With a 7-1 record and five straight wins, nothing seems to bother the Atlanta Braves right now. And they're off to this terrific start despite some notable injuries: Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Brandon Beachy are currently on the disabled list.
Rookie catcher Evan Gattis can't do anything about the Beachy absence, but he's filling in nicely while Freeman and McCann heal up. It's time to pay attention in medium and deeper leagues.
Gattis is getting regular run as Atlanta's cleanup hitter and starting catcher of late, spelling Freeman and McCann, respectively. He's off to a tidy 9-for-17 run at the plate, with a couple of homers. His latest round-tripper came in Tuesday's win at Miami (a nice job of hitting against a reasonable pitch), and he added a double later in the game. It's easy to see why the Braves like the rookie's bat.
If you don't recognize Gattis from your prospect work, don't feel bad. Although he posted a solid .308/.374/.546 slash line through 222 games in the minors (along with 44 homers), only 182 of his at-bats came past Single-A. He wasn't featured on any of the hot future-star listings before the season. Gattis also turned 26 earlier this month, which tends to limit the rookie buzz. He was a 23rd-round pick in the 2010 draft after a bizarre amateur career, a late bloomer all the way. (The back story to Gattis's life – wandering, substance abuse, quitting and redemption – is going to make a dynamite movie someday. This is a very easy guy to root for.)
I can't promise you Gattis will be a long-term fixture in the Atlanta lineup, but I'm running with him at the moment (he's on my Friends & Family roster) and maybe you'll want to kick the tires, too. He's still free to grab in 96 percent of Yahoo! pools. I'm impressed with the raw power, I like the surrounding pieces in the Atlanta lineup, and the Braves must feel pretty good about the newcomer – Fredi Gonzalez has started him in three straight games.
Gattis had limited first base and outfield work in the minors; perhaps he'll stick in the team's rotation even after McCann gets back on the field. The Braves have yet to release a solid timetable for McCann's return, and you never know when other injuries will pop up. I'd certainly like to see Gattis in the mix come the fourth week of April, when the Braves play a three-game set at Coors Field.
If you're in a shallow league, you have permission to disregard all this propaganda. But pop isn't that easy to find in 2013; we need to be creative in the medium and deeper mixed groups. Keep an open mind, gamers.
• Greg Holland doesn't believe in making anything easy on himself, but at the end of the night, he was shaking hands with his teammates. That's all that matters.
The Royals let Holland back into the ninth with a three-run lead to protect, the cushiest of save chances. Holland got the job done but he needed 27 pitches in all; the Twins loaded the bases on a bloop single and a couple of walks (one of them on four straight pitches). Holland added a couple of strikeouts into the mix, and the first out came on a sharply hit liner to left field. The home crowd couldn't fully exhale until Joe Mauer whiffed, between late-arriving raindrops, to end the game.
If Holland eventually loses the closing gig in Kansas City, it will probably be because of his spotty control (4.06 BB/9 for his career). His strikeout rate sings, of course (11.7), but Kelvin Herrera offers a much smoother profile (8.43 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 54 percent ground balls). Holland's biggest advantage in all this comes with the baton: he was the team's closer last year, and he's currently the man this year. Possession of the job is a significant part of bullpen handicapping. But Holland better get his act together quickly, with Herrera (and Aaron Crow) nipping at his heels.
• Maybe 2013 is going to be a lost year for Cardinals reliever Jason Motte. The clipped bird finally had an MRI on Tuesday; results showed a torn elbow ligament. If Motte doesn't show improvement by the beginning of May, he'll likely have Tommy John surgery.
The St. Louis bullpen had its share of hiccups over the first eight days of the season, but everyone was on his best behavior in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over Cincinnati. Edward Mujica struck out two batters in a perfect seventh inning, Trevor Rosenthal was crisp in the eighth (one hit, one strikeout) and Mitchell Boggs worked a much-needed 1-2-3 ninth. Each reliever threw a modest 11 pitches in his respective stint; 24 of them were strikes. Work backwards and you have the logical save handicapping: Boggs, despite Monday's mess, remains the chairman of the bullpen, followed by the electric prospect Rosenthal and the respected veteran Mujica.
Speed Round: Japanese rookie Kyuji Fujikawa had no trouble putting away the Brewers, striking out two and working around an infield error. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take this closing gig and run with it. … Cliff Lee was excellent again, securing his second victory. Last year's bad mojo is buried for good. … Adam LaRoche's back must be feeling good again; he went deep twice against the White Sox, snapping a one-week slump. … Gordon Beckham tweaked his left wrist and will miss a couple of games. The White Sox will miss his defense more than his bat. … Tim Lincecum had another messy outing (6 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 7 K) in a no-decision against Colorado, though he did rebound nicely after a five-run second inning. Still, there are too many command and velocity issues here for my liking. Just watching Lincecum walk opposing pitcher Juan Nicasio is enough to make you want to chuck the remote. I'm glad I don't own him anywhere for 2013; that's my story, I'm sticking to it. … So much for the "anyone against Houston" motif: Brandon Maurer was pounded against the Astros (two outs, seven hits, six runs). The visitors later added five homers against a collection of relievers, with Chris Carter going deep twice. … Todd Helton took another collar, though he did knock in a run. He's off to a horrific .095/.136/.095 start through 21 at-bats. The Rockies have plenty of potential fills at the corner positions throughout the organization, so here's hoping the leash on the 39-year-old Helton isn't too long. … John Axford's latest relief effort was an unmitigated disaster: three runs against just two outs, three baserunners, another loss for the ledger. Even if you take out one intentional walk from the numbers, Axford still threw just four strikes out of 12 pitches. This will not be an easy fix.