Wednesday, February 6, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta left us last postseason losing a 1 game playoff game on a very strange call via the infield fly rule - contributing to the outcome. So after that game, Chipper Jones retired and the Braves moved forward. Brian McCann was a trade rumor subject, but he's still here. Back-up David Ross is in Boston. Andrelton Simmons emerged as the everyday shortstop for the team. Martin Prado moves out of Atlanta to Arizona as the Braves acquired slugger Justin Upton to man LF. Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson will man 3B. The outfield is radically different: both Upton brothers BJ and Justin are teammates for the first time since high school. The bullpen remains the dominant strength of this team and it only got better with the acquistion of Jordan Walden at the price of SP Tommy Hanson. The starting rotation found their stud in Kris Medlen in the second half of last year and strikeout artist Brandon Beachy is on his way back from Tommy John surgery. So, with that in mind, let's look at the Atlanta Braves.

Starting Line-up
SS Andrelton Simmons
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
CF BJ Upton
C   Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
3B Chris Johnson

Simmons takes the lead-off spot by default, as well, no one else is suited for it. In a perfect world, Simmons would bat either 2nd or 8th, but he's essentially the only option up top. Manager Fredi Gonzalez can play around with 2-7, but this line-up gives them the best chance at succeeding. Heyward can steal a bag and Freeman breaks up the righties Upton. McCann is a better all around hitter than Uggla at this point in their careers. Johnson and Francisco will battle for playing time. This is one of the better, more complete line-ups in the NL and Atlanta is set with solid infield depth and Reed Johnson in the OF.

Starting Rotation
SP Kris Medlen
SP Tim Hudson
SP Paul Maholm
SP Mike Minor
SP Julio Teheran

Brandon Beachy will not be back until mid-season, where he'll replace the either injured starter or the least effective. Medlen was an absolute monster last season with a 0.97 ERA as a starter!! Hudson should still have enough for another year and will probably get the opening day nod again. Maholm was solid after a trade from the Cubs last year. Youngsters Minor and Teheran will round out the rotation. Teheran must improve on a sub-par season otherwise Beachy will replace him. Minor put it all together for a great 2.16 ERA post All-Star break.

CL Craig Kimbrel
SU Jordan Walden
SU Jonny Venters
SU Eric O'Flaherty
SU Cristhian Martinez
SU Luis Avilan
SU Cory Gerrin

This bullpen is on lockdown. By far, the best bullpen in the National League. Kimbrel is the best in the game right now and Walden adds a right handed compliment to Venters and O'Flaherty. Avilan and Gerrin were great in set-up roles. This bullpen is the best part of this team.

I believe this is a playoff team. The back end of the rotation is still questionable but the offense and bullpen will keep any inefficiencies in-check. This is another 90+ win team and a lock for a Wild Card spot and compete with the Nationals for the division. 

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