Atlanta Braves Predictions
The Atlanta Braves won 94 games last season, behind the best bullpen in the National League, and an overachieving starting rotation. Now, they enter the post-Chipper Jones era, hoping they can get a repeat from Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen, whom won a combined 32 of their 42 starts in ’12. The rest of the rotation are big question marks going forward. Chipper, will be impossible to replace, but they did pick up the Upton brothers (B.J & Justin), to add to an already very talented lineup, albeit young. Comeback seasons from both Dan Uggla and Brian McCann are probably necessary, if the Braves are going to make the post-season again, because I’m almost certain their starting rotation are due for a regression in 2013.
Projected Starting Rotation
Tim Hudson (R) – Hudson (16-7, 3.62 ERA) continues to impress opposing hitters with his sinking fastball, tight-breaking-slider, and tremendous off-speed stuff. He is returning from one of his better seasons,’ winning 20 of 28 starts for a team leading 10.95 units of net profit.
Kris Medlen (R) – Medlen, continued his incredible streak into ’12, winning 23 consecutive starts dating back to 2010, before finally recording a loss on the wrong side of the ledger. He finished the season 9-1, with a 1.10 ERA in ’12, but more importantly, Atlanta backers won 12 of his 13 starts for a net profit +10.50 units. He commands a low-90′s fastball with late life, a plus-curveball, and a changeup with great arm-speed and movement, and will soon replace Hudson as the ace of the staff.
Paul Maholm (L) – Maholm, 13-11, 3.69 ERA, between Chicago and Atlanta last season, is not going to overpower anyone. Nevertheless, he has his moments, when his control and off-speed stuff are at their best. After 8 seasons’ in the league, he has a .440 winning percentage with a 4.26 ERA.
Mike Minor (L) – Minor, (11-10, 4.12 ERA, -1.15 units in ’12), is a Paul Maholm clone, except he’s younger and throws a little harder. If he can improve his command and master his changeup, he might be a serviceable bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher going forward.
Julio Teheran (R) – Teheran is expected to battle for one of the backend spots in the rotation. He has a nice 95 mph fastball with movement, combined with a curve & changeup that needs works. However, the time is now, for Teheran to start showing he belongs in the “big show.”
The Braves had arguably the best bullpen in baseball last season, led by closer Craig Kimbrel, who saved 42 games in 45 save opportunities. Jonny Venters is more than a lefty-specialist, and hard throwing Jordan Walden (Angels) will be a key asset, in the late-innings as well.
Andrelton Simmons (SS) – The Braves are expecting big things from Simmons in his second year in the league. He already is considered a top-tier fielding shortstop, and has tremendous upside at the plate. In 166 AB’s last season, he hit .289 with 13 extra-base-hits.
B.J. Upton (CF) – Upton, parlayed his .255 BA, 28 HR’s and 31 stolen bases with the Rays last season, into a 5-year, $75.25 million free-agent contract. The Braves would like him to improve his on-base-percentage (.289 in ’12). Nevertheless, Upton is entering the prime of his career, and may benefit from playing alongside his brother, who was picked up in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Jason Heyward (RF) – Entering his 4th full-season in the league, Heyward has improved every season. He hit .269 last season, with 27 HR’s, 30 doubles, 6 triples, and drove in 82 runs. He also won his first Gold Glove in right-field. Many pundits consider him a future Most Valuable Player winner.
Justin Upton (LF) – Justin, fell out of favor in Arizona, despite being their best player the last 5-seasons’ running. The two-time All-Star, has averaged 23 HR’s, 78 RBIs and 19 stolen bases the last four seasons combined. Given his age (25), and 6-years of experience in the league, he’s expected to be a 35 HR, 100 RBI player going forward. Plus, he should be highly motivated after being traded, and more comfortable playing with his brother, and the surrounding talent in Atlanta.
Freddie Freeman (1B) – Freeman, only 23 years old, is another major young talent in Atlanta’s lineup. Entering his third full-seasons in the league, he has already put up impressive offensive numbers. Last season he hit .259 with 23 HR’s, 58 EBH’s and 94 RBI’s. In ’11, he had similar numbers, hitting .282 with 53 EBH’s and drove in 76 runs.
Dan Uggla (2B) – Uggla’s bat declined considerably in ’12, after averaging 30+ home runs in his first six seasons’ in the league . Normally, he is either streaky good or bad, but he always draws a lot of walks (94, led NL in ’12). Plus, he is a clubhouse leader, which can’t be discounted now, with the retirement of Chipper Jones. If Uggla, can bounce-back in ’13, Atlanta will have one of the most dangerous lineups in the National League.
Brian McCann (C) – McCann, is coming off a shoulder injury, and may not be ready for the season opener. Nevertheless, he’s one of the best offensive catchers in the game, and he’s playing in a contract year. He has a lifetime .279 BA, .351 OBP, and has averaged 20+ HR’s, 30+ doubles in his career. Gerald Laird and Matt Pagnozzi will fill-in until McCann returns to the playing field.
Juan Francisco (3B) – Will share time with Chris Johnson coming over in Upton trade. They will both have the monumental task of replacing the retired Chipper Jones.
2013 Atlanta Braves Betting Odds
· To win World Series +1400
· To win National League Pennant +600
· To win National League East +240
· Total Regular Season Wins Over 87.5 Wins +100
· Total Regular Season Wins Under 87.5 Wins -120
I’m predicting the Atlanta Braves will finish third in the National League East, with a 87-75 record.
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