Braves Spring Training Review and Roster Predictions: Offense

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Braves Spring Training Review and Roster Predictions: Offense
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With the Grapefruit League completed, the Braves will prepare to face Philadelphia on Opening Day on Sunday.

The Braves finished with a 20-11 record, and gave fans a lot to look forward to this season.

Below is a review of the Braves' offense this spring, as well as predictions on where each player will be at the start of the season.

 

Catchers

Brian McCann (.304/.379/.478 in 23 AB)

After playing catcher and left field for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, McCann returned to the Braves to post the numbers you would expect from a premier offensive catcher in spring training.

McCann was guaranteed a job before spring began, but it was good to see him hitting the ball well already.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter.

 

David Ross (.175/.267/.425, 3 HR in 40 AB)

Ross showed he has the power in his bat to be a better option than Corky Miller was last year. Although his average left much to be desired, Ross was extremely successful in throwing out would-be base-stealers.

An injury will likely cost Ross a chance to start the season in Atlanta, but Ross will be back once he is healthy.

Predicted Opening Day statusDisabled List

 

Clint Sammons (.458/.500/.958, 3 HR in 24 AB)

Sammons was hot this spring, posting amazing numbers across the board.

After a struggle in 2008, Sammons showed he still has the potential to be a solid offensive catcher who could provide some pop off the bench.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench.

 

Infielders

Casey Kotchman (.300/.317/.550, 3 HR in 40 AB)

After a slow start with the Braves in 2008, Kotchman showed he should be a good enough first baseman to bridge the gap until Freddie Freeman is ready for the majors.

Kotchman should hit for an average near the .300 he hit during spring, although his slugging percentage was inflated due to a small number of at-bats.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (1B)

 

Kelly Johnson (.265/.316/.382 in 68 AB)

After a sizzling finish to 2008, Johnson had a relatively slow spring. Although his batting average was low, he showed a good eye at the plate.

Johnson should pick up his production once the regular season starts, and give the Braves another solid season from second base.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (2B)

 

Yunel Escobar (.286/.338/.343 in 70 AB)

Escobar got more at-bats than any other Braves player this spring, and should be more than ready for Opening Day.

He put up a solid line in the Grapefruit League, and should hit around those numbers (with a little more power) once the regular season begins.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (SS)

 

Chipper Jones (.357/.424/.857, 4 HR in 28 AB)

After struggling through a couple of games for Team USA in the WBC, Jones suffered an early injury setback before returning to the Braves.

Once he got back into games, he was on fire, tearing the cover off the ball in his limited number of Grapefruit League at-bats.

Although the slugging percentage will go down during the regular season, his spring average (.357) was actually lower than his average in 2008 (.364).

As has been the case recently, we know Jones will produce; the question is how many games he will play?

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (3B)

 

Omar Infante (.288/.294/.485 in 66 AB)

Infante saw plenty of work this spring, mainly due to his versatility in the field.

After being one of the top bench options in 2008, Infante produced a solid line in the spring, and has given the Braves every reason to believe he can reproduce his 2008 numbers.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench

 

Martin Prado (.290/.343/.371, 12 RBI in 62 AB)

Prado also saw plenty of action this spring, and showed that he will likely be able to repeat his strong performance off the bench.

Prado can play a number of positions, and should prove to be a valuable commodity if he can produce the way that he did this spring.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench

 

Greg Norton (.311/.404/.533 in 45 AB)

With the depth that the Braves had in their infield and outfield, the re-signing of Norton may have been a surprise to many.

With a strong spring (and the trade of Josh Anderson), Norton likely solidified his spot on the Braves bench. He won’t hit for nearlythe average he had this spring, but he could be a great source of power off the bench in the late innings in 2009.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench

 

Brooks Conrad (.184/.225/.342 in 38 AB)

Conrad finally reached the majors in 2008 after spending seven seasons in the minor leagues. At 5’11’’, some said he could be a surprise player in the mold of Dan Uggla, showing some power in his career.

However, Conrad struggled this spring, erasing any chance of making the Opening Day roster.

At 29 years old, it is unlikely that Conrad will improve anymore, and he will only see Atlanta if there are a number of injuries to other players.

Predicted Opening Day statusMinor leagues

 

Diory Hernandez (.212/.270/.242 in 33 AB)

Hernandez came to spring camp hoping to show the Braves he could produce solid numbers at the plate and provide versatility by playing all over the diamond.

However, he struggled at the dish and in the field, erasing his chance of making the big club.

At 25, he is too old to be considered a prospect and will likely never be more than a utility player at the major league level.

Predicted Opening Day statusMinor leauges

 

Outfielders

Garret Anderson (.333/.412/.467 in 15 AB)

Signed extremely late, Anderson was going to face a short spring season even before injury held him out even longer.

He did produce after finally returning to the lineup this past week, and should be a solid run producer for the Braves in left field.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (LF)

 

Jordan Schafer (.344/.373/.500, 5 SB in 64 AB)

Many thought Schafer would be in Atlanta at some point in 2008 before being suspended for suspected use of HGH (there is no test).

His sizzling spring helped him climb the depth charts, and ultimately resulted in the Braves trading Josh Anderson to the Detroit Tigers.

Although he had 16 strikeouts, Schafer showed he is ready to produce on the major league level.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (CF)

 

Jeff Francoeur (.306/.366/.403, 12 RBI in 62 AB)

The struggles that Francoeur dealt with in 2008 have been well-documented. After another offseason of dramatic changes, he looks to be back to the form that earned him the label of being the Braves top prospect.

While I doubt that he can hit .306 over the course of the season, he should continue to drive in runs, which would be a major boost to the Braves.

Predicted Opening Day statusStarter (RF)

 

Matt Diaz (.295/.317/.389, 13 RBI in 61 AB)

Diaz was finally given a chance to have a full time role in 2008, but struggled through an injury that cost him most of the season.

He looks to be back to form in 2009, giving the Braves a power bat who can play the corner outfield spots and tear up left handed pitchers.

Although Diaz likely will lose more playing time with the addition of Anderson, he will produce good numbers for the Braves in 2009.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench

 

Brandon Jones (.315/.351/.389, 12 RBI in 54 AB)

Jones was one of the biggest surprises of spring training  in 2009. Once considered a top-three prospect in the Braves organization, many thought he would never develop into the hitter they thought he could be.

While the power didn’t show up in spring, Jones got off to a hot start (the complete opposite of 2008) and showed that he still has the potential to play outfield at the major league level.

If an injury occurs, Jones could likely be given another chance to show Atlanta the talent he still possesses.

Predicted Opening Day statusBench

 

Gregor Blanco (.174/.321/.304 in 23 AB)

After playing in the WBC, Blanco had some ground to make up if he was to win the starting job in centerfield.

Although he showed his great hitting eye by drawing walks, the low batting average has erased any hope for Blanco to start 2009 in the majors.

If an injury occurs in the outfield, he will likely get called up before Brandon Jones because of his ability to play all three outfield positions.

Predicted Opening Day statusMinor leagues

 

Prospects

Jason Heyward (.300/.364/.475 in 40 AB)

Recently named as the fifth best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, Heyward showed that he already has the tools to hit at the major league level.

Although he never had a chance of making the Opening Day roster (he is only 19 and has never played above Single-A), he displayed flashes of his huge talent in spring training.

Heyward will likely spend the year in the minors, but don’t be surprised if he makes an impact in 2010.

 

Freddie Freeman (.238/.250/.333 in 42 AB)

Freeman cooled off after starting the spring with a bang. Just 19 years old, he showed he still needs a little more seasoning before he is ready for the major league level.

The future first baseman of the Braves, Freeman likely won’t make an impact in Atlanta until 2011.

 

Brandon Hicks (.300/.364/.550 in 20 AB)

Although he only got a small number of at-bats, Hicks showed he could be the future third baseman of the Braves when Chipper Jones finally retires.

He has good power/speed potential, and should continue to improve his game in the minor leagues.

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