By: John Wickham

The Braves season ended in heartbreak last season as Chipper Jones career ended in a playoff lost. But with a new season approaching, optimism spreads as the Braves reloaded with a couple Uptons in the outfield. The Braves lost a Hall of Famer, a Swiss Army Knife, a speedster and a couple of underperforming pitchers and a locker room leader behind the plate. Enter a new athletic outfield patrolled by Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, a new 3rd baseman either by platoon or Chris Johnson or Juan Francisco. Hopefully a full season of Andrelton Simmons at SS and a full healthy season of Brian McCann in what may be his last hooray in a Braves uniform.

I am not going to lie to you; I am excited for this season. This is probably the most excited I have been for the season in the last several years. And not only for this season but what looks to be a very good team for the next couple years. I do think this Braves lineup will strikeout quite a bit but also has a chance to hit a lot of home runs and also has good speed throughout the lineup. When you can bat Dan Uggla 7th in the order and not just because he is in a slump shows you how deep this lineup can be. Depth wise I think the Braves are in a good position. They can go about 6 deep in the outfield, they are not the best but Reed Johnson, Jose Constanza, and Jordan Schafer have done it at the major league level. In the middle of the diamond they have good defensive replacements not really good hitters though. On the corners they have decent guys and then a solid replacement behind the plate in Gerald Laird.

The pitching staff also has a chance to be very good. We all know about the bullpen and now they add an extremely hard throwing righty in Jordan Walden. The starting rotation is pretty much set with 4 of the 5 spots filled up with Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, and Paul Maholm. The favorite for the 5th spot is top prospect Julio Teheran. The biggest question mark to me is the Braves starting pitching depth. The next couple guys are not really ready for the majors in Sean Gilmartin and J.R. Graham. And in the course of a season you need to have about 7-8 starters. They do have Brandon Beachy expected back around the middle of the season but how much can you really expect from him. The Braves do have some money to spend if they need to make a move and as a good drafting team they also have some prospects that they could trade away without leaving their farm system empty.

My expectations for this season are extremely high. I expect 90-96 wins and a close race for the NL East division crown. I think the Braves will fall short in the division race but will be 1 of the top 2 for the Wildcard.