Key Additions---Dan Uggla, George Sherrill
Key Losses---Bobby Cox, Billy Wagner, Troy Glaus, Derrek Lee
Lineup---The addition of Uggla helps offset the fact that they may not to get much offense from the 1b slot. He is right near the top as an offensive 2B can be, however he is subpar defensively. They may make up for that with having Alex Gonzalez at shortstop, he is aging, but he still gets it done on the defensive end and adds a little pop. Brian McCann is a perennial all-star so catcher is set. One big question mark is, what can they really expect from Chipper Jones? If healthy, he is a middle of the order bat, but I have a hard time believing he will give you what is expected at all this season. In the outfield, Martin Prado moves to LF and should be a solid player out there. The Braves hope that Nate McLouth can return to his Pirates form, but he struggled pretty mightily last season. Really, this offense hinges a lot on Jason Heyward, he showed many signs of absolute stardom last year, but was also a bit inconsistent. They need him to break through in a huge year to make this lineup viable. If he does, they could compete, if he doesn’t, I don’t think they have enough.
Rotation---It was nice to see Tim Hudson come back strong last year and get back to being the Tim Hudson we knew back with the A’s. He will help anchor this rotation. Tommy Hanson has shown signs of becoming a top of the rotation starter, and will need to continue to develop. I love having a guy like Derek Lowe who eats of tons of innings and saves the bullpen. Another big question mark is, what to expect out of Jair Jurrjens, as well as the back end of the rotation? Young guys like Mike Minor or possibly Julio Teheran will get a shot to prove they belong. If it wasn’t for the Phils rotation, you would look at this rotation as one that could win the division.
Bullpen---This is where it gets a little hairy. There was a reason that the Braves were trying to convince Billy Wagner to come back for one more season. As much as I like the arms down there, especially Craig Kimbrel, I just can’t get past the youth of this pen. I do like that they added some experience in Scott Linebrink and Sherrill, but neither has been all that effective in the past few years and appear to be 6-7th inning guys. Braves fans have to hope that that one of the young guys is able to jump right in and close games, or they are going to blow many quality outings.
Impact Rookie---The Braves decision to not bring back Derrick Lee at first base opens up the spot for them to break camp with the Prospect Junkies #1 Ranked First Baseman, Freddie Freeman. Freeman had a breakout season in the minors last year, and the Braves will be looking for him to translate those skills to the majors.
Outlook---First and foremost, it is hard to judge what this team will ultimately look like when they take the field. I am speaking specifically about the loss of Bobby Cox. Love him or hate him, he was a fixture in Atlanta and was the face of the franchise. The team he leaves behind has a chance to contend for a playoff spot, but will need big years from Heyward and a few of their young pitchers. The health of Chipper Jones will go a long way, but in the end, I expect the Braves to be battling into September for another shot at a World Series.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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