2010 Braves SWOT Analysis: Opportunities
The mess that is the New York Mets. This is a huge opportunity. The Mets don't look like a really great baseball team right now. For the first month or so of the season, they're going to trot out one of the most horrifying defensive outfields in recent history, with Jason Bay in left, Gary Matthews Jr in center, and our old buddy Jeff Francoeur in right. Unfortunately, the Braves only have 6 games with the Mets over the first 2 months of the year. And when Carlos Beltran replaces Matthews in center...who knows if his gold glove defense will return after all the knee surgeries. In the infield, things aren't looking too great for the Mets either. David Wright and his sudden lack of power returns at third, Jose Reyes and his exploding hamstrings will man short (and if Reyes can't run, he's got nothing whatsoever), the highly hated Luis Castillo takes second, and at first base...Daniel Murphy? What a murderer's row that is. The rotation is Johan Santana and a whole lot of nothing. The Mets are a 4th place team right now, and the Braves need to absolutely ravage them this year. I'm talking somewhere in the range of 13 or 14 wins which is a definite possibility considering how horrible this team looks on paper.
Jason Heyward's emergence. This is a biggie. Many fans have insanely high expectations for Heyward in 2010, and if he can even partially fulfill them, there is a huge opportunity for the Braves to be a big player in the east this year. Without Heyward playing his way into the lineup near the beginning of the year, the Braves are left with the terrifying prospect of Melky Cabrera as a regular. That's something I'll talk about a little more in detail tomorrow. But if Heyward is able to have a good spring and make the big league roster...it's a giant opportunity for the Braves to nurture their budding superstar in the majors. I went into detail about why I believe the Braves shouldn't rush Heyward earlier this week, and was met with some vitriol from Braves fans. But hey, these things happen...no one always agrees. If Heyward is able to have a strong spring, he should most likely be in the majors, or at least have a short leash down in Gwinnett.
Tommy Hanson becoming a bona fide superstar. He has one of the best rookie years in recent memory for the Braves, and should be able to improve upon it this year. Hanson didn't post an ERA over 4 in all 4 of his months in the majors in 2009, and was dominant in his last 2 months by allowing 4 homers, walking 20, and striking out 75 in 66 2/3 innings. He's also 2 months younger than me, so I feel like a douchebag in comparison to his mightiness. With 2/3 of a full season under his belt at the major league level, Hanson should come into 2010 knowing what to expect, and will likely make himself an even better pitcher. Here's hoping that his 2010 season resembles Tim Lincecum's second pro season...he won the Cy Young that year, FYI.
The Phillies eventful offseason. Philly made some...odd moves this offseason. Placido Polanco was brought in to play third, replacing Pedro Feliz...this move essentially slightly upgraded the offense while downgrading the defense. Jose Contreras replaced Chan Ho Park in the bullpen. Roy Halladay replaced Cliff Lee in the rotation, which is an upgrade until you realize that Philly could have had both of them in the rotation if they didn't feel the need to "replenish the farm system" with lower level talent that didn't replenish a whole lot of anything. The bullpen is going to have issues to begin the year, with Brad Lidge and JC Romero likely missing the start of the season. The Braves have 7 games with Philly over the first 2 months of the year, similar to the Mets, and should look to take 4 games from the defending NL champs. If the Phillies get everyone back and get into a groove...it could be really hard to stop that freight train. The Braves are going to need to take advantage of the weakened squad.
That takes care of another section, and I assume I will continue to get little to no feedback on this series. Hooray for innovation! Part 4, threats, is coming tomorrow. Until then...I have Dexter season 1 to finish.
This one won't focus too much on the Braves organization, but instead, competition. You know where this is going.