Saturday, March 26, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Atlanta Braves

With a new manager in town, Fredi Gonzalez, you might think that the Braves will have some problems transitioning.  But, due to the fact that he was Bobby Cox's 3B coach for 4 years, he should have no trouble with the Braves. Also, the fact that he has a very good team should help too.

What they Have: They have a good young lineup, with some new pieces added in.  The major acquisition was of 2B Dan Uggla. He may not seem like he fits the Braves mold, but with the fact that he's playing with Fredi Gonzalez should help. He's a worker every day, and that should help out the Braves. The big pieces still remain with RF Jason Heyward, C Brian McCann, and 3B Chipper Jones, who decided to come back after his injury in August last year. Pitching wise, the rotation is as good as almost any in baseball, lead by Derek Lowe. The young guys also have a place in the rotation, with Tommy Hanson, and Mike Minor. The rest of the rotation is composed of Tim Hudson, and Jair Jurrjens. The bullpen lost closer Billy Wagner to retirement, but has young flamethrower Craig Kimbrel as the incumbent closer. If troubles arise, Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill can close if needed.

What they Don't Have: They had some major defensive issues last season, as they had 126 errors, only one off the high set by Pittsburgh and Washington. Dan Uggla is a better defender, even though his defensive abilities have been defined only by the 2008 all-star game. There are some players that need to step up in order for the Braves to be successful, like prized prospect 1B Freddie Freeman, who has to replace Troy Glaus, and the Braves need offense from guys like CF Nate McLouth and LF Martin Prado. The rotation is good, but the bullpen has questions when the incumbent closer is a rookie that saw limited action last year.

Any Help Coming? RHP Julio Teheran may be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He has 3 potential plus pitches, and a mid 90's fastball.  The other major prospect not yet projected to be on the major league roster is RHP Randall Delgado.  He's still a raw talent, but has the stuff and will to become a very good pitcher for the Braves.

Outlook: Some see this team as having some problems, but Atlanta has a great chance to hop over the Phillies in the NL East. If they can get the offense they need from the role playing guys, and get better defense all around, they may very well win the NL East. If not, they'll surely be a wild card favorite.

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