ESPN’s Buster Olney Picks the Braves in N.L. East; Twitter Goes Crazy

Posted by Frank Klose


It was not exactly new news, as Buster Olney appeared on 97.5 the Fanatic two Fridays ago and said the same thing, but Phillies fans on Twitter had plenty to say to ESPN's Buster Olney when they got wind of Buster's prediction that the Atlanta Braves will win the National League East.

Olney does have a very valid point: the Braves are a very well-rounded team, with a lineup that includes Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Martin Prado, and a core of talented young relievers.  That being said, the Braves also come with many question marks as well.

First baseman Freddie Freeman is still a virtually unknown.  Whether or not he can produce in the major leagues remains to be seen, but he likely can at least match what Troy Glaus did most of last season.

Third baseman Chipper Jones hasn't been healthy since… I can't remember when.  When in the lineup, an older Chipper Jones is still capable of damage, but unfortunately for him and for the Braves, his body is damaged.  Left fielder Martin Prado could end up playing more third base than Jones.

Center fielder Nate McLouth hit just .190 last season in 242 at bats, leading to a motley assortment of bodies in center field for the Braves last year.  This piece from Yahoo Sports is rather optimistic about McLouth, but who can be sure?

The Braves' most recent closer Billy Wagner has retired (or has he? He is still officially on the Braves' roster since he never filed his retirement papers) and this year's closer will be a rookie.   Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel will be a young left-handed/right-handed tandem that could be reminisicent of the Mike Gonzalez/Rafael Soriano bullpens of the mid-2000s.   While talented, they are still young with plenty to learn.  Will either be able to handle the pressures of being a closer? 

The Braves' defense up the middle has taken a hit, with the addition of Dan Uggla at second base, and Martin Prado being sent to the outfield.

The Braves starting rotation is decent: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, and Mike Minor.  However, this group still falls short of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton. 

Bottom line: the questions that surround the Phillies are worth looking at and show some deficiencies, but I am not sure the Braves' questions are any less alarming.   The starting rotations should give a clear edge to the Phillies, if nothing else.

The Phillies are still Olney's Wild Card pick.