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3 Keys to Success
- What can the Braves get out of Melvin (B.J.) Upton? – If you are late to the party, the artist formerly known as B.J. Upton has announced that he will be going by his given name (Melvin) in the future. While he insists that the name change is not made in an effort to shy away from his recent struggles, Upton has already suffered a foot injury that will likely cost him regular season playing time. That is bad news for the Braves, who are set to pay Melvin Upton $15 million in the third year of a 5-year, $75 million deal, and with his on-base percentage soundly below .300 (!) in two seasons with Atlanta, there is nowhere to go but up… at least they hope.
- Bullpen – Craig Kimbrel is a monster. Atlanta’s closer has a career ERA of 1.43 in 289 big league innings, and with a strikeout rate of nearly 15 batters per 9 innings, dominance is the most accurate way to describe his efforts. However, the Braves have decided to shake up the rest of their bullpen considerably, adding names like Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, and with youngster Shae Simmons gone for the year, Fredi Gonzalez and company will be leaning heavily on veterans with question marks. For the Braves to have any chance at success, they will need to consistently win in close games, and the bullpen is the surest chance to make that happen.
- The Young Guns – The Braves are set to deploy at least one rookie, catcher Christian Bethancourt, in the Opening Day lineup, but Atlanta could be heavily reliant on young players down the line. Bethancourt has arguably the best catcher arm in baseball, but he has struggled mightily to get on base in the minors, and that could cost him at-bats as the season progresses. Atlanta’s best hitting prospect is 2B Jose Peraza, but the club has been non-committal on his usage. Still, he is probably the best option from day one, and with young pitcher Mike Foltynewicz in a similar position with the starting rotation, the Braves will have some decisions to make in short order.
Next: 2015 Season Predictions