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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: ATLANTA BRAVES

By Eric C. Wright

Lake Buena Vista, Fla.--The Atlanta Braves are up next as I continue my Florida tour of the respective major league teams conducting spring training in the sunshine state.  Let's take a look at the relevant fantasy baseball names, along with chatter emanating from the team.

OVERVIEW:  This is an organization clearly rebuilding after the Braves dealt away their two main power bats in Justin Upton and Evan Gattis to the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros respectively.  The leftover lineup looks very limp which means the Braves will be a team at least initially that makes for a good matchup for your starters. 

The main strength of this team is in the rotation where the Braves boast a major ace in Julio Teheran and a guy who could become one this season in Alex Wood.  Mike Minor and Shelby Miller will big assets in 2013 before stumbling badly last season but both still possess hard stuff that could turn them back into useful commodities.  Finally Craig Kimbrel remains the best closer in baseball but he too could be on the move soon enough. 

LINEUP

1.  Andrelton Simmons
2.  Nick Markakis
3.  Chris Johnson
4.  Freddie Freeman
5.  Jonny Gomes
6.  B.J. Upton
7.  Alberto Callaspo
8.  Christian Bethancourt
9.  Pitcher

ROTATION

1.  Julio Teheran
2.  Mike Minor
3.  Shelby Miller
4.  Alex Wood
5.  Mike Foltynewicz

CLOSER

Craig Kimbrel


5-STAR PLAYERS

Craig Kimbrel:  As I already noted, Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball despite getting a push from Greg Holland last season.  This is a guy who can strike out over 100 batters and put up ridiculous ratios.  The Braves are rebuilding though which means they won't hesitate to ship him out if the price is right.

Julio Teheran:  Teheran put it all together in turning into a fantasy baseball ace last season in compiling a 2.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  Teheran's 186 K's last season are likely his optimum number there but the rest of the package is top notch.  This is a pure ace all the way and one that is more affordable than the Clayton Kershaws and Felix Hernandez' of the world.

4-STAR PLAYERS

Freddie Freeman:  Myself and many others were very disappointed in what Freeman did last season at the dish as his numbers fell off from 2013 and stunted his growth a bit.  The power gains never materialized as Freeman lost five home runs and an insane 31 RBI from the year prior.  He will have much less protection in the lineup in 2015 with Upton and Gattis out of town and that doesn't bode well for that breakout we are all waiting for.  Right now project 20 home runs and 80 RBI with a .290 average and be happy with anything more.  Not as exciting this time around.

Alex Wood:  I can't tell you how high I am on this kid.  Wood has ace-like power stuff that has already averaged a K/IP in his young career.  The youngster was a top five starter the second half of last season and he was legit in doing so.  I strongly advise you reach for him a round or two early so as not to miss out.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Shelby Miller:  It was a incredibly frustrating season for the hard-throwing Miller in 2014 as he fought the strike zone all season and saw his hit rate skyrocket.  Pretty much everything went wrong for Miller in 2014 after his eye-opening 2013 campaign.  I still think Miller can be a solid SP 3 but he looked way too shaky for me to trust for now.

Mike Minor:  Home runs and injuries are the only issues that have held Minor back in his young career and that was the double whammy in 2014.  He was never right at any point as Minor fought injuries and saw the homers fly out.  The stuff is still very good here though and with full health Minor could return some sweet value.  Use a late round pick in making him your SP 5 if you can.

2-STAR PLAYERS

Nick Markakis:  It was puzzling that the Braves are rebuilding but yet gave a free agent contract to the power-deficient Markakis who had neck surgery before the ink was dry on his deal.  It has been more than a few years since Markakis was looked at as a potential star and right now he is nothing more than barely an outfielder 3 when he gets back into the fold. 

Chris Johnson:  Johnson has been a BABIP-killer the last two seasons in hitting way above where he should be.  That is about the only positive as Johnson doesn't have hardly any pop which is a big negative at a corner infield spot. 

Christian Bethancourt:  With Gattis out of the picture, the Braves now can take a long look at their top catching prospect.  Unfortunately Bethancourt is known more for defense than his offensive which doesn't help us.

1-STAR PLAYERS

Alberto Callaspo, Zoilo Almonte, Andrelton Simmons, B.J. Upton, Phil Gosselin, Jonny Gomes

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