Braves have good future

Published 8:21 am Tuesday, October 9, 2012

While Friday’s 6-3 National League wild card playoff loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta’s Turner Field eliminated the Atlanta Braves from the playoffs and ended their season prematurely, I think their future looks good.

It was the final game for All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones, who is retiring. He has provided many thrills for me and other Braves fans and he will be a sure first-ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Braves have some serious decisions to make during the offseason. With Jones retiring, they need to find a starting third baseman.

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Bringing the reliable Martin Prado, who has played second base, shortstop and third base in his career, in from left field to third base could solve the third base problem, but then they will have to find a new left fielder.

The Braves must also decide whether they are able to resign leadoff hitter and center fielder Michael Bourn. Bourn, who has great speed and has ignited many rallies with leadoff hits, is a free agent and will probably get a big money contract from the Braves or some other team. His agent is Scott Boras, who gets big money for all his clients.

The Braves are set at several positions. First baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and right fielder Jason Heyward are all solid major-league hitters and fielders.

Second baseman Dan Uggla, while struggling some offensively in the second half of the season, hit much better in the first half.

Pitching, both starting and relieving, is by far the strongest part of the Braves’ roster.

Right handers Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen are solid. Medlen, who started the season in the bullpen, was virtually unbeatable as a starter down the stretch.

Right hander Brandon Beachy, who had an outstanding early season before going down with Tommy John surgery, should be back at full strength as well.

The bullpen, anchored by flame-throwing right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel, and featuring left handed set up men Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, is as solid as any in baseball.

The Braves’ catching, with Brian McCann and David Ross, who blasted a two run homer to give them an early 2-0 lead over the Cardinals on Friday, is equally solid.

I am confident that Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez will make the right decisions regarding free-agent signings and trades, and the team will make the playoffs again next season.