Friday, June 8, 2012

Speaking of the glove...

Let me state upfront that there is no amount of defensive improvement at 3B that could justify continuing to play Jose Constanza over Chipper Jones, and the Braves will rightly return Prado to LF when Chipper returns from his rehab stint in Rome Monday. But there are two highlight reel plays in this sequence that show Prado's skill with the leather. The first is a reaction play, with Prado positioned way over into the SS hole while the Braves play a shifted infield. Chipper makes that play too I think. He's still got the twitch instincts of a natural third baseman.

The second play, maybe not. It's a classic "chopper to Chipper" scenario that takes a really awkward bounce on the final hop, kicking way off at an angle toward the 3B line. Prado, who was fielding the ball with his glove until it spun off sideways barehands it instead and laser beams the throw to first. That is somewhat the sort of play that Chipper has excelled at defensively his entire career, but Chipper is far more adept at barehanding the slow roller off the grass and making that throw. I'm not sure he makes the reaction grab while changing direction on the fly.

Again, none of which is to say the Braves should even think about continuing with Constanza in LF and Prado at 3B, because Chipper's bat over Constanza's is far more valuable than the plus defense you get at both positions with Chipper on the bench. But it's worth noting that defensively, Martin Prado is far more valuable at the hot corner than the Hall of Famer he will replace* there next year.

*Juan Francisco has quickly played himself out of any consideration for that slot going forward. Expect the Braves to look for a new left fielder in 2013 with the money they're saving from Chipper's retirement, Derek Lowe's contract finally ending, and Jair Jurrjens' mysterious disappearance from the face of Planet Earth.

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