Assembling the Perfect Atlanta Braves Lineup After the Justin Upton Blockbuster

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIIJanuary 25, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Colorado Rockies during the MLB game at Chase Field on October 2, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Rockies 5-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

General Manager Frank Wren pulled the trigger on a deal that many Braves fans had speculated for months.

The Braves acquired Justin Upton along with third baseman Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury.

Braves fans' dream scenario in acquiring Upton was to have him in left field and make Prado the everyday third baseman.

However, Wren held on to most of his top pitching prospects (Teheran, Graham, Gilmartin, Wood) as well as the bullpen to trade Prado, who will become a free agent after the 2013 season.

Prado became a fan favorite in Atlanta with his team-first attitude and consistent play, but in order to receive a potential superstar in Upton, you have to give up talented players.

That throws a wrench into the dream-scenario lineups that included Upton and Prado.

Now that Upton is officially an Atlanta Brave, here's how I ultimately see the lineup sorting out (when everyone is healthy).

1. Andrelton Simmons - SS

2. Jason Heyward - RF

3. Justin Upton - LF

4. Freddie Freeman - 1B

5. B.J. Upton - CF

6. Brian McCann - C

7. Dan Uggla - 2B

8. Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco 3B


The big question will be: who hits leadoff?

And looking at the roster, there aren't many candidates. Ultimately, I think that Simmons takes over the duties.

It's not a perfect scenario since he's played in just 49 games at the major-league level and the top spot puts added pressure on a young player.

However, this is what the Braves do, and Simmons showed promise at the plate last season in hitting .289 with a .335 on-base percentage.

Simmons doesn't possess blazing speed but puts the ball in play as he only struck out 21 times last year.

Ready or not, it appears the Braves are handing Simmons the reins.

After Simmons, I decided to put Heyward in the No. 2 spot and go with a left-right alternate down the order.

Heyward flourished hitting in the No. 3 hole last year, but can succeed hitting second with the patience he shows at the plate.

The pro to having Heyward hit second is that manager Fredi Gonzalez can alternate between right-handed and left-handed hitters down the lineup.

That makes it increasingly tough for National League managers in deciding who to bring out of the bullpen late in games.

On paper it's already a potent lineup, and alternating hitters would make it that much more threatening. Managers won't have the luxury of throwing out a left-handed pitcher (or right-handed) for multiple batters with this lineup.

I could see B.J. Upton getting a look at the No. 2 hole, which would shift Heyward, Justin Upton and Freeman down a spot in the order.

However, B.J.'s low on-base percentage and high power lead me to believe the Braves will put him in a more run-producing spot.

Rounding out the order will likely be a platoon between Johnson and Francisco, and my guess is that Johnson will see more playing time.

Johnson strikes out a lot (132 times in 2012) and his defense is not very good (19 errors in 127 games) but had more home runs and RBI than Prado last year and posted a solid .281 batting average.

Johnson and Francisco will compete throughout spring training and will likely determine who wins the starting third baseman job.

The Braves and their fans now have closure in terms of the Justin Upton saga.

The upcoming weeks and months will go a long way in determining a starting lineup.

For now, it's fun to project what that lineup will look like on opening day with the new additions.


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