Monday, September 10, 2012

A Hidden Gem In The ATL

"Jack of all trades, master of none" is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills but is not necessarily outstanding in any particular one. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist. This phrase is usually not used in a flattering manner.

This is seemingly true when it comes to baseball players. The common term is utility man. This is used mostly for a guy that you have on the bench that can come in and relieve your everyday players or 'starters' when they need a break or succumb to injury. This is a good player to have on the roster and a benefit for a manager to have on the roster but not deemed as valuable as most of the everyday player or a star player.

There are some exceptions to this but very few. It is rare that someone is so good that the can not be taken out of the lineup but is also so versatile that they are able to adapt to multiple roles and do so at a high or above average level. The Atlanta Braves have one of these exceptions to the rule and that is a man named Martin Prado. Prado was a 2010 All Star and was again on the team this year.  Martin usually plays left field in Atlanta but of late he has bounced around the infield filling holes as they crop up. He plays 3rd when future Hall of Fame member Chipper Jones needs a break.He plays 2nd when Dan Uggla is struggling (which is happening far too often this season). He plays Shortstop when inexperienced Paul Janish,  Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky need time to watch from the bench and learn. It is a great thing for manager Fredi Gonzalez to have, a player that is good enough to be an All Star and be able to fill so many roles. It allows him to be flexible when making in-game changes but also in day to day roster changes as circumstances change. Prado is such a good and valuable player for the Braves but seems to never get the respect or credit that he deserves for his versatility.

Fans usually look at the big name guys, the ones that have the big gaudy offensive numbers or have a lot of power and perceive them as being the ones worth the most and deserve the big contracts. The Pujols' , ARods, Prince Feilders and David Ortiz's. Prado may not drive in 120 runs or hit 35+ home runs but he put up solid AND consistent numbers, a high batting average and good on base percentage. When  you take into account the offensive numbers as well as the defensive abilities Prado pretty much stands alone in the league. There are not too many compatibles out there that can rival what he brings to the table. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays is someone who could play that role but is rarely asked to do so. He has the ability to hit the long ball as an everyday right fielder  who has a great arm but is also an excellent 3rd baseman when put in that role. He is more like the reverse Chipper Jones who moved to left for a few seasons because it helped the team when they could get another 3rd baseman to shore up the lineup and give him some added protection.

It is also good for the Braves moving forward into next season to have the flexibility to move him to just about any position and for him to be a qualified starter at any position. They can make him the everyday 3rd baseman when Chipper retires, SS should they not feel comfortable with the youngsters, or leave him in left and fill in around him. With the uncertainty of free agent to be Michael Bourn's return, knowing that Prado gives the Braves plenty of options on where to spend and fill the holes may be his most valuable he can give to the Braves going into the off season.

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