I have had a blast writing the player projections and although I like to put one up for you daily (excluding Wednesdays) I figure there are some of you out there who might be getting tired of them. This is the best time of year to do projections because nothing happens in February but today we can take a break.
I’d just like to go over a couple of the main things I am looking forward to seeing in 2012. Despite not changing the team up at all this off season I am looking forward to a number of different storylines.
Jair Jurrjens could be one of the most confusing pitchers in baseball and within Braves Country you either love him or you hate him. Jurrjens has been a dominant pitcher at times in the bigs, and a mediocre pitcher at other times. The one thing we do know about Jurrjens is that his pitches are not anything extraordinary and he has either been lucky, or he really does have the ability to pitch to weak contact or has some other unquantifiable skill.
Ben Duronio wrote an extremely interesting piece on just this, and if you are as intrigued with Jurrjens as you should be, I would recommend a read.
This is probably the most obvious thing to watch for in 2012 as Heyward has the most influence on the team. If he can hit like he did in 2010 we could have one of the better offenses in the league. If not, we will again have a lot of pressure on the rotation and bullpen to carry us into the playoffs. Heyward’s performance won’t make or break our season but it will have a huge impact on it.
For the fourth year in a row the Braves are going with a rookie in a starting spot. Right now we are batting .667 (Heyward yes, Freeman yes, Schafer no) and Pastornicky is looking to make that .750. Pastornicky has the tools to be a solid MLB shortstop but he will have to prove he can handle the 162 game season at short, and also perform at least better than Sea Bass at the plate. The latter shouldn’t be too hard but the former could potentially pose some problems. I’m hoping Pasto exceeds expectations and keeps the rookie trend rolling in Atlanta.
The talk about Fredi has died off a bit lately and it is sure to heat up some time soon. Fredi Gonzalez needs to be a better in game manager this season. He needs to be much better. His bullpen usage was bad at best, his bunting strategies were horrible, and he didn’t play Jason Heyward enough. I am not sure that any manager in the game will ever escape criticism (especially not the one coming after Bobby Cox) but hopefully Fredi can manage to get a bit less of it.
We will finally be able to see if the offensive woes of 2011 were really Larry Parrish or not. Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher have gotten off to a good start in the offseason with Jason Heyward, but once Opening Day comes no one will care how much progress was being made in the Winter. Lot’s of players are being counted on to have bounce back seasons including Brian McCann, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, and Dan Uggla (different context).
Minor will finally get a deserved spot in the rotation and he is viewed by many as the most likely to get to 200 innings. Minor should be the best fifth starter in baseball and could prove to be a solid #3. The expectations are high for Mike coming after a huge success for Brandon Beachy and it will be nice for baseball to be surprised by yet another young Braves pitcher.
Tommy Hanson’s new delivery
You can’t be a Braves fan if you are not anxious to see how Tommy Hanson’s new delivery affects him. Hanson is an ace when he is healthy and if he and Roger McDowell have indeed fixed the hitch we could finally see him put it all together for an entire season. With a smoother motion Hanson is taking stress off of his shoulder and back.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see issues with control at first but once he gets used to it his pitches should all improve, as well as his durability. Check out DOB’s column on Hanson.
Even though we haven’t had any new players come to the team we have a ton of things to be excited, anxious, or nervous about. Those aren’t all ‘good’ things but they are definitely all reasons to wish baseball was here already. Anything you can’t wait to see that I left out? Let me know.