March 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
2011 Atlanta Braves X FACTOR: Nate McLouth
Although McLouth hit just .190/.298/.322 last season, the Braves have decided to keep him as the only center field option on the Opening Day roster.
As we all know, last year was an endless struggle for Nate McLouth. It wasn’t until late September when he hit .273, matching his HR total of three during the previous five months of the season and quickly stole three bases, showing signs of his old self. Despite his late season surge, he still finished the year hitting. 190/.298/.322 with a -1.3 WAR.
Remember Melky Cabrera? Well he was horrific at the plate and in the field, but McLouth was so bad at one point, that on July 27, 2010 the Braves optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett and Cabrera began playing center field and ultimately finished the year playing 385 innings at the most important outfield position.
McLouth is simply the X Factor for the Braves at this point. New manager Fredi Gonzalez has displayed his faith in McLouth, inserting him in the two hole behind All-Star Martin Prado. Not only is he now hitting in the top half of the lineup, he’s also the only center field option on the roster.
While there are a few emergency center fielders currently on the roster (Matt Young, Jason Heyward, etc.), I don’t expect any of them to receive significant playing time between the corners.
The Braves have made every move conceivable to make McLouth aware that they have faith in him, and so far it’s paid off. This spring, the former Pirate has put up a .310/.414/.448 mark, along with a stolen base and just three strikeouts.
Every indicator to this point shows that McLouth is due to rebound, but only time will tell. With all of these things taken into consideration, it’s clear that he’s the Braves X Factor for 2011.
Who/what do you feel is the X Factor for the Braves this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.