March 22, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (68) is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after he hit a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Springing into the Regular Season

Heading into Opening Day, the Atlanta Braves finished up with a 20-15 record in Spring Training. However, that does not tell the tale of the successes the Braves had in the Spring. Behind the battle for third base that ended in a platoon, the Braves performance at the plate was the biggest story all spring.

Seven players made the 25-man roster had a batting average over .300 and all of them played at least 20 games. Freddie Freeman had a whopping seven homeruns, only two behind the league leader in Michael Morse. Juan Francisco, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton all fell right behind Freeman with 6 homers each.

March 23, 2013; Dunedin, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) doubles during the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Upton had 19 RBIs with a batting average of .286. Although Justin has only had one season at .300 exactly, he’s always been a solid producer for the Diamondbacks. I think he’ll fit in just fine in Atlanta once the regular season is underway. B.J. had 6 doubles with with a .347 AVG.

Lastly, the biggest topic was the two third basemen swinging away at the plate. Chris Johnson finished with a .361 AVG, 12 RBIs and only 13 strikeouts. Juan Francisco came through Spring with a .333 AVG, 6 homers, 14 RBIs and 16 strikeouts. There are a lot of people criticizing Fredi Gonzalez‘s choice to platoon third base, but I think this will be an exciting duo to watch day in and day out. There’s no doubt in my mind, the battle to get the full-time starting role will continue well into the regular season.

I think a lot of these players will see a lot of success this season. The addition of the Justin and B.J. Upton and Chris Johnson will make for an exciting time in Atlanta. Evan Gattis’ story has been all over the news and is bringing a lot of good press to the Braves as well. However, excitement and good press don’t win ballgames.

The key component for the starting nine has to be hitting the ball. The team lost their only player that hit over .300 last year in the trade to get Justin Upton, so there’s a lot of ground to be covered. Jason Heyward needs to have a good bounce back year and produce some runs. Brian McCann needs to come back strong or else he might have a challenge for his starting role in Evan Gattis, who impressed a lot of people this spring.

Little needs to be said about the Braves bullpen. They are expected to light up the mound just as they did last year as they finished with the fourth lowest opponent batting average in the league at .243. They should come out burning up the opposing batters and hoping the 8 players behind them can put some runs on the board.

There’s a lot of worries about the Braves strikeout count as well. Last season, they were seventh in the league with 1,289 strikeouts. That number has got to come down this season or else we might be in for the same dismal ending we experienced last year as fans.

Provided everything plays out according to planned, I see the Braves in a tough fight with the Nationals for the NL East. As a Braves fan, obviously I want to see them dominate all season long, but it’s hard to look over the solid team in Washington. No matter what team you follow, you can’t deny the Atlanta Braves will be one of the most entertaining and exciting to watch all season long.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves FanSided

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