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3 Players to Watch
- Mike Minor, SP – Which Mike Minor are the Braves getting? The young left-hander was very impressive during the 2013 season, racking up a 3.21 ERA across 204.2 innings to fortify his status as a former first-round selection. However, Minor battled injury issues at the start of the 2014 campaign, and he never recovered on the way to a ghastly 4.77 ERA in just 25 starts. The departure of Ervin Santana does leave a hole in the mid-tier of the rotation, but Minor will have to be the 2013 version of himself in order to fill that gap.
- Andrelton Simmons, SS – Simmons is the best defensive player in baseball. That, quite obviously, makes him an extremely valuable piece of the puzzle for the Atlanta Braves, but the organization would undoubtedly like to see a bounce back from their prized shortstop offensively. Simmons had the reputation as an all-glove, no-bat player in the minor leagues, but he exploded for 17 home runs and a respectable .396 slugging percentage in his first full season (2013). That production came to a crashing halt with a .244/.286/.331 slash line in 2014, and while he is certainly a good option at the position with ugly batting peripherals, Simmons would be an uber-elite option if he can post an OBP over .300 with a slugging percentage near .400 this season.
- Nick Markakis, OF – The 31-year-old Markakis was Atlanta’s lone “big ticket” acquisition this off-season, as the Braves provided a 4-year, $44 million contract to guarantee his arrival. However, Markakis has seen some of the luster evaporate from his persona in recent seasons, and before ever playing in a game for Atlanta, he underwent neck surgery that could hamper his Spring Training development. Provided that he is healthy for Opening Day, the Braves will seek consistency with the bat from Markakis, and he must be a solid source of on-base ability and power for a lineup that is in desperate need of both.
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