Here we are in 2010, and your fantasy baseball draft is just weeks away. That means it’s time for the Fantasy Baseball Cafe to start trotting out our preseason content. We’re kicking it off with the “30 Teams in 30 Days” series. Here, Cafe members dissect every team in baseball, analyzing unsettled situations and identifying possible fantasy targets for your draft.
We’re starting off the 2010 series just like we did in 2009, by taking a look at the Atlanta Braves. The team added 14 wins to its 2008 total, though that wasn’t enough to get back into the playoffs. The big turnaround can be almost solely attributed to the team’s performance on the road, where they earned 17 more wins than in the previous season. After a six-game losing streak to close out the season, the Braves went into cost-cutting mode, shopping the overpriced Derek Lowe around the league. Unfortunately, no team bit, and the Braves instead would trade away their ace Javier Vazquez in a questionable move. Atlanta still has a few top prospects in the pipeline, and a return to the playoffs is unlikely until those youngsters are ready to produce.
|C Brian McCann||.281||.349||.486||63||21||94||4||488|
|1B Troy Glaus||.172||.250||.241||2||0||2||0||29||w/STL|
|2B Martin Prado||.307||.358||.464||64||11||49||1||450|
|SS Yunel Escobar||.299||.377||.436||89||14||76||5||528|
|3B Chipper Jones||.264||.388||.430||80||18||71||4||488|
|LF Melky Cabrera||.274||.336||.416||66||13||68||10||485||w/NYY|
|CF Nate McLouth||.256||.352||.436||86||20||70||19||507||w/2TM|
|RF Matt Diaz||.313||.390||.488||56||13||58||12||371|
Unsettled: Right field. While Diaz appears to be the starter, the Braves have been reluctant to give him a full season’s worth of at-bats. His hold on the job could be directly linked to the performance of wonderkid Jason Heyward, one of the top prospects in baseball. If he doesn’t break camp with the team, Heyward could be recalled as early as June and would be an instant waiver claim in your league. He may be worth drafting in the final rounds just to see if he can find his way to right field on Opening Day.
Target: Martin Prado. The versatile Prado finally earned a shot at regular playing time last season, and he was able to pack a little pop onto his line while maintaining an average above .300. Should his contact rate remain high, Prado should be able to hit .300 again this year, and 500 at-bats should give him around 15 homers. While he likely won’t help you in the steals category, he’s a great pick for anyone that ignores the 2B position early in the draft.
|Derek Lowe (R)||15-10||4.67||1.52||111||63||194.2|
|Tim Hudson (R)||2-1||3.61||1.46||30||13||42.1|
|Jair Jurrjens (R)||14-10||2.60||1.21||152||75||215|
|Tommy Hanson (R)||11-4||2.89||1.18||116||46||127.2|
|Kenshin Kawakami (R)||7-12||3.86||1.34||105||57||156.1|
Unsettled: Kenshin Kawakami. The Japanese import struggled intitally with the majors, posting an ERA over 7.00 in his first four starts. He then settled down, posting excellent stats in three of the next four months with ERAs of 3.03, 3.33 and 2.87 in May, June and August. So what’s the problem? The team converted Kawakami to a reliever upon Hudson’s return, and they could decide to keep him in the pen this season while going with Jo-Jo Reyes or even youngster Kris Medlen in the rotation. The trade of Vazquez seriously hurt this rotation’s depth.
Target: Tommy Hanson. The young Hanson fulfilled his promise in his first major-league season, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and a sub-1.20 WHIP. He also has the potential to get better, and the mediocrity of the NL East should keep his stats strong across the board. He’s well worth whatever you pay for him, as he could jump into the SP top ten at any time.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Billy Wagner (L)||0||1.98||1.10||22||7||13.2|
|Takashi Saito (R)||2||2.43||1.35||52||25||55.2|
Chasing Saves: Atlanta chose not to bring back either of their two closer from 2009 season, instead choosing to gamble on Billy Wagner returning to full health after Tommy John surgery. He was fantastic when he returned to the Mets last year, striking out over 1.5 batters per inning and allowing only one HR in 15 appearances. Many owners may shy away from Wagner due to his missing most of 2009, but he’s a great option for saves after the top 10-15 closers come off the board. Saito is even older than Wagner but still remains a strong eighth-inning option.
Brian McCann will likely again be the first Brave off the board, thanks to being one of the few elite catchers in baseball. Players like Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar, and Jair Jurrjens should offer great value, while Tommy Hanson will be the best fantasy force from this team. Don’t be afraid to gamble on Billy Wagner’s health in the later rounds.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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