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One2Watch4: Braves 2B Martin Prado

Looking for an under-the-radar fantasy possibility at second base? Then why not take a nice long look at Martin Prado? With the Kelly Johnson era at an end in Atlanta, Prado is poised to have a breakout season. Not only did Prado have a pretty decent season last year, but he should be the Braves 2B starter from day one batting in the second spot behind Nate McLouth and in front of Chipper Jones. Take a look at how some of Prado’s numbers compared with MLB and NL second basemen last year.

MARTIN PRADO'S 2009 RANKS AMONG 2nd BASEMEN

Note the production that Prado had despite the low number of at bats. With Kelly Johnson gone and Prado cemented as the everyday second baseman fantasy owners should expect an uptick in production. In 2009 Prado was 20th among MLB second baseman with 503 Total Plate Appearances and 21st with 450 At Bats. For better or worse Bobby Cox has been known to stick with players once he’s decided that’s who he wants, so look for Prado to see a significant improvement in that category.

Reasons to be Skeptical

Unfortunately, there are some reasons to worry about Prado’s overall run production. First off, Nate McClouth hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball this spring so it appears that batting in the second hole for the Braves might often mean batting with the bases empty and one out.

Perhaps a larger worry, and the two are probably connected, should be Prado’s inability to create runs last year. In fact, Prado (5.42) lagged far behind leaders Ben Zobrist (8.12) and Chase Utley (7.98) in terms of producing runs per 27 innings in 2009. Of course it should also be noted that Zobrist and Utley were both almost two full runs ahead of their closest rival (Brian Roberts). Still, McClouth’s inconsistency coupled with Prado’s seeming difficulty in producing runs is some cause for alarm.

Other Variables

With Chipper Jones coming off one of his worst seasons of his career there are two schools of thought: he’s due to bounce back, or it’s the end of a great career. Last year Jones posted a career low in RBI and had his lowest OPS since his rookie season. Still, the fact remains that if Jones gets 600 at-bats he drives in over 100 runs and if Prado is batting in front of him than fantasy owners are going to be the beneficiary of those RBI. Furthermore, there seems to be a growing feeling in Atlanta that given the closeness between Chipper and Bobby Cox that Jones would be willing to play through some injuries that in the past may have sidelined him.

Conclusion

Prado isn’t a player that you should draft before some of the other stalwart second basemen out there like Utley, but he is a very solid option for those willing to wait a little bit longer on draft night. I look for him to continue the improvement that he had last season and for his numbers to increase in 2010.