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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Atlanta Braves

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Having gone seven years without a division title, the Braves ended their drought in particularly convincing fashion last year, running away from a Nationals team that was favored to win not only the division, but the World Series. And just like during their 15-year run from 1991 to 2005, their starting rotation carried them.

This one was lacking in star power, though. Fantasy owners already knew of Kris Medlen because of his impossible finish to 2012, but even they underestimated the impact Mike Minor and Julio Teheran would have. Not that either's breakthrough was particularly surprising. Minor was nearly as dominant as Medlen to finish 2012 (though his overall numbers did a pretty good job of hiding it), and Teheran was long considered one of the game's top pitching prospects. Both are top 30 starting pitchers heading into 2014, with Medlen just on the outskirts.

2014 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

And there's more where that came from. Yes, Tim Hudson is gone, but that's a bigger loss for the clubhouse than for Fantasy owners. Brandon Beachy flashed ace potential when he first broke into the big leagues and should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery this spring. Alex Wood has impressive ability but may have to wait his turn, especially if he hasn't claimed the role by the time Gavin Floyd returns from Tommy John surgery in May. Freddy Garcia and David Hale are also in the mix. The bullpen has long been one of this club's strengths, anchored by historically dominant closer Craig Kimbrel. He'll again be the first player selected at his position.

The lineup is a different story. Freddie Freeman emerged as the centerpiece with Chipper Jones retired, but Jason Heyward, who seemed a lock for that role just a couple years ago, can't decide how good he wants to be. He still has superstar potential, but Fantasy owners should know not to overpay for him by now. Justin Upton did fine coming over from Arizona and remains an early-round type with room to grow, but brother B.J. Upton completely fell apart with a .184 batting average, joining Dan Uggla to give the Braves two sub-.200 hitters. A first-place team never had it so good.

Apart from baseball's unpredictable nature, neither offers much hope for a rebound. For Uggla in particular, Fantasy owners are just counting down the days until he loses his job to Tommy La Stella, an on-base specialist with little to offer in terms of power or speed. Upton may be salvageable at age 29 -- he'll get every opportunity in light of his big contract -- but frankly, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and catcher Evan Gattis have become the hotter commodities in Fantasy. Both offer plus power for the positions they play but still have some refining to do.

Bounce-back candidate ... Brandon Beachy, starting pitcher

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Jason Heyward RF
2. Justin Upton LF
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Evan Gattis C
5. Chris Johnson 3B
6. Andrelton Simmons SS
7. Dan Uggla 2B
8. B.J. Upton CF
Bench Ryan Doumit C/OF
Bench Jordan Schafer OF
Beachy is a rare example of a player who doesn't make a clean return from Tommy John surgery, needing a second procedure to clear up discomfort in his elbow about a year after the first. Though it wasn't such a good thing for those who drafted him last year, it could be for those hoping to draft him this year. Another year out of the spotlight is another year under the radar, and the potential reward for investing a late-round pick in him is an ace, or at least close to it. Remember: This was one of the more exciting rookie pitchers in 2011, averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 25 starts, and he followed it up with a 2.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 13 starts before his procedure in 2012. He wasn't quite as dominant during a five-start stretch late last season, but considering he was pitching with discomfort, he was more effective than he had any right to be. He's expected to enter spring training without limitations, and given his track record so far, that's a dangerous thing.

Bust ... Andrelton Simmons, shortstop

In a different time with a different player pool, Evan Gattis would be the choice here instead of Simmons. He exhibits more of the warning signs with his all-or-nothing approach. But given the current state of the catcher and shortstop positions, Fantasy owners are more likely to overextend themselves for Simmons than Gattis, who seems to be going in a reasonable spot for a player with his power potential. The mistake they make is one so many made with Starlin Castro last year: They bank on improvement. Granted, Simmons makes contact at a much higher rate, so he probably won't get worse, but with all the home run hitters in the Braves lineup, he's in no position to steal bases. His BABIP should improve if he doesn't elevate the ball so much, but then what happens to his 17 home runs? Maybe he gets stronger at age 24 and delivers the best of both worlds -- for an 11th- or 12th-round pick, it's a worthy gamble -- but if you select Simmons in Round 6, as happened in one of our recent mock drafts, prepare to be disappointed.

Sleeper ... Alex Wood, starting pitcher/relief pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Kris Medlen RHP
2. Mike Minor LHP
3. Julio Teheran RHP
4. Brandon Beachy RHP
5. Alex Wood LHP
ALT Gavin Floyd RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Craig Kimbrel RHP
2. David Carpenter RHP
3. Luis Avilan LHP
4. Jordan Walden RHP
5. Jonny Venters LHP
You wouldn't know it from the relative lack of hype, but Wood's career has mirrored Tony Cingrani's up to this point. Both were passed over in the first round of their respective drafts because most teams considered them relievers coming out of college. Both lack major league-caliber breaking balls but still managed to put up eye-popping minor-league numbers because of their deceptive left-handed deliveries. Cingrani of course did what he did last year. Wood had a 2.18 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his first seven starts, but when he faded over his next three, the Braves shifted him to the bullpen, removing him from the spotlight and casting doubt over his future role. But in doing so, they made him dual-eligible in Fantasy. Clearly, they want him starting long-term, but the surplus of fallback options will keep some Fantasy owners from taking the plunge. Still, Cingrani-like numbers out of the relief pitcher slot win championships in Head-to-Head points leagues. Even if Wood begins in the bullpen, it's likely just to preserve his innings for later in the year.

Prospects Report

Tommy La Stella isn't the only rookie knocking on the door in 2014. Christian Bethancourt may eventually split catching duties with Evan Gattis, especially if an injury creates an opening in the outfield, Gattis' secondary position. Bethancourt is considered a better prospect than La Stella, but mostly because of his defensive prowess. Neither is a safe enough bet for mixed-league consideration, but a big spring would give La Stella fringe sleeper appeal. ... As usual, the Braves have no shortage of pitching in the pipeline. David Hale is first in line and opened eyes in two spot starts late last season, but Lucas Sims is the real prize. A first-round pick in 2012, he dominated lower Class A last year, but the Braves won't rush him at age 19. J.R. Graham should hold them over in the meantime. He missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, casting doubt over his long-term role, but he can hit 97 mph with his fastball and is nearly a finished product at age 24.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Report: Matt Andriese to get 26th man call-up for Rays
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:19 pm ET) Rays pitcher Matt Andriese will get called up from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday to start the second game of a doubleheader against Kansas City, per the Tampa Bay Times

The day-night doubleheader resulted from a rainout on Monday. Andriese will get the call-up courtesy of MLB's 26th man rule for twin bills. 

Andriese was scheduled to start for Durham on Tuesday and will be on regular rest. He's 1-0, 2.88 at Durham. 


Cardinals' Marco Gonzalez to start rehab assignment on Friday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:13 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Marco Gonzalez will begin pitching in games on Friday, general manager John Mozeliak said, per MLB.com

Gonzalez has been sidelined with a pectoral injury and shoulder impingement since May. 

Mozeliak said Gonzalez would pitch for Class A Palm Beach and gradually increase his workload to 100 pitches by the end of the month. 


AL reserves announced for 2015 MLB All-Star game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) The American League reserves for the 2015 MLB All-Star game were announced Monday and the following players were selected:

Catcher: Russell Martin, Blue Jays; Stephen Vogt, Athletics

First Base: Prince Fielder, Rangers; Albert Pujols, Angels (will start in place of injured Miguel Cabrera); Mark Teixeira, Yankees (replaces injured Cabrera on roster)

Second Base: Jason Kipnis, Indians

Shortstop: Jose Iglesias, Tigers

Third Base: Manny Machado, Orioles

Outfield: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays; Adam Jones, Orioles; J.D. Martinez, Tigers

Utility: Brock Holt, Red Sox

Starting Pitchers: Sonny Gray, Athletics; Felix Hernandez, Mariners; David Price, Tigers; Dallas Keuchel, Astros; Chris Sale, White Sox; Zach Britton, Orioles; Chris Archer, Rays

Relief Pitchers: Dellin Betances, Yankees; Brad Boxberger, Rays; Zach Britton, Orioles; Wade Davis, Royals; Kelvin Herrera, Royals; Darren O'Day, Orioles; Glen Perkins, Twins

The following players are eligible to be voted in during the final Fan Vote: SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox; OF Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers; OF Brett Gardner, Yankees; 2B Brian Dozier, Twins; 3B Mike Moustakas, Royals


National League All Star reserves, pitchers, Final Vote candidates named
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) The National League All Star reserves and pitchers were announced on Monday evening, and there was no room for the reigning National League MVP.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was not selected for the All Star team, although he's one of five candidates to take the final spot on the roster in the Final Vote. 

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant made the team as an injury replacement for the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton. Bryant is one of two rookies on the team, along with Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson

The Pirates sent two starting pitchers to the All Star team for the first time since 1960. MLB wins leader Gerrit Cole and fellow Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett will both be making their first appearance. 

National League reserves are

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
First baseman: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
First baseman: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Second baseman: DJ LeMahieu, Rockies
Second baseman: Joe Panik, Giants
Third baseman: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Third baseman: Kris Bryant, Cubs
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, Giants
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Outfielder: Joc Pederson, Dodgers
Outfielder: A.J. Pollock, D-backs
Outfielder: Justin Upton, Padres

National League pitchers are 

LHP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants
RHP: A.J. Burnett, Pirates
LHP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
RHP: Gerrit Cole, Pirates
RHP: Jacob deGrom, Mets
RHP: Zack Greinke, Dodgers
RHP: Mark Melancon, Pirates
RHP: Shelby Miller, Braves
RHP: Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
RHP: Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers
RHP: Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals
RHP: Max Scherzer, Nationals
RHP: Michael Wacha, Cardinals

The five candidates for the Final Vote are 

RHP: Johnny Cueto, Reds
RHP: Jeurys Familia, Mets
RHP: Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies


Monday's Rays-Royals game postponed due to rain
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:26 pm ET) Monday's game between the Rays and Royals has been postponed due to inclement weather, the teams announced.

The teams will play a doubleheader Tuesday at Kansas City. Game 1 will feature Matt Moore and Chris Young on the mound. The Rays will call up pitcher Matt Andriese to start Game 2 against  Edinson Volquez, reports the Tampa Bay Times.


Giants sit 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford against lefty
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:59 pm ET) The Giants have benched their starting middle infield Monday. Both second baseman Joe Panik and shortstop Brandon Crawford are out against Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese.

It marks the first absence for Panik since May 21 and third for Crawford since three days later.

Crawford has certainly not struggled against southpaws this season. He is batting .333 (20-for-60). Panik has 19 hits in 68 at-bats against them in 2015.


Mets 1B Lucas Duda not in Monday's lineup
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Mets first baseman Lucas Duda was held out of Monday's lineup at the Giants, the team announced.

He was replaced at first base by Michael Cuddyer, who will bat fifth. Krik Nieuwenhuis received the start in left field. Duda is hitting .138 with two doubles and four RBI in his last 15 games.

The Mets are the underdogs (+135) at San Francisco on Monday.


Dodgers SS Jimmy Rollins batting behind pitcher Monday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:34 pm ET) Don Mattingly has placed starting pitcher Yimi Garcia into the eighth spot in the Monday lineup against Philadelphia. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins will follow him.

That marks the first time a Dodgers pitcher has not batted ninth since Randy Wolf hit eighth on Aug. 6, 2009.


Phillies' Ben Revere returns to lineup Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:33 pm ET) Phillies outfielder Ben Revere was back in the lineup for Monday's game at the Los Angeles Dodgers, reports TrueBlueLA.com.

He will bat first and play right field. Revere had been held out of Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury. Over his last 13 games, Revere is hitting .364 with one home run and five RBI.

The Phillies are the underdogs (+240) at Los Angeles on Monday. 


Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig dropped to sixth in Monday order
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