TMS MLB Preview 2009: Atlanta Braves

All through March, Thunder Matt's Saloon will be previewing each Major League team. We'll give you the ins and outs of the upcoming 2009 season, how each team will do, and some other useless crap you'll wish you had never read.

ATLANTA BRAVES

2008 Season: 72 - 90 (4th Place in NL East)

SO LONG:
P Elmer Dessens, C Tyler Flowers, P Mike Hampton, P Chuck James, P Jorge Julio, P Will Ohman, P John Smoltz, P Julian Tavarez

WELCOME: OF Garret Anderson, P Kenshin Kawakami, P Boone Logan, P Derek Lowe, C David Ross, P Javier Vazquez

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Josh Anderson CF
2. Yunel Escobar SS
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Jeff Francoeur RF
6. Garret Anderson LF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Kelly Johnson 2B

Starting Rotation: Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens, Tom Glavine
Setup: Rafael Soriano, Manny Acosta, Boone Logan
Closer: Mike Gonzalez

Chip Wesley once told me that the Atlanta Braves are like herpes. Sure you don't have the flashy flareups (like the mid-to-late 90's) but they never leave, they're always around, lurking, threatening for a new outbreak. I'd expect this year's team to be heavily slathered in Valtrex. The Braves have to pray that someone stumbles and they overachieve to have any shot of making the playoffs. Maybe they can leapfrog the Marlins, but it will be a hard row to hoe to overtake the Phillies AND the Mets.

That being said, the Braves should still be a tough team, especially in the starting pitching department, even without Tim Hudson (Tommy John Surgery). Turner Field is certainly a "pitcher's park", and surely veterans like Derek Lowe and (gasp!) Javier Vasquez should be able to have success. It's a strong staff, and some of the younger players will undoubtedly be more prepared while under the tutelage of Tom Glavine. The bullpen should be a work in progress, as Mike Gonzalez will be working his first full season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery on his arm.

The offense just doesn't impress me. Where will the runs comes from? They lost their best power guy via trade last year (Teixeira) and have tried to replace some of that with Garrett Anderson, he with the geriatric back. Jeff Francouer was once touted as the next great Brave outfielder, but has shown little to suggest that he'll be better than just an average player. It's not a good sign when you second basemen has more power than any of your outfielders. Aside from the rookie center fielder, they have zero speed on the roster. If you can't hit the long ball, and you can't manufacture runs, where do they come from? Better hope they can rely on manager Bobby Cox to reach into his bag of tricks and make something happen. That or pray that you can win 1-0 or 2-1 consistently.


PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: Brian McCann, and especially when you're talking Fantasy Baseball. A catcher that can get you points is huh-yooge! You can figure McCann for 20 homers, 90 RBI, and a .300 average. Tough to believe that this will already be his fifth year in the Bigs - and he's only 25.

The Julio Franco Award: It's tough to deny Chipper Jones. Every year people say that he can never keep playing at a high level, and every year he keeps proving people wrong. You certainly can't pencil him in for 162 games a year, but when Larry does play, he produces. However, dude needs to get some Crest Whitening Strips. Seriously Larry, if you have to chew, at least take care of your teeth. It's not like you don't have the money.

*Honorable Mention: Tom Glavine

The Yahoo Serious 'Coolest Name Award': Hands down, Boone Logan. When this guy comes in from the bullpen, they should find a way for him to walk through some cafe doors, while tumbleweeds blow across his path, and the PA system plays that whistle noise from all of the Spaghetti Westerns. Maybe he could even ride a horse to the mound. Seriously, just say "Boone Logan" with a raspy voice. It's a cool name. If it were mine, I'd never go by just Boone or Mr. Logan, it would always be (in a raspy voice) Boone Logan.

FOR MORE READING
Talking Chop
When Sid Slid
Atlanta Braves with David O'Brien

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