Team preview: Atlanta Braves

BY John Halpin • February 1, 2011

Projected lineup

1. LF: Martin Prado
2. CF: Nate McLouth
3. 3B: Chipper Jones
4. C: Brian McCann
5. 2B: Dan Uggla
6. RF: Jason Heyward
7. 1B: Freddie Freeman
8. SS: Alex Gonzalez

Projected rotation

1. SP: Tim Hudson
2. SP: Derek Lowe
3. SP: Jair Jurrjens
4. SP: Tommy Hanson
5. SP: Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy
CL: Craig Kimbrel

Five tips

• New manager Fredi Gonzalez likes McLouth in the two-hole despite his miserable 2010. Makes you think he could bounce back, doesn’t it? He’s 59th in my outfield rankings.

• Remember that Prado still qualifies at second base and third base for fantasy purposes. Prado is a top-10 player at the keystone, with his .307 career batting average as his biggest asset. He’ll score close to 100 runs and hit 12-15 homers as a nice fantasy player.

• Heyward is 19th in the outfield rankings, but is anyone else worried about his thumb? It was injured May 14 and "still has not regained the same flexibility," according to the Braves’ website. Heyward says the thumb isn’t affecting his hitting. Hmm ...

• The 21-year-old Freeman is the man at first base after posting a .319 batting average, 19 homers and an .896 OPS in Triple A last season. He probably shouldn’t be drafted this season in 12-team standard leagues. Expect some struggles. Down the road, he could be very good. Most guys don’t hit so well in Triple A at that age.

• Forget about the rotation order above; Hanson is the team’s best fantasy starter. His control got better last year, and his ground ball rate improved. Hanson is currently ranked 16th among starters, but he could be much better than that.

Plus:

Odd man out:  Beachy (had a 2.17 ERA in eight starts at Triple A last year) fits here, if he loses the fifth-starter job to fellow rookie Minor, which is the guess here.

Top prospects: Beyond Freeman, Minor and Beachy, blue-chip starting pitcher Julio Teheran could rocket through the minors in time for a late-season callup. He’s more likely to be heard from in 2012, though.

• Backup closer: Kimbrel is the frontrunner with lefty Jonny Venters as the logical Plan B. Peter Moylan and former Dodgers/Orioles reliever George Sherrill could be options down the road as well.


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