Monday, March 07, 2005


2005 Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

I don't think the Braves are the most talented team in their division. At all. But I figure everything is going to magically fall into place for them like it does every year, and until they don't win the division I'm picking them to win it. I would rather be wrong in saying they will win then ignoring them and having them make me look my guess is now they will blow it since I'm taking this course of action...bastards.

I actually have a lot of faith in the Braves to win, since they have done some great things like lose Russ Ortiz. A full season of Marcus Giles should be a help to an offense that lacks the presence of J.D. Drew this year.

Julio Franco, 1B: I say let Franco play on the cheap until he physically cannot. He does his job, he earns his money.

Brian Jordan, OF: I question how much he will play, and I only say he’ll play well when he does because that seems to be the way with the Braves.

Raul Mondesi, OF: I can see Mondesi crying in an interview later, telling the media how much Bobby Cox taught him to become mature…and then Mazzone taught him a nasty slider. Mondesi for $1 million is a chance worth taking when you have the Schuerholz horseshoe on your side. Mondesi might put his unreliable ways behind him finally only because he's realizing it isn't 1999 anymore and he's not guaranteed tons of money from a stupid Blue Jays contract.

Gabe White, RP: Not his best season in 2004. If he can be fixed its by Mazzone. I know it sounds like a copout just saying the Braves will fix these guys, but isn’t that how its been for 13 years or whatever now?

Via Trade: Acquired Tim Hudson for Charles Thomas, prospect Dan Meyer, and Juan Cruz.

Acquiring Hudson is a good move for the Braves. Hudson had one problem that Beane was probably subliminally worried about. His strikeout rate continued to drop (as well as Mulder’s) and that is usually a pretty good indicator of future performance. Charles Thomas is only a fourth outfielder at best, and the Braves bullpen is always good, so losing Cruz should not hurt too much. Hudson will help this team more than Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd, and hopefully more than Jaret Wright of 04'.

Acquired closer Danny Kolb for Jose Capellan

Danny Kolb also has a dropping strikeout rate. Same idea as with Hudson. This also allows Smoltz to return to the rotation, but I think he might be a 6 inning or 90 pitch guy. Chances are good those will be 90 really good pitches though.
I would much prefer having Smoltz close than Kolb, but when you look at this rotation minus Smoltz it just does not look as good.

The Braves might replace (well not fully) some of the production of J.D. Drew if #1 ranked prospect Andy Marte (.301 Equivalent Average in the minors last year) is given enough time with the club in 05'. Another young player, Ryan Langerhans, should eventually get the outfield spot that Brian Jordan is holding. Maybe the Braves should let Mike Hampton play in the outfield instead of Brian Jordan. What if he hits .280 with 10 HR's? And he won't be pitching anymore...everyone wins. Obviously I'm kidding, but it would be funny if Hampton gave up pitching and became a DH after his massive contract ends.

1) Rafael Furcal
2) Adam LaRoche
3) Marcus Giles
4) Chipper Jones
5) Andruw Jones
6) Raul Mondesi
7) Johnny Estrada
8) Brian Jordan/Ryan Langerhans

The Braves will need Andy Marte's bat in this lineup. Absolutely need it. As great as Marcus Giles is, he would be better in the second spot with Chipper Jones batting third and Marte or Andruw Jones batting cleanup. Also, LaRoche isn't exactly the OBP machine you want out of your #2 spot, but Giles needs to bat third in this lineup minus Marte.

1) John Smoltz
2) Tim Hudson
3) Mike Hampton
4) John Thomson
5) Horacio Ramirez

If Smoltz's elbow can hold up over the course of the season than this will be a successful 1-2 punch in the rotation. Hampton isn't really a #3 starter, but Thomson's better than a #4 anyways. Horacio Ramirez looks like a great young option as the #5 starter with his ERA of 2.39 in 10 games (9 starts) last season, but his K/9 is below leave average at 4.62 and his K:BB ratio is 31:30...that is awful. He had a 2.06 GB/FB (Groundball to Flyball ratio) last year, which is good, but with all those walks there is going to be a lot of praying for double plays. Not everyone can be Carlos Zambrano; just ask Derek Lowe.

The Braves bullpen looks good, with guys like Chris Reitsma and Tom Martin, along with new additions Gabe White (who the Braves hope reverts to some of his past form) and Dan Kolb form a strong bullpen to go along with whatever pieces Mazzone and Schuerholz can pick up and fix along the way (Chris Hammond anyone?). Dan Kolb worries me as closer, because he is not dominant. I don't mean that in a he doesn't feature a blazing fastball and attitude way, because neither does Keith Foulke. I mean it more like his K/9 is 3.30, which is extremely low, and he relies almost entirely on his ability to make guys ground out. This is not a bad thing at all, it just might get scary sometime when there are guys on base because someone hit a fly ball when you needed a double play. His GB/FB ratio was very extreme last year, at 3.49, and 3.33 in 2003. If he reverts to his 2002 level though (2.65) his ERA might be much higher (4.22 in 2002). That is not bad, but it looks more like the ERA of whoever is closing for Tampa Bay rather than a potential division winner.

Overall I think the Braves should be able to win the division, but they will probably need Marte's bat to fortify the lineup at some point. Even if it is in June or July, it will be like a midseason acquisition. Hopefully he gives them the kind of production Justin Morneau gave the Twins in his rookie campaign last year. I am picking them to win the NL East, but I am kind of worried about doing so with the (supposedly) reenergized Phillies and more offensive Marlins on the rise.

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