Team Ace: Kris Medlen
Most Valuable Position Player: Jason Heyward
Breakout Candidate: Andrelton Simmons
Notable Offseason Additions: Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Chris Johnson
Notable Offseason Losses: Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Randall Delgado
Biggest Team Weakness: The Infield
The Atlanta Braves are another team that made a lot of noise in the offseason but I don’t think the team actually improved at all. They lost one of the more versatile fielders and consistent hitters in the game when they traded away Martin Prado for Justin Upton. They lost long-time captain and third baseman Chipper Jones when he retired, who even in his later years out performed his replacement Chris Johnson’s usual production. They let Michael Bourn walk away to free agency and replaced him with B.J. Upton, meaning that the team has essentially put together the three most similar outfielders in the league. And they no longer have young starting pitchers Tommy Hanson or Randall Delgado, who at the beginning of last season looking like the future of their rotation.
37-year-old Tim Hudson will start his 9th season with the Braves as their opening day starter, but his production was down last year and the team is really banking on Kris Medlen and Paul Maholm repeating their 2012 success. The strongest aspect is still their bullpen, and if the starters can hold a lead, they’ll have no problem winning games.
Dan Uggla is really a bad player. Defensively, he’s the worst starting second baseman in the majors. His homerun numbers are down, his strike out rate is up, and he’s looking more like a sub .240 hitter every season. Freddie Freeman has been somewhat disappointing in his first two full seasons, but he’s still only 23 and maybe this is the year he breaks out. Another young bat is shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who’s known for his stellar defense and was hitting at a high level before an injury knocked him out for the last few months of 2012.
Their lineup is younger coming into this season, which might have some positive long-term results, but for a team that was competitive the last three seasons, that might mean a loss of production right now.