Crazy Offseason in Atlanta
Brian McCann signs with the Yankees
Losing Brian McCann may not be the worst thing for the Braves. On one hand, they lose a proven leader and one of the best clutch-hitting catchers in recent memory, but on the other, replacement Evan Gattis might well be even better.
Gattis only had one more at bat last year than McCann, but Gattis outproduced McCann in runs (44 to 43), home runs (21 to 20) and RBI (65 to 57). Gattis’s 21 HR tied Wilin Rosario and Matt Wieters for MLB’s most at the catcher position. However, Rosario had 89 more at bats and Wieters had 166 more than Gattis. His 65 RBI ranked him ninth at the position in MLB. McCann hit for better averagew and OPS, though, and Gattis also struck out 16 more times on the year.
Assuming Gattis takes over McCann’s starting role, barring injury he should increase his number of at bats and likely crack the top 10 at the catcher position in standard scoring leagues. With McCann going to a revitalized Yankees squad, he should see an increase in RBI opportunities and a return to the near-elite level at the position.
Tim Hudson moves back West
Moving to the Giants might have been the best thing for Tim Hudson. Over the past four years, Hudson has seen his ERA steadily increase each year while his innings totals have decreased. At the age of 38, Hudson is far from his prime and might be seeing his career slowly ending. Moving to the Giants will benefit him from pitching in one of the best pitchers parks in the league. I would expect his ERA to improve from his 2013 mark of 3.97, and he's always been a steady control pitcher, so he might surprise as a back end fantasy rotation kind of guy. As far as his other stats are concerned, it probably won't be a monster season for the aging former ace.
Hudson’s departure opens a window of opportunity for the back-end rotation spot in Atlanta. The Braves depth chart currently includes both Alex Wood and David Hale as the fifth and sixth starters in the rotation right now. Wood has the edge as far as major league experience, with 77.2 innings to Hale’s 11.
Beyond the home-grown guys, the acquisition of free agent Gavin Floyd this offseason will create more competition. Floyd has a ton of major league experience, but his career 4.48 ERA might leave something to be desired for that fifth spot.
Unfortunately, you shouldn't expect a decision on the final rotation spot to be made until after substantial further evaluation in Spring Training.
Dan Uggla’s here to stay
Rumors of the Braves trying to get rid of Uggla appear to have been mostly just that-- rumors. The fact that he has not yet been traded probably means that the demand for Uggla is at an all-time low. He has a huge contract and is coming off a horrendous 2013 season. Uggla’s .179 batting average was abysmal, and his subsequent demotion to Gwinnett has many teams scared, including the Braves.
I don’t expect Uggla to be traded before the season begins, and as far as his production is concerned, it really can’t get much worse than what we saw from him last year. Will he be a top-15 2B this year? Probably not, but he did have five years in a row knocking out more than 30 HR while hitting .230 average. That said, both streaks ended two seasons ago.
As far as fantasy this year, Uggla will be a late-round draft pick but he could provide some value if he can manage to improve that atrocious batting average. He did produce a .309 OBP last year despite hitting below the Mendoza line, and as long as he gets on base, he’ll have a chance to score some runs, but he might be looking at a spot at the bottom of the order. We will learn more after Spring Training picks up.
B.J. Upton will go cheap this year
What in the world was wrong with Upton last year? This is a guy who had never hit below .230 in nine years of MLB experience, but after signing a huge contract with the Braves, he debuted at .184 in his first year with Atlanta. Much like Uggla, it really can’t get much worse than what he did last year.
All the news coming out of Atlanta suggests that Upton is putting in extra work this offseason to get back into form. His value diminished so dramatically last year that he will likely be a fairly late-round draft pick in most leagues. He's certainly worth a late-round flier on the hopes of him returning to form.
Jonny Venters is back! His return will seriously help the Braves bullpen. He has had plenty of time to recover from last year’s Tommy John surgery and should return to his role as a premier set up man.
Unfortunately for Venters, Craig Kimbrel has taken over the mantle of MLB’s best closer with Mariano Rivera’s retirement. Naturally, this will very likely prevent Venters from getting any chance at grabbing any precious saves.
The Braves acquired catcher Ryan Doumit from the Twins in exchange for southpaw Sean Gilmartin. Doumit will play second fiddle to Gattis and will be a non-impact player in fantasy baseball in 2014. Gilmartin was not great in Triple-A and will start the season in the minors for the Twins.