So what does the Braves line up look like? Well I am sure our new skipper Fredi Gonzalez is looking for my input, so here goes.
LF-R-Martin Prado .307-15 HR-66 RBI Our best player in 2010.
RF-L-Jason Heyward .277-18-72 Needs to avoid the sophomore slump.
3B-S-Chipper Jones .265-10-46 Played in 95 games in 2010.
2B-R-Dan Ugla .287-33-105 Brings much-needed punch to the heart of the order.
C-L-Brian McCann .269-21-77 Should benefit from Ugla’s presence.
SS-R-Alex Gonzalez .250-23-88 Most of his 2010 HR and RBI production was pre-trade.
1B-L-Freddie Freeman .167-1-1 Hitting No. 6 or 7 will give the rookie time to adjust.
CF-L-Nate McClouth .190-6-24 Yuck!
On the positive side, this line up has that left-right transition that worked so well for Cox with only three right-handed hitters scattered on the card. Plus Ugla will add a long ball threat.
On the realistic side, how many games can Chipper give us? 110? Maybe 120? When you think about that you realize the depth chart becomes a huge factor. Right now it looks like Fredi is counting on Joe Mather and Prado to play all over the field. Martin is our starting left fielder and is listed as our back up at third, second and first base.
So what happens in those 52 games when Chipper is resting or nursing a hang nail? My guess would be it all depends on how well McClouth responds to his 2010 disaster. If he has found his swing and is hitting .250 or better, he will be back at leadoff, giving Fredi lots of adjustment options. If not, Prado will have to stay there, creating a hole in the order. Prado, Heyward, Ugla, McCann, AGon followed by Joe Mather, rookies and struggling center fielders just doesn’t have the same thunder.
Noticeably absent from the team’s depth chart is Eric Hinske. What is Fredi’s plan for him? Why is he off the board? The chatter is speculating about Hinske’s weight. Left fielders shaped like a keg of beer don’t usually get a lot of action. So “Ske” may be this year’s bat off the bench. He signed a one year $1.45 million contract in the offseason and hit .298 as a pinch hitter in 2010. My guess is that Ske will be used primarily to back up Freeman at first.
The “Round mound of A-town” could also displace Brooks Conrad as an emergency player as our third option at second and on the hot corner. Conrad is still on the roster despite his poor performance at the close of 2010.
At first glance, the rotation and bullpen look strong. Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Minor and Beachy will fill out the starting spots. Kimbrel and Venters give the team options at closer.
The bottom line may be determined by how the team adjusts to a new leader. Gonzalez is in a tough spot. It is never easy to follow a legend and unless he wins immediately, the heat will build on the skipper.
There, I feel warmer already.