To lead you into the MLB season Stoop Sports’ MLB staff is embarking on a 30 day journey, where we will give you pre-season profiles of all thirty teams. Each writer was given the artistic liberty to format their previews to their liking. Enjoy, and happy spring training!
Although their season didn’t end as planned, the 2012 Atlanta Braves finished with a 94-68 record and were by far one of the toughest and most talented teams in the National League. They enter 2013 as an even stronger club, and although their longtime superstar Chipper Jones retired and is no longer in the middle of their lineup, the Braves had a very productive offseason, and I see them having very little trouble beating the teams in the NL.
Key Offseason Transactions
Arrivals: C Gerald Laird, 3B Chris Johnson, OF BJ Upton, OF Justin Upton, P Jordan Walden
Departures: OF Michael Bourn, OF Matt Diaz, 2B Martin Prado, SP Tommy Hanson, 3B Chipper Jones, OF Eric Hinske, P Chad Durbin
Projected Lineups, Rotations
Catcher: Brian McCann
First Base: Freddie Freeman
Second Base: Dan Uggla
Third Base: Chris Johnson
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons
Left Field: Justin Upton
Center Field: B.J. Upton
Right Field: Jason Heyward
There are certainly some new faces for the Braves on offense. For this lineup to be successful, and I think it will be, the Upton brothers have to be very productive. B.J has been a consistent player throughout his career, but his patience at the plate might be an issue, as his walks numbers went down last season and he seemed to continuously chase bad pitches. He should be able to hit between 25 to 30 homers however, and add power to an already power-heavy lineup that has guys like McCann, Heyward, Freeman, Uggla, and his brother Justin. Justin’s full effectiveness might be a question mark, though. Last season, his OBP dropped significantly and he only hit 17 homeruns. But if he is able to get back to the level of play that he is capable of this season, he will be a huge factor in the Braves’ success on offense. It is weird seeing a Braves lineup without Chipper Jones in it, but this 2013 squad should have no problem producing runs.
- Kris Medlen
- Tim Hudson
- Mike Minor
- Paul Maholm
- Julio Teheran
This is a very good starting rotation. Kris Medlen is a perfect ace, as he was pretty much unhittable last season after he was added into their rotation in late July, recording a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts. If he is able to pick up right where he left off last season, he could easily be one of the toughest pitchers in the NL. Hudson is a veteran and certainly knows what he is doing. The key to his success his making sure he makes batters hit ground balls, something he has been doing his entire career. Minor and Maholm will be good three and four guys, but not much more than that. They will win somewhere around 10 games a piece and give you six solid innings each time out, which is all the Braves could ask for. Teheran has yet to prove himself since coming out of the minors, but the Braves still have faith in him. If they don’t like what they see, they have Brandon Beachy waiting in the wings, who has been recovering from Tommy John surgery. This team has a very good offense, and if their starting pitchers give them 5 or 6 solid innings a night, the offense can do the rest.
Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Eric O’Flahtery, Jordan Walden, Jonny Venters, Cristhian Martinez, Luis Avilan, Corey Gearrin
The 2012 Braves’ bullpen was terrific. They finished second in the league in ERA and only blew a total of 13 saves all year. Their success had largely to do with Craig Kimbrel. He was simply nasty. With a near 100 mph fastball, he had a 19.2 swinging-strike percentage last season, the highest of any reliever in the league. At just 24 years old, he has shown no signs of slowing down, and will definitely be effective in 2013. Eric O’Flahtery will also be an important factor out of the bullpen, as he is one of the best lefty specialists in the game after holding left handed batters to a .305 OPS last year. With these two arms leading the charge, and a couple of young, talented hurlers behind them, the Braves will have absolutely no problem closing out games.
Prediction: The Braves will be one of the best teams in the entire MLB, and might even have a shot at making it to the World Series. Although the Nationals and Phillies might give them trouble in the NL East, I see them being able to hold them off – most likely winning the NL East crown over the Nationals by one game.
95-67, 1st in the NL East