Is there an outfield more exciting than that of the Braves right now? I think not. Sure, maybe the Angels come close now that they’ve added Hamilton, but overall, I don’t see a better starting three that has as much proven talent with still plenty of upside waiting to emerge than the Braves have right now. You’ve got strong power, excellent speed and each one of them plays strong enough defense that Fredi Gonzalez won’t ever hesitate to keep running the same three guys out there so long as everyone is healthy. In the fantasy world, that’s just pure gold.
As always, let’s start off with the depth chart, chat up the starters and then take a look at the bench…
|Left Field:||Justin Upton||Reed Johnson||Jose Costanza|
|Center Field:||B.J. Upton||Reed Johnson||Jordan Schafer|
|Right Field:||Jason Heyward||Reed Johnson||Jordan Schafer|
Left Field: So Brother Justin makes the move from the Diamondbacks to the Braves this season and while some might point to things like his fluctuating/decline in power and new park factors, I point to the fact that he’s still just 25-years old and his career trajectory is still very much on its way up. He’s worked his way through an early-career shoulder problem and last season he was hindered by a thumb injury, both affecting the overall power production. When healthy though, he’s a five-category contributor. He’s too young to be slapping the “injury prone” tag on him just yet and given his skill set, you have to go in with a positive attitude. He’s got the potential to churn out 30-20 seasons regularly and that’s what you have to keep in mind when drafting him.
Center Field: Brother B.J. makes the trip north from Tampa Bay and brings his 20-30 production to the Braves who have really been in dire need of a regular center fielder for some time. The batting average is a bit cumbersome and last season he seemed to trade some on-base work for some extra power, but overall the power/speed combination that he provides will not only be big for the Braves, but huge for your fantasy team as well.
Right Field: What more can I say about Heyward that I haven’t already gushed about before? Even before the Uptons came to town, I had been talking about Heyward’s talent and ability to build off of last season’s breakout 27-21 season. Now with them alongside him, I’m expecting first round production here this season. I understand the knocks that people are throwing his way such as the decline in walk rate and the increase in strikeouts, but he’s just 23-years old and is still developing as a player. He takes the next step in his growth this year, so enjoy it. Draft with confidence.
I know this feels a little light with respect to analysis, but so much has been recently written about these guys — Heyward and the Upton brothers playing together in the same outfield (<– three links hiding here, not just two)– on the site already, that yet another breakdown of their skills seems like beating a dead horse. I never like to recommend too many players from the same team, but if you could add both Uptons and Heyward to your fantasy team this season, then you would do it. You know you would. I would if the opportunity presented itself.
From a fantasy perspective, Johnson, Costanza and Schafer are not ones to concern yourself with so long as the starting three are healthy. Johnson has seemingly been around forever and while he may spell the starters in the outfield every so often, his bat is pretty useless in fantasy. He hits for a nice average, but with no pop and minimal speed, he does nothing else for you. Costanza can be a cheap speed option you pull off the waiver wire if you need a boost in steals at some point, but unless you see him consistently getting work as a pinch runner or late-inning replacement, knowing when to insert him into your lineup could be difficult. And as for Schafer, well, he’s like a lesser version of Costanza; good speed but nothing else.