Continuing my team-by-team preview on the NL East, here's my Q&A with Braves Journal:
The Braves will be better than expected if...
Troy Glaus can provide some needed power from the right side. The 2009 Braves had trouble driving in runs, particularly against lefthanded pitching. If Glaus can be eighty percent or so of the power hitter he used to be, a lot of that will be mitigated.
The Braves will be worse than expected if...
Tommy Hanson has too much of a sophomore jinx. It's not that they need him to be a superstar--yet--but they need him to give them something close to what he did last year.
Will Jason Heyward be the next Barry Bonds or the next Babe Ruth?
The lefthanded Hank Aaron.
If/when Heyward plays, who sits? Cabrera? Diaz?
Right now, it looks like they'll platoon in left, with Melky moving around to spell McLouth and Heyward. On the other hand, McLouth has played so poorly in spring that the rumors have started of Melky taking his job. Unless McLouth is hurt, that would be foolish.
How does Tim Hudson look? Is he going to be the guy we remember?
He might be the guy you remember from Oakland. His velocity is up and he's striking people out, with no loss in control. Everybody is extremely optimistic about him.
Any concerns about team fielding? Based on the statistical metrics, the team has several below-par fielders scheduled to start every day.
I'm somewhat concerned. Yunel Escobar is superb at short, but he's flanked by a couple of trouble spots. Chipper really showed his age on defense last year, and while Martin Prado was better at second than he had been, he continued to make some of the dumbest plays you'll ever see. Throw in that we don't know how Glaus will play at first, and... The outfield is, no matter the alignment, going to be weak in center and good in the corners.
The Nationals hired former Braves scouting director Roy Clark. Judging by the performance of the Braves' minor league system during his tenure, people around here think it was a good hire. What can you tell us about him?
I can't speak too much to Clark personally, but as part of the Braves' organization? When drafting, they specialize, focusing on southern high school talent. Because you can't scout everyone, concentrating like this is a way to maximize returns. They've also been aggressive in the Caribbean.
Billy Wagner and Takashki Saito are a pretty fragile pair at the back of the bullpen. What happens if/when they both can't pitch?
I'm not really worried about Wagner, who is returning from Tommy John surgery and seemed fully recovered last year. Saito is another matter. If both are out, the Braves are in serious trouble because their next reliever, Peter Moylan, is not really suited for the closer role. If Saito is out, Moylan and Eric O'Flaherty can handle eighth innings.