I’m a little confused. In his ESPN.com Insiders preview of the National League East, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus describes the Braves as “resurgent.” (Link requires registration.) But here’s the weird part: BP’s PECOTA ratings — no relation to Bill Pecota, a Brave of no great distinction in the ’90s — project the Braves’ record as 83-79.
The 2009 Braves finished 86-76. That’s resurgence?
PECOTA puts the Braves second in the division, five games behind the Nationals. (Ha! Just seeing if you’re paying attention. Behind the Phillies, natch.) Goldstein offers this breakdown:
Why They Might Win: Jason Heyward is the top position player prospect in the game, might be the right fielder on opening day and one of those rare talents who could make a big-league impact from day one. Their rotation could be outstanding, as Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are both good young pitchers who could be even better this year — while the club is convinced Tim Hudson will return to form after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Why They Might Not Win: If Heyward isn’t ready, their corner outfield situation is pretty sad. Also — do you really want to put faith in a team that has Billy Wagner closing and Troy Glaus at first base? Good for you, because few others do.
Player Who Could Surprise: After slumping a bit in the batting average department last year, PECOTA projects a nice rebound for Nate McLouth — with 22 home runs, 24 stolen bases and a career-high .361 on-base percentage. That’s nearly All-Star territory.
Player Who Could Disappoint: PECOTA believes that a Troy Glaus/Eric Hinske combination at first base could produce 20-plus home runs, but also a combined slugging percentage that’s still under .400. The Braves have yet to find anything close to a replacement for Mark Teixeira, and after all of the talent they sent to Texas for him, Atlanta fans probably don’t want to be reminded of that.
Interesting that Goldstein mentions McLouth. Nobody around here seems to say much about him one way or another, which is kind of strange given that he arrived from Pittsburgh last June being touted as an All-Star center fielder. I wouldn’t write him off just yet. (Then again, I wouldn’t write off Derek Lowe, either, but the Braves themselves seem to have done that.)
Me, I think the Phillies will regret trading Cliff Lee and not having a closer other than Brad Lidge. They could regress. But I’d be wary of the Florida Marlins. Even if PECOTA sees them as an 81-81 club, I like the look of these Fish.