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Monday, February 18, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Atlanta Braves

Wild on Sports
MLB 2013 Team Preview: Atlanta Braves
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Atlanta Braves
2012 Record: 94-68, lost NL Wild Card
The Braves were a good team, but they played second fiddle all year to the Nationals and they fell victim to the new wild card rules, as the Cardinals won 6 less games in the regular season and still were able to beat the Braves in a controversial one-game playoff.  

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Justin Upton, BJ Upton
NOTABLE LOSSES: Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens

Keys to Success: How good a pitcher can Kris Medlen be? He was amazing down the stretch last year, but even when he was a solid prospect, he’s never been projected to be an ace like he was in August and September. How much further development does Mike Minor have left, if anything? He also was much better in the second half last year, and his maturation could go a long way towards replacing the recently departed Tommy Hanson, who the Braves had much higher hopes for. How will the the Braves replace Chipper Jones, who was not only the franchise face for over a decade, but also maintained strong production up until his retirement. Do the Braves even have an average third basemen among their current infielders? How will BJ Upton adjust to the National League? What is the health status of Tim Hudson?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key 
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool

 
JULIO TEHERAN, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
x
TBD
x
Teheran, one of the top 10 prospects in baseball entering the year, suffered through a disappointing campaign as his velocity was down and he adjusted his delivery, resulting in down numbers across the board. After dominating AAA-Gwinnett in 2011 (15-3, 2.55 ERA), he went 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA and a 97/43 K/BB ratio in 131 innings. The 6.7 K/9 is particularly discouraging as very few pitchers go on to be regular starters in the majors without a K/9 above 8 in the high minors, or incredible control. Teheran made a spot start with Atlanta and perhaps he was anxious to stay in the big leagues, a problem with some players who are stalled in AAA. His potential is still high, as he’s still just 22 this year and profiles at least a mid rotation starter. Atlanta might give him an extended look.
JR GRAHAM, RHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
TBD
x
x
x
Graham is the best of a number of pitchers in Atlanta’s system who really don’t project to be better than a fourth starter in the majors. Graham’s ceiling is slightly higher due to good velocity and success in the high minors. He went 9-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 17 starts with High-A Lynchburg, then went 3-1 with a 3.18 in 9 starts for AA Mississippi. His control is impressive-34 walks in 148 innings in total-but he’s not a top prospect because his 6.7 K/9 (look familiar?) is quite low, although he jumped from 6.0 to 8.3 in AA. He does generate more ground ball outs, which could offset the low strikeout totals. A very optimistic comparison might be ex-brave Jair Jurrjens…pre-2012 Jair, that is.   

2012 Top Pick: LUCAS SIMS, LHP

Sleeper MLB contributor: EVAN GATTIS boast impressive right-handed power and he’s already 26, so he could see time at several positions, although only an injury in Atlanta’s lineup would allow him to move off the bench. 

2013 Outlook and Projections: The Braves had a strange winter. Superficially it looks like they went all-in by landing the Upton brothers and setting themselves up for another strong season. However, in reality, they merely retooled their roster, and while it is now primed to compete past 2013 and the Chipper Jonnes era, the Braves’ new acquisitions only replace last year’s production in the outfield. The loss of Martin Prado leaves them with a large hole at third base, currently filled by mediocrities Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco, either of whom could combust into uselessness. If the Braves do win more games in 2013, it will probably be because youngsters Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and/or one of their sophomore pitchers, achieve a new level of success. They have a thin farm system with some potential risers but no current top tier prospects beyond Julio Teheran so a trade midseason for someone significant is unlikely. It is a shame that they basically got nothing for both Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, two pitchers who a year ago could have individually fetched a talent like Upton (or a comparable package). The fact that they could lose those two and still have a good staff speaks to their overflow of great young pitching (Tim Hudson notwithstanding), both in the rotation and in the bullpen. And just as Kris Medlen stepped in midway through last year to be a top starter, Brandon Beachy could do the same when he comes back from Tommy John surgery.
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