Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL East Preview: Atlanta Braves

Prediction: Atlanta Braves: 4th place finish

Strengths: Atlanta rebuilt their rotation in the off season with free agent signings Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami (Japan) and a trade for Javier Vasquez. These additions combined with rookie sensation Jair Jurrjens should give the Braves one of the better rotations in the National League. Third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann are a formidable pair in the middle of the Braves batting order.

Weaknesses: While the Braves have a solid starting line-up they lack the offensive firepower of the rest of the NL East. Outside of Jones and McCann, there aren't any true offensive weapons. The Braves outfield production is especially bad, their three projected starters combined for just 19 home runs last season. The Braves sorely need more lumber in their line-up.

Farm Aid: The Braves have a very good minor league system and have the pieces to acquire another bat or two during the season. Atlanta will also likely have two rookies make a significant impact this season. Starting pitcher Tommy Hanson is one of the best pitchers in the minors and should be in the Braves rotation by mid-season. Center fielder Jordan Schafer will also likely make the jump to the big leagues early in the season. His bat should provide a much needed boost to the Braves anemic outfield production.

Outlook: Even with an improved rotation the Braves will struggle to finish better than 4th in the East without improving their offense.

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