2010 Braves SWOT Analysis: Threats
Injury concerns. There are a lot of players on this team that have had injury issues in the past. In the bullpen, Billy Wagner and Peter Moylan are Tommy John veterans, while Takashi Saito has had issues of his own. Meanwhile in the rotation, Tim Hudson is also a Tommy John patient. Thats 4 members of the 12 man pitching staff that have had arm injuries in the past couple of seasons. If just one of them goes down, things are going to get very dicey on the staff, with Kris Medlen likely having to take a more prominent role in either the rotation or back end of the pen. Medlen's bullpen spot will be replaced by one of the fringe guys I've been discussing all season, which is a huge dropoff. Injuries are a concern with every team, but the Braves have even more concerns than usual. And in the infield, Troy Glaus has been made of paper maiche the past few seasons, and Chipper Jones is always hurt. If either of them goes down, we're looking at Eric Hinske playing every day and someone like Brooks Conrad replacing Hinske on the bench...yeah, pretty big downgrade there. The Braves cannot lose any of those 6 players for an extended amount of time, otherwise it could be a long season in Atlanta.
The maturing Marlins. The Marlins absolutely cannot be written off in the NL East race this year. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are probably the 2 best young pitchers in the division not named Tommy Hanson, and will probably combine for something like 35 wins this season. Offensively, Hanley Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball, and Dan Uggla is always dangerous. When you've got 4 superstar players like the Marlins do...holes can be filled with stopgap, league average players, and the team will still be able to contend. This team scares the living bejeezus out of me, and they should scare all of you too. And with many of these youngsters getting signed to long-term deals...look out.
Melky Cabrera as a starter. This horrifies the hell out of me. Cabrera will be fine coming off the bench as a fourth outfielder. But if he's starting in a corner and getting 500 at bats...oh god no. He simply doesn't have the bat to be a starter in this league. To be worth a starting spot, he'd have to provide Franklin Gutierrez type defense, which he does not at all. The Braves suffered through a bad outfield last year, with Garret Anderson and Jeff Francoeur being absolutely terrible for most of the season. It could be argued that if the Braves had league average players sucking up the at bats wasted on those two, that they would have won the division. But thats another topic for another time. Cabrera would be no better than either of those 2 players if he were starting. No power in a corner...good lord. It would be like the incident in 2008 with Gregor Blanco as the starting left fielder.
Martin Prado failing as a starter. The Braves put their money on Prado for the 2010 season, and jettisoned former starter Kelly Johnson following an unlucky 2009. Prado has never been a full-time starter for a whole season in the majors, and one should at least consider the possibility that he won't be able to sustain the high BABIPs that he posted in most of his time as a Brave. As everyone knows, I was driving the Kelly Johnson bandwagon this offseason and was pushing hard for him to be kept on the roster. This point is not a direct shot at Prado, but you really do need to worry about it. If Prado struggles this season, the Braves are screwed, because they essentially replaced Johnson on the roster with Brooks Conrad. That is a massive downgrade, and there is no arguing that. Prado is perfect off the bench as a jack of all trades, but making him a starter could result in an epic failure. Hopefully, he's able to at least partially sustain the numbers he posted last season and is able to be a productive member of the team. Because I really, REALLY don't want him to get shifted back to his supersub role and have Conrad start...because THAT would be a disaster.
And that does it for the SWOT analysis...it was a pretty fun series to write up, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it. I have no idea what I'm going to be writing about next week, so keep your eyes peeled.
Alright, here we are with the finale of our weekend adventure!
Threats, AKA, "what could doom the Braves this year". This is more hypothetical than the weaknesses category, because where the weaknesses are something you KNOW is a problem, threats are something that COULD be a problem. So lets take it away...