The Braves would like to forget about the 2012 season, primarily because of the way it ended.
It was the finally ride for Chipper Jones and the beginning of the sudden death wild card playoffs.
In Atlanta’s matchup against St. Louis, there was a controversial call with the infield fly rule that cost them the game.
This offseason, the club is working to make sure that they never have to play in another wild card game ever again.
They started by signing Rays centerfielder BJ Upton, after talks with Michael Bourn seemed to regress.
Upton has the speed and instincts to do a ton of damage once he gets on base, and has added some power in the past two seasons.
It wasn’t enough to have just one Upton, as Atlanta made a blockbuster deal with Arizona to acquire Justin Upton.
The Braves sent SP Randall Delgado, UTL Martin Prado, SS Nick Ahmed, SP Zeke Spruill, and 3B Brandon Drury to the Diamondbacks for OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson.
Arizona might say that they benefited the most by the deal, with Prado as the focal point that can contribute now. The other members of the deal are set to contribute more in the future.
Delgado pitched in the Braves’ rotation last season and could factor into Arizona’s by mid-season this year.
Atlanta made a minor deal on the side by trading SP Tommy Hanson to the Angels for RP Jordan Walden, in order to sure up their bullpen.
They already have the best closer in baseball, in Craig Kimbrel, but they needed help in the sixth and seventh innings last year.
It was an interesting move that they chose to trade away two starters this offseason, with Brandon Beachy not set to return from a Tommy Johns injury until late June.
The emergence of last season’s hero Kris Medlen can’t pitch everyday, but the Braves are confident that some of their younger arms can step up.
Atlanta comes into 2013 without Chipper Jones for the first time in 19 seasons, but they do sport a lineup filled with big names and a promising pitching staff.
The Braves are looking to regain control of the NL East, favored by Washington, and avoid another wildcard debacle.
Let’s see if they have enough to capture a divisional title…
BRAVES PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Andrelton Simmons SS He didn’t blow you away with his stats, but Simmons did hit .289 in 49 games last season. He took over for a struggling Tyler Pastornicky. He’s not a power-hitter, but you should see a drastic increase in his stolen base totals in his first full season of major league action.
2. Jason Heyward RF He’s only 23 and already entering his 4th MLB season. He’s coming off of career highs in every category. His batting average is the only thing to worry about, but the increase from .227 in ’11 to .269 in ’12 is at least an improvement. Heyward is a no.2 type of OF to draft.
3. Justin Upton LF He didn’t perform like a 1st round fantasy pick last year, but his numbers were quite similar to his 2010 totals…just before he broke out with 31 homers in 2011. I’m not saying that he’s going to reach those totals, but he’ll be much better this season now that he’s happy about where he’s playing. There were obviously issues between him and the Arizona management, so expect a bounce back season from Upton at a discount price in drafts.
4. Freddie Freeman 1B Had a lackluster batting average, but improved in every other category in 2012. He’s hit 20+ home runs in back-to-back seasons, which could see a boost this year. Freeman isn’t yet that first name that you think of when drafting a first baseman, but he’s definitely a top 10 target at the position that comes at a cheaper draft price.
5. BJ Upton CF He has a horrible batting average, but will get you 23+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases. If you can put up with the average, Upton is more of a third OF option on draft day that could see a boost in numbers as he bats further down the lineup.
6. Dan Uggla 2B He hit a career-low 19 home runs, to go along with his .220 batting average. Uggla just hasn’t been the same since he’s come over to Atlanta, but he was hitting at the top of the lineup. Now that he’s further down in the order, Uggla will have less pressure to get on base and just concentrate on hitting. He always seems to have a better second half, these past two seasons, but he’s still a top 2B name on draft day because of optimism.
7. Brian McCann C He went from the best catcher in fantasy to an afterthought over one season. He won’t be back until mid-April due to a shoulder injury, which will be something to watch for on draft day. The catcher draft pool is a little deeper nowadays, but he’s still a decent second tier option.
8. Chris Johnson 3B He’ll start off in a platoon role with Juan Francisco for the early parts of this season. He has the better resume and all around game, which is why he should see a majority of the playing time. He’s nothing more than a post-draft watchlist candidate because of the platoon role.
1. Tim Hudson His strikeout totals have decreased over the years, but still produces double digit wins and an ERA around 3+. He’s not the ace of the staff, but he can be a late round option on draft day.
2. Kris Medlen In 12 starts, he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA. You can’t expect the ERA to stay the same, but maybe somewhere in the middle 2′s is more realistic for his first full MLB season. Many owners will reach for him on draft day, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not worthy of being one of the top 15 pitchers drafted.
3. Mike Minor Was one of the best second half pitchers in ’12, going 6-4 with a 2.16 ERA in his final 14 starts. His overall ERA last season was dismal, but seemed to put it all together in the second half last season. You can get him late because of his overall numbers.
4. Paul Maholm Seemed to find new life after being traded to Atlanta last season. He’s always had the talent, but not the run support. He is a highly regarded pitcher to be slated in the 4th spot, which means that he’ll benefit going up against weaker matchups. Keep that in mind when he becomes available in your draft.
5. Julio Teheran He’s the top rated prospect in the Braves system, but is on a short leash because Brandon Beachy will be returning some time in June. Now, that gives him a little over two months to make his case. Plenty of time to audition for a solidified role. Just keep in mind when you draft him that he might not stick around for the full season.
RP-Craig Kimbrel Just when you think that he couldn’t get any better, he did. Kimbrel is undoubtedly the best closer in baseball today. He has produced back-to-back years of 40+saves, and decreased his ERA by a whole point. It was already stellar at 2.10 in 2011, all the way down to 1.01 in 2012. There’s no such thing as reaching for someone as efficient as he is.
Julio Teheran is the Braves’ top prospect. His stats have fluctuated the past two seasons, which is why he wasn’t given a longer look last season. The only reason he has a chance to make the starting rotation this offseason is because Brandon Beachy won’t return until sometime in June. Not saying that Teheran doesn’t have the stuff to be considered an elite pitcher, I’m just saying that it’s not going to happen this year. If you feel like rolling the dice, he’s only worth drafting in the last rounds. Just keep in mind that he could be gone by June.
If there’s ever a year to draft Dan Uggla, it’s this one. He’s barely hit over .230 that past two seasons in Atlanta, he’s coming off a career-low 19 home run season, and isn’t hitting in the number two spot anymore. So you ask why? BECAUSE this is the first season that he doesn’t have high expectations. If you look at the last two seasons, he had a lot of pressure in his first year with Atlanta, then pressure to bounce back last year. He comes into this offseason 20 lbs lighter, he has less pressure to perform in his new lineup spot, and he’s in between two solid players in BJ Upton and Brian McCann. He might be so successful in his new role that he’s moved back up the order later in the season, but there’ll be some time before that happens. Uggla’s draft stock is the lowest it’s ever been, because of his horrible 2012 season, so take advantage of it on draft day.