Now that an entire week of spring training is complete the Braves are looking to reclaim the NL East Division. This may be a tough task considering the power of the Mets and Phillies. After completing the first full squad workout on Wednesday Jeff Francoeur stated that he believes that Braves can win this division. This is only the start of spring training where every teams goal is to make it to the Playoffs and win the World Series, but the Braves have a very tough mountain to claim in reaching these goals. With Bobby Cox returning for his 27th season as a big league manager and Tom Glavine back in the rotation for the Braves this team is confident int the season ahead and looks to get back to the top stage of the National League.
The Braves shored up their rotation yesterday by signing Tom Glavine to a one year, $8 million deal that will probably mean the former Brave will retire a Brave. Glavine turned down his $13 million option with the Mets and he’ll now be much closer to home and more importantly, in a Braves uniform.
Glavine’s role will be a little different though. No longer the ace, he’ll be in the middle of the rotation and reunited with John Smoltz along with Tim Hudson and Chuck James. I like the way the rotation is shaping up and even with the departure of Andruw Jones, you still have four very solid sticks in Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira. In fact at this stage of things, I’d have to say the Braves are the favorites to win the division.
The Braves acquired a guy who could possibly compete for the vacancy out in centerfield yesterday when they traded relief pitcher Oscar Villarreal to the Astros for Josh Anderson. While Anderson might have lost his prospect tag because of his age, he’s a speedy outfielder who, if given the time in the majors, could steal 30-40 bases a season like he did in the minors. He’s stolen as many as 79 bases in a single year in the minors.
A .373. career slugging percentage in the minors isn’t all that encouraging though and it’ll be interesting to see how that translates when he gets a chunk of time at the big league level. He did hit well when he got a cup of coffee with the Astros.
The wild card will be Jordan Schafer. If he’s ready, it could make this deal a little pointless. Still, if Anderson can keep the spot warm for part of 2008, it’ll go a long way towards the Braves getting back into the playoff picture.
Baseball America unveiled their list of top ten Braves prospects yesterday and at the top of the list is a pair of outfielders. Jordan Schafer checks in at number one while Jason Heyward comes in at number two. Heyward was the team’s top draft pick this past June. The top pitching prospect is Jair Jurrjens, who the Braves picked up in their trade for Edgar Renteria. Jurrjens is major league ready and he’ll most likely find a spot in the back of the Braves rotation next season.
Brandon Jones and Gorkys Hernandez round out the top five and both are outfielders so the Braves have somewhat of a glut there. Still, Jones is almost ready for some extended time in the majors while Hernandez was the other guy the Braves got from the Tigers for Edgar Renteria. Hernandez was the Midwest League’s MVP and he also led that league in stolen bases.
So the Braves definitely have some exciting players making their way up through the minors. It’ll be fun to see them as they rise through the ranks.
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