Reenergized Prado is motivated by skeptics

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Martin Prado knows he has doubters now, folks who wonder if he can stay healthy and be as valuable to the Braves as a left fielder and backup third baseman as when he was an All-Star second baseman in 2010.

He knows some point out his 2011 season was not going particularly well even before he was sidelined five weeks at midseason for a nasty staph infection that required surgery.

Oh, Prado knows.

“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “And that’s a good thing. People just question, ‘Is this guy going to be good again?’ But let me tell you something. I like the challenge. I like that people challenge me, because it makes me go, maybe they don’t believe what I can do.”

His teammates believe, which is why so many were relieved when Prado wasn’t traded over the winter amid rumors that he and/or pitcher Jair Jurrjens might be shipped out in a deal for an outfield bat.

Prado will be in left field when the Braves open their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday against Detroit, and Jurrjens seems a likely candidate to start Opening Day against the New York Mets on April 5.

“Prado’s a prototypical No. 2 hitter, and he does everything that you want in a No. 2-hole hitter,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We’re excited to get him back healthy from the beginning of the season and have him for the whole way.

“His passion for the game is unmatched. I mean, he shows up every day with a passion to be great, and players that do that usually find success.”

Prado knows he still could be traded at some point, but says he’s not worried about it because it’s something he can’t control. His focus is on being the hitter again that he was before last season.

In his first full seasons in the majors, he posted consecutive .307 batting averages in more than 500 plate appearances in 2009 and ‘10.  He had a .358 on-base percentage and .464 slugging percentage in ’09 and .350/.459 in ’10.

This after batting .320 with a .377 OBP in 254 plate appearances as a utility infielder in 2008, the first season he played as many as 30 games.

But last season he slipped badly: .260 average, .302 OBP, .385 slugging.

“He’s one of the best hitters in the league – I truly believe that,” McCann said. “If the game’s on the line and I want one person up, I think I’d pick him out of anybody in baseball. Yeah, last year wasn’t his best year. But he was shut down for a month and a half with staph infection and came back. The year before he was our best player.”

The only area where Prado didn’t slip significantly last season was home runs – he hit 13, two off his career best in 2010. But homers were actually part of the problem, he said.

Prado hit 10 homers before the All-Star break in 2010, and hasn’t been the same high-average, solid-OBP guy since. He doesn’t think it’s coincidence.

After becoming one of the league’s best practitioners of opposite-field hits to right field, Prado was more pull-conscious last season and lost his ability to punch balls through the right side at will.

Since he’s going to be hitting second again, behind one of the league’s speediest leadoff hitters in Michael Bourn, Prado came to camp this spring with opposite-field hitting as a priority.

“I’m feeling good, seeing the ball,” he said. “In case I’m in the second hole, I want to make sure that I can dominate the other way [to the right side]. That I can go there any time I want.

“I forgot that last year. Since I started hitting homers I was opening [his swing]. So I’m just going to go there and react. Even when they pitch me inside, I feel like I can go [to right]. That’s what I want to do this year.”

Last year he spent spring training trying to prepare for a new role after being switched from second base to accommodate the arrival of Dan Uggla.

Prado was the first to the ballpark and last to leave all last spring, and concedes he may have overdone it. This spring, he’s listening to his body, pulling back when he needs a rest.

After returning in mid-July from the disabled list after the staph infection, a weakened Prado – he was bed-ridden for the first half of his DL stint – hit just .244 with two homers and a .286 OBP in 55 games the rest of the season.

He regained his strength and stamina with a new offseason workout regimen and said he’s felt more energetic.

“If I can keep working like this, probably in two weeks I’ll be at the point where I want to be for the season,” he said.

39 comments Add your comment

Lowcountry Brave

March 2nd, 2012
4:56 pm

My main man, Martin Prado! He will come back strong and rake all year . . . just a feeling. He just wants it too bad for any other outcome.

Bruce

March 2nd, 2012
5:01 pm

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

Yes I guess if Mc likes teen in the two-hole I’ll say put the rev at the bottom for now but Martin in the three followed byFF Uggs etc might work too

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
5:09 pm

Saints maintained “Bounty”program in NFL last three years Gotcha saints trolls

George Stein

March 2nd, 2012
5:13 pm

Everyone says he’s one of the hardest workers on the team and it’s fun to root for guys like that.

He’s hit every single season and was hitting well last year until the staph infection, so we have every reason to believe he’ll do so again this year. I do wish they’d let him play 2B, but I guess that’s not going to happen.

Go get ‘em, Marteeeeeen.

Weaseal

March 2nd, 2012
5:14 pm

Can’t wait for Sat game !!! Were going to show all the Haters what’s up this year!!

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
5:22 pm

I agree with a weasel only on the blog

jonathan Simeone

March 2nd, 2012
5:34 pm

I like Prado and believe he’ll bounce back; however, at his best he’s not an ideal two-hole hitter. He doesn’t walk enough and so doesn’t take enough pitches. If the Braves had a three-hole hitter Chipper would be an ideal two-hole hitter at this stage of his career.

glord1

March 2nd, 2012
5:43 pm

Not worried about Martin at all. He will back to 12 Home runs, 70 RBI .305 ave and 95 runs. Will be one of the leagues best 2 hole hitters.

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

So if J Hey goes back to walking alot and in being more selective hits for higher BA he’ll be a good two hole hitter
Bourne
J Hey
Prado
Uggla
Freddie
B Mc bomb
Chipper
Pastornicky
Nine hole

Slick

March 2nd, 2012
5:56 pm

So what do you think Dave? Phillies first, Marlins second and then where do you have the offensively challenged Braves? 3rd or 4th in the NL East? I think Nats and Braves will fight it out for third place.

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
5:59 pm

So slick r u a doofus

B-F_52

March 2nd, 2012
6:04 pm

Enlighten us woeful Braves fans about you”re superiority just wait you won’t be in striking distance come August doofus how slick is that?

Supes

March 2nd, 2012
6:51 pm

I have one thing for Prado…QUIT taking strike 1 99% of the freaking time. QUIT taking strike 2 as well…I think Prado has been in more 0-2 counts (when not SWINGING) than anyone in baseball. Your odds go down SIGNIFICANTLY as a hitter in that count. Martin needs to quit hitting behind the count so freaking much…it’s either 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 all the time before HE Makes contact usually trying to hit a pitchers pitch at that point.

Rick

March 2nd, 2012
6:53 pm

I expect Prado to bounce back this year. He is too good a player with too hard a work ethic not to. Even if he doesn’t hit like he did in 2010, there’s no way he won’t improve on last year.

bp

March 2nd, 2012
7:44 pm

prado will be fine.

Ken Oberkfell

March 2nd, 2012
8:46 pm

I hope you get it back on track this year prado. We’re all pulling for you.

bravesfaninNashville

March 2nd, 2012
8:54 pm

jonathan…. Totally agree that Chipper is a better choice for our #2 hitter. He also will hit left handed against right handed pitching which is a better matchup for steals for Bourn. It also is good for hit and run for Chipper to pull a ball into the hole vacated by the 1B covering MB when he’s on. Maarten looked really uncomfortable having to take pitches he wanted to swing at and then MB didn’t’ run. He’s a free swinger and I think is better suited to hit 7th or 8th…

jmart1951

March 2nd, 2012
9:33 pm

Bourne
Chipper
Prado
Mac
Uggla
Freeman
J Hey
Paternicky
Pitcher

jmart1951

March 2nd, 2012
9:35 pm

Oops Pasternicky

jmart1951

March 2nd, 2012
9:48 pm

I would put Prado in the three hole but ask him to hit like a guy in the two hole thus setting the table for the thunder of Mac, Uggla, Freeman and J Hey
The first 3 in the lineup are good handlers of the bat with a nice frequency of being on base.
Mac and Uggla should typically come up with one or two men on base.
Freeman, Heyward and Pasternicky are no walk in the park for the opposing pitcher.
Even though Hwyward’s batting avergae was down last year he still had a good on base percentage.

Its no secret that for most teams to win a pennant, a Championship and a World Series they have to have 3 or 4 players have a career year. The caveat to this is where a team has two aces that are dominant. That also sometimes results in a World Series title.
I believe that Bourne, Prado, Mac, Uggla and Haywood have the possibilities of career years this year. If some combination of 3 or 4 of those players have career years and the Braves pitching corp performs as expected the Braves have a realistic shot at running the table.

marktwain

March 2nd, 2012
10:01 pm

The only people doubting Prado are not real Braves fans. People who actually watch games see the guy who hustles every play, every day. Apparently the only people stupid enough to doubt him are the bozos that considered packaging him in a trade.

Mike from the coast

March 2nd, 2012
10:13 pm

I’m counting on 3 things, Prado (who I love and glad he’s still with us) playing and hitting like he can, J-Hey gettting back to the hitter we all hope he will be, and Freeman not having a sophomore slump, if all those things happen our pitching will be as good or better than the Phillies. I think we can take the division. I like our team. If Uggla breaks out of his customary first half slump and McCann is McCann we’ll be fine.

Jed

March 2nd, 2012
10:55 pm

Viva prado! My favorite brave by far.

William

March 3rd, 2012
12:06 am

Chipper needs to bat fifth after Uggla and McCann. Prado is a number two man. He can hit with two strikes if he doesn’t try to pull everything and he will have two strikes a lot waiting on Bourne to steal. Everyone needs to hit or it will be a long year. Here’s hoping they have their hitting shoes on every game.

Brent

March 3rd, 2012
6:19 am

Looking forward to the season. If everyone who slumped or was hurt comes back strong, they should be pretty darn good.

Dan

March 3rd, 2012
6:29 am

I’m old enough to remember when most players had the passion Prado does now. Hustling every play, no phoning it in for a day.

Have to believe that his legs were shot not being able to work out during the staff infection. His hustle and zeal for the game gave him his edge and not having the leg strength had to negatively impact every aspect of his game.

A healthy Martin should be a 300 hitter, B+ outfielder and inspiration to his teammates.

Larry

March 3rd, 2012
8:14 am

My Lineup against a RHP:

1. Bourne CF
2. Costanza LF
3. Freeman 1B
4. McCann C
5. Prado 3B
6. Heyward RF
7. Uggla 2B
8. Pasternicky

Against a LHP:

1. Bourne CF
2. Costanza LF
3. Prado 3B
4. McCann C
5. Uggla 2B
6. Freeman 1B
7. Heyward RF
8. Pasternicky SS

With not one, but two speedy contact, lead-off type hitters at the top of the order and a reliable contact hitter in the three whole you have a chance to get a run in the first inning of every game.

This is the post steroid era (hopefully) so once again speed, contact hitters, base stealers and pitching will return to prominence.

Oh, and as for Chipper, I have him routinely on the disabled list for a fractured earlobe or, hopefully, retired. Time to move on…we’re a better team with Prado at 3rd and a good LF with some speed in the lineup.

Longtimefan

March 3rd, 2012
8:18 am

Braves will win the division. Solid starting pitching with tremendous depth. Deepest and most talented bullpen in the majors. Legitimate lead off hitter who will lead NL in stolen bases and plays center as well as anyone. Best hitting and best backup catcher in baseball. HOF third basman(will not reiterate entirety of prior post but despite subpar year for him in 2011 he was fourth in plate appearances to other NL third basemen, second in fielding % and in top 3 in all significant offensive categories). Best slugging second baseman in majors. This is obviously a matter of conjecture, but I am confident Heyward will bounce back with a stellar season and Freeman will have another solid season. Prado will bounce back to pre 2011 numbers. Without being delusional I like to hope for the best in the season to come. No reason to believe we can’t have that magical season. We have the horses to do it.

Larry

March 3rd, 2012
8:38 am

For all of you suggesting that Chipper would be a good or ideal #2 hitter, have any of you played the game above Tee ball or given any thought to the total requirements of the position?

An ideal #2 hitter needs to have tremendous bat control to use the full field (Chipper qualifies), will sacrifice himself for the betterment of the team to advance the runner (not Chipper), can serve as your leadoff guy if #1 is out (not Chipper), and has the speed to avoid the double play that will kill the opportunity for your #3 or #4 hitter to drive in a run (definitely not Chipper).

Do you guys even think about what you write?

Martini & Rossy

March 3rd, 2012
8:55 am

Hurt Kurbstreit

March 3rd, 2012
9:21 am

Prado will be fine with good health this year. And if Prado, Uggla and Heyward play up to their potential the Braves will be right in the thick of it and go deep into the playoffs. I look for Chipper to play well but will spend some time on the DL in his last year. I’m ready for some baseball.

dap01

March 3rd, 2012
9:25 am

Frank Wren – Prado is the kind of person you need on a team. Even if you have to pay a premium to keep him.

The fans love him, we love his passion and his work ethic. Keep him, you can play him in any position. Forget the term “utility player” and just consider his a player worth every penny of his salary.

For goodness sake, dont trade him for a .260 hitter who hits 20 hr’s.

Longtimefan

March 3rd, 2012
10:03 am

Larry, learn some facts before you sarcastically berate others. Facts-not personal bias or ignorance- are the following: Chipper last year ranked fourth in NL among third basemen in ABs. Fact: Chipper despite a down year for him was in top 3 of virtually all significant offense categories including HR, RBI, SLG, OBP and runs scored for NL third basemen.Fact: he was second in NL in fielding % among eligible third basemen. Fact: over last 15 years he is third in MLB for WAR behind two juicers ARod and Bonds. HE is a future HOF and you couldn’t carry his jockstrap.

Shea

March 3rd, 2012
10:25 am

Longtimefan is right. My dad is the best player ever.

FJ10

March 3rd, 2012
10:36 am

Larry thinks EVERYONE in MLB is wrong about Chipper but he REALLY KNOWS baseball. Somebody please fire Frank Wren and hire Larry….what the heck are these people in MLB thinking…Chipper Jones???

Larry’s like a politician who votes for something he knows will never happen just so he can complain all year long.

Jack Dennis

March 3rd, 2012
11:45 am

never saw reason for skepticism

Angel

March 3rd, 2012
12:28 pm

Larry, Chipper is the best baseball player this town has seen since Dale Murphy and Hank Aaron.
You, sir (sic) are an idiot. Leave our Chipper alone!

George Washington

March 4th, 2012
10:09 am

chipper is bad karma. Sorry to all you chipper lovers but it’s true. He’s got to go before the Braves will ever be successful again. Then and only then will we know what kind of manager fredi is. As long as chipper is around fredi will be co-manager.

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