Atlanta Braves Players Who Could Be All-Stars Next Season
The Atlanta Braves have yet to fill all their remaining holes in the lineup, but there are plenty of players on the current roster to be excited about.
Many of those players have a legitimate chance to represent the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game.
Barring injury, I would consider closer Craig Kimbrel to be a lock to end up on this team, so I will not include him in this article.
The rest of the team is not as certain, but there are candidates more likely than others.
1. Andrelton Simmons
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It may be a year early to project Andrelton Simmons as an All-Star, but the kid appears to be the real deal.
The Braves called up Simmons to the big league level at the beginning of June to replace the struggling Tyler Pastornicky, and he didn't disappoint.
He dazzled everyone with his already elite fielding skills and surprised many by posting a solid .289 batting average.
Unfortunately for Simmons, his 2012 season was shortened by a finger injury which sidelined him for a large portion of the year.
However, the Braves saw enough of him to feel he is the future shortstop for years to come. So much so, they were unwilling to deal him for Justin Upton.
Simmons impressed fans with his play, work ethic and professionalism, which could lead to a special season in 2013.
2012 All-Stars: Rafael Furcal, Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond
2. Martin Prado
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Martin Prado looked like himself again in a nice rebound 2012 season.
Prado did a little bit of everything in the field for the Braves and still managed to post a .301 batting average with 10 home runs and 70 RBI.
Despite being a productive player, he seemingly flies under the radar every season around the National League.
That production along with his versatility makes him an attractive option to put on the roster.
In the controversial All-Star Game format, managers are playing to win home-field advantage.
Prado is a better version of Omar Infante, who Braves fans remember was selected to serve as a utility player on the National League roster in 2010.
Why not give Prado the nod?
2012 All-Stars: Pablo Sandoval, David Freese, David Wright (Projecting Prado's main position is 3B in 2013)
3. Kris Medlen
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Kris Medlen began the 2012 season as a middle reliever, but finished it in the record books as a starting pitcher.
Everyone is well aware how good Medlen was after his promotion into the starting rotation, so I won't bore you with the numbers.
The next step for him to become an All-Star and elite pitcher in the National League is to build on last year's season.
Big league hitters will have much more film on him and are smart enough to figure out his weaknesses. However, Medlen is also a smart pitcher and will have to make some adjustments of his own.
He possesses good enough stuff and has great confidence, which will allow him to have continued success as a starter in 2013.
2012 All-Stars: Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg
4. Freddie Freeman
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The competition at first base is not as stiff as past years with the departures of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Adrian Gonzalez made a return to the National League, but Freddie Freeman should have a great opportunity to make the team.
Freeman never really got settled the first half of the season last year as he was dealing with some odd injuries.
He still managed to post career highs in both home runs (23) and RBI (94).
Next year will hopefully provide a more consistent start for Freeman, which will allow him showcase his ability to hit to all parts of the field for both power and average.
And don't forget about his fielding ability. He will win a Gold Glove sooner rather than later.
2012 All-Stars: Joey Votto, Bryan LaHair
5. Mike Minor
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If you would have told me at the All-Star break in 2012 that I would project Mike Minor as a potential All-Star in 2013, I would have laughed at you.
I never thought Minor would be more than a No. 3 starter in the major league, but he showed at the end of last year he can be a top-of-the-line starter.
At the end of June, Minor's ERA was a putrid 6.20. By the end of the year, it was down to a respectable 4.12.
Something clicked for Minor at some point in 2012. The stats show that he quit walking batters and did not give up as many home runs.
The stats also show that he only gave up more than three earned runs in a start once after the All-Star break.
Minor needs to continue to have confidence in his stuff and attack the strike zone.
This paid dividends for him at the end of 2012 and could lead to a breakout 2013 season.
2012 All-Stars: Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg.