The Atlanta Braves are coming off a successful regular season, but disappointed in the playoffs. Their big acquisition of Justin Upton last offseason didn’t pay off immediately. They struggled offensively in stretches, but was bailed out by their pitching.
The Braves lost starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Paul Malholm to free agency then lost Kris Medlan and Brandon Beachy with elbow injuries. Newly-signed Ervin Santana & Gavin Floyd will help fill the need, but it will be an uphill battle.
The Braves spent the offseason signing all their young talent to contract extensions. They lost Brian McCann to the Yankees and didn’t sign any impact bats to fill their on-base needs.
Will the Braves repeat as NL East champs?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Atlanta Braves.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 96-66
Key Additions: SP Ervin Santana, C Ryan Doumit & SP Gavin Floyd
Key Losses: C Brian McCann, SP Tim Hudson, SP Paul Maholm, OF Reed Johnson & RP Eric O’Flaherty
Interleague Schedule: AL West + Texas Rangers
Projected Starters: Ryan Doumit, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton & Jason Heyward
Projected Starting Rotation: Ervin Sanatana, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm & Alex Wood
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Fantasy Sleeper: SP David Hale – I did list Brandon Beachy in this section, but his elbow could lead to him missing the season. Hale was going into the season fighting for the #5 spot in the rotation, but with Medlan and Beachy down, he’ll get a full workload. You can get him late in the draft and will be above replacement level.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 2B Tommy La Stella – Dan Uggla goes through stretches when he has a difficult time making contact. La Stella could be a guy the Braves call up to replace him in the order during one of these stretches. The Braves farm system isn’t very deep and their second base options are thin. La Stella is a contact guy who gets on base. The Braves need a guy like that when you have B.J. Upton and Uggla batting under .200. La Stella’s OBP in Double-A was .422 and had a .343 batting average in 324 at-bats. He’s worth keeping an eye on this season.
Team Analysis: Offensively, they have issues. Justin Upton was not the player they expected. He had a terrific first few months of the season, but struggled down the stretch. B.J. Upton and Uggla had two of the worst batting average seasons in recent memory. The two bright spots were Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman. Johnson batted .321, but the rest of his offensive numbers were bland (it’s hard to drive in runs with no one on base). Freeman finally had the breakout season we all expected (23/109/.319). I love me some Evan Gattis, but he just swings for the fence at every at-bat. They lack a guy who can get on base at the top of the order. Major injuries to two starters could push them out of the playoff race. Medlan and Beachy, at their best, are All-Star level pitchers. It will be hard for Santana and Floyd to make up for those losses. That is why I expect Washington to win the NL East.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 88 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 85-77 (2nd in NL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.