The Braves made a great run in 2012, being outdone in the NL East by only the surging Nats. Despite making the playoffs, they found themselves the first victim of the MLB’s new one-game wildcard playoff and never got to show off that great pitching staff in a real series.
The Braves have since shed themselves of a lot of veterans, including Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones, Ben Sheets, Matt Diaz, and Chad Durbin. Their only free agent acquisitions thus far have been B.J. Upton and Gerald Laird meaning they will lean heavily on their home grown guys to fill their holes. Still, the Braves have always had a good mix of young up-and-comers and established veterans and this year’s club is no different. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the Braves in 2013.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: 17th Overall
Batting Average: 21st Overall
ERA: 5th Overall
WHIP: 4th Overall
Dealing with injuries the past two seasons, McCann took a big step back in 2012 batting a career low .230. He did hit 20 home runs and drove in 67 but didn’t look like the McCann of old. Hopefully he can get healthy and return to his spot as one of the top catchers in the league, otherwise it could be more of the same. Laird is your typical veteran backup catcher. The 32-year-old played 63 games in Detroit last season and was able to hit .282 in 174 at bats.
First Base: Freddie Freeman – Grade: B+
Over his first two seasons, the 23-year-old Freeman is batting .271 with 22 HR and 85 RBI per season. He drove in 94 last year and if he can get his strikeouts down he could be a star in this league. Even with his solid numbers Freeman could be poised to have breakout year after fixing some midseason eye problems.
Uggla saw career lows in average (.220), home runs (19), and RBI (78) in 2012. At the same time, the 33-year-old walked a career high 94 times—so maybe we are seeing the evolution of Dan Uggla. Either way, I don’t know if Uggla can remain in a big production role for long.
Coming over from Cincy, the 30-year-old Janish batted .186 in 167 at-bats last season and is a career .216 hitter. What else is there to say?
The Braves see Pastornicky as a starter but he isn’t there yet. He batted just .243 in 169 at-bats in his first major league action last year. Despite having phenomenal speed (149 stolen bases in five minor league seasons), he only attempted two steals last year.
Simmons is one of the top prospects in the country and rocketed through the minors in just three seasons. He batted .299 with 55 doubles and nine triples over that time. Simmons also showed some speed in 237 minor league games (54 stolen bases), skipping Triple-A entirely. He doesn’t strike out much and his glove looks excellent as well. This is a player Braves fans can get excited about.
Third Base: Juan Francisco, Martin Prado – Grade: C
Francisco came over from the Reds in return for J.J. Hoover at the very start of the season. He only ended up with 192 at-bats and batted just .234 with nine HR and 32 RBI. Now the Braves are leaning on him to help fill the void left by Chipper Jones. In the minors he showed potential to hit 25+ home runs and drive in 90+, but there is a reason he spent six seasons in the minors.
Martin Prado could also play third, especially against left-handed pitching. Prado’s position flexibility could be the saving grace for Atlanta’s 3B questions.
The amount of money the Braves gave Upton and whether he is actually better than Michael Bourn are all very debatable. Still, the .246 hitter with 28 HR, 78 RBI, 79 R, and 31 SB is right about what we are used to seeing from him and he is consistently healthy.
After a rough sophomore season, Heyward bounced back nicely in 2012 hitting .269 with 27 HR, 82 RBI, 93 R, and 21 SB. If he can get his strikeouts down, he could be the star he was hyped up to be when he came up as a 20-year-old.
Prado is really one of the league’s most underrated outfielders. A career .295 hitter, he batted .301 last year with 10 HR, 70 RBI, 81 R, and 17 steals. His strikeout-walk ratio is always great and he puts up 40 doubles per year.
Johnson came over from the Cubs last year and while he batted .290 I don’t know why the Braves really need a 36-year-old aging singles hitter on the team.
The Braves traded Schafer to Houston back in 2011 but claimed him off waivers after last season. He is a horrible hitter (.211 last season, .221 career) but his speed makes him a nice fourth outfielder.
At 37, Hudson can still get it done. In 2012 he went 16-7 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Hudson is truly one of the most consistent players in MLB history owning a 3.42 career ERA with just two seasons with ERAs over 4. His .654 career winning percentage is among the league’s best as well.
Medlen spent most of his time in the pen last year but his dominance was undeniable. In 12 starts and 38 relief appearances, Medlen went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. I think he should have been a full-time starter the last two years but he will finally get the chance in 2013.
Maholm came over from the Cubs with Reed Johnson last season. Between Chicago and Atlanta, he went 13-11 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Those are almost the same exact numbers he had the previous year with Pittsburgh except there he went 6-14. Atlanta is a great place for Maholm to really establish himself.
The 24-year-old Minor looked very good in 2012, going 11-10 with a 4.12 ERA and a much improved 1.15 WHIP.
Beachy struggled with injuries and only made 13 starts but he was lights out in those starts with a 2.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. If he can stay healthy, he has the ability to be a Cy Young contender and owns a 3.07 career ERA.
As if the Braves weren’t stacked enough, they also have the very young Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran on the way up. Neither made an impression last year but both are top 40 prospects (Teheran is actually 5th in the country) and are projected to be top of the rotation guys.
Someone needs to tell Craig Kimbrel that no one is supposed to be this good. In 2012, he saved a league-high 42 games while putting up a ridiculous 1.01 ERA and absolutely ridonkulous 0.65 WHIP. In his first two full seasons, Kimbrel has a league-high 88 saves with a 1.61 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, making Mariano Rivera in his prime look like a triple-A player.
Venters and O’Flaherty are two of the best middle-relievers in the league, both owning career ERAs in the 2s.
Walden is a serious up-and-comer who looked great as the Angels’ closer in 2011. So good that the Braves traded Tommy Hanson straight up for him.
Martinez is solid but his 3.90 ERA looks horrid next to the other guys coming out of this otherwise monstrous pen.
Team Grade: B+
Fearless Prediction: 95-67, 2nd in NL East