Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/15/13
The slow march toward Opening Day continues. Here are five things to ponder as the Braves check off another week of spring training and more that much closer to April 1. 1. Ugglas struggles at the plate In talking with Dan Uggla he said he had pinpointed the problem in his plate approach that led to his worst statistical season in the majors in 2012 and had corrected it. But in his last 14 at-bats this spring, the second basemen has three hits and overall has a .205 average, one home run, four RBIs and a .558 OPS. Oh, and hes struck out 15 times. Its not exactly a confidence-builder for Atlanta fans that watched him turn a .220.348.384 slash line with 19 HRs and 168 strikeouts a season ago. It may seem alarming, but heres where we drop in an asterisk with the its only spring training disclaimer. Aside from last spring when he hit .277, Uggla has largely been a slow starter, with averages of .212 .197 and .206 in 11, 10 and 09, respectively. Plus, after a forgettable 12, Uggla should be expected to want to work his way back into a rhythm. Its why he has just three walks in 44 Grapefruit League at-bats. The plate discipline is there after leading the National League with 94 walks, so it may not be worth buying into the early returns, however magnified they may be after Ugglas 2012. 2. WBC highs and lows Andrelton Simmons, who will be the Braves lead-off man this season, is delivering in that spot for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, hitting .370 with two HRs, six RBIs, 19 total bases and 1.104 OPS. Meanwhile, closer Craig Kimbrel has looked un-Craig-Kimbrel-like for Team USA. He has a 6.75 ERA in three appearances, including Thursday's loss to the Dominican Republic when it scored twice in the bottom of the ninth off Kimbrel, who had gone all of last season without allowing two runs or two hits in any appearance, to secure a spot in the championship round. Three of the five batters that Kimbrel faced got hits before manager Joe Torre pulled him. This is exactly the Simmons that the Braves are hoping they have atop their lineup this year -- they dont necessarily need him swinging for the fences, which we touched on in the latest Chopcast and this WBC experience, playing in a pressure situation, bodes well for a season in which many think hell become a star. There will be some who will wonder whether WBC troubles could be setting a bad tone for Kimbrel, who allowed all of seven runs in his historic 12. But given the short preparation time this spring for the WBC -- he had a 6.75 ERA in four outings before leading the Braves -- the axiom of pitchers being ahead of the hitters may not apply here. 3. Freemans sizzling On the flip side of Uggla is Freeman, who following a year in which he dealt with eye issues and an index finger injury, is fully healthy and is hitting .333 with three home runs, seven RBI, a .794 slugger percentage and an OPS of .932. Batting fourth with the Uptons surrounding him in the order (Justin will be at third and B.J. at fifth), Freeman will be in a position where teams wont pitch around him and this start is a strong indication that hes poised to thrive in that spot. Braves manager Fredi Freeman relayed a conversation he had with hitting coach Greg Walker, who called Freeman the best young hitting prospect hes been around and if this spring is any indication, Freemans third full year in the majors may be when we see him deliver on that superstar potential. 4. Minors location Weve seen some strong starts out of Mike Minor of late, allowing one hit in three scoreless innings against the Tigers and vs. the Yankees he gave up three hits and zero runs. He was putting together a similar performance Thursday vs. the Cardinals, yielding just one hit and a walk through four innings. But he got into trouble in the fifth as St. Louis tagged him for five hits, three walks and four runs. Before that fifth inning, Minor was riding a 13-inning scoreless streak and 58 of the 88 pitches he threw were strikes, which may be the real takeaways from his last three outings. He said hes still working on his changeup, which is the fourth pitch in his repertoire, and the Cardinals pounced on it. But overall, hes looking more like the pitcher who had a .221 ERA and a .193 opponents batting average after June, not the one that had a .620 ERA and .270 OPA before it. 5. Wood makes an impression Alex Wood, last years second-round pick out of Georgia was reassigned to minor league camp after Thursdays game against the Cardinals, but he clearly took advantage of his time. The 22-year-old righty, who had a 2.22 ERA and a 5214 KBB ration last year with Class-A Rome finished with a 1.29 ERA, three strikeouts and three walks in seven innings of work for the Braves. Hell be stretched out as a starter in the minors but with a sweeping, unorthodox delivery, Wood could very quickly become an asset for Atlanta in its bullpen and given his work this spring that time may not be that far off.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Five most anticipated September MLB call-ups
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Vikings announce Teddy Bridgewater has a torn ACL

Craig Sager to undergo third bone marrow transplant

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Nationals' Stephen Strasburg expected to return next week

WATCH: Footage surfaces from Tim Tebow’s baseball workout

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Teddy Bridgewater suffers serious knee injury at practice?

EON Sports strikes VR partnerships with Miami, PSU

Mike Tyson accused of stealing ice cream treat at U.S. Open

Calvin Johnson to join DWTS, but sister says he ‘can’t dance’

Eagles rookie nixes anthem protest after talking to agent

Report: Romo has no ligament damage, to resume training soon

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

Teddy Bridgewater injury puts Vikings' plans up in the air

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

Vontaze Burfict on Steelers: ‘I don’t give no f—s about them’

Alistair Overeem: Brock Lesnar will never return to UFC

Top five Heisman Trophy candidates for 2016

Five young NFL players set to explode in 2016

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

West-ern Literature: How Kanye's fans find meaning in between the lines

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker