Full preview for the Atlanta Braves’ 2014 season

Fair or Foul?

The+Braves+will+need+stellar+performances+from+players+like+Freddie+Freeman+if+they+are+to+have+any+chance+in+the+playoffs+this+season.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Full preview for the Atlanta Braves’ 2014 season

The Braves will need stellar performances from players like Freddie Freeman if they are to have any chance in the playoffs this season.

The Braves will need stellar performances from players like Freddie Freeman if they are to have any chance in the playoffs this season.

Curtis Compton

The Braves will need stellar performances from players like Freddie Freeman if they are to have any chance in the playoffs this season.

Curtis Compton

Curtis Compton

The Braves will need stellar performances from players like Freddie Freeman if they are to have any chance in the playoffs this season.

Steven Bettler, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






The Atlanta Braves are going into the 2014 season with a mission: win the World Series. Now, this is no different from any other season, but many believe that this will be the year for the Braves to go all the way. Their chances are good, but here is a look at how good the Braves are in each aspect of their game.

Pitching: B-

The Braves have one of the deepest bullpens around. For the past several years, their bullpen has remained one of the most dominant aspects of the organization. As great as that is, there are now a few holes, both in the bullpen, and in the starting rotation. Eric O’ Flaherty is no longer on the team, and dominant reliever Johnny Venters will not be in action until June at the earliest, leaving two massive holes in the Braves bullpen.

Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both underwent Tommy John surgery in March, which means that neither of them will be pitching at all this season. Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang signed with the team in mid-March to try and fill those holes, and so far both have been able to deliver on the mound.

 

Infield: B

Andrelton Simmons is currently the most exciting fielder in baseball, drawing comparisons to Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Smith. Freddie Freeman is the perfect height for a first-baseman, using his surprising athletic ability to turn would-be-errors into exciting outs. Chris Johnson is no Gold Glove candidate, but his reaction time allows him to survive over at the “hot corner” at third base. Evan Gattis is a fairly decent catcher. He may not be the best catcher in baseball, but he is not the worst either.

The only reason that the Braves infield is a “B” is because of Dan Uggla. His fielding is better than his hitting has been in recent seasons, but not by much. He is a serious liability at second base, and while many fans wish the Braves could trade Uggla, there simply are not any teams willing to pick up his salary due to his production (or lack thereof).

 

Outfield: A

Jason Heyward has not gotten enough credit for his defensive contributions to the Braves the past few years. He is fairly quick for a man his size, and he has good reaction time and natural fielding instinct. Justin Upton is a great all-around fielder, ranking above most of his peers in quickness and athletic ability. What BJ Upton lacked last season in his hitting, he made up for with his speed and fielding. Unfortunately, he did not get on base enough to fully utilize his speed on the base path, but he was able to make numerous plays out in centerfield that many outfielders could not pull off. Overall, the Braves have one of the most solid outfields in all of baseball.

 

Hitting: A

This is a tentative grade. There are three notable liabilities in the Braves lineup, but all three have the potential to have a great year. BJ Upton struggled for most of 2013, but he did have two decent months at the plate (June and August). If Upton can start the season off on a better foot than last year, and avoid major slumps, he could potentially be a valuable asset for the team. Andrelton Simmons may be a wizard in the field, but he struggles at the plate. The good news is that he is still incredibly young (24), and he is entering only his second full season in the major leagues, so he has plenty of room to improve.

The biggest liability on the Braves roster is Dan Uggla. Uggla had a .179 batting average last season, which was the lowest batting average in the major leagues. Uggla has never hit above .290 in his career, which is not that bad considering that he consistently hits 20-plus home runs a season. The problem is that those numbers have not happened since he joined the Braves in 2011. With the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins), Uggla hit roughly 30 home runs per season, something he has only done once with the Braves (36 in 2011). Since then, he has been lucky to hit 20 home runs. So far this season, Uggla has been good at the plate. If he can keep up this production for the rest of the season, then the Braves will have a solid “A.”

 

Overall: B+

 

Projected Record: 88-74

The Braves are a good team, but they are far from a playoff lock. While fans can hope that the pitching staff will sort itself out, it is not likely. More likely than not, the Braves will go through seven or eight starters before the season ends, with three or four of them turning in successful seasons. Simmons and Upton are off to slow starts, but Uggla has managed to hold his own at the plate thus far.

The club has two options with Uggla at this point. Firstly, they could hope he continues to hit well and wait out the rest of his contract. The other option is to take advantage of his rising stock and try to trade him. Dealing him to another team would free the team of having to pay the remainder of his $26,000,000 contract that runs through the end of the 2015 season.

At this point, the Braves are contenders. With luck, they could even secure a wild card slot. While it is not likely that they will enjoy a prolonged stint in the playoffs, it is not out of the question. If certain aspects of their game improve, they could surprise quite a few people with a strong showing this season, and potentially the playoffs.