Braves analyst Chip Caray looks at the team's offseason and what he's looking forward to in '13.
By CHIP CARAY FS South
FOX Sports South: What kind of impact do you expect from the Upton brothers on the Braves lineup?
Chip Caray: The Upton Brothers impact on the Braves team is enormous.
After the retirements of Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones over the last three years, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson are the longest tenured Braves. Tim is 37. Brian is a potential free agent. That the Braves are able to pencil in two sub-30 year old All-Star-caliber players in their lineup for the next three seasons (along with
Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, and Jason Heyward) is incredibly important.
The Uptons bring a tremendous amount of athleticism, power and balance to what is a largely left-handed hitting lineup. B.J. can lead off in a pinch, Justin can play left field or right field and with Heyward in RF, some have said the Braves have perhaps the most athletic outfield in baseball.
I hope they're right.
FSS: Who do you expect to fill the void left by Chipper Jones in the clubhouse?
CC: No "one" can singlehandedly replace Chipper Jones but there are enough veterans in that clubhouse to say and do what's needed at the right time.
Leadership, for me, means playing the game the right way.That's been the "Braves way" for decades, long before Chipper Jones suited up. There's no leadership vacuum, in my opinion. Chipper's absence will take some getting used to.
But the games always go on and leaders always emerge on their own.
FSS: Which April series have you circled on your calendar as an early season test?
CC: April's not the easiest month, for sure. Washington is on the schedule on the first road trip, (which also features a stop in Miami) so we will have an early look at the defending National League East Champs.
After that trio and a two-game home series, we hit the road yet again for a big test. I call it our Iditarod road trip to Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Colorado. In April. That we visit those cities just once all year means we hope for no rain/snow-outs so we won't be hopscotching back to all of those towns all year long in off days.
As my dad would've said, "those fun loving guys in the MLB scheduling department....."
FSS: Which young Brave do you expect to make an impact in 2013?
CC: As exciting as it is to speculate on the formulation of a 25-man roster at the seasons start, good organizations have a much deeper stable of talent.
Young pitching really impressed me is spring. Sean Gilmartin, Alex Wood, and Wirfin Obispo really impressed me. They all could be very important if Jonny Venters and/or Jordan Walden have any early season injury issues.
Although he didn't make the Opening Day roster, Tyler Pastornicky will be back. Evan Gattis may be baseball's best early season comeback story, and players like
Joey Terdoslavich and
Christian Bethancourt, are coming soon.
As young and talented as this Braves team is now, there's more coming!
FSS: How excited do you get for the start of each baseball season?
CC: I love the start of a new season!
April 1 is a fresh start for everyone in baseball. Nobody in Braves Country was happy with the way 2012 ended. General manager Frank Wren believes the 2013 club may be the best he's put together.
They're young, talented, and driven. They've experienced the agonies and ecstasies of playoff chases and win-or-go-home games. The next logical step is to again reach postseason play and win a series (or four).
Barring injury or trade, the core of this team has a chance to play together for at least the next three years. Seeing these guys grow up as young men and players is a lot of fun ... and here's hoping we all enjoy 162 very exciting days ahead!