The Braves have reached the All-Star break with a 42-47 record. The record is not very pretty, but considering the expectations, the Braves have done pretty well so far this season. There are three names that stand above the rest when it comes to the best performers so far: Cameron Maybin, Freddie Freeman, and Shelby Miller. Each deserves recognition for their individual play, but only one deserves to be named the MVP of the Braves thus far.
Maybin has been the pleasant surprise for the Braves this season. He is hitting .289 with 8 bombs and 44 RBI. He also has tallied 15 stolen bases. Maybin never fully reached the potential everyone thought he had in the majors. He struggled with both the Marlins and Padres, but it is clear Maybin has found a home in Atlanta. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Maybin watched hitting videos of hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. He thought Seitzer could really help out his game. Not too long after, the Padres shipped Maybin to the Braves in the trade that sent both Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres. Maybin was an afterthought in the deal and was only put in the deal to make the money work. However, he united with Seitzer in Atlanta and the results speak for themselves. Maybin currently has a .406 average with runners in scoring position and has been one of the most clutch hitters in baseball. Look for his success to continue, and he deserves mention, but he is not the Braves MVP of the first half of the season.
Freeman is the face of the Braves organization and undoubtedly the best hitter on the team. He can hit for power, but when a base hit is needed, he is one of the best at shortening up his swing and getting the job done. He has only been able to play in 66 games this season due to a wrist injury he sustained on June 14th. The Braves have clearly missed him, as they have really struggled offensively since Freeman has been sidelined. Freeman is still hitting .299 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs despite the injury. He also had been delivering with runners in scoring position before his inury, hitting .418. The numbers are good, and the Braves clearly miss his bat and glove in the lineup, but Freeman is not the MVP of the first half of the season.
That title belongs to Shelby Miller. Miller has been WAY more than advertised since coming over from the Cardinals. He has a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts, and it looks like John Hart has pulled off another magnificent trade. Miller is a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate. He pounds the strike zone with 97 mph fastballs and has the off speed stuff to match. He even stood one out from a no-hitter against the Marlins. If Miller had been given more run support throughout the first half of the season, he would have been qualified enough to start the All-Star Game. He has been that good, and the great part about Miller is only 24 and has plenty of room to improve as a pitcher. We are just seeing the beginning of something special. Miller is a stud and he has been the MVP of the Braves thus far. He is under team control for four more seasons, and he has become the ace Atlanta has needed in past years. That’s a pretty good return for a year of Jason Heyward.