Friday, March 9, 2012

Atlanta Braves Preview/prediction

Now that we got the division predictions done it is time to dig a little bit deeper.  Between now and the opener in Japan each team will get their own prediction/preview.  I am going to go in alphabetical order.

Our next post takes us down to Atlanta, where they are ready to get going after one of the most epic collapses in Major League History.  Let's get to it!

Infield: Brian McCann at catcher, Freddie Freeman at first base, Dan Uggla at second base, Jack Wilson* at shortstop, and Chipper Jones at third base.

Brian McCann is still one of the better hitting catchers in the game, but I worry about the toll it is taking on him.  Maybe not this year but sometime soon he will start to fall out, just like all catchers do.  The right side of the infield is one of the best hitting groups in all of baseball.  I am a huge Freddie Freeman fan and Dan Uggla will get his 30 home runs again.  I am very worried about the left side of the infield because neither Jack Wilson or Chipper Jones can stay healthy.  If they do they will be good defensively and Chipper can hit, but I think both of these guys will spend significant time on the disable list in 2012.    

* Note: Jack Wilson will not be the shortstop for Atlanta. It will be Tyler Pastornicky who they recieved in the Yunel Escobar trade. Better defense than offense but will still hit .280 and steal some bases.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Freddie Freeman.  That kid can flat out hit a baseball and he will continue to improve.  I think he will hit over 300 this season and hit over 25 home runs.  Uggla will have more home runs but hit way less, so I am going with the kid here.

Outfield: Martin Prado in left field, Michael Bourn in center field, and Jason Heyward in right field

Martin Prado is a serviceable but forgettable left fielder but the other 2 are very talented ball players.  Michael Bourn came over in the trade from Houston last year and them having a full season of him batting in the lead off spot all year long will finally settle this spot down.  Jason Heyward is a wild card here.  He has the most talent in the outfield but he needs to stay healthy.  If he stays healthy he will have a good year, but that is a big if.  

Who will have the best season of these guys?  I think it will be Michael Bourn but that is because I don't think that Heyward will stay healthy all year long.  Bourn will steal 50 bases score over 110 runs and will be a menace in that lead off spot.  

Starting Pitching: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, and one of the kids from the minors (Delgado or Teheran)

Tim Hudson is the ultimate major league pitcher.  The man has been good for so long, and when he comes back he will still be a very effective starter.  Tommy Hanson is a talented young man but again he needs to stay healthy all year long.  Jair Jurrjens is a very good pitcher, and despite the trade rumors this year I think he will be ready to go and win more than 15 games.  Brandon Beachy is a decent #4 starter but I am decided for the battle for #5 between these young guys.  It looks like Delgado is the favorite but Teheran got the call up early last year for a couple of starts.  Both kids have electric stuff and whoever doesn't make it will definitely be up in the big leagues at some point this season.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Jair Jurrjens will have the best season of these five, or six.  Hudson might miss the first month and Hanson is injury proned, and I think Jurrjens will be fine this year and will make Atlanta very happy they didn't trade him this off-season.  

Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlan

The first three were all over worked last year but all three are very good relievers.  Once September hit they just ran out of gas and fell apart, and that is a huge reason for that collapse.  They will not be worked as hard this year as they were last year, and they will be much fresher come September.  I do not see a collapse this year, as long as the bullpen is managed correctly.  

Who will have the best season of these guys?  2011 Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel had a fantastic season as a closer, but I think Johnny Venters will have a better season.  I think he will have more strike outs, a lower ERA and a lower WHIP. Venters was unhittable the first five months last season and again if the innings are managed it will be another good season for Venters.  

Record Prediction: 92-70 2nd in the National League East.  One of the wild cards

Next up:  Baltimore Orioles

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