By Jim Pratt
Major League Baseball is in that early-February lull that comes each offseason between the whirlwind of trade activity, but prior to pitchers/catchers reporting. With the current roster basically set heading into Spring Training, this would be a good time to fill that seasonal void by discussing what the future holds for the Atlanta Braves.
The front office has made it clear they have a specific direction for the organization moving forward and they have no intention of altering that plan for a quick fix solution. Building depth and talent through player development in the farm system is priority number one. That doesn’t mean they won’t make a deadline deal, as they did last season for centerfielder Michael Bourn, if it means improving the team without sacrificing the future.
For this particular discussion we will explore what the roster could look like two years from Opening Day, the 2014 season.
Remember that this is a completely speculative exercise and for entertainment purposes only. With that said, BravesWire would be interested to hear any comments or suggestions regarding Atlanta’s future lineup possibilities.
Catcher: Brian McCann (Depth: Christian Bethancourt)
The next two seasons for Brian McCann will provide a glimpse into whether or not he is on the path to a Hall of Fame type of career. Catcher is such a physically demanding position; injuries will likely play a key role in determining his Hall of Fame candidacy. As long as he can remain on the field for 130-plus games a season, there is no reason to think he won’t continue to produce offensive numbers worthy of being in that type of conversation.
If Christian Bethancourt continues along his progression rate, he will be splitting time between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinett during the 2014 season. Depth on the major league club will come from a David Ross type bench player, but if the McCann is lost for a significant period of time it’s possible Bethancourt’s talent will be too hard to ignore.
First Base: Freddie Freeman (Depth:Joe Terdoslavich)
Freddie Freeman is coming off an impressive rookie campaign by leading all National League rookies in seven of the major offensive categories. The power ceiling for Freeman is likely in the 25-28 range, but it’s his all-around offensive potential that makes up for the lack of “prototypical” first base power.
His 142 strikeouts in 2011 can be attributed to facing Major League pitching for the first time. That number should decrease over the next two seasons which will affect his batting average in a positive manner. The 2014 season should be the beginning of consistent production of a .290-plus AVG, 24-28 HR and 90-plus RBI.
Joe Terdoslavich is listed as the depth here because of the uncert
ainty of not only his position moving forward, but the uncertainty of what the bench will look like in 2014.
Second Base: Dan Uggla (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky)
Dan Uggla followed up a miserable beginning to his Braves career (.185/.257/.365) with apromising second half of the season (.296/.379/.569). In 2014, hewill be in the fourth year of his five-year $62 million deal.
A consistent 30-plus homerun power threat, his average will lie somewhere between last season’s first and second half splits. Uggla will establish himself has the clean-up hitter as early as 2012 and should reach the 100 RBI plateau for the second time in his career within the next two seasons.
Defensively, Tyler Pastornicky will take over the utility infield role for the middle of the diamond and third base. His biggest offensive asset off the bench will continue to be his speed.
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky)
Using the 20-80 grade scale, Andrelton Simmons has an 80 grade arm and the glove to match. It will be that Gold Glove ability that will fast-track him to the big leagues at some point late in the 2013 season, which will set him up to become the starter in 2014.
The concern with Simmons has always been his offensive upside, but he began to put those doubts to rest last season when he won the Carolina League batting title with a .311 average.
For a more in-depth look at Simmons, take a look at this recent column written for Bleacher Report.
Third Base: Joe Terdoslavich (Depth: Tyler Pastornicky, Edward Salcedo)
Chipper Jones will play this season at 40 years old and has recently stated he could play into the 2013 season. If that’s the case, it will likely be his farewell tour around the league.
For the sake of this exercise, we are going to assume Atlanta’s willingness to deal Martin Prado comes to fruition at some point and he will not be a member of the 2014 roster.
Following the Braves track record of building a team from within, Joe Terdoslavich will man the hot corner for at least the 2014 season. He only played three games at third for Class-A Lynchburg last year, but he will be given an opportunity this season at Double-A Mississippi to prove he can play the position. His defense skills are a question mark, so he will only be a one or two year placeholder as Edward Salcedo matures in the minors.
It will be Terdoslavich’s bat that allows him to play third in the interim. This past year at Lynchburg, he hit .286 with 20 HR, 82 RBI and broke a 65-year Carolina League record hitting 52 doubles.
He followed that up in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .321/.424/.548, including 6 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs in 84 at-bats.
Next up will be the outfield. Will Bourn still be in centerfield? Who will be in the corner opposite Jason Heyward?
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