2012 MLB Team Preview: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves

2011—89-73

Key Additions— None

Key Losses——-Derek Lowe, Alex Gonzalez

Lineup—I expect this offense to be about what they were last year when they won 89 games and really fell on their face to lose out on the playoffs. The outfield starts with Jason Heyward. He really struggled last year but you have to hope he can put it behind him and learn from it. He will be a big key to this offense. I really like Michael Bourn. Although I would like him to get on base more, when he gets on he steals and sets up runs. That is a great guy to have at the top of the lineup. LF is split, with Eric Hinske getting time and Martin Prado filling in at times as well. Although I don’t believe Gonzalez is a huge loss, I still believe he was better than what they will have at that position this year. Prado and Chipper Jones, in his last year, will man 3b. For one I hope Chipper can contribute one last time for this team. It is refreshing to see a player spend his whole career with 1 team. The right side of the infield has a chance to be very good for this team. Dan Uggla has a monster power year last year, but needs to bring his average up. Freddie Freeman was pretty solid, and they hope he can get better. Brian McCann offensively is one of the best in the game, so you can expect him to continue to produce. Although they did not make a splash on offense, I do think this offense if Heyward can emerge is plenty good enough to win the division.

Pitching—Health, Health, Health. I know I have said it a few times, but this is what this staff is all about. When you have youngsters who need to prove they can stay healthy and a veteran in Tim Hudson who is out for the first few weeks, you have to question the ability to get through 162 games. However, the depth they have built will help them accomplish that. Considering all of the trade rumors around Jair Jurrjens, he is expected to anchor this rotation. With Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy lining up behind him, that is powers arms at the front of this rotation. With Hudson out to start the year, that leave youngsters to fill in at the back end. But to be clear, very good youngsters at that. Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran all have great arms and potential, and expect to fit in the Braves plan for a long time. This bullpen was lights out last year, and although they return many of the same guys I have concerns that the work load put on them last year will come back to haunt them. I hope I am wrong, because they are fun to watch with Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters coming in to close it out. As a pitching staff as a whole though, they are definitely capable of winning this division.

Outlook—With a few breaks going their way, I think we are going to see the Braves in a very similar position as last year, battling it out for a playoff spot. However, this relies on Heyward stepping it up a notch, some of their veterans staying healthy, and the youngsters in the staff and bullpen maintaining the numbers that they had last year. All in all though, I really like not only what this team looks like for this year, but also into the future. And although I was never a huge Chipper Jones fan, I would love to see him go out on a positive note.

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