The Braves are just a series away from being right at the 25% mark of the season, which is just about enough to analyze the team and their chances to win the World Series.
Let's break the team down so far:
Clearly the strength of the team, the rotation has been as advertised. Further, young arms Mike Minor and Julio Teheran are about big league ready in AAA, as is veteran Rodrigo Lopez. This depth certainly gives Frank Wren some flexibility in June and July if he chooses to make any upgrades. The numbers through 5/8...
Jurrjens - 4-0 1.50
Hanson - 4-3 2.63
Hudson - 4-2 2.86
Lowe - 3-3 3.32
Beachy - 1-1 2.98
Jonny Venters is pretty much un-hittable out of the pen and Craig Kimbrel looks like he will be extremely solid as the closer. The bullpen misses Pete Moylan right now, but Eric O'Flaherty has been lights out. The rest of the pen, veterans Linebrink/Sherrill, and the young arms have been better than expected.
There are too many All-Stars (Prado, Jones, McCann, Heyward, Uggla) in this lineup for the slow start to last too long. The recent wave of offense was inevitable with the Braves bats. Even McLouth got in on the action and Freddie Freeman has looked the part at 1st.
Chipper looks good, McCann/Prado/Heyward will all be fine, and Uggla will end up around .250/260 with his 30+ HR's.
The defense has been extremely solid, with Dan Uggla being better than expected and Alex Gonzalez going bonkers. McLouth has been solid in center and Prado's transition to left has been flawless.
So, what can they do to improve?
Let's speculate for a minute on what the team can do to improve. It looks like the top teams from last year will be in the hunt all season (SF, Col, Philly, Cincy, StL) and Florida has been on a torrid pace since early April. If Frank Wren chooses to upgrade around the trade deadline, where should he look?
1) Bullpen - while the bullpen is above average, you can always use another strong arm to shorten games in September and October. One of the likely available bullpen arms this summer is SD's Heath Bell. One of the top closers in the game, Bell's addition would turn the Braves pen into the games best.
2) Center Field - I know McLouth has been hot lately and is currently in the top 25 in the NL in average and OBP, but I say this is a spot to upgrade as there are options and Nate's stock is finally back up a bit. The name here for the upgrade that I think if Wren chooses to make a move is Hunter Pence. The Astros will be looking to acquire young talent, and Pence is their best trading piece. The Bravos would have the money with Chipper's likely retirement to sign him to an extension and solidify the lineup for many years. A McLouth/Minor package with maybe a lower level prospect or 2 may do the trick.
Pence would also give the team another top of the order bat and allow Freddie Gonzalez to move Heyward down in the order as he wanted to do in Spring Training. Pence is currently hitting .297/4/27 and his 27 RBI are 3rd in the NL.
How about this lineup?
Pretty dang good. But, either way, I like this teams chances to get in the playoffs, as well as advance pretty far...