The Atlanta Braves‘ lineup in 2013 was going to look much different without Chipper Jones penciled in at third base, and now there is no Martin Prado and the addition of both Upton brothers with the Braves recent acquisition of Justin Upton.
What does that do the outlook of the lineup in 2013?
I would not classify it as an overhaul but saying it will change significantly is understated. It all starts at the top of the order. In 2012, the Braves had quintessential No. 1 and 2 hitters in Michael Bourn and Prado.
Now, the Braves will likely hand the leadoff spot to Andrelton Simmons, who has played in just 49 games at the MLB level. Simmons obviously lacks experience but has certain qualities that can make him a successful leadoff hitter. Throughout the minors and his short time in Atlanta, Simmons has shown he will put the ball in play. He averaged a strike out every 13.5 plate appearances in the minors and posted a respectable 8.7 in Atlanta.
Combine that factor with his .289 batting average and his above average speed, and there are reasons to be excited about his potential as a leadoff hitter.
Who hits behind Simmons in the No. 2 hole?
I think that figuring out who hits second will allow the rest of the lineup to fill out. I could make a case for B.J. Upton at this spot, but in the end I think Fredi Gonzalez will have Jason Heyward take over this role.
Heyward has experience hitting second, is a good enough situational hitter and gets on base at a high level. While Heyward flourished in the No. 3 spot in 2012, he has the tools to have success hitting behind Simmons and ahead of dynamic run-producers.
The other factor that will make this an intriguing option for Gonzalez is the opportunity to have a left-handed and right-handed alternating order throughout the lineup. By Heyward hitting second, the rest of the lineup would likely be Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton, Brian McCann (when healthy), Dan Uggla and the platoon of Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco.
Not only is that a deep and potent lineup, but it makes it difficult on opponents’ bullpens at the end of games.
Do you bring in a left-handed pitcher or right-handed? Pick your poison.
An alternating lineup gives Gonzalez a slight advantage at the end of games. And over the course of a 162 game season, slight advantages add up and could be the difference in winning the division or not. Once Spring Training arrives, we will know much more in regards to the outlook of the 2013 lineup.
But for now, it’s fun to project and explore all the possibilities.