2014 Braves Outlook
The Atlanta Braves returned to the top of the NL East in 2013, capturing the franchise's first division crown since 2005. Atlanta's successful season ended in the NLDS, when the Braves fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. Now in 2014, the Braves will attempt to repeat as NL East champions, and return to the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Though the Braves lost all-star catcher Brian McCann to the New York Yankees via free agency, Atlanta still boasts a very good lineup. Right fielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Freddie Freeman anchor the lineup -- but don't be surprised if left fielder Justin Upton blossoms into an MVP candidate in 2014. Now in his age 27 season, Upton is entering his prime, and has always possessed MVP-quality skills. 2014 is Upton's second season in Atlanta, and the Virginia native may take a major step forward this season.
The Braves will also hope for improvement from Justin Upton's brother, B.J. Atlanta signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million deal prior to the 2013 season, hoping that he would be a catalyst for Atlanta's lineup. Unfortunately, Upton struggled in his first season in Atlanta, hitting just .184/.268/.289 in 126 games. The Braves should expect Upton to rebound in a major way in 2014. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection system believes Upton will hit .231/.304/.413 in 2014 -- a considerable improvement from his 2013 season.
Atlanta's rotation is one of the youngest in the league -- and could be one of the best. With Tim Hudson now in San Francisco, 28-year-old Kris Medlen anchors the rotation. Medlen posted a 15-12 record in 2013, to go along with a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Medlen will be joined by Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood in Atlanta's young rotation.
Craig Kimbrel, baseball's most dominant closer, will once again handle the ninth inning for the Braves. Kimbrel boasts an impressive 1.39 career ERA, and posted a 1.21 ERA and 0.88 WHIP while striking out 98 in just 67 innings of work in 2013. Kimbrel provides manager Fredi Gonzalez a luxury that few other managers in the league have, as Kimbrel's dominance helps bring stability to Atlanta's bullpen. Atlanta signed Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million extension during the offseason, ensuring that Kimbrel will be Atlanta's closer for the foreseeable future.
Braves Franchise Facts
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