Breakout Performances from Atlanta Braves' First Two Weeks of Spring Training
The Atlanta Braves have completed two weeks of spring training, and things are beginning to take shape.
Every spring training there are a few players who really stand out. This spring training has been no different.
While we still have three weeks left of spring training, a few players have done a good job standing out thus far.
In some cases, these spring training performances could be the difference in making the roster or positioning themselves to make the roster in the near future.
The next few weeks could ultimately decide the set roster, but let's take a look at a few players who have had breakout performances to begin this spring.
1. Tommy La Stella
For those who have followed the Braves' system closely will not be surprised to find second baseman Tommy La Stella on this list.
The 25-year-old has continued to do this spring what he has his entire minor league career—hit.
In 10 games, La Stella has posted a .310 batting average (9-for-29) with two doubles, two RBI and five runs.
He also has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3).
Unfortunately for La Stella, the second base position is blocked with Dan Uggla, Ramiro Pena and, possibly, Tyler Pastornicky.
However, if Uggla were to struggle again in 2014, La Stella has positioned himself to be given an opportunity at a full-time starting job.
2. Matt Lipka
Matt Lipka has turned some heads this spring training with his speed.
The former first-round pick has compiled an impressive .318 average and .400 on-base percentage in 22 at-bats this spring.
However, he has really impressed manager Fredi Gonzalez with his speed.
Lipka has swiped three bases this spring and scored a game-tying run on a measly grounder to second base, thanks to his hustle and some throwing errors.
That speed is what makes Lipka a potential leadoff candidate at the MLB level in the future.
While he is not in play to make the 25-man roster (no games above the high-A level), Lipka has demonstrated his upside to Gonzalez this spring.
3. Gus Schlosser
The Braves' final bullpen spots appear to be wide open, and Gus Schlosser is making a case for one of those spots.
The right-handed sidearmer entered spring less heralded than fellow sidearmer Luis Vazquez, but Schlosser has looked like the more MLB-ready pitcher.
In three appearances, the 25-year-old has allowed just two hits and no runs in 5.1 innings. While he has walked five, he also has struck out five.
Schlosser is coming off of a 2013 season in which he posted a 7-6 record and 2.39 ERA at Double-A Mississippi.
He's building off of that effective season this spring and is making himself a viable candidate to make the 25-man roster out of spring.
4. Ian Thomas
Another dark-horse candidate to fill a bullpen spot for the Braves is Ian Thomas.
With Jonny Venters out, possibly until June, Thomas would add another left-handed arm out of the bullpen to go with Luis Avilan.
To this point, Thomas has had an effective spring, posting a 2.08 ERA and .143 opponent batting average in 4.1 innings.
Like Schlosser, Thomas is coming off of a solid 2013 campaign in which he was 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA at Double-A Mississippi.
For his minor league career, Thomas has posted a 2.44 ERA in five seasons.
If Thomas continues to be effective this spring, look for him to gain serious consideration to fill a bullpen spot.
5. Alex Wood
Entering the spring, Alex Wood looked to be in a battle for the fifth spot in the rotation with Freddy Garcia.
Now it looks like Wood will be asked to be a major contributor with Kris Medlen leaving his start with a forearm strain on Sunday.
The good news for Braves fans is Wood looks poised for another good season.
In two starts this spring, Wood has yet to allow a run in five innings of work.
Perhaps more impressively, the 23-year-old has shown excellent command on the mound, striking out four without walking a hitter.
Wood will be counted on again in 2014.
The young and talented hurler appears to be up to the challenge with his play this spring.
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