• Exclusives

    How good can this Braves lineup be? (Hint: insanely)

    BJ Upton will largely replace the speed lost with departure of Michael Bourn in CF

    Charged with the mission of replacing future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones AND All-Star center-fielder Michael Bourn in this Atlanta lineup, Braves GM Frank Wren had a whale of a task ahead of him this winter. Well, okay… with plenty of trade chips and cash to spend, perhaps a “whale” is overstating it. But at the very least, he faced a Bob Wickman of a task.

    He pulled it off.

    A pair of Uptons did the trick. Some have pointed out that the Braves actually lost ground in the lineup, if you go by WAR (an advanced metric–WAR stands for “wins above replacement”). But sometimes no single number, even an aggregate stat like WAR, tells the whole story. The reality is that this lineup is now significantly more talented than it was on opening day a year ago.

    Recently, noted baseball prognosticator Bill James released his projections for the 2013 Atlanta Braves lineup. If James proves at all prophetic, Braves fans have a lot to look forward to. Here is what James expects:

    Simmons .289 .351 10 62 31 18 .767
    Heyward .272 .360 26 92 37 20 .843
    J.Upton .289 .372 25 86 39 19 .864
    Freeman .282 .358 24 85 37 3 .839
    B.Upton .248 .329 23 75 37 35 .765
    McCann .266 .347 23 58 29 3 .814
    Uggla .238 .341 28 92 33 3 .780
    **Fransisco/Johnson .276 .316 23 78 39 6 .787
    AVERAGE .270 .347 23 79 35 13 .807
    TOTAL .270 .347 182 628 282 106 .807

    **Juan Fransisco and Chris Johnson’s projected stats each scaled to 290 at-bats and added together (assuming 50/50 playing time). 

    No one’s projections ever prove entirely accurate–or even close to it. But these are well reasoned and objective expectations. Certainly one or more of the Braves’ regulars could have a down year (see Dan Uggla last year) or suffer injuries (Brian McCann in ’12). Then again, a number of the Braves hitters could exceed expectations. For instance, with all of this power, I will be surprised if the Braves don’t have at least one or two 30+ homerun hitters this season.

    The Braves have a great chance of topping 200 homeruns as a team for the first time in 7 years, while posting a very solid team on base percentage. A lot of people getting on base combined with a lineup full of run producers should equate to lot of baserunners crossing home plate this season.

    Bottom line: Barring a healthy dose of poor luck, this stacked Atlanta lineup should be among the NL’s best. It’s certainly among the league’s most talented lineups.