It took a while—four months to be exact—but the Atlanta Braves finally have the dynamic outfield the team’s marketing department has been trumpeting since February.
Jason Heyward and the brothers Upton are tormenting opposing pitchers month, but just a few weeks earlier, some fans were beginning to wonder aloud if this Braves’ outfield would ever live up to its promise.
Justin Upton slammed 12 homers in April in route to Player of the Month honors, but then hit just 4 HR total over the following 3 months. Meanwhile BJ Upton and Jason Heyward each got off to an agonizing start this season. Both enjoyed a productive month of June, but the same could not be said for Justin, who hit .226 with 1 homerun for the month.
During the first half of the season, Atlanta’s prized outfield trio showed flashes of its considerable potential, but only flashes. Nothing more.
Through the All-Star break this year, the “Uptward” trio hit .222 with 31 homeruns, 86 RBI and 15 stolen bases. That put them on pace to finish the season with a combined 53 homeruns, 147 RBI and 26 steals. (Most prognosticators predicted total starting outfield production of close to 80 HR, 250 RBI and 60+ steals.)
To put their disappointing first-half production into perspective, scaling their numbers at the break out to 162 games, the average production per starting outfielder for the season would be: .222 avg, 18 HR, 49 RBI and 9 stolen bases.
But hey, why dwell on the past? Here’s what they’re doing now…
Since the All-Star break, in 169 combined at-bats, Heyward and the Uptons are batting .331 with 9 HR and 27 RBI (BJ Upton missed 17 games over this stretch due to injury). Only 4 stolen bases between the three of them over that span, but with so much power up and down the lineup and the offense humming at the moment, why risk running into outs?
For the first time this season, each of the Braves’ starting outfielders are healthy and swinging the bat well.
BJ seems rejuvenated since his return from the disabled list a week ago. Sometimes the mental and physical rest forced upon a player by a stint on the DL can be a blessing in disguise. In 25 at-bats since his return, he’s hitting .400 with a .924 OPS.
Justin Upton has picked up in August where he left off in April. He is the early front runner for another Player of the Month award, with a .441 avg, 6 HR and 13 RBI in 34 August at-bats.
And Jason Heyward in August is hitting .346 with a .452 on-base percentage and a 1.029 OPS.
It goes with out saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that every hot bat cools off eventually. There’s a difference, however, between a bat gathering a little frost and one frozen in cryostasus. Through most of the season to this point, Atlanta’s outfield bats appeared to match the latter description. But there is now real reason to hope they have thawed. And if that’s the case, the Braves’ vaunted outfield should be fun to watch for the remainder of the season and, if Braves fans get their way, well into October.