Sunday, March 22, 2015

Atlanta Braves 2015 Preview

After a 79-83 2014 season the story of the off season for the Atlanta Braves was change.  Gone are Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang, Jordan Walden, Anthony Varvaro, David Hale, Tommy La Stella, Emilio Bonifacio, and Gavin Floyd among others.  Many of these players were major parts of last season's team.  Change is part of every new year but to me most of these will really impact the 2015 Braves in a negative way.  Specifically the offense struggled last year and it definitely isn't better now (14th in runs in the NL last year).  The pitching staff adds starting pitcher Shelby Miller but loses key parts to their rotation and bullpen.

I understand why many moves are made.  Mostly due to money.  Some players were due new contracts after this year and some became free agents after 2014 and weren't affordable.  Still it hurts.  It is hard to look at this team and think it will even reach 79 wins.  The offense was bad last year and lost two huge parts in Upton and Gattis.  Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes fill the outfield slots around Melvin Upton Jr. (formally B.J.) who only hit his weight once (.208 last year) in two years with the Braves.  I don't know why he is still on this team.  This lineup just isn't that scary.  I love franchise guy Freddie Freeman but I'm not sure he has much help around him this year.  Hopefully 3B Chris Johnson can regain his hitting stroke and stud defensive SS Andrelton Simmons can find his bat or any bat for that matter. 

Pitching might not be too bad but they definitely lost some quality arms.  Still the front of the rotation of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Shelby Miller should provide some stability.  It is what Mike Minor and the 5th starter (TBD) will bring that will determine how the staff really performs.  The bullpen is anchored by five star closer Craig Kimbrel who I don't see slowing down anytime soon barring injury.  Veterans Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli are looking to have bounce back years after once being closers.  They'll need to be steady hands to help get to Kimbrel with consistency.  I'm just not sure what Atlanta will get from them. 

I'll be surprised if Atlanta reach the 79 wins they got last year.  The good news is the Braves will have a new stadium in a few years and the thinking is more money will be available to spend.  I hope so.  There is other good news in we'll see catching prospect Christian Bethancourt start this year.  He isn't a can't miss prospect but hopefully he can learn to call a good game and provide a decent bat.  The big buzz is all around second baseman Jose Peraza though.  He could be a pure lead off hitter the Braves haven't had in a long time and would hopefully bring stability to second base.  I'm thinking we'll see him sometime this year.  Again we'll see how everything plays out and hopefully some things will go better than I think.  But I'm looking at it being about 75 wins this year.
Jose Peraza

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