On any Major League Baseball team, all 25 players are important. However, there are always players who are counted on a little more than others. Here are my top 5 essential players for the Atlanta Braves.
5. Garret Anderson
The Braves tried desperately to find an outfielder with power. They finally landed Garret Anderson after a long search. Anderson is a proven veteran who still has some talent left. However, he lacks the power that the Braves need.
Anderson will probably not hit more than 15 home runs. If he drives in runs with doubles and singles, the Braves will take it. After all, this club needs more run producers.
4. Javier Vasquez
Vasquez is a quality starting pitcher. His stats might not be outstanding, but he is a durable pitcher that should help the Braves this season.
If Vasquez can win 14-15 games and have 200+ strikeouts, the Braves will be ecstatic. The key for Vasquez is staying mentally focused. I think he will be, and the Braves will reap the rewards.
3. Jeff Francouer
I believe that this is a make-or-break year for Francouer. His 2008 season was horrible. If 2009 is similar, look for him to be elsewhere in 2010.
Francouer has changed his stance at the plate. Hopefully this will benefit him and the Braves. I think the Braves would be happy with a .280 BA, 20-25 HR's, and 100+ RBI. Francouer is hoping for much more.
2. Derek Lowe
Anytime you sign a huge contract, the spotlight will be on you. The same can be said for Lowe. He has been brought in to be the ace of the staff. The Braves definitely need one. They will soon find out what the almost 36-year-old pitcher has left.
The rotation was pretty bad in 2008. Injuries killed them early on in the season. For the Braves to be successful, Lowe will have to pitch 200+ innings. I look for Lowe to give the Braves much needed leadership and talent as the ace of the staff.
1. Chipper Jones
Chipper Jones has been an essential player for many years, and he still is a major part of the Atlanta Braves. However, one has to wonder what his mental state is after his team let John Smoltz go to Boston. Jones was very critical of this move.
For the Braves to be successful, Jones will have to be fully committed to the team. I think it will take awhile for Jones to come around, but he will eventually have a season that Braves' fans have come to expect.