2010 Braves SWOT Analysis: Weaknesses
Corner outfield. Yeah, you knew this was coming. In my analysis of the bench yesterday, I mentioned Melky Cabrera being on the bench. Of course, if the season started today, he'd probably be starting...which is something no one aside from his immediate family wants. The status of the corner outfield positions truly depends on if the Braves feel that uber super stud prospect Jason Heyward is in fact ready for THE SHOW. If he is, he'd be the starter at one corner (pick one, probably right) while Matt Diaz would start at the other. Diaz appears to be locked into a starting position at this point having posted a career high .878 OPS last season in a career high 425 plate appearances. Diaz is a big tipping point for the team this year, and it remains to be seen if he's truly turned the corner after his breakout 2009 season where he posted a wonderful .175 ISO and and a walk rate of 8.2% that many fans of the team thought was impossible. If he's able to somewhat recreate those numbers, the Braves should be able to function OK, whether Cabrera or Heyward is starting. If Diaz struggles...erm, we've got a problem.
Managing. This one is debatable. Bobby Cox has a reputation as being a shrewd tactician, but as fans who watch every game can tell you, he may have totally lost his mind. Bobby is hopelessly loyal to his veteran players, as was evidenced last year when he trotted out the maggot infested corpse of Garret Anderson for 541 plate appearances despite Anderson playing the game with as much aggression and HUSTLE as a fat man attempting to eat a salad. Anderson was the absolute worst player in the National League last year based on WAR, RAR and every other value stat you can think of. Well...except WPA, but thats a win probability stat and not a value stat. Same thing with Bobby's love for Francoeur...wow, maybe the corner outfield this year will actually be an upgrade over last season. Also, in addition to the vetlove, Bobby has a tendency to play the matchup game with the bullpen too much. Too often will you see multiple pitching changes in an inning, highlighted by the hilarious "move Chris Resop to left field" situation that happened in 2008 that actually crashed ESPN Gamecast. Good times...this will be Bobby's last season in the dugout for the Braves, and I'm hoping he's able to put his gameface on and get things rolling well this year.
Upper minor leagues. I touched on the lower minor leagues yesterday, today we're going to touch on the upper levels. 3 of my top 40 prospects spent the some time in Gwinnett this year. There were more that spent some time in Mississippi, but to have an AAA club full of 4A players, burnouts trying for another shot at the majors, and organizational filler is depressing as a fan. I saw Gwinnett play once this season, and I went to the game for the sole purpose of seeing Tommy Hanson. Seeing guys like Wes Timmons, Brian Barton, and Brooks Conrad on the field...yikes. I'm sure they're all really nice guys, but come on. Thankfully, some of the crop from Mississippi should advance up the ladder to Gwinnett this season, and the team should look pretty nice.
Minor league position prospects. There are 5 in my top 10. The next one doesn't show up until 24. There are the true superstars in the making players (Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Christian Bethancourt, Cody Johnson, Adam Milligan), and then...there are guys who MAY be able to put it together, like Brandon Hicks and Gerardo Rodriguez...then there are the really raw young guys, like Cory Harrilchak, Mycal Jones, and RSF. In the couple of levels of the organization between Gwinnett and Rome, its really only Johnson, Milligan and Hicks as far as prospects even hitting the level of "half-decent". Everyone else is old or not that good. This problem will be rectified as the year continues, and guys start pushing their way through the system with continued success as lower levels. Look for a lot of the players from Danville's Appy League championship team to strap a jet pack onto their backs and end up in Myrtle Beach or Mississippi to end the year.
2 down, 2 to go. Next up tomorrow will be OPPORTUNITIES. The next 2 parts in the series will also look at the rest of the division, and things the Braves may be able to take advantage of there. HINT: the Mets trading for Gary Matthews Jr has not really changed anything, because the Mets are ready to be feasted on. I love it!
We return with part 2 of the SWOT analysis, this time covering weaknesses.
This was a hard one to come up with points for. As constructed right now, the Braves don't have a bunch of weaknesses. There is really only one glaring one with the main club, in fact.