Atlanta BravesManager: Fredi Gonzalez
Stadium: Turner Field
2007 Record: 84-78 (3rd in NL East)
Team Page | Roster | Schedule
2007: Batting Stats | Runs Scored (ranked 3rd in NL)
|2008 FANTASY PROJECTIONS|
|OFF THE BENCH|
There'll be an unmistakable windfall from a full season of Mark Teixeira in the cleanup spot; he drove in 56 runs in 54 games after joining the Braves in a trade with the Rangers last season. Chipper Jones seems ageless, coming off career highs in average (.337, second in the NL) and doubles (42). Assuming he can stay healthy, there's no reason not to expect more of the same. Jeff Francoeur is a legitimate 100-RBI threat who's starting to learn the strike zone; he practically doubled his walks total from 2006 to 2007. His on-base percentage ballooned from .293 to .338, though he averaged a strikeout every five at-bats.
Mark Kotsay's long-term durability remains in question: He played in only 56 games last year because of back surgery and batted just .214 as a result. Though he has a strong arm and good instincts in center, he has the unenviable task of replacing Andruw Jones. Brian McCann is one of the franchise's crown jewels, but he needs to rebound from a 63-point dropoff in batting average and an almost 200-point decline in slugging percentage between 2006-2007. The Braves are convinced the catcher's troubles were the result of a bone spur in his ankle; a winter's rest will help restore the punch of his rookie season.
HITTER TO WATCH:
Brent Lillibridge can play short and second and should be able to handle center and third as well; he'll hit for average but doesn't have the patience or power to play every day.
PITCHER TO WATCH:
Jair Jurrjens, acquired from Detroit in the Edgar Renteria swap, has great command of an above-average fastball, but has some history of minor shoulder problems that may hold him back.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.
JUST THE FACTS
• Yunel Escobar is a vacuum. He'll be an upgrade over SS Edgar Renterķa. "Edgar had no range," says a Braves teammate. "Yunel gets to everything."
• Finally, they've found a closer. Rafael Soriano's numbers last year were a preview: 72 IPs, 47 hits, 70 K's. Plus, says Bobby Cox, "he's mean."
• There's no easy out. The offense won't miss Andruw Jones. "We can slug with anyone," says Jeff Francoeur. Look for Mark Teixeira to have a monster season his walk year.
• The rotation is ancient. "The key to our team is the health of our starters," says John Smoltz, referring to Tom Glavine and the oft-injured Mike Hampton. The 40-year-old Smoltz then adds, "I'm just glad I'm not the oldest." That would be Glavine (42).
"The Mets and Phillies had better not sleep on us," says a member of the Braves. "If Chipper can play 150 games like he's shooting for, we're going to win the division. That's how much firepower we have."
"I would love to see the Braves regain their place atop the standings.
I was there the night Hank Aaron hit No. 715. I was also there in
1991 when they won
the NLCS. I had an out-of-body experience."
-- John Lewis, D-Ga.
-- Tim Kurkjian
How many games will the Braves win in 2008? Do they have the top lineup, rotation, bullpen or manager in their division? Did they do the best job improving their team in the offseason with the acquisitions of Tom Glavine and Mark Kotsay? Register your vote.
The Braves liked Yunel Escobar and his .385 on-base percentage so much, they traded away Edgar Renteria so he could play every day.
Rafael Soriano will start the year as the closer, but with his penchant for injury, we're not sure he'll finish the year that way.
-- A.J. Mass
Mike Hampton has suffered a slew of injuries over the past five years and has not pitched in the majors since 2005. He underwent Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his left ulnar collateral ligament in Fall 2005, forcing him to sit out all of 2006. Hampton returned the following spring only to tear a flexor tendon in his left forearm, which again required surgery. The presence of a flexor tendon tear can be as devastating as a ligament injury because flexor strength is critical to countering torque produced at the elbow during pitching. Hampton thus spent the 2007 season working to strengthen his flexor muscle group in preparation for pitching again in 2008. Hampton's age and injury history work against him, but there is no reason to think that he cannot be effective, especially because he is demonstrating such good control this spring despite having spent so much time away from the game.
-- Stephania Bell