The high in Atlanta is supposed to be in the upper 60s, and there are daffodils blooming in the yard – ah, spring is here. Finally.
While I’m enjoying the warm temps and the flowers, my favorite harbinger of the new season is that Braves pitchers and catchers are packing up and getting ready to head to Florida tomorrow. I have my tickets to three games on March 19, 20 and 21, and the hotel reservations are made, so now I can seriously start counting the days until we make our annual pilgrimage to the Wide World of Sports complex.
We’ve made this trek for six of the past seven years, and I’ve enjoyed all of them, but this one seems more interesting from a team-building standpoint. I would have loved to see the Braves land a big free agent for the outfield, and I certainly wouldn’t mind having Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady (who seems to always kill the Bravos; he’s a .290 career hitter at Turner Field) in the lineup, but I’d also be OK with seeing what the kids could do.
There are no lofty expectations for this team this year, and while I like watching the Braves dominate as much as any fan, this seems like a good time to develop some of our younger talent and get those guys ready for an extended run in the years to come.
Josh Anderson never got a fair shake last year (not sure what it was about that .300 average and his speed that warranted sending him back to Richmond). He stole 10 bases in 11 tries in 40 games, and for a team sorely lacking in speed, he’d be a huge asset. Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones hold a lot of promise as well, and I know Matt Diaz may have some critics out there, but I love that guy’s hustle, and he knows how to hit, especially in the clutch.
Another option for the outfield is moving Kelly Johnson back out there and giving Martin Prado a full-time job at second. All Prado did was hit .320 with 105 total bases in 228 at-bats, including .328 over his final 33 games, coming back from a left-thumb injury that cost him 55 games. I’d like to see what Prado could do with the chance to play in more than 78 games.
So how about you? How disappointed would you be if this is the team the Braves break camp with in April? How eager are you to see the youngsters get a chance, or do you think they absolutely have to add another veteran?