April is just around the corner, and with it marks another season of Braves baseball. Coming off of a 96 win season, the Braves are expected to be serious contenders in the National League East(Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi even thinks so this year!), but as any baseball fan knows, no titles are won conventionally.
Teams face all different types of adversity over the course of a 162 game season, and the Braves have already faced quite a bit before Spring Training has even come to an end. April is sure to be full of ups and downs for the club, and here are five bold predictions to bring you down to Earth, or even maybe raise your spirit.
- 1) Dan Uggla will hit over .220.
As I touched on in my last article, Uggla is making strides towards improving. Couple that with his low pressure placement in the lineup, and the presence of Tommy La Stella in AAA Gwinnett, I see a solid, if only average, performance out of Uggla in April.
- 2) Alex Wood pitches like an ace.
With a depleted pitching staff that will open the year featuring a 24 year old Opening Day starter, one of two rookies and a newly signed 35 year old coming off a down year, Alex Wood’s performance will be more than crucial. The good news is that Alex Wood is responding early on. In 20 spring innings, the 23 year old lefty has tallied 16 strikeouts compared to only two walks. Wow. I’m banking on Wood to deliver a phenomenal April performance.
3) The Braves will flirt with the .500 mark.
It’s something no one wants to hear, but I feel like things will be a little rocky for Fredi Gonzalez and company in April. Some pitching uncertainty alongside the uncertain performances of Uggla and B.J. Upton, and the question marks that could be Evan Gattis and Chris Johnson make the early going seem like a slippery slope. It may not be by much (maybe 1-3 games over or under), but the Braves should stabilize into the division winning club we expect by summer, which will be highlighted by the addition of Gavin Floyd and the return of Jonny Venters.
- 4) Harang might actually be kind of good.
We all know Aaron Harang is essentially just a stopgap for Gavin Floyd. In the eventual rotation of Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Mike Minor, Floyd in any kind of good health leaves him as the odd man out. Whether or not he remains in the organization is yet to be indicated, but his time here will be productive. He won’t pitch like an ace, but his reported positive velocity increase will be enough for him to scathe by with some good luck and a respectable ERA.
5) The lineup will be a game of musical chairs.
Yesterday Fredi gave a little indication of what we could expect from our Opening Day lineup, and it was a bit shocking, as Jeff touched on in the Morning Chop. As much as I am for giving B.J. the benefit of the doubt, I don’t see him as a #2 hitter, and I also don’t see Chris Johnson in the cleanup spot. I think both of these choices will bring less than stellar results, and hopefully it doesn’t take Fredi as long as it did to change this as it did to hit Jason Heyward leadoff…
None of these predictions are certain, but one thing that is certain is the Braves are in for a heck of a year.