3 Surprising Names Who Will Make a Big Impact on the Atlanta Braves in 2013
Jason Heyward. Martin Prado. Kris Medlen. Freddie Freeman. Mike Minor.
We're all expecting these names to be the driving force behind the Braves in the upcoming campaign.
Heyward could be in the discussion for National League MVP.
Prado might be the most valuable Brave.
Freeman will look to use the improvements he made in 2012 to launch himself into a breakout year.
Medlen and Minor could make 2013 the year they become one of the league's most formidable and underrated one-two punch.
This isn't even to mention the names of BJ Upton, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson, a trio that could make or break the 2013 Atlanta Braves.
But for the Braves to truly contend for a World Series, they'll need key contributions from players that aren't necessarily on billboards over Atlanta freeways.
Braves fans might be pleasantly surprised by the performances of these three players in 2013.
Calm down. I understand he's not played near the level the Braves have paid him, and that can be shown by his stats here.
He has been, in a word, disappointing.
He has not been as awful as he is made out to be though. For the second half of 2011, Uggla was perhaps Atlanta's best player. Last year, his walk rate was nearly 15 percent, and he got on base at a .348 clip.
For my fellow sabremetricians out there, Uggla has been worth 6.0 WAR over the last two years—a noble feat considering the kind of futility he has shown the last couple years at the plate.
This selection is more of a gut call than anything. Uggla will play the 2013 season at the age of 33, and his ability did not suddenly disappear.
With the offseason to get his head in the right place, Uggla bounce back and play much more like the player the Braves thought they were getting when they traded for him two seasons ago.
Count me among those who loved the deal that sent Tommy Hanson and his contract over to the Angels for the young flame-throwing reliever Jordan Walden.
Walden burst into the league in 2011 with an incredible season in which he amassed 1.6 WAR and a 2.79 FIP (his full stats can be found here).
Unfortunately, his control took a hit in 2012 and his effectiveness suffered with it, but his strikeout rate actually rose by more than a full hitter per nine innings.
In Atlanta, Walden will be able to work with Roger McDowell to fine tune his delivery and iron out his command issues. No longer asked to be the most important part of the bullpen, Walden should enjoy a dominant year, bolstering the best bullpen in the game.
Keith Law of ESPN writes that Andrelton Simmons is unquestionably the best defensive shortstop in the majors. This alone will make a huge impact over the course of a season.
But Simmons is also developing into an offensive threat, and if Atlanta fails to acquire a leadoff hitter, Simmons may be auditioned for that role.
He doesn't walk much, but he also has a very high contact rate (his stats can be found here), so his OBP should always be respectable simply due to high batting averages.
Simmons also has speed to burn, and if he can learn the nuances of base-stealing, he will be able to do some damage on the basepaths.
He's not flashy, but Simmons' glove, legs and improving bat could make a very significant impact for Atlanta in 2013.
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