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Atlanta Braves hot list

Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward
AP Photo

The Atlanta Braves hot list is going to be a bi-weekly feature ranking the top nine Atlanta Braves performers up to that point in the season - pitchers, hitters, utility players and managers are all eligible for this most prestigious of lists. So without any further delay, and before you get bored and take the next random link out of here, lets get on to the list.

9. Eric O'Flaherty/Peter Moylan

Is it a copout to list two players for my number nine spot? Probably, but they've just been so damn similar that splitting them up would take a flip of a coin that I currently don't have. Moylan and the O-Dog have been good, borderline very good,  so far in the 2010 season. Moylan's command has been off, but his results have remained strong.

8. Takashi Saito

Saito has quietly taken hold of the "keep the lead so Billy Wagner can do his thing role" despite being 40 years old; the veteran right-hander sports an ERA of 2.57 with 16 strikeouts in only 14 innings of work.

7. Kris Medlen

Another spot, another bullpen arm - Medlen has been an emergency starter to go along with several relief outings of various length. His ability to pitch in a variety of roles give Bobby Cox a great deal of flexibility, he'll be in the rotation until Jair Jurrjens is healthy enough to re-join the ballclub. Interesting side plot to follow; if Medlen excels in the rotation, does he push Kawakami or Lowe to the pen when JJ returns?

6. Eric Hinske

In limited at-bats the plunky Hinske has looked every bit as good as any other Braves hitter on the roster, his .333 batting average leads the team and his .409 on base percentage is second only to uber-phenom Jason Heyward. The Braves are leaning on his offense right now, at least until Chipper and McCann start hitting with power.

5. Billy Wagner

Is this guy really retiring after this season? In a sport where athletes hang on until the corpse of their game is all that remains, Billy Wagner is going to ride off into the sunset firing 97 MPH fastballs. He's been dynamite this season, and it's more than just statistics, he intimidates hitters and gives the opposing team a reason to scramble for runs before the 9th inning.

4. Martin Prado

Prado has been the steadiest bat in  the Atlanta lineup, he's consistent, patient and highly productive - basically everything the Braves offense hasn't been. The often overlooked Prado is on pace to hit nearly 50 doubles and score 105 runs - not bad for a guy who had long been viewed as a utility player.

3. Tim Hudson

Give Frank Wren and the Braves credit here - they were sufficiently convinced by Hudson's late season starts in 2009 to reward him with a three-year contract extension. The veteran right-hander looks as strong as he ever has in an Atlanta uniform - and maybe even an Oakland one.

2. Tommy Hanson

You'd be hard-pressed to rattle off a half-dozen better young starting pitchers than Tommy Hanson. He was great last season, and he's hasn't missed a beat so far this year. If the rotation isn't his yet, it clearly will be soon.

1. Jason Heyward

Who else could be at number one? Heyward is the Lebron James of baseball, he's the prodigy and he's taken the unrealistic expectations people had for him - and somehow exceeded them. He's everything you'd want from a veteran hitter, except for the scary fact that he's only 20 years old, he's on pace to hit 38 home runs and drive in 130 more - forget rookie of the year numbers, that's a borderline MVP season.


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