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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Atlanta Braves

Michael Hurcomb
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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Player News
Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong not starting on Tuesday vs. White Sox
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:56 pm ET) Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is getting just his second day off in the last 19 games, as he is being held out of the lineup on Tuesday. Wong has been hitting at a decent clip recently, batting .275 with two home runs over his last 10 games.

And, despite a strong .284 average against southpaws this season, the lefty-swinging Wong will take a seat against a tough left-hander in Chris Sale.

Pete Kozma is getting the start at second base while batting eighth against the White Sox on Tuesday.


White Sox back in NL park, Adam LaRoche back on bench
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:54 pm ET) White Sox DH Adam LaRoche was not in the starting lineup Tuesday against the Cardinals, as Chicago opened up a two-game series in an NL park. 

He also started the game on the bench for two of three games at Milwaukee in May and a two-game series at Pittsburgh in mid-June.

LaRoche is batting just .189 (10 for 53) with one home run, four doubles, seven RBI, three runs, five walks and 22 strikeouts in his last 15 games.


Pirates' Harrison sits Tuesday as HR drought reaches 37 games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) Pirates infielder Josh Harrison was held out of the starting lineup Tuesday against the Tigers for the first time since June 10. It was just the ninth time in 76 games this season he did not start.

Harrison is batting .346 (28 for 81) with four doubles, four RBI, six runs, three walks, 12 strikeouts and three stolen bases in his last 19 games.

He still hasn't homered in 37 games, which is the third-longest drought of his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. His longest home-run drought was 46 games.


Blue Jays' Martin mired in 6-for-37 slump, gets day off Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:39 pm ET) Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin received a day off Tuesday against the Red Sox for the first time in seven games and just the second time in 10 games. 

Martin is hitless in his last three games (0 for 7) and is batting .059 (1 for 17) in his last six games. He is batting average has declined from .285 to .265 in his last 12 games, as he is just 6-for-37 in that stretch.


Cubs C Miguel Montero gets the day off on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:33 pm ET) Cubs catcher Miguel Montero is out of the starting lineup for Tuesday's matchup with the Mets. Montero had started five of the last six games. The one game in that stretch he didn't start, he wound up playing five innings, so he was certainly due for a rest.

The Cubs are also going up against a left-handed pitcher in Jonathon Niese, and Montero is batting just .222 against southpaws this season.

David Ross will handle the catching duties and bat seventh on Tuesday.


Cashman: Removing Warren from rotation had to do with workload
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:29 pm ET) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday that removing Adam Warren from the rotation was based more on limiting his workload than performance, per ESPN.

Up until 2015, Warren had never logged more than 78 2/3 innings at the MLB level. He is already at 82 2/3 innings this season.

"We have to manage his innings," Cashman said. "He's pitched great but we're giving him a timeout. It doesn't mean he's out of the rotation for good. We're giving him a breather and if somebody gets hurt, he automatically goes back in."


Rangers option Joey Gallo to Triple-A on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:27 pm ET) The Rangers announced they have optioned rookie Joey Gallo to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday. Gallo's demotion opens a roster spot for Josh Hamilton, was activated from the disabled list.

Gallo showed flashes of promise in his first taste of the big leagues. The 21-year-old had five home runs and 13 RBI in 25 games. But he also posted a meager .218 batting average and struck out nearly 44 percent of his at-bats. He will get further seasoning at Triple-A, and could very well be back with the big club before the end of the season.


Cashman: CC Sabathia to remain in rotation for foreseeable future
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:25 pm ET) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reiterated Tuesday the team has no intentions of removing veteran starting pitcher CC Sabathia from the rotation.

"That's not something that we're considering at this moment," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. "We're going to continue to give him every opportunity to work through this for the foreseeable future."

Sabathia dropped another game Monday against the Angels to fall to 3-8 through 16 starts. He has a 5.59 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, and he has allowed 19 home runs in 95 innings.

"The home runs are a big issue," Cashman said. "That's something that's new for him, in the last couple of years. If they're solo shots, they're not as painful.

"He's still competing and finding himself. I think early on he had not the best of luck or run support."


Rangers OF Josh Hamilton activated from DL, starting Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:23 pm ET) The Rangers have activated outfielder Josh Hamilton from the disabled list, the team announced on Tuesday. Hamilton missed about a month due to a hamstring injury.

Hamilton appeared in four rehab games since his injury. He hit .333 with three RBI in 12 at-bats. 

The veteran outfielder is in Tuesday's starting lineup against the Orioles. Hamilton is in left field and batting fifth.

To clear a roster spot, Joey Gallo has been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.


Marlins activate Bryan Morris off 15-day DL on Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:19 pm ET) Marlins reliever Bryan Morris was activated off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. He had been sidelined since early June due to a back injury.

Morris spent four games on a rehab assignment with Class A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville. He went 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.


 
 
 
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