That was the wrong foot. Let’s start over!
The outfield is the strength of this team, but this infield will be decent. It might even provide some buy-low investment opportunities. Brian McCann is coming off shoulder surgery and won’t be ready for the beginning of the season, most likely, but his price is dropping so low that it won’t even cost you a pick worthy of a top-12 catcher to get him. He might yet be a top-12 catcher, even with a wonky shoulder. He did okay last year despite two months of playing through pain, that bar is not very high, and he does have the carrot of his contract year waiting for him. I wouldn’t put him on a strict do-no-draft list. I might put Gerald Laird on there.
Freddie Freeman I like but I don’t like. I explained more here, but basically I’m not sure he has a ton of power upside. Which is fine if you draft him as such. Dan Uggla is pretty steady, actually. In OBP leagues, he’s undervalued. In standard leagues, his batting average woes just make him a “hold your nose” late pick that you probably want to supplement with a higher-upside guy (Josh Rutledge? Jedd Gyorko?) in mixed leagues. I don’t know what to make of Uggla’s new physique. I’m assuming he’ll still be able to hit 25 or so out, even as svelte as he is now.
Andrelton Simmons made my ‘guys I like‘ post. I think a move to the top of the lineup will push his stolen base projections, I like his batting average, and I think he can pop double digits out. That’s borderline Jose Altuve at shortstop territory. Health is the only thing — well, that and iffy stolen base totals in his minor league past — that could hold him back.
Third base I want no part of. Well, I suppose if you choose the Bill James projections for Juan Francisco and forecast them for 2/3 of the season, and make Chris Johnson the backup versus lefties, then maybe you could buy Francisco in deep leagues. But I think he’ll hit closer to .245 than .272, and there’s a distinct possibility the two of those mediocre options steal plate appearances from each other to the point that neither is passable. Add to that their many real-life flaws — neither is a good defender, and neither has patience — and it’s an obvious in-season upgrade candidate of a position. I know Johnson has had a reverse platoon split, but he had a traditional one in the minors, and it’s too soon in his statistical history to believe the reverse split. In order to like him, you have to believe he’ll keep the batting average on balls in play high and continue to like hitting right-handers, both of which are statistically unlikely. All that said, I may pick him up as a backup in my 20-teamer where I’m starting Michael Young at the position. Maybe.
Okay, Evan Gattis. He’ll probably make the team, so that’s the good news. The Braves need a backup catcher while Brian McCann is mending, and they could use a backup first baseman if they are going to platoon their third basemen. Gattis is also raking this spring, but that’s barely news. Just don’t forget that at his age — Gattis is turning 27 this season — and with his minor league history — Gattis only hit Double-A last season — he’s not a prospect. He could be a late-bloomer that just needs to find his position, but he’s not likely to have the glove for backup outfield or catcher work for the full season, and with two third basemen on the roster, it’s unlikely the Braves will keep him just to back up first base once McCann is healthy. He is a fun player to watch — strange stance at the plate and all — and you can root for him, but keep your eyes wide open when it comes to his value to your fantasy team. Even if he has some power.
Early Depth Chart:
C: Brian McCann / Gerald Laird / Evan Gattis
1B: Freddie Freeman / Chris Johnson / Evan Gattis
2B: Dan Uggla / Tyler Pastornicky
SS: Andrelton Simmons / Tyler Pastornicky
3B: Juan Francisco / Chris Johnson