• Exclusives

    Braves offense COULD be among NL’s best. No, seriously.

    By Kent Covington

    2011 has come and gone, and Braves fans continue to watch and wait to see what General Manager, Frank Wren, and Co. might have in store for the 2011 roster.  Beyond the addition of a backup shortstop, which is a relative certainty, there is no way of knowing what, if any, changes the Braves might make between now and opening day.

    Jason Heyward's ability to rebound from a poor '11 season will be key

    But regardless of whatever alterations are or are not made, this Atlanta lineup IS capable of carrying the Braves back to the postseason without any significant changes.  This is understandably difficult for many to accept after the utterly mediocre—at best—performance of this offense in ’11, but the Braves’ lineup is potentially quite good.

    Short of a substantial roster upgrade, their fortunes will depend heavily on the ability of outfielders, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward, to stay healthy and rebound from disappointing ’11 seasons.  To depend on that happening is certainly risky, but if there is no solution available via trade (without overpaying), the Braves may have no choice.

    But let’s set those concerns aside for a moment and focus on the possibilities. What is the current cast of characters capable of accomplishing?

    The numbers below are a snapshot of what a good season might look like for each member of the Braves’ lineup, given 500 truly healthy at-bats. It’s highly unlikely that everyone in this—or any—lineup will have a good (and entirely healthy) season.  So this is not a prediction, but rather a look at what each hitter is quite capable of doing.

     

    AVG

    HR

    RBI

    SB

    OBP

    OPS

    Bourn

    .287

    1

    54

    60

    .352

    .735

    Prado

    .305

    16

    70

    4

    .350

    .810

    Jones

    .280

    20

    75

    3

    .360

    .820

    McCann

    .290

    24

    90

    2

    .370

    .850

    Uggla

    .282

    35

    105

    3

    .359

    .875

    Freeman

    .285

    23

    85

    3

    .357

    .835

    Heyward

    .283

    26

    91

    12

    .369

    .865

    Pastornicky

    .275

    4

    50

    24

    .350

    .725

    It’s hard to know where the ceiling rests for the three kids at the back of the Atlanta lineup, Freeman, Heyward and Pastornicky.  But there’s a relative consensus within the Braves organization that they’re capable of at least the numbers suggested above.

    Braves will benefit from a full season of Michael Bourn's services in '12

    Bear in mind that the Braves led the NL in on-base percentage in 2010 and were 5th in runs scored that season.  Then they upgraded prior to ’11 by essentially swapping out Troy Glaus and Melky Cabrera in the lineup for Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman.  Amazingly, after a considerable upgrade, offensive production actually dropped.

    My point is simply that this Atlanta offense underachieved in ’11 and is capable of more. Much more.

    A full year with Michael Bourn in the lineup + bounce-back seasons by Prado and Heyward could empower this Braves offense to not only improve on ‘11 numbers, but surpass their ‘10 production as well.

    Once again, I know that usually at least one of your regulars will suffer through a disappointing season. And injuries, of course, will happen.  So I do not disagree with those who feel the Braves could benefit from adding another outfield bat. The bigger the bat, that better. But no fan should abandon hope if they fail to make such an addition.

    This Braves lineup is capable of finishing top-5 in the NL in runs scored in 2012. The talent is there.

    Their fortunes will be determined by health and performance.

    Comments? Questions? Leave your thoughts below and tweet Kent at @FriedBasballATL.

    P.S. The Fried Baseball podcast will return in early 2012 with an entirely new feel. More guests, more interviews and more insanity. See ya then!