|C||Brian McCann||SP 1||Tommy Hanson|
|1B||Troy Glaus||SP 2||Derek Lowe|
|2B||Martin Prado||SP 3||Tim Hudson|
|3B||Chipper Jones||SP 4||Jair Jurrjens|
|SS||Yunel Escobar||SP 5||Kenshin Kawakami|
|CF||Nate McLouth||CL||Billy Wagner|
|RF||Matt Diaz||RP||Takashi Saito|
|OF||Erik Hinske||RP||Kris Medlen|
|IF||Omar Infante||RP||Eric O’Flaherty|
Additional roster information can be found at MLB Depth Charts.
|Key Additions||Key Losses|
|LF||Melky Cabrera||Trade (NYY)||SP||Javier Vazquez||Trade (NYY)|
|1B||Troy Glaus||Free Agency||RP||Rafael Soriano||Trade (TAM)|
|RP||Billy Wagner||Free Agency||RP||Mike Gonzalez||Free Agency|
Top Prospects: Jason Heyward (OF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Arodys Vizcaino (P)
The Braves finished 3rd in the NL East last season, 7 games back of the NL Champion Phillies. The Braves waited to bring up top prospect Tommy Hanson until early June, and there has been discussion that they might have made the playoffs had they started the season with him in the rotation. The pitching rotation was led by Hanson (11-4, 2.89 ERA, 116 strikeouts in 127 innings) and offseason acquisition Javier Vazquez (15-10, 2.87, 238 strikeouts in 219 innings). The bullpen was finished by flame-throwing relievers, Mike Gonzalez (10 sv, 2.42 ERA) and Rafael Soriano (27 sv, 2.97 ERA).
The Braves helped to shore up their outfield midseason with the acquisition of CF Nate McLouth from the Pirates. They also surprised a lot of people by moving RF Jeff Francouer midseason to the division rival Mets for OF Ryan Church. McLouth provided a .257 batting average, 11 HR and 12 SB in the half-season with the Braves. The lineup was also led by veteran Brian McCann (.281, 21 HR), and late season acquisition Adam LaRoche (.325, 12 HR, 40 RBI in 57 games).
Team Outlook for 2010
The Braves were one of the few teams that entered the offseason with an abundance of starting pitching. Having signed Tim Hudson to an extension, they now had 6 starters for 5 spots. As a result of this, they traded top starter Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for CF Melky Cabrera and prospects. The team still comes into 2010 with an excellent rotation from top to bottom. Free agent signees Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito will help to stabilize the back end of the bullpen following the losses of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez to trade and free agency, respectively.
The biggest story out of Atlanta this spring has to be the emergence of top prospect RF Jason Heyward. Heyward, considered by many to be the top prospect in baseball right now, is threatening to force the Braves to keep him up and give him the starting RF job on Opening Day. He’s only played 3 games above AA level, but should be patrolling RF for the Braves for a long time. He posted a .323./.408/.555 split line across 3 levels last year. I wrote about him a bit more in depth earlier this year.
The key for the Braves is going to be on the offensive side. They will need improved production from 3B Chipper Jones, and a return to form by free agent signee Troy Glaus. I think that they can compete for the division or the Wild Card if they can get enough offense and run-support for these solid pitchers.
Fantasy Outlook for 2010
The top fantasy players on the Braves would have to include C Brian McCann and SP Tommy Hanson. As always, closers provide value as well, and I think that we could see a return to form from Billy Wagner. In deeper leagues, OF Jason Heyward, SP Tim Hudson, and SS Yunel Escobar can all provide differing levels of value.
Prediction for 2010
The Braves did well this offseason with some of their moves (Wagner, Glaus, Saito), but in my opinion, they simply are not likely to get the production that they will need out of their offense to help them compete with the class of the division. I think that if Heyward starts the season patrolling RF, it could potentially be enough to get them into the front of the Wild Card chase.
83-79, 3rd in the NL East