With the 2010 MLB season upon us, I think we should look at predictions for the season.
There are many things to look forward to as a Braves fan for this upcoming season: Tommy Hanson's ascent into glory, Bobby Cox's final year, Jason Heyward's emergence, a solid starting pitching staff, and many more.
The future is bright in Atlanta, but is the future now for the Braves?
Here are my Top 10 Brave Predictions for the Braves in 2010.
I believe Heyward will come into spring training, take hold of the RF position, and not let it go. He will start the season in Atlanta and be up to stay.
I expect a line of 80 R 25 HR 85 RBI .290 AVG 15 SB.
I believe this is the year that Yunel shines—his fourth year in the majors. He showed signs of brilliance last year, while he also showed some mental lapses.
I believe this year Yunel matures into the kind of player we have known he could be since he came up. He showed us last year he was a clutch performer and can win games with his glove and his bat.
His power numbers will increase this year. I fully expect 20 to 25 HRs out of Yunel.
He will have a tough time getting to the All-Star team seeing that he is in the same league as Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins, but I believe he gets there.
I believe Kawakami gets a lot of tough, unnecessary criticism. Yes, his record last year (7-12) was not good, but anyone that pays attention to starting pitchers' records are misguided.
He had a very tough first month in the majors, with an ERA over seven. If you look at his month to month statistics, he was fairly solid. Only two months did he have an ERA over 3.38, which is more than acceptable.
He admittedly had a hard time adjusting to MLB, the difference in the mound, the ball, the hitters, etc.
With how wonderful our pitching staff is, I fully expect Kenshin Kawakami to be our No. 3 starter by season's end.
If the Braves are to compete for a playoff spot this year, they need Billy Wagner to be the Billy Wagner they brought him to Atlanta to be. I fully expect him to be that man.
He showed nothing but dynamite stuff when he came back from TJ surgery last year. He is the proven, reliable closer the Braves have missed since Smoltzy left the pen.
He won't be able to pitch in as many games as Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano did last year, but he will be just as if not more important than both of them were last year.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, I expect Timmy Boy to be at full strength and to pitch like the ace he has been for years.
He showed some good stuff at the end of last year, and the Braves were confident enough in him to give him a three-year extension and trade away last year's Cy Young candidate Javier Vazquez in favor of him.
If Bobby Cox has that kind of faith in him, so do I. Timmy wins Comeback Player of the Year.
I am not saying he is going to win it. I am not saying he is going to finish in the top three. I do believe that he will get some votes though.
There was not another single thing he could have done last season to impress me more than he did. This year, he dominates the league for the entire season, finishing with a sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus K's.
I know. I know. I know. The Braves brought Glaus in here to provide a power-hitting first baseman.
Honestly, there is nothing I would rather have than just that, but unfortunately, I don't believe it will happen over the course of an entire season.
He may be great for the first few months of the season, but can anyone honestly say they expect him to be healthy for an entire 162-game season...anyone? Anyone? I didn't think so.
Looking at potential free agent 1B after this season, we may be able to find some potential players who could become available at the trade deadline—most notably Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Adam LaRoche (again), Derrek Lee, and Carlos Pena (not including bigger names that won't be free agents for another two seasons who may be traded, notably Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder).
All of whose teams may not be in playoff hunts come the trading deadline.
The name that sticks out to me is Derrek Lee. So my Brave Prediction 5B: Derrek Lee is the Braves' 1B by the trade deadline.
This year is a HUGE year for Jordan Schafer. He has so much to prove. Combining last year's disappointment marred by injury and his suspension for PEDs in the minors leaves him with lots to prove.
I believe he will begin the year in AAA and tear it up. He will allow the Braves to trade Melky (perhaps to the Cubs in the D. Lee trade)
By season's end I wouldn't be surprised to see Schafer in CF and Nate McLouth in LF for the Braves.
As a Braves fan, there is nothing I would like more than to see Chipper play 162 games a year and hit 30 HRs with 100 RBI, but those days are far behind us.
Don't get me wrong; I believe Chipper will be more productive than he was in 2009. I just think the mental and sustained physical challenges that face Chipper in the majors will make him call it quits after this season—going out with the only manager he has ever known, together.
I think the Braves will do everything in their power to give Bobby one last shot in the playoffs. They have the team built for the future and for today.
This is the year Bobby gets his boys into the playoffs for his last hurrah.