30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

Posted: March 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

From 1995 to 2005, the Atlanta Braves dominated the National League Eastern braves2Division. After moving over from the West following the 1993 campaign, Atlanta captured 11 consecutive division crowns, the first of which led to their only championship during the run in 1995.

Up until last year, the Braves had yet to win a division since the end of that run. A division once dominated by Atlanta had shifted toward Philadelphia, with stops in New York and Washington as well.

Fredi Gonzalez’s club broke out of that funk last year, winning 96 games en route to their first division title in eight years. 1B Freddie Freeman emerged as a budding superstar, and the young pitching finally found their footing in the majors. Unfortunately, there was no championship run for the Braves, as they were downed by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Now, Atlanta will have to defend their title with serious questions in their rotation. Both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen will likely undergo Tommy John surgery. For the former, it’s the second time he’s had to go under the knife. To make up for these losses, Atlanta inked Ervin Santana to a one-year deal shortly after the start of Spring Training. He, along with veteran Freddy Garcia and former 3rd-round pick David Hale will be asked to hold the fort together. At least until lefty Mike Minor returns in mid-April and veteran acquisition Gavin Floyd returns in May. Julio Teheran, the club’s opening day starter, looks to build off a fantastic rookie season fresh off signing a long term extension with the team.

Offensively, the Braves have few question marks. They lost Brian McCann to the Yankees. But, last year’s breakout star Evan Gattis is expected to replace him with a little help from a seasoned vet in Ryan Doumit. Their athletic and powerful outfield of BJ Upton, little brother Justin, and Jason Heyward is back. BJ will hope for greater success in the second year of his long term contract with the team. All in all, the Braves return most of what was a very productive offense in 2013.

The Braves’ strength has and will continue to be their dynamite, lockdown bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is probably the best closer in the game, and his setup corps led by David Carpenter is quite strong as well.

Key Acquisitions

C Ryan Doumit (Twins)
RHP Ervin Santana (Royals)

Key Losses

C Brian McCann (Yankees)
RHP Tim Hudson (Giants)
LHP Paul Maholm (Dodgers)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

OF Jason Heyward – .273-23-60
OF Justin Upton – .264-25-73
1B Freddie Freeman – .289-24-94
C Evan Gattis – .252-29-88
3B Chris Johnson – .266-13-74
SS Andrelton Simmons – .276-16-77
2B Dan Uggla – .222-17-48
OF BJ Upton – .227-15-53

RHP Julio Teheran – 11-8, 3.74
RHP Ervin Santana – 11-9, 3.87
RHP Freddy Garcia – 6-6, 4.61
LHP Alex Wood – 9-5, 3.46
LHP Mike Minor – 9-6, 3.66
RHP Gavin Floyd – 6-5, 4.05

RHP Craig Kimbrel – 3-3, 1.80, 40 Sv

Outlook

The Braves will have to hope that the likes of Minor and Floyd return without any further disruption to their current timetable. As of now, their starting rotation isn’t good enough to win the division again. With that duo healthy, and Teheran continuing to impress, the Braves have the goods to repeat.

The offense is going to be strong, even if they take a slight drop off at catcher. BJ Upton almost has to be better than last year, and one should expect continued success from Heyward and Freeman.

All in all, the Braves have a solid chance of making the playoffs in 2014. I foresee them winning between 84-90 games. Whether or not that’s good enough to get in is another question altogether.

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