2010 MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

>> Tuesday, March 9, 2010

After 14 consecutive division titles, the Atlanta Braves have not been to the post season since 2005. 2010 will be Manger Bobby Cox’s last year with the club so we can bet that they would like to make the playoffs in his final year at the helm. After winning 86 games in 2009, and having the sixth best run differential, the Braves fell short of their post season goals, but they come back in 2010 with a pretty solid team that could threaten for the National League Wild Card.

The biggest question for this club is how good is the pitching staff? With a surplus of starters they team traded Javier Vazquez; they also dealt reliever Rafael Soriano and allowed Mike Gonzales to leave via free agency. Now the bullpen is anchored by closer Billy Wagner, and set up man Takashi Saito. The starting rotation 1-5 may be the deepest and best starting rotations in baseball. It is anchored by Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens who both finished 2009 with a sub 3.00 ERA. The Braves also have Tim Hudson now a year and half removed from Tommy John surgery.

Another concern is the status of Troy Glaus and his shoulder. The Braves are betting that move to first base from third will reduce the wear and tear on his shoulder, but Troy has only played six games there. The Braves need him to regain to 2008 form where he hit 27 home runs. Braves first baseman hit just 19 homers last year, and 12 of those were hit by late season addition Adam LaRoche. The Braves need Glaus to be productive at the plate or they could struggle.

Even with a pretty solid roster, there are questions that the Braves might not have enough offense. If they can score enough runs they have closed the gap between themselves and the Philadelphia Phillies, in that case they should be amongst the teams contesting for a wild card playoff birth. If they cannot score runs, more trades will need to be made.

Here's what I think the lineup may look like:

1. CF Nate McLouth
2. 2B Martin Prado
3. 3B Chipper Jones
4. 1B Troy Glaus
5. C Brian McCann
6. SS Yunel Escobar
7. LF Matt Diaz
8. RF Melky Cabrera

SP: Tim Hudson
SP: Derek Lowe
SP: Jair Jurrjens
SP: Tommy Hanson
SP: Kenshin Kawakami

CP: Billy Wagner