Atlanta Braves (2012 finish: 94-68, 2nd Place [top Wild Card spot])
Key Losses - The list is actually quite long, but topping it is Larry Jones, who toured the US for his swan song before calling it quits after their 6-3 loss to the Cardinals in the Wild Card game. Other key subtractions include the versatile Martin Prado (traded to D’backs), center fielder Michael Bourn (signed with Indians) and pitcher Tommy Hanson (traded to Angels), as well as catcher David Ross (signed with Red Sox.)
Key Additions - Upton. They traded for Justin Freakin’ Upton. Oh…and they signed his brother, B.J. Upton, to play center field (was I not supposed to bring emotion into this presentation?) They also shored up their bullpen depth behind Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel when they aquired Jordan Walden in the Tommy Hanson trade.
Rookie to Watch - Julio Teherán, RHP, Starter: Julio struggled in AAA last year in his age-22 season, going 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts. The Braves even passed on calling him back up when they had rotation issues last year, trading for Paul Maholm, signing Ben Sheets and calling up Randall Delgado instead of allowing Julio to leave the schoolyard. He has been in the Majors before, but was not up long enough to qualify for any rookie season. With the 5th spot open for the Braves, his dominant spring has him as the most likely choice.
…The Braves have a scary lineup. I personally believe if it clicks, it could be one of the greatest lineups in the history of baseball (and I’m not sure that’s an overstatement…) Justin Upton and B.J. Upton will most likely make each other better as they constantly try to one-up one another throughout the season. They are protected by some quality young players like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, who should only continue to get better, especially with the Upton Brothers as part of the equation. Though they lost versatility and depth when they traded Martin Prado and lost solid bench presences in Eric Hinske (signed with D’Backs), Lyle Overbay (signed with Red Sox) and Matt Diaz (signed with Yankees [though he was just released.]) Those losses, however, shouldn’t make or break the team, especially with José Constanza becoming a mainstay and Blake DeWitt signed as a non-roster invitee (he was awful for the Cubs last year in limited appearances.)
Their starting rotation will certainly keep them in games and keep them at the top of the division. Though Kris Medlen is slightly injured right now, he will likely open the season up for the Braves, though neither he nor Tim Hudson have been running away with the nod this Spring. Hudson is now 37 and has clearly lost some of his ace-ness, but he is still as professional of a pitcher as it gets and is nothing to sneeze at. Mike Minor, the once-highly-touted prospect, has not had the kind of success at the Major League level that the Braves and their fans were hoping for. As with many young pitchers, Minor needs to get his control under control. Paul Maholm is back and is a perfect pitcher to have in the middle/back-end of the staff. And as stated in the Rookie to Watch section, Julio Teherán will most likely hold up the backend with Brandon Beachy out till mid-June. What type of production they get from him remains to be seen.
Projected 2013 Finish:
The Nationals still have the edge here for me. Braves most likely 2nd place finish while battling for the 2 wild card spots.