Braves unlikely to part with Inciarte's defense

Braves unlikely to part with Inciarte's defense

DENVER -- Ender Inciarte's name has been linked to trade rumors dating back to the night the Braves acquired him as part of the blockbuster package gained from the D-backs in December. But unless Atlanta general manager John Coppolella is blown away by an offer, it does not look like he will trade the talented center fielder who has compensated for his offensive struggles by consistently providing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

"We've been so pleased with what Ender brings every day," Coppolella said. "We know he's a better hitter than what he is showing, but he provides so much value defensively and he's also a great makeup player. We love what he brings to the clubhouse and the energy he brings to our team."

Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran might be the only current members of Atlanta's roster who essentially have untouchable status leading up to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But Inciarte at least placed himself in the "unlikely to be moved" category as he produced nine Defensive Runs Saved in the 482 1/3 innings he has played in center field this season.

Toronto's Kevin Pillar has a Major League-best 14 DRS over 832 2/3 innings as a center fielder this season. Pillar has been awarded a DRS once every 59 innings and Inciarte has done so once every 53.5 innings.

Inciarte has displayed an advanced baseball IQ in certain situations and proven that he has one of the game's best outfield arms. During Thursday night's series opener against the Rockies, he saved at least two runs by running 79 feet to catch Nick Hundley's fly ball in front of the center-field wall to end the fourth inning.

"He gets such great jumps and has a great feel," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He has instincts that not everybody has. You don't teach that either."

As the Braves look toward introducing many of their young pitching prospects to the big league level over the next few years, they are comforted with the possibility of having an outfield that consists of both Inciarte and Mallex Smith, who also provided impressive defense before suffering a fractured right thumb that will likely sideline him until September.

Inciarte's value will increase if he is able to produce the consistency that he has lacked since he suffered a hamstring strain during the season's third game and then missed a month. The 25-year-old outfielder entered Friday hitting .241 with a .307 on-base percentage.

While experiencing his first full big league season with the D-backs last year, Inciarte hit .303 with a .338 on-base percentage.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.