJ Upton … well, I dare not speak such numbers aloud for fear of summoning some sort of demon spirit.

    But now, some 16 months after the Uptons were united in Atlanta, could it be that the Braves’ dynamic outfield is FINALLY looking … dynamic?

    Justin Upton currently ranks 3rd in the NL in homers (13) and 5th in OPS (.978). He is on pace to put up numbers that could place him squarely in the NL MVP conversation.

    Jason Heyward one reason why the Braves are playing postseason baseball

    Jason Heyward has effective set the table for the Braves offense of late.

    Jason Heyward’s bat appears to be coming to life. Since May 11th, he has raised his batting average more than 30 points. And since May 16th, his on-base percentage is better than .400. His power stroke has yet to return, but he’s getting on base and is on track to steal close to 30 bases from the leadoff spot.

    That brings us to BJ Upton. After sadly picking up where he left off last year, his hard work appears to be paying off. BJ has made mechanical adjustments to his swing that have taken hold in recent days. After earning the dubious title of “easiest guy to strike out” in the NL, he has fanned just 3 times in his last 25 at-bats. Over his past 8 games, Upton boasts a .364 on-base percentage and has scored 7 runs during that period (Prior to that, he scored just 1 run over a 9-game stretch from May 2 to May 11.)

    While BJ has raised his batting average only a few points over the last week or so, he has hit into plenty of tough luck lately, riffling one line drive after another into the gloves opposing defenders. But it’s evident that Upton is feeling comfortable and confident at the plate for the first time in … I don’t know how long. And that is a very positive sign for this Braves offense.

    Keep your fingers crossed, Braves fans. If BJ and Heyward can maintain their momentum, you may finally have the dynamic outfield you were promised last year.

    Kent Covington is a national radio news reporter and BravesWire Editor. Follow Kent on Twitter: @FriedbasballATL