This entire offseason, the biggest argument against the Braves has been their offense. I'll admit it was abysmal during the first half of the season, but everyone seems to forget their fantasic second half in which they averaged 4.9 runs-per-game (.2 better than the Phillies).
Of course, the team lost Adam LaRoche and Garret Anderson. Still, those are losses the Braves can easily overcome. Also remember that Chipper Jones was in a slump for the majority of the time.
Let's have a look and see if the Braves will be able to provide the same production.
1. NATE McLOUTH
McLouth has had a rough spring training. The new contacts he got during the offseason have thrown his timing off, causing him to swing early.
In the last week or so, however, there has been major improvement. If this continues McLouth should be back in fighting form by Opening Day.
Still, even with bad eyesight, McLouth had an OBP of .352, second in the NL East for lead-off hitters. He also stole 20 bases, which is crucial for a team low on speed.
2. MARTIN PRADO
Martin Prado seemed to excel hitting second in the lineup after he replaced Kelly Johnson at second base. He's a good contact hitter with mild power and had a .358 OBP. The Braves will start him at the beginning of the season.
3. CHIPPER JONES
I've heard the complaints, but Chipper does deserve the benefit of the doubt. Throughout his career, Jones has proven to be a quality bat. He entered spring training as a new man, as he used the offseason to strengthen his joints in order to maintain his health this season.
He was a hard out last season with a .388 OBP, and he walked more than he struck out. If Chipper can return to 80-90 percent of what he's capable of, he will be a top-five No. 3 hitter in the NL.
Since all three players have an OBP of .350 or greater you should rarely see a 1-2-3 inning to start off a game. They have a decent amount of power to lead off an inning, as well. Mclouth's speed is needed to round out a top notch 1-3.
4. TROY GLAUS
The big question is can he stay healthy? Yes he can. Troy's problem was that he had a tear in his right shoulder, which is hard to diagnose without surgery. Troy's reoccurring shoulder problems could have been due to the same injury never fully healing because of a misdiagnosis.
The great thing about Glaus is that he can hit both left and right-handed pitchers. This is a boon for the Braves since many premiere clean-up hitters are susceptible to one or the other.
5. BRIAN MCCANN
Brian is a great hitter. Even with the rough start because of eye problems, he still made the All-Star team. This season his eyes shouldn't be a factor. The added protection of Glaus should allow McCann to produce numbers on par with his 2008 season.
6. YUNEL ESCOBAR
Yunel gets better every year. He has established himself as one of the best clutch hitters in the majors, but he needs to work on his base running skills.
They have a relatively low amount of power for the middle of a lineup. On the other hand, they have a low amount of strikeouts. Still, this is a great group when it comes to clutch hitting, for they all have a career OBP of .355 or greater.
7. Melky Cabrera/Matt Diaz
This is a great platoon option. Diaz can completely destroy lefties, and Cabrera is a decent switch hitter with a fair amount of speed. I expect the seventh position to cause the opposing team many headaches.
8. Jason Heyward
Will Jason stay at this spot? No. Will he start out there? Yes. Even A-Rod started out at the bottom of the order during his rookie season. The eighth spot is a great place for Jason to fully adjust to the majors. His speed could also be of great help when the top of the order comes back around.
9. Pitchers/Pinch Hitters
Granted, pitchers are thought of as a gimme out, but it's baseball and anything can happen. Funny enough: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux were some of the best hitting pitchers of their time. Unfortunately, this starting rotation isn't quite as good. But last year's rotation had just over 100 strikeouts, so that has to count for something.
As for pinch hitters, the Braves have Omar Infante and Eric Hinske to come off the bench. A Cabrera/Diaz platoon will help out as well.
It's going to be a tough group to get through. Strategic platooning and Heyward's growing skill are going to make every pitcher work hard.
This is probably the most underrated lineup in the National League. While there are no flashy numbers that jump out at you, overall it's quite impressive. They're not high on home runs or speed, but they are a team of tough outs and clutch hitting. It forces the opposing pitcher to work hard for every single out.
Expect this team to continue the high run production it started during the 2009 season.