MLB

All 25 and Under National League Team

Major league baseball has had an influx of youth come up through the ranks that have made an impact on their teams win loss record. This year’s All-Star game had young guys all over the place there were 20 players age 25 and under on each of the rosters. There were also 31 first time All-Stars at this year’s game. That just shows you that baseball is in great hands for many years to come. Here are my all 25 and under squad for the National League do you agree?

Catcher– Kyle Schwarber Chicago Cubs

MLB: Chicago Cubs-Photo Day

The Chicago Cubs continue to build on their philosophy drafting young position players and they are finally seeing results of their patience sooner and sooner. Kyle Schwarber was drafted 4th overall out of Indiana and was thought to be the best pure hitter in that draft. He is proving the experts right and proving the Cubs made a great choice in just a handful of at-bats in the majors he is hitting .410 (16 for 39) three home run and ten RBIs. At just 22 years of age he is proving that he can swing the bat.

The big question is can he be an everyday catcher at the major-league level, nobody knows the answer until he gets continued starts to see how he works with his pitchers blocking balls in the dirt. He has a great veteran in David Ross show him the ropes and help him develop. There is  no question that his bat will play in the major leagues is just a question of where he fits in defensively  trust me they will find a spot this kid is going to be good.

1st Base – Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs

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Anthony Rizzo is another critical piece to the Chicago Cubs success in the 25 years of age; he has become a critical leader for a roster that just keeps getting younger and younger. He is just entering the prime of his career and he is one of the best middle of the order hitters in the game right now. In 2015 he has put it all together with a .294 average with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Rizzo is a rare breed of hitter these days because of the fact with two strikes, he chokes up on the bat and those around in the batters box something that definitely should happen more, but today’s hitters are stuck in their routine causing a record number of throughout Major league baseball. Rizzo has only struck out 50 times this season and walked 48 an amazing accomplishment considering the mindset of many saying that a strikeout is just an out. He is very impressive in every aspect of his game and the Cubs are in good hands for many years to come at first base.

2nd base Joe Panik San Francisco Giants

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Joe Panik at just 24 years of age has already become one of the most underrated players in baseball. Panik was drafted 29th overall in the 2011 draft and I can think of a few teams that would like to redo that, it just 161 games in the majors he has a career .310 batting average, 15 homers and 84 RBIs. He was an integral part of their world championship in 2014 hitting .273 one home run and eight RBIs driven in during their postseason run. He has also helped solidify the middle of the diamond with shortstop Brandon Crawford turning double play after double play a pitcher’s best friend.

As I said,  Panik and Brandon Crawford are a great double-play tandem Panik, has only committed 10 errors at second base that is definitely someone a pitcher can trust. So not only has he put up solid offensive numbers he can flash the leather. To say the least second base is taken care of for many years in San Francisco and he will become more known nationally as he continues to develop.

Shortstop– Starlin Castro Chicago Cubs

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Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is in his age 25 season this year notwithstanding, as he is just hitting, 241 with five home runs and 39 runs batted in. In his five-year career he is a three-time All-Star with a career average of .280 with 333 runs batted in is pretty darn good. Although he has had some mental lapses throughout his career that I put him in the doghouse, but he is one of the better players at shortstop in the majors since coming in and he is still developing.

The Cubs have suffered through countless losing seasons but it is starting to pay off with their high draft picks and patience. Starlin Castro is just another of those young position players that have helped the Cubs get to where they are today. They are just beginning to see the results of their rebuild. As a baseball fan it is great to see because the overall game is better when teams like the Cubs Pirates and Astros are relevant.

3rd Base-Nolan Arenado Colorado  Rockies

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Once again, I could’ve gone with Kris Bryant the Chicago Cubs third baseman that leads rookies in RBIs, but I am going to go with a lesser known and under appreciated player in Nolan Arenado. Arenado is just 24 years of age and he plays like a grizzly old veteran on both sides of the ball,not just because his home ballpark is in Colorado. He is hitting .287 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs this is definitely his coming out party showing people he is pretty good at baseball. There however is a reputation hitters get when they playing Colorado because it is such a good place to hit Arenado   is a good hitter, though matter where it is, on the road he is hitting .272 with 15 of his 24 home runs and 33 of his 72 RBIs. So as you can see it does not matter where he is hitting he’s just a good baseball player.

The crazy thing is you could argue that he is a better defensive player making a highlight reel on a nightly basis. He has made 10 errors which may be a little high for him at this point in the season, but it is a good number for a third baseman and with the number of runs he has saved for his pitchers. He made his first All-Star  appearance this year I have feeling he will be a regular participant in the years to come. The hot corner is solidified for the Rockies for years to come!

Left Field-Bryce Harper Washington Nationals

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Bryce Harper is the player that you love to have on your own team, but opponents can’t stand him! He might have a swagger that annoys opponents, but he is one heck of a baseball player! This year he is breaking out to the superstar everyone expected! He is just 22 years of age and he is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He has battled injuries to start his career because of what some have termed too much hustle, but this year he has put all together.

He is hitting .331 with 27 home runs and 64 runs batted in there is no question NL MVP at this point in the season. He might rub fans and opponents the wrong way, but he is fun to watch play baseball, I just wish as a Braves fan he was in a different division. Defensively he has a knack for breaking hitters hearts as well, making highlight reel plays. He has made just eight errors in his time in left field. He can do it all the Washington Nationals definitely struck gold with this draft pick. He is going to be a thorn in opposing sides for many years to come.

Center Fielder- Joc Peterson Los Angeles Dodgers

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Joc Peterson was in an 11th round draft pick in 2010 by the Dodgers. This off-season the Dodgers traded away Matt Kemp and his huge contract to open up a spot for this highly touted prospect. It’s been a pretty good year for Peterson he made the All-Star team and was runner-up to the Cincinnati Reds third  baseman Todd Frazier in the Home run Derby. At the plate in regular-season games he does one of three things he either hits a home run strikes out or walks  the stats show that.

He has 20 home runs, 40 RBIs and 59 walks this is all out of the lead-off spot so that’s pretty good, but like many of the young players he needs to make more contact so he can become more of a complete player and show off his abilities on the base paths. He was a 30-30 man in the minors last year a rare feat for a player nowadays. He is proving the Dodgers made the right decision with the plays that he has made in the outfield this season have been jaw-dropping he has made just three errors thus far in 2015.

He is just 23 years old and still has a very high ceiling of what he can become I think the Dodgers found somewhat of a diamond in the rough and I don’t really understand how he lasted to the 11th round,but the Dodgers are happy with their choice!

Right Fielder Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton is the richest man in major league baseball after signing a $325 million contract this off-season. He has definitely earned that money this season he is hitting .265 with 27 home runs and 67 runs batted in, a pretty stout start to that contract proving that he is worth every penny. In his five-year career he is hitting .270 with 181 home runs most of them moon shots and 466 runs batted in. This guy has stupid power it doesn’t matter where you pitch him he can take you deep no matter who you are. It’s really mind-boggling to me how he slipped to the second round 76 overall in the 2007 draft trust me every single one of those teams that passed on him would love to redo that decision.

The one major concern for Stanton and the Marlins is just the bad luck injuries that he suffered over the last year. Last September he was struck in the face with a Mike Fires fastball that set him back for a little while, but he was able to come back stronger than ever.  This season on just a harmless swing he fractured his wrist having him to miss 4 to 6 weeks he has just been cleared for baseball activities, but is not expected back until mid-August. If he can avoid the freak injuries  he will be the leader for the Miami Marlins for years to come. At 25 he is entering the prime of his career the sky is the limit for this him, who knows we could be talking about him breaking the Home run record.

As you can see, baseball just keeps getting younger and younger it’s fun to see how these players have developed into All-Stars! For many of them it  has happened overnight  and changing the complexion of many franchises. These are just the position players, the young pitching these days is absolutely incredible and I couldn’t choose just one so I will do another one just focused on the pitchers. I love baseball so much and seeing the teams develop and stars born is so exciting for me a diehard baseball fan I hope you guys agree!!!

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Atlanta Braves

Why Fredi Gonzalez’s contract extension is a good move for the Braves

On Friday the Braves announced a one-year contract extension with an option for 2017 for manager Fredi Gonzalez and the entire coaching staff. Gonzalez is 401-337 since taking over for Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox in 2011. This is a great move in my opinion for the club because he has bought into the retooling philosophy that the Braves is taken on since John Hart the front office this off-season.

A lot of fans are really hard on Gonzalez for some of the decisions he makes during the games, but in baseball when things don’t turn out the way it was supposed to he gets questioned for it, but when it works out he’s a genius that’s the nature of baseball and many times it’s unfair to say the least you must have thick skin to manage in the major leagues. This move shows that the front office and the team itself are on the same page and are excited for the future.

As a manager Fredi Gonzalez is similar to Bobby Cox in his relationship with the players and the fact that he will go to battle for them every day and take the heat for a bad decision. He also expects the game to be played the right way, remember when he was in Miami and Hanley Ramirez dogged after a ball and Freddie pulled him for lack of hustle that ultimately cost him his job with the Marlins. If that didn’t happen who knows he could still be with the team. This year when Chris Johnson did not hustle on the box and got thrown out at second on what should’ve been an easy double he was benched the next day and Gonzalez let him know that’s not how the Braves play baseball. This is definitely the Braves culture and Gonzalez has continued that and I love that about him.

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He also has gotten the best out of his players putting them in the best situations to succeed I gave an example, this season Pedro Ciriaco has been our utility player off the bench and a great pinch hitter too, but he understands it’s important to give your bench players spot starts to give them three or four at-bats to keep their swing sharp and I think he’s done a fantastic job doing that with Ciriaco and giving Peterson and Simmons days off so they don’t wear down. You can bash the decisions they make on a day-to-day basis, but I hear is that awesome job with the cards he was dealt this season. The fact that he is willing to embrace the philosophy of this club is awesome stability for the players and management equally. The Braves have a bright future and I think Fredi is the right man to lead this young squad right now.

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Los Angeles Angeles, MLB

Trout Continues to Amaze

This year’s All-Star game weekend was very entertaining in a great city of Cincinnati. This weekend provided a record number of home runs in the home run Derby with 159 and the hometown hero Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier became the second player to win in his home ballpark. A great build up to Tuesday night’s Midsummer classic that saw Angels superstar Mike Trout make MLB history by becoming the first player ever to win back-to-back All-Star MVPs!

Mike Trout continues to build an amazing legacy

A career that has just begun has everyone in awl of what he has already been able to accomplish. In just four years in the majors, he has not only become the face of the Angels he is must-see TV. In his short career, he is hitting .306 with 124 homers, 362 runs batted in and 111 stolen bases only being caught 18 times. He is not only a prolific offensive player he is not too shabby on the defensive side of the ball either ask Gordon Beckham, JJ Hardy, and Price Fielder just a few who have had home runs robbed by Trout.  A five-tool player that is still getting better at his craft and he has already won the rookie of the year award and the MVP! If it weren’t for Miguel Cabrera he could have won three in a row. It is remarkable to think that he is just 23 years of age; I would say baseball in great hands!

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He definitely has the baseball thing down, but he is an even better person staying humble through all the success he still thinks of fans and others before himself. Baseball was worried when Derek Jeter retired last season, but I don’t think they have to worry anymore! Mike Trout is going to continue to make MLB history and it’s going to be fun to watch, it’s great to see the youth infused in the game of baseball today and the leader of that pack is Mike Trout. Baseball just keeps getting better and better that is why it’s called America’s National Pastime!

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MLB, New York Yankees

A-ROD is the Biggest ALL-Star Snub

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The All-Star festivities got underway Monday night with a fantastic Home Run Derby that saw their hometown hero Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier become the second player to win in his home ballpark. An awesome build up for Tuesday nights Midsummer classic, but I think there is a notable omission on the American League All-Star squad is Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez.

The Stats don’t lie

Love them or hate them, he is having a remarkable start to the 2015 season at times carrying the Yankees offense that has been stagnant at times during the season. He is hitting .271 18 home runs and 51 runs batted in, he also has a 900 OPS and everyone that has a 900 OPS or higher is on the All-Star team with the exception of Rodriguez. I guarantee you if you told the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez himself knew those were the numbers he would put up in the first half they would have taken that and ran with it. He has defied father time at almost 40 years old and two surgically repaired hips it’s downright amazing that he has been able to put up these All-Star type numbers.

The reality is his reputation will never be clean, but he has done and said everything right the season just letting his play do the talking. That’s something we can all appreciate from an athlete that has had a tumultuous life and career. The only reason he was not selected to the team is because he is behind a stacked position at designated hitter with Nelson Cruz, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder. That just shows you how deep every position is in Major League Baseball.

Who knows how the season will end for Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees, but I can say one thing the Yankees would not be in first place without Rodriguez’s production and that is a fact with the topsy-turvy nature of the AL East. As every milestone continues to be broken by Rodriguez you can think of that what you want, but the way he has carried himself this season is very respectable and is putting up numbers to help his team win and that’s all that matters to the Yankees and definitely Rodriguez. Many of you may disagree with my claim that he should be on the All-Star team, but I respect and enjoy watching what he has been able to do this season and the numbers don’t lie they are All-Star game worthy.

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Hart working Magic with the Braves

The Atlanta Braves have been one of the most active teams during the season, trying to regain the identity that saw us when 14 straight division titles. A feat I don’t think will ever be repeated in baseball because the amount of moving parts we see in the game today. The man tasked with getting the team back to our winning ways is our new President of baseball operations Jon Hart. Hart is best known for constructing those Cleveland Indian teams that had so much success in the mid-90s with players like Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

The Trades

This season he has brought a fresh voice and an aggressive mentality pulling out all the stops to make this team a consistent winner again. He has traded fan favorites Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, Craig Kimbrel, and Justin Upton. You look at those names, and you say how are you ever going to win a game again, trust me that’s what I was thinking and many other fans were too. The crazy thing is I think we have won every single one of those trades or at least they are even. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about.

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The first trade that was pulled off was acquiring Shelby Miller from the Cardinals for right fielder Jason Heyward. This trade has turned out to be a win-win for both sides as Shelby Miller has turned into the ace of the starting rotation and Jason Heyward has turned it on for the Cardinals and continually makes web gem type plays in right field. Here are the stats to prove it Miller has a 5-4 record with a 2.20 ERA, has record doesn’t speak to how well he has pitched lack of run support has been his downfall. He then better than advertised when we acquired him. I don’t know where we would be without his dominance. Another thing that makes Shelby Miller a steal is the fact that he is controllable three years left on his current contract and even better is just 24 years of age. Although, Jason Heyward is a great player and is getting hot at the right time for the Cardinals, I think this is one of the steals of the off-season because of the fact that Jason Heyward is a free agent at season’s end and I don’t believe we would be able to meet his financial demands. The first of many big moves John Hart has pulled off the year.

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Next, John Hart was able to trade slugger Justin Upton, who is a free agent at the end of this season to the Padres for second baseman Jace Peterson and a handful of top prospects. Jace Peterson was an unknown coming into 2015 he was just supposed to provide farm system depth to start off, but he has taken advantage of his opportunity and wrestled the second base job away from former Brave Alberto Callaspo. Peterson has solidified a position and the lead-off spot in the lineup two things that have been revolving doors for the Braves over the past few years.

Peterson is not letting the world on fire with his numbers, hitting .256 with three home runs and 35 RBIs and she is second on the team with 31 walks, a key stat for lead-off hitters getting on base setting up the big boppers in the middle line up to drive-in runs. Defensively he has been phenomenal paired with Andrelten Simmons making our middle infield one of the best in the big leagues.

Those two trades were miniscule compared to what Hart pulled off just hours before the regular-season opener against the Miami Marlins when he traded All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr to the Padres for outfielder Cameron Maybin and starting pitcher Matt Wisler. Seems crazy on paper, but the Braves were able to get rid of one of the worst contracts in baseball history when the Padres agreed to take the remaining $46.35 million left on the deal creating greater financial flexibility for the future. Baseball is a business and sometimes to get out of a bad deal you have to give up something good and Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game and we will miss him, but I believe in the long run this will be a huge win for the Braves.

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It is already paying huge dividends in 2015 as Cameron Maybin has made a huge impact in centerfield and the number two spot in the lineup. A guy that was an afterthought in San Diego has been able to revitalize his career with the Braves. He is hitting .295 with eight homers and 44 RBIs the best start he has had in his career. He is also mixed in some speed as well, stealing 15 bases and playing an awesome center field. His contract goes through 2017 with an option for 2018 I hope he is in a Braves uniform for a long time.

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The second piece of that deal was the second best prospect in the Padres organization in right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler, who has gotten off to a very impressive start to his Atlanta Braves career with a 3-1 record and 3.13 ERA. We knew we had something special when in his debut, he went eight scoreless innings against the Mets looked like a grizzly old veteran, and the best part about it is he is only 22 years old. All I can say is thank you San Diego for helping us with our competitive rebuild you’ve made it a lot easier.

Veteran Impact 

These are just a few immediate impact players that John Hart has acquired via trade thus far in 2015. He has also been very innovative in the veteran players that he has added during the season to help the young core develop on and off the field. Those players include Nick Markakis, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli, Johnny Gomes; Juan Uribe and AJ Pierzynski It’s been amazing how this team has gelled with the amount of youth and veterans that have come in and out of this clubhouse in 2015.

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Nick Markakis signed a four-year $44 million contract this off-season, I think one of more underrated moves of the entire off-season. The reason I say that is we were able to get a two-time Gold glove winner and a downright professional hitter a pitcher’s worst nightmare, because it doesn’t matter if it is 12 to 0 or 1 to 0 he will make you work to get him out every at-bat.

He is hitting .296 has yet to hit a homer and 28 RBIs and he is fifth in the National League with 97 hits. Nothing flashy, but man has he been a great addition doing everything he can to help us win ball games. On the defensive side of the ball, he had a 398 game errorless streak is an Atlanta Braves record. Showing that you don’t have to hit home runs to make an impact on a baseball field. John Hart was very smart when he made this deal because we got four years of Markakis whereas we would have only had one year of Jason Heyward and got nothing for him because his price tag would have been upwards of $100 million, another savvy baseball move that will help the Braves in the present and the future.

635713928032236660-USATSI-8663279Jim Johnson has been a very reliable setup man for a closer Jason Grilli  and has found  his sinker again that eluded him last season when he was with the Tigers and the Oakland A’s that saw him post an ERA seven.  This year he is more like the dominant closer he was in Baltimore, where he had back-to-back 50 saves seasons. He has a 2.14  ERA with 38 holds and even five saves when Jason Grilli needs a day off.  He has been one of the constants in a bullpen that has been a revolving door  a great guy for the young relievers to learn from a great pickup for this club.

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Along with Johnson, Jason Grilli has been a great pickup for the Braves he had huge shoes to fill when we dealt All-Star Craig Kimberl just hours before the start of the season, he has done an amazing job filling that void at the end of the ballgame. he has converted 24 out of 26 save chances while posting a 2.67 ERA. it hasn’t always been easy he made us nervous at times, but all that matters is the W. he has found his groove in July retiring all 17 batters he has faced I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job making the loss of Craig Kimbrel hurt less and less. I also love his fiery demeanor and gives us something that I think we were sorely missing during the September swoon that we endured last season. Once again a low-risk high reward pick up for John Hart that is paying off. Unfortunately today he injured his Achilles today a crushing blow to this team. All I can say is get well soon!

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You need a veteran catcher to lead your young pitching staff right? The Braves have theirs In 38-year-old AJ Pierzynski, who in his 17 year career has been through everything possible on a baseball field. He has been fantastic with our young pitching staff teaching them how to work through major league lineups. I think he has worked with a record number of pitcher’s this season and we are just a little over halfway through, it’s been amazing how he is able to get the best out of every single pitcher that he has worked with this season. the bonus is the fact that he has contributed big time on the offensive side of the ball hitting .283 six homers and 29 RBIs. pretty darn good for a player that thought he was just going to be a tutor for the catcher of the future, but his play has forced him to be the starter. A very pleasant surprise and I am super happy that he is in a Braves uniform.

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Johnny Gomes is someone every baseball team needs an awesome clubhouse guy and a person that will do anything that is asked whether that is coming off  the bench or start against a tough lefty, it doesn’t matter all he cares about is getting victories. You throw the stats out the window with this guy because no matter what the stat line says he will give 1010% and do whatever it takes to win. Every team in baseball would be lucky if they had a Johnny Gomes in the clubhouse. he is all heart and hustle and never takes a play off.

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The last veteran that has made a great impact on the Braves this season is third baseman Juan Uribe. He was acquired in late May from the Dodgers to solidify the third-base position.We traded  Alberto Callaspo who had fallen out of favor and relievers Ian Thomas, Juan Jaime who can’t throw enough strikes and pitcher Eric Stults who is not even pitching for them at this point in the season. in 40 games since joining the Braves he has hit .295 seven homers, 14 RBIs and 15 doubles, he is also a slick fielding third baseman, he makes our defense even better when he is on the field. Another one of John Hart’s out of nowhere trades that has paid off for the Braves in the present and the future. As you can see there is veteran flavor all over this team and I don’t know where we would be without them.

Farm  system overhaul

Another thing John Hart has done is restock the pipeline to the major leagues with a ton of top prospects that are ranked in MLB’s top 100. Turning a farm system that was ranked in the bottom third of the league, to a farm system that is now ranked number six what a difference a year makes. Last year there wasn’t anything to write home about as we traded most of our top prospects to acquire Justin Upton and we were also financially strapped with some of the deals that Frank Wren did while he was in charge of the of the Braves. Let’s just say it was an awful mess that John Hart inherited and look at what he’s done. He has definitely gotten back to what made the Braves a perennial playoff team and that is acquiring top arms and letting them develop to help the Atlanta Braves in the near future. John Hart has been a magician in both revamping our current club and our farm system and future it’s been amazing to be a fan and see the innovation that has used in every single one of his deals that he has pulled off. There is no chance that he is finished, he is the most active GM that I’ve ever seen and it’s been very exciting to be a Braves fan that’s for sure.

Currently 

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Right now, the Braves are 42 and 46 doesn’t seem like much, but this team is definitely exceeding expectations as we were projected to lose over 100 games as we are in a rebuilding mode and traditionally that means you are quickly out of the playoff race. That is not the case for the 2015 Braves we sit just five games back of the division leading Nationals, we are right there to swoop in and surprise everybody even me. Keep in mind we have done this while our star first baseman Freddie Freeman has been injured with a wrist issue and we have still been able to stay in the race and that is remarkable in itself. This team is one of most fun teams we have ever had scratching and clawing and never quitting doing whatever it takes to prove the ” experts” wrong.

The trade deadline will be the most interesting one we’ve had in a while because as of right now we are right there, but that could change because baseball is so unpredictable and we could become sellers and continue to build for the future and the new ballpark in 2017. It’s going to be fun to watch either way it goes, I am very excited about it Go Braves.

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