Originally written May 23, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
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Martin Prado is in the perfect place. The guy in front of him is hitting .323 and knows what to do when he reaches first. Michael Bourns 13 steals are tied for second in the NL. And the guy behind him is becoming one of the leagues top run producers. Freddie Freeman has taken over the No. 3 spot in the Braves order, and his 32 RBIs are tied for third in the league. In between, theres Prado, perfectly content hitting second. Bourn is usually on base and Freeman looms behind, leaving Prado to quietly do what he does best, which is roping line drives all over the field, moving runners and stoking rallies. Prado is proving that 2011 not 2010 was the fluke. A year after a staph infection caused him to miss more than a month and hitting up and down a lineup that was inconsistent most of last season, Prado is batting .315 this year. Hes already put together a 10-game hitting streak and hes had at least one hit in 12 of his past 14 games. After hitting .271 in April, Prado is flourishing in May. Hes hitting .364 this month, with a home run, eight RBIs and three steals. His teammates have said all along that Prado isnt a .260 hitter, which is what he hit last season. Hes proving them right. Hes showing that hes more like the guy who banged out 184 hits and scored 100 runs and had an .809 OPS in his breakout NL All-Star season of 2010. Prado is eighth in the NL in hits with 51 and has already driven in 21 runs. Hes also played in 42 of the Braves 44 games. People who know baseball, people who watch baseball on a consistent basis, if you dont think Martin Prado is a star in this league, in my opinion youre not watching the right things, catcher Brian McCann told AJC.com last week. The guy is everything you could possibly want in a baseball player. Last year he got a staph infection and was out for seven weeks. Thats not easy to do. Thats seven weeks not seeing pitches, then coming back, and everyones expecting him to hit .320 or .330. Its hard to do that. Aside from his consistent ability to win battles against major league pitchers, Prado admittedly has gotten a boost from Bourns strong start and his distracting presence on the bases. With Bourn dancing off first and threatening to steal second, pitchers are faced with a dilemma. Do they feed Prado a steady stream of fastballs, which will make it easier for their catchers to catch and release to try to throw out Bourn? Or do they nitpick with Prado, hoping that theyll be able to outwit him and still manage to keep Bourn from swiping second. And if the pitchers play around, make mistakes and rush their deliveries, and both Bourn and Prado reach, it provides more opportunities for Freeman, who has become the Braves most consistent RBI guy. Prado is hitting .328 with 19 RBIs with runners on base, opposed to .308 with two RBIs with the bases empty. The more Im around Prado, the more I grow to respect his professionalism and desire to be the best hitter possible. He has a quiet intensity and a determined passion thats reflected in his approach at the plate. Hes also grown into a more than competent left fielder and a better than average third baseman, even though second base probably remains his best position. The addition of Juan Francisco has helped reduce the temptation to play Prado at third. In fact, he has only 16 at-bats as a third baseman this season, compared to 142 when hes starting in left. Hes also hit second in the lineup all season after hitting leadoff, second, third, sixth and seventh in 2011. Prado has found his comfort zone. I have a feeling hell stay there.
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