The Atlanta Braves had quite an offseason, which included passing on re-signing an excellent leadoff man in Michael Bourn; instead, they made B.J. Upton the highest paid member of the Atlanta franchise with a 5 year, 75.25 million dollar contract. Not only did the Braves get B.J., but they also traded fan-favorite Martin Prado to acquire his brother Justin from the Arizona Diamondbacks. To make the most of the Upton brothers playing on the same team, Fredi Gonzalez may want to set this batting lineup for most of the regular season:
B.J. Upton might not have had the leadership skills to be a consistent leadoff hitter for the Rays, but the Braves invested too much money into the kid. B.J. swiped 31 bases last year, and the Braves need speed from the get-go in order to get the offense going. As reported on January 30th from Braves 101, Fredi Gonzalez projects Andrelton Simmons to be his everyday guy in the 1-hole, but B.J. has more experience, and with his brother Justin now on the team, B.J. should (in theory) have a better mentality that he had with the Rays in order to be an efficient leadoff hitter for the Braves.
Jason Hayward also makes sense in the 2-hole. However, it’s obvious that general manager Frank Wren wanted Justin to drive in runs and keep B.J. happy in the clubhouse. In addition to that, Justin is a good base runner, as he hasn’t stolen less than 18 bases in his past three seasons in Arizona. Gonzalez should probably slate Justin in the 2-hole to keep the chemistry going with the Upton brothers.
Batting Third: Freddie Freeman
Although Freddie somewhat struggled with his batting average (he hit .259 last year), his home run and RBI totals both increased in 2012. The pop in Freddie’s bat makes him a good 3-hole hitter, and the Braves might not want Heyward to get so many at bats that his defense loses its edge. Right field is a tougher position than first base, so it’s better than Freddie gets slightly more at bats than Heyward.
Batting Fourth: Jason Heyward
The future is now, and Jason should be given the promotion of the cleanup hitter after Chipper Jones’ retirement. The recent Gold Glove winner is not too shabby of a hitter either, as he hit a career high 30 doubles, 27 home runs, and drove in 82 runs last season. In fact, Jason should definitely be hitting in the 3-hole to mix things up with opposing pitching matchups.
Batting Fifth: Brian McCann
Despite the amount of press coverage the Upton brothers got in the offseason, McCann is still the glue of the team, and he emphatically defines how good the Braves can be in the regular season. McCann struggled at the plate last season, and he only got a hit 23% of the time. McCann is usually a consistent hitter, but he is also a decent defensive catcher. Even if McCann gets hot at the plate, Fredi Gonzalez probably won’t move Brian any higher in the lineup to keep his plate appearances at a minimum. Atlanta cannot afford to lose their prize catcher to knee problems, so McCann should probably not being hitting any higher than fifth in the order.
Batting Sixth: Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla was a very inconsistent ballplayer last year, as he went from a guy that couldn’t sniff a hit to going on a 33-game hitting streak. If Braves fans see more of the latter from Uggla, they could be watching their favorite team in the Fall Classic.
Batting Seventh: Andrelton Simmons
Andrelton only played in 49 games last season, so there is not too much pressure on the kid to perform at the plate. The Braves are expecting Simmons to be more of a force on the defensive side, but he may have to hit higher in the lineup if McCann or Uggla consistently struggle. Although the skipper Gonzalez wants Andrelton hitting in the leadoff spot, does Fredi really trust B.J. to drive in 100+ runs in the 4-hole?
Batting Eighth: Chris Johnson
Can you imagine the kind of pressure Chris Johnson is feeling to try and replace the future Hall of Famer of Chipper Jones? Well he better learn how to deal with it. There is no guarantee that Johnson gets the starting third basemen job, as Juan Francisco might just steal the hot corner away from him in spring training.
Batting Ninth: Starting Pitcher
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