Opening Day: Giants/Braves Preview
Keeping their undefeated record intact with another win against the hapless Astros, the Giants now go home to begin baseball in San Francisco. They’ll take on the scary-good offense of the Braves in a series where Todd Wellemeyer is pitching. Translation: we’re going to get rocked in at least one game. If Wellemeyer’s final spring outing against Seattle was any indicator of how things are going to go, then game two of this series will be rough to watch. Personally I’ve been suitably underwhelmed by our #5 starter’s stuff without him even having pitched in a regular-season game yet. He has a meh fastball which tops out around 89-90 mph to go along with a meh breaking ball and meh changeup.
But optimism must shine through at some point right? Jonathan Sanchez goes to the mound for the home opener opposite Tim Hudson in what’s supposed to be beautiful weather by the bay. Wellemeyer of course follows Sanchez, and then Timmy closes out the series on Sunday, so there is some reason to hope that taking two of three isn’t completely unrealistic.
Offensively, the Jason Heyward Show arrives in San Francisco, along with all the hype surrounding him. Most analysts agree that Heyward is the greatest prospect to come along since Jesus Christ himself. Early reports out of Atlanta confirm that he has indeed walked on the Atlantic Ocean, turned water into wine, healed lepers, cryptically stated that if he’s not well received by the baseball world he will rise again in three days time. Hyperbole aside, this kid can hit with the best of them: think a left-handed Justin Upton. Then remember that Justin Upton spent his first year struggling against big league pitching. Now in his fourth season in the Majors, he’s ready to be the star that everyone said he’d be back in 2007. The point being that 19-20 year-olds don’t arrive at the scene and hit 40 home runs.
Heyward follows the path of the voodoo that the Braves organization seems to employ when it comes to developing prospects. Look up and down their lineup and admire the shiny home-grown All-Stars: Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar, etc. Most teams would take one of those guys every generation or so, while the Braves get to enjoy them all at once. It’s a scary thought to imagine what this team would be like if they hadn’t traded Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira back in 2008.
In addition to their ability to evaluate and develop talent, the Braves also possess a certain witchcraft when it comes to trades. Remember when Edgar Renteria was a Brave and had a career year? And remember when they promptly shipped him out to Detroit for some pitcher with a funny name? That pitcher (Jair Jurrjens) was arguably tops in their rotation in 2009. Renteria went on to have two sub-par seasons, making the trade a clear win for Atlanta.
On the pitching side, one of two Jonathan Sanchez’s will likely show up tomorrow: the world-beating no-hitter-pitching strikeout machine Sanchez, or the 90 pitches through 4 innings with 6 walks Sanchez. It’s hard to predict which one will show up, but based on his run of success over the last few months of last season, I’d venture to say that he’s taken enough positive steps to the point to where we can expect a quality start with some strikeouts on the side. He’ll be tested against a very patient and very powerful Braves lineup, so figuratively speaking he’s being thrown into the deep-end one start into the season.
I’ll be on the road for the next two days, so my experience of this game will be on MLB At-Bat on a 5 inch screen. It curdles my blood to know I’ve spent another $15 on this app, further supporting the franchise that puts out the frustration that is MLB TV. Things being the way they are though, I have no choice but to succumb. Go Giants!
Photo used with express permission of Joseph Pun and AZGiants.com.