Looking forward to 2014 Braves season

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I look for the Atlanta Braves to have a very active off-season as they try to put all the pieces together for the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
First of all, they have to find a new number one starting pitcher now that 38-year-old ace right-hander Tim Hudson signed a lucrative free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants.
All-Star catcher Brian McCann signed a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees.
Right-hander Brandon Beachy was co-anchor of the staff with Hudson before going down with an arm injury in 2011, which required Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
If Beachy reports to spring training with a sound and healthy right arm, he should be the ace of the Braves staff in 2013.
McCann will be much harder to replace, not only as a strong hitter and handler of pitchers, but also as a leader in the clubhouse.
Also, with the switch to the American League, he should also be in the lineup some days as a designated hitter, an opportunity National League players are not afforded.
While Hudson and McCann will both be greatly missed, the Braves have solid depth waiting in the wings.
In addition to Beachy and Chris Medlen, the Braves had good pitching depth with their Class AAA Gwinnett Braves team last season.
Evan Gattis, who had a strong rookie power-hitting season with the Braves in 2013, returns and should be able to step right in and take over for McCannn behind the plate.
The Braves also have Rafael Betencourt, a young catcher who had some strong efforts for Gwinnett last season.
At Gwinnett, when Gattis, who can catch or play left field, gets an outfield start, Betencourt can step right in behind the plate.
The rest of the Braves batting order seems solid, with All-Star Freddie Freeman at first base, power hitting Dan Uggla at second base, slick fielding and clutch hitting shortstop Andrelton Simmons and strong hitting Chris Johnson at third base.
In the outfield they will feature Gattis or Justin Upton in left, B.J. Upton or Jordan Shaffer in center and Jason Heyward in right.
The Braves signed B.J. Upton to a lucrative free agent contract last off season, but he did not turn out the way they hoped, hitting below .200 for most of the season. Shaffer took over for him in center a number of times.
B.J. Upton had a number of strong offensive seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing with the Braves, and I look for him to get back to his old self offensively with the Braves this season.
The Braves bullpen, which features fire-balling closer Craig Kimbrel, is solid a well.
In conclusion, I would just like to make a few comments about the Braves moving from Turner Field to a new stadium to be built in Cobb County in a few years.
As a long-time Braves fan who watched them play at Turner Field a number of times, I hate to see them move, but time marches on.
I am sure I will continue to support them at the new state-of-the-art ballpark when it is finished.

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