Atlanta Braves Positional Review/Preview: First Base
Over the coming days, I will write a short review about the performance the Braves received from different positions, as well as what to expect from the team in the future.
Up second, the first basemen.
Starters: Mark Teixeira and Casey Kotchman
After joining the team in the middle of the 2007 season, Tex was expected to help the Braves fight for a playoff spot in 2008, but the team traded him away because they realized that they wouldn't be able to make a playoff push and likely would be unable to re-sign him after the season.
He had put up solid numbers with Atlanta, although he once again went on a tear after joining his new team after the trade.
Kotchman struggled when coming to Atlanta, hitting only .237 in his 43 games with the club. He had hit .287 in his time with the Angels earlier in the year. The bright news was that after an awful August, he managed to hit .305 in September. He also only hit two HRs in his time in Atlanta, and although he has more power than that, he will come nowhere near the numbers that Tex provided.
Backups: Martin Prado and Greg Norton
Norton hit .246 for the year, but was used more as a pinch hitter than a first baseman. The real surprise was Martin Prado. At first, he surprised me by showing that he could play first base, but then he went on to hit .320 while playing all the infield positions, as well as playing three games in the outfield. Prado played so well that he has prompted trade rumors for Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson, because the Braves may want him to start at one of the middle infield positions in 2009.
Kotchman will come in the undisputed starter. One of the reasons that the Braves traded for him was that he isn't a free agent for three years. In 2009, he won't really have any competition for the job. Although Norton is a free agent, the Braves might re-sign him to keep him as the backup first baseman.
If the Braves do choose to keep Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar, then Prado will also be able to play first base next year. Although Kotchman should be able to hit for a good average, he will lack the power that the traditional first baseman has, which is one of the reasons why the Braves need to sign a power-hitting corner outfielder.
Kotchman should provide solid production but is no where near the threat that Tex was. However, Kotchman should at least provide some stability at a position that has been very inconsistent for the Braves over the past decade or so. In the minors, the Braves do have prospect Freddie Freeman waiting in the minors, but he is still young (he is still under 20 years old).
Freeman is one of the Braves' top prospects and has been called close to untouchable by Braves GM Frank Wren. Kotchman should be able to play first base for the Braves until Freeman is able to take over the job.
First base will be a solid position for the Braves but will give lower power numbers than a typical team's first-base slot in 2009
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