Atlanta Braves 2011 Season Preview

The beginning of a baseball season is always full of excitement. Every one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams have a level of optimism starting the season. Things are definitely looking up for the Atlanta Braves. Here is my season preview for the Braves:

Batting

The lineup top to bottom is the best the Braves have had in years. Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, newcomer Dan Uggla and the returning Chipper Jones heads a dangerous lineup. A key to the offense could be Nate McLouth. McLouth had a horrible 2010 season. A good season by McLouth could be mean big things for the Braves offense.
Freddie Freeman is another key for the offense. Freeman has the chance to be a special player for this club. The good thing for Freeman is the fact he has veterans in the lineup supporting him as he grows. The only weakness I see is the bench. The bench is still led by Eric Hinske and David Ross, but it is not as strong as in years past.
With all that being said, the offense looks to be a major strength for the Braves.

Pitching

The pitching looks to be coming back as a strength of the Atlanta Braves. They finally have a complete rotation that can compete with any other club in baseball. The rotation of Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy is the best they have had in years. A good year from all of these starters bodes well for them in 2011.
Coming into the season, the bullpen looked like the major weakness for this team. At least for right now, the bullpen looks stronger than ever. Peter Moylan, Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, and Eric O’ Flaherty are all strong late inning options for the Braves.

Defense

The Braves’ defense looks solid this year. Dan Uggla has been called a liability at second base in the past. Judging from his spring training, he is ready to have his best season defensively. When healthy, everyone else is solid in the field. Jason Heyward, Alex Gonzalez, and Freddie Freeman are some of standouts defensively for the Braves. Although a backup, David Ross is an excellent defensive catcher when starter Brian McCann needs a break.

Coaching

I really like the hiring of Freddie Gonzalez. The Braves are comfortable with him already, but he still brings something different to the table than Bobby Cox. In Spring Training, Gonzalez focused on fundamentals. It is paying dividends already. He has surrounded himself with a wonderful, experienced staff of coaches.

Outlook

It may take some time for the Braves to get going, but once they do, look out. This could be a special season for the Braves. Getting used to a new manager will be an adjustment, but that transition shouldn’t take too long. Because of the good mix of veterans and young players, the Braves are primed for another run at the playoffs. My prediction is for the Braves to win 90 plus games and make the playoffs as the wild card.