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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Atlanta Braves

by | Fantasy Writer
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With how aggressive the Braves were this offseason by cornering the Upton market, you would have thought B.J. and Justin's parents were running the Atlanta front office.

Yet, the mastermind behind bringing the Upton brothers to Atlanta was general manager Frank Wren, who signed B.J. to a five-year, $75 million dollar free-agent contract and orchestrated a blockbuster trade with the Diamondbacks to land Justin.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Wren said the "most difficult part" of the trade with Arizona was parting ways with Martin Prado, but now the Upton brothers join Jason Heyward to form one of the most formidable outfields in the major leagues.

Most of the attention this season will be on the Braves' star-studded outfield, but the rest of the Atlanta lineup should not be overlooked. Atlanta is pretty solid from top to bottom, which includes shutdown closer Craig Kimbrel, who has finished in the Top 10 in the National League Cy Young race for two straight seasons.

A notable absence from the Braves' lineup this season will be long-time third baseman Chipper Jones, who is probably working on his golf game right about now. The Braves will try to replace his presence with the tandem of Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson, who came along with Upton in the trade from Arizona.

While the Upton brothers will help bolster the Braves' lineup, there are still some concerns. The most notable ones are slumping slugger Dan Uggla and catcher Brian McCann, who is coming off shoulder surgery. Both players possess the ability to be must-start Fantasy options, but Uggla is coming off a down year and McCann has durability issues, which are issues expected to deflate their Draft Day values.

One Braves' player who will be surging in Fantasy drafts this spring will be starter Kris Medlen, who become a breakout star in 2012 after he transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation in late July. Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 12 starts last season. He also struck out 9.0 batters per nine innings in that span. Fantasy owners will certainly reach for Medlen in drafts, but he could be worth the gamble.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Andrelton Simmons SS
2. Jason Heyward RF
3. Justin Upton LF
4. Freddie Freeman 1B
5. B.J. Upton CF
6. Dan Uggla 2B
7. Juan Francisco 3B
8. Gerald Laird C
Bench Chris Johnson INF
Bench Jordan Schafer OF
Bench Reed Johnson OF

Kimbrel is obviously the star of the Braves' bullpen, but he's not the only Atlanta reliever Fantasy owners should know about. Jonny Venters is one of the top setup men in the majors and one of the better non-closers to own in Fantasy. Two other names that could help in deeper formats are Eric O'Flaherty and Jordan Walden, who was acquired from the Angels in exchange for starter Tommy Hanson and is looking to have a bounce-back season with Atlanta.

Atlanta, which has made the postseason in two of the last three seasons, is once again built to contend for the National League East crown.

Bust ... B.J. Upton, outfielder

We caution Fantasy owners to temper your excitement with Upton. Like getting a brand new car, there is obviously a lot of excitement regarding Upton joining a new team and league, especially if you play in an NL-only format. But much like when you're shopping for a new car, it's always good to check under the hood for flaws. Upton has his share. Fantasy owners will no doubt remember the second half Upton put together in 2012, hitting 21 homers and slugging .525 after the All-Star break. But he still hit .224 and struck out 86 times in his final 75 games. Not to mention he was motivated for a strong finish because of impending free agency. Upton has his mega deal, so he might be tempted to take his foot off the pedal. Also, keep in mind Upton is transitioning to a new league and will have to learn the tendencies of pitchers in the NL, so he could experience a slow start. Upton never had strong interleague numbers either, batting .256 with a .400 slugging percentage in 94 games. The potential for a letdown can't be overlooked.

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Tim Hudson RHP
2. Kris Medlen RHP
3. Mike Minor LHP
4. Paul Maholm LHP
5. Julio Teheran RHP
ALT Brandon Beachy RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Craig Kimbrel RHP
2. Jonny Venters LHP
3. Jordan Walden RHP
4. Eric O'Flaherty LHP
5. Luis Avilan LHP

Breakout ... Mike Minor, starting pitcher

Minor quickly became a popular sleeper pick in drafts last year after he dominated hitters during spring training. Unfortunately, he got off to a terrible start and was a forgotten about arm until the final months of the season. Minor turned the corner in July and finished with a 7-4 record, 2.21 ERA and .193 opponents' batting average in his final 15 starts. He hasn't exactly been the impact arm the Braves or Fantasy owners envisioned he would be, but we saws signs late last season Minor might finally be ready to live up to the hype that followed him as a prospect.

Impact Prospect ... Julio Teheran, starting pitcher

Speaking of pitching prospects, Teheran has been considered one of baseball's best for a few years, but his development took a major step back in 2012. It all started after he was lit up for six homers -- not a typo -- in his spring training debut against the Tigers. Teheran's confidence appeared shaken and his numbers showed it. He had a 5.08 ERA at Triple-A and a 5.68 ERA with the Braves. The Braves have resisted the urge to deal Teheran amid his struggles and he's considered the front-runner for the final spot in the team's rotation while Brandon Beachy recovers from elbow surgery. The Braves' front office was pleased with how well Teheran finished the 2012 season in the minors and then were happy with the progress he made in the Dominican Winter League, so he might get the chance to showcase his immense potential in 2013.

Prospects Report

The Braves lost some quality prospects in Nick Ahmed and Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton trade, but the farm system is far from barren. Teheran is still the prized prospect, but some other arms on the horizon are Lucas Sims, Sean Gilmartin and J.R. Graham. While Gilmartin might be the closest to potentially helping the Braves, Graham is the fast-riser of the group. The 2011 fourth-round pick went 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 26 starts between Class A and Double-A last season. Graham is quickly rising through the minors as a ground ball pitcher who attacks the zone. He might cap out as a middle-of-the-arm rotation, but he's now firmly on the radar. ... While the Braves appear flush with burgeoning arms in the minors, their weaknesses appear to be bats. The team doesn't appear to have any impact bats close to the majors, which is why it shored up its lineup this offseason with free-agent signings and trades. Catcher Christian Bethancourt is still considered one of the team's top prospects among position players, but he's a better defender than hitter and has marginal long-term keeper appeal. Evan Gattis and Edward Salcedo might be two of the best power-hitting prospects in Atlanta's system, but neither player is major-league ready and guaranteed to make a Fantasy impact anytime soon.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @cbshurc . You can also send us an e- mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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