Strengths: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Braves have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to arms. From the top of the rotation to the end of the bullpen, they were outstanding in 2013. And that was despite serious injuries to Tim Hudson, Johnny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty. It may be a while before someone not named Clayton Kershaw wins a Cy Young Award, but that someone may be Julio Teheran. But, as they say, you need to score runs to win (not sure if they really say that, but it makes sense if you think about it). Freddie Freeman is a perennial MVP candidate, and Andrelton Simmons is the embodiment of young stud shortstop.
Weaknesses: Call me old fashioned, but in the era of SABRmetrics, I’m not ready to completely cast batting average aside. Sure, it’s not the be all end all measuring stick it once was, but you just can’t have too many key guys hovering around the Mendoza line and expect to come up with enough two-out run-scoring hits to win playoff series’. They were counting on big production from guys like Dan Uggla and BJ Upton, and just didn’t get it.
Off-Season Needs: Well, they should probably figure out the catching situation. They’ve made a qualifying offer to Brian McCann, so there’s that. If they sign him long-term, it sure turns the slugging Evan Gattis into attractive trade bait for an AL contender who could use a DH/part-time catcher. They could use him to deal with the second base issue, or as added incentive for a team to accept the catastrophic contract of Upton. And if they let Tim Hudson walk, they should probably replace his veteran leadership on the staff with someone like…oh hell, just bring Hudson back on an incentive-laden one year deal.
2014 Projection: NL East Champs. It’s not a tough division and despite some chinks in the armor, this is a tough team. They pitch. They field. They slug. I don’t think they’re World Series caliber at this point, but 95 wins is a very achievable goal.