The Braves can’t really afford for Infante to go down again, because the second utility infielder position does not look like a strong point. Brooks Conrad and Diory Hernandez return from last year’s team. Conrad showed the same problems that have kept him in the minors for so long, an inability to make regular contact and defensive movement resembling Keith Lockhart riding on a Galapagos tortoise. Conrad’s defensive statistics were not actually too bad, and in 58 plate appearances he had two homers, two triples, and a double. Unfortunately, he had only six singles, and he can’t survive hitting .204. Hernandez, meanwhile, hit very well in AAA but upon promotion in no way resembled a major league ballplayer, hitting .141/.198/.212 and looking awkward defensively, though again his defensive stats are pretty good.
The Braves also signed Joe Thurston to a minor league contract. Thurston more or less blundered into a regular job with the Cardinals much of last season, playing third much much of the first half and backing up at second, winding up with 307 plate appearances, which I sure were a surprise to him. He didn’t hit, .225/.316/.330, and there’s really little sign that he ever will, though he did flash some secondary offense, and is a career .295 hitter in the minor leagues.
The Braves don’t really have anybody you could call an infield prospect. Thurston is the only infielder not on the 40-man who has gotten a spring training invite. Van Pope, JC Holt, Barbaro Canizares, and Wes Timmons are all on the AAA roster; none will be involved unless something really remarkable happens. The first two have some defensive ability but can’t hit; the other two can hit some but can’t field. None is nearly as promising a player as Hernandez.
The third catcher will be the seemingly immortal Clint Sammons; with any luck, he’ll get to enjoy life in the suburbs until September.