2014 Outlook: Atlanta Braves

2014 Outlook: Atlanta Braves
January 7, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Williams: Nats want to make amends for 2013

2013 record: 96-66, 1st place in NL East
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, 4th season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $90 million
Key additions: RHP Gavin Floyd, C/OF Ryan Doumit
Key losses: C Brian McCann, RHP Tim Hudson, LHP Paul Maholm, OF Reed Johnson

Projected lineup
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
C Evan Gattis
3B Chris Johnson
SS Andrelton Simmons
2B Dan Uggla
CF B.J. Upton

Projected rotation
LHP Mike Minor
RHP Kris Medlen
RHP Julio Teheran
RHP Brandon Beachy
LHP Alex Wood

Top relievers
CL Craig Kimbrel
RHP David Carpenter
LHP Luis Avilan

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Can they overcome the loss of Brian McCann? There’s no debating McCann’s significance to the Braves over the years, and it’s impossible to believe they can make up for his departure to the Yankees. Evan Gattis will get a chance to play almost every day, but he’s going to be a significant downgrade behind the plate.

2. Can B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla bounce back? Two of Atlanta’s three highest-paid players last season were among the most underachieving players in the majors. Upton hit .184 with a pathetic .557 OPS and was benched for the playoffs. Uggla hit .179 and was dropped from the playoff roster altogether. Can the Braves get away with those kind of performances again in 2014?

3. Will the lack of a true ace hurt them? The Braves have five quality starters, but is Mike Minor (career 32-24, 3.90 ERA) a real No. 1 guy? Probably not. The departed Tim Hudson may not be what he once was, but there’s no question how important he was to Atlanta’s staff. Somebody needs to step up as the leader of this group.