Wednesday 4 April 2012

2012 Previews: Atlanta Braves

Last one.

The Majors
I think this is a really good team, top to bottom.  The rotation is really good, the lineup is, at least from an offensive standpoint, really solid, and this is probably the best bullpen in baseball.

It shouldn't really come as a surprise, since they've been doing it for decades now, but this rotation is nice and deep, to the point where they could have moved a starter or two this offseason without much worry.  The Derek Lowe trade was just fine, leaving them with plenty of options to go with, without rushing any of their prospect depth to the majors.  Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor are all front-end starters, and Jair Jurrjens is a pretty good choice for a #5.  Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel make up the two-headed monster at the back of the bullpen, with other weapons such as Eric O'Flaherty there to take up the rest.

As for the lineup, the only real question marks are Tyler Pastornicky and Chipper Jones' hamstring.  I fully expect Jason Heyward to return to 2010 form, but even if he's his 2011 self, that's still above average production from a 23 year old.  Brian McCann and Dan Uggla will provide the power, and Michael Bourn will provide the speed.

I expect plenty of good baseball from this team, and I think they will be the ones to put an end to the stretch of division championships for the Phillies.

The Minors
I think a lot of people overrate this system, thanks to some really special pitching prospects.  They have a lot of great pitchers in the system, but have very few position players within the system.  They can probably turn a lot of that pitching depth, either at the MLB level or at the prospect level, in to position players through trades if needed.

The Verdict
I've got the Braves going to the World Series.  They're a really strong team all around, and have enough prospects and payroll to go for it this year.  Beyond that, Chipper Jones is retiring at the end of the year, so I can see them trying to go nuts in his honor.

Projection: 92-70, 1st in the NL East.

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