The Atlanta Braves feature plenty of talent on their 2007 roster. Last year, the team was chock full of veterans producing big numbers -- Andruw Jones -- and youngsters performing admirably -- Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, to name two. What does this year hold for the Hotlanta Braves? There’s plenty of good, if you look close enough.
C Brian McCann – Last year, Brian McCann came out of nowhere -- and I literally mean nowhere -- to become a top 3 fantasy catcher. Joe Mauer outdid him in batting average, but it’s not like his .333 in that category makes him a slouch. McCann’s power numbers -- 24 homers, 93 RBI’s -- satisfy even the most demanding fantasy owners. And, at the age of 23, he only figures to be better in ’07.
CF Andruw Jones – In a contract year that spells his inevitable departure from Atlanta, Andruw Jones figures to reach near career high in every category. MLB.com’s fantasy baseball preview has the star center fielder reaching a .272/46/116/101/5 line, which would definitely rank him among the best in the outfield. However, it’s very likely that Jones surpasses those projections, putting him in line with Carlos Beltran.
SP John Smoltz – It may be a bit of a reach to put him in the top tier, but I’m going to do it because I’m a Braves fan. The right hander finished tied for first in wins, third in strikeouts, fourth in innings, sixth in WHIP, and seventh in ERA in the National League. Expect him to repeat those numbers once again. Smoltz will be a top 15 pitcher in fantasy baseball once again, assuming his recent divorce doesn’t hamper his performance too much, as it has for recent ballplayers.
OF Jeff Francoeur – In his first full Major League season, Francoeur put up some respectable power numbers, going deep 29 times and driving in 103 runs. While that’s very good, his 2006 season wasn’t all that great. If we take a look at his .260 batting average and .293 on-base percentage, we can see he wasn’t helping his team out too much when he wasn’t clubbing long balls. If Frenchy doesn’t better his ability to get on base, then we shouldn’t expect much of a hike in the batting average department, which leaves his as solely a three-category contributor.
SS Edgar Renteria – If you try to build your team focusing on balance, Edgar Renteria could be your man for the shortstop position. He finished with a .293/14/70/100/17, and what’s stopping him from repeating that once again? I know he faded a little bit down the stretch last year, but he’s hitting atop a lineup that should produce a lot of runs (which equals runs scored for Renteria) and he’s got a little bit of pop.
CL Bob Wickman – Wickman is like an old pickup truck. You don’t know how it keeps running, but every time you turn the key, it revs up. Listed generously at 240, the plump right hander continues to save games, but he’ll get the heart beats of Braves fans and fantasy owners racing. I’m betting on one more decent season.
RP Mike Gonzalez / RP Rafael Soriano – When both pitchers came to the Major Leagues, they quickly moved to the bullpen and were groomed as future closers. However, Tommy John surgery set Soriano back a bit, while Gonzalez saved 24 of 24 last year for the Pirates. Should Wickman falter, either one could step in, with Gonzalez likely being first in line. If Wickman doesn’t, then we could get a nice ERA/WHIP out of these guys with some strikeouts as an added bonus.
OF Matt Diaz – If you take a look at Diaz’ numbers from last season, you’d probably be amazed: .327 batting average with a little bit of pop. At the rates from last season, we could’ve seen a good batting average with around 15 homers. That’s not great, but definitely worth owning in deep leagues or NL-Only. However, the big question is if he’ll steal enough time from Ryan Langerhans, who is very good defensively, to get the AB’s needed.
SP Mike Hampton – This southpaw hasn’t pitched in nearly 18 months, so there’s going to be a ton of question marks surrounding him. Tommy John surgery forces a pitcher to fight through the pain, but after Hampton’s days as a defensive back in high school, he probably will have the fire in him. However, control is one of the last things to come back after going under the knife, and Hampton relies a lot on spotting his splitter.
SP Tim Hudson – All last year, Hudson suffered through velocity loss. With that went his bulldog mentality. This season Huddy is hoping he’s a little closer to his Oakland A’s numbers than what he put up last year. He’s been working hard this offseason, but will that translate to better numbers?
SP Chuck James – We saw huge things from James down the stretch last year. The southpaw put up 11 wins with a 3.74 ERA. The question is whether he’s the next Tom Glavine or the next Damian Moss. There’s got to be some benefit of the doubt concerning this youngster, but how much slack are you willing to give him?
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