Mar 20, 2014; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves managerFredi Gonzalez
(33) chats with general manager Frank Wren (left) before spring training action against the New York Mets at Tradition Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Entering the 2013 season, every “expert” involved with Baseball picked the Washington Nationals to win the National League East. One of the many things that is great about this game of baseball, it is played on the field and not on paper. The Atlanta Braves opened the season with a hot month of April, finishing the month with a 17-9 record. One of the biggest reasons for the hot start was newly acquired left fielder Justin Upton.
Unfortunately for Upton, he cooled off for most of the remaining season and hit a combined 15 home runs from May until the end of the season, after hitting 12 in April.
Upton wasn’t the only player opening eyes during the first month of the season. With All Star catcher Bryan McCann out of action due to injury, it gave rookie catcher Evan Gattis a chance and he ran with it. The man also known as “El Oso Blanco” from his days of playing in Venezuela, started his rookie year with a bang
As displayed in the following video, Gattis has some legit power
In 2014, both Upton and Gattis will be regulars in the lineup, along with 1B Freddie Freeman and SS Andrelton Simmons, both of which were signed this off-season multi-year contract extensions plus RF Jason Heyward. The team knows what they will get, and should expect from those 5 players. The biggest question marks for the Braves on offense will come from 2B Dan Uggla and CF B.J. Upton, who both struggled mightily in 2013
Uggla struggled so much throughout the season that he was left off of the NLDS Playoff roster
B.J. who was playing the first year of a 5 year $75.5 million contract with the Braves struggled himself quite a bit and often found himself on the bench, or on the receiving end of boos from Braves fans
As has been the case with this team, since 1991 and their string of playoff appearances almost every season during that time, the Braves depend mostly on their pitching. At the beginning of Spring Training, it looked like the Braves rotation would consist of Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood. Unfortunately over the last couple of weeks, the rotation has hit with big injuries that will result in Medlen being lost for the season (he underwent his second Tommy John surgery this past Tuesday) and Beachy possibly needing his second TJ as well. That is 2 big holes in a fairly inexperienced rotation, but instead of standing pat, Braves General Manager Frank Wren signed free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana to a 1 year $14.1 million deal. The fifth spot in the rotation is expected to be filled by either David Hale of veteran starter Freddy Garcia, and possibly by Gavin Floyd. Floyd is coming off of TJ surgery as well and is not expected back until May or June.
The Braves bullpen is anchored by super closer Craig Kimbrel. With Yankees legend Mariano Rivera retiring following the 2013 season, Kimbrel is now the most dominant and feared closer in the game. Kimbrel is entering his first year of 4 year contract extension signed this off-season.
2013 Record: 96-66 (lost in NLDS)
General Manager: Frank Wren
Manager: Fredi Gonazalez
Biggest Addition: Santana (FA Royals)
Biggest Loss’: Catcher McCann (Yankees) and RHP Tim Hudson (Giants)
Key Injuries: Medlen and Beachy
My Prediction: After winning the NL East in 2013 I don’t see the Braves overcoming all the injuries and will finish in second behind the Washington Nationals.