Today’s focus: Atlanta Braves
2010 Record 91-71 2nd Place NL East, Wild Card. Lost to Giants in NLDS
The Braves will look to build on their 2010 Wild Card season as they enter 2011 with hopes of unseating the Phillies from the top of the NL East. Their biggest change from last season is new skipper Fredi Gonzalez who takes over for the legendary Bobby Cox. Gonzalez has a knack for getting the most from a young lineup and he has a good mix of young talent and proven veterans at his disposal.
Atlanta’s biggest off season splash came in one of those ultra-rare inter division trades that helps one team and leaves the other feeling hollow and empty when they fleeced the Marlins out of Dan Uggla who plugs into second base moving the All Star super utility Martin Prado to left. This was a two for one for the Braves, shoring up two positions while giving up nothing of significance. Chipper Jones will look to stave off retirement talk for another season and come back from knee surgery, anything over 100 games from the future HOFer will be gravy. His double play takeout slide in his first Spring game is a good sign that Mr. Jones is feeling good and not about to take it easy.
The Braves have questions in the bullpen with the losses of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito leaving them without a proven closer, but they will rely on a strong returning starting rotation that has depth in up and coming talents Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy.
Speaking of young talent – the Braves sure have that on the right side of the diamond for years to come in 2010 ROY runner up RF Jason Heyward and 2011 ROY hopeful Freddie Freeman. Freeman has just 24 PAs for the big club, but at just 21 will be the opening day first baseman.
Notable Losses: Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Troy Glaus, Omar Infante, Matt Diaz, Bobby Cox (manager)
Notable Pickups: Dan Uggla, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill, Joe Mather, Rodrigo Lopez, Fredi Gonzalez (manager)
Bottom line, there is a lot to be excited about Braves fans, and the Phillies should definitely not count their 5th crown in a row before it is hatched. The Braves should be in the mix for a playoff spot till the end.
Prediction: 90-72 NL Wild Card