Two weeks into spring training, the Atlanta Braves' starting lineup is becoming more clear.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez has plugged players into various slots in the order and positions in the field to determine what gives the Braves the best chance to succeed this season.
Certainly not everything is set in stone at this point. There are still questions to be answered, and the lineup will be fluid throughout the season depending on who thrives, who struggles and who the injury bug decides to hit in 2013.
Still, the 2013 season is just weeks away, which means it's time to start making predictions.
Here's how I see the starting lineup looking on Opening Day:
1. Andrelton Simmons - SS
2. Jason Heyward - RF
3. Justin Upton - LF
4. Freddie Freeman - 1B
5. B.J. Upton - CF
6. Dan Uggla - 2B
7. Juan Francisco - 3B
8. Gerald Laird - C
Gonzalez has been consistent throughout spring training with this batting order when he's played the starters together. This will be what the Braves' lineup looks like on Opening Day.
Simmons hit leadoff in his few spring training at-bats and has continued hitting leadoff in the World Baseball Classic.
Gonzalez seems intent on having Heyward in the No. 2 hole to begin the year to set up the middle of the order to alternate between right and left-handed hitters.
Who starts at third base and where does Brian McCann hit when he returns? Those are the biggest questions regarding the lineup at this point.
Francisco will be in line to start on Opening Day as you would expect the Philadelphia Phillies to start the right-handed veteran Roy Halladay.
Neither Francisco or Chris Johnson have separated themselves in the competition at third base.
In this scenario, both have performed well in spring training—Francisco: .370, two home runs, five RBIs; Johnson: .364, two home runs, four RBIs.
Francisco has five more at-bats and a slightly higher OPS and OBP than Johnson.
This situation hasn't played itself out yet, which gives Francisco the edge to start Opening Day (in the end, I think Johnson sees more playing time).
Regarding McCann, the timetable for his return is mid-April, and I look at April 16 as the date to watch for his return.
Based on the alternation between right and left-handed hitters leads me to believe McCann will hit behind Upton and ahead of Uggla.
Both those situations will be worth monitoring as the season nears.
Opening Day is approaching Braves' fans, and this is the lineup to expect come April 1.
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