As February dwindles mercifully to a close, we faithful denizens of the great Tomahawk Nation who have bitterly tended our war wounds for nearly four long months now can finally put the anguish of what might have been behind us. It is February 20th, and Braves pitchers and catchers will get their first workout in today. For the 2012 Atlanta Braves, "next year" begins today.
For those of us in the navy and red, our off-season was highlighted by... silence. Whilst elsewhere in baseball the news was dominated by the Miami's and Anaheim's and Boston's, free agents, contracts and trades, all remained quiet on the Atlanta front. The Braves will look much the same on Opening Day as they did on the final day of the regular season last year. But, as we will no doubt discuss at length in this thread, that is not necessarily a bad thing. There is reason to believe that the series of late season events which we shall no longer speak of was an anomoly, and that we have all the pieces we need.
And so, without further ado, let us preview this 2012 Atlanta ball club.
Notable returning players: Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Jair Jurrjens
Notable losses: Alex Gonzalez, Derek Lowe
Key additions/call-ups: Tyler Pastornicky
Hitting coach: Greg Walker (formerly of Chicago White Sox)
Positions locked up (and 2011 stats)
Brian McCannn - C (.270 AVG, .817 OPS, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 3 SB)
Chipper Jones - 3B (.245 AVG, .814 OPS, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB)
Dan Uggla - 2B (.233 AVG, .764 OPS, 36 HR, 82 RBI, 1 SB)
Freddie Freeman - 1B ( .282 AVG, .784 OPS, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB)
Martin Prado - LF (.260 AVG, .687 OPS, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 4 SB)
Michael Bourn - CF (.294 AVG, .734 OPS, 2 HR, 50 RBI, 61 SB)
Jason Heyward - RF (.227 AVG, .708 OPS, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 9 SB)
Tyler Pastornicky - SS (.365 AVG, .821 OPS, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 7 SB - AAA Gwinnett)
Starting rotation: Tim Hudson (in May), Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy
Bullpen: Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty
Bench: Eric Hinske, David Ross
SP (1): Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen
RP: Cristhian Martinez, Anthony Varvaro, Arodys Vizcaino, Cory Gearrin, Kris Medlen, Jairo Ascencio, Todd Redmond, Robert Fish
Bench: Matt Diaz, Jose Constanza, Jack Wilson, Brandon Hicks, Christhian Bethancourt, J.C. Boscan
Thoughts: While we have said for awhile now that we're going into 2012 with the same team, in reality it's not.
For one, shedding Derek Lowe ends any possibility that he'll eat up a spot in the rotation for one of the younger and (at this point) more talented pitchers that were knocking on the door all last season. So the starting rotation will look slightly different.
We recently found out that Tim Hudson will not make his return until at least early May. That may be a factor early. It also means one more starting spot is available until Huddy is ready to go, and probably makes Hanson the unquestionable Ace of the rotation.
On the other hand, the "on paper" aspect of this club is very, very good. Obviously there's limited value in paper, but going into the season where your only question mark on the field is short stop, that's got to give you a pretty good feeling.
Who knows if the addition of Greg Walker as hitting coach will make a difference for the Braves, but with the guys in the line-up, there's no reason why this club shouldn't have an offense to match the caliber of the pitching we've gotten consistently over the past couple of seasons.
Keys moving forward to the beginning of the season -
1. Young pitching must live up to potential in the absence of more seasoned veterans to take the hill.
2. Pastornicky must play solid defense at short stop
3. Chipper staying healthy
4. Timely hitting, timely hitting, timely hitting
Opening day lineup
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Jones 3B
4. McCann C
5. Uggla 2B
6. Heyward RF
7. Freeman 1B
8. Pastornicky SS
9. Hanson P
Starting rotation: Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, Delgado, Minor
Bullpen: Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty, Medlen, Martinez, Varvaro, Fish
Let's get it rollin', folks. First ST game is March 3rd, and the home opener versus the Brewers is April 13th.
Edited by HobnailedBoots, 20 February 2012 - 02:56 PM.