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MLB Atlanta Braves

2014 Season At A Glance: Atlanta Braves

Rob Tringali – Getty Images

With Spring Training right around the corner, what better time to start looking at all 30 MLB teams for the upcoming 2014 season? Earlier, the Arizona Diamondbacks were previewed and this will go alphabetically through the teams over the next 10 days before wrapping up with my final season preview that will include standings, playoffs, World Series, award picks and Top 50 prospects. Next, the Baltimore Orioles.

Atlanta Braves:

2013 Record: 96-66 (First place in NL East)

Key additions: Signed RHP Gavin Floyd, Traded for C Ryan Doumit

Key losses: C Brian McCann (signed with New York Yankees), RHP Tim Hudson (signed with San Francisco Giants), LHP Paul Maholm (Free agent), OF Reed Johnson (signed with Miami Marlins).

Quick Winter Recap:
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman were signed to big deals and Craig Kimbrel looks headed to arbitration. Freeman’s contract actually set a club record. With three young stars due big pay days, there was no way Atlanta was going to compete with the Yankees for McCann.

Farm System Outlook:
Atlanta’s system isn’t very good. Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons are here to stay and based on his performance last year, so is Alex Wood. Top prospect Lucas Sims did very well in the minors last year, but he’s still a few years away from his debut.

Most Intriguing Player:
Teheran showed some ace potential last year by quickly turning around his control to the tune of 170 strikeouts and 45 walks in 185.2 innings, while going 14-8. It was due for Teheran, who was making this third stint in Atlanta. Teheran’s FIP (1.99) showed signs of his 2013 performance in 2012 and stayed solid in everyday work, posting a 3.69 FIP, better than the above-average pitcher. What will be intriguing about Teheran in 2014 is if he can take the next step and increase his K/9 beyond 8.24, while holding steady in walks and becoming a true ace-caliber pitcher.

Due For A Better Year:
If Heyward can remain healthy, it’s hard to imagine he won’t put up 2012 numbers again. He was significantly better in his walk and strikeout numbers in 2013, with his strikeout percentage at 16.6 percent (a career low) and his walk rate at 10.9 percent (career best was 14.6 in 2010). Despite playing only 104 games, he produced a 3.4 WAR and his best line drive rate (21.4 percent) of his career, suggesting his .254 batting average could have been better.

Due For A Worse Year:
Evan Gattis. He played only 105 games last year and hit 21 home runs with a .243/.291/.480 slash line. Gattis’s peripheral stats don’t match up well for a repeat performance. He recorded only a 5.5 percent walk rate compared to a 21.2 percent strikeout. He swings for the fence as evidenced by a low 14.5 percent line drive rate and above average fly ball rate (44.6 percent). On pitches outside the zone, he swung about 18 percent more than league average and made only about four percent more contact than the league average.

2014 Outlook:
Atlanta still has question marks. Simmons will be a key player if his offense improves at all because he might be the best defensive shortstop in the game. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Teheran make a formidable top three with Brandon Beachy (if healthy), Wood, David Hale or Floyd rounding it out. Atlanta is a solid team, but an improved and healthy Washington Nationals present a big challenge. The Braves have a lot of young talent on the offense and pitching staff, but key losses like McCann, some rotation and bullpen questions, and the need for a handful or so of bounce-back seasons will make the division harder to capture.

Prediction: 90-72 (Wild Card, second in NL East)

Jerry Burnes is a Chicago Cubs and MLB prospects writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JerryBurnes, “Like” him on Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.