StrategyFebruary 1, 2010

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves - 11 comments

By R.J. White

Atlanta Braves vs Colorado Rockies in Denver

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.

Offensive Starters

C Brian McCann.281.349.4866321944488 
1B Troy Glaus.172.250.241202029w/STL
2B Martin Prado.307.358.4646411491450 
SS Yunel Escobar.299.377.4368914765528 
3B Chipper Jones.264.388.4308018714488 
LF Melky Cabrera.274.336.41666136810485w/NYY
CF Nate McLouth.256.352.43686207019507w/2TM
RF Matt Diaz.313.390.48856135812371 

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.
The Rotation
Derek Lowe (R)15-104.671.5211163194.2
Tim Hudson (R)2-13.611.46301342.1
Jair Jurrjens (R)14-102.601.2115275215
Tommy Hanson (R)11-42.891.1811646127.2
Kenshin Kawakami (R)7-123.861.3410557156.1

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)01.981.1022713.2
Takashi Saito (R)22.431.35522555.2

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.
Final Thoughts
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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11 Responses to “30 Teams in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves”

  1. Hanson seems to be everyone’s target. The Braves to seem to be good across the board but not great anywhere.

  2. User avatar silverZ says:

    Ah great stuff!

  3. User avatar MasterX1918 says:

    Hudson is a great sleeper as well, he looked good last year coming off of his surgery.

  4. User avatar MashinSpuds says:

    The Braves have to hope that Glaus comes back in force, because that lineup is lacking anyone other than McCann that may put up 25 homers or more. McLouth can only do so much!

  5. HustlinOwl says:

    What is the consensus on Escobar, is he due for a breakout year?

  6. Francisco says:

    I think the real sleeper on the Braves is Melky. His power is just developing. He has a very quick bat and should adjust to the NL quickly.

  7. tabmoc72 says:

    When Heyward comes up, it will be Cabrera, not Diaz, who will lose the full-time OF role.

  8. cavebird says:

    No offense, but some of the analysis here is just bunk. Unless Braves’ management is full of incompetent idiots, there is no way that Diaz plays right field. Yes, he played right field at the end of last season, but that was because we didn’t have any other available decent bats and Garrett Anderson certainly could play right field. (Hell, Garrett Anderson couldn’t play left field, either.) If Heyward breaks camp with the Braves, he’ll play right, McLouth in center, and Diaz in left, with Melky Cabrera where he is most effective—fourth outfielder. (Melky’s being a switch-hitter who can play all three OF positions makes him ideal as a fourth OF.)

    Additionally, Kawakami starts in the rotation, no doubt about that. Reyes and Medlen are the rotation depth, and Medlen could be very good if pressed into service. Yes, trading Vazquez cost depth, but having six decent to very good major league starters is a luxury that most teams cannot afford, and the Braves certainly couldn’t. Even after the trade, the depth of the rotation is fantastic, probably the one area where the Braves have the most depth. In addition to Medlen and Reyes, the Braves have Minor who could be ready by the end of the year, as well as a slew of more typical AAAA-type arms.

  9. ronjba says:

    There is/was a discussion on this at Talking Chop if you want to read Braves fans comments –

  10. Fenway Punk says:

    The Javy trade wasn’t about improving anything other than their budget. Same with the Soriano to TB trade. This Atlanta team is the best one they have put out in recent memory. I’m guessing you won’t see Jason Heyward until he is no longer eligible for arbitration, probably in June.
    From a fantasy perspective… the winner is Tommy Hanson. The only hinderance could be his IP, which i’m guessing will be limited. If he gets close to 200 IP however, you can expect a floor of 15 W, 3.5 ERA 1.25 WHIP 200K. YOWZA!!!!!!!!!!

  11. biesbol says:

    agree with cavebird. I listen to the braves on the radio almost every game. the OF loser with Heyward coming aboard will be Cabrera. AND… Hanson will be a stud this year. he can flat out pitch. his “problem” last year was pitching from the stretch, which he seemed to figure out towards the end of the year. Braves win the NL EAST. LOCK IT UP. ( and I’m a Cards fan).


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