As you all should know by now , the Braves became an official “playa” during this offseason by acquiring the Upton brothers, Justin and B.J. It has been a long time since the Braves have made such a bold move and I have to admit that I find it both exciting and a little scary. I thought I would take a look at the pros and cons of the new “Upton” Braves.
Pro: First of all, it is just flat out exciting to have this infusion of new blood on our team. Both Uptons have been All-Stars for their former teams (B.J. with Tampa Bay and Justin with Arizona). The idea of Justin in left field, B.J. in center, and Jason Heyward in right must have our pitchers giddy with delight. They should eliminate at least one hit per game with their speed and coverage of the outfield. Unlike Prado, who was an infielder playing a conservative left field, these guys are professional outfielders and should be fun to watch.
Secondly, we have received a power upgrade. Last year, Justin batted .280 and hit 17 HRs while collecting 155 hits, 67 RBIs, and 63 walks. Granted B.J. had a down year as far as average, batting only .246, but he still managed to pick up 28 HRs(!), 141 hits, 78 RBIs with a .454 slugging percentage. That is alot of offense. Our potential lineup could have some real pop: Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson.
Finally, for the first time in what seems like forever, we should have some real speed on the basepath. I think it is an intimidating prospect for an opposing pitcher to have to face Simmons, J Hey, J Up, and B.J. and their speed. Maybe we won’t hit into quite as many double plays this year. Last year, Justin stole 18 bases and B.J. stole 31(!).
Con: Yes, unfortunately there are some cons. To me, the biggest con of all is that we traded away Martin Prado. Prado was a great hitter in the 2 hole slot. He had 186 hits, batted .301, and only struck out 69 times (1 every 8.94 ABs). Now who is going to bat second? Looks like Jason Heyward, who struck out 152 times last year ( 1 every 3.86 ABs).
That brings us to the scariest con for me–strikeouts. While we have real power potential, that also means we have great strikeout potential. Braves fans know how frustrating Uggla was last year with his 168 Ks (1 every 3.1 ABs!). Well guess what? B.J. struck out 169 times last year (1 every 3.39 ABs). Justin Upton struck out 121 times last year which compares to our Freddie Freeman who struck out 129 times. Throw in Heyward, McCann, and Francisco/Johnson and we could be seeing an awful lot of Ks! Speaking of Francisco/Johnson–Juan Francisco struck out every 2.74 ABs last year. We won’t get much relief from Chris Johnson; he struck out 132 times last year (1 every 3.7 ABs). Compare that to last year’s third baseman, Chipper Jones, who struck out a measly 51 times (or 1 every 7.59 ABs). Definitely scary.
And finally there is the unknown component–team chemistry. This one could go either way, pro or con. We have lost some good clubhouse guys: Chipper, Prado, David Ross, Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, Michael Bourn, and Peter Moylan. It will be interesting to see if this team will mesh and who will emerge as team leader now that Chipper is gone. I hope this team will get along and team chemistry will be a positive, but you just never know about that until you actually start playing (just ask last year’s Red Sox).