Chopcast: Braves’ third base poses questions

The retirement of Chipper Jones was always going to leave huge shoes to fill in Atlanta, where he not only pieced together a (future) Hall of Fame career but produced at a high rate even in his last season.

Of course, the heir apparent just two weeks ago looked to be Martin Prado, who was traded to Arizona in the seven-player deal that most notably brought Justin Upton to Atlanta. That leaves Juan Francisco, Jones’ primary backup in 2012, and the lesser-known piece of the Upton deal, Chris Johnson, vying for the third base spot.

No one is expecting similar production from that position this season, but how big of a question mark is the hot corner now for the Braves? Fredi Gonzalez said Monday he expects either Francisco or Johnson to hit in the eighth spot (until proven otherwise), so how much pressure is actually on the two suddenly important pieces.

Our Chopcast team discussed the hot corner Monday. Here are the highlights:

1:00: Following Super Bowl Sunday, the team talks Super Bowl festivities and the official end of football season.

3:06: It looks like the organization addressed needs nearly across the board, so is third base the biggest remaining hole or question mark on the Braves’ roster?

4:15: With neither Francisco or Johnson proving themselves to be a definitive starter at the Major League level, will Braves manager utilize a platoon-type approach to the position or could one guy potentially win the job during spring training.

7:22: Chris Johnson’s numbers jumped up in Arizona, but will that translate to Turner Field and Atlanta’s organization? If he does hit in the No. 8 hole, like Gonzalez mentioned, will that alter his approach at the plate?

9:35: In rather fitting fashion, Johnson has quite a few times to Chipper Jones and his family.

11:25: There is intrigue at the prospect of Francisco, who offers plenty of pop at the plate, but there’s a certain level of risk as well. He could become a 20-plus home run hitter, but his strikeout and walk rates have been alarming.

14:15: Instead of a traditional platoon situation, could Gonzalez simply ride the hottest hand of Francisco and Johnson?

18:20: The more intriguing position heading into spring: Third base or the Braves’ No. 5 spot in the rotation?

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