Thursday, February 09, 2006

Braves Preview, Part 1 of 2

Pitchers and catchers report on 9 days, so now is as good a time as any to look at the Braves’ 2006 prospects.


Last year’s lineup sometimes featured Andruw Jones and 7 rookies. I still think Andruw should have gotten the MVP, as there were no other established forces in the lineup last year. That being said, Andruw will not hit 50 HR again. No way.

Chipper Jones is another year older. He missed 50 games last year. He now is guaranteed $37 million dollars over the next three years, whereas he was only guaranteed $11 million for this year with two option years before. Given his injury history and his diminishing offensive skills, it wouldn’t be unlikely to see another position change – this time, a permanent change – so that Wilson Betemit can crack the starting lineup at 3B.

The funniest part of Larry’s re-negotiation is that the Braves trumpeted saving $8 million in future years from this deal, where in reality they’re now on the hook for a guaranteed $26 million more, regardless of whether he is healthy and effective or not. I’m siding with “not”. The Braves will soon regret being on the hook for that much guaranteed money with Chipper's first extended DL trip.

What about the aforementioned rookies?

Jeff Francoeur had a great rookie year, and if he had been called up earlier would surely have won ROY. There’s no reason he can’t have a .300/25/85 season. The same goes for Adam LaRoche, now that 208-year old Julio Franco is finally gone and taking away 200+ AB's.

Edgar Renteria can provide some desperately needed speed with Giles at the top of the lineup. However, both of them need to find ways to make it to first base, after sub-par seasons last year. Hopefully they're figured out that you have to actually hit the ball and put it in play to get on abse regularly.

Brian McCann (C) and Ryan Langerhans (LF) are serviceable at the bottom of the order. McCann had some big hits last year, enabling the Braves to ship Johnny Estrada out of town.

Essentially, they’re replacing Rafael Furcal with Edgar Renteria, the rookies are a year older, but so is Chipper. Overall, probably a wash from last year.

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