2011 MLB Preview: Looking at Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves 'On Paper'

Adrian FedkiwAnalyst IIIFebruary 24, 2011

2011 MLB Preview: Looking at Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves 'On Paper'

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 10:  Manager Bobby Cox #6 of the Atlanta Braves runs to the outfield after Jason Heyward #22 collided with the wall in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game Three of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Turner Fi
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Braves sent long-time manager Bobby Cox out in style with a playoff appearance.  Cox spent 25 years in Atlanta winning five pennants and a World Series in 1995.

    Dan Uggla and Fredi Gonzalez have reunited.  Atlanta acquired the power hitting second baseman via a trade during the offseason.     

    At 38, Billy Wagner walked away from the game despite a dominant 2010 campaign.  He saved 38 games to go along with a minuscule 1.43 ERA.  We’ll see if Craig Kimbrel is ready to fill in and close games.

    My plan is to do one of these for all 30 teams so we'll see if I can get that done.  This is the first of many previews to come.  I hope you all enjoy them!

    ALSO CHECK OUT

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Infield

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    LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Dan Uggla #26 of the Atlanta Braves during Photo Day at  Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex on February 21, 2011 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
    • C-Brian McCann 8 
    • 1B-Freddie Freeman 7
    • 2B-Dan Uggla 7.75
    • SS-Alex Gonzalez 7.25
    • 3B-Chipper Jones 7

    Brian McCann (27) 479 AB’s .269 BA 63 R 21 HR 77 RBI 5 SB 

    McCann is one of the most consistent hitting catchers in baseball.  Coming off his fourth Silver Slugger Award in his last five years, McCann has hit 20-plus home runs, and driven in 80-plus RBI’s in four of his last five seasons.  I’m curious to see if he can get his batting average back over .300 again after a two-year dip.  He’s had two Lasik surgeries done because of ongoing eye problems.

    Freddie Freeman (21) 24 AB .167 BA 3 R 1 HR 1 RBI 0 SB

    Freeman is an NL Rookie of the Year candidate at first base.  He doesn’t have the pop that you would expect out of a first baseman, but he’ll hit for average; reminds me a lot of James Loney.  He also has a solid glove.

    Dan Uggla (31) 589 AB .287 BA 100 R 33 HR 105 RBI 4 SB

    Uggla was brought over from Florida in the Infante deal.  Defensive lapses in the infield cost the Braves dearly against the Giants in the NLDS.  Uggla isn’t exactly the greatest infielder in the world.  Talent wise, Uggla is better than Infante, but I really liked the tandem of Infante and Prado at the top of the lineup.  They’re solid hitters and they get on base.  They set up the rest of the batting order.

    Alex Gonzalez (34) 595 AB .250 BA 74 R 23 HR 88 RBI 1 SB

    Atlanta management didn’t want to wait around for Yunel Escobar to mature, so they went out and traded him for Sea Bass.  Gonzalez is purely a glove man, but he can also give you some pop at the bottom of the lineup in the 7-8 slot.

    Chipper Jones (38) 317 AB .265 BA 47 R 10 HR 46 RBI 5 SB

    Has anyone declined quicker over recent years than Chipper Jones?  After making a run at .400 for much of the 2008 season, Jones hasn’t eclipsed the .270 mark in each of his last two seasons.  At 38, Jones is on his last legs.

Outfield

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves against the Florida Marlins at Turner Field on September 29, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    • LF- Martin Prado 7.5
    • CF- Nate McLouth 7
    • RF- Jason Heyward 8

    Martin Prado (27) 599 AB .307 BA 100 R 15 HR 66 RBI 5 SB

    I’d rather have Prado’s glove at second over Uggla but that’s just me.  Another option is to move him to third if Chipper can’t recover from his ACL injury.  In his first year as a full-time starter Prado made the All-Star team.  He’s hit over .300 the last two years. 

    Nate McLouth (29) 242 AB .190 BA 30 R 6 HR 24 RBI 7 SB

    McLouth has yet to regain his All-Star form since his trade from Pittsburgh.  Last season was a nightmare.  After a dreadful start, Bobby Cox sent McLouth to Triple-A three months into the season. 

    To his credit, McLouth bounced back and had a solid September.  In 2008, he hit .276 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI.  You can see what McLouth did last year above.  (Three of those HRs came in September)  He’s still just 29 so I wouldn’t count him out just yet, although Jordan Schafer is lurking in the shadows.

    Jason Heyward (21) 520 AB .277 BA 83 R 18 HR 72 RBI 11 SB

    Heyward finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to San Francisco’s Buster Posey.  He has all the tools at the plate; he’s disciplined and hits the ball hard.  His .393 OBP was fourth in the NL, not bad for 21 years old.

Starting Pitching

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17:  Tommy Hanson #48 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the New York Mets on September 17, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    1. Tim Hudson 7.75

    2. Tommy Hanson 8

    3. Derek Lowe 7.25

    4. Jair Jurrjens 7.25

    5. Mike Minor 7

    Tim Hudson (35) 229 IP 17-9 2.83 ERA 1.15 WHIP 139 K

    Following major elbow reconstruction, Hudson won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.  The biggest question now is at 35, can he possibly duplicate his 2010 campaign, especially after logging 229 innings.

    Tommy Hanson (24) 203 IP 10-11 3.33 ERA 1.17 WHIP 173 K

    An excellent first full season in the big leagues for Mr. Hanson.  He got no run support, which explains why he had just 10 wins last season.  His slider rate, at 28 percent, is double the league average.  For such a young starter, I’d like to see him cut that down; we don’t want his elbow turning into spaghetti, now do we.

    Derek Lowe (37) 194 IP 16-12 4.00 ERA 1.37 WHIP 136 K

    Lowe was simply phenomenal at the end of the season: 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five starts.  The sinker-baller gets the job done.

    Jair Jurrjens (25) 116 IP 7-6 4.64 ERA 1.39 WHIP 86 K

    A hamstring and a torn meniscus sidelined Jurrjens for most of the year.  Atlanta fans are hoping that Jurrjens returns to his 2009 form when he was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  We’ll find out this year if Jurrjens peaked too early.

    Mike Minor (23) 40 IP 3-2 5.98 ERA 1.57 WHIP 43 K

    Minor will battle with Brandon Beachy for the fifth spot in the rotation.  Minor has solid velocity, but it drops considerably as the game goes on.  His 9.52 K/9 rate is impressive.

Bullpen

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 08:  Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the San Francisco Giants during game 2 of the NLDS at AT&T Park on October 8, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
    • RP- Peter Moylan 7.25
    • RP- Scott Linebrink 7
    • LRP- George Sherrill 7
    • SU- Johnny Venters- 7
    • CP- Craig Kimbrel- 7

    Peter Moylan, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill

    A situational lefty is imperative in the NL East with Philadelphia’s stacked left-handed lineup.  We saw what Javier Lopez did last year in the NLCS.  George Sherrill needs to regain his 2009 form.  Moylan is a solid set up man if Venters decides to have a sophomore slump.

    Jonny Venters (26) 83 IP 4-4 1 SV 1.95 ERA 1.20 WHIP 93 K

    Venters had a solid rookie campaign setting things up for Billy Wagner in the ninth.  He has a solid power sinker/slider combination.

    Craig Kimbrel (22) 20 IP 4-0 1 SV .44 ERA 1.21 WHIP 40 K

    Due to Billy Wagner’s retirement, Kimbrel is now the favorite to close.  He needs to cut out his walks though. 16 in 20 innings is not good for a closer.  But his strikeout rate makes up for some of that.

Sizing Up the Braves "On Paper"

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    LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves stands on the field during a spring training workout at Champion Stadium on February 21, 2011 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Projected Lineup 

    1. Prado 7.5
    2. Jayson Heyward 8
    3. Dan Uggla 7.75
    4. Brian McCann 8
    5. Chipper Jones 7
    6. Alex Gonzalez 7.25
    7. Freddie Freeman 7
    8. Nate McLouth 7
    • 1-3- 22.75
    • 4-6- 22.25
    • 7-8- 14

     Pitching

    • 1. Tim Hudson 7.75
    • 2. Tommy Hanson 8
    • 3. Derek Lowe 7.25
    • 4. Jair Jurrjens 7.25
    • 5. Mike Minor 7
    • RP- Peter Moylan 7.25
    • RP- Scott Linebrink 7
    • RP- George Sherril 7
    • SU- Johnny Venters- 7
    • CP- Craig Kimbrel- 7

    INF- 37

    OF- 22.5

    SP- 37.25

    RP- 7

    CP- 14

    Bench- 7.25

    Manager- 7

    MISC- 14

    Hitting- 59.5

    Pitching- 58.75

    TOTAL- 132

    KEY

    INF= 1B + 2B + SS + 3B + C

    OF= LF + CF + RF

    SP= SP X 5

    CP= SU + Closer

    Hitting= INF + OF

    Pitching= SP + RP + CP

    MISC= Manager + Bench

    Total= Hitting + Pitching + Misc

    HOPEFULLY THESE WILL GET EASIER TO FOLLOW ONCE I GET SOME MORE PREVIEWS DONE!

Prediction

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 11:  Brian McCann #16, Diory Hernandez #19 and Martin Prado of the Atlanta Braves react after the San Francisco Giants defeated the Braves 3-2 to win Game Four of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs on October 11, 2010  at Turner Field in
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    To me it seemed like everything came together last season in Bobby Cox’s final run as manager.  The Braves have a young, solid nucleus, but to expect some of the same results as last year is a bit unrealistic.  

    This is a team to keep an eye on for years to come, but I just don't see it this year. 

    83-79 3rd NL EAST