The Atlanta Braves have gone stretches without Chipper Jones before. Sometimes he missed most of the year or was at least in and out for a year or two when his feet were bothering him. Even when he wasn’t there he was there though. Chipper brought a presence to the club house unmatched and was a huge eye sore in the line-up that opposing pitchers had to plan for. More than all of that, he was truly a franchise player. That is to say he put the franchise of the Braves ahead of himself on numerous occasions. The question is will it happen again and if so who?
There are several young guys that could step into a similar role eventually. First we’ll look at a few of the more veteran players. Brian McCann is the obvious choice that first comes to mind. He has been there since he started the majors and has been constantly an all-star caliber player. Mac could do the job in all likelihood but he might not stay healthy long enough to be a force for years to come. Tim Hudson hasn’t been there his entire career but has certainly been a mainstay and an important force in the clubhouse. His issue is age. There just isn’t enough time for him to be the guy for that long. Plus it kind of needs to be an everyday player.
So, what about the younger guys? Martin Prado is extremely well respected and an incredible talent. He has always been flexible to do what was best for the Braves and has excelled when doing it. It remains to be seen if he has that magic quality that kept Chipper from signing with the Yankees half way through his career however. Jason Heyward seems to be a mainstay and could be a guy that does what Chipper did for years and years. He might not be able to keep up a standard of excellence that long however. Freddie Freeman is only starting but has that clutch flare and could step into a more significant role in the coming years.
Basically the Braves fans have a lot to be thankful for in what they had for twenty seasons in Chipper Jones. There are candidates available but you have to remember that not even Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux did what Chipper did for the franchise. My money is on McCann if he can stay healthy for another five or so years but that assumes the Braves won’t go with their dynamite upcoming catcher when he arrives in a few years over McCann. Will there be another like Chipper? Unfortunately odds are there won’t be for quite some time. So who is the next franchise player for the Braves? Well, maybe no one.