MLB Team News & Rumors: Atlanta

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Atlanta Braves

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Atlanta Braves Team Projection

Atlanta has had back to back playoff seasons, but they have failed to make it to the World Series. Last year, they allowed the least amount of runs (548) in baseball, which led to a major league low 3.18 ERA. The Braves also allowed the 2nd lowest amount of walks (409). Their lack of success in the playoffs was due to an overachieving offense. Atlanta finished 4th in the NL in runs (688) and 1st in HR's (181), but they were tied for the NL lead in K's (1384). Additionally, the Braves only stole 64 bases in 2013. Atlanta lost C Brian McCann, P Tim Hudson, and P Paul Maholm to free agency. Their only additions were the signings of C Ryan Doumit and P Gavin Floyd. Floyd will start the year on the DL after having Tommy John surgery last May. Their offense has power, but it has plenty of question marks with the whiffs twins - 2B Dan Uggla and OF B.J. Upton. The Braves rotation really lacks a true ace, but it should have depth if P Brandon Beachy returns to his 2011 form and P Julio Teheran continues to improve. However, Atlanta's bullpen may lack depth behind CL Craig Kimbrel. The Braves have enough pitching and offense to be one of the top teams in the NL East.

1. OF Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward fantasy baseball

Mr. Heyward has been a frustrating player to own. He showed upside across the board during his rookie season and in 2012, but Jason continues to be plagued with injuries. Overall, he under performed last year. He also missed 58 games due to a broken jaw as a result of a pitch and appendectomy surgery in late April. In addition, Heyward had a minor hamstring issue in early summer. Overall, he has been a below average run producer (14%) during his major league career. His K rate (16.6%) made a nice step forward and his walk rate (10.9%) remained a positive. Jason played pretty well in June, July, and August (.297 with 11 HR's' and 29 RBI in 249 at bats). He is a career .273 hitter against righties and .232 against lefties. His upside in power has been restricted by his low FB rate (32.9%). I've liked Heyward in the past, but his draft value was always higher than I was willing to pay. Last year's injuries would fall more into the unlucky category. His skill set points to .300 upside with 30+ HR's in his future, and his low stats from 2013 will create a buying opportunity this year. The Braves are expected to bat him at the top of the order in 2014. Enjoy the ride - .300 with 100/25/75/20.

2. SS Andrelton Simmons

Andrelton Simmons fantasy baseball

Simmons made a nice step forward in power in 2013. Prior to last year, he only had 9 HR's in 1096 at bats between the minors and the majors. Andrelton hit .299 during his minor league career with 6 HR's, 99 RBI, and 54 SB's in 930 at bats. He even had a low K rate (7.4%), but barely took any walks (6.2%). His approach in the majors (8.4% K rate - 6.1% walk rate) was in line with his minor league career. Simmons struggled with LH pitching (.216), but showed some pop (6 HR's in 139 at bats) with a very good BB:K ratio (16:11). Over the 2nd half of 2013, he hit .256 with 11 HR's and 36 RBI. Andrelton had 23 walks and 23 K's over the last 3 months of the year. He did only hit .219 as a lead off hitter with 6 HR's, 18 RBI, and 5 SB's, however, Simmons hit .277 against breaking balls and changeups. Most of his power came against fastballs (10 HR's), but he only hit .231 against the heater. His 2013 power will put him on fantasy players radar for sure. He has speed, but isn't a great base stealer at this point of his career (67.8% success rate). When you consider he never played at AAA, you can see his upside. I expect a nice bump in batting average with a rise in stole bases. He doesn't have the ideal skill set to bat leadoff, but he is probably the best option. As he improves hitting fastballs, he is going to make a nice step forward. Possible .280 with 20/65/20 skill set, plus he could improve more in all areas.

3. OF Justin Upton

Justin Upton fantasy baseball

Justin's skill set regressed in 2013 due to a huge spike in his K rate (25.0% - 19.3% in 2012 and 18.7% in 2011). However, his walk rate (11.7%) was his highest since 2008. Last year, he battled multiple minor injuries (hand, back, hamstring, and calf). Upton was crushing the ball in April (12 HR's), but his increased power led to a quest to hit more HR's by opening up his swing (27.6% K rate in April and May). Last year, he hit 18 of his 27 HR's to left field. When Justin is at his best, he hits the ball to right center with power. He wasn't dominant against RH (.262) or LH (.268) pitching. However, his approach was much stronger against lefties (36 walk - 21.9% walk rate with 10 HR's in 127 at bats). Upton only had value in 2 months in 2013 (April - .298 with 12 HR's and 19 RBI and August - .298 with 8 HR's and 16 RBI). Overall, he has been a below average run producer (14%) during his career. His HR/FB rate (17.9%) was the 2nd highest of his career. Upton was a great hitter against fastballs in 2011 (.311 with 26 doubles and 19 HR's in 344 at bats), but he really struggled with the heat in 2013 (.261 with 123 HR's and 98 K's in 330 at bats). Justin is an upside player coming off of a disappointing season. His rise in his K rate hurts his upside in batting average. Despite all of that, Upton is just reaching the prime of his career. He has 30+ HR upside with 20 SB ability. Justin has never been a driven player, so he may never be elite. He has 2 years to pad his resume for a monster contract. Breakout candidate in 2014.

4. 1B Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman fantasy baseball

Freeman did everything right last year except have growth in power. He was great with runners on base (23% RBI rate), but he had short RBI chances (396). His K rate (19.2%) has improved in each season in the majors, but it isn't in an area to support a .319 batting average without more growth. His walk rate (10.3%) was a career high. Freddie crushed righties (.334 with 19 HR's and 80 RBI in 377 at bats) and hit well against lefties (.287), but his power was short (4 HR's). He hit over .300 in 5 months of the season. After the All Star break, Freddie hit .335 with 14 HR's and 48 RBI. His HR/FB rate (15.0%) has improved slightly in the last 2 seasons. Overall, he crushed fastballs (.353 with 16 HR's in 343 at bats). He has exciting upside, especially if the front of the Braves offense plays better. Solid .300 hitter with 35 HR and 120 RBI upside.

5. C Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis fantasy baseball

Gattis was a nice surprise in 2013. His K rate (21.2%) was higher than during his minor league career (15.1%), but his walk rate (5.5%) was short. Evan hit .236 against righties with 16 HR's in 258 at bats. In April, May, and September, Gattis did almost all of his damage (18 HR's and 50 RBI in 247 at bats). He is a FB hitter (44.6%) with a solid HR/FB rate (17.1%). Evan hit .308 during his minor league career with 45 HR's and 168 RBI in 853 at bats. With McCann out of the picture, Gattis will be the everyday catcher for the Braves. He may even get some added value by playing in the outfield on some of his off days. His batting average will have some short term risk due to his K rate, but it should improve with more playing time in the majors. Evan has only had 203 at bats between AA and AAA in his career. Overall, he has 30 HR power with 80 RBI upside.

6. OF B.J. Upton

B.J. Upton fantasy baseball

Melvin had a huge drop off in his K rate (33.9%) last season. It was a career high by a wide margin (26.0% - career average). Also, his walk rate (9.9%) was just below his career resume. Upton miss about 3 weeks in July due to a leg injury. He only hit .146 in April and May with 4 HR's and 8 RBI (35.0% K rate). At no point last season did B.J. look like a professional hitter, struggling against both RH (.194) and LH (.157) pitching. Upton looked lost at the plate, which led to him popping up 19.3% of his fly balls in the infield. Melvin has hit under .245 in his last 5 seasons. He has five 30 SB seasons on his resume and three 20 HR seasons. He was a complete mess last season, but he is getting paid $13+ million this season. Upton has extreme batting average risk with 20 HR power and 30 SB upside. A fantasy player just needs to forget about last season, unless he is whiffing like a champ in spring training.

7. 3B Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson fantasy baseball

When I saw that Johnson hit .321 last season, I had to do a double take after seeing his K rate (21.2%). His career batting average in the majors is .289, which is surprising considering his high career strikeout rate (23.9%). In addition, his walk rate (5.3%) continues to be short. Chris has been very good with runners on base over the last 2 seasons (18% RBI rate in 2012 and 17% in 2013). Overall, his low RBI total was due to short chances. Johnson owned LH pitching (.383 with 4 HR's and 24 RBI in 133 at bats), while his playing time increased over the last 3 months of the season (.320 with 7 HR's and 45 RBI in 297 at bats). Chris had a career low FB rate (27.5%) and a career high LD rate (27.0%). So far during his major league career, Johnson has outperformed his minor league resume (.276 with 53 HR's and 274 RBI in 1762 at bats). I have a tough time trusting him in 2014. His power may have some upside with a better swing path, but he seems more willing to take a single, which is supported by his low AVH (1.424). His batting average isn't repeatable, so he is a player to avoid for me this year.

8. 2B Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla fantasy baseball

When in doubt, blame it on your eye sight. Uggla's K rate (31.8%) has declined sharply over his last 2 seasons, but his walk rate (14.3%) remained strong. Dan had Lasik surgery in mid August, but his K rate (34.4%) didn't improve in September. His lack of contact led to him being left off of the Braves playoff roster. Uggla couldn't hit RH (.188) or LH (.146) pitching, and hit under .200 in five months of the season. His production was respectable in May, June, and July (17 HR's and 43 RBI in 268 at bats). Uggla can still hit a fastball (.262 with 8 HR's in 126 at bats), but he only had 14 hits in 180 at bats (0.078 with 103 K's) against breaking balls and off speed pitches in 2013. His skill set has clearly faded. He was productive for 3 months of the season and maybe an offseason with his new eyes will help him make better contact with pitches that have movement. Downside risk, but he may have value if you are willing to punt batting average.

9. OF Jordan Schafer

Jordan Schafer fantasy baseball

Schafer has had enough at bats (1013) over the last 3 seasons to prove that he isn't good enough to be an everyday player. His speed (73 SB's in career) is exciting, but his power (11 HR's in career) is shorter than expected. His K rate (27.6%) also remains high, but it did improve slightly from 2012 (29.4%). His walk rate (10.9%) is his biggest asset and it has improved in each of the last 3 seasons. Jordan was respectable against RH pitching in 2013 (.265 - 25.3% K rate), but was worthless against lefties (.129 in 31 at bats - only 4 hits with 14 K's -43.8% K rate). This season, he will provide speed off the bench and will be a reasonable fill in against RH pitching.

10. C Gerald Laird

It sounds like Ryan Doumit won't play behind the plate, so Laird will be the primary backup catcher for the Braves. He is a career .246 hitter with weak power.

11. 1B Ryan Doumit

He was an interesting signing by Atlanta. Without playing catcher, he really has a short opportunity for at bats in 2014, unless the Braves have an injury. I expect him to be the #1 pinch hitter on the team and he will see time in the outfield and first base. Doumit is career .268 hitter with 99 HR's and 396 RBI.

12. 2B Tommy La Stella

He is a career .327 hitter in the minors with low power and possible double digit steals. La Stella has more walks (111) than K's (88) in his minor league career. He'll start the year at AAA and could have value in 2014 if Uggla swings his way out of the league.

13. MI Tyler Greene

He doesn't have much of a major league resume (.224 with 17 HR's and 28 SB's in 675 at bats), but his bat may add some value as a bench player. Atlanta signed him to a minor league contract and he will compete for a utility infield job.

14. OF Joey Terdoslavich

He has played OF, 1B, and 3B during his minor league career where he hit .288 with 49 HR's and 245 RBI in 1564 at bats. His best chance at playing time would be as a backup third baseman. Possible power upside with increased at bats.

15. OF Reed Johnson

He is a 10 year major league veteran who can fill a short term void. He has no upside in any area.


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