Braves fans are in for a fun year. You have to admire this organization. Chipper Jones exits stage left as possibly the greatest Atlanta Brave ever. The organization waits just a few months and brings in Justin Upton, a kid that many scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player and added him to a lineup who scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player (Jason Heyward).
The Braves have had a recent string of postseason letdowns. The had the eventual champion Giants on the ropes in 2010 and let them off the hook. They’ve lost one-game playoffs in each of the last two years. Braves fans must feel like they’re a bit snake-bitten.
Major Off-season Moves:
The Braves run their organization in a professional manner. They’re going to have a really successful season. I expect them to be in the market for a starting pitcher along with St. Louis. If they can shore up their starting rotation, this team is going to be one of the top teams in baseball. They might be anyways, but at the end of the day I like their division rival Washington’s starting pitching a bit more.
A lot of people enter 2013 extremely high on Andrelton Simmons, and while we know he can dazzle with the glove, the guy hit a bit more than anyone expected in his 49 games in the show last season. If Simmons can be a .750 OPS bat at the top of the Atlanta lineup, that’s a pretty good lead-off guy. It’s a lot to ask out of a young player though.
The thunder in the lineup really starts from there. Atlanta figures to be a team that will hit for some power and be able to steal some bags on you. Heyward, both Upton brothers, and Simmons have the speed to all swipe 20. Heyward, both Uptons, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla are realistic 30 home run threats. The lineup isn’t littered with .300 hitters but if Jason Heyward can return to the form we saw as a rookie where he walked 91 times this offense is going to be one of the best in the National League.
Justin Upton comes over from Arizona just in time to have the best year of his career. I’m predicting a monster year from Upton that sees him contend for the National League MVP while topping the .900 OPS mark for the first time in his career.
I expect the less coveted Upton to be a big factor in the middle of the Atlanta lineup as well. B.J. was a .300 hitter back in 2007, and we would predict his average rebounds to around .260 with some marginal power and 30 to 40 stolen bases.
Dan Uggla is either going to rebound in a big way from his consecutive seasons of .233 and .220 or whispers will begin that his career is over. His power numbers went into decline last season as well, so this will be a very telling season for the 33 year old second baseman.
Freddie Freeman is kind of the forgotten man in this lineup. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated not long ago too, and he’s acclimated himself well to the big league game. Does a 25 home run, 80 RBI season sound accurate for Freeman?
Brian McCann begins the season rehabbing from injury. Enter Gerald Laird. A career .244 guy with 37 home runs in about 700 big league games isn’t going to get a lot of high marks from us. McCann must return for this lineup to be among the elite, and if he does return to have a nice offensive season the Braves will have one of the better lineups from top to bottom in the National League.
I really don’t like this pitching staff. While I love the bullpen, the starting rotation is littered with question marks in my mind.
Tim Hudson will be 37 years old this year. He won 16 games last season and got by on a lot of guile and know how. The guy on this staff with the best stuff is probably Teheran. He’s going to be a good one but his entry into the top tier is probably about two years away. The loss of Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery was a huge blow, as I thought Beachy had the stuff to win a Cy Young award.
Medlen should be the team’s ace, but it’s a fair question to wonder if Medlen can repeat what he did last year. In my mind, Paul Maholm and Mike Minor aren’t good enough to have this rotation up there with the big boys. Can they be better than the three and four guys in say; Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Cincinnati? That’s what the season might come down to for Atlanta.
I expect them to be on the lookout for any big-time starting pitcher that comes available. They’re always able to get a crucial deal done.
Kimbrel, O’Flaherty, Venters, and Martinez are solid bullpen anchors who will continue to be successful at the back end of the Atlanta pen.
Mevs’ Projected Record:
88-74, 2nd in the NL East
I have little to no faith in Fredi Gonzalez. I don’t feel like the guy could manage his way out of a wet paper sack. However, the roster is so talented that an organ-grinders monkey could manage this team to 85 wins.
They’ll be a nice sparring partner for the loaded Nationals, but in the end the most elite team in baseball will best them in the regular season.
Atlanta will have a fun season watching this offense pile up runs and seeing the development of guys like Heyward, Freeman, Simmons and Teheran continue. There’s going to be a good foundation for years to come. The manager needs tweaked and I expect it to happen eventually. Atlanta finishes second in the division and has a Wild Card spot come October.