Sunday, February 21, 2010

30 Teams in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

Projected Lineup

1. Nate McLouth CF
2. Yunel Escobar SS
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Troy Glaus 1B
6. Martin Prado 2B
7. Melky Cabrera LF
8. Matt Diaz/Jason Heyward RF

Starting Rotation: Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Kenshin Kawakami

Closer: Billy Wagner, with spot saves to Takashi Saito

What I like:

- For Atlanta, like always it begins and ends with starting pitching, and this year's staff is one of the sickest most underrated ones in baseball. Anchored by wily reliable veteran Derek Lowe, and up and coming stud Jair Jurrjens, the Braves SP is as deep as they come.
- But the real stud of the staff is going to be sophomore Tommy Hanson, who electrified the fantasy world in his rookie campaign, going 11-4, with a sub 3 ERA, and 116 K's in only 127 innings pitched. Hanson's stuff is electric, and when he is on his game, he's unhittable. Hanson will provide you with tremendous mid-round fantasy value, and I'd be willing to reach a round early if necessary to snag him.
- Atlanta's lineup, while lacking a monster threat, is fairly balanced from top to bottom. Look for Nate McLouth to rebound from a disappointing '09 campaign, and Yunel Escobar to continue being one of the more underrated SS in the game. Atlanta also possesses the #1 prospect in the land OF Jason Heyward who has drawn many comparisons to Ryan Howard. If he earns a starting job, he has ROY potential written all over him, with a high contact rate, and tremendous power (could be this year's Longoria...not going to say Braun, because Braun's rookie year was a once-in-a-lifetime season)

What I dislike:

- While Atlanta has a very good mix of veterans, and young talent with high upside, they are lacking players who are in the prime of their careers, the guys who carry your team.
- Their lineup doesn't have any weak links, but doesn't have any particularly strong ones either. Chipper is old, and is a lock to miss at least 30 or so games as he always does, and ATL doesn't have a big power bat, or any big speed threats (McLouth led them with 19 SB last year). They are going to have to score runs by stringing a bunch of hits together, which inevitably will lead to plenty of close losses.
- Their bullpen has the potential to be strong, with the Wagner/Saito mix, and young stud Kris Medlen in the middle, but both are injury risks, and don't inspire a ton of confidence in me.

Prognosis: Atlanta's starting pitching is too strong and too deep for this to be a losing ballclub. Tim Hudson is the wildcard, but if he stays healthy, this has the potential to be a very good team, despite their flaws. While they aren't going to compete with the Phillies, they should stay in the Wild Card race up until the last week or two, where they will eventually fall short.

88-74 2nd in the NL East

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