Scouting the NL East- the Atlanta Braves
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
Last 5 years: 2013: 96-66, first place; 2012: 94-68, second; 2011: 89-73, second; 2010: 91-71, second; 2009: 86-76, third.
Additions: RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Freddy Garcia, C Ryan Doumit, INF Mat Gamel
What to expect: After a close battle with Washington in 2012, the division was Atlanta's for the taking in 2013 as the Nationals finished second, 10 games behind. This year, the division battle is expected to be close, at least between Atlanta and Washington.
The difference entering 2014 for the Braves will be replacing several key stars who left via free agency in the offseason. The biggest loss came when catcher Brian McCann signed a 5-year, $85 million contract with the Yankees. The Phillies killer batted .256/.336/.461 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI in 102 games before turning in his old uniform for Yankees pinstripes.
Atlanta also lost two veteran arms to free agency - one in the starting rotation and one in the bullpen. Tim Hudson, whose season ended abruptly last July due to a gruesome ankle injury, often carried Atlanta's rotation before signing with San Francisco. Coming off left elbow surgery, reliever Eric O'Flaherty was allowed to sign with Oakland after a 3-0 record with a 2.50 ERA in just 18 innings in 2013. Atlanta inked starting pitchers Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia to fill the empty holes on the staff.
After locking up first baseman Freddie Freeman long term and rightfielder Jason Heyward to a 2-year deal, the Braves enter the season with some of the best young talent in the National League. Third baseman Chris Johnson hit .321 last season, helping bolster a lineup in which Freeman hit .319 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI. But the Braves must get rebound seasons from Heyward (.254, 14 homers) and especially Dan Uggla (.179) and high-priced free agent B.J. Upton (.184).
It might not be as easy as it was in 2013 for the Braves to win the NL East with Washington adding some significant pieces during the offseason. The NL East picture should find either Washington or Atlanta at the top, with the division winner coming as a result of young talent coming through during crucial points.
* OF Jason Heyward
* OF Justin Upton
* 1B Freddie Freeman
* C Evan Gattis
* 3B Chris Johnson
* SS Andrelton Simmons
* 2B Dan Uggla
* OF B.J. Upton
* RHP Kris Medlen
* RHP Julio Teheran
* LHP Mike Minor
* RHP Brandon Beachy
* LHP Alex Wood
* LHP Luis Avilan
* RHP Jordan Walden
* CL Craig Kimbrel
Tomorrow: Scouting the Nationals
- John Murrow