When a new year begins, we usually spend a good deal of time looking back on the year that was, reminiscing about stories, successes, failures, etc. We’ve done plenty of that covering the Atlanta Braves, analyzing what could have been, mistakes that were made, and positives as well. I could spend time putting together yet another piece highlighting memories about the 2013 season, but I think I’d rather try and look ahead to this new year, and imagine what might be.
We can make pretty educated guesses at this point as to who will start at every position, with the possible exception of 2nd base. While the jury is still out there, I believe there’s a solid chance we’ll see Dan Uggla back for one more chance at redemption. One of our writers will be doing a projection piece on Dan, so I won’t over-analyze here, except to say that Dan still has value as an Atlanta Brave. His walk rate and high OBP make up a good deal for his huge strikeout rate, and his ability to hit close to 30 homers per season won’t have me too upset if he starts this year. Can he turn his struggles around though? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if he starts, he will turn things around. I’m not talking about a monumental season, but I think Dan will figure out how to put together a respectable season. It’s great to know that if he does continue to struggle, we have good backups waiting in the wings.
With regard to the remainder of the infield position players, I feel confident that we’ll see Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson continue their patient approach at the plate, and stellar work offensively. We all know that Andrelton Simmons will continue his wizardry at short, and I even expect Chris Johnson’s defense to improve. No, I know the numbers don’t support that sort of projection, but I think Chris is simply a new man, reborn on a new team, and is working hard to improve every facet of his game. People can improve you know, despite the analytical hype we often saddle them with. From everything we’ve heard, Evan Gattis will have the lion’s share of the duties behind the plate, and while I hope he improves defensively, we all know that he has the talent to put together an amazing performance with the bat, especially if playing every day. God forbid Evan struggles, but it’s great to know we have a good catching core in the wings.
As for the outfield, I think we’ll see at least the standard performances from Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, and we might even see above average performances from them. My only concern is B.J. Upton, and I’ll admit that probably no writer has been any more tough on him than myself. To be honest, I’m skeptical about B.J., and my chief complaint is not so much his ability, but his attitude. I desperately want to believe in B.J. though, and so I’ll make one of those silly new year’s resolutions to believe in B.J., and support him with my thoughts and words. Again, if B.J. has another epic fail, it’s great to know Wren and Co. have been doing some work to provide ample backup in center.
The only other questions for the new year are the starting pitching, and the Braves’ bullpen. Because little has changed in the Braves’ pitching personnel, the jury is out on how well they will do. Everyone’s hope is that they will perform at least to the same level as last season, but I’m going to hope for more from them this year! I want to see better control, less tendency to give up runs early, and less game-losing hiccups from our pen. Recently, Buster Olney had them rated at about 8th in the NL in terms of pitching, but I’m going to hope they’ll be even better than that.
So join me Braves’ Country, and expressing hopes for not only a successful 2014, but a stellar one, and a season that surpasses all hopes. The Braves have pretty much the same team as last year, so my hope is that everyone on the team, from the front office, to management, to coaches, to players, and to fans – perform better than expected, and surprise all of us fans that have grown perhaps a little jaded. It’s particularly important as fans that we support our beloved Braves! As a regular Twitter user, I know I see a great deal of smack talk and negative things said about the team and players at times. It’s cool to have a passion for the team, and want them to win, but positive thoughts and words go a long way.
Here’s to the Atlanta Braves AND fans in 2014! May it be a notable year indeed!