Atlanta Braves: Overrated?

      March 13, 2013 @ 12:11:02 PDT


The Atlanta Braves began to patch their offseason holes by signing B.J. Upton to man center field. The blockbuster deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks that brought in Justin Upton seemed to set off a wave of optimism about the Bravos' prospects in 2013, as well as beyond. Or, many folks called their new outfield "the best in baseball," anyway.

I've been thinking about that since, because I didn't quite understand why. Still don't. Granted, the younger Upton has probably not yet reached his ceiling and certainly has the tools to be a star. But that is potential, not kinetic, energy at this stage.

The elder Upton is athletically gifted, with great range in center field, but offensively and defensively, he's a downgrade from the departed Michael Bourn. Atlanta sacrificed the underrated Martin Prado in the J-Up swap, which netted them half of the platoon that will assume the retired Chipper Jones' spot.

2013 Lineup
B-R
FG
2012 Lineup
B-R
FG
SS Andrelton Simmons
CF Michael Bourn
4.8
5.1
RF Jason Heyward
LF Martin Prado
4.0
3.9
LF Justin Upton
3.1
4.0
RF Jason Heyward
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Chipper Jones
2.4
2.6
CF B.J. Upton
2.1
3.8
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
3B Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson
0.1/-0.1
0.4/0.8
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
SS Andrelton Simmons
5.2
9.0
11.2
11.6

I threw this together quickly, just to have something tangible to compare last year's Braves with this season's. The numbers represent the averages from the last three years of each player's WAR (wins above replacement), as calculated by both Baseball Reference (B-R) and Fangraphs (FG). The bold marks are the total of those averages; WAR is a cumulative statistic, and the averages are meant to represent (very roughly) what each of these players might be worth in a typical season, based on recent performance.

This is, obviously, highly unscientific. Francisco wasn't an everyday player for any significant stretch in the past three years. Simmons is a maturing player (and quite an interesting late-round fantasy target) who may be on the cusp of a large step forward. The Braves might very well get bounce-back seasons from Uggla and McCann. But, at the very least, this table could give us some idea of the tradeoffs Atlanta has made. (Which isn't to suggest that they should've just stayed put.)

I don't care for the makeup of Atlanta's roster. This offense will be inconsistent. (Julio Teheran better be a massive upgrade over Tommy Hanson - which is quite possible, fantasy owners.) I think the Philadelphia Phillies are a better bet to finish higher in the NL East, behind the front-running Washington Nationals.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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