Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves 2014 Season Preview

Recap of 2013

Record: 96-66, 1st N.L. East

Key Additions

C Ryan Doumit, RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Ervin Santana

Key Departures

C Brian McCann, RHP Tim Hudson, 2B Elliot Johnson

Payroll

Cot’s has the Braves payroll at just under $106 million which places them eighth in the National League. The signing of Ervin Santana last week to replace the loss of Kris Medlen for a 1-year, $14.1 million contract put the Braves over the $100 million mark. In addition to Santana’s contract, Justin and B.J. Upton, and Dan Uggla are each earning north of $10 million this year. Closer Craig Kimbrel is raking in a cool $7.25 million in 2014.

Player to Watch

Evan Gattis enters the year as the starting catcher for the first time in his career with the Braves. The seventh-place vote getter in Rookie of the Year voting last season replaces Brian McCann who entered the free agency market in the offseason. Gattis played exceptionally well in 2013 in part-time duty; in 105 games he hit 21 home runs and knocked in 65 runs. His strikeout total was high (81 in 382 plate appearances) and his OPS wasn’t great (.771), but the 27-year old has the entire season to gain experience and play on a more consistent basis. How he will react to the new role will be interesting.

Must Improve Upon 2013

B.J. Upton had one of the worst seasons of any player in recent memories especially considering the hype of his arrival and his large salary: $14 million. However, his stat line is really not comparable to anyone ever: a .184 batting average, nine homers, and 26 RBI. Those numbers actually happened. It’s not rocket science that Upton must perform exponentially better than he did last year, but the Braves still won their division and 96 games. If Upton had even put up sub-par numbers, chances are the Braves would have won 4 or 5 more games. Either way, the Braves need Upton to play better in 2014. On the bright side, he won’t have a worse season than he did last year.

Regression Candidate

Freddie Freeman put up huge numbers last year (23 HR, 109 RBI, .319 average) and earned an 8-year contract worth $135 million. Freeman will likely have another good year for the Braves, but it is very difficult to put up numbers that are deemed worthy of the money he is earning. He won’t have a bad season, but don’t be surprise to see a slight decline in his output in 2014. Nothing to be concerned about however.

X-Factor

Ervin Santana was out of a job as of last week. The injury to Kris Medlen will make him unavailable for the duration of the season. Santana comes from the Royals where he was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA. Medlen accounted for 15 wins in 2013 so Santana will be trying to offset the loss of production. Santana has played since 2005 and has 105 career wins and a career 4.19 ERA. His 2014 salary is $14 million so the Braves really hope they get good production. Furthermore, the Braves will need him to be a good substitute in Medlen’s absence.

Biggest Question for 2014

Can the Braves become a more disciplined offensively as a team? They struck out as a team 1,384 times, which led all of baseball. Five players were punched out more than 100 times and the Upton brothers struck out 312 times between the two of them. The Braves had enough power output from their lineup that the strikeout numbers were offset to a certain extent, and they were second in the league in walks. Strikeouts are not the end of the world, but being inconsistent can be. The Braves went on multiple stretches where their offense would disappear and they were left to rely on the pitching. While the pitching is solid and the bullpen is fabulous, the Braves need a more consistent effort from their offense to ensure continued success in the improving N.L. East.

Prediction:

98-64 (1st in NL East)

Tags: Atlanta Braves MLB

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